I called my Dad today – as every good child should do if their parents are living. Just checking up with him and seeing how he and Mom were doing. We got to talking about what I was making for Christmas dinner and I told him I was doing my up-and-coming-famous-lasagna but I goofed and forgot to purchase cottage cheese yesterday (Monday) when I was out and about. Eventually, I started working on it and created the lasagna and put it in the oven while I was on the phone with Dad.
I had found a sale on Black Angus Beef in a 3lb package. I cooked all 3 lbs of hamburger but only a pound and a half was put into the crock pot with the sauce. The rest will go into the fridge for use in something else – rather soon, of course.
One of the many rolls of Jimmy Dean Maple Sausage that I picked up for cheaper than normal. Only half of this went into the crock pot of spaghetti/lasagna sauce. The other half will be used in a quiche tomorrow morning.
Spices. Yes. These are the generic brands. Money is tight so I had to make due with what I could find instead of purchasing the normal brands that I keep on hand. It’s alright. It still tasted rather good.
I sent Jen off to get the cottage cheese I needed (while I was on the phone with my Dad) and, in the process of waiting for her and talking to Dad, I started prepping to make the lasagna.
Prepping the Ricotta Cheese to mix up with the cottage cheese when Jen gets back.
I forgot to take pictures of creating the first and second layer. When I am done, there will be three layers. I typically have 5 cheeses and 2 meats, sometimes 3 (if I have fresh cooked bacon ready to go):
- Sharp Cheddar (shredded)
- Mozzarella (lots of this, shredded)
- Ricotta (tub, mixed well with Cottage Cheese)
- Cottage Cheese
- Parmesan Cheese
and the meats:
- Sausage Crumbles
- Bacon Crumbles
I did not have bacon or Cottage Cheese this go-around.
The picture above is when I finished the first two layers. The first is a row of lasagna noodles and then meat andCheddar Cheese mixed with Mozzarella. I am generous with the Mozarella and I use the Cheddar to give it an extra kick. I’m not sure about amounts because I’ve never measured. I did use a 2 cup bag of Cheddar Cheese and about half of a 5-lb bag of shredded Mozzarella for the entire lasagna. That’ll give ya an indication of amounts. The Cheddar and Mozzarella are used on all three layers of my lasagna.
And done building my lasagna. It has two layers of my homemade spaghetti sauce (meat included) with Cheddar Cheese and Mozzarella and one layer of Ricotta (sans Cottage Cheese this time only) and Mozzarella/Cheddar. If you see the top, I don’t pour the Cheddar Cheese on. It’s used as a flavor enhancer, not to overpower the Mozzarella. It gives the finished product a nice glow when the baking is done.
The finished product. Anyone who has made lasagna understands why I showed the side view and not the top. A well-made lasagna doesn’t sink in the middle. The meats and cheeses stay firm in the center and keep it from sinking down – and completely spoiling the beauty of this delightful dinner. Mine rarely sinks.
I think the missing cottage cheese threw me off, though. I forgot to add that I sprinkle Parmesan Cheese on each layer as I build this, as well. I will say, when adding the Parmesan to the top, it tends to burn and make the lasagna look burnt when it is really not.
And, I built the lasagna layers while on the phone with Dad and threw it in the oven just as we hung up. I think that looks really good for missing 2 ingredients (3 if you count the bacon) and being distracted.
While we were on the phone, I was telling him my plans for this upcoming Spring and Summer. I was talking about baking and cooking and whatnot and got to mentioning something he said to me a long time ago.
“Dad, you said something to me quite some time ago. Years and years, actually. You meant not harm, you were being playful.”
“What did I say?”
“You said, to be a good cook, you have to be able to make a cake from scratch.”
He laughed and I continued my story. I told him all that I had learned and accomplished these past 6 months and all the cool things I had made that I’d never attempted before (the lasagna I have been making since I moved out on my own). In the midst of all this, he mentioned that it was awesome, he has been following along and enjoying watching me learn. He also suggested that, instead of stocking my shelves with every flour known to man (in the USA), I should make my own. I said, “Yeah.. um… no.” He got a chuckle out of that one. When he was done, I said, “Yeah, Dad, but that’s not the point. The point is, with everything I’ve done? I’ve still never made a cake from scratch.”
He seemed to get a really good laugh out of that one and then started talking about how I should think about making one. I just hadn’t gotten around to it!
When we hung up and while I waited for the lasagna to bake, I got to thinking: I really should try to make a cake from scratch.
It would be a culinary accomplishment!
After feeding the boys and attempting to lay down for a bit before our evening’s movie watching, I pulled out one of my favorite “old” cook books.
There are only two versions of this cookbook and I love them both. The second has more recipes than the first and makes for a delightful sit-down for perusal. I found the cake section and flipped through it. Yes, I did find the easiest cake I could find in the book and attempted to make that one first.
Plain Butter Cake. Looks simple. Looks easy for a first attempt at a cake all from scratch.
I followed the recipe to the best of my abilities and made the cake. I even sifted the flour – something I only recently started doing.
I thought it was a tad weird that was a bit solid when I put it into the pan.
It wasn’t full of liquid like the store-bought brands. The old book I have shows no pictures and doesn’t give a lot of details so I popped it into the oven, expecting it was supposed to be like this.
It took an hour to cook and, when it came out, I was a little surprised.
I remember reading somewhere in the Priscilla book about why a cake would crack. It says, “Too much flour makes a cake rise too high in the center and crack open. It also makes the cake dry and hard.” By the looks of this, I might have had too much flour. It says to add 1 and 3/4 cup flour; however, I don’t have a 1/4 cup measuring cup. My old set is missing that piece. I should have used my glass measuring cup but didn’t think it would make much difference. I typically “guess” when it comes to the 1/4 cup measurements if I don’t use my glass cup.
I will say that the reason I haven’t replaced that measuring cup is because the plastic things they sell nowadays are too frilly and fancy. I’d rather not buy something that ugly! I should break down and finally take care of that, though.
So, I made my first cake. We tasted it immediately.
A little dry but tasted alright. I think it’s a keeper. I’m going to make it again and see if I can’t perfect my measurement of that 3/4 cup. That and not mixing it so much are the reasons for the dry and cracked. That’s my diagnosis.
Am I a cook now, Dad? I ask that in all teasing and fun. I hope you are laughing along with me!