Monday, September 26, 2011

Slow Cooker, Fast Food

School is back in full swing, the leaves are turning golden and today at my house the weather is deliciously rainy and gray.  Time for some warm hearty dinners that won't derail my weight loss goals!

Last week I pulled out my slow cooker and got busy making one of my favorite easy dinners, Slow-Cooker Lasagna.  The recipe is from Cooking Light Superfast Suppers.  This book is full of quick, tasty, and best of all light recipes.  The book is organized into sections that are printed on the bottom of the pages, I can flip through and quickly find what I am looking for. I also like the way they frame each recipe with suggestions for creating a complete meal in a snap.  The nutrition information is included for each dish as well as the estimated preparation and cooking time.  This book was a gift from my brother-in-law a couple of years ago, so a big "thank you" to Chris!

Here is the recipe:

Slow-Cooker Lasagna

prep time: 12 minutes, cook: 6 hours


  • 1 pound ground round
  • 2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • (26-ounce) jar chunky garden-style pasta sauce*
  • 1/3 cup water
  • uncooked lasagna noodles
  • Cooking spray
  • (4 1/2-ounce) jar sliced mushrooms, undrained
  • (15-ounce) carton part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided


  • Cook beef, garlic, and Italian seasoning in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until beef is browned, stirring to crumble. Drain; set aside.
  • Combine pasta sauce and water in a small bowl; set aside.
  • Place 4 uncooked noodles in a 4-quart electric slow cooker coated with cooking spray, breaking noodles to fit. Layer with half each of beef mixture, pasta sauce mixture, and mushrooms. Spread ricotta cheese over mushrooms. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Layer with remaining noodles, meat, pasta sauce mixture, and mushrooms. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Cover with lid; cook on high-heat setting 1 hour.
  • Reduce heat setting to low; cook 5 hours.
  • *any flavor or brand of pasta sauce will work in this lasagna - just make sure that you use a comparable jar size.  A 26-ounce jar had about 3 cups of sauce.  If you're trying to increase your fiber and complex carbohydrates intake, use whole wheat lasagna noodles.
  • Calories 361 (30% from fat); Fat 12.2g (sat 6.5g, mono 3.7g, poly .6g); Protein 28.6g; Carb 31.1g; Fiber 3.2g; Chol 61mg; Iron 2.9mg
  • Cooking Light Superfast Suppers,  2003
I rarely make a recipe as printed so here are my personalizations:
.7 lbs of ground sirloin in place of the 1 lb. of ground round
I browned the meat with a small diced yellow onion for extra flavor
fresh crimini (baby bella) mushrooms in place of the canned
chopped yellow squash and small zucchini to bulk up the veggie content (spinach or kale would be good too)
a can of diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic (my new favorite ingredient)
3 layers instead of 2

Due to an oversight, (I forgot to buy the noodles) I cooked the onion and ground sirloin a day a head of making the lasagna.  The good news was assembling the dish was really fast and if you are putting this together in the morning before leaving the house I highly recommend browning your meat the night before to save time.

The next day, noodles ready to go, I mixed the fire roasted tomatoes in with the pasta sauce and water.  Then combined the diced mushrooms, zucchini, squash and meat to make them easier to layer.  

Before I started layering my assistant volunteered to taste test some of the ingredients.  He was pleased to be making a meal using "crackers," other wise known as whole wheat lasagna noodles.

Within a few minutes the lasagna was assembled and ready to cook.  I paused to take a few shots for this blog post.  

This is what was going on when I turned around.

Several hours later the house smelled great and the lasagna was ready to eat!

I have to admit I have not been able to make this dish look pretty on a plate but smell is mouth watering and it tastes great. Hopefully your table will be surrounded by hungry loving people and not cranky food critics.

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