Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ooh! Inventive Cooking Pays Off!

So I've really been craving lasagna. Problematically, a) I am one person, b) I am one person who is trying to eat sensibly and to lose weight, and c) I'm making progress on b and I really don't want to screw it up.

One of the things that I realized this fall was that I really need to find ways to satisfy cravings without giving myself a "cheat day" or something. There's no cheating in Crazy's World of Fitness. Cheating leads to my ass expanding, because first it only happens at one meal, and then one day, and then the next thing you know you've eaten fast food three days in a row.

But I digress. Let me give you the following AWESOME recipe, that is easy (though somewhat time-consuming) and totally satisfies the lasagna craving.

Dr. Crazy's No-Noodle Lasagna

  • 15 oz. lowfat ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (the bag of "Italian Cheese" works fine, or you can use some combination of mozzarella, provalone, etc. - whatever you prefer)
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 2 large-ish yellow squash (not like the size of your head or something, but big enough that you can slice them reasonably. Try to make sure the eggplants are about the same size as each other, and the same for the squash. You can substitute zucchini or use it in addition, too. Whatever.)
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce. Whatever kind you prefer.
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, removed from casings (optional, though I really would never make this without it because it adds so much flavor-wise, but I'd never make regular lasagna without sausage either).
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. If you are using sausage, cook it until you can crumble it easily. Drain fat on paper towels.
  3. Slice eggplant into fairly thin strips, lengthwise, so that the eggplant resembles a lasagna noodle in width and breadth. These shouldn't be paper thin, but they should be thin enough that it makes sense to layer them. What matters more than getting them super-duper thinly sliced is to make sure that the slices are uniform so that they cook consistently.
  4. Repeat step 3, only with the squash.
  5. Once you've sliced the veggies, mix ricotta, eggs, and salt/pepper with a wire whisk until the consistency is creamy and easy to spread. This is what binds the layers together and makes lasagna taste like lasagna.
  6. Now it's time to assemble. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the casserole. Now, layer eggplant strips just as you would layer lasagna noodles. Spread a layer of ricotta on top of that, then sauce, then sausage, then mixed cheeses. Repeat until you've used up your ingredients, alternating eggplant with squash.
  7. Stick it in the oven for 45 minutes, then increase the temperature to 425 degrees for 15 minutes. This is a good time to throw some garlic bread in the oven if you're going to have that.
  8. Remove from the oven, and, using a turkey baster, remove excess liquid. (Vegetables get a little liquidy, but as long as they don't sit in a pool of their juices the "lasagna" won't get soggy.) I removed about 1 cup or so. Put individual servings on plates with slotted spatula. You will notice it actually holds together better when you remove the first slice than normal lasagna does, even if you don't wait for it to "set." Congratulate yourself for being ridiculously virtuous and yet inventive enough to satisfy your craving for lasagna-tasting goodness.
Serves 8-10.


gwinne said...


Alas...I don't think a cheese-free version would work (LG and I don't eat dairy or soy).

Dr. Crazy said...

No, cheese-free it wouldn't work as a lasagna-type thing, but this recipe is DELICIOUS and you could easily leave out the parmigiano-reggiano and I don't think that you would lose that much. Actually, it was this recipe that gave me the idea for the veggie-based lasagna. It's one of the favorite things that I make. (And I've never used as much cheese as they recommend in the recipe, which is why I'm sure you wouldn't really need to use it at all.)

k8 said... you think that salting the veggies beforehand so that they release moisture would take care of some of the excess liquid at the end? I've seen this mentioned in other recipes - I think you salt the veggie and set it over a colander for about half an hour, occasionally pressing some of the water out. Or, maybe dehydrating them in the oven for a bit on low heat before using them?

It sounds very yummy!

Belle said...

Yummy indeed. I've done something similar (w/o sausage) to satisfy the hot-cheesy-yummy cravings. I've also heard of salting or squishing the eggplant (put on tea towels, put cookie sheet on top and cans on top of that) to remove the excess liquid, although I've never done that.

Your recipe does however still make a helluva lot of goodies. Do you then freeze it?

Dr. Crazy said...

K8 - yes, the salting thing would work, as would the low heat oven trick if I had thought of that before I started assembling :) That said, the way that I dealt with it worked fine, and didn't require the extra step. Also, because there are no noodles, there were no noodles to get soggy, and the veggies were perfectly cooked. In other words, one of the two possibilities you mentioned would work fine if one thought to do them, I'd imagine.

And yes, Belle, the plan is freezing a bunch, but in truth, when I'm in the "lasagna" place I tend to eat it breakfast lunch and dinner until it's gone. Freezing will work for this (I've frozen the gratin recipe to which I posted the link and it was fine) but you do need to eat fairly quickly even if you freeze - more than a few weeks in the freezer and the consistency gets yucky. I would *not* recommend freezing in a big container. Rather, break it up into individual serving sizes before freezing, which makes it easier to reheat and also which helps with texture issues.

Susan said...

This looks delicious.. . you inspire me.