Thursday, April 21, 2016

How my Swedish dad taught me to make the world's best lasagna

The world's best lasagna

My dad’s passing seems so long ago now.  My dad was one of four children and the oldest son in a Swedish family.  My dad’s grandfather immigrated to the United States in the late 1800’s. He stowed away on a ship to find his fortune in America. His brother also came to the US. And settled in Milwaukee and was a barber. There was a sister and mother who also came to the United States, I could go on and on but this is about food.   
 What does this short family tale have to do with my blog? Well, it is because of my dad that I learned to make the best lasagna, ever. I have come across only one other lasagna that is comparable. Not even in Rome can I say theirs is better than mine. 

My dad's Christmas gift

A well worn cookbook

The sauce simmering

Well we didn’t actually work side by side in the kitchen. He didn't tell me family secrets to making this lasagna. The recipe came in the form of a cook book. He had given my mother The New McCall's Cookbook for Christmas in the 70’s.  My copy is well worn, it has pages missing, the glue is brittle and pages are turning yellow. Out of all the buying and purging this one book has remained in my collection. This lasagna recipe is one I make from the book.  And of course over the years I have made this recipe my own. I add a lot more cheese than the recipe calls for. I make the sauce one day and assemble it the next. It must weigh a good 10lbs (even though it feels like 20)!  Even after all these years I still have the original pan. I have been asked for this recipe by many and it’s hard to say that is an old family recipe but since it was from the 70’s that is long ago, right? So now my "secret" family recipe is out! 

The original pan  

Extra cheese, please

Cheesy hot goodness

So this weekend I made it to celebrate his life and to reminisce a little and to be able to say my Swedish father taught me to make the best lasagna in the world.   

This is the lasagna I learned to make because of my dad 

Adapted from The New McCall's Cookbook


1 pound Italian sausage (sweet or hot) 
1/2 pound ground beef extra lean
1 medium onion, finely chopped 
2 cloves garlic (or to your taste)
2 tablespoons sugar, divided use 
1 tablespoon salt 
1-1/2 tablespoons dried basil
1/2 tablespoon fennel seed 
1 tablespoon dried oregano crumbled
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4?cup chopped fresh parsley divided 
4 cups canned tomatoes undrained (or 1 can (2 lb-3 oz) Italian-style tomatoes, undrained) 
2 cans (6 oz each) tomato paste
1/2 cup water 

12 dry lasagna noodles (3/4 of a 1-pound package)
15 ounces ricotta cheese 
1 egg 
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound (12 oz) mozzarella cheese thinly sliced
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 


 In a 5-quart Dutch oven, saute sausage, ground beef, onion and garlic; stirring frequently, until well browned; about 20 minutes. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, the basil, fennel seed, pepper and half the parsley; mix well. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and 1/2 cup water; mashing tomatoes with wooden spoon. Bring to boiling; reduce heat; simmer (covered) and stirring occasionally, until thick, about 1 1/2 hours. TO PREPARE THE LASAGNA: In a large pot, cook lasagna noodles until just barely tender. Drain in colander; rinse under cold water. Dry lasagna noodles on a clean, dry towel. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, egg, remaining parsley and 1/2 teaspoon salt; mix. In bottom of 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish, spoon 1 1/2 cups sauce. Layer with 6 lasagna noodles, lengthwise and overlapping, to cover. Spread with half of ricotta mixture; top with third of mozzarella. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of sauce over cheese; sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Repeat layering, starting with 6 lasagna noodles and ending with 1 1/2 cups sauce, sprinkled with Parmesan. Spread remaining sauce; top with rest of mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover with foil; tucking around edge.  Bake 25 minutes; remove foil; bake, uncovered, 25 minutes longer, or until bubbly. Let set 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

 Source: McCall's Cookbook, 1973

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Gel Pro Mats

DISCLAIMERthis is my review of the GelPro Elite mat. In exchange for the mat I agreed to write a review. I received this mat as part of the gifts I received at the International Food Bloggers Conference I attended last year.

Lemon cake with white chocolate frosting, one of the many cakes I am baking this year. 

Ok, I do apologize for not being active and writing blog posts. But I have been busy. There has been lots of baking, trip planning and most of all planning for a kitchen renovation. Yes, after 15 years of living in the awfully designed kitchen I am finally getting a kitchen that will work for me!

One of many batches of marshmallows

In the meantime I have been baking. Of course there were the standard holiday baking of cookies, fruitcake, candies, and marshmallows. I have moved on to a cake a month, trying different frosting techniques and learning how to bake with yeast. I also have pulled out the waffle iron and we are waffling up all sorts of things!  

An apple rosette

Dozens of cookies
More cookies

My first attempt at Swedish Cardamom cinnamon rolls

All this baking requires lots of standing and on cold hard tile and crappy peel and stick tiles. My feet and knees get very tired. Now  I am fed up. Last year I had the wonderful opportunity to receive a free GelPro Mat Elite as part of the International Food Blogger Conference swag in exchange for a review.
Finally relief for my feet and legs!

Well it took only minutes for me to exclaim “Where have these been all my baking life”. It seems everyone had one but me. I knew about them from friends and family. Now that I have been standing on one for the last 5 months, I don’t think that I can live without it now. They come in so many colors sizes, and patterns, it might be overwhelming. Once you step on you won’t want to do without one. Squishy soft and comfortable. I even have to fight the dog for space to stand when I am baking.  Most of all, off what the dog doesn’t lick off of them, they clean up easily. 

Our dog Sherlock loves the GelPro mat as much as I do  

Dog approved

In my house the GelPro Mat Elite was  baker and dog tested and most importantly dog and baker approved.   Two thumbs and two paws up!  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My heart belongs to Paris

View from Notre Dame

After the recent events in Paris this past weekend, my thoughts are with the French people and Paris. The memories of our first trip to the City of Lights came flooding in to my mind
It was June of 1997. The hubster had been home for a few months after his deployment to Bosnia. This  was out first big trip since we moved to Germany. We took the train from Germany to Paris. How great it was, 4 hours and we were in Paris. From the train we hopped on the metro. Ah, the famous Paris  metro. The smelly, hot and crowded metro. And if you are lucky you are treated to a street preformance, some good and some very bad.

The view of Sacre Coure 

We spent 4 days seeing the sights. We hit all the major sites. Up early and out late. Taking it all in as if we would never come back. And of course Paris is about the food. Finding small stores, eating as many pastries as we could, and picnicking under the Eiffel Tower at sunset.
I'm always asked what is it about Paris. To be honest it is the most magical city I have ever visited. There is just something aboutot I just can't describe. The history, the art, the food, can't really say. So when Islamic extremists unleashed terror on Friday November 13th my heart sank. This was my city. Innocent people lost their lives doing normal things, going to a soccer game, eating and drinking with friends in a restaurant and going to a concert.
Paris and it;s people will get up and go on. So to do the only thing I could think of I went into the kitchen and I needed to bake something. The classic apple tarte titan.

The makings of a tare tatin

Apple Tarte Tatin

I can't wait to back and I hope it's soon. My heart will always belong to Paris.