Last week I thought I would try to be creative and make lasagna in my crock pot. But because I’m somewhat following the 4HB diet, I have to eschew pasta and dairy (except on cheat days). In addition, I somehow had to work a legume into the resulting dish.
I did some research on replacing lasagna noodles with sliced eggplant, since I had heard somewhere that it could be done. I found a few recipes, and one even called for using sliced zucchini as replacement noodles.
Armed with some ideas from the recipes I checked out online, here is what I cobbled together:
- approx 6 oz 93/7 ground turkey, crumbled into bits
- 1 1/2 cup of sauce (made from approx 1 cup leftover green enchilada sauce, a small can of no salt added tomato paste, 1 tbsp garlic powder, Italian seasoning)
- 1 cup onion
- 1/3 eggplant, peeled and sliced
- 1 decent sized zucchini (cut up it would probably make 2 cups chopped, but don’t cut it up, slice it), sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices–no it doesn’t need to be peeled first
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese
- 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out and patted dry
- 1 cup of refried beans
All of this cooked in a pot was enough for three meals for me.
The recipes I found called for roasting the eggplant before using it. I have no oven to roast anything, but I do have my crockpot, which was how I was planning on cooking this anyway. Roasting is done in an oven, and I can bake things in my crockpot (I’ve made banana bread and cornbread quite successfully in the past), so I thought I would cook the eggplant in there first and make the lasagna the next day.
Mistake #1. The eggplant turned into mushy, slimy gobs rather than nice slices. I wish I had thought to use my camera, because it was an interesting sight! Same for the rest of this recipe, come to think of it. Oh, well. Maybe next time.
So, the next day, I assembled all the ingredients, mushy eggplant included, and basically split them up into layers in my crock pot. Note on the dairy. The FHB diet says no dairy, true. Cottage cheese does seem to be the one exception, but it does need to be used in moderation, thus my scanty 1/2 cup.
Then I set the crock pot on high and let it cook for several hours. I think, let’s see….I think it was around five hours later that I tried my first bite.
The thing I forgot to take into account was that vegetables and ground beast put out a lot of juice when they cook. Thus, my “lasagna” was swimming. I had lasagna soup. This was mistake #2.
Mistake #3 was not squeezing the living daylights out of the spinach before I used it. Yeah, I mushed paper towels against it to soak up the water and patted it dry. That wasn’t near enough. Even as I put it into the pot, I could still feel the spinach dripping a bit. The spinach should have been put in a cheesecloth or dishcloth and wrung out, I swear! Every last drop of water you can get. Because all that added water definitely helped make my lasagna into the soup I witnessed.
I didn’t like the eggplant in it, either. This was the second or third time I’ve ever cooked the big, shiny purple vegetables. They are so pretty, I just want to love them, but I’ve never liked them in anything I’ve ever tried to eat or in anything I’ve cooked. They have a really weird flavor that I just can’t seem to grow to like, even though I want to so badly! The “lasagna” was still good, but would have tasted better without it. Mistake #4 was thinking that I could somehow magically make my dislike of eggplant go away.
However. While my meals were lasagna soup that day, they were still pretty damn good. It was quite a tasty dish. I put a few dashes of green Tabasco on top, since I like the stuff. Oh, and my personal shame–I did put a single slice of reduced fat provolone cheese on top of each serving. I’ve still got a pound of cheese wasting away in my fridge and I didn’t want it to get moldy….and… yeah, it was a cheat. So sue me. Lasagna just doesn’t taste like lasagna without some cheese. (Note, this “lasagna” is not renal friendly, since it has refried beans in it and is rather high in sodium.)
By the way, while I put the beans in there, you couldn’t tell with the finished product. It didn’t taste like refried beans. And I couldn’t taste the spinach, either, for those of you who can’t stand spinach. This is a great way to hide green stuff and make your kids eat it without them knowing. Of course, if you fed this to your kids, you probably couldn’t fool them into thinking this was real lasagna, either. You would have to figure out some other cool name for it.
Lasagna soup? Liquid lasagna? I dunno what you would call it. I just call it yummy.