RECIPE: Slow Cooker Turkey, Spinach and Mushroom Penne and "Crock Pot Tips" winner!

So even though the Red Gold Tomatoes Slow Cooker sweeps is over, crock pot season has just begun. Chilly, busy, back to school days are a perfect reason for using crock pots. I've had hits and misses in my crock pot. If you use the wrong cut of meat, you might be eating shoe leather at dinner time. If you keep chicken in it too long, you will have pieces that just completely fall apart when you pull them out for serving. Chicken breasts may become hockey pucks if they too are kept in too long.

But pasta is pretty forgiving in your slow cooker. It absorbs all the wonderful juice and flavor that sits in there during cooking, making it a pretty easy way to do a lasagna or casserole type dish. This concoction I came up with based in a Food Network recipe from a few years ago. I also made this gluten free using gluten free penne, but you don't have to do that. I also wanted to use ground chicken, but could only find ground turkey. You can also use sausage if you wish. Just take the casings off and crumble the sausage while browning with the back of a spoon. I prefer lighter fare these days. I am trying to stay in weight watchers, so turkey is much friendlier points-wise.

Also, fair warning, I am going to give you the recipe's full shredded cheese amount, but I did not end up using all of it. My crock pot can only hold so much, so I think I had a third left over of the mozzarella/Parmesan mix. I ended up storing it in a plastic bag for later use on some pizza. Use your "cheese" judgement.

And finally, here were my top crock pot tips from my followers! It was really hard to pick a winner. Goodness, I know I am tardy on this announcement. It's why I don't usually do give-aways. My life is too coo-coo to do them regularly! SO my apologies. Here are my faves with the winning tip.

Apple butter, cooked low over night, makes the house smell amazing. That's all I have. I definitely do not use my crock pot as much as I could, so I'm looking forward to your recipes!

Don't overfill your slow cooker to make sure your meal is finished in the time listed on your recipe. Most manufacturers recommend filling them no more than two-thirds full.

And the winning crock pot tip:
Use the Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners for very fast clean up!

I CHOSE THIS AS A WINNING TIP BECAUSE I really hate scrubbing out food that's been cooking for 8 hours in the liner. It's quite a job, and the liners are a great idea to make clean up super easy. Congrats to Wendy, who submitted that tip!

Slow Cooker Turkey, Spinach and Mushroom Penne

1 medium onion chopped 
1/2 teaspoons of granulated garlic 
1 pound of ground turkey 
salt and pepper to taste 
1 tablespoon of dried parsley 
2 15 ounce containers of part skim ricotta cheese 
1 10 ounce package of frozen chopped spinach thawed and squeezed dry 
8 ounces of Cremini mushrooms, sliced 
1/2 tablespoons dried parsley 
1/2 tablespoons of dried basil 
2 24 ounce jars of prepared tomato sauce ( I used one roasted garlic herb and one marinara to heighten flavors)
1 1/2 pounds shredded mozzarella (about 6 cups) 
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
2 packages of dried penne pasta
2 tablespoons of olive oil 

In a large sauté pan heat up the olive oil over medium heat and cook the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the turkey and sauté until no longer pink. Add salt and pepper to taste and a tablespoon of dried parsley and set-aside.

 In a bowl combine the ricotta cheese with the spinach and mushrooms, dried parsley and basil, a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Set aside.

In another bowl mix shredded mozzarella with the shredded Parmesan cheese and set aside. Layer all the ingredients in a crock pot similar to a lasagna.

Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce in a thin layer on the bottom of the slow cooker liner. Cover with a layer of penne pasta. Spread half the ricotta mixture over the noodles, spread a half of the turkey mixture top with one third of the mozzarella mixture, then top with one third of the remaining sauce. Continue to repeat noodles, ricotta, turkey, sauce, mozzarella. Top with the remaining noodles then the remaining sauce and a little bit of the mozzarella mixture cover and cook on low for four hours. Once ready, uncover and let rest for 15 minutes so the excess liquid is absorbed. Serve hot.


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