Variety. Some say it is the spice of life. I created this lasagna to add a little variety to my upcoming cookbook. So many times, we cook the SAME ‘OL foods! How many different ways can you eat cauliflower?? I love both spinach and sweet potatoes, but don’t cook with either that much. Sweet potatoes are very nutritious but they are pretty carby, so if I eat them, I like combining them with other foods. In this recipe, the thinly sliced sweet potato make the PERFECT lasagna noodle! I think EVERYONE will LOVE this recipe!
Another great thing about this Lasagna is that you can cook it in your Crock Pot (slow cooker) or in the oven. The night I made the lasagna in the picture, I put it on low in my Crock Pot, and HOPED and PRAYED that I wouldn’t over-cook it. Well at 4 am in the morning, it was OVERCOOKED! ;-( If I had a fancy slow cooker , I could have programmed it to cook for only 6 hours. Here is where my quest for a new slow cooker began!
Slow Cookers, or Crock Pots as I call them (which is actually just a brand name of a slow cooker), are essential in my house. Raising 2 small kiddos and working on my blog and cookbook, I need all the extra time I can get! The idea that I can throw meat, veggies and seasonings in a cooker, walk away and then return to perfectly cooked meal is Genius! Unfortunately, not all slow cookers are created the same, and I learned that the hard way after over cooking a few recipes! On my quest, here are some things I was looking for in a new slow cooker:
- Ability to use the Pot on top of the stove to brown meat before cooking.
- Delayed Start sounds nice but may not be needed.
- Probe sounds nice but not really necessary.
- 6 quart capacity.
- Portability not really necessary.
- Dishwasher Safe would be nice.
- Reasonable price.
Searing the meat is SO important! Yes, this is an extra step but all the yummy flavor that comes out of searing and browning the meat is worth it! I would also like to be able to program the cooker to shut off after a given time so I don’t over-cook delicate dishes like this Sweet Potato Lasagna!!
Here are a few I am considering:
(Click on links to read full reviews and to find out more details):
1. Hamilton Beach 33967 Set ‘n Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker: This one is what I was going to purchase but realized you can’t put it on cook-top and there is no delayed start. It did have the probe and had clips for the lid that made it portable. At $50, this one is so tempting!
2. Ninja MC701 3-in-1 Cooking System: This one has great reviews. You can also steam and you actually use the base to sear the meat. This would be great for traveling. It is also much lighter than the others! Some of the negatives are the price of over $150, and you can’t put cooking vessel in the dishwasher.
3. Hamilton Beach 33265 6-Quart Programmable Insulated Slow Cooker: Removable crock for searing and browning. No probe. Dishwasher safe, Great price, $70. I think I am going to go with #3, the Hamilton Beach 33265 6-Quart Programmable Insulated Slow Cooker. I am excited to be able to sear meat in the same cooking vessel so I don’t have to dirty another pan! The negatives are that it is not portable but I am ok with that! I will still use my “old faithful” el cheapo crock pot to cook chicken stock or other recipes that are not sensitive to overcooking. I can’t wait for my new cooker to arrive! If you haven’t used your slow cooker in a while, the time is now! I will have almost 15 new slow cooker recipes in my cookbook (to come out in October ’13) and there are over 25 Crock Pot recipes available NOW in my Satisfying Eats Cookbook!
About the recipe
This recipe is really pretty easy! Use whatever meat you like or have on hand. I used grass-fed beef but any meat would work. The cooking time may vary from slow cooker to slow cooker. Since everything else is cooked, the main ingredient you need to cook is the sweet potato. In the picture below, I overcooked the lasagna by 2 hours. It was still VERY good but the cheese got very brown and the sweet potatoes were very soft. A little resistance would have been great from the potato to mimic real lasagna noodles. The slow cooking of the meat sauce really brings out the flavors without having to cook it on top of the stove for hours!!
Fresh vs. Dried Herbs
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE fresh herbs! The problems I run in to when using fresh herbs is that they go bad before I finish using them, and I don’t like to waste money! ;-( I also find the dried herbs to be much more convenient… no need to get a cutting board out! You can also purchase organic dried herbs pretty easily. Right now I have fresh basil, thyme and sage in the fridge but I tend to still reach for the dried stuff! My favorite fresh herb is basil, but since this recipe is supposed to be a quick, slow cooker meal, so I decided to use dried instead. Check out these 24 Organic Spices in Magnetic Jars! If using fresh herbs, the typical conversion is to use 3 times as much fresh herbs as you would dried.
Be sure to choose high quality dairy products. Look for “carrageenan” on the ingredient list of any dairy you buy and AVOID it! Check out this blog post for more information about carrageenan as a food additive. This recipe would be GREAT with homemade mozzarella! You could also use eggplant or zucchini instead of sweet potato or use all three. The disadvantage of using the zucchini is that your lasagna will have extra liquid given off from the zucchini. If you use eggplant, just be sure to peel it first before you slice it. This lasagna is a great way to highlight fresh tomatoes you put up this summer. If you are like me and didn’t have the time to put up any tomatoes, check out THESE tomato products in glass jars. I have been using the tomato paste and strained tomatoes and they are great! Try this recipe the slow cooker or in the oven! If you prepare it in a freezer safe dish, you can make it ahead of time, and store it in the freezer for a rainy day. I hope you enjoy this easy but tasty recipe! **Dairy Free Option: This recipe is great with cheese but if you can’t handle, dairy, simply omit it.
- 1 lb ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey)
- 3 cups crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
- 6 oz tomato paste
- ½ large onion, finely diced
- 1-1/2 tbsp each: dried basil, onion powder, garlic powder
- 1 tbsp dried parsley
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1-1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1-1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 servings Kal Stevia or 4 servings Orgainc Trader Joe's Stevia or sweetener of choice (to taste)
- 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
- 15 oz ricotta cheese
- ½ tsp salt
- Pinch of fresh nutmeg
- 12 oz. sweet potato, peeled and carefully sliced into 1/8 inch rounds
- 12 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded or sliced (approximately 3 cups)
- *Fresh grated Parmesan and chopped parsley for garnish
In a large frying pan, brown the ground beef and drain any excess oil. Add meat back to pan as well as the remaining ingredients for sauce. Stir and set aside. In a medium bowl, blend Spinach, ricotta, salt and nutmeg. Blend well and set a side.
Arrange Lasagna in Crock Pot: Spread 1/3 of meat sauce in bottom of large crock pot. Then place half of the sweet potato slices (sprinkle with a little bit of salt) followed by ½ the spinach mixture. Be sure to spread spinach mixture over entire surface of sweet potatoes. Then top with 1 cup of cheese. Repeat all the layers once and finish off with the last bit of meat sauce and the remaining cup of cheese.
Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3-4 hours or until sweet potatoes are tender and cheese is slightly browned. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and parsley.
Oven directions: Bake at 400 degrees F for 45-60 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender and cheese is melted.
For the PERFECT meal, serve with Better than Red Lobster Biscuits!
- Nutrition: 271 Calories, 11 g Fat, 13 Net Carbs, 26 g protein
Disclaimer Some of the links contained in this post are Affiliate Links. If you purchase through the links provided, I will receive a small (very small) commission which I used to buy more ingredients to create more recipes. I have chosen these products not to receive a commission but because I think they are the best on the market, and ingredients I actually use. Thank you for your continued support!