Tag Archive | scratch cooking

Lasagna with White Whole Wheat Homemade Pasta

When I get a hankering for lasagna I can’t just go out and buy some pasta to make it.  All the lasagna commercially available is either regular or whole wheat made with dark grained wheat.  I like white whole wheat pasta.  You get the benefit of the fiber from bran without the heavy, dark, oily texture of dark wheat bran.  I can find no companies who make white whole wheat lasagna noodles, so I make my own.

Making pasta is not hard, you just need the proper equipment:  a pasta making machine.  This little item rolls the pasta dough out into thin sheets to be cut into the required size.  You can make lasagna, fettuccine or spaghetti this way.  Lasagna noodles can be cut by hand.  The other shapes are done with cutters that are included with the machine.

The dough is very simple, just flour, eggs and water.  Flavorings and colors can be added with spinach, beet juice, carrots, etc.  Once kneaded to the optimal consistency, the dough is rolled through the machine at increasingly narrow settings until the right thickness is achieved.

Fresh dough pasta should be dried before it is cooked.  It doesn’t need to be dehydrated like the stuff sold in boxes, but there should be a well-thickened skin.  Several hours of drying time are sufficient.  A soft interior is fine.  When cooking fresh pasta it is important to use a large pot with lots of boiling water to allow plenty of space for movement.  Fresh pasta floats when it’s ready and it cooks very quickly.  It will puff up some as it cooks, about half-again the size.

This lasagna is adapted from my dear Aunt Iverna Griffin’s recipe.  She called it Griffin’s Lasagna.  Her secret flavoring ingredient was bacon.  Aunt Iverna knew that bacon made everything taste better four decades before it became all the rage.

White Whole Wheat Lasagna

1 lb pasta, cooked

To make fresh pasta:

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour

1.5 cups all purpose flour

2 large eggs

1/4 cup water

Mix flours, lightly beat eggs. Make a well in the middle of the flour, pour in the egg.  Use a fork to work the flour from the edges into the eggs until it is all incorporated.  The dough will be thick, add water while kneading, usually 1/4 cup is plenty, to make an elastic, smooth, somewhat firm dough.  Run through a pasta machine until the right thickness, cut to size and dry for several hours, turning as needed to dry both sides.

Bring 8 qts water to boil in a large pot.  Drop the dried pasta in and cook until it floats and is al dente nearly done, about 5-8 minutes.  The noodles should be just slightly under done so that they will finish cooking in the oven.

To make the dish:

Preheat oven to 350F

Use 9″ x 13″ baking pan

32 oz pasta sauce

1 lb cooked hamburger

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 lb sharp cheddar cheese in thin slices

2-3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 lb small curd cottage cheese

1 cup sliced black olives

7-8 slices pre-cooked bacon

Combine 3/4 cup pasta sauce with the cooked hamburger.  Mix in 1/2 cup pasta sauce to the cottage cheese.  Spread 1/2 cup of pasta sauce on the bottom of the greased pan.  Place a singe layer of pasta over the sauce.  Spread with 1/2 cup pasta sauce and half the cottage cheese mix.  Sprinkle with half the parmesan, some mozzarella, and some black olives.  Place another single layer of pasta, cover with 1/2 cup sauce, half the hamburger mix, half the cheddar slices, mozzarella, and some black olives. Continue with the layers, ending with the hamburger layer.  Seal the top using any sauce left and sprinkle with mozzarella.  Place the bacon strips across the top.  Bake for one hour.  The choices of substitute and additional fillings are endless.  Ricotta cheese instead of cottage, mushrooms are nice as are sliced sweet peppers, pepperoni, sausage bits, or anything else that’s good on pizza.



Buttermilk Whole Wheat Waffles

For the comfort food factor, little can beat warm waffles fresh off the iron.  The soft pockets of the waffles soak up syrup and melted butter.  Each bite has a crispy outer crunch with a soft, juicy center.  So yummy on a cold winter morning.  I use whole wheat flour so I can pretend waffles are good for me.

While waffles can be served with dozens of delicious topping, I like mine with fresh Maine butter and steeped in maple syrup from our farm.  No additional sides of bacon, ham or scrambled eggs are necessary (although all will add to a hearty breakfast,) just give me lots of waffles!  They taste the very best when served on my collection of Syracuse Dogwood restaurant ware dishes.

This recipe is one I’ve adapted and it works well.  I use the very vintage GE waffle maker my mother-in-law gave me.  It’s still going strong.  Have the waffle irons pre-heated to medium.  Too warm and they burn, too cool and they stick.  Don’t lubricate the irons with anything unless the manufacturer recommends it.  When they are done, the waffles will lift easily away from the hot irons.

Buttermilk Whole Wheat Waffles

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups buttermilk or lowfat (1.5%- 2%) milk plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup oil

If you do not have buttermilk, make your own by heating the milk to 70F then stir in the lemon juice.  Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the milk to clabber.  Meanwhile sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk eggs in a separate bowl until very foamy.  Use a large whisk to stir the moist ingredients into the dry.  Do not over beat.  Pour batter onto hot irons, cook until golden brown.

For even fluffier waffles, separate the eggs, adding the yolks in with the other wet ingredients.  Beat the whites until fluffy and gently fold into the batter as the last ingredient.

Cooked waffles refrigerate for a coupe days or freeze well and are great reheated in the toaster.  Why pay for store-bought weird ingredient waffles when it is so easy to make your own?




Surprise Pancakes


What to do with those bananas that get over ripened if you don’t enjoy the flavor of banana bread?  Why, make Surprise Pancakes, of course!  The surprise is these light, fluffy cakes are made with banana and the taste is almost imperceptible.

We love them hot, slathered with butter and drowned in the thick maple syrup we produce here at the farm.  I also enjoy the pancakes reheated in the microwave and stacked, with a liberal coating of homemade apricot jam between the layers.  Because the recipe effortlessly incorporates a good dose of dietary fiber, it feels like eating these pancakes is actually good for you!

If you have more ripe bananas on hand than you can manage, bananas freeze very well whole in their skins.  The skin will turn brown, but the fruit inside will stay as it was when fresh.  Defrost the banana until it is pliable before peeling.

Surprise Pancakes

1 large ripe banana mashed

1  1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour

5 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups milk

2 eggs

1/3 cup oil

1 teaspoon vanilla


In a large mixing bowl mash the banana.  Sift in dry ingredients.  Make a large well in the middle of the dry ingredients and place the wet inside.  Whisk the wet ingredients until the eggs are beaten and combined, then continue whisking all together until the batter is smooth.  Any desired fruit may be folded into the recipe at this point, for instance 3/4 to 1 cup blueberries, chopped strawberries, crushed pineapple or diced apples.  Cook on medium high, 350F on an electric griddle, turning once to brown both sides.  Serve with butter, maple syrup, berry syrup, jam or preserves.  Makes 12 to 15 cakes.


Way to His Heart Meatloaf


When I want to make my husband happy with one of his favorite meals, I cook up my special meatloaf.  It always warms his heart.  I have a secret to keep the meatloaf juicy and tender:  beef bouillon.

My Meatloaf

2 lbs lean ground beef, I use grass-fed ground round

1 egg

1/4 cup ketchup

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1 cup warm water

1 cube beef bouillon

2 drops liquid smoke, optional

Put the bouillon cube in the warm water to dissolve.

Place beef, egg, ketchup, spices and onion powder in a mixing bowl.  Add a couple drops of liquid smoke for a barbecued flavor, if desired.  Mix together with nice clean hands until all the ingredients are well blended.  Pat the meat into a greased loaf pan.  Pour the bouillon over the meat.m2m3

Bake for 1.25 hours at 350F.  Drain off the liquid and thicken with flour to make gravy.  Serves four.   Meatloaf also is great in leftover sandwiches.m4



My husband truly loves butter cookies and shortbread.  Sometimes I find old shortbread and cookie molds at secondhand shops and have always wondered how to use them.  Finally, I decided to explore making shortbread and to treat my husband to a homemade crispy, buttery treat.a2  I found two shortbread pans for decent prices on eBay.  These are vintage ceramic pans made by Brown Bag Cookie Art.  The design on one is Fruits and Flowers and the other is Farm Animals.

Shortbread is a very old type of cookie or biscuit as it is called in the UK.  It originated in Scotland in the mid 1700s.  The basic recipe is very simple and rich in butter.  It is not possible to substitute or scrimp on the butter.  Shortbread requires butter.

My first attempt did not turn out the perfectly molded cookies I had hoped for.  I will have to work on my method to perfect it.  There are many variations on the shortbread recipe, but here are the basics.

Basic Shortbread

1 cup salted butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all purpose flour

Cream the butter with the sugar until smooth.  Mix in the vanilla then slowly stir in the flour.  When the flour is all added, knead the dough gently until is is smooth and uniform in texture.  Split into two balls.a3

Lightly spray two 8″ square shortbread pans.  Place a ball of dough in the center of each pan and press the dough flat until it evenly fills the pans.  Lightly pierce the entire surface of the dough with a fork to prevent bubbles from forming during baking.

Bake in the bottom third of a pre-heated 325F oven for 30-35 mins, until the bread is lightly browned over the entire surface.  The center must be browned so the cookies will unmold properly.  Remove from the oven and cool for 10 mins.a4

Place a towel or large cutting board on the counter, turn the pans over and drop from a height of about 2″ onto the counter.  The shock will jar the shortbread loose from the pan.  Flip the bread over and cut with a sharp knife while still warm so it does not crumble.a5

These can be stored tightly sealed at room temperature for a week or so.  Delicious served with tea or coffee.

A variation I want to try:

Lemon Shortbread

1 cup salted butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 cup lemon juice

2 teaspoons lemon zest

2 1/4 cups flour

To make other flavors add 1/4 teaspoon of extracts such as mint, almond or coconut to the basic recipe.

My husband found he loves shortbread warm from the oven and ate several more than is good for his boyish figure!

Microwave Baked Custard


When I have milk or eggs to use up, I sometimes make this quick, easy and very yummy custard.  It says baked in the title although the dish is made in the microwave.  It really is very similar to oven baked custard without the extra work of standing the dishes in water or the bother of heating a big appliance.  The texture is creamy and delicate, very nice as a quick dessert or breakfast.

The trickiest part is knowing how long to cook the custard.  Times vary with the size and strength of the microwave oven.  The dish should be cooked on a medium power so microwaves that have only one power setting are not the best for making custard, although it can be done with care and practice.1

This recipe was adapted by me from the Amana Radarange Cookbook

Microwave Baked Custard

1 3/4 cups milk

3 large eggs, slightly whisked to mix

1/4 cup sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

nutmeg and cinnamon to taste

Place the milk in a 2-cup glass measure.  Microwave on high for 1.5 to 2 minutes until hot.  While the milk is heating, break the eggs into a 4-cup measure.  Lightly whisk until the eggs are broken and mixed but not too foamy.  Gently whisk in the sugar and salt.

Slowly pour the hot milk into the eggs, whisking and using care not to pour too fast or the eggs can curdle.  Mix in the vanilla.2

Divide the custard between four 6 oz glass custard cups.  Sprinkle the tops with the spices to taste.  Space in the microwave so there is plenty of room around the cups.  Heat on medium power, Power Level 4 on my microwave oven, for 6-15 minutes.  It may be necessary to re-situate the cups half-way through cooking for best heat dispersal.

Begin checking the custard at 6 minutes so it does not over-cook and resume cooking at two minute intervals until done.  Do not stir!  The custard is finished when no liquid flows if the cup is carefully tipped.  If one cup seems more set than the others, remove it and finish cooking the rest.  The custard will still be wobbly in the center.  The heat retained will finish the cooking.  Cool the custards in the microwave with the door closed or on a counter at room temperature away from drafts.  When cooled, store in fridge.3

Over-cooked custard is hard and rubbery, not too appetizing, so use care with the cooking time.

I have also made this in a single large dish and microwaved for about 20-25 minutes.

Serve plain or with whipped cream or fruit.  Makes four 6 oz servings.


Apricot Jam

ab1.jpgOf all the flavors of jam I have tried (a lot!) my favorite has to be apricot.  I could eat it on warm toast all day.  If I did, my body shape would resemble an apricot, all that holds me back.

Buying apricot jam can get expensive, perhaps because apricots are a costly fruit.  I have not seen fresh apricots recently offered in season for less than $3 a pound here in central Maine.  The price may be due to our location.  In sunny, warm places where apricots grow they are probably cheap, although the price of the jam does not reflect that.

I finally decided to try my hand at making apricot jam.  Maybe I could save a little money.  To me, homemade jam always tastes better than commercial.  The ingredients are limited to fruit, sugar and pectin unlike what line many store shelves.  Small batches made at home seem more flavorful.  This suggested eating handmade apricot jam would be like tasting heaven.  I could hardly wait to get started!

Chilean apricots are in season now so I picked up three pounds at the supermarket.  Apricots must be thoroughly cleaned for jam since the fuzzy skin is also used.  This recipe has been adapted to my tastes from the one that comes with the pectin.

Apricot Jam

2.5 to 3 lbs fresh apricots to equal 6 cups chopped fruit

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup water

1 box reduced sugar fruit pectin

4.5 cups sugar

Rinse well, pit and chop apricots with skins (do not peel.)  I coarsely chop to pieces 1/4″-1/2″.  Place in large (8 quart) heavy bottomed saucepan with the water.  Sprinkle the fruit with the lemon juice. Thoroughly mix the powdered pectin with 1/2 cup of the sugar.  Stir into the fruit.  Cover, bring to a simmer on low-medium heat and then cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently so it does not burn.  ap1

Uncover and bring heat to high, stirring fruit constantly until the boil can not be stirred down.  Add the remaining sugar.  Return the mix to a boil, stirring, and boil for one minute.  Remove from heat and skim any foam with a metal spoon.

Have 7 cups worth of hot, sterilized glass canning jars ready. Ladle the jam into the jars, cover and process in a boiling hot water bath for 10 minutes.  Cool away from drafts and assure the jars have sealed before storing.

Makes about 7 cups.  Yum!ap3

Crock Pot Pea Soup

c2Pease porridge hot,

Pease porridge cold,

Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old.

Whenever I make pea soup the nursery rhyme runs through my head.  I like pease porridge any way at all, although it never gets a chance to age nine days at my house.

c1Crock Pot cooking is the perfect method for making pea soup, the long heating period gently combines the flavors.  This recipe uses the 3.5 Quart size Crock Pot slow cooker.  Pea soup can also be made over direct heat in a heavy bottomed pot.  The cooking time will be shorter.

The latest batch I made was with green split peas, but yellow work just as well and are actually my favorite.

Crock Pot Pea Soup

1 lb dried split peas         large meaty ham bone or 2 cups thickly diced ham

3 stalks celery                   oregano, marjoram, thyme, basil, sage, pepper

3 large carrots                   bay leaf, celery salt

1 medium onion               1.5 quarts hot water

1 medium potato

Sort and rinse peas, place in bottom of crock pot.  Dice all the vegetables to a uniform medium size. Place vegetables on top of peas, add the ham and spices to taste.  Pour the water over all.  Do not stir. Cook on high 4-5 hours, low 8-10 hours.  Remove meat from bone, dice and return meat to pot.  Stir well, serve hot, or cold or nine days old.c3



Apple Maple Pudding


Yum, Apple Maple Pudding is so scrumptious!  My husband thinks the name is hard to say, but he has no trouble eating it!  We use our own maple syrup and eggs for this and when in season, our own apples.  This is excellent served warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

I found this recipe in Yankee magazine years ago and have adapted it to suit our tastes.  It might be better to make this in a slightly larger dish, this is a two quart bowl.  Might want to use a 2.5 qt or 3 qt dish next time since it overflowed a little.  The recipe has three steps.

Apple Maple Pudding

2 large pie apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin

1 tablespoon sugar

3 tablespoons flour

cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger to taste

Toss apples with dry ingredients and arrange in the bottom of an ungreased 2-3 qt casserole dish.

3/4 cup maple syrup

3/4 cup apple cider or other complimentary pure fruit juice (I like orange/tangerine juice)

Combine in a small sauce pan and bring to boil over medium heat.

1 1/2 cups flour

2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons oil

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup milk

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Pour over apples, spread evenly.  Pour hot syrup mixture over the batter.  Bake at 350 F for 40-50 minutes until the cake tests done.  Serve by placing cake in bottom of bowl, covering with the apples then spooning the sauce over all.  Don’t eat too much!a2