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Weekday dinner inspirations: Deconstructed Zucchini Lasagna and more

Mon | La Salade du Chef

Make this old standby sound more exciting by giving it a French name. A quick chef's salad for a Monday night can be any manner of cold cuts and cheeses, rolled up or cubed, over a pile of iceberg lettuce. Add the veggies you want — go crazy with pickled beets — and don't forget the hard-boiled egg. Thousand Island, ranch, blue cheese or whatever dressing you and yours prefer. Get the full diner experience by serving crackers in little plastic wrappers.

Tues | Spiked Shrimp

Chiptole-Rubbed Shrimp from Chile Pepper magazine will jolt everyone out of their stupor tonight. Rub 20 large, peeled shrimp with 1/3 cup minced chipotle chilies in adobo and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Skewer (or not) and grill (indoors or out) for 3 to 4 minutes a side. Put cooked shrimp in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro and the juice of 1 lemon. Serve with rice and fresh fruit.

Wed | Rotisserie Chicken

Make life easy. Carve up a couple of birds and serve the chicken with baby spinach sauteed in olive oil and minced garlic and splashed with chicken broth. Serve with store-made corn bread muffins.

Thurs | Noodle-icious

Deconstructed Zucchini Lasagna (recipe below) is a big, messy casserole bake. A perfect Thursday night dinner. You know the drill – make a green salad.

Fri | Fall for it

It's officially autumn. Really. Make Quick Pumpkin Soup by simmering 4 cans (56 ounces) of chicken broth and 2 cans of drained corn with half a chopped onion for about 15 minutes. Add 1 can solid-packed pumpkin puree (don't get pie filling!) and 1/2 cup half-and-half. Season with salt and pepper. Float some croutons on the top of each bowl. Serve with soft rolls and butter.

Read Stir Crazy online at www.blogs.tampabay.com/food. Submit your ideas for quick weeknight meals to jkeeler@sptimes.com. For more family recipes and other stories of interest to parents, go to www.gomomma.com.

>>EASY

Deconstructed Zucchini Lasagna

12 ounces rigatoni

1 large yellow or white onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 pounds lean ground beef

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Salt and pepper

1 (24-ounce) can crushed tomatoes with juice

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (or 2 teaspoons dried)

12 ounces ricotta cheese

1/2 large zucchini (about 1 1/2 cups), sliced and quartered

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pot, parboil the rigatoni (about 5 minutes in boiling water), drain and set aside.

In the same large pot, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add the beef and season with the cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. When the meat is browned, add the crushed tomatoes. Mix in the crushed red pepper and basil, and season with salt and pepper as needed. Add the pasta, ricotta, zucchini and all but 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Mix well.

Transfer to a 2 3/4-quart baking dish and evenly distribute the remaining Parmesan on top of the casserole.

Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes. It's important not to overcook this dish, or the zucchini will become soggy.

Serves 5 to 6.

Source: Casserole Crazy: Hot Stuff for Your Oven by Emily Farris (Home, 2008)

Weekday dinner inspirations: Deconstructed Zucchini Lasagna and more 09/30/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 30, 2008 4:30am]

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