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Grandma’s Lasagna

Grandma’s Lasagna

In the 1960s and 70s, most of our family parties included the Berg family.  Tom, Evie, and their daughter Donna were always there.  Their son Tommy was serving in the military, so we didn’t see him and his wife Linda as often, but all of the Bergs have always felt like a part of our family.  Grandma’s Lasagna recipe actually came from Donna Berg sometime in the 1970s.  Donna served this at a birthday party and it was such a hit that our family has since used this lasagna recipe exclusively.

I’ve made a few modifications to this recipe over the years. I added the besciamella after living in the home of Bep Lupker in the city of Delft, The Netherlands. Bep’s lasagna included a delicious besciamella—so good that I never forgot about it. Now a lasagna doesn’t seem complete without it. I’ve also made a few modifications to the meat sauce. The original recipe can be found at the end of the post.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup (8-oz) onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground chuck beef
1 can (28-oz) crushed tomatoes
1 can (15-oz) tomato sauce
1 can (6-oz) tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup dry white, or dry red wine (optional)
2 tsp fish sauce (optional)
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried ground fennel
¼ tsp dried thyme leaves
2 whole cloves, crushed
2 bay leaves
½ tsp fresh ground pepper (to taste) 
1 tsp salt

¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground fresh pepper
small pinch nutmeg

In a Dutch oven over medium heat, heat olive oil until shimmering; add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is translucent and tender.  Add meat and cook until no longer pink. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, chicken broth, wine (optional), and fish sauce (optional); add remaining herbs, spices & seasonings. Simmer covered on low heat for 30 minutes and uncovered for 15 minutes.  Remove bay leaves (sauce is best when made a day more in advance and reheated).

Place enough meat sauce in the bottom of a lasagna pan to thinly coat. Add ⅓ of the cooked lasagna noodles.  Spread ⅓ of the ricotta (and/or cottage cheese), Parmesan, and mozzarella cheese over lasagna,  Cover with ⅓ of the remaining meat sauce.  Repeat for two additional layers. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan.

Bake covered at 325° for 40 minutes and uncovered for 10 minutes, or until warmed through and cheese is slightly browned.

Thoroughly heat butter and flour.  Whisk in remaining ingredients; cook until thickened.

Slice and serve lasagna topped with besciamella.


⅓ cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground chuck beef
1 can (8-oz) tomato sauce
1 can (6-oz) tomato paste
1 cup water
½ tsp oregano
fresh ground pepper to taste
1 tsp salt
½ tsp basil
1 whole clove, crushed
2 cups ricotta or cottage cheese (or 1 cup of each)
½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
8 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced
8 oz lasagna noodles, prepared

Sauté onion and garlic in oil until tender; add meat and brown.  Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, and seasonings and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Place ½ of the cooked lasagna noodles in the bottom of a buttered 9×13 pan.  Spread ½ of the ricotta (and/or cottage cheese), Parmesan, and mozzarella cheese over lasagna,  Cover with ½ of the meat sauce.  Repeat layers.  Bake at 350° for 45 minutes.

Sweet & Sour Chicken

Sweet & Sour Chicken

1 cup sugar
2 cups (or 1 can, 14 oz) chicken broth
¾ cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
2 large yellow onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (2 tsp)
1 can (20 oz) pineapple chunks, ½ drained
2 tomatoes, sliced into wedges
2 bell peppers, sliced into 1” pieces
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp cornstarch
¼ cup cold water

1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soy sauce
¼ tsp white pepper
1½ pounds chicken (and/or Pork), cut into 1” cubes
vegetable oil
¾ cup flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
¾ cup water

In 3-quart saucepan, heat sugar, broth, vinegar, 1 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 tsp salt, onion and garlic to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer.

Mix egg, 2 tbsp cornstarch, 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp soy sauce and the white pepper in medium bowl; stir in chicken. Cover and refrigerate 20 minutes.

Mix ¼ cup plus 2 tbsp cornstarch and ¼ cup water; stir into sauce. Cook and stir until thickened (about 30 seconds). Stir in tomatoes, bell pepper and pineapple. Heat to boiling.

Heat vegetable oil in wok to 350º. Mix flour, 2 tbsp cornstarch, 1 tsp salt and the baking soda in medium bowl. Stir in ¾ cup water. Stir in chicken mixture; coat well. Fry about 20 pieces at a time for 4 minutes or until light brown, turning frequently; drain on paper towels. Increase oil temperature to 375º. Fry chicken all at once for 1 minute or until golden brown; drain on paper towels.

Serve with sauce poured over chicken.

Peanut Sauce

Peanut Sauce

I learned to love peanut sauce (pindasaus) while living in The Netherlands.  An Indonesian meal just isn’t right without it!  This delicious sauce is a favorite of every member of our family.  We use it most often to smother skewers of chicken (Satay Ajam) or pork (Satay Babi), over vegetables (Gado Gado), or with mayonnaise and diced onions to top frites (Patatje Oorlog).  There are two kinds of people in the world; those who love peanut sauce, and those who haven’t eaten it often enough to crave it… yet!   

½ cup peanut butter
½ tsp garlic
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp ketjap manis
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
3 tbsp brown sugar
⅛ tsp hot curry powder
¼ tsp sambal oelek (or to taste)

In saucepan, melt peanut butter; add garlic. Heat until texture is creamy. Add lemon juice and ketjap manis. Sauce will become quite thick. Stir in coconut milk, brown sugar, curry powder and sambal.

For a slight variation, I will often add a couple of teaspoons of fresh ginger, or even a little lemon grass.

Belgian Frites

Belgian Frites

Patat MetOk, my friends, don’t get me started!  Just believe me when I say, Fries are NOT French!  Whether it be because of the style of the cut (frenched) or the native language of many of their early purveyors, french and fries have been erroneously linked as the name of a true Belgian creation, Frites!  Calling these spears of deliciousness French is, well, just wrong. 

Real frites are double fried, delivering a soft and fluffy interior and crisp exterior.   They are traditionally salted and served with mayonnaise.  But, if you are feeling a bit more  adventurous, try some of the typical toppings for Frites from the Netherlands and Belgium found under Serving Suggestions at the end of the recipe.  My personal favorite…  Patat Speciaal!

Large potatoes
Pepper (optional)

Wash and slice potatoes (either peeled or unpeeled) into thick strips; place in a large bowl of fresh cold water and soak for 20 minutes or more.  Heat oil to 275° to 300°.  Line a large paper bag with paper towels.  Fry sliced potato fries in batches for +/-5 minutes per batch being careful to keep oil temperature in range.  Place fried potatoes in prepared paper bag and allow to cool.  Increase oil temperature to 375° to 400°; fry in batches a second time for +/-5 minutes per batch.  Place fries on a baking dish lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt (and pepper, if desired) immediately.  Devour.

Real Belgian frites (french fries) are always pre-soaked in water and then fried twice.  This results in a crisp outside and fluffy interior.

Patat Met – Fries with mayonnaise
Patat Speciaal – Fries with mayonnaise, curry ketchup, and topped with onions
Patatje Oorlog – Fries with mayonnaise, peanut sauce, sambal oelek, and topped with onions
Patatje Joppie – Fries with mayonnaise mixed with  yellow curry spices, and topped with onions
Frieten met Stoofvlees – Fries with Belgian stew

Blue Cheese Cheesecake

Blue Cheese Cheesecake

1 cup Ritz or Club crackers, crushed
½ cup pecans, chopped fine
3 tbsp butter, melted
16 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz blue cheese, crumbled
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp dried basil
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp white pepper
3 eggs, room temperature
¼ cup green onions, diced
2 cups water

Lightly spray a 6-inch springform pan with cooking spray.  Line base of springform pan with parchment using spray to keep in place.  Spray one additional coat of cooking spray.

Combine crackers, pecans and butter and press onto base and sides of springform pan.

Beat cream cheese, blue cheese, and cream until smooth.  Add basil garlic powder and white pepper; beat to combine.  Beat in eggs, one at a time until just combined.  Fold in green onions and pour into crust.  Tent with foil.

Place steamer insert in base of Instant Pot and add 2 cups water.  Layer a paper towel and two layers foil under springform pan and wrap up the sides with paper towel between springform pan and foil.  Carefully place cheesecake in the center of the pot.  Secure lid and close release valve.  Cook on manual setting at high pressure for 40 minutes.  When cooking is complete, allow Instant Pot to release and depressurize naturally.

Remove cheesecake from Instant Pot and cool on rack for 1 hour and in refrigerator for an additional 4 hours.  Remove cheesecake from springform pan and plate.  Serve with crackers, pears, apples, etc.

Cheesecake (Sous-vide)

Cheesecake (Sous-vide)

This amazingly easy recipe uses a sous-vide bath with a mason jar to cook cheesecake to the perfect temperature. 

32-oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
6 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

Prepare sous-vide using a pot deep enough to submerge a 1 gallon mason jar; preheat water to 80˚C.

Place cream cheese, sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and process again until all ingredients are fully incorporated and no chunks remain.  Stir in buttermilk.  Pour contents into a 1 gallon mason jar; hand tighten lid.

Submerge filled mason jar in heated sous-vide bath and cook for 90 minutes; remove from bath and cool.  Spoon into bowls and serve with slightly crushed Golden Grahams cereal (omit for GF) and your topping of choice.

Cashew Chicken

Cashew Chicken

1 8-oz chicken breast, cut in 1” pieces
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp soy sauce
pinch white pepper

1⁄4 cup chicken broth (or water)
1 tsp ketchup
1 tsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp sherry
1 tsp soy sauce
1⁄2 tsp mushroom soy sauce (or dark soy sauce)
2 tsp sugar (optional)


12 1-2” pieces of the following water chestnuts, sliced
sugar snap peas
carrots, sliced
red bell pepper, cubed
1⁄4 cup cashews (lightly salted or salt free)

3 oz vegetable oil
1 tsp garlic, crushed
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1⁄8 tsp sambal oelek
1 tsp cornstarch combined with 1 tsp cold water

Blanch fresh vegetables in boiling water for a few minutes or until tender (optional). Strain and set aside. Sprinkle chicken with 1 tsp cornstarch and a pinch of white pepper. Drizzle with 1 tsp soy sauce, mix well and marinate for 15 minutes.

Put all sauce ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Heat wok to medium-high heat. Add 2 oz vegetable oil to hot wok. Swirl to coat the sides with oil. Add the chicken and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes until cooked. Remove and set aside. Wipe wok clean. Adjust heat to low.

Add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil to wok. Add crushed garlic, grated ginger and sambal. Stir-fry on low heat for 10 seconds–do not burn. Add prepared sauce; increase heat to medium-high. Add cooked chicken and vegetables. Stir-fry for 20 seconds. Add cashews. Add the cornstarch/water mixture. Stir fry for another 10 seconds or until sauce thickens.

Bleu Cheese Steak Sauce

Bleu Cheese Steak Sauce

1/4 cup butter
1 to 2 lbs mushrooms, sliced
1 to 2 yellow onions, sliced
16 oz Alfredo sauce (see recipe or use Bertoli)
6 oz bleu cheese

In a large sauté pan, melt butter; sauté mushrooms and onions.  Add Alfredo and bleu cheese; heat until bleu cheese is fully integrated. Serve over barbecued ribeye steaks.

Bow Ties

Bow Ties

1⁄2 of (17 1⁄4 oz) pkg frozen puff pastry (1 sheet)
1⁄2 cup almond paste
1 egg yolk
1⁄4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tsp milk
1 egg white
coarse sugar


3⁄4 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1⁄4 tsp salt
6 milk chocolate bars (1 ½  oz each)
2 cups whipping cream
1 egg yolk, beaten
1⁄2 tsp vanilla

Let pastry stand at room temperature for 20 minutes, or until easy to roll. Unfold pastry on a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 14-inch square. Cut square in half with a fluted pastry wheel. Preheat oven to 400º.

In a small mixing bowl, crumble almond paste; add egg yolk, brown sugar and milk. Beat on medium speed until well mixed. Spread mixture over 1⁄2 of the pastry. Place remaining pastry half on top of the filling. Using the fluted pastry wheel, cut dough into fourteen 1-inch wide strips. Cut each strip crosswise to make 28 pieces. Twist each piece twice. Place twists about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with foil or parchment paper. Brush twists with slightly beaten egg white. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

In a saucepan, stir together sugar, corn starch and salt. Crumble candy bars in one at a time. Gradually stir in whipping cream. Cook and stir over medium heat until chocolate is melted. Temper egg yolk with 1⁄2 cup of the hot sauce. Add back to pot and cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and pour into a serving bowl.

Makes 28 cookies and sauce.

Jane’s Top Secret Carrot Cake

Jane’s Top Secret Carrot Cake

4 eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 can (8-oz.) crushed pineapple
2 cups sugar
3 cups carrots, shredded
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup nuts (pecans or walnuts), chopped


1 cube butter
1 pkg cream cheese
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Grease & flour a bundt pan. Combine all Cake ingredients and pour into bundt pan. Bake at 350º for 1 hour (stoneware bar pan 25-30 minutes).

Combine all Icing ingredients. Spread over cooled cake.

Orange Almond Salad

Orange Almond Salad

1 pkg (4 oz.) slivered almonds
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp Good Season Italian dressing mix
1⁄2 tbsp orange peel
2 tsp sugar
1⁄3 cup orange juice concentrate
1⁄2 tsp orange extract (optional)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1⁄2 cup canola oil
1 red onion, julienne
1 sm jicama, julienne
1 orange, peeled & sliced
1 lg head red lettuce, torn

Mix nuts and 3 tbsp sugar, stirring continually, in a small saucepan until sugar is caramelized and nuts are brown and well coated. Spread on wax paper, separating clumps and cool.

Combine seasoning, grated orange peel, 2 tsp sugar, orange juice concentrate, vinegar and oil. Mix well. Toss onion, jicama, orange slices lettuce and dressing. Chill. Toss with nuts just before serving.