Friday, April 25th, 2014
Self-taught baker, blogger, and mother of five Amanda Rettke created her first surprise-inside cake four years ago. Since then, she has crafted countless confections that reveal rainbow hearts, butterflies, balloons, and even houses (!). The busy baker also homeschools her children, writes for FoodNetwork.com, and recently released her debut book, Surprise-Inside Cakes. Amanda’s recipes range from simple to intricate, so you can recreate her inventive designs no matter your level of kitchen experience. Read on for her tips for whipping up better-than-the-bakery desserts—it’s a piece of cake!
You were first inspired to bake a surprise-inside cake while preparing for a potluck. Where in the world did this idea come from?
To put it simply, I wanted to bring something completely different. It was Halloween and I knew everyone would have run-of-the-mill seasonal desserts. I knew I could make a pumpkin-shaped cake, but that wasn’t unique enough. When I saw a few white cupcakes sitting on my counter, the idea just hit me: pop them inside, in the shape of a candle. Honestly, I was shocked that it worked. And, ironically, that cake never made it to the potluck—we ate the entire thing at home!
And you had never done this before?
That’s right. In the kitchen, I had no formal—or even informal—training whatsoever. In fact, my husband did all the cooking when we first got married. So I had to teach myself everything. I was so terrible that the first time I tried to make a cake that I forgot to add some of the wet ingredients. Whoops!
So what’s the process like in creating one of these confections?
I use three general techniques. The first is deconstruction, when I stack multiple layers, cut shapes out, and fill in the holes with another piece of cake or a cake mixture [Rainbow Cake, page 41]. The second is batter manipulation, where I place different colored batters into the pan in a specific pattern [Leopard Cake, page 109]. And then there’s the twice-bake method [Candle Rose Cake, page 131], where I stick hand-molded cake shapes into new batter.
Okay, you’ve got me hooked. How do I begin?
Twice-baked is where to start. Cut a design from a sheet cake (like the hearts in my Candle Rose Cake) and place it in a clean cake pan. Then surround your shapes with cake batter, which acts as insulation and keeps everything moist.
And once I’ve mastered the twice-baked method, what’s next?
Move on to a layer cake. It seems simple, but it really does challenge your cutting, leveling, and frosting skills. Plus you’ll learn how to physically handle a cake and, in turn, build a strong comfort level required to move forward with other designs.
That’s easy enough. But with the other, more intricate cakes, it seems there is a lot of measuring and geometry involved…
Actually, there are only a few cakes that I’ve measured beforehand. Most others require such a trial and error process that I typically just get right into it: I dig in, cut out shapes, and add new colors and textures. To me, cake is a form of art.
With all this creativity, do your kids like to join in on the fun?
This is one of the best things you can with your kids. For my kids, the idea of making a cake and then playing with it is thrilling. I’ve also found ways to incorporate baking into home-school lessons: measuring, cutting, and building three-dimensional designs.
I can see beginners (like myself) getting frustrated when their cakes aren’t executed perfectly. Did this happen to you? How did you overcome it?
I’ve had more failures than successes by far, yet we’ve always found a way to hide the evidence … haha. But in all seriousness, I had more than 60 cakes that didn’t make it into the book. Because I’ll have an idea that I then try to create and it turns out nothing like it’s supposed to. For an important event, practice making your cake at least once ahead of time. Get a sense of what you need to improve on when you go to polish the final product before the big day. The plus side is that no matter what the result, you get to eat cake!
One of my favorite lines from the introduction is: “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be appreciated.” What does this mean to you?
You know, I really believe that mantra applies to all avenues of life, but especially with baking. There is a great debate between using boxed mixes and from-scratch recipes, but I just can’t embrace choosing sides. In my opinion the same amount of love goes into both. No one cares if you jazzed-up a store-bought treat or if your homemade cake slides halfway off in the car on the way there. When people bake and share their creations, they are simply spreading joy.
Where do you find the time to “practice, practice, practice,” as you advise, while balancing a high-traffic blog and busy family life?
The truth is everything doesn’t stay balanced. A typical day for me: We eat breakfast together as a family, and then the kids and I start school—sometimes that includes me holding a screaming baby, or changing a dirty diaper. Each day can be a struggle just as much as it can be a blessing. I can’t strive for perfection, but I do strive to make it through my day with peace. To us, the things that matter most are learning something at the end of every day, and figuring out how to be better the next.
Want more ideas? Try one of our super-simple birthday cakes.
Interview has been edited and condensed.
Images by Susan Powers; published with permission from William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publisher.
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Birthdays, Food, Time for Fun
Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Healthy and quick have always seemed to be on different playing fields when it comes to dinner. But pediatrician and dad of two Robert Lustig, M.D., has spent 16 years trying to change that—all while treating childhood obesity and studying the effects of sugar on the body. In his latest book, The Fat Chance Cookbook, he provides more than 100 delicious and wholesome meals for families to prepare in 30 minutes or less. Still not convinced? Every recipe was vetted by high school students in home economics classes—if they can do it, so can you!
Dr. Lustig recently shared his secrets for cutting sugar in baked goods and convincing kids to eat spinach.
The main premise of the book is that not all calories are created equal. Can you tell us why that’s so important?
It goes without saying that 100 calories from a cookie are not equal to 100 calories from spinach. Your body uses and stores fuel—calories—very differently, depending on the quality of those calories.
I’m often dubbed “anti-sugar,” but I hate that. I’m actually anti-processed food. As a society, we are eating too much processed food, which contains a lot of added sugar to make it more palatable. Most of us are not consuming enough real food, which has fiber to balance its natural sugar content. We are way over the threshold on sugar and need to return to real, fresh food.
I highly recommend the TED-Ed series on hidden sugars and the food industry called Hiding in Plain Sight. It delves into the larger issues and helps parents make better decisions while grocery shopping.
What do you think is the root cause of the childhood obesity epidemic?
We are consuming all the wrong things. We need more fiber, more Omega-3 fatty acids, more micronutrients, less sugar, no trans fats. I remember when sugar used to be a condiment, not a dietary staple. It’s okay for sugar to flavor food, but not be your food. With this cookbook, my message is that you can prepare real food fast. And not one recipe includes processed ingredients.
If parents aren’t counting calories, what should they be doing?
Look at labels. More importantly, buy food without labels like fresh produce. Then determine how much added sugar or trans fats there are in the labeled foods you’re purchasing. Look for sugar hiding behind one of 56 pseudonyms like corn syrup, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose; the list goes on and on.
Be wary of health claims on the front of your favorite products. The rules governing statements like “hearty-healthy” and “low-fat” are bizzare and less strict than you’d think. Typically, if there’s a health claim on an item, you should probably ignore it and check its nutritional value and ingredients list.
Understand that real food has the answers: the fiber in your apple balances its natural sugar content. Use whole, fresh ingredients and everything improves.
Okay, so how does a busy family get a wholesome dinner on the table while running to sports games, after-school clubs, and PTA meetings?
I know exactly where parents are coming from. I have two girls, a 14-year-old and an 8-year-old, so we shuffle between soccer practice and debate team. We’re always running, but somehow my wife or I find a way to get a real-food dinner on the table every night.
Our trick: stocking the pantry and freezer. I keep a lot of options in my freezer, including chicken breasts and steak. Don’t be afraid of weekend prep. It saves so much time to cook something up, store and save it, or even freeze it for later.
Cindy Gershen, who developed the recipes in the cookbook, is stellar at using leftovers. Because of her, we were able to include tips for how to do that in the book.
What are the first few steps to make toward a better family diet?
You have to build it in slowly. It takes forethought, planning, and trips to the supermarket. It takes a little time, but it doesn’t take a lot of time. Plus, it’s typically cheaper! Start by simply planning a week’s worth of meals ahead of time and prepping a few sides over the weekend.
Which recipes are best to start with?
My favorite weeknight recipes are Quinoa and Black Bean Burrito Bowl (page 214), Brown Rice with Lime and Cilantro (page 225), and Joe’s Scramble (with homemade sausage, green onion, mushrooms, spinach, and parmesan cheese; page 142). Some may sound lengthy, but the active time of every recipe is 30 minutes or less.
And my overall favorite recipe in the book is Polenta Patties with Sautéed Greens, Poached Eggs, and Basil Salsa (page 143). But that’s more for weekend brunch, and it’s slightly elaborate.
Temptation can be hard to battle. Do you ever treat yourself?
My wife loves to bake, but when she does, she cuts the sugar in every recipe by a third. That sounds crazy but it works, and it tastes better! Without being sickeningly sweet, you can taste the other ingredients like nuts and dried fruit.
Our anniversary is coming up and we’re going to a French restaurant. We’ll definitely have dessert and we’ve planned for it: we haven’t had dessert all week!
My kids know that on weekdays dessert is a piece of fruit. If it’s the weekend, then we’ll talk about treats. And the thing is, it doesn’t bother them. They don’t feel like they’re missing anything.
Growing up, were your kids ever picky about fruits, veggies, or other healthy options? How did you work around it?
Of course they were picky. I just had to keep at it. Sure, it’s a pain to keep serving up spinach, but you have no choice. It can take 13 tastes of one savory item before a toddler will like it. Sweets only need introducing once.
But don’t give in! The problem perpetuates when people opt for the easy answer: letting their kids eat refined carbs. Then those same kids become picky eaters who won’t eat anything but processed food.
Putting the effort in is hard, finding the time and where-with-all is hard, but life is hard and raising kids is hard! In the end, it’s all worth it.
Interview has been edited and condensed.
Images: Mother and happy child via Shutterstock, The Fat Chance Cookbook cover courtesy of Hudson Street Press, Healthy and unhealthy food on scale via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, March 13th, 2014
While working on 23 Clean Discoveries, our April issue’s ultimate spring-cleaning guide, I polled Parents staffers about their favorite tidy-up tools. By a landslide the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser was crowned everyone’s not-so-secret weapon. It may be an old standby for removing crayon murals from walls, but we discovered 17 other genius ways to put it to work. Test our editors’ and readers’ tricks: just wet the foam with water, wring it out, and get scrubbing!
- Shine shoes in a pinch, when you don’t have polish. (Julie Taraska, Shop Parents Editor)
- Lift food dye and paint from quartz countertops—that’s no mean feat! (Lisa Milbrand, Contributing Editor)
- Lightly buff hardwood floors to remove permanent marker without stripping the finish. (Gail O’Connor, Senior Editor)
- Rub-off shoe marks on floorboards and stairs in five minutes. (Karen Snyder Duke, Associate Editor)
- Remove dirt and fingerprints that collect around light switches. (Dana Points, Editor-in-Chief)
- Polish kitchen cabinet doors. (Chandra Turner, Executive Editor)
- Keep a white-topped stove in pristine condition. (Jessica Hartshorn, Senior Lifestyle Editor)
- Dissolve soap scum from textured, non-slip surfaces like bathtubs. (Laura Fenton, Lifestyle Director)
- Touch-up computer keyboards and electrical cords. (Amy Roberts, Contributing Writer)
- Scrub stains, spills, and scuffs from hard-to-clean tile floors. (Maryn Liles, Associate Editor)
- Get rid of adhesive gunk leftover from price tags, stickers, labels, and tape. (Rheanna O’Neil Bellomo, Editorial Assistant)
- Cut 1-inch strips for your toilet tank to keep it fresh and remove hard water stains without scrubbing—just don’t flush them! (Syndi Shoff via Facebook)
- Wipe away marks on vinyl siding (and campers!) that the power-washer can’t. (Marcia Workman via Facebook)
- Buff the plastic and painted parts of your car to mask small dings and scratches. (Keri Evangelista via Facebook)
- Take ink out of leather couches and car seats. (Erin Ford Weiss via Facebook)
- Swipe along shutter-style blinds and shades. (Ami McBride via Facebook)
- Get grime off the fish tank and its accessories—gently and chemical-free! (Melissa Rodriguez via Facebook)
For more help with spring cleaning, check out our room-by-room guides:
Download the Easy Chore Chart to get your kids in on the cleaning action.
All ideas submitted have been edited and condensed.
Image: Gloved hand cleaning crayon via Shutterstock
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Thursday, March 13th, 2014
A recent Parents poll shows most moms spend 15 hours or more each week sponging, scrubbing, sweeping, and vacuuming. To help slash that time, we enlisted the help of our editors, as well as cleaning experts, to deliver clever tricks and products for every room in your home.
In December, I sent 22 editors home with more than 30 of the latest and greatest cleaning supplies on the market. I assigned everyone a mission and they each went home to dutifully vacuum pet hair from carpeting, scour bathroom grout, steam hardwood and tile floors, wash windows, and scrub stoves—hey, we’re not above manual labor! Every sponge, brush, vacuum, and scum-busting solution was put to the test and if our real moms and dads weren’t impressed, we cut it from our list.
To see which products shined, check out our room-by-room guide to spring cleaning:
The room that’s the heart of the home is also its most mess-prone. Food prep plus eating is a recipe for sticky counters, gritty floors, and crud everywhere else. Here’s how to cut kitchen cleaning time in half:
Your Living Room and Bedroom
These spaces have a lot in common: soft, comfy furniture, plush carpeting, and personal clutter. They also share the cleaning challenges of upholstery stains, dirty carpeting, and dust. Use our tips for tricky messes:
Make the place where your family gets clean spotless. Tackle soap scum, mildew, stained grout, and more:
Find The Best Vacuum for You
We tested the latest vacuums to find the right tools for your home’s carpet, tile, and wood. Find out which is right for your family:
Which family space do you need the most help keeping tidy? Let us know in the comments!
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Image: Dad and daughter vacuuming by Stephanie Rausser
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GoodyBlog, Home, Solutions
Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
Frances Largeman-Roth is a registered dietician, author of four cookbooks, and a mom of two—with a third on the way. A health expert who has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, and the Today Show, she has helped thousands of women find the best foods during pregnancy, lose weight the right way, and incorporate healthier meals into their lives. Her latest book, Eating in Color, hits bookstores this month so we asked her how to add pops of color to our dinner plates and why it’s so important.
This book is entirely about fruits and vegetables—when they’re in season, how to choose them, how to store them, and, of course, how to use them. I have to ask: which is your favorite?
Mangos! When I spent a semester abroad in Australia, I learned how to cut them properly and incorporate them into many dishes. There are two seasons there: fall/winter and spring/summer, so you get different varieties.
You write about a study that found only 30 percent of Americans are getting the recommended 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit each day. Why is improving this statistic important to you?
My father passed away when I was 12. He had all the things that we now understand as warning signs for heart disease and diabetes. We just didn’t know it at the time. Growing up we ate fruits and vegetables, but with my mom’s German background there was also a lot of cured meats and pastries. Now that I’m a parent I understand that moms and dads are super busy, aren’t getting enough sleep, and are more stressed than ever. Because of that, convenience often outweighs nutrition. But this book is about eating better in a fun and visual way.
Tell us more about the five rules you created: eat color often, don’t be monochrome, go outside your comfort zone, make dates with your kitchen, and exercise.
I wanted to explain to readers how they can actually attain this lifestyle and not just admire beautiful images of fruits and veggies. I wanted to connect the message and explain the execution. Sure, everyone is crazy about kale right now, but you can’t just rely on that one super-healthy thing. Plus, trying new things is essential to your health. We all get stuck in ruts with the same go-to recipes or takeout dishes. Pushing out of your comfort zone, though it may take more time and planning, is worth it! And eventually a new recipe will become part of your repertoire. And getting active just has to be part of it.
You describe nutrition not just as a career choice but a life path. How can families make this a priority in their life while balancing their often-crazy schedules?
When you’re rushing home from work to pick up your kids to then rush home to cook something up for them, it’s easy to rely on processed food. But if you can spend time in the morning or on Sunday, you can make so much happen! Simply put it into your calendar to “chop veggies.”
A trip to a farmers market is a great way to get inspired and it’s really fun for your kids. It exposes them to new sights and tastes. You can do something similar at the grocery store because there’s always something new in season. Just the other day I saw a beautiful dragon fruit that turned into an entire lesson: I asked my daughter where it came from, what color it would be inside, how the rough and scaly texture looked and felt. The bottom line: What kid wouldn’t want to try a super-bright pink fruit? This is such an easy way to dive in.
When your daughter Willa was learning colors in school, you offered her “reds, oranges, and greens” instead of “beets, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.” How did changing your food vocabulary help?
It sounds like such a small idea, but it made everything much less frustrating at the dinner table. I completely understand that from the parents’ perspective, trying to get your child to try one item 15 to 20 times is just too many. By the tenth try, you’ve wasted too much food and energy. Instead, go into it with a no-stress mentality. Just put a new food on the table and see what happens. Remember: sometimes kids are simply exerting independence when they are picky about dinner. If you take the pressure off both them and yourself, much of it can be resolved. This doesn’t mean your kids will eat and love everything, but it helps them try new things.
I like to display fruits and veggies in little bowls and in compartmental kids’ plates. I often ask them, “How many colors we can get on our plates tonight?” My two can get a bit competitive with each other, which can help on the dinner-table front.
Some families have super-picky eaters. What else can they do to make the introduction of new foods easier or more appealing?
Let your child have some control. During a trip to the farmers market or grocery store, ask him or her to pick out produce by color—one yellow and one red. Depending on your child’s age, have him or her pick out a recipe and then make it with them. I can guarantee that because they had a hand in it, your children will be more willing to try it.
Just remember that it takes patience. Kids can love something one time and hate it the next. (And vice versa.) But don’t ever stop offering! Their tastes are constantly changing. Or, like in my daughter’s case, their siblings can be influential. When she saw her brother eating avocado, she wanted some.
Don’t cater to “kid food.” The more you offer tater tots and chicken nuggets, the less your children will try the other things. I’m a big advocate of the family meal. Sure, you can have back-ups on hand, but you are not a short-order cook.
Your recipes run the gamut from meals, sides, and snacks to drinks and desserts. Why so much variety?
I wanted to show that fruits and vegetables have a place in everything. When I first started working on the book, I made a list of my chapters. I always knew it would be organized by color. So I started asking myself tough questions like “Besides a pie or crumble, what else can I do with rhubarb?” I approached recipes from outside the box.
You also added a black and tan chapter—including grains, seeds, nuts, and oats. (And my favorite: chocolate!) Why are these are just as important?
I think of the black and tan chapter as the items you pair with all of the other colors. It’s your base layer. To me, these items are a great way to bring in a lot of texture to your dishes.
Okay, we want the scoop. What’s your go-to when you’re in a pinch?
We have pasta often because it’s very versatile. I personally like to make roasted veggies on the side. I use whatever’s in season—butternut squash, sugar snap peas, purple onion, baby carrots, zucchini, cherry tomatoes. Creating a mix is best! We always have grated Parmesan in the fridge so a spaghetti dish can be done in 15 minutes.
Interview has been edited and condensed.
Author photo by Quentin Bacon.
To help get your little one on board with fruits and vegetables, Elmo and Murray told Parents their favorite snacks:
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Thursday, January 16th, 2014
For an upcoming issue, Parents is looking for moms with children under the age of 10 to test out new beauty products in the following categories: facial skin care, body skin care, hair, and makeup.
If you are interested, send an e-mail with “Mom Tester 2014” in the subject line to email@example.com by January 22nd, 2014. Please include the following information:
2. E-mail address
3. Mailing address
4. Age of your child(ren)
5. Your hair type (curly, wavy, straight; thick, thin)
6. Your skin type (dry, oily, combination)
7. Do you color your hair? (highlights count!)
8. Would you be willing to color your hair at home?
9. Do you have stretch marks?
10. Do you have cellulite?
11. Do you wear body sunscreen on a daily basis?
12. Please refer to the chart below and list the number that most closely matches your skin tone.
Sorry, but you are not eligible if you:
- Are currently pregnant or are planning to become pregnant by May 2014
- Live outside the U.S.
- Receive mail at a P.O. Box
Also, you cannot be allergic to ingredients commonly found in cosmetics (i.e. fragrance), and must be willing to test products that don’t promote themselves as “natural” or “organic.”
We look forward to hearing from you!
Image: Three young women applying makeup via Shutterstock
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Friday, December 20th, 2013
To me, French is the most beautiful language. It floats like a cloud and feels romantic. It’s the language of love. In high school, I worked my butt off to become proficient, taking honors-level classes, joining French club, and even becoming a teacher’s aid. I had dreams of keeping it in my daily life and raising bilingual children. Unfortunately, like a flower, language is delicate and must be tended everyday in order to flourish. When I got to college, my schedule doubled and I didn’t hold a single conversation en français.
Enter the French Institute Alliance Français (FIAF), a non-profit organization in New York City that promotes cross-cultural dialogue for children and adults alike. One of the largest and most respected centers of French-American activities in the U.S., FIAF offers art and education workshops for families.
Last Saturday, I tagged along to FIAF’s holiday bûche de Noël cooking class, where kiddos spoke elementary-level French to their moms and dads—c’est manifique!—while slathering layers of sponge cake with rich chocolate icing (and tons of red and green candies). Taught by Sylvie Berger, a chef raised in Paris, the class fully immersed children in the French language and was sprinkled with bits of English.
The bûche de Noël (“Christmas log,” or “Yule Log”) is a rolled sponge cake filled with buttercream and traditionally decorated with meringue mushrooms, marzipan holly, and wood-grain scored frosting. Its origins can be traced back to ancient Celtic celebrations of the winter solstice, but French pastry chefs popularized the confection in the 19th century and each bakery became known for its unique and elaborate embellishments. Today, few French people celebrate Christmas without one of these cakes.
Though messy, making the baby bûche was a blast! Take a look at my mini how-to video (click the play button), then make your own Christmas cake using one of the recipes below.
BAKE A BÛCHE!
Want more? Check out these recipes for easy holiday treats!
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Food, GoodyBlog, Holidays
Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
Just like many others, my family’s holiday season is all about tradition. Though Thanksgiving is a couple days away, I already know we’ll be having my aunt’s garlic “smashed” potatoes and my gram’s pimento-stuffed celery (even though she’s the only one who likes it). We keep these recipes in the rotation because they’re near and dear to us. But this year, sharing them with others gives bigger benefits to those in need.
Go to Dish Up the Love to submit your favorite recipe and $1 will be donated to Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks leading the fight against hunger. Each dollar provides nine meals for families who need them.
Partnering with the program is Top Chef alum and mom Antonia Lofaso, whose first book The Busy Mom’s Cookbook was recently released in paperback. A single parent, Antonia relishes her time at home with her daughter, Xea, making memories through food.
“For me the holidays are about making memories with family and friends around the kitchen table and giving back. Dish Up the Love celebrates these special holiday moments,” Antonia says. “I shared the recipe for my grandma’s lasagna because it’s served at all Lofaso family holidays. At Thanksgiving, we have turkey, but there’s always lasagna and tons of other Italian food.”
Serves: 6 to 8
Total time: 85 minutes
• ¼ cup olive oil
• ¼ cup chopped garlic (about 8 cloves)
• 3 (16-ounce) cans of peeled, whole plum tomatoes
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 1 ½ pounds ground turkey
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning, or 4 teaspoons fresh marjoram or oregano
• 1 (9-ounce) package of no-boil, oven-ready lasagna noodles
• Sauce (from above)
• ½ cup shredded or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
• 2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
• 4 cups shredded whole-milk, mozzarella cheese
• 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 6 to 8 slices each
• 12 medium to large fresh basil leaves
1. For the sauce, head the olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and just as it starts to brown around the edges, throw in the canned tomatoes. You don’t want the garlic to burn, so have the cans open and ready to go beforehand.
2. Add the salt and sugar and whisk it all together. Let the sauce simmer on medium-low for 40 minutes while you prep the other ingredients. If any foam rises to the top of the sauce, skim it off. That’s the acid from the tomatoes, and your sauce will taste better without it. Using a hand blender or counter top blender, blend on medium until smooth.
3. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a 10-inch sauté pan heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the ground turkey and the salt. Cook the turkey for about 5 minutes, until it’s browned throughout. Just as it’s finishing the cooking process, stir in the Italian seasoning. Drain any excess fat or liquid from the pan.
4. Cover the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with 3 sheets of pasta. Ladle 1 cup of sauce over the noodles. You don’t want the sauce to soak through, so you don’t need to overdo it. Layer on half of the meat, followed by half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and half of the ricotta cheese. Sprinkle on one-third of the mozzarella and arrange one-third of the fresh tomatoes on top of it. Top with one-third of the basil.
5. Repeat the process for the next layer: 3 sheets of pasta, a cup of sauce, the rest of the meat, the rest of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the remaining ricotta, a third of the mozzarella, a third of the fresh tomatoes, and another third of the basil. The last layer is your presentation layer, so make it pretty. Add three more sheets of pasta.
6. Top the noodles with the last of the sauce, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and basil. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. The top should be a crispy golden brown when the lasagna is done, and the pasta sauce around the sides of the dish should be thick, not runny. Let the lasagna stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. If you cut into it while it is still piping hot, it will fall apart.
For more information and to share your favorite family recipe, visit worldkitchen.com/dishupthelove. After submitting a recipe, you’ll be entered for weekly sweepstakes to win Pyrex, Baker’s Secret, and CorningWare products.
Get more kid-friendly recipes from Antonia Lofaso.
Recipe and image reprinted from The Busy Mom’s Cookbook with permission from Avery, an imprint of Penguin Group.
Image of Antonia and Xea by Alex Martinez.
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