Monday, October 8, 2012

Slow Cooker Savvy: Mile high vegetable lasagna



I love lasagna! It is delicious, filling and great to warm your belly on a cold winter night. If you're a sneaky vegetable ninja, you can load up your lasagna with gobs of vegetables. Pair that with whole grain noodles and reduced fat cheese, you've created a nutrition powerhouse. Did you know that you never have to boil the noodles? Follow your favorite recipe, don't cook the noodles, add 1/2 of extra water and cover the pan with foil. Once the noodles are soft, remove the foil for a few minutes in the oven to let the top brown. This saves a lot of time!

I used to baby-sit for my cousin and cook dinner for the family. Her four year old son and I would make several batches of lasagna at once - one pan for dinner, and several more for the freezer. Did you know that kids love to help in the kitchen? While he was standing on a kitchen chair and stirring the huge bowl of the cheesey-veggie filling, he suddenly looks up at me and excitedly asks, "Holly, do you know what we're making?". "Lasanga?" I reply, not sure if this was a trick questions. "Witches Brew!", he corrects.

Is that not the cutest thing?

I usually make lasagna in the oven, but wanted to try using the slow cooker. I gathered the usual vegetable suspects in my kitchen and reviewed several recipes for slow-cooker lasagana when I realized that they were also using much larger crocks; 4 to 6 quarts. Mine is a much smaller 3-quart slow cooker. Well, I like a challenge and so just gave it a try. The result? A very delicious, and very TALL lasagna! Perhaps not traditional, but dinner will be on the table none-the-less.

Mile-high vegetable lasagna
  • 15 ounces reduced-fat ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese)
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced-fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup thawed frozen spinach, water squeezed out
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli, frozen and thawed, or fresh
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto (or 1/4 minced fresh basil, or 1 tablespoon dried basil)
  • 24 ounces marinara sauce
  • 1 package whole wheat lasagna noodles, uncooked (not no-boil kind) - about 9 noodles
  1. In a large mixing bowl, add ricotta Parmesan and 1-cup of mozzarella cheese. Add eggs, pesto, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  2. Thaw spinach in microwave; use hands to squeeze our excess water. Add to cheese mixture. 
  3. Chop broccoli, if using fresh, or thaw if using frozen chopped. Add to cheese mixture, along with minced onion. 
  4. Pour half of marinara sauce in the bottom of the crock. Make an even, single layer of noodles on top of sauce, breaking as necessary. Spread 1/3 of cheese mixture on top of noodles.
  5. Layer the rest of the noodles and cheese mixture, pressing down on noodles after each noodle layer. You should have four layer of noodles and three layers of cheese, ending on the noodles. Tip: if you alternate the direction when layering the noodles, the lasagna will be easier to cut.
  6. Pour the remaining marinara sauce on top of the last noodle layer and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. 
  7. Cover and cook on low heat for 4 to 6 hours or until hot, bubbly and noodles are tender when poked with a knife. 
  8. Turn off heat, remove lid and let lasagna rest for 10-20 minutes - this will make it much easier to cut.
Note: if using a larger crock, make three layers of noodles and two layers of cheese for a not-so-tall lasagna. Cooking time should remain about the same. 
Note: if you don't have lasagna noodles, use macaroni or ziti noodles, uncooked, instead.  



I served the lasagna with this salad - yum!


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3 comments:

  1. We decided we're making this tonight.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I used the "filler" from this recipe to make manicotti... it was uh-mazing! Thanks for the easy, YUMMY idea!

    ReplyDelete

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