Friday, January 29, 2010

How Did I Get High Cholesterol?

If you've ever watched a health report on TV, an informercial regarding health, or a show exploring health epidemics in America, they usually have at least one or two interviews with an ordinary citizen who has said malady that is being discussed.  We'll call this citizen Joe.  Poor Joe has this or that, but never saw the signs before it was too late.  I secretly always thought to myself, Come on Joe.  You really didn't know you had high cholesterol when you ate rare steaks, burgers, bacon and cheese at every meal?  It doesn't take a dietician to know where that one was headed.  But the truth is, what was very obvious to me about Joe's diet was not obvious to him. Furthermore, what was never obvious to me just became a problem of my own.

I never thought I would have high cholesterol:  I eat a healthy diet, I exercise regularly, I don't eat a ton of read meat...  Wait.  Didn't I start eating cheese with much more regularity about 2 years ago?  Didn't I stop using egg whites for baking instead using whole eggs in recipes?  Didn't I get down with dairy on a serious regular basis 2 years ago too?  I was focusing on all the goods things I was feeding my body that I never bothered to check that many of my healthy, organic dairy products were coming with a decent amount of cholesterol.  Tricky...

My good cholesterol is actually extremely good, which is due to my love of olive oil and avocados but that bad cholesterol is definitely creeping up on me and I'm still under 30.  Dammit...  Part of this is also due to family history.  I come from a long line of cholesterol factories so I guess it was bound to happen, but on top of all my other restrictions I really REALLY don't want to add another.

Funny enough, eating a low-cholesterol diet isn't that hard to do.  Especially if you're cooking for yourself.  Partly, you have to read labels (which I happen to be excellent at), check portions, and add more fiber to your diet. Be conscious of what you're putting into your body.  You're also supposed to exercise a ton and lose some weight, but we all know I'm working on that.

Switching to egg whites is easy.  Eating pudding or yogurt instead of ice cream is doable.  I am having issues with the cheese though.

Which brings me to dinner two weeks ago.  Noodle-less lasagnas are a favorite of mine.  Mostly because when I make a noodle-less lasagna it's a giant unbreaded eggplant parm.  Yum... Eggplant parm...  But I digress.  I so wanted that a few weeks back but I couldn't help but think to myself, You should really limit your cheese now.  Maybe a lasagna isn't the best dinner to start with.

Bullshit!  my mind cried.  When have I EVER let a restriction tell me I can't make something?  That's right, the answer is NEVER and so lasagna shall be no exception.  I had to skimp.  I had to substitute.  I had to be frugal with the cheese.  But you know what?  It wasn't as cheesy, but it was just as tasty.  I love the flavor of eggplant and I don't need to drown it in cheese to trick myself into eating it.  Know your limitations before you try this.  I'm not claiming it tastes just like real lasagna, or that it will fool your neighbors and friends into thinking you got it from a restaurant.  This is a lower-cholesterol, lower-fat, noodle-less lasagna.  Try it, but it may not be your thing.

Eggplant Lasagna
Lower-Cholesterol, Lower-Fat

Fills a 9x13 dish, half if desired
3 medium/large eggplants, sliced length-wise or in thin circles (I like to keep the skin on, cut in circles)
1 jar (25.5 oz) pasta sauce divided; have another jar on hand if you're a lots-o-sauce person, I'm not
1.5 lbs ground organic dark meat chicken, cooked until browned (optional)
16 oz nonfat cottage cheese (aka fake ricotta)
2 cups part-skim, low-cholesterol mozzarella
2 tbs crushed, packed garlic ( or several raw clove equivalent)
basil, oregano, salt and pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes) to taste
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Arrange sliced eggplant on large cookie sheets.  
Optional: For softer noodle like consistency, brush eggplant with olive oil.
Salt and pepper eggplant.
Cook eggplant 5 minutes on each side.
Remove eggplant from oven.
Take optional ground chicken, which you've browned, and place in a large bowl or skip if you aren't using meat.
In a large bowl, mix cottage cheese, mozzarella, garlic, salt/pepper to taste.
In a greased 9x13 dish, plop a small amount of sauce to lightly coat the bottom of the dish.
Add the rest of the sauce to the cheese mixture, reserving about 2 tsb to dot top on lasagna.

Layering Process:
Layer eggplant slices over the bottom, slightly overlapping to crate the bottom "noodle."
Top lightly with cheese or cheese/meat mixture, spreading evenly.  
Sprinkle mixture with basil and oregano to taste.
Camera's on crack.  I apologize.

Repeat layering process until you run out of filling and eggplant.  This will most likely occur after about 3 layers.  
Top the last layer with any remaining filling (I had a bit more filling then eggplant), very lightly sprinkle with a bit of mozzarella, and dot with sauce.

Place covered lasagna in the oven at 350 F for 30 minutes.
Lower temperature to 325 F for another 30 minutes.
Uncover lasagna and cook for 5-15 more minutes depending on how hot your oven gets or how wet your lasagna is.

The cottage cheese is a little trick I learned from a non-fat lasagna that my mom used to make.  I'm not a huge fan of it from the tub, but when it's cooked in things it really is a very good fake for ricotta in anything, i.e. GF Italian cheesecake.  You'll notice the filling only contains two cheeses (instead of the four types I would normally use: ricotta, asiago, parm, mozzarella) and no egg.  Like I said, if you're watching out for your sneaky cholesterol too, you may want to give this a go.  You can also use it as a template to pump it up for a full-fat, noodle-less lasagna.  As always, I substitute as I see fit; you should do the same.


  1. That looks fabulous! I love eggplant parm but haven't ever tried to make it GF (breading and me just don't get along). I need to try this one soon.

  2. Dear Youcanteatwhat, the eggplant parmesan looks and sounds incredibly delicious. Plus it is so healthy! "Wild Thing", you make my heart sing! Loved and saved this recipe. I shall revisit you soon. Thank you for sharing.
    Cheers, Gaby
    You can always visit me at