Penelope Wall

I hail from a family of overachievers when it comes to lasagna. My sister makes her own fresh pasta and homemade sauce before assembling the actual casserole. It literally takes her all day-and the results are truly amazing-but for the rest of us normal people, that kind of dedication to a single meal is simply not realistic. Even without the special sauce and fresh noodles, lasagna can be pretty time-consuming, especially when all you have time for is a quick weeknight dinner after work.

But if you could have lasagna in a snap any night of the week, wouldn't you? That's why this recipe for Inside-Out Lasagna is so genius: it's got all the lasagna elements-ricotta cheese, pasta and tomatoes-and skips the layering and long baking time to make a super-quick and satisfying meal in no time. Forget 2 hours: this meal is ready in 25 minutes!

Save the special stuff for weekends. Here are 4 more recipes with sneaky shortcuts to get some favorite comfort foods on the table fast.

Quick Roast Chicken & Root Vegetables
Roasted chicken in 45 minutes? No problem. This technique of starting bone-in chicken breasts on the stovetop and finishing them in a hot oven with vegetables gets a hearty dinner on the table in a hurry. While everything roasts, you still have time to make a quick pan sauce with shallot and Dijon mustard. Serve with a spinach salad.

Multi-Bean Chili
This meatless chili recipe uses the convenience of canned beans for a flavor that tastes like it's been simmering all day. If you like, add a dollop of low-fat sour cream or nonfat plain yogurt to each serving. Or try it with minced scallions and a little shredded Cheddar. In any case, have bottled hot red pepper sauce on hand to pass alongside.

Quick French Onion Soup
French onion soup is a favorite but it usually isn't substantial enough to make a complete meal. This recipe solves that problem by adding fiber-rich chickpeas to a broth flavored with sherry and three kinds of onions. Of course, don't forget the gooey topping, just make it a little lighter and a lot easier to prepare at home-simply top toasted whole-wheat bread with cheese and pour the soup on to melt it.

Quick Shrimp Enchilada Bake
Shrimp enchiladas offer a taste of coastal Mexican cuisine but some versions contain so much cheese, butter and sour cream that they can pack a whopping 50 grams of fat per serving. This version has vibrant flavor and only half the calories and 6 grams of fat per serving, plus it uses precooked peeled shrimp so you can get the dish on your table fast enough for a weeknight.

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