If you noticed that we just posted a zucchini-noodle lasagna recipe, I'm sorry for the repetitiveness, but not sorry to be bringing you this new and improved, plant-lover version! (Version A with ground turkey found here.)
The turkey lasagna came largely from my efforts to eat more meat. I had recently found out that I was anemic, with seriously low iron stores. Given that I eat meat at least 2 times per week, I was super surprised by this news.
In some weird way, there was also a sense of excitement. I know that the #1 symptom of anemia is low energy. What if I'm running at less than 100% and if I replete my iron stores, I could have more energy?! I want that!
I knew that anemia is common in runners (get this - when you run you literally smash some of your red blood cells, a process called hemolysis - how crazy is that?!). What I did not realize was that at least 10% of women naturally have poor iron absorption. This means that even if we are eating enough, it might not be getting into our system to deliver oxygen to our cells.
Feeling tired and wanting more energy is super common, and I am no exception. There is SO much I'm excited for and want more energy to do all of it. I always wished I could be one of those people that doesn't really need sleep. (Like it or not, I'm barely human if I don't get a solid 8 hours....). I know that what you eat can make a HUGE impact in your energy levels, so I was all gung ho to eat more iron.
Fast-forward a couple of months, speeding past 4 hour-long IV iron injections, and here comes lasagna #2; the vegetarian version. Turns out, I'm may be in that 10% of women that just doesn't absorb iron well. After the infusions (which bypass the digestive system), I finally got my stores to normally levels and even better, I have way more stamina for working out. You can't see me, but I'm doing a happy dance!
Thankfully, you definitely do not have to eat meat to get enough iron. Have you ever heard that cooking in a cast iron pan imparts some iron into your food? It's actually true! Another cool fact is that vitamin-C, think tomatoes in this lasagna sauce, enhances your absorption of plant-based iron. As a nerdy dietitian, I get all jazzed up by this stuff ;)
Anyway, I wanted another excuse to make this lasagna because I love it so much. It's got a Greek-twist with olives, feta and sun-dried tomatoes so it's packed with flavor. In honor of some semi-vegetarian friends I got to have dinner with last night, I was excited to relax my meat intake and make a vegetarian version.
Without meat or noodles, this recipe also happens to be super quick and easy to prepare, just what I needed for weeknight dinner after a full day of workin'.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano for the sauce and 1 tablespoon for the ricotta
- 1 teaspoon of salt for the sauce and 1 teaspoon for the ricotta
- 4 medium to large zucchini
- 2 cups ricotta cheese (mixed with 1 teaspoon of salt + 1 tablespoon oregano)
- 1 cup feta cheese
- 1/2 cup black (kalamata) olives, pitted and sliced in half
- 1 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup artichokes hearts, chopped (I used canned artichokes from Trader Joe's)
- Start by getting all of the ingredients chopped and prepared so that lasagna assembly is easy, including mixing 1 tablespoon of oregano and 1 teaspoon of salt with the ricotta.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, about 3-5 minutes.
- Sauce: Add the tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, 1 tablespoon oregano and 1 teaspoon salt, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for ~15 minutes, until most of the liquid is cooked off. Stir in the spinach at the end.
- Zucchini-noodles: Slice the zucchini lengthwise into thin strips (about 1/8 inch thick or thinner if you can!) Lay the zucchini slices in a thin layer, overlapping slightly, lining the bottom of your baking dish.
- Lasagna layers: On top of the first layer of zucchini, spread about 1/3 of the ricotta mixture. Then add about 1/2 the the sauce. Dollop on ~1/3 of the feta cheese. Repeat each layer a second time, alternating the direction of the zucchini noodles.
- Top the final zucchini layer with remaining cheese and a sprinkle of dried oregano to make it pretty :)
- Bake for ~45 minutes, until the lasagna is bubbling, the zucchini noodles are soft and the top is brown.
Zucchini is coming into season soon and lasts all summer so stock up. Save time by making yourself a couple of lasagnas - one for a week of healthy lunches and dinners, and then freeze the other for a day when you don't feel like cooking.
Spring is in the air and I hope you're out relishing it!
Love & Zest,
P.S. yellow tulips courtesy of the lovely @AnnePotter