Meaty Lasagna with Eggplant Noodles

Eggplant “faux” lasagna is another meal idea which I have seen referenced several times in the 4-HB circles.  So, again, I had to give this one a shot! This turned out really tasty (and hardy!).  I have to be honest – the active cook time is a bit longer than most of my other recipes on here; but sometimes it’s that extra work and time that makes the flavor simmer right on up to its tastiest potential! I guarantee there are a number of ways to cut down on the meat/tomato sauce time, if you so desire.  But overall, I am pleased with the concept; and am thrilled with how well eggplant worked in this scenario as a substitute for lasagna noodles.  Furthermore, I always dig having leftovers in the fridge for any lazy mealtimes the remainder of the week!

Ingredients:

For the “noodles”:
2 large eggplants
Olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:
1.5 lb ground beef (can be substituted with ground turkey, sirloin, etc.)
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
1 28-oz can, diced tomatoes
1 6-oz can, tomato paste
1 8-oz can, tomato sauce
1/3 cup, water
1.5 tsp, Italian seasoning
2 tsp, dried basil
1 tsp, garlic powder
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1 cup, baby spinach leaves
1 tsp, red pepper flakes (optional)

For the “cheesy” layer”:
1.5 cups cottage cheese (I used 1.5% milkfat)
1 tbsp, pesto sauce (Trader Joe’s has a good pre-made one)
2 eggs, beaten

Directions:

  • Chop the green bell pepper and onion into large chunks.  Dump into a small food processor along with the garlic, and process until well-chopped and combined.
  • Combine the contents from the food processor with the ground beef (by hand is easiest).
  • In a large dutch oven or pot, cook the meat over medium heat until browned.

  • Pour in the cans of tomatoes and the water, along with the Italian seasoning, salt & pepper, basil flakes, and garlic powder.  Stir to combine.
  • Reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid.  Continue to cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour 30 minutes.
  • While the sauce is cooking, preheat the oven to 400 F.
  • Wash and peel the thick outer skin of the eggplants.  Discard the skin.

  • Slice the eggplant into approximately 1/4-inch rounds.  Place slices on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Lightly coat the eggplant in olive oil and season both sides with salt & pepper.  Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until eggplant softens.

  • In a separate bowl, beat together the 2 eggs; then combine eggs with the cottage cheese and pesto.
  • When the sauce has finished cooking, layer the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with 1.5 cups of the meat & tomato sauce.  Top with a layer of spinach leaves.

  • Place eggplant slices in a single layer over top of the leaves.

  • Top the eggplant layer with about half of the pesto cheese mixture; spread to evenly layer over the eggplant.
  • Add another 1.5 cups of the meat sauce over top of the cheese layer.
  • Place another layer of eggplant slices over top.  Layer with the remaining pesto cheese layer.  Depending on how much sauce & eggplant remain, continue by alternating with another meat sauce layer, followed by an eggplant layer, using the remainder of the meat sauce as the top and final layer. Sprinkle red pepper flakes over the top if you’d like to add some heat!

  • Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake at 375 F for approximately 25 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking for another 25 minutes.
  • Leave to rest and cool for 10-15 minutes after removing it from the oven, then cut and serve!

Squash Noodles with Stir-Fried Veggies

This might not necessarily qualify as a brand new recipe, but more of a build-off of the recently posted standard squash noodle method.  This just takes these noodles a step further by preparing, and tossing them with, sautéed/stir-fried veggies.

This is my absolute favorite way to prepare squash noodles.  It’s a fantastic way to use up any remaining veggies in your fridge toward the end of the grocery week.  Call it, “shopping your fridge,” if you will!  But even more importantly – it’s a great way to get a good mix of vegetables in with your meal! Veggies are good for you, kiddos! Haven’t you heard?

So – if you’ve already read through (and perhaps even mastered for yourself!) the squash noodles recipe, you can probably skip over some of the beginning preparation below.  But for the sake of consistency, and for any new recipe-surfers out there; I’ve included the full process.

Ingredients:
1-2 large yellow squash, zucchini squash, or eggplant (all work well for this)
1 tbsp coconut oil (or extra virgin olive oil), separated
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (contingent upon your preference of spiciness!)
Hodgepodge of chop-able veggies

Directions:

  • Wash and pat dry the squash or eggplant.
  • With a vegetable peeler, peel away the thick outer skin and discard
  • Once you have removed the outer skin, continue using your vegetable peeler along the full length of the squash to peel away into fettucine-like sized strands. (Tip: I find the best way to maintain full-length strands is by laying the squash down on its side on the cutting board, and pulling the peeler along, horizontally – rather than holding the squash as you peel)
  • Continue to rotate the squash as you peel away the strands, so your “noodles” remain somewhat uniform
  • Stop peeling once you reach the seeds, as the seedy strands will become mushy in the cooking process (I usually end up either chopping up the remaining vegetable to toss into a stir-fry for mixing with the noodles, or save it to chop up into a salad, later…I just hate wasting anything!)
  • Season the noodles with salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you wish
  • Put plate aside, and chop up your veggies for the stir-fry.  (My standards: red or yellow onion, assorted bell peppers, broccoli, spinach leaves, jalapeno, sliced mushrooms, the remainder of the squash/eggplant post de-noodling).
  • In a medium frying pan, over medium-high heat, add the first 1/2 tbsp coconut oil. Once the oil is hot (not smoking), add the veggies and minced garlic, and saute for about 5-7 minutes until vegetables become soft.
  • Once almost cooked to completion, dump the contents into a paper plate to sit while you cook the noodles (below).
  • Using the same frying pan as was used to cook the veggies, heat the second 1/2 tbsp of coconut oil over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot (not smoking), add the squash strands.
  • Saute the noodles in the pan, pushing them around frequently for 2 minutes as they cook in the oil.  The squash will turn a bright color when finished, and will have become limp and noodle-like.  2 minutes is all it takes, and your noodles are complete!
  • Once the squash noodles are almost at that 2-minute mark, I then dump the stir-fried veggie contents from the paper plate, back into the pan with the noodles, and toss briefly together to combine and reheat.
  • You’re now fully ready to distribute the oh-so-colorful mix of veggies & noodles onto your plates to enjoy! Hooray!!

Squash Noodles: Quite Simply

So – to my knowledge thus far, there are 2 pretty good ways of imitating noodles for your 4HB dish.  The spaghetti squash method; and a quicker, and probably my favorite method:  the standard squash noodle method.  Yep, at word-value, you’re probably wondering what distinction I’m pretending to make, here.  Keep on reading, oh skeptical one.

Squash noodles are so easy.  So quick.  And so good.  And they are a great way to cram those extra veggies in, all the while fulfilling that little pasta craving that has been creeping up on you somewhere mid-way between your cheat days.  A great thing about “pasta,” too, is that there are so many different variations your  course can take.  Serve as a side, or top with a chicken breast or filet of fish!

Plain and simple:

Ingredients:
1-2 large yellow squash, zucchini squash, or eggplant (all work well for this)
1/2 tbsp coconut oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Any other seasonings

Directions:

  • Wash and pat dry the squash or eggplant.
  • With a vegetable peeler, peel away the thick outer skin and discard
  • Once you have removed the outer skin, continue using your vegetable peeler along the full length of the squash to peel away into fettucine-like sized strands. (Tip: I find the best way to maintain full-length strands is by laying the squash down on its side on the cutting board, and pulling the peeler along, horizontally – rather than holding the squash as you peel)
  • Continue to rotate the squash as you peel away the strands, so your “noodles” remain somewhat uniform
  • Stop peeling once you reach the seeds, as the seedy strands will become mushy in the cooking process (I usually end up either chopping up the remaining vegetable to toss into a stir-fry for mixing with the noodles, or save it to chop up into a salad, later…I just hate wasting anything!)
  • Season the noodles with salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you wish
  • Heat the oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot (not smoking), add the squash strands.
  • Saute the noodles in the pan, pushing them around frequently for 2 minutes as they cook in the oil.  The squash will turn a bright color when finished, and will have become limp and noodle-like.  2 minutes is all it takes, and it’s ready!
  • Eat plain, or top with 4HB-friendly marinara or pesto sauce, or with a mix of stir-fried veggies.