Family Fun Twin Cities has had the opportunity to test of some Mostly Made Meal kits recently. Mostly Made Meals is a Minnesota-based company run by mom and entrepreneur, Jillian McGary, whose goal with her meal kits was to get more veggies into every day dinners. Today’s recipe is Mostly Made Skillet Pasta, which is made with the lasagna filling.
My husband suggested that no one actually cares about our latest chore system. If this is true for you, feel free to Skip to the Recipe.
Redefining Our Household Chores
I’m not a great cook. I don’t really like cooking – at least not on weekdays – and, luckily, I haven’t needed to in a long time. Fifteen years ago my husband and I split up our household duties. I bring home a paycheck and manufacture babies and he cares for the house and those babies I’ve made. This works for us – or at least it did for years. However, I’ve pretty much quit the baby-making gig, which means I don’t really have an excuse for not helping out a little more around the house. Plus our kids are at an age where they need to be responsible for helping out. At the same time, after almost 15 years of being a stay-at-home-dad, my husband is ready for something else. This means we’ve decided its time to re-distribute the household duties. At this point, our 4-year-old is still just a helper, so that leaves five of us to help out. Therefore, We currently have 5 jobs each night:
- Head Chef – Makes dinner and runs the kitchen. This job is still usually my husband, but my teen and I are trying to take it on more often.
- Sous Chef – In our case, this is the head chef’s helper or chef in training. If one of the kids takes on the head chef role, than my husband or I jump into this role.
- Waiter/Busser – Sets the table, gets the salad on, takes drink orders and then clears and cleans the table and puts away leftovers after dinner.
- Dishwasher – Clears the plates, loads the dishwasher, washes anything that can’t go in the dishwasher and wipes down the kitchen
- Janitor – Cleans the bathroom, takes out garbage, compost & recycling and sweeps the dining room.
This isn’t our first time using this chore system. We used it two years ago, minus the janitor. At that time, my then 7-year-old and I were a team and in the past my husband was always the head chef. It worked okay, but our two boys didn’t really do a very good job at any of their chores – especially not when they were on dishes. Last year, we put the boys on permanent dishes duty to try to help them get the hang of it. Since my husband was head chef, our teen was always waiter and I mostly just fought with the boys to finish dishes so we could do something else. We are all really ready to start rotating chores again, this time with everyone rotating.
As a result, I’ve agreed to cook weeknight meals sometimes. While I know how to follow a recipe, on a weeknight, I almost always default to spaghetti or grilled cheese. Honestly, I don’t want to eat spaghetti once a week. I could do grilled cheese every day, but the rest of my family would prefer not to have it that often. This is why I jumped at the chance to try out some of Jillian’s Mostly Made Meals. I have to say, I was really impressed with my first one.
Mostly Made Skillet Pasta to the Rescue
On Monday evening, I got home from work knowing I’d assigned myself as head chef and my 7-year-old as my sous chef. At this point in our training, I have to stop and show him how to do anything I ask and I will constantly turn around and find him out in the sandbox. Then I have to send him to wash his hands again before teaching him his next chore. Basically, having a 7-year-old sous chef is a step below cooking by myself. I absolutely was not looking forward to this, and I really considered playing the tired wife card and asking my husband to step in for me. Luckily, I did have the Mostly Made Skillet Pasta pack. Also, luckily, it lends itself well to substitutions. I didn’t exactly have all the other ingredients, but I had decent substitutions and the meal turned out great.
It was so easy. I put the frozen filling in a large skillet along with water and canned tomatoes, cooked it on low heat until it was hot, added my pasta and simmered 15 minutes. Then I topped it with the cheese for the last few minutes and served it straight from the skillet. While the skillet meal cooked on the stove, I was able to slice up some leftover chicken and a cucumber to toss into a salad and teach my sous chef how to bake frozen garlic bread.
We had a full meal on the table in less than half an hour. I even had time to clean up after myself as I went along, leaving less for my dishwasher to have to do later. (This is good, because while this division of labor sounds great on paper, it really just means that mom and dad now have to stand over 3 other people and redirect them constantly until they finish the job properly. Any amount of work I can save my helpers, saves me work, too.)
The Final Product
My 7-year-old isn’t shy to voice his opinion about dinner. It is either “disgusting” or “the best meal ever”. There is no in between. I’m happy to say this meal got “the best meal ever” stamp of approval. But, the thing that really impressed me was the portion sizes. I had made a salad with grilled chicken and the garlic bread hoping it would stretch this four-serving package far enough to feed my family of six. It did! Plus, I had enough leftovers for my lunch the next day. This was our experience the next day, too, when we tested out the Burrito Bowl recipe.
The Price Breakdown
Mostly Made Meals can seem expensive when you purchase them (a case of 5 online is $69.95 – which breaks down to $13.99/meal). I found everything else I needed in my pantry. If I hadn’t, the total for dinner would have come to less than $20.00. Considering, that if we break down and order delivery, it will cost us a minimum of $50 and 30-45 minutes wait, this is a time and money saver for those nights we don’t have a plan. Another plus is that the freezer package is compact. We don’t have a lot of freezer space, so having a full-size frozen lasagna waiting around for emergencies isn’t an option for us. If you don’t want to buy a case online, you can find Mostly-Made Meals at these Minnesota grocery stores.
Mostly Made Skillet Pasta Recipe
Find the original recipe on the Mostly Made website. The recipe below includes my comments and substitutions.
Mostly Made Skillet Pasta
- 12 inch skillet
- 1 package Mostly Made Lasagna Filling See article for where to find
- 3 cups Dry Penne Pasta I substituted macaroni noodles. It worked.
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes I used diced and added an extra half cup because I like tomatoes
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella I used taco cheese
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- In a 12" skillet with lid, add Lasagna Filling, 1 cup of water, and 1 cup crushed tomatoes. Stir to combine over low heat. (I searched the recipe and the package to see if I should have thawed the lasagna filling before dropping it like a brick into the skillet. I couldn't find directions, but since it was not pre-thawed, I went with the brick and it thawed quickly without trouble).
- Once the filling is hot, add 3 cups dry pasta and stir together, cover & simmer until pasta is al dente. Stir as needed. The directions suggested you may need to add a 1/4 cup of water, but since I had added extra tomatoes, I didn't need to do this.
- Sprinkle 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup of Parmesan on top. Cover and continue to simmer on low heat until the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes.