Butternut Squash Lasagna Recipe

IMG_0057.JPG

In my quest to maintain a low carb diet, the main thing I miss is Italian food. I love Italian food but it is, of course, carb-heavy, because pasta. "Noodles" made from zucchini and squash (etc.) are OK, but they're just not the same.

I was peeling something one day with my Y-peeler, and got a case of the I-wonders. Depending on how it's cooked, butternut squash can be super-soft, like baked sweet potato, or firm-ish, like al dente pasta. So I says to myself, I says, I wonder if you could make lasagna with butternut squash "sheets" as the pasta. The internet provided no answers. The closest I could find was a recipe that uses disks of it as noodles. So it was time for some experimentation. I am pleased to report, it's doable. And fortunately it makes a lot of food, so the amount of time is worth it, unlike some of the other fancier dishes I make.

Makes 12 servings
Active time: 20-30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Equipment Needed

  • Large casserole dish
  • Y-peeler
  • Spatula (baking style)

Ingredients

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 3 cups shredded cheese
    Mozzarella for the top, plus more/parmesan/Italian blend for the filling
  • 2 cups alfredo sauce (or homemade)
  • 1 15oz container part skim ricotta cheese
    Regular ricotta is fine, too, but part skim has less fat
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1.5 cups finely diced onion
  • 1 lb ground chicken
    Any ground meat will work, I think chicken or sausage tastes best with the squash
  • 14oz crushed tomatoes
    1/2 of a standard can
  • 1/4 cup finely diced mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
    Or, 1/4 cup chiffonaded fresh basil
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
"Noodles!"

"Noodles!"

Instructions

  1. Cut the round ends off the squash
  2. Peel it down to the orange flesh
    Make sure to peel until there are no "veins" either
  3. Continue using the peeler to peel off sheets of squash; these are your noodles
    Save all of these, even the ragged or short ones, they'll be useful for covering gaps later
  4. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high
  5. Brown the meat, stirring continuously and breaking apart chunks
  6. Once browned, strain off the grease by dumping the meat into a colander; return to skillet
  7. Add garlic, onion, and mushrooms and cook until the onions are soft
    Stir regularly so nothing sticks; about 10 minutes
  8. Add tomatoes
  9. Reduce to a simmer and cover; cook for 10 minutes
  10. Preheat oven to 375°
  11. In a medium bowl, combine egg, ricotta, 1.5 cups shredded cheese, and remaining herbs/seasonings
  12. Mix well
    This is quickest if you first use your hands to get it roughly mixed
  13. Coat the casserole dish with cooking spray or oil
  14. Cover the bottom with a thin layer of sauce
  15. Put down a double layer of "noodles"
    They're too thin for a single layer, and as they bake they'll meld together; make sure to cover any gaps
  16. Spread a layer, about 1/4", of the ricotta mixture with a spatula
  17. Put down another layer of noodles
  18. Spread a layer of the meat mixture
  19. Repeat—sauce, noodle, ricotta, noodle, meat, noodle—until the dish is mostly full or you're out of building materials
    The top layer should be noodle; do not go all the way up to the edge, or you'll have a mess on your hands when it puffs up while baking
  20. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes
  21. Remove foil and bake for another 30 minutes
  22. Cover the top with the remaining shredded cheese and bake for another 10 minutes
  23. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving

Maybe Diets Don't Have to be the Worst?

Like many people, I started a diet with the advent of the new year. There's no practical reason for waiting until then (apart from the gluttony that accompanies the holidays), but something about the calendar roll-over makes it easier to commit to attempting to make a change.

If this life of ours
Be a good glad thing, why should we make us merry
Because a year of it is gone? but Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come
Whispering ‘It will be happier’
— Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "The Foresters," Act I, Scene III

Despite being a scrawny kid, I've been large-ish since my early teen years; after puberty my metabolism basically gave up, and that coincided with me participating less and less in physical activities. For the last 3-4 years I've maintained my weight, but that weight is Too Much™. The last successful diet I had was when I was 18; I went down from a 38 waist size to a 32—I don't remember how much actual weight I lost—by doing the Atkins diet. In the last 3 years I've tried juicing, meal replacement plans, and Weight Watchers, none of which I've been able to stick with long-term. Juicing doesn't work for me because there's a psychological aspect of not feeling sated even when I've had enough calories, because you're not eating anything. The meal replacement plan didn't work because it just wasn't enough food intake, period, which made it nearly impossible (and it was very expensive). With Weight Watchers, I just wasn't really motivated, and there's a financial aspect outside of the actual food.

So the low carb diet is the only one I've really been able to stick with, and this time around I have a (not) secret weapon, which is that know a lot more about food now and am a pretty decent chef. The main problem with diets, I find, is that diet food generally sucks. There's nothing exciting about a salad; and if a particular salad is exciting, it's not actually healthy. Meal replacement bars and shakes are uniformly gross. Juicing is unsatisfying. So the trick is to make meals that are healthy, filling, and appetizing.

I can do that now. I'm not going to blog about everything I eat while doing this, but I will be posting some of the better/uniquer (is uniquer a word? not really, but it's fun to say, so go with it) recipes I make, especially if it's something I come up with on my own. So here's some of what I've had so far, all of which was good:

Photo from Geniuskitchen.com

Photo from Geniuskitchen.com

Zucchini Pesto w/ Shrimp
I love pasta. This is a problem, because pasta is like 110% carbs. However, you can noodleize several vegetables*  and it's very close texturally and either mostly flavor neutral (zucchini and yellow squash), especially with sauce, or tasty enough in its own way you can work with it in the dish. Pesto sauce is extremely low carb—basically the only thing in it that has any to speak of is the nuts—and while it's fairly high calorie in bulk because of the olive oil, you don't use much per serving so it keeps the meal total low. I don't love traditional pesto sauce—I think the basil is often overpowering—so I gussied it up and am very pleased with the results.

*Basically anything that's long: most types of squash, sweet potatoes, carrots...

JMac's Pesto Recipe

Photo from Delish.com

Photo from Delish.com

Tomato Chips
When you're doing low carb crunchy is probably the most severely limited texture option. Chips of all varieties, nuts, fried stuff...all full of carbs. Sure you could eat raw vegetables, but who needs that in their life. These are extremely easy to make, if time consuming, and are very close to eating proper potato chips.

Recipe from Delish

slumgullion

Butternut Slumgullion
This one I take 95% of the credit for (I did google how long to roast the squash and boil the sausage). It's basically the result of picking up some Italian sausage at the grocery store, then wandering around trying to think of what would go together that wasn't rote. I left with the sausage, a butternut squash, a granny smith apple, a honeycrisp apple, a sweet onion, and about $.50 worth of raw pumpkin seeds. And it worked out pretty well, I think. (Fun fact: "slumgullion" was coined by Mark Twain; in some parts of the US it's what they call American-style goulash.) This is on the edge of being not low carb, but for my purposes—staying below 60 grams/day—it's fine as long as I behave myself.

Butternut Slumgullion Recipe

Butternut Slumgullion Recipe

26001424_10212996152732267_214217518693171949_n.jpg

Equipment Needed

  • Peeler
  • Chef knife
  • Medium pot
  • 3-5 qt covered saute pan
  • Baking tray

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled & diced (3-4 cups)
  • 1 lb sweet italian sausage (3-4 sausages)
  • 1 cup diced sweet onion
  • 1 each granny smith & honeycrisp apples, peeled & diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup raw, shelled pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper
  • Salt & black pepper, to taste
  • Butter or ghee, for sauteing

Instructions on prepping a butternut squash

Instructions

Squash & Pumpkin Seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 400°
  2. In a large bowl, toss the squash with olive oil, salt, & black pepper
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  4. Lay the squash out in a single layer
  5. Place pumpkin seeds on a sheet of aluminum foil & fold it into an envelope
  6. Place this onto the baking sheet
  7. Cook for 25 minutes, or starting to get tender

Sausage

  1. Boil the sausage until mostly cooked through (about 15 minutes)
  2. Let cool, then slice thin

Slumgullion

  1. In a saute pan, melt butter or ghee
  2. Saute onion until translucent, about 5 minutes
  3. Add sausage & cook until almost no pink remains, 5-10 minutes
  4. Add garlic, squash, apple, & red pepper
  5. Stir to combine
  6. Cover & cook, stirring occasionally, until apple softens, about 5 minutes
  7. Add pumpkin seeds & stir
  8. Serve immediately

Notes

  • Makes 6 servings
  • It also tastes good with a little cheese on top
  • If you have a sous vide circulator, cook the sausages at 140° for 30 minutes
26055767_10213016456599851_263368252731470216_n.jpg

Nutrition

(All approximate)
Calories: 315
Fat: 33g
Sodium: 9mg
Potassium: 515mg
Carbs: 39g
Dietary Fiber: 5g
Sugar: 13g
Protein: 8.5g
Vitamin A: 225%
Vitamin C: 48%
Calcium: 8%
Iron: 7.5%

Cantaloupe Salad & Basil Mayo

Cantaloupe Salad & Basil Mayo

My little garden is starting to come in, and my basil and mint plants are getting out of control, so needed something to trim them back a bit. The basil mayo is great on a nice caprese sandwich (tomato slice, mozzarella slice (normally a basil leaf, but forgo that since, y'know, fancy mayo) on Italian bread).

Read More