Healthy Lasagna and Cheese Cake for Shavuot
A lot less sugar and cheese and maximum taste.
With Shavuot coming up, cheesy and sugary delights come to mind. And so does loads of refined sugar and flour, blood sugar spikes and crashes, not to mention extra fat and calories. At Healthy Bitez Kosher (www.healthybitezkosher.com) we’ve done some research and have a great solution: a healthier version of lasagna and cheesecake. And as an added bonus, we have included our special recipe for hearty, delicious tomato sauce. Enjoy!
Did you know that zucchini is a great replacement for pasta? Here are 3 tricks that I have found to making a great zucchini lasagna:
- Slicing the zucchini very, very thin, about 1/8”. This creates a smoother texture and better mouthfeel. When the squash is cut too thick, it overpowers the subtlety of the dish with its crunchiness.`
- Salting the zucchini. Like eggplant, zucchini has a lot of water in it, which can result in the lasagna becoming too liquidy. Salting the slices causes the squash to sweat out the extra water and results in a lasagna with a finer texture.
- Using a very thick tomato sauce. I found this out the hard way. The first time I tried making this recipe, I used a thinner sauce. The result was a very watery lasagna. If you use a thicker sauce, it cuts down on the liquid and adds more substance to the dish.
Here’s how you make the lasagna:
- 3 medium zucchinis or 4 gray squash
- 8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 cups parmesan cheese
- Tomato sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Wash zucchini and pat dry. Cut off ends. Slice vertically, very thin (about 1/8 ‘’). To do this, you can either use a sharp knife or a mandolin, if you own one. Spread zucchini on a plate in a single layer; do not put slices on top of one another. Sprinkle a good amount of salt over each slice. Let sit about 10 minutes. You will see the zucchini start to sweat as it releases the salt. Here’s a picture of what it looks like:
After about 10 minutes when zucchini is very shiny, rinse off each slice in a colander. Pat dry with paper towels.
Line a lasagna pan with the first layer of zucchini. If you are using gray squash, the slices tend to be smaller. You want to overlap the slices, like so (this is actually a picture of the second layer of lasagna):
Spread tomato sauce evenly over the zucchini. Next, generously sprinkle mozzarella and parmesan cheese over the sauce. Layer more slices of zucchini over the sauce and cheese, repeating the process until you have used up all the zucchini or you have as many layers as you want. Put in oven and bake for 40 minutes or until cheese is melted and slightly browned on top. Here’s a picture of my zucchini lasagna straight out of the oven:
Now, here’s how you make the sauce:
Hearty, Healthy Tomato Sauce
Makes 3 cups
- 1 29-oz. can plain tomato sauce or tomato puree
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 carrots
- 1 whole red pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 2 tsp. oregano
Saute chopped onions and garlic in a frying pan on medium heat until slightly brown, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Cut carrots in ½” chunks. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Place carrots in the pot and turn down heat to medium high. Keep carrots at a low boil for 5 minutes, then add sliced red peppers. Boil for another 5 minutes. When done, put carrots, peppers, onion, garlic and ½ cup of the water from the pot (it has all the nutrients!) in a blender or food processor. Puree until almost smooth. Bring sauce to boil then simmer for 30 minutes.
Rule of thumb: the longer tomato sauce cooks, the better it tastes and the thicker it gets. Instead of simmering just 30 minutes, you may want to try slow simmering for several hours. For this, your stove flame should be at the lowest setting possible. Make sure you check the tomato sauce every 30 minutes or so. As the sauce thickens, the water evaporates, which can eventually cause the sauce to dry out. You may need to add some more water. For extra nutrients, I suggest using the water you boiled the carrots and peppers in.
Better Than Cheesecake
I really wanted a great cheesecake recipe without cream cheese (which basically has no nutritional value). Is this possible? YES! This cheesecake is made with a combination of cottage cheese and plain Greek yogurt. The texture is light, as opposed to regular cheesecake, which is usually quite heavy. Instead of a graham cracker crust, we used whole wheat flour and coconut palm sugar (for more information on coconut palm sugar, go to: http://www.healthybitezkosher.com/coconut-palm-sugar.html) .
For the crust:
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- ¾ cup canola oil
- 4 Tbsp. coconut palm sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix flour, oil and coconut palm sugar in a medium bowl until well combined. Be careful not to overmix. Press dough into a pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes. Set aside.
- 2 1/3 cup low fat cottage cheese, small curd
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. Truvia baking mix*
- 2 tsp. white whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Put the cottage cheese and yogurt in a food processor or blender. Mix until very smooth. Add the eggs, flour, Truvia and vanilla. Pour mixture into the pie plate with the crust.
Bake for 1 hour. Chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Cheesecake tastes best when it has sat out of refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes.
*Note: I usually prefer using coconut palm sugar or fruit as sweeteners. However, sometimes you need a baked item to appear white, like cheesecake. In that case, I think Truvia is a good option. Even though it does contain white sugar, it is also mixed with Stevia, a natural sweetener made from the Stevia plant. So you are getting all of the sweetness with only half the sugar. Plus, you use ½ cup Truvia to 1 cup sugar. Not a bad deal, after all.