Lasagne al Forno

I first made this lasagne years ago, when I lived in Germany (yes, Germany, not Italy).  There was this small family run Italian restaurant in the little German town we lived in.  Aside from the restaurants and cafés in Italy, that little Italian restaurant in Germany is the best I’ve ever been to.  It’s been over 15 years since I’ve been there, yet I have not yet found any Italian restaurant to compare to that one in Germany.

This recipe is my take on one of my favorite dishes served there.  The blend of the tomato and bechamel sauces take this pasta dish to a whole new level.  Give my recipe a try.  I think you’ll like it.  🙂 

LASAGNE AL FORNO

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 box no-bake lasagne noodles (have a 2nd box on hand in case you use a large pan)
  • Meat sauce (see below)
  • Bechamel sauce (see below)
  • 1 bag (1 pound) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan-Romano cheese blend

Lasagne al Forno ingredients

Meat Sauce:
    • 1 pound mild Italian sausage
    • 1 pound lean ground beef (you can omit this if you want your sauce less meaty)
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
    • 2 tablespoons Dashida beef flavored seasoning
    • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
    • 6 leaves fresh basil, chopped into small pieces
    • Black pepper, to taste
    • 2 29-ounce cans tomato sauce
Directions to make the Meat Sauce:

1.  Brown the sausage and ground beef.  Drain any excess fat and liquid.

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 2.  After the meat has browned, add the Dashida, onions, garlic powder, Italian seasoning and basil.

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3.  Cook until the onions are translucent. 

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4.  Add the tomato sauce to the ground meat mixture.  Stir to combine.  Simmer for 5 minutes then turn off the heat.  Set aside.

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Bechamel Sauce:
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1 5-ounce bag grated Parmesan cheese
Directions to make the Bechamel Sauce:

1. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter.

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2.  Add the flour (all at once) to the melted butter.

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3.  Use a whisk to mix the flour and butter together.  Cook over medium low heat for about 2-3 minutes.  Whisk constantly to prevent burning.

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4. Slowly whisk in the milk and cream.  Whisk vigorously to ensure there are no lumps. 

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5.  Add the grated Parmesan cheese to the milk mixture.  Turn the heat up to medium high. Continue whisking; cook until the cheese melts and the sauce thickens.

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You know the sauce is thick enough when you dip a spoon into it, run your finger down the spoon, and you leave a line down the spoon that doesn’t disappear with runny sauce.

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6.  Add the grated nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.  Turn the heat off and set the sauce aside.  NOTE:  This sauce is EXCELLENT for fettuccine alfredo.  🙂

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Assemble the Lasagne al Forno:

1. Using a large lasagne pan, or a deep dish baking/roasting pan, spread a thin layer of meat sauce on the bottom of the pan.

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2.  Add a layer of noodles.  Don’t worry about filling in the spaces with noodles; these no-cook noodles will expand during the baking process.

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3.  Pour some bechamel sauce over the noodles, just enough to cover the noodles.

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4.  Sprinkle shredded and grated cheese over the bechamel sauce.  Top with another layer of noodles.

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5.  Repeat the layering process — meat sauce, noodles, bechamel sauce, cheese, noodles — until you’ve used up all of your sauce and/or noodles.  The last layer (on top) should be bechamel sauce topped with cheese.

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6.  Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place the pan of lasagne on top of a large baking sheet.  Cover the pan of lasagne with aluminum foil.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. 

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7.  After 25 minutes, remove the aluminum foil.  Turn the oven to Broil — continue to bake the lasagne for 5 more minutes to brown the cheese on top.

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8.  Once the cheese has browned, remove the pan from the oven.  Before serving, let the lasagne sit for at least 15 minutes (don’t worry, it will still be hot) to allow the sauces to set.  If you serve immediately after removing the lasagne from the oven, the sauces will run all over the place (it will still taste delicious, but your presentation won’t be as “pretty”).  Serve with your favorite crusty bread and ENJOY!  🙂

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Buñelos Aga (Banana Donuts)

This is a family favorite.  Give it a try.  I think you’ll like it.  😊

BUÑELOS AGA’ (BANANA DONUTS) 

 

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups mashed ripe bananas
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Other:

  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Maple syrup for dipping cooked donuts

 

DIRECTIONS:

1. Place the oil in a large frying pan; turn the heat to medium to begin preheating the oil.

2. Mix all of the ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. The batter will be  sticky.  Don’t be tempted to add more flour — it has the right amount of flour…the donuts won’t turn out oily or greasy, and they definitely won’t turn out dry. Adding too much flour will make them rubbery.

3.  When oil is hot, drop the mixture by spoonful into the oil, turning frequently.

Note:  When I make these, I use a small cookie scoop to get evenly sized donuts.  The Chamorro method is to scoop up a little bit of batter in your hand, then squeeze out a dollop of batter between your thumb and pointer.

4.  Deep fry over medium heat. Keep your stove settings on medium heat. If the oil is too hot, it will burn on the outside before the inside cooks.  Cook until golden brown.

5.  Serve with a side of maple syrup for dipping, or glaze all of the donuts with maple syrup.

6.  Serve immediately and enjoy!

Short Ribs Soup (Kådun Kåtne)

It’s cold and rainy right now in the Colorado Rockies…perfect weather for Short Ribs Soup.  We call this Kådun Kåtne in Chamorro.  You can substitute short ribs with your favorite cut of beef–other favorites are oxtails (don’t knock it ’till you try it) and beef shanks.

You can even change this up further by adding your favorite vegetables–potatoes, taro, other types of squash, and baby bok choy are delicious in this recipe too!

Give my recipe a try.  I think you’ll like it.  🙂

 

SHORT RIBS SOUP (KÅDUN KÅTNE)

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 packages (9 pieces) thick cut short ribs (rinse each piece well)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 8-10 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons Dashida beef flavored seasoning
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1 small head cabbage, cut into small pieces
  • 4 small yellow squash, peeled and cubed

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Place half of the diced onions in a large soup pot.  Add the short ribs and garlic.  Brown the ribs on all sides over medium high heat.

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2.  After the ribs are browned on all sides, add 8 cups of the water, the remaining onions and Dashida.  Place a lid on the pot and bring to a boil.  Every now and then, skim off and discard any scum that rises to the surface.

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3.  Cook the ribs for 45 minutes to an hour over medium high heat.  Keep the lid covered while cooking; uncover only to skim off any scum on the surface then replace the lid.  If you need to, add the remaining water (keep the ribs submerged in liquid during cooking).  After an hour, the ribs should be tender.  If the ribs are not as tender as you’d like, cook for 15-20 more minutes.

This is what the scum looks like — you want to scoop this out and discard it.

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4.  When the ribs are done (and as tender as you’d like them), add the vegetables.  First, layer the cabbage on top of the ribs.  Press down on the cabbage, just slightly so that the leaves are moistened with the broth.  Layer the squash on top of the cabbage leaves, also pressing them into the broth (do not stir the vegetables into the soup–they will cook ON TOP of the ribs).  Cook for 5 minutes then turn off the heat.

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NOTE:

Before serving, I usually scoop out a good amount of kådu (soup broth) into a freezer-safe bowl, then place the bowl in the freezer for several minutes.  All of the fat will rise to the surface and harden.  After the fat solidifies, I scoop it out and discard it, then reheat the kådu.

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5.  After the kådu is reheated, remove the pot from the heat.  Taste the broth; re-season if necessary with Dashida and pepper.  Serve with hot white rice and fina’denne’.  Enjoy!

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Pumpkin-Carrot Crunch Cake

Fall is one of my favorite seasons, not just because of the beautiful fall colors and cooling temperatures, but because I love the smell of the house when I bake up a batch of pumpkin anything.  I say anything because my family loves most everything made with pumpkin.  Pumpkin pie, Pumpkin Turnovers (Pastit or Buchi Buchi), and one of our favorites — Pumpkin Carrot Crunch Cake.

This recipe is my take on the popular Pumpkin Crunch Cake that you must have seen making its rounds on the internet.

I make mine differently.  One thing I do differently is instead of sprinkling dry cake mix over the pumpkin filling, I make a cake and nut layer by mixing together melted butter, chopped nuts and the cake mix, then spreading it onto the bottom of a pan, making a delightful crust of sorts.

My pumpkin filling is essentially a custard, forming a rich and creamy layer on top of the cake and nut crust.

And finally, the top layer is not just plain old Cool Whip Whipped Topping, but a thicker version made so by adding sweet vanilla pudding to it.

My version also uses carrot cake instead of regular yellow cake mix, although yellow cake is perfectly fine if that’s what you prefer.  We love carrot cake in our house, so I incorporated two favorites into one, and voila, there you have my Pumpkin Carrot Crunch Cake!

Give my recipe a try.  I think you’ll like it.  🙂

PUMPKIN CARROT CRUNCH CAKE

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INGREDIENTS:

Pumpkin Filling:
  • 1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup evaporated milk OR heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Cake & Pecan Crust:
  • 2 sticks butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans
  • 1 box super moist carrot cake mix
Whipped Topping:
  • 16 ounces Cool Whip
  • 1 box (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding & pie filling
  • 1 1/2 cups milk

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the Pumpkin Filling (pumpkin, eggs, evaporated milk OR cream, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt). Set aside.

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3.  Finely chop the nuts using a food chopper or processor.

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4.  In a separate bowl, mix together the ingredients for the Cake & Pecan Crust (melted butter, chopped nuts, cinnamon and cake mix).  Spray the bottom and sides of a 13×9 cake pan with cooking spray (butter flavored, or the one for baking that has flour in it).  Spread the cake mixture evenly into the bottom of a 9×13″ pan.

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5.  Pour the pumpkin filling over the cake and pecan mixture.  Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 45-50 more minutes. The cake is done when a knife inserted comes out clean and the sides are set (the pumpkin filling will look firm and dry from the edge of the pan inward about two inches) but the middle may still be jiggly.  When you take the cake out of the oven, it will continue to cook as it cools.  Allow the cake to completely cool on the countertop.  Top with Whipped Topping when the cake is completely cooled.

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6.  To make the whipped topping, place the Cool Whip into a large mixing bowl.  Sprinkle the dry pudding mix over the Cool Whip.  Add the milk.  Using an electric mixer, mix until all the ingredients are combined.  Let it sit for about 5 minutes to set.  Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

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7.  After the cake has cooled, top with the whipped topping mixture.

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8.  Serve and enjoy!

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Bacon Maple Pancake Muffins

My daughter and I came up with this recipe when we were looking for something to cook for breakfast that wasn’t the traditional fried eggs with bacon (and a side of rice, of course).

We also didn’t feel like having just plain old pancakes either, but we knew we wanted bacon.  Pancakes appealed to us, but again, we wanted something new and different.

That’s when our bacon maple pancake muffins were born.  I already had a very good pancake recipe, but I wanted to incorporate the taste of maple syrup into all aspects of what would become such pretty tasty meal that could very well double as dessert if so inclined.

I did a lot of research on how to make this turn out more than just a plain baked pancake batter.  I found out that maple syrup is slightly acidic, and therefore, I needed to counteract that by adding a bit of baking soda to my batter, in addition to baking powder, in order to get my muffins to rise properly.  As you can see in the photos below, these muffins have an nicely rounded dome.

I also didn’t want to serve these with a side of syrup, like we do with ordinary pancakes.  So my daughter and I decided to make a maple buttercream frosting to go on top.  I guess with the addition of the frosting, these muffins can also be called cupcakes.

What’s the difference between muffins and cupcakes, you ask?  Well, one school of thought is based on the ingredients used.  I’ve read that using more than a stick of butter and one egg makes a recipe a cake.  In my recipe, I use one stick of butter and one egg, so that’s why I call them muffins.  On the other hand, like I mentioned above, another school of thought is that if you add any type of frosting to this, it’s a cupcake.  So…what does that make my recipe….maybe I should call them muffincakes or cupcakins.  Hahaha … or maybe not.  😉

I think we should just call it DELICIOUS.  Give my recipe a try.  I think you’ll like it.  🙂

Bacon Maple Pancake Muffins topped with Maple Buttercream and Bacon Sprinkles

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Scroll all the way to the bottom for my complete recipe.  Each of the following photos describes my step-by-step process.

 

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Fry bacon until crisp.

 

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Mix the dry ingredients together.

 

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In a separate mixing bowl, roughly cream the butter and sugar together.

 

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I left a stick of butter on the countertop overnight to ensure it was softened in the morning.  You don’t need to use a whisk or mixer to cream the butter with the sugar.  I used a fork to do this since the butter was so soft.  *Note:  Do not use melted butter.

 

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Mix the egg into the butter-sugar mixture.  I pulled out a whisk to mix in the egg, but you can do this with a fork as well.

 

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This is what the egg-butter-sugar mixture looks like after mixing.

 

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Pour in the milk, maple syrup and vanilla exract.  There’s no need to mix — you’re going to dump this in with the dry ingredients and mix it there.

 

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In this step, stir the dry ingredients together to ensure the baking soda, baking powder and salt are mixed in with the flour.  The only equipment you need for this step is a mixing spoon.  Do not use an electric mixer — you only need to stir this for a few times to get the proper consistency.  In fact, over mixing this batter will make your muffins turn out tough and dense.

 

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Pour the liquid ingredients into the the bowl with the dry ingredients.

 

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Use a mixing spoon to mix it all together.  About 50 strokes should do it.  It’s okay if there are a few lumps in the batter.

 

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Crumble your cooked bacon ahead of time.  Half of it will go into the batter, the other half will be used to sprinkle on top the frosted muffins.

 

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Fold the bacon crumbles into the batter.  This is important:  DO NOT let the batter sit.  You want to bake this as soon as possible after mixing.  This is because once you’ve added the wet ingredients to the dry, the baking soda and baking powder start to work their magic and the batter will begin its “rising” process.  You don’t want it to rise while sitting in your mixing bowl–you want this magic to take place in the oven so that you have nice tall muffins with a rounded top.

 

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It’s a good idea to line your muffin tin ahead of time, so that you can immediately scoop your batter into them as soon as you’re done mixing it.  You’ll have just enough batter to make 12 muffins.  Use slightly less than 1/3 cup of batter in each muffin cup.

 

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Bake the muffins anywhere between 15-20 minutes.  The baking time will vary, depending on your oven.  My oven (not to mention I live at a relatively high altitude) tends to take a little longer to bake things.  I check for doneness about 2 minutes prior to the minimum cooking time.  In this case, I used a toothpick to test for doneness at the 13-minute mark.  My muffins were still a bit wet, so I baked them for an additional 5 minutes.

 

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The extra 5 minutes of baking did the trick.  The muffins should be a golden brown.  A toothpick inserted into the middle should come out clean, although a few crumbs sticking to it is okay.  Let the muffins cool completely before adding your frosting.

 

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Make the frosting while the muffins are cooling.
I also left these two sticks of butter out overnight to completely soften.

 

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You WILL need an electric mixer to make the frosting.  Because the butter is already soft, you don’t need to beat it.  I just turned my mixer on to low speed for a few seconds to spread the butter out a bit.

 

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Mix in the maple syrup and milk.

 

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Sift in the powdered sugar — I used a strainer to do this, but a flour sifter works well too.

 

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This shows 2 cups of sifted powdered sugar.  My recipe calls for up to 4 cups of sugar — I only used 2.  You can use 3 or even the entire 4 cups of sugar if you like (it will be really sweet if you do).  The added sugar also serves to make your frosting stiffer, which is what you want if you plan on using a piping bag and decorating tip to decorate your muffins.  I didn’t want to do this with this batch — a softer frosting was good enough here since I only planned on using a small cookie scoop to scoop out enough frosting to top each muffin.

 

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Mix the sugar into the butter mixture until smooth and creamy.  Frost your muffins once they are completely cooled off; the frosting will melt if the muffins are still warm.

 

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I used a small cookie scoop to place even amounts of frosting on each muffin.  Slightly spread out the frosting to ensure the top of the muffin is covered.

 

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I suffer from a mild case of OCD.  I wanted to ensure that each muffin had equal amounts of bacon crumbles, so I broke each of remaining 6 bacon strips in half, then made 12 little piles of bacon crumbles.  (Don’t judge me.  LOL)

 

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Top each muffin with bacon crumbles.

 

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♬ ♩ ♫  ♪     Ta daa!!!!!!     ♬ ♩ ♫  ♪

 

imageThis is what the inside looks like — fluffy and moist.  And, as you can see on top, there is ample frosting on top.  These muffins are delicious without the added frosting, by if you are in mood to indulge, don’t skimp on the frosting.  All in all, these muffincakes are absolutely DELICIOUS!  Decide for yourself; give my recipe a try.  🙂

 

Bacon Maple Pancake Muffins with Maple Buttercream Frosting
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
These muffins are the perfect combination of sweet and savory. Perfect for breakfast, they also double as a dessert.
Serves: 12
Ingredients
Muffin Batter
  • 2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 thin slice maple bacon
Maple Buttercream Frosting
  • 2 stick butter
  • 2 tablespoon milk
  • 6 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2-4 cup powdered sugar
Topping
  • 6 thin slice maple bacon
Instructions
Muffin Batter
  1. Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl. Stir to mix all the ingredients together. Set aside.
  2. In a smaller mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Mix in the egg. Add the maple syrup, vanilla extract, and milk (there is no need to stir).
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients. Using a mixing spoon, stir to combine, about 50 strokes. Do not over mix; a few lumps remaining are okay.
  4. Fold in the bacon crumbles.
  5. Pour slightly less than ⅓ cup of batter into each well of a muffin tin lined with paper liners. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Check for doneness at around 13 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin should come out clean (a few crumbs are okay). The muffins should be golden brown in color when done. Do not over bake.
Maple Buttercream Frosting
  1. Cream the butter and sugar together in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Add the maple syrup and milk to the butter-sugar mixture. Mix to combine.
  3. Mix in the sifted powdered sugar, starting out with only 2 cups of sugar. Add more sugar to make a stiffer frosting (which is good if you're using cake decorating tips). Less sugar yields a creamier frosting. Frost the muffins after they've completely cooled off.
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