Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Slow Cooker Lasagna Lite

My friend Norma is an excellent cook and a Crockpot enthusiast.  I am late to the party, but recently bought one.  So this summer I won't be slaving over a hot oven, or even be at home while dinner is cooking.  Some of the tastiest cuts of beef include (1) rump roast, (2) bottom round and (3) eye round roast.  They are lean, effortless to prep, but require hours of slow cooking to tenderize.  I usually slow cook a roast in a Dutch oven until tender, but I might try a few new Crockpot recipes as temperatures heat up ... just for variety.

Yesterday I gave my spanking new slow cooker a whirl, while I left the premises for 3 hours to run errands.  I altered a lasagna recipe to see if a healthy, low-fat version would taste great too.  Certainly, I'm not opposed to eating regular cheese and pasta.  Go to Italy and note:  Italians don't use whole wheat noodles, or low-fat cheese -- but yesterday I wanted to try another way.  And truthfully, it is a low-fat winner.

Italians are famous for cooking noodles al dente, meaning firm, but not hard.  Dr. Andrew Weil, a supporter of integrative medicine, says eating regular noodles is perfectly fine, if they are cooked al dante.  In my dish I used whole wheat noodles for heartiness since it was my first experience making lasagna in a Crockpot.  Here's Sunday's easy recipe:

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Low-Fat Slow Cooker Lasagna 

2-28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ small onion, finely minced
--2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
parsley flakes
dash of nutmeg
1 pound ground sirloin browned in a skillet
28 ounces dry cottage cheese (that's 2-16 ounce containers, minus 4 ounces), or part-skim ricotta cheese I use a mixture.*
2 cups grated part-skim mozzarella cheese (16 ounces)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
12 ounces whole wheat lasagna noodles (or regular lasagna noodles)

1) Use 2 mixing bowls:  In one, combine the crushed tomatoes, garlic, onions, dried spices, and ground beef.
2) In the second mixing bowl, mix the cottage cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella and all the parmesan.
3) On the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker, spread a thin layer of the sauce.
4) Top with a layer of uncooked noodles.  Break to fit; layer them densely without overlapping.
5) Spread the tomato sauce over the noodles, making sure you cover the noodles with the sauce so they will cook.
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6) Next layer with the cheese mixture; use a large spoon to dollop on top.
7) Repeat the layers.  If you have a round Crockpot, you will repeat the layers twice.  If you have a rectangle-shaped slow cooker, you will only repeat the layers once.  Both ways (2 or 3 layers) work.
8) At the very top, sprinkle with the remaining cup of mozzarella.
9) Cover and cook on low heat for 3 to 3 ½ hours.  When the noodles in the center of the Crock are tender, you are ready to eat.

I like to add a green salad, or a blend of steamed broccoli and carrots, along with a lovely glass of Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon.  Buono Appetit!
*Cottage cheese is lower in fat and has more protein, but ricotta is dryer.

You may also enjoy:
The Food Revolution
The Health Benefits of Tea
Pass The Pepper Mill Please
Eaters Beware

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