My Secret Stash: A Cooking Confession

Life, as we know it, in the Hines house changed this past week when the school bell rang in my son’s new kindergarten class.

First day of Kindergarten
Our leisurely afternoons of doing whatever pleases us following my daughter’s nap have been replaced with a rigid schedule consisting of carpool pickup, and a mad-dash rush to get dinner on the table by 6 p.m. Family dinner is followed by bath, bedtime stories, and goodnight kisses.  For those of you who have children, you know this time can be one of the most hectic times of the day, next to getting out the door in the morning on time.  Both time frames can give you gray hairs.

I cook almost every night.  A lot of times, the meals originate from my numerous cookbooks or from friends’ recipes, but I also have a confession to make.  I don’t always cook from scratch.  I have a stash of frozen tortellini in the freezer and store-made jarred sauce in the pantry for those nights when life makes things too complicated to make homemade meals.

When TheMotherhood asked me if I would try Marie Callender’s frozen lasagna for a taste test since it was a new product, I happily agreed.  I knew for this school year I needed to find some additional items to put in my secret stash for those crazy, busy school nights, or even on a Friday night when you just need a night off from cooking, but you have no desire to fight crowds in a restaurant with two tired kids.

I decided to cook Marie Callender’s Three Meat and Four Cheese lasagna for the first day of school.  My thoughts were elsewhere,and certainly not in the kitchen. I needed an effortless meal for that night.

I don’t buy a lot of frozen, packaged foods for my family, but in moderation I’m OK with it.  I had never purchased a Marie Callender’s frozen entrée before last week, but I had purchased other brands when I was still working for my husband and myself. Truthfully, I like lasagna a lot, but I rarely make it at home.  I bet I’ve made it two times in five years. There’s just something about all the assembling that makes it seem like a lot of work.  To find good frozen lasagna for my secret food stash would be ideal, and a good addition to the freezer.

When we got home from carpool, time got away from me, which is not unusual.  When I read the directions, I missed the window to cook the lasagna in the oven. If I did, dinner would be too late because the lasagna needed at least an hour to bake.  I had no choice but to use the microwave instructions.  I was a little apprehensive about this method, but if I was going to feed my family dinner at 6 p.m. then I had no choice. Time was of the essence. The lasagna has a unique baking tray to prevent cold spots and burning. It literally can go from frozen to on the table in less than 20 minutes if you cook it in the microwave.

I popped it in the microwave, and we let off a little steam in the backyard while it cooked.

I will admit at first glance I wondered if the 31-ounce multi-serve bake would be enough for us.  We tend to give ourselves big portions.  If my children ate normal portions, then I think I would definitely want to buy two for my family.  At a suggested price of $5.75, it wouldn’t hurt the grocery budget because it’s still less costly than making your own lasagna from scratch.

We tend to give ourselves hearty portions.

What did we think? My husband and I really liked it. To me, it was as good, if not better, than some lasagna served in Italian chain-type restaurants.  It definitely tasted as homemade as the lasagna I slaved away making in my own kitchen.

We both remarked, “This is good for frozen lasagna. It’s probably the best we have tasted.” 

The lasagna also has a spicy kick to it, which enhanced its flavor to being more homemade, in my opinion.  It’s definitely not a bland dish. However, the blend of three meats (sausage, ground beef, and pepperoni) may have been a little too spicy for the kids’ palate at their age. They ate only a few bites.

Will I buy it again?  Yes. I will be putting Marie Callender’s Three Meat and Four Cheese lasagna in my secret stash for busy nights of the week when a homemade meal is out of the question. 

Will I cook it again in the microwave? Probably not. Even though the taste was great cooked in the microwave, I still prefer my meals coming out of an oven.  It just makes it seem more homemade.  Call me old-fashioned.  I will say it is nice to know that I have that microwave option though, if needed. 

Want to try it for yourself? Marie Callender is offering coupons on its website, and they have a great variety of new multi-serve dishes that you can share with your family.  Life is busy.  Some days, I feel it only gets busier.  I’ll be storing Marie Callender’s entrees in my special food stash on a regular basis now.  These dinners make it a breeze to sit around the table with your family for dinner on hectic nights with minimal effort.  Life may be busy, but it just got a little easier. 

Disclosure:  I received the lasagna complimentary, and I was compensated by theMotherhood for my time to give an honest review of the product.  As always, my opinions are my own, and are not influenced by the company. 

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