September 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm
by Heather Eng
As an editor at FamilyCircle.com, I spend a lot of time immersed in food content–especially slow cooker recipes, which are wildly popular with all of you. As a result of being so familiar with the options, I had a hard time choosing which recipe to make first. Indian-Spiced Chicken Thighs? Sweet and Sour Stuffed Cabbage Rolls? Easy Salmon and Bok Choy?
Eventually, I decided on the Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna. In my fridge, I had a stack of leftover corn tortillas that I wanted to use up. And while I’m no longer a vegetarian (after 6+ years), I still stick to a predominantly plant-based diet. The lasagna recipe looked simple, healthy, hearty and like it would yield plenty of lunch leftovers–one of my main reasons for slow cooking.
The recipe calls for cauliflower, but since I couldn’t fine a halfway decent head anywhere, I substituted yellow squash and zucchini. I also opted to use extra sharp cheddar instead of Monterey Jack; the former has a stronger flavor, allowing you to use less and save a few calories. To cut the sodium, I decided to make tomatillo salsa, instead of using jarred, by loosely following this recipe.
My boyfriend, Collin (who happens to be a great cook), and I made the salsa first…
…then we prepared the vegetable filling and grated the cheese….
…and layered everything in the slow cooker.
The recipe calls for the lasagna to slow cook on high for 3.5 hours. But since zucchini and squash cook faster than cauliflower–and I like my veggies on the crunchy side–we ate our first slices after just 2 hours and 15 minutes had passed and left the rest of dish to cook longer. The squash was still al dente, which pleased me. And while the cheese cooked down so much that there didn’t appear to be any, it still gave the lasagna richness.
Forty-five minutes later, we had another helping. This time, the veggies were softer but not mushy and the flavors had melded together more completely.
The recipe also yielded tons of leftovers. I’ve eaten it for lunch a few times and it’s just as tasty reheated.
Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna with Squash and Zucchini
Makes: 8 servings
Prep: 30 minutes
Slow Cook: 3 hours on HIGH
3/4 lbs. tomatillos husked, rinsed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium-size white onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 jalapeno, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
3/4 cup chopped cilantro, divided into 1/4 and 1/2 cups
4 zucchini, quartered and sliced
3 yellow squash, quartered and sliced
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 medium-size ears of corn, kernels cut from cobs
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2.25 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
8 taco-sized corn tortillas
1. In a bowl, combine tomatillos, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, jalapeno, lime juice and 1/4 cup cilantro. Let stand while preparing lasagna vegetables.
2. In another large bowl, place zucchini, squash, tomatoes, beans, corn and remaining 1/2 cup cilantro. Sprinkle with chili powder and cumin and stir to combine.
3. Coat inside of oval slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Spread 1/3 of the vegetable mixture over bottom of slow cooker, then sprinkle 3/4 cup cheese and 1/3 of the tomatillo salsa on top. Place 3 tortillas on top. Repeat layering two more times, setting aside last 2 tortillas. Cut these tortillas into 2-inch pieces and scatter over top.
4. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 hours.
What are your favorite vegetarian slow cooker recipes? What dish should I try for my second attempt? Let me know in the comments below!