Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Healthy Recipe Substitutions + Amazing Slow-Cooker Lasagna

I'm linking up for Weigh In Wednesday...

Today, I wanted to share a few tips and tricks I use to lighten up my favorite recipes that have little effect on the overall taste. 
  • In recipes that call for ground sausage or beef, use turkey sausage or ground turkey! I usually only do this if the meat has more of a supporting role in the dish--for example, a turkey burger just can't replace a 100% beef hamburger, no matter how good a cook you are! 
  • Use reduced-fat dairy products instead of their full-fat siblings. In some cases, the nutritional difference is negligible and won't really matter. However, in recipes that call for larger amounts of cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, etc., it definitely makes a difference! (The cheese still melts very nicely.)
  • Use plain nonfat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. I almost always do this with dips, and there is literally zero difference in taste. 
  • Use Splenda's Brown Sugar blend in place of brown sugar. I usually do this when the brown sugar will not be heated, such as oatmeal topping or in a fruit dip that I make. (Depending on your feelings surrounding artificial sweeteners, this could be good or bad.)
Those are just a few of the easy substitutions that I use, because they're easy and inexpensive. I also usually keep all of these things in my house. For the record, whenever I'm making a recipe for the very first time, I always follow it to the letter so I can gauge how to alter it in the future. 

Now, that lasagna recipe I mentioned in the title... this lasagna is pretty much the best lasagna I've ever had, it cooks in the crock pot, AND it makes a ton of food! It also freezes really well, which is important if you're not planning to feed an entire army at one time. It's a little sneaky, because it doesn't look like it makes that much--however, it turns out that it's pretty deep so once it lands on your plate you're like, "Holy cow that's a ton of food!"

A few notes about this...

  • I use a 6.5-7 quart (I honestly don't know which it is) oblong slow cooker for this recipe
  • I put this on in the morning before work, and my slow cooker automatically switches to warm after the 4 hours, and it stays that way until I get home from work, usually an additional 5-6 hours. So far it hasn't been a problem. I do prefer making this on the weekends though, so it's not just sitting most of the day. 
  • If you're impatient and forget to put it under the broiler, it's literally no big deal. All it does is brown the top.
  • Don't spend $3 on basil if you don't have it already; the taste is not any different with or without it.
  • I compared the lighter ingredients to equal amounts of their "regular" versions, and here ya go... regular sausage=86pp, turkey sausage=36pp; whole milk mozz.=54pp, part-skim=45pp; whole milk ricotta=20pp, part skim=15. Obviously, you're saving the most by using turkey sausage here, but I feel like every little bit helps especially in higher-point recipes like this. 
  • This makes 12 really generous servings. You could easily get more servings out of it.

(Lightened Up) Slow Cooker Lasagna
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Slow-Cooker Lasagna
Servings: 12 | 13 PointsPlus/serving

1 Tbs. olive oil
2 lb. Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
2 jars (each 24 oz.) marinara sauce
2 cups water
15 oz. part-skim ricotta cheese
2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
15 ruffle-edged lasagna noodles (not no-boil noodles)
1 1/2 lb. part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated
1.25 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
Thinly sliced fresh basil for garnish

Warm olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up any large chunks with a wooden spoon, until the meat is browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the marinara sauce and water and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.

In another bowl, stir together the ricotta, parsley, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Spread a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom of the slow-cooker insert. Cover the sauce with a single layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (about 3), breaking the noodles as needed to fit. Spread about 1/3 cup of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Top with about 2 cups of the sauce, then sprinkle with about 1 cup of the mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Repeat the layering 4 more times, starting with the noodles.

Transfer the insert to the slow-cooker base, cover and cook on low according to the manufacturer’s instructions until the noodles are tender and cooked through, about 4 hours.

Position a rack in the center of an oven and preheat to broil.

Transfer the slow-cooker insert to the oven and broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Let the lasagna rest for 20 minutes before serving. Garnish with basil and serve immediately.


  1. Can't wait to try looks and sounds delicious!!

  2. Didn't know you could put the inner crock in the oven.

  3. I love all the ideas for healthy substitutions! I hate mayo, so I already use greek yogurt instead of mayo in my dishes.I like the idea of splenda brown sugar. I use regular splenda but will need to try that!
    Lasagna looks yummy!


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