Weeknight Date Night Dinner [Recipe: Bacon Caesar Salad]

Recipes, Worknight Dinners

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Stouffer’s Lasagna with Meat & Sauce, traditional lasagna noodles layered with an herb seasoned tomato and meat sauce and three kinds of cheese, is perfect to serve for weeknight date night dinner or for a quick after-work dinner when you’re craving hearty comfort food. Pair with a big, loaded cheese and bacon caesar salad and crusty baguette to round out your meal. 

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Here’s the thing: I think I’ve ruined my boyfriend for life. I’ve made a lot of meals for us from scratch: chicken, shrimp and spicy sausage gumbo, jambalayaloaded nachos with all the bells and whistles and a few batches of cake nor candy brownies have seen the inside of my oven, too.

Oh, but that isn’t how I’ve ruined him.

I ruined him because after spending a day at Stouffer’s Open Kitchen (psst…can you find me in their video?) with Chef Holly in July, we’ve eaten a lot of Stouffer’s lasagna. And now, I’m pretty sure he’s going to forever prefer it to my homemade version.

And you know what?

Because there is absolutely no cleanup required to produce a meal that is gooey, cheesy, savory and packed with delicious carbs — and also, plenty of protein and calcium, I think I do too.

Oh, and happens to pair perfectly with your favorite glass of red.

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Every since Brad and I moved in together early this month, I’ve been struggling to get myself into a routine. I work from home, with colleagues in multiple time zones, and because I genuinely enjoy my job it can be tempting to sign online in my office around 9:00 a.m. and stay there until Brad gets home, usually a little after 8:00 p.m.

What I’ve learned to do is to build my own structure into the day, so I start in the morning by checking my calendar while I have my coffee so I know when my meetings are scheduled and what breaks I have open. I note the time I can take a lunchtime break, and I take my dog to the dog park during that hour, even if it’s only for five or 10 minutes (when you’re five pounds, that’s a lot of exercise for a little dog).

Of course, there are days that I have in-person meetings, lunches or evening events to attend, but there are also days when after the midday walk with my dog, I don’t take another break until I stop to make dinner. Since the majority of my in-person human interaction during the course of the day is with the FedEx man, I like to make dinner together with Brad a little more special than grabbing a hurried sandwich or picking up takeout on the way home.

We aim to do a weekly date night now that we’re living together, but since he has a long commute home, it’s fun to make an occasion out of dinner at home on a random Wednesday, too.  Even though Brad would be happy eating chips and salsa for dinner or subsisting on the burgers from a favorite local pub, he happened to move in with a girl that takes dinner pretty seriously.

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Stouffer’s is a family-founded brand that still runs on some of the original recipes that Abraham and Mahala Stouffer made for their dairy stand in 1914, and later at their restaurant in 1924 . The Stouffer’s Cookbook has a prized place in its test kitchen, and is full of recipes that I’m pretty sure my grandmother came across at sometime in her life and passed onto her children as her own.

The Stouffer’s brand is rich with nostalgia — the frozen food line was actually created because so many customers wanted to take home their frozen leftovers from the Stouffer’s restaurants. So many of Stouffer’s dishes are the classic comfort foods you grew up with and what is a better comfort food than lasagna?

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Lasagna is hearty and decadent and perfect for an early fall weeknight date night dinner. Stouffer’s lasagna is available in portions for one, for two, for a family or for a party (and we’ll talk more about how to throw a lasagna party later). You can choose your own adventure, too, and pick your favorite variety: Lasagna Italiano, Lasagna with Meat & Sauce (a classic!), Meat Lover’s Lasagna, Five Cheese Lasagna and more. We love the Lasagna with Meat & Sauce, but it’s really hard to go wrong.

Stouffer’s recently made a move toward taking all artificial ingredients and preservatives out of its dishes, beginning with lasagna. Now, the Stouffer’s lasagna you bring home is made simply with ingredients you would find in your own kitchen — no preservatives, no weird artificial food dyes or additives.

The fresh pasta is made the same day as the lasagna, the sauce is made from scratch and seasoned with dried basil and dried oregano and the cheeses — including cottage cheese, mozzarella and parmesan, are hand grated.  It’s nice to cook and bake from scratch, but it’s really nice when someone does the work for you and you know they’re doing it like your grandma would have.

And where I come from, those are some seriously high standards.

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Also where I come from, you couldn’t have a pasta dish without having a salad. Growing up, my mother used to buy the bagged salads and as a lifetime dissident of red cabbage, I detested those salads. Years ago, you didn’t get a selection of 15 different salad mixes in the produce aisle, you had like, two options and they were terrible.

So, even though there are a lot of good choices out there in the semi-homemade salad department, there are also a lot of reasons to make your own big delicious salad to accompany a lasagna dinner.

This is one of those salads that just barely ekes by as a salad because there’s all kinds of good stuff in there – bacon! cheese! croutons! cheese! – but as with everything, moderation, moderation, moderation. Or something like that, I think people say it’s supposed to be a good thing. I had two bowls, so don’t look at me.

You could dress this salad up with kale and add some extra vegetables, but I was feeling adventurous this weekend when I grabbed a bag of romaine lettuce hearts and decided I’d do a little DIY caesar action. Cheese and garlic croutons add crunch here while parmesan, asiago and pecorino cheeses and bacon add everything else you can ever need. You can make your own Caesar dressing, or you can grab your favorite brand and pretend you slaved all day in the kitchen.

I’m not telling you which choice I picked.

I thought about scaling down this recipe for two because for a side dish, it makes a lot of salad, but it’s not out of the question that two people could finish it. What’s more likely is you’ll have enough leftover to repurpose into tomorrow’s lunch.  Just reserve some of the lettuce-cheese-bacon-mixture before you add the croutons and dressing and you can make a second meal out of it topped with some chicken, steak, shrimp or salmon.

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Bacon Caesar Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Worknight Dinners
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces thick-cut bacon (4 to 6 slices), cut into pieces
  • 2 heads romaine, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into ½-inch strips
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • ½ cups freshly grated Asiago cheese
  • ½ cups freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • 1½ cups Cheese and Garlic Croutons
  • ½ - ¾ cup Caesar dressing
Instructions
  1. Cook bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat, turning over occasionally, until crisp and browned on both sides, 8-10 minutes each. Use a slotted spoon or kitchen tongs to transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels (the bacon can be cooked and cooled in advance. Some say a few hours, I made mine the day before).
  2. Combine lettuce, bacon and cheeses in a large bowl. (Note: If you plan to save some salad for leftovers, place about half in a separate container and do not mix with croutons or dressing until just before serving).
  3. Just before serving, drizzle with dressing and toss to coat just before serving. Add croutons and toss again. Sprinkle with additional cheese, if desired.
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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Stouffer’s. For additional information about the Stouffer’s brand, dishes and recipes, please visit their website.

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Amy @ Little Dairy on the Prairie
    October 8, 2016 at 9:27 am

    This looks like the perfect meal option after a long day! Bacon is always a good addition, and looks delicious in this salad!

  • Reply
    Laura at I Heart Naptime
    September 30, 2016 at 7:01 am

    Yum! This salad looks amazing – it’s perfect to add to a frozen lasagna (and for my birthday growing up, a Stouffer’s lasagna was always what I requested for dinner!) for a great, family-friendly meal!

  • Reply
    Donna | OfRecipes
    September 30, 2016 at 3:48 am

    I love bacon caesar salad! This is such a simple and easy to make recipe!

  • Reply
    Brandy | Nutmeg Nanny
    September 29, 2016 at 8:23 am

    The is my mother in laws favorite meal! Guess the is a sign that I should have them over soon!

  • Reply
    carrie @ frugal foodie mama
    September 29, 2016 at 7:10 am

    I can never say no to a Stouffer’s lasagna! 🙂 They are SO good. And adding bacon to a Caesar?? Genius!

  • Reply
    Michelle De La Cerda
    September 28, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    Can’t go wrong with bacon in a salad! Wonderful date night meal for sure!

  • Reply
    Des @ Life's Ambrosia
    September 28, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    I love this salad! Bacon is always a great addition to anything 😉

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