Friday, February 4, 2011

Red Friday and Healthy Lasagna

I really didn't feel like getting dressed today, but like last week, I am Making An Effort: Inigo is not impressed with my efforts, clearly. It's also Wear Red Day in the US and February is Heart Month with the Heart and Stroke Foundation in BC (an organization I support because of my dad dying of a heart attack). Anyway, I have my red sweater on and my red patterned socks.

Well, most of the time you can't see my socks:
My feet look like leopard loaves of bread, but at least they're warm!

Sweater (Tobias), jeans (Seven7, gift from Caro), belt (swap from Ruth), slippers (Isotoner).


I really don't like cooking, but I make more effort at it over the past four years, since I lost weight. I used to buy frozen lasagna and throw it in the oven - sure, it saved time, but that processed food will kill you, man. All that salt! All the added sugar! Lack of whole ingredients and whole grains! Lack of veggies!

So I bought some whole wheat lasagna noodles and played with the recipe on the back, combined with my mom's recipe. I don't have my own recipe written down, and I tend to vary it a bit every time I make it, but if you're interested, here's how I make it.

Ingredients:

9 whole wheat lasagna noodles - 8 PointsPlus Values (Weight Watchers)
3 cloves of garlic, diced small - 0 PP
1 3" diameter onion - 0 PP
4 tsp olive oil - 4 PP
1 can unsalted diced tomatoes - 2 PP
1/2 can unsalted tomato paste - 1 PP
6 oz extra lean ground beef - 6 PP
500 ml fat free cottage cheese - 9 PP
1 egg - 2 PP
2 cups finely chopped spinach - 0 PP
4 green onions, finely chopped - 0 PP
Ground pepper, nutmeg, cayenne, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano - 0 PP
1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli - 0 PP
1 whole pepper, finely chopped - 0 PP
2 stalks celery, finely chopped - 0 PP
4 large mushrooms, chopped - 0 PP
1/3 package of skim mozzarella, grated - 10 PP
6 tbsp shredded Asiago cheese - 3 PP

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, covered, then 10 minutes uncovered. Rest 10 minutes before serving. Refridgerate any unused portions and use within 2 days.

Process:
I line my non-stick big cake pan with aluminum foil, creating a divider in the middle with another piece:
The reason I make a divider is that I LOVE mushrooms and L loathes them. This way, I have my yummy mushroom lasagna, and he has no mushrooms at all. Poor L.

I've calculated out the PointsPlus values for all my packaged food. I went through my freezer, fridge and cupboards with my WW calculator when I started the new program and wrote all the PointsPlus values on the packages with a permanent marker. The lasagna noodles are 8 PP for one serving or 15 for two. As my recipe needs 9 noodles total, that's a two serving amount.I snap the noodles in half and pop them in a pot of boiling water. At the same time, I saute up the garlic (chopped up finely) and onion (diced) in the olive oil. Preheat the oven to 350.
Yum...I love the smell of onions and garlic cooking. This is the base for nearly everything I cook, from burritos, to spaghetti, to soup.

I track my PP as I go, calculating or looking up the PP values and jotting them down on a sticky note:I keep my sticky notes in my 3-month tracker to refer back to the next time I make that recipe.

I've gone through my Pocket Guide book and highlighted all the foods I regularly eat so that it's easier to look them up. I buy my extra-lean ground beef in large quantities when it's on sale, flatten it into patties (faster to thaw than a ball) and divide it up into freezer bags - this is about 6 ounces (the size of two small patties).

I cook that up with the onions and garlic:Mmmm...the whole house smells good!

I don't buy most tomato sauces because they are loaded with sugar and salt. This brand is organic, no salt, just diced tomatoes.
In my book, it's 0 PP, but since I'm using the entire can, I calculated it out at 2 points. I'm only cheating myself by trying to work around the system. *sigh*

I also added half a can of organic tomato paste because the diced tomatoes alone are fairly bland:
Although the paste is just straight tomatoes, it's concentrated tomato flavour and really adds a lot of zip. This was 1 PP. I dumped it in and added a bit of water to keep the mixture from getting too thick. I'll use the other half when I make spaghetti this weekend.

I add my spices at this point. This is what I loaded up my sauce with:
Lots of ground mixed black and coloured peppercorns, cayenne pepper (L and I both love spicy food, and the spice helps balance out the lower sodium content), red pepper flakes, oregano and basil. I load it up!Mmmm...that's looking good. While it's simmering on low (add water if it gets too thick), I mix up my cheese filling layer:
That's the cottage cheese, egg, chopped spinach, and half of the green onion. I also added nutmeg, gave it all a good stir and set it aside for a few minutes.

I chop up my veggies:I do a pretty fine chop on all of these: broccoli, orange pepper, celery and the rest of the green onions. Sometimes I vary this up with some zucchini, cauliflower or asparagus, whatever I need to use up in the veggie bin.


I add the veggies to the meat sauce and let it simmer for a while:Heavenly! This is my spaghetti sauce almost exactly.

While the veggies are getting soft, I chop up the mushrooms:
I always do them last so that they don't touch the other veggies. I'm such a good wife.

When the noodles are done (they usually are cooked by this point - I leave them in the water so they don't dry out and stick together), I start assembling the lasagna.Smoosh around a bit of the sauce in the bottom of the pan so that the noodles don't stick to the bottom:
Then add 3 of the half-noodles per side:
L's side gets half of the cottage cheese/spinach mix. I mix in half of the mushrooms to the remaining mix and spread it in my side.

Another layer of 3 half noodles goes on top of that, then half of the remaining sauce:I add the rest of my mushrooms to the sauce and stir them in. I save a few pieces of mushrooms for the top.

Add the last layer of 3 half noodles, and cover the top with shredded skim mozzarella. I buy a package of skim mozza when it's on sale, calculate the PP of the entire package, cut it into 3 sections and freeze the portions I don't need (I write on the freezer package how many PP there are).You can see that I've added the last few bits of mushroom on top so that I can tell whose is whose. I also add Asiago cheese:
Dry cheeses are surprisingly low in fat and have loads of flavour. I also buy Parmesan, Romano and a Mixed Cheese variety of this brand.

Next, insert toothpicks at regular intervals all over the top:
Next, cover it with another sheet of aluminum foil:
Bake it for 45 minutes. This is a bit of a time-intensive recipe because of the prep time and baking time - this took me a little over 2 hours to make - so because of that, I usually make this on the weekend when I have more time.

After 45 minutes, take it out:
Remove the top layer of foil and take out the toothpicks. Pop it back into the oven for another 10 minutes to brown up the top a bit.
After 10 minutes is up, take it out and let it sit for another 10 minutes. This is the hardest part, because by then, I'm starving and it smells So. Darned. Good.


I distract myself by calculating out the PP values for the entire pan:
Oops, I forgot to add 2 PP for the egg - so it's actually 52 PP. That seems like a lot, but that's 26 PP for half of the pan, and 13 PP for a quarter of the pan (my usual serving). If I choose to be a bit more restrained, I could roast some veggies or have a salad on the side and eat 1/8th of it for only 7 PP!

This is what our dinner looked like: Mine was a little harder to get out of the pan! That's a big portion, as you can see - half of that (or 1/8th of the pan) would still be a good-sized serving.

I immediately put another serving on smaller plates and wrap it up and put it in the fridge for the next night's dinner (two shots in the microwave at about 2.5 minutes each will do it). It tastes even better the next day!
Yum!

Check out the nutritional benefits per 1/4 of the pan:

- loads of fibre (noodles, veggies)

- a great source of mostly lean protein (beef, cheese, egg)

- 1 serving of low-fat dairy

- 2 servings of veggies

- 1 serving of healthy oil

And believe me, I am happily full after eating that! It keeps me satisfied, and I'm not even interested in evening snacks. When I compare this to the packaged, processed lasagna I used to buy, sure, that was easier and faster to make, but my version is so much healthier! I would rather spend the time once a month and make something that I know is going to be good for my health.

15 comments:

  1. Mmm... I'll be stopping by for dinner tomorrow!

    Seriously, I like how you made this dish healthy. Choosing the right ingredients makes a huge difference. I love fresh veggies in everything.

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  2. Yay red, boo for heart disease. I guess I'm pretty thankful though because my grandfather is still alive today due to his treatments/surgery for heart disease.

    The lasagna sounds amazing. And how cool you split it up like that! I'm always trying to do things to include things hubby loves that I don't (shrimp, mushrooms, etc), so that's a great idea for customizing.

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  3. Mmmm, that sure does look good. I'm going to have to try that. Maybe next week. You look cute today. Much better than I did....oh-well, I'll blame it on having my gums scraped today...

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  4. This just looks so good. And I like that it is PACKED with so many veggies.

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  5. Ha, it's all gone, Shy! I actually made this on Wednesday and we ate the last of it last night.

    Megan, that's great about your grandfather. It's wonderful lasagna - I split up a lot of our food due to preferences.

    Thanks, Alison, let me know how it goes!

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  6. Mmmmmm.... lasagna! I'll have to remember that. My mom always takes requests when I visit, and since I'm headed that way this week, I might have to remember that!

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  7. Hehe, I love the leopard slippers. And your lasagna looks amazing! I must try to your recipe.

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  8. This outfit is the cuteness. I like your accessories.

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  9. Thanks for this Sheila, it looks delicious.

    I've recently started WW and I've calculated my own lasagne recipe which comes out at 12 PP per serving. It doesn't have as many veggies in as yours, so I serve it with a side salad. The best bit is it's soooooo much nicer than the ready made ones!

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  10. Wow the lasagna looks YUMMY! I will definitely give that a try.

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  11. Mmm, lasagna - that looks tasty! I've always loved cooking, but I really got into exploring new recipes and ingredients in my cooking and baking thanks to Weight Watchers and other weight loss efforts too.

    Also, I had that exact pair of Isotoners until I totally wore them into the ground! They're so soft and comfy :)

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  12. I LOVE your divider, I have to try it out. My daughter Jia and I love mushrooms, everyone else hates them!

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  13. Cara, it's delicious, try it!

    Thanks, Ariel, I had to get slippers that reflected my style! Thanks!

    Wendy, thanks!

    Thanks, PixieSam, and thank you so much for commenting. Good for you for starting WW, and for converting your own recipe - great idea to have a side salad with it!

    Hi, Jen! Let me know how it goes! See you soon!

    Anne, thanks! These slippers rule!

    Thanks, Lesa!

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  14. Love the look of the lasagne.....the divider is a great idea :-) Just a query though, I am doing the new PP plan here in NZ (presume it is the same though?) and a full can of tomatoes comes out to 0PP's - your looked like they were just plain tomatoes with no flavouring in them, do you know why the plan might differ on an item? Just curious ;-)

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  15. Leanne, yes, it's the same program. The reason why I counted points was that I was easily exceeding the 5 fruits/veg per day, so I'm counting the extras. If I skip counting them, I'm only cheating myself. Thank you so much for commenting!

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Cheers,
Sheila