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Dallas-style crock pot lasagna

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Not to pull a Crock Pot Girls on anyone, but I made this fantastic lasagna in the crock pot last night. After spending nearly the last year of my life preparing nothing but salt- and butter-free meals (chicken, white fish, brown rice and green vegetables, yawn) to support my husband’s body-building competitions, I’m getting a small reprieve to cook again.

I was enjoying a quick meal at the new Whole Foods at Park Lane with a girlfriend when she told me about her latest discovery: you can cook lasagna from scratch in the crock pot. Already fretting over what I was going to cook the rest of the week, I grabbed her by the arm and marched her through the store for the ingredients.

Val’s Dallas-Style Crock Pot Lasagna

1 small box of no boil lasagna noodles

1 lb. ground turkey

1 can/jar of tomato sauce

½ package of cherry tomatoes

Handful of basil (I picked this from the plant in my yard)

Part-skim ricotta cheese (at last 16 oz., but use as much or as little as desired)

Italian seasonings (your choice)

2tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Optional:

½ small onion (I used ½ cup of dried onion flakes on mine)

2 cups parmesan cheese

Red wine (I love selections from San Martino winery in Rockwall, something cheap on Whole Foods' featured wines list or whatever's leftover of a bottle of Tempranillo from Times Ten Cellars in Lakewood.

For the Italian seasonings, I usually do something different every time – garlic salt or a jar of minced garlic works, as does Mrs. Dash’s Italian or Table blends. Be creative – don’t limit yourself – and be sure to add salt and pepper. I bought a basil plant from the Dallas Farmer’s Market in the spring, so I picked a handful of what I hadn’t killed off over the summer and threw it into the pan.

Brown your turkey in a pan, using that Rachael Ray EVOO-once-around-the-pan trick she touts (1tbsp). Toss in Italian seasonings, tomato sauce, onion flakes and basil. My friend and I were drinking a cheap bottle of cabernet at dinner, so I brought home the leftovers and dumped about a quarter cup of it into my meat sauce and let it simmer on low for about 10 minutes.

And drank the rest.

When my meat concoction was ready, I set my crock pot timer on 6 hours at the lowest setting (if your crock pot has a High-Low-Warm setting, set it to Low). I like to line my crock pot with one of those slow cook protector bags you can get in the foil and baggie aisle at the grocery story. Next, I layered my lasagna in the pot, starting with the no-boil noodles, ricotta, meat mixture, and so on. About half-way through, I tossed in 1 cup of parmesan and kept layering, ultimately covering the top of my lasagna with the remaining parm, the cherry tomatoes and drizzled the rest with 1 tsp of EVOO.

Thinking about it now, I wish I’d picked the yellow gooseneck squash in my garden, diced it and layered it into the lasagna … would be nice with mushrooms, zucchini or eggplant, too. Be creative and throw in whatever sounds good to you.

Cover it and leave it alone and go to bed. You’ll wake up in the morning to an awesome lasagna. Here’s a fair warning, though – your lasagna may not be completely pretty. Because of the odd shape of my crock pot, the noodles didn’t completely spread perfectly across the contraption as they would have in a traditional pan. But hell, it all eats the same and everyone in my house is happy.

They better be.

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