Food columnist Judi Leaming offers up a few quick-and-easy recipes like 20-Minute Skillet Lasagna, 4-Layer Cookie Bars and Fresh Strawberry Shortcake Cookies.

It has been a busy week in our household that has left little time for cooking. We attended grandson Josh’s last tennis match for this year, made trips back and forth to Dover and ended the week judging at a BBQ competition.

In between all of our activities I did manage to prepare 20-Minute Skillet Lasagna for our main dish lunch one day. Spicer asked me if I actually timed it to see if the “20 Minute” title was apropos. I was too busy cooking to do any timing but indeed this is a recipe that you can prepare with little time and effort. 

Ever wonder what Italian seasoning is? According to, it is a blend of equal parts of dried basil, cilantro, marjoram, oregano, red pepper flakes, rosemary, savory and thyme mixed together. If you want to mix your own, just place them in an air-tight container and mix. Another source uses parsley instead of cilantro, eliminates the savory and adds garlic powder and onion powder. You can customize your own “Italian seasoning” to suit your family’s taste-buds.

Late in the evening of the night before this year’s conference tennis tournament, I realized that I needed to come up with yet another treat for the Queen Anne’s tennis team. I had just seen the Gooseberry Patch recipe for 4-Layer Cookie Bars (from “101 Hearty Recipes Cookbook”) and this recipe seemed just too good and too easy to be true but I tried it and they loved it. A win-win situation! No baking involved here! Our son-in-law Mark remarked that he really liked the contrast between sweet and salty.

This third recipe for Fresh Strawberry Shortcake Cookies arrived in my email box just as I sat down to compose this column. Therefore I didn’t have time to test these for you but the recipe came to me from our very special local produce market, Emily’s, and I trust their recommendations so I’ll pass this along for you to try while strawberries are still readily available.

20-Minute Skillet Lasagna

3 cups dry (uncooked) bow tie or farfalle pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound lean ground beef

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning spice mix

1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (optional)

1 (24- to 26-ounce) jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I used Bertolli’s Tomato and Basil)

1 to 2 cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 cup sour cream

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain thoroughly then toss pasta with olive oil and set aside. While pasta cooks, brown ground beef in a large skillet; add Italian seasoning and stir. (Add salt if desired). Pour in spaghetti sauce and stir to mix and heat over LOW heat. Stir in drained pasta, cheese and sour cream and continue heating until cheese melts – about 5 minutes. Serve with salad and French bread for a tasty and quick meal.


4-Layer Cookie Bars

(From Gooseberry Patch’s  “101 Hearty Recipes”)

 1 1/4 sleeves of a 16-ounce rectangular buttery Club crackers (approximate)

1/2 cup butter

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup milk

2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup peanut butter chips

Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking pan with a single layer of crackers; set aside. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan; add sugars, graham cracker crumbs and milk. Heat over MEDIUM-HIGH heat until sugars dissolve, stirring often. Carefully spread this mixture over the layer of crackers to cover completely. Arrange another single layer of crackers on top; set aside. Combine peanut butter, chocolate and peanut butter chips in a saucepan and heat over LOW heat until melted, stirring until smooth and creamy. Carefully spread over the second layer of crackers and set aside until firm. (Can be refrigerated for 60 minutes to cool faster). Cut into small bars to serve.


Fresh Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

(Recipe from Emily’s Produce)

2 cups strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

2/3 cup heavy cream

Sanding sugar, for sprinkling (*)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine strawberries, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and remaining granulated sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or rub in with your fingers, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cream until dough starts to come together, then stir in strawberry mixture. Using a 1 1/2-inch scoop (or a tablespoon), drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing evenly apart. Sprinkle with sanding sugar and bake until golden brown — 24 to 25 minutes.  (*) You can make your own sanding sugar by placing granulated sugar in a small food processor and processing for just a minute or two.