Our daughter Jill’s birthday was in March, so we were all busy preparing for a great birthday party for her.
It is always fun to have favorite foods for birthdays — and I think when you are from a big family, as I was, it is even more important to have your own very special day with your favorite foods.
I thought about some fun themes for her party — like moon food since she was born the year Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon. Homemade moon pies possibly? But in the end, I decided to go with her very favorite — Italian food.
Jill always loved Italian as a child, and she still does. So we had to have lasagna, which has been a favorite of ours over the years. Jill also asked for homemade ravioli, which I have only made a couple of times. I do love to make homemade pasta, but I usually make noodles. So that day we tried our hand at ravioli. All my kids love homemade rolls, so I got up that morning and made a big batch. I put them in the freezer (before baking) and I let them thaw and rise later in the so I could bake them fresh and hot for dinner.
Dessert had to be very special, and Jill had already made her requests. She asked her sister, Anna, to make banana pudding and her sister, Alice, made Tres Leche Cake. My job was to make something chocolate. She loves German chocolate cake. I usually cheat and make a box mix German chocolate cake, in three layers, and then I make homemade icing/filling. Just in case that wasn’t enough dessert, we had some very good homemade ice cream choices, too. Happy Birthday, Jill.
My Favorite Lasagna
Brown and drain:
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
6 cups spaghetti sauce (can use large jar of Prego or Ragu, plus 2 cups water)
Let simmer for about half an hour.
1 pound lasagna noodles. Cook according to directions on box (need at least 9 noodles). Add a little oil or butter. Drain.
Mix in bowl:
24 ounces cottage cheese (1 large carton)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated
Put about a cup of sauce in bottom of 9-inch by 13-inch pan. Lay 3 noodles on this, then half of cottage cheese mixture, then half of mozzarella cheese. Repeat with another layer of each. End with a layer of noodles and more sauce.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Let sit 15 minutes before serving. Can make ahead and refrigerate.
Filling for German Chocolate Cake
Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 12 minutes:
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 stick butter
Remove from heat.
1 teaspoon vanilla
About 1 1/3 cups coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
Beat until cool and of spreading consistency.
Makes enough to cover tops of three 8-inch layers.
Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native, guest columnist and First Lady of Ohio.