Thursday Recipe Exchange: Holiday Gatherings

tamara slow cooker lasagna

From our Food Goddess, TaMara:

Happy day before Solstice! With five days until Christmas, I hope you’re all set to go. Christmas Eve dinner is once again at my place, so I still have some shopping to do. The menu is set and I’m keeping it pretty simple: A classic Spinach Lasagna (recipe here), garlic-cheese bread, salad and an ice cream sundae bar for dessert. Plenty of good coffee, wine and friends will complete the evening.

Since this is a time of holiday potlucks and house guests, I thought it would be fun to highlight some recipes that are easy, but elegant.

The first recipe is a Christmas morning favorite: German Pancakes with walnut sauce (recipe here). Easy, easy recipe that will wow any overnight guests. And there is a bonus Santa Cookie recipe at that link.

And if you’re asked to bring the dessert?

tamara sweet potato pumpkin pie

How about JeffreyW’s Sweet Potato-Pecan Pie (recipe here). Pretty to look at and delicious.

Or my ridiculously easy and festive Cranberry Upside-Down Cake (recipe here).

Expecting a house full or need a potluck dish? Our featured recipe (pictured at top) is a great take on spinach lasagna, using a slow-cooker. This entire dish completely surprised me. I was at work, in our morning meeting – which is actually just an excuse for the guys to wow me with their cooking ideas – when Vern told me about the slow-cooker lasagna he’d made the night before. I was skeptical. Lasagna in a slow-cooker sounded like it would have the consistency of canned ravioli. But he insisted it was really good. So I set out to see for myself. I have to say, he wasn’t wrong. It had a great flavor, the texture was very similar to having cooked it in an oven and the top was nicely browned and the cheese perfectly gooey. The only caveat is that it cooks in about 4 hours, so you can’t put it together in the morning and have it ready when you get home at the end of the work day. It would be burned to a crisp, even on low.

So, here is tonight’s featured recipe, my version of slow-cooker lasagna:

Slow-Cooker Spinach Lasagna

1 lb lean ground beef (opt, you can skip to keep this vegetarian)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 carrot shredded (this cuts the acidity of the sauce, adds a touch of sweetness)
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
28 oz canned tomato sauce
6 oz can tomato paste
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
2 tsp of dried basil, crushed
12 ounces ricotta cheese (you can sub in cottage cheese if desired)
1 egg
2 cups fresh spinach, washed and rough chopped
16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
12 ounces lasagna noodles, uncooked (I used brown rice pasta to keep it gluten free)

Sauce: Brown ground beef, along with onion, garlic, carrots and green pepper in a saucepan (if you are omitting the beef, sauté vegetables in a tbsp of olive oil). Add tomato sauce, paste and spices. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and let simmer on low while preparing remaining ingredients.

Mix together ricotta cheese and egg, until well combined. Fold in spinach.

In the slow-cooker, spoon a layer of sauce onto the bottom, add a double layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (break to fit) and top with a portion of the ricotta mixture and then a portion of the mozzarella. Add sauce, then a single layer of noodles, ricotta and mozzarella and repeat layers until ingredients are all used up. (Because slow-cookers vary in size, I unfortunately can’t give you precise layering, as I can with the traditional lasagna. You’ll have to eye it. The good news is, it will all cook together and be just fine regardless).

Finish with sauce, mozzarella and then shredded Parmesan.

Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.

14 replies
  1. 1
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Haven’t even put out Christmas yet. Didn’t want to waste the effort if the world is gonna end.

  2. 2
    Violet says:

    Well, today the breadmaker broke. I have now borrowed one but haven’t tried it to see if it’s working. I had to scramble to save the dough that rose in the breadmaker but didn’t bake.

    I have all the Christmas cookie baking yet to do. And some more shopping. Busy, busy.

  3. 3
    bemused senior says:

    @Violet: I love to use my breadmaker in the dough cycle, which takes the bread through the first rising, and then bake the bread in the oven. Works great.

  4. 4
    Mnemosyne says:

    We have to fly to Phoenix on Christmas Day (and poor G has to fly back again the very next day), so we’re just bringing ourselves. My mom doesn’t like anyone else in her kitchen, so there’s usually not much to do.

    And for this year’s potluck at work, I brought Stouffer’s frozen lasagna. I suck. But I had spent the previous two days home sick with the flu, so I thought my coworkers would appreciate knowing that I had not made my contribution from scratch.

  5. 5
    R-Jud says:

    Cookies and brownies to make this weekend. Then choux pastry cheese puffs and meatballs for Christmas at my sister-in-law’s. I’m in charge of making french toast on Boxing Day, too. The problem is that the fridge has died on me. Hopefully the guy can come out to repair it tomorrow. Er, today.

  6. 6
    mainmati says:

    We don’t usually eat regular American beef since it is riddled with growth hormones and other cancer-causing chemicals but on Christmas we splurge for an organic prime rib to roast along with various root vegetables, greens and a starch (usually potatoes for this one) as well as proper Yorkshire pudding.

    Our family are normally spicy exotic food eaters but, for this occasion more traditional.

  7. 7
    R-Jud says:

    @mainmati: You’re making me homesick. Mom always does a prime rib for Christmas. Over here it will be turkey again, and one of those fruitcakes they set on fire.

  8. 8
    Cain says:

    So when the negotiations for the debt limit comes up. The negotiations need to go like this with Darth Obama vs Boehner

  9. 9
    Yutsano says:

    @R-Jud: Our family tradition for decades has been spaghetti for Christmas Eve and enchiladas for Christmas Night. My brother makes really good chicken enchiladas but he uses a lot of canned soups and cheese sauces and the like. I’m working on a better version, but it’s still in development, especially since I seem to be the only one in my family that likes oregano. I’m even packing some to take with me when I head back to the ranch Saturday.

  10. 10
    Mandalay says:

    Shamless gatecrashing of the thread, but this is part of our gun problem…

    No charges will be filed against the 88-year-old Peekskill man who accidentally discharged his rifle into his neighbor’s apartment Monday. The incident happened at about 4 p.m. when 88-year-old resident of the Hampton Oaks Apartments, located off of Oakwood Dr. in Peekskill, accidentally fired a shot from his .22-caliber rifle while cleaning it…Peekskill police Lt. Eric Johansen said the police department and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office determined that the gun owner was not acting in a reckless manner or intoxicated in any way when the shot was fired.

    I don’t know much about guns, and don’t really want to, but isn’t it automatically reckless (by definition) to clean a loaded gun that fires?

  11. 11
    Mandalay says:


    And here is another ****ing dangerous idiot…

    Two men were injured about 4 p.m. today when a handgun discharged while it was being cleaned, according to the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office….Investigators have ruled the shooting to be accidental and no charges will be filed, Ivey said.

    How can it be that a person cleaning a loaded guns that shoots someone is not charged with anything?

    This is so sick and so wrong.

  12. 12
    Mandalay says:


    It gets worse…

    A three-year-old boy is dead after he got ahold of a handgun. It happened in Guthrie, at the home of an Oklahoma Highway Trooper, where the little boy was visiting family…”He located a gun inside one of the bedrooms and perished from a gunshot wound to the head,” says Capt. Stephens. The Logan County Sheriff’s Office has ruled the incident an accidental death and at this point, do not expect to file any criminal charges.

    So a cop leaves a loaded gun lying around in his house. His three year old nephew finds the gun and shoots himself in head and dies. No charges filed. WTF???

    This country is so fucked up over guns.

  13. 13
    Mandalay says:


    Kids under the age of five are the least likely age group to die from gun violence, and yet their reported deaths in 2008 and 2009 were nearly double the number of law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty in those years.

    Think about that: The number of kids under five dying from gun violence is almost double the number of cops dying from gun violence.

    I’m sure some bright spark has already blamed video games.

  14. 14
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    I ran out of pastry for the mince pies I was baking, so whipped up a frangipane topping and used that instead. It worked pretty bloody well.

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