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Homemade Caramel Hand Dipped Chocolate Pecan Turtles

Lasagna is a great comfort food. The pasta, the tomato sauce, the beef, the chunky cheese inside and the gooey cheese on top. Who wouldn't like it? Unfortunately, like many comfort foods, lasagna isn't always very healthy.

I've seen some pretty poor attempts to replace cheese with tofu, but it occured to me that ricotta would be a prime candidate because it has a similar curd-like texture instead of the gooey melted form that makes other cheeses so tasty. Also, bottled spaghetti sauces have 5 times the calories and fat as canned tomatoes, and they use corn syrup and chemical preservatives, so why not make a quick sauce with canned tomatoes? Lastly how about we replace the beef with turkey?

In this recipe, I made all those changes, but you still get your melted cheese on top. The result is a hearty 2"x4" serving that tastes great and only has 370 Calories. Each piece is big enough for most people, but if it isn't, you can have two pieces guilt free.

Also, you can cook the sauce ahead of time and it can even be frozen and kept for a few weeks. Alternately, you can use the sauce for spaghetti, or add some cumin, cayenne and beans to make chili. If you do make the lasagna, you don't have to cook it right away either, you can prepare that a day ahead and bake it when you need it.
   
Ingredients

Makes 12 2"x4" servings Cals Fat (g)
The Sauce
1 Package Turkey Italian Sausage
(5 links, about 1.25 lbs)
800 50.0
1 tbsp Olive Oil 119 13.5
6 cloves Garlic, minced, to taste 27 .1
1 Medium Onion, chopped 46 .1
1 Large Green, Red or Yellow Bell Pepper, diced
(or mix portions of multiple colors)
50 0.
8 Oz Mushrooms, Sliced 50 .8
1 Large Can Tomato Sauce (29 oz) 195 0.0
2 Large Cans Crushed Tomatoes (56 oz)* 535 0.0
Salt and Pepper, to taste 0 0
1 tbsp Brown or White Sugar, to taste ** 52 0.0
1 tsp Dried Oregano, to taste 0 0
1 tsp Dried Parsley, to taste 0 0
Everything Else
1 lb Lasagna Noodles (Dry) 1800 10.0
1 package (15 oz) Firm Tofu 350 22.5
4 oz Mozarella or other melting cheese 320 20.0

Total 4344 117
Per Serving 362 9.8
* If you want your lasagna more saucy, replace one can crushed tomatoes with tomato sauce. If you want your lasagna more chunky, replace one can crushed tomatoes with diced tomatoes.
** I like sweet sauces, but it's up to you.
 
Instructions

    click for a larger image
First, we're going to cook the sausages. Heat a large pot over medium heat.

If you like to have a few big chunks of meat in the lasagna, set aside two whole links, otherwise you can use all five in the next step.

Take three links and with a knife, cut their casings lengthwise to expose the meat. Peel the casing off and discard it. Break up the meat with your fingers and put it in the pan to cook, further breaking up the meat with a spatula to the desired consistency. Also add the whole links as well to cook.
 

Cook until the meat is done, then move it to a separate bowl

If you opted to keep the whole links, make sure they are done to the center. After they've cooled, slice them so you have some nice flat round pieces that you can layer in your lasagna.
 

In the same pan or pot, add the oil. Once it's hot, add the garlic. Stir to prevent burning then add the onions. Let the onions cook for a minute or so, stirring occassionally. When they just start to turn translucent, add the peppers and let them cook for another minute. Then add the mushrooms and let them cook for another minute.  

Add the tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a simmer over low heat. Let it simmer uncovered to reduce the moisture and meld the flavors, 10-30 minutes. You can move on to the next steps while you wait..


 

While simmering the sauce, prepare the noodles by boiling them in at least 2 liters of water. A bigger pot will help to make sure you can get the whole noodles under water.  

Season the sauce with the sugar, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Set the heat as low as it will go and cover the pot.  

Chop your tofu into the smallest pieces you feel comfortable, perhaps into 1/2 cm cubes. Set aside.
 

Stop cooking the noodles when slightly undercooked or at most al dente. They will soak up some moisture in the lasagna and will get cooked the rest of the way later. Drain them and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking, leaving some water in the pot so they don't stick.
 

Get a large baking or roasting pan (perhaps 12" x 16" x 3", a typical 9"x13" cake pan won't be big enough) prepared. If you plan to bake the lasagna right away, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
 

Turn off the heat for the sauce and check the taste again.

When you're ready, spoon some of the sauce into the roasting pan. Not too much, but enough to evenly coat the bottom.
 

Now begin to build your layers by putting down 4 lasagna noodles, 3 running lengthwise and 1 perpendicular along the last side. Sprinkle 1/4 of the tofu evenly over the noodles. If you reserved slices of sausage from before, put a layer of those in as well. Follow this with another layer of sauce.

Assuming your box of lasagna had 20 pieces, repeat this 3 more times and then you will have 4 noodles left. If you had a different number of noodles, you may need to adjust the layers as needed.
 

For the last layer, you should now be out of tofu, so after you put the last noodles down, sprinkle half of your cheese instead. Spoon the rest of your sauce over it, then sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
 

Put the lasagna into the 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes. Since everything that was raw was pre-cooked, you only need to get the internal temp to about 160.

Allow it to rest a few minutes, then cut the lasagna (in between noodles when you can) into 12 pieces and serve.
 

Alternately, you can refrigerate the whole lasagna for later instead of baking it. Just keep in mind that it will need to bake for much longer since it will be cold (over an hour) and you should make sure to cook it all the way to 170.

Another option: if you are only going to be eating a few servings at a time, simply cut out the slices you want and microwave them as needed. Again since everything is pre-cooked you don't have to worry about it being done. About 2 minutes per slice should get it hot enough.
 



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