Satisfying a Craving Sensibly: Low Carb Zucchini-Spinach Lasagna

“I determined to make God, rather than food, my focus.  Each time I craved something I knew wasn’t part of my plan, I used that craving as a prompt to pray.  I craved a lot.  So, I found myself praying a lot.”  Lysa TerKeurst, from Made to Crave (Zondervan Publishing)

Image Source:  www.bing.com

I love Italian food.  Lasagna is my favorite Italian dish, but it is filled with carbs.  (And carbs are not my friends!)  Every nutritionist I’ve ever heard speak about exchanges and lowering carbs has suggested using zucchini slices for lasagna noodles.  I don’t miss a lot of pasta, but I do get a craving for lasagna once in a while.  So, I did a little research, found some recipes, and tried them.  Some of the recipes were just not tasty.  So I decided to tweak the recipes – take the best of each one and make a recipe that was my own.

I think I hit the jackpot with this recipe!  My husband agreed to try it and my daughter gave me a funny look, but she tried it to please me.  Surprise, surprise — they loved it!   My older son had a serving when he came in from work and gave it his seal of approval as well.   In fact, there was only one serving leftover that night (and that became my lunch for the next day).  Here is what it looked like as it came out of the oven:

Photo Image:  Sandra Hall Rosser

This is so yummy and satisfying!  So here is the recipe for you to try.  As you make this, let me caution you to make your meat sauce chunky and the cheese mixture creamy (I did this by adding a tablespoon or two of heavy cream or milk if the cheese mixture was too thick).  These two hints will make all the difference in the world.

Skinny Zucchini-Spinach Lasagna (serves 6)

Ingredients:

3-4 medium zucchini, sliced in thin rounds or in long thin strips (I used a mandolin to make even slices)*

1 cup of baby spinach leaves with the stems removed (washed and drained well)

1 pound of lean ground beef

16 ounces  non-fat, small curd cottage cheese

3/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese + 1/4 cup

1 egg (or 1/4 cup liquid egg white)

1 cup part skim, low-fat mozzarella cheese

Dried Italian seasonings:  basil, oregano, parsley (1 teaspoon each)

4 teaspoons garlic powder (divided)

4 teaspoons onion powder (divided)

Salt and pepper to taste

1-2 Tablespoons of heavy cream (or almond milk/skim milk), as needed

1 24-ounce bottle of low sugar spaghetti sauce, 1 cup reserved (I used Hunt’s)

1 Tablespoon stevia (optional)

An 8″ X 8″ pan for baking

Non-stick cooking spray

Directions:

1.  Cook hamburger on medium heat in a fry pan until meat is no longer pink.  Strain the meat so that most of the fat is removed.  (An old Weight Watchers trick I use it to pour two cups of boiling hot water over the meat to remove even more fat.)  Let the meat drain completely.

2.  Add meat back to fry pan and add most of the spaghetti sauce (reserve about 1 cup to use when layering).  Meat sauce should be chunky.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add 2 teaspoons garlic powder and 2 teaspoons onion powder. Add stevia.  (Stevia gives the low sugar spaghetti sauce a rich, marinara-style taste, but this can be omitted according to your tastes.)  Cover and let mixture simmer on  low.

3.  Wash and slice your zucchini.  Zucchini have high water content and to keep my lasagna from being soggy, I lay the slices of zucchini in one layer on some paper towels.  I salt both sides of the zucchini and cover with another paper towel and wait about an hour.  The salt leaches the water from the zucchini slices, making them more firm.  (I also do this with egg plant slices.  It makes them firm, not mushy, when you bake them.)

4.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

5.  In a mixing bowl, add cottage cheese, egg, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, the dried Italian spices, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, and 2 teaspoons onion powder.  Use a hand mixer to cream the ingredients together.  It may be slightly thick.  I add 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream to make it a bit creamier, which will make it easier to spread.

6.  Divide the zucchini slices (2 groups of slices) and divide the spinach

7.  Spray pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Put 1/2 cup of the reserved spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the pan.

8.  Start layering the lasagna in this way:

A.  1/2 cup spinach, first group of zucchini slices, half the cheese mixture, half the meat sauce, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

B.  1/2 cup spinach, second group of zucchini slices, remaining cheese mixture, remaining meat sauce, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, the remaining 1/2 cup of reserved spaghetti sauce, and finally the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.  (In the picture, you will see a bit of baby spinach at the top — I had about 1/4 cup left over from the bag, and I put the rest of the spinach in a layer right before the plain spaghetti sauce and Parmesan cheese at the top.)

9.  Cover the pan with aluminum foil.  Bake for 40 minutes covered.

10.  Remove the aluminum foil and bake for another 20 minutes.  Cheese should be lightly golden brown.  Set pan on a cooling rack and let rest 15 minutes before cutting.

*Having made this several times now, I have found that I really like the zucchini slices cut the long way.  They actually have the feel of a lasagna noodle when you eat the lasagna.  Also, using spinach is optional. (In fact, you can add any vegetables you like to this recipe.  If you add a lot more vegetables, I’d suggest a 9″ X 13″ pan.)  If you have a chunky meat sauce and a creamy cheese layer, this will keep the lasagna from being soggy.

Nutritional Information (1/6 of the pan):  275 calories, 5 g fat, 600 mg sodium, 7 g carbohydrates, and 22 g protein

Serve this with a generous portion of tossed salad filled with veggies and Lite Ranch dressing (or vinaigrette dressing).

Enjoy!

shr

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