Earlier in September, Mr. Science and I hosted a dinner party (because dinner parties are awesome!) and we made a delicious healthified lasagna, proving that even the tastiest and most indulgent of comfort foods can be pumped full of nutrition and still taste fantastic.
To healthify lasagna, all you need to do is make some easy swaps. Use grass-fed beef or bison instead of regular ground beef, low-sodium/low-fat cottage cheese instead of regular, lots of frozen spinach, and brown rice pasta instead of regular white pasta. You can also make your own tomato sauce if you want to be really fancy.
You don’t need to pile on tons of mozzarella cheese on top – a little goes a long way. I find that’s one of the biggest problems with dishes such as lasagna and pizza; people always think that the more cheese the better. But then it overpowers the other flavours, and we don’t want that! So go easy on the cheese. Cheese is wonderful, of course, but I’d rather not eat a meal in which the primary ingredient is cheese, the way that most lasagna dishes seem to be made (unless I’m having a wine and cheese party. Then I do want cheese to be the primary ingredient. But that’s an aside).
Although low-sodium/low-fat cottage cheese tastes much different than the regular kind by itself, it will taste exactly the same when you mix it into the other ingredients in lasagna. Our guests couldn’t even tell the beef was grass-fed or that the pasta was brown rice, either 🙂
So, what should you pair with lasagna if it’s the main event at your dinner party? For a nice autumn meal, it’s fun to mix summer dishes with winter dishes. Lasagna is a heavy meal, so we went with something light for an appetizer: raw vegetables, rice crackers and homemade hummus. Combined with homemade sangria, it made for a summery start to the meal. We enjoyed homemade Caesar salad (using a vegan dressing) with the lasagna: the wintery aspect of the meal. For dessert, we had homemade rhubarb/crab apple crumble (using local fruit that Mr. Science and I picked with Fruit Share).
Combining cooler, lighter foods with heavier comfort foods is a nice compromise when you’re between the hot and cold seasons. We also went with an unfussy appetizer to complement the lasagna, since it was a “homestyle” meal – we didn’t need anything too fancy. Crackers and cheese is a fantastic appetizer for nearly any main dish, but since the lasagna already features cheese, we didn’t want to overload that.
Little details are nice additions too. We lit a candle for a centrepiece at the dinner table and I also used Perfect Table Settings for an easy but lovely way to fold napkins. It added some elegance to the dinner party even though the meal itself wasn’t hoity toity.
I received Perfect Table Settings by Denise Vivaldo from the lovely people at Robert Rose Inc. I loved getting this book because I really enjoy having people over, and this seemed like such a fun way to jazz up the event! The book consists mostly of different ways to fold napkins, with a section at the end about dinner party etiquette, RSVPs, table setting presentation ideas, and even recipes and a flower seasonality chart!
I really liked how the napkin folds were all explained in the book. Everything is explained in very basic terms, with colour photographs on every page and simple, easy-to-follow steps for folding the napkins just so. Vivaldo does a fantastic job of making her book user-friendly! My main issues were no fault of Vivaldo’s: I simply lack an ironing board (and most of the napkin folds require ironing beforehand, so that they fold more easily and hold their shape better), and although I have two sets of the most beautiful napkins ever, I only have enough for four people. That’s a problem if we want to have more than four people come over for dinner (although I guess I could mix and match?).
So now I need to go out and get an ironing board and a variety of cloth napkins to use for six-person dinner parties (thanks a lot, Vivaldo ;)). But really, I very much enjoy the book – particularly because it’s such an unusual book to have in this day and age! I love it. Getting things ready for having people over is half the fun of the whole event.
What’s your favourite dish to serve at a dinner party? Do you have any special ways for folding napkins? What meals have you healthified recently? Share in the comments section below!