Happy day before Solstice! With five days until Christmas, I hope you’re all set to go. Christmas Eve dinner is once again at my place, so I still have some shopping to do. The menu is set and I’m keeping it pretty simple: A classic Spinach Lasagna (recipe here), garlic-cheese bread, salad and an ice cream sundae bar for dessert. Plenty of good coffee, wine and friends will complete the evening.
Since this is a time of holiday potlucks and house guests, I thought it would be fun to highlight some recipes that are easy, but elegant.
The first recipe is a Christmas morning favorite: German Pancakes with walnut sauce (recipe here). Easy, easy recipe that will wow any overnight guests. And there is a bonus Santa Cookie recipe at that link.
And if you’re asked to bring the dessert?How about JeffreyW’s Sweet Potato-Pecan Pie (recipe here). Pretty to look at and delicious.
Or my ridiculously easy and festive Cranberry Upside-Down Cake (recipe here).
Expecting a house full or need a potluck dish? Our featured recipe (pictured at top) is a great take on spinach lasagna, using a slow-cooker. This entire dish completely surprised me. I was at work, in our morning meeting – which is actually just an excuse for the guys to wow me with their cooking ideas – when Vern told me about the slow-cooker lasagna he’d made the night before. I was skeptical. Lasagna in a slow-cooker sounded like it would have the consistency of canned ravioli. But he insisted it was really good. So I set out to see for myself. I have to say, he wasn’t wrong. It had a great flavor, the texture was very similar to having cooked it in an oven and the top was nicely browned and the cheese perfectly gooey. The only caveat is that it cooks in about 4 hours, so you can’t put it together in the morning and have it ready when you get home at the end of the work day. It would be burned to a crisp, even on low.
So, here is tonight’s featured recipe, my version of slow-cooker lasagna:
Slow-Cooker Spinach Lasagna
- 1 lb lean ground beef (opt, you can skip to keep this vegetarian)
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 2 tsp crushed garlic
- 1 carrot shredded (this cuts the acidity of the sauce, adds a touch of sweetness)
- 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
- 28 oz canned tomato sauce
- 6 oz can tomato paste
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
- 2 tsp of dried basil, crushed
- 12 ounces ricotta cheese (you can sub in cottage cheese if desired)
- 1 egg
- 2 cups fresh spinach, washed and rough chopped
- 16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 12 ounces lasagna noodles, uncooked (I used brown rice pasta to keep it gluten free)
Sauce: Brown ground beef, along with onion, garlic, carrots and green pepper in a saucepan (if you are omitting the beef, sauté vegetables in a tbsp of olive oil). Add tomato sauce, paste and spices. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and let simmer on low while preparing remaining ingredients.
Mix together ricotta cheese and egg, until well combined. Fold in spinach.
In the slow-cooker, spoon a layer of sauce onto the bottom, add a double layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (break to fit) and top with a portion of the ricotta mixture and then a portion of the mozzarella. Add sauce, then a single layer of noodles, ricotta and mozzarella and repeat layers until ingredients are all used up. (Because slow-cookers vary in size, I unfortunately can’t give you precise layering, as I can with the traditional lasagna. You’ll have to eye it. The good news is, it will all cook together and be just fine regardless).
Finish with sauce, mozzarella and then shredded Parmesan.
Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.