Slow Cooker Lasagna, A Healthier Version of my Favorite Comfort Food!


One of my favorite things to do on weekend mornings is to watch cooking shows, mostly on the Food Network Channel. I sleep a little longer and my hubby gets up first. He puts on a pot of coffee and I get up when I smell the brew! ย I flip on the TV and do my morning stretching/yoga routine, while sipping Starbucks coffee and watching chefs whip up various dishes. I often draw inspiration for my weekly menu planning this way. Last weekend I hit on a great one!

I was watching The Kitchen and Katy Lee demonstrate her recipe for “slow cooker lasagna soup.” What drew me to this was the ease of the slow cooker-I could assemble in the morning and have it ready for the end of the day. Also, I love the idea of controlling the amount of overall carbs and calories! This method would greatly reduce the number of lasagna noodles and amount of cheese in my regular lasagna recipe. Another huge bonus is that not all of my family eats cheese. The traditional lasagna is layered with cheese and noodles making it hard for people who want to avoid the cheese to pick around it. The cheeses are added at the end with this method, and if you want to skip that step all together, you still get all the great lasagna flavor!

I set out to modify my current recipe for this technique. Super easy and tasty!

I started by browning 1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, breaking it up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon. This was drained to remove any extra grease, which I did not want in the final dish.


While the sausage cooked, I set to work on the slow cooker ingredients. 1 yellow onion, medium diced, went into the crock pot.


From here we just start adding ingredients! Granulated garlic, 2 cloves of fresh garlic, Italian seasonings, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, crushed tomatoes in puree, tomato paste, tomato sauce and the sausage. I like to mix dried and fresh herbs, so chopped basil and oregano are included. Be careful with fresh oregano-it is much stronger than dried so a little goes a long way!



We need quite a bit of liquid because the lasagna noodles will need to cook in the sauce, near the end of the cooking time. So, 4 cups of low sodium chicken broth was added, along with salt and pepper.


This gets a big stir, covered and then set on low for 8 hours, or high for 6 hours. The noodles are added during the last hour to 30 minutes of cooking time. I like traditional lasagna noodles as opposed to the “no bake” variety, but I suspect that they would work too.


The number of noodles you choose to add is really up to you. You could use other noodles as well, as long as it is a hardy version. Raviolis would be wonderful too!

I broke up 8 lasagna noodles and stirred them into the sauce mixture.


40 minutes later, it was looking and smelling like lasagna!


This was spooned into two soup mugs, that were oven safe, and we covered it with grated mozzarella, shaved parmesan and Italian parsley. I put them under the broiler for about 6 minutes. This is completely optional! You could save the calories and fat and dive right in!






We were thrilled to get the lasagna flavors in a healthier version! I am not going to pretend that this is good for you, it is comfort food. However, you really can alter it for your own health goals. Give it a try and let me know what you think ๐Ÿ™‚


Slow Cooker Lasagna

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

All the great lasagna flavor from your slow cooker, with less carbs, fat and calories than the traditional layered dish.



-1 to 1 1/2 pounds of sweet Italian sausage

-1 medium sized yellow onion, med chopped

-1/2 teaspoon granulated of powdered garlic

-2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

-1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

-1 bay leaf

-1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

-1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes in puree

-1 6 oz. can tomato paste

-1 8 oz. can tomato sauce

-4 cups low sodium chicken broth

-2 to 4 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

-1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

-1/2 teaspoon black pepper

-8 oz. fresh mozzarella, grated

-Shaved or shredded parmesan, for sprinkling

-chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish



  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the italian sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  2. In a slow cooker, combine the sausage with the garlic, both fresh and powdered, the dried Italian seasoning, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, chicken broth, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook on high for 5 1/2 hours or on low for 7 1/2.
  3. Stir in the lasagna noodles and continue to cook for another 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to broil.ย Ladle the lasagna into ovenproof bowls. Top each with a few tablespoons of shredded mozzarella, a sprinkle of Parmesan and the parsley. Place on a baking sheet and heat under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly, 5 to 8 minutes.ย 

Enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚



Sally’s Baking Addiction: February, 2018 Challenge: Cake Pops!


I now have to include the year in the title of my baking challenge posts because I have completed one full cycle of Sally’s monthly tasks! I am kinda proud of that fact. Sally launched her Baking Challenge in February of 2017, and I have managed to complete all 12, so far! It has been tricky to stay on track over the last 12 months as we have travelled, bought a new home and have had some really busy months. But I have persevered, and managed to not gain 10 extra pounds ๐Ÿ™‚

This month’s challenge was not too tough as Sally set cake pops as the perfect Valentine’s Day treat for us to create. My plan was to omit the stick and go with cake pop truffles. I felt this would be easier, and slightly more professional, for my hubby and his coworkers to pop into their mouths, as opposed to sitting in a client meeting eating cake on a popsicle stick!

Sally’s chocolate cake and chocolate icing were scrumptious, and so simple!

The first step was to bake the cake, which I did a day ahead. This was cooled and crumbled into a bowl of Sally’s chocolate icing.


The mixture was rolled into balls and refrigerated overnight.


At this point you can insert the stick, but I skipped that! I made rather small truffles and had a yield of 65 balls to be dipped into melted chocolate.

I happen to have milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and red chocolate melting discs at my home. Yes, I have too much chocolate on hand at all times!


I also have way too many candy decorations! So, my daughter came over to make and decorate truffles with me, and make some candy apples for her boyfriend for Valentine’s Day.


We made quite the mess, but so worth it!


We had a blast dipping and decorating these little guys.




They were also delicious! I was impressed that they were not dry inside-as I have purchased cake pops from bakeries before that required a full glass of water in order to choke them down.


Another great Sally creation! If you can’t tell, I am a fan of her recipes!

They are all simple, delicious and accessible for any level of baking skills you may possess!

I hope to keep baking with her through 2018!



MIY Studio Crafts Co. and Raining Cookies: Women supporting Women!

One of the main reasons that I began blogging was to connect with other women who were struggling with the big “what’s next” question. One of those amazing women isย Mary Forbes. Mary is a lot like many of us moms who raised her kids and has worked most of her adult life, and then found herself in the position of asking herself “What do I want to do now”?

Many of us don’t know that answer right away, but Mary really did have an idea. She has always had a talent for all things crafty, especially with a needle and thread, or yarn. She wanted to create a space for women to come together, support one another and enjoy crafting. It didn’t happen quickly! She had to find the right place, fix it up, take care of her family, work at her job and successfully battle breast cancer!

Now Mary’s dream is a reality, and in Snoqualmie Washington! MIY Studio Crafts Company offers a variety of workshops and classes taught by either Mary herself, or other women from all over the state. I was eager to visit her studio and when a cookie decorating class popped up on the schedule, I jumped at the chance to sign up!

MIY Studio Crafts Co is a converted home that Mary purchase and turned into a warm and inviting crafting studio. The house was built in 1910, and needed some serious upgrading.


When the railroad was built, it ran right through the front yard of the house. So, now the back of the home is the front entrance.


I arrived a little early to take some pictures before our class began, which was focused on the basics of decorating cookies with royal icing.

The inside was redone and was bright, pretty and organized for any type of craft project one could imagine.


This class took place on Sunday morning, so Mary offered snacks and mimosas!



The mimosas were quite popular!

I then met our teacher for the class. Julia Omholt from Raining Cookies is a young woman who operates her cookie business from a commercial kitchen in nearby Redmond, WA. Mary and Julia have known one another for many years. In fact, Julia makes cookies for wedding ceremonies and Mary served them at her daughters nuptials this past summer.

Julia brought everything needed to teach the class, which I really appreciated. Many of you know I like to bake and decorate cookies already. But, the most annoying part of that process is making all the icing, getting the consistency correct, and making all the colors….Well, that was all ready for us and all we had to do was the fun part! Oh and drink mimosas!

Each participant was given a folder with recipes for the royal icing, sugar cookies and a source list where we could purchase cutters, tips, and general baking supplies.



Our box contained six cookies: 2 giant hearts, heart shaped sunglasses, XO, lips and a cookie that said “love”. This was a Galantine’s Day event after all!


The studio had a designated space for demos, and Julia spent time going over the correct consistencies for our Royal icing. She provided both piping and flooding icings for us to work with.


Our colors were red, pink and teal.


Julia demonstrated her method for piping and flooding.


Then it was our turn to practice on plastic covered lines before moving onto the cookies.



Julia was very patient with us and provided detailed instructions on how to achieve the specific look of the cookies. It was fun to attempt to make the cookies as professional as hers!

These are my cookies below.



Have you ever purchased a cookie that looked great but tasted like paste? Well, that is not these cookies! Julia has wonderful flavor combinations, and these were delicious ๐Ÿ™‚



Mary is planning on having more baking classes and workshops, in addition to all the other great offerings that she has scheduled! And, Julia ships her cookies anywhere, so you can find out for yourself just how tasty they are!


I love it when women support other women! I am proud to recommend and promote both of these ladies and their businesses. I plan to attend more of Mary’s workshops, especially over the holidays, to learn and create her beautiful projects.

You can find MIY Studio Craft Co on Facebookย andย on Instagram here

And or follow on Instagram here

So proud of both of these ladies, both doing what they love and are passionate about. Taking the big steps to make their dreams come true ๐Ÿ™‚


King Cake for Mardi Gras!


This is my first King Cake. I don’t know why, but I had it in my head that a King Cake was complicated and took days to make. One of my good friends from culinary school, Jen, makes one every year and has a condo in Phoenix. This is my first February in Tucson, so we decided to get together and make King Cakes at her place.

The recipe is straight forward and the dough comes together quite easily. Here is the problem. Phoenix is 2 hours from Tucson, so we decided I would mix my dough, at my house, and then drive to Phoenix while the dough was rising. Jen would make her dough and then we could stagger the baking times in her oven. Makes sense, right? The dough should take an hour to rise before I needed to move to the filling stage. But the drive is 2 hours, remember?

So, I started at 8am and had the windows down until I hit the freeway. At that point I put the air conditioner on and trained the vents to directly hit the dough container. That worked well for about an hour, and my feet were frozen! At that point I turned off the air and let the dough finish doubling for the last 45 minutes of the drive.

It looked pretty good when I got there.

It had doubled and was ready to be rolled out into a 14in X 18in rectangle. The filling, which is cinnamon, butter and sugar was spread out leaving an inch border.

This is basically just a big cinnamon roll! I rolled it up, length wise into a cylinder, and sealed the edges to make the wreath.


This is left to rise for another 30 minutes

Then into the oven and 25 minutes later, I had my first King Cake.


Looks good from this side!


But over here, it looks like I forgot to put it seam side down on the baking sheet!


A simple icing of powdered sugar, milk, vanilla and melted butter was whisked up. The important part is getting the colored sugars applied before the icing sets. So, I had to work with a little urgency.


How cute is Jen’s spatula! She loves those little baking implements!

I tried to apply the three, traditional colors in equal amounts.



I said I tried to have equal amounts, not that I succeeded in doing so!

While we waited for the icing to set, Jen gave me a taste of the Nutella Babka she made using Sally’s Baking Addiction Recipe.


Seriously, is this artwork or a quick bread! It was delicious and beautiful!

Now, the time of the big reveal!


I love the swirl!



And the taste! Of course I had to have mine with a cup of coffee ๐Ÿ™‚


Macarons copy

I was pretty happy with the result and the recipe was really simple. Not sure if it is a traditional King Cake, but I do recommend this recipe for a quick way to partake in the Mardi Gras season.

If you would like to see more creations from my friend, you can find Jen on Instagram.


Eating and Drinking our way through the Tucson Botanical Gardens, Savor Tucson!


We are still getting familiar with all the cool happenings that Tucson has to offer. One that came up on our radar was the Savor Southern Tucson Food and Wine Festival ย for charity, which was held last Saturday.

We really had no idea what we were getting into, it just looked like a lot of fun, food and a beautiful setting, as it was held at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. We have been to the gardens before and knew it was spectacular.

So we called UBER and set out on a fabulous 77ยฐF day for four hours of indulgence! When the guests first arrived, we were all given complementary wine glasses, always a good sign.

There is no way to cover all that we experienced, so I am going to highlight our favs. The categories are: Bread, Sweets, Savory and Spirits!

Our first winner was Beyond Bread which is pictured above. In addition to showcasing bread letters, which were huge by the way, they sampled their creole shrimp salad and King Cake, in honor of Mardi Gras.


The creole shrimp salad was good, but look at that perfect baguette!

Toward the end of the day, I went back and sampled the King Cake and it was tasty too.

Moving right along, we went into Nothing Bundt Cakes. We may have made a technical error here! While we were tempted, we decided we should eat something closer to a lunch meal before indulging. Turns out we missed some rather impressive flavors, as others told us later.




We did loop back toward the end and we each sampled a different flavor, and wow! Not only are the cakes fantastic, but that butter cream cheese frosting was to die for!! I will have to find this store soon!

True to our first mantra of “eat lunch first” we hit a couple other stands. All the while, remember we are sipping libations! Wine, Moscow mules, margaritas and sangria for me. Any beer, whiskey and red wine for the hubby!

The Omni Chef from The Omni Tucson National Resort was our next stop. The line was longer, which we took to be sign of great things to come. We were right!


Their beef tenderloin with roasted red pepper coulis crostini. I could have had 20 of these!


This is their layered flan, several different layers. I don’t remember all of them but there is one with mint and strawberry and topped with chocolate pearls. I had two of these ๐Ÿ™‚

They were delicious but small bites, so we needed to keep going to get our $75 dollars worth! It does get a little murky from here, so I don’t remember all the restaurants as I have now found the sangria stand! But I can tell you that all of this was delicious.

Top left; barbecue goat with spicy red pepper slaw, top right; the best barbecue pork ever! middle right: Frederico, that is what the server called him! Bottom image: a little cannoli that was really good! I say that with surprise because I am not usually a cannoli fan. I think the fact that it was just two bites and not a ton of cream filling was a huge plus for me.

We are now about 2 hours into the event and getting full! We decided to actually look around at the Botanical displays, and chat with people at the event.









A portion of the herb garden


As we were taking in the sights, we stumbled (me, literally) into the Spirits section. My hubby tasted a lot whiskey! And, we both went for the Tequila experience.


3 Amigos Tequila had three offerings complete with pairings! I have no idea which I had, but all three were awesome ๐Ÿ™‚

We decided to take a seat and do some people watching while the glow of my tequila experience wore off! Along the way, I found another special dessert.


This was a deconstructed lemon bar. Shortbread crumbs on the bottom, lemon curd filling and lime caviar made through a molecular gastronomy process. The chef showed me how it was done and the equipment used, which was fun for this molecular biologist.

It was gooood, and I wanted another, but he ran out well before the event ended! I am ย not surprised.

We continued to look for a seat and took a few photos along the way.

Lots of people watching and fun conversations! Everyone was pretty chatty at this point.







Several people we met told us that this is the best food and wine event in Tucson, I think it will be hard to beat. The food, the people and the weather were all perfect!


We were also told it would take 3 to 4 hours to recover from this event. Um, ya, that was about right for me!

Who wants to go with us next year?! ๐Ÿ™‚


Sally’s Baking Addiction, January Challenge: Conquering Yeast!

Well, actually we were supposed to make bread bowls. But Sally really wants this group to expand their abilities and provide us a successful way to learn the basics of bread baking.

Many of you know that I already love to bake bread and have had a lot of practice with artisan loaves. So, I wanted to try out her recipe but also play a little bit! As a result I did not bake the bowls but used a recent episode of “The Great British Baking Show” as part of my inspiration with this challenge.

Hubby and I have been watching the most recent season on Netflix, and in one episode the bakers made Fougasse bread for one of the technical challenges. Traditionally this bread is made with olives, but I detest olives! And, I had some leftover caramelized onions and roasted peppers from a pulled pork recipe earlier in the week (maybe you saw that sandwich on my Instagram?), so that was my flavor profile for the Fougasse.

I began with Sally’s bread bowl recipeย which is a straight dough for the most part. I chose one of her recommended variations and added 2T of Italian seasonings.


The dough came together quite nicely.


The yeast is good and active, always a positive sign!

The dough was left to prove and double in size. It was a hot day here in Tucson so this only took an hour!

The final weight was 2 lbs 12 oz or 44 oz total. As I said before, I wanted to play so I divided the dough into two equal portions, 22 oz each (or 1 lb 6oz.)



Time to get out the leftovers and chop finely

I added the caramelized onions and yellow peppers to one portion of the dough. The tricky part is getting them incorporated as they do have quite a bit of moisture. I just kept at it! I was careful to not over knead the dough as I did not want it to be too tough.


This was shaped into a rough (so very rough!) oval and the Fougasse cuts were made.


The cuts need to be quite large so they don’t fill in during the second prove and subsequent baking.

I left this to prove for a second time and turned my attention to the second portion of dough. I kept this one a little simple and just formed it into a long baguette. I then used a pair of scissors to make the leaf sections.


This turned out to be too long for my sheet pan! So I had to cut it into two loaves



This also had to be set aside for its second proving.


Both types of bread needed a crunchy exterior so I did not use Sally’s egg wash and put them into a 400ยฐF oven with steam. The results were pretty darn tasty!








One of my concerns was that the onions and peppers on the surface would burn, fortunately, that did not happen.


When we got inside it was baked through and retained the moisture from the vegetables, so it was not dry!


I was also pleased with the flavor and texture of the baguettes.






These froze well and made some wonderful sandwiches later in the week.

Overall, we liked both versions but really found the Fougasse to be extraordinary! My husband has not stopped talking about that one!

I do hope Sally continues with the bread challenges, my hubby hopes so too ๐Ÿ™‚


Leftover Ham? No Problem!


Our family likes, no requires, ham for our Christmas and Easter dinner celebrations. I am fine with that, a precooked ham that only needs minimal heating is a pretty easy meal prep and it allows me to focus more attention on sides and baking desserts!

The problem comes days later, when everyone is tired of having ham sandwiches to use up the leftovers. I have made several versions of this ham and lentil soup. I posted one version last year that incorporated corn,ย which gave the dish a nice sweet flavor. But this year I decided to tryout some thick cut bacon and dill. The result: Wow! This is a keeper ๐Ÿ™‚

I started by baking 3 strips of thick cut bacon in a 400ยฐF oven, on a small baking sheet.


When the bacon was nice and crispy it was drained, chopped and set aside for later.

While the bacon cooked, I addedย 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and heated that in a dutch oven. I then add a medium, diced onion and one leek, also diced. Why a leek and not celery? Because I detest celery! I know, who doesn’t like celery? Me, and I am doing the cooking so….


the onion and leek are cooked until it begins to brown

Next into the pot went the carrots, potatoes and dill

Water, salt and pepper were added. The pot was covered, and the vegetables cooked until tender.


The rest of the liquid, lentils and cooked ham were added and cooked until the lentils were tender.


When the lentils were ready it was just a matter of stirring in the final ingredients and heating through. The peas, bacon and yogurt went into the pot. The yogurt acts as a thickener and makes the soup creamy.



Next a big bowl and spoon are needed. I garnished with a little bacon and dill that I had reserved, and voila!






This version is a keeper! If you try it let me know what you think. I am always looking for a way to improve on this ๐Ÿ™‚


Ham, Lentil and Dill Soup

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Bacon and dill add a unique twist on this hearty soup with a complex flavor that only gets better with time.



-2-4 slices of thick cut bacon

-1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

-1 Medium yellow onion, small dice

-1 Leek, chopped

-3 Tablespoons dill, chopped

-1 pound carrots, small dice

-1 pound yukon gold potatoes, small dice

-1/2 cup water

-1 teaspoon kosher salt

-1/2 teaspoon black pepper

-4 cups low sodium chicken broth

-1 and 1/2 cups water

-1 cup dried lentils

-~10 ounces of cooked ham, small dice

-1 cup frozen peas

-3 Tablespoon plain yogurt ( I prefer Greek yogurt)



  1. Place the bacon strips on a sheet pan and bake in a preheated oven set atย  400ยฐF until crisp. Approximately 12-15 minutes. Drain, chop and set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and leek; cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the carrots, potatoes, dill, 1/2 cup water, salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just soft, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken broth, 1 1/2 cups water, the lentils and ham; cover and bring to a simmer. Uncover and cook until the potatoes are tender and the lentils begin to fall apart, 12 to 15 more minutes.
  5. Stir in the peas, yogurt and diced bacon. Ladle the soup into bowls.