I learned to make my mom’s baked lasagna recipe decades ago, and have been making it ever since. Of course, as with most of my recipes, I made some changes. More cheese? Of course. Italian sausage? Yes, please. No boiling of those noodles? You bet.
Throughout the years, I have made this lasagna as a dish to pass for get-togethers, a meal brought to bereaved families, and of course, my favorite meal that I would make for the family. Every single time, the lasagna receives rave reviews. (Were they just being nice? Maybe sometimes. But probably, not, because it is delicious and the best recipe ever and happens frequently enough.) Of course, my favorite part of the story is when they ask for the recipe and I tell people, thank you. It’s actually the recipe on back of the Prince tm Lasagna Noodles box.
No brag, just fact, but I recently had a friend from Seattle ask for the recipe. I loved telling her it belongs to my mom, and the Prince pasta company.
Without further ado, (you know those long blog recipe posts, that start at kindergarten and end at yesterday? I’m trying not to do that.)
From Prince Lasagna box (my mom made this version)
**with my changes
Classic Baked Lasagna
1 pound Italian bulk sausage, cooked, drained and crumbled
8 oz. Prince lasagna noodles- do not boil
15 oz WHOLE milk ricotta
1 egg beaten
1/4 cup parsley flakes
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese x 2 (1 cup total)
1/4 tsp pepper
2 jars of pasta sauce ( My favorites: Paul Newman’s marinara or sockarooni) You can use your favorite sauce or make your own.
1 package grated Italian cheese blend
1 1/2 pounds of sliced mozzarella cheese
1.Preheat oven to 365 degrees
2.Brown and crumble sausage, drain, add to pasta sauce.
3.Mix ricotta, egg, 1/2 cup Parmesan, parsley, and pepper.
4.Spread a bit of olive oil on bottom of 13 x 9 baking pan
5.Spread 1/2 plus cup of sauce on bottom of pan.
6.Layer: Lasagna noodles- not cooked, Ricotta, Sauce andMozzarella. We have made these words into a song, so we never forget what order to layer our lasagna. Lasagna, ricotta, sauce and mozzarella. Ask any of my daughters, they should be able to sing it.
(BONUS: it’s so easy to spread the ricotta mixture on uncooked noodles)
Don’t be afraid to use plenty of sauce, as the noodles absorb their moisture.
Leave top layer with just sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan
Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for one hour.
Remove foil, add grated (or more sliced cheese) if you prefer on top, bake 15 min. or until cheese is melted. It never hurts to stab it with a knife to make sure noodles are tender.
Let stand 10 plus minutes so layers set up.
I think it is always better reheated the next day, although some will argue with that.
**I use Italian sausage, it adds the best flavor! I always prefer the whole milk version of cheeses, especially the ricotta.
Late Show with David Letterman, January 1987, “Brush with Greatness” sketch:
They were hilarious and I often tease my roommate when he tells his own stories. “I met so and so once, or I have what’s his name’s autograph.” “I had famous guy on a flight once.” He’s a retired airline pilot. His brush with greatness persons include the likes of former President Jimmy Carter, and Muhammed Ali, actor Billy Bob Thornton, Ernest Borgnine, Danny Thomas, Ann Margaret, Red Skelton, and even famous football greats like Walter Payton, Woody Hayes and Mike Ditka.
“Ooh, that story may get you on Letterman’s show,” I would say. I was impressed but kind of, not impressed. You know what I mean? Plus, it’s always fun to tease your roommate, especially when you’re married to him.
Of course, now I add, when I hear the story for the umpteenth time, “Too bad his show has been off the air for years.”
Then I had my own brush with famed greatness. I immediately understood the excitement and titillation. Here is my story.
It was after a visit several years ago to Chincoteague and Assateague Islands with my daughter (yes, yes, we were chasing wild ponies and Misty descendants.) We spent our final night on Virginia Beach, and then we were flying back to Chicago on a small airplane since we had a connection to make in Philadelphia. Sitting in the airport, waiting for the flight, I noticed a group of tattooed and long bearded men sitting around waiting for the same flight.
I didn’t really pay them too much attention, although I could see their clothing, and physical appearance was garnering looks from other passengers. They didn’t attract a crowd or anything though.
After we boarded, I noticed my aisle mate was from that group. He had short hair and a neatly trimmed beard. He had a few tattoos, and wore a t-shirt, sandals, and cargo shorts. He was very handsome. He made some remarks to the flight attendant and about her, nothing inappropriate except that he found her attractive. I gave him a few “mom” looks, and then we started chatting.
I asked him where he was going, and he asked me. He said he was headed to Philadelphia to do a few shows. I asked what kind and he said music. He was in a band.
Oh, that interested me. What kind of band I asked. Heavy metal, he said. “Oh.” Although his bandmates looked the part, I didn’t think he did.
What do you play?
I’m the lead singer he said. Told me his name.
And what is the name of your band I asked. When he told me, I didn’t quite get it, so I asked him to repeat it. Then he said, “All the other good names were taken so we called ourselves this.”
I chuckled with him, and to show him how cool I was, I said I would look him up on social media, sorry I was not familiar with his music, maybe my daughters were? He was such a nice polite young man and very cute.
We continued to exchange small talk and when we deplaned, I wished him luck at his concert, reminding him I would search for him on social media. He smiled at me, still polite. We said goodbye and as I waited for my next flight, I looked him up.
Then I realized how famous he and his band were and how out of touch I was, (MY GOD their Facebook page has 5.2 million likes!) Now, I understood what that look meant when I said “Oh, I’ll look you up.” How he didn’t give me a huge exaggerated eyeroll, I’ll never understand.
Nope, he didn’t say “Listen, old lady. FFS. I’m famous. Yeah, look us up. Google it.” Nope, he was still a nice and polite good-looking young man with a lot of cool tattoos.
Imagine my surprise when I realized I had spent the flight talking to Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch. That plane trip was David Letterman’s brush with greatness qualified for sure.
Wait, how old are YOU? WHAT kind of music do you follow? You’ve never heard of Five Finger Death Punch and Ivan Moody!? Wait… I’ll google it for you. You’re welcome.
So, last October, I scheduled cataract surgery. It is a very common surgery. We all know at least one person who has had it. Your grandma had it. And probably your grandpa too. My roommate had it. My mom had it. Listen, I have worn glasses since I was 7 years old, until my first pair of contact lens’ at 16, but cataract surgery was a whole new deal.
My vision history
For decades, my uncorrected vision put me in the category of legally blind. Without correction: 20/200. I could see at 20 feet what most people can see at 200 feet. It was a blurry world.
My first pair of glasses were blue cat eye frames. I was 7. I was one of those kids who was amazed that there were wires attached to telephone poles and trees had individual leaves on them.
My vision became worse every year until the age of 16 when I received my first pair of hard (and they were hard glass) contact lenses. These lenses were so hard, some patients couldn’t wear them at all. But I was highly motivated. I was in high school and longed to get rid of my “coke bottle” lensed glasses. I added hours gradually, and soon I was wearing the contacts a full day.
The hard contacts also stopped my eyes from changing every year. It was the pressure of the hard lens that prevented my eye from changing shape and my vision from getting weaker.
Besides being nearsighted, I developed an astigmatism. Then in later years, my eyes developed floaters so bad, I was continually watching shapes float across my field of vision and was diagnosed with vitreous degeneration.
In the past few years, my vision, even with correction, began deteriorating. “You have the beginning of cataracts,” I was told several years ago.
I asked my optometrist if my reading in bed with a kindle or nook caused the cataracts and he said there was no evidence of that. It was another natural part of aging. That was a relief since I didn’t want to change my reading habits.
Finally, after struggling with different strength prescriptions, my eye doctor-an optometrist -told me he could not help me see any better than I already did.
I realized it was time to see the ophthalmologist.
Of course, I was terrified to have surgery ON MY EYES! I mean come on, a surgeon was going to slice into my eye, chop up the cataract (with a laser hammer or something) and remove it and insert a new “lens.” Wouldn’t you be afraid? And what if I was one of the rare ones and something went wrong? What if I couldn’t see to read? Notice the fear of not being able to read is the first thing that list? Never mind those who said, presumable joking, “that’s why they invented audio books.” Ha. Not helpful. Or those who had said and still say, you’ll ruin your eyes from reading so much. Less helpful.
At this point last year, I could not read the traffic signs, could not see at night, especially in wet conditions with the glare of headlights. It was also pointed out to me that my color vision wasn’t quite, shall we say accurate? I had a few discussions about colors, and is that blue or gray? Answer: Neither, it’s green.
My roommate said he finally understood how bad my vision was, when I asked if that was my pony standing on the hill in the paddock or was that a tree stump? I really couldn’t tell.
My oldest daughter said she understood how bad my vision was when we were driving down the highway behind a horse trailer. She said something about the horse, who was (supposedly) visible above the doors. I couldn’t see a horse. So, she drove closer to the trailer. “Now can you?” No. She drove even closer, almost tailgating a loaded trailer. “NOW can you see the horse in the trailer?” UGH. No, I said. “MOM! You need to get your cataract surgery scheduled.”
Did I mention that I hadn’t been able to read regular books for some time? Thank goodness for e-readers. They were backlit and I could adjust the text size. Did I mention how many times I googled “Is seeing double a symptom of cataracts?” (It is.)
It was when I realized that I couldn’t see what color the traffic light was until I was nearly on top of it. It was when I almost rear-ended a car in front of me while squinting at the light that I realized I should NOT wait any longer, fear or not.
After a year and a half of waiting, I was finally scheduling cataract surgeries. One eye would be operated on a Tuesday and the next eye on the following Tuesday. Some surgeons wait longer between surgeries, but my Doctor does not.
Here are a few medical information resources if you are scheduling your surgery soon or considering surgery.
I had to schedule two surgeries a week apart, and two follow-up appointments the day after each surgery. I had to wear my glasses for a few days to get my eyes back to their natural shape. I had to go for a vision test so the surgeon knew the correct power of corrective lenses to insert. We had to check with insurance so we had coverage and knew what our out of pocket expenses would be. (This was actually taken care of by the hospital.)
I woke early the morning of my first surgery, and my husband drove us in rainy bad weather to the hospital. I put on my gown, got my IVs ready and my blood pressure checked. I was worried, it was high. Try not to worry, I was told. It will be fine once we give your twilight sleep anesthesia.
We waited patiently (pun intended) until I was wheeled in to the operating room. I listened to the Surgeon and anesthesiologist and nurse for a moment or two and then I was gone. Out like a light. Next thing I knew, I was being taken back to the recovery room. I had a tin cup filled with holes taped to my eye. I could barely see through the holes. “All finished,” I was told. “Doctor will be in to see you soon.” He came, he reassured me, he would send me home with a 3 bottle regimen of eye drops and instructions. “Were you guys talking about Disney Princesses in the O.R. ?” I remember asking. (It was close to Halloween.) He laughed. “We probably were. See you tomorrow“, and he was off to his next patient.
I was groggy and hungry but let the miracle of sight begin. Now remember, without correction, I have not been able to see anything except blurry objects for all my life. If I wanted to read without lenses, I held a book or kindle up to my nose (about 6 inches away.) But now, suddenly, peering through the holes in the eye shield, I was noticing a clear world of objects outside and inside.
When I went to the to the offices the next day, I was nearly in tears with happiness. “I can see,” I told the receptionist and the nurse and the doctor. Even through those holes in your shield? They asked. ”YES!!” I wanted to shout it.
“I love Dr. K,” I said. I told already told my roommate (aka husband) that I loved another man now: Doctor K. “Don’t be upset,” I teased. “I just want you to know!”
After decades of poor vison and years of a gray fog, it was truly the most miraculous experience. I now understood why surgeries were scheduled only one week apart. I could barely wait. After 24 hours, I was able to take off the eye shield and I had to wear it only at night while sleeping. No makeup for weeks, but that was fine with me. I CAN SEE!! Who cares what others see when they look at me.
After my second surgery a week later and the follow-up appointment the next day, I was still in awe and so grateful and happy. I was overjoyed and telling everyone about it. “I’m sure you get tired of hearing it” I told Dr. K. “Actually, no,” he said. “It’s still nice to hear.”
So, the moral of this blog story is, if you are blessed with good vision, be grateful. If your vision is able to be corrected with glasses or contacts, be grateful.
And if someday, you need cataract surgery, especially if you’ve worn corrective lenses for over 57 years, DO NOT HESITATE.
In a little over one month, I will be having the one year anniversary of my cataract surgeries. I wear reading glasses to read and for closeup vision. Yes, I’ve turned into the person always searching for her reading glasses, and there is a pair perching on my nose when I want to read.
I also have one tiny and weak contact lens so I can have mono vision when I don’t want to worry about reading glasses. Mono vision: one eye corrected for near vision and one for far vision, your brain adjusts! (By the way, my reading contact lens is a 2 power. My regular contact lens’ were 8.75 and 9.)
I am so happy that I can read the traffic signs. I can see the traffic lights. My vision is crystal clear, and it is a beautiful miraculous thing.
However, it wasn’t all wonderful… I must be honest and say there was one very disconcerting problem those first few weeks with having this clear vision. HOLY CRAP, is that a coating of dust? Is that a spider web on the ceiling? Wow, my house is filthy, I noticed. Frankly, my dear…
I kept screenshots of my rave reviews in texts to friends and family members. I am sure they got tired of hearing me go on and on. I still do not take this for granted. I am still thrilled daily with the miracle of clear vision.
POST SURGERY BONUSES
It was fun to receive beautiful flowers from my beautiful sisters.
It was fun to wear a pirate patch.
Guess what I see? That is not a tree stump. That is my fat pony standing at the top of the hill!
How are you all doing? Are you wearing masks, and washing your hands, practicing the 6 feet social distance rule and avoiding large gatherings? Are you a believer in science and health news or are you a politically motivated Covid-19 denier and possible spreader of the virus?
I am wearing the masks. I am mostly staying home. I am washing and disinfecting. Certainly, I am avoiding large gatherings and travel.
I find I am immensely grateful for summer and the warm weather season as we learn to find our way through the GLOBAL PANDEMIC. I have said many times, “we are all going to have to figure out how to navigate this.” I hope you and yours are staying healthy as you do that.
I have an amount of risk factors, and I know I mentioned before that my roommate (aka husband) does too. If we get sick, we will be more at risk than younger, thinner, healthier people. We are also retired and able to “stay home,” where as many do not have that luxury. We don’t take that for granted and I know we are immeasurably lucky in that regard.
Which brings me to PICNICS.
We are loving our picnics. I am loving my PICNICS.
We have enjoyed several “deck” picnics. A few with our youngest daughter and her boyfriend, and another with our middle daughter when she came to visit.
It is the summer, and we can visit on the deck and eat at separate tables. When middle daughter came to visit, she even slept in a tent in our lovely backyard, mostly for fun, since she loves to camp. We do have a covid corona pandemic guest room that she could have slept in, although she chose not to sleep there. We just close the door when they leave and do not enter for several days. Yes, we know we are lucky in that regard too.
For Father’s Day? We celebrated. We had a picnic. Middle daughter and her boyfriend met us at a beautiful park and we ate and drank and chatted, sitting in our camp chairs under a beautiful tree. It was a beautiful day in a pretty setting and we enjoyed our visit so much.
I miss seeing my sisters. Although they have socialized in various ways during the pandemic, I have not. So, we had a picnic. “Bring your own dinner, and camp chair,” I said. We met at a state park, sat under shady trees and talked for hours. When a storm came blowing in, we knew it was time to leave, although weather permitting, we would have stayed even longer. It was lovely.
I missed seeing my niece and great niece and have barely met my newborn great nephew. So… you guessed it. We had a picnic. We met at our local park. We each brought our own food, I brought my favorite camp chair. We shared the picnic pavilion with 2 separate groups at separate times but let me tell you. It was delightful. There was no touching, no contact, no little girl or baby boy holding, and that may have caused a few surreptitious tears. Still, a socially distant picnic is better than nothing and safer than our usual hugs and kisses and touching and holding. (We are that kind of family.)
I missed my friend. So, we had a picnic variation of a coffee meeting. We sat outside at a table, and were able to talk and catch up since we hadn’t see each other in months.
My calendar used to be full of appointments, dinners out at restaurants, parties with family, meeting friends, trips to the city and movies and museums, travel, and more. Now, its empty. But lucky for me, occasionally, a calendar square is filled with 6 letters: PICNIC.
Are you missing your friends and family? Have a picnic. Find a park, preferably one with picnic tables and perhaps a covered pavilion. Bring your own chair, insect repellent, food and drink. Bring disinfecting wipes if you have them and plenty of hand sanitizer. Put your phone down. You’ll be surprised how quickly the time passes. How wonderful is the simple act of connection in the beautiful outdoors surrounded by green trees and (hopefully) blue skies, and if you’re really lucky, maybe a river or lake.
There are many more PICNICS in my future. After all, summer has only just officially begun. There are a few birthdays, a girlfriend reunion, and some weekly get-togethers with family members. I’m going to preload my car with my PICNIC KIT. It holds water, insect repellant spray, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, a blanket, a jacket, and my favorite camp chair. I’ll be exploring county parks and state parks in certain drive radius of my home.
Besides knowing that we each are going to have to learn to navigate our own way through this pandemic, I also say, that I don’t know how I’m going to do that. Am I being too cautious? Not cautious enough? When I read the news and the statistics, it’s terrifying. And the number of people who won’t participate in simple mask wearing to be safe is even more frightening.
I see others who are more at ease with a greater assortment of get-togethers and activities. I don’t know how to act. Some people are in the world interacting day after day, many of them with no choice, and many are making their own choice.
Despite how young I may feel at times, I remind myself of my own risk factors and the more serious ones of my roommate. They call them comorbidities.
comorbidity [ˌkōmôrˈbidədē] NOUN
the simultaneous presence of two or more diseases or medical conditions in a patient.
“age and comorbidity may be risk factors for poor outcome” ·
It appears I have plenty of time to figure this out. In the meantime, I am going to work on my kit and plan my next PICNIC. See you soon.
I did not go. I wanted to go. I wanted to participate in the protest marches after the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. There were plenty of opportunities that I did not take. In my defense, since 2016 I have protested and marched several times: The Women’s Marches, March for our Lives ( for commonsense gun reform,) and another Chicago march against the squatter in the White House. Though I did not protest for black lives, I am proud (and worried for their safety) that nieces and nephews marched for Black Lives Matter.
Now, I cannot let the historical importance of the BLM protests and marches across the United States and the world go unnoticed in my blog. The events that unfolded are impressive in their scope and scale, and they continue. It is long overdue.
Let me state unequivocally, I believe that BLACK LIVES MATTER.
I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. I remember my shame and anger at current events as American citizens with different skin pigments fought for their equal rights. I remember my sadness at the way children were treated as they tried to integrate the schools in the south. I remember crying and not understanding when Martin Luther King was assassinated. I was so young and very naïve. But I had a moral sense of what was right, and what I was hearing on our little television during newscasts was not right and not fair, and often not fathomable.
We lived in a rural town with an extremely low population of BIPOC (Black and Indigenous Persons/People of color.) Perhaps because I read so many books, I had a different perspective of justice and a less bigoted attitude. I knew racism was horribly wrong despite others’ mindsets and conversations I may have heard around me. I had trouble watching and reading about slavery and the civil war eras. It hurt my heart to hear about what black people experienced and lived through. I realize that sounds privileged. I cannot imagine living in the fear and stress of being black in today’s society. I understand that sounds privileged. But I need to believe that my heart is in the right place.
I know I have much work to do. I am a “privileged” white woman of the later years of the boomer generation. (I was born at the end of the baby boomer era and am never sure how the birth of a child over 10 years later fell into the post war “boomer” category.) I believe I will stand up when and if I see someone victimized by a racist.
Throughout these past years, as people of color were killed by police, I was sad and angry. I did not do anything with these emotions though. Of that, I am ashamed and sorry.
Feeling sadness and anger and disgust and shame at so many murders of black people by the police is not enough. I am hopeful for immense and huge systemic change in our country. The year is 2020 and we are DECADES behind where we should be. There has been volumes written about what is going on today. So much has been said more eloquently and better expressed, and more relevant than my puny words can ever communicate.
I will do what I can to be the person my brain AND my heart want me to be. I hope you will join me.
I was the oldest of 5 daughters with one older brother and one younger one. Yes, there are seven kids. We were raised in a traditional household during the 60’s and 70’s and mom did all the cooking. She was a good cook, and I have often marveled at how she was able to feed 7 children on a carpenter’s wages. There were plenty of food rules of course. No seconds on the meat entree, unless you ate your vegetables and maybe had seconds of those too. No leaving the table until you cleared your plate. Thankfully, we always had a Labrador Retriever who was often very helpful with that rule.
Mom made many delicious meals, and she had a favorite recipe book: Betty Crocker. I don’t know how much my mom learned from her mom about cooking. I do know that any cooking knowledge that I started with, I learned from my mom.
Pot roast, fried chicken, spaghetti with homemade meat sauce, LASAGNA, chop suey, meatloaf, tuna noodle casserole, broiled steaks, broiled halibut (then billed as poor man’s lobster) pineapple upside down cake. Later dishes included shrimp creole, Crab Louie salad, homemade fried fish and homemade French fries. These are just a few recipes I learned from Mom. These are the recipes I loved to eat. She also made liver and onions. I hated it then, I hate it now. That was always a hard sell at the dinner table.
There is not a jump to recipe link, but now for the recipe for Mom’s Chocolate Eclairs. Of course, there was never enough. We could all gobble those sweet treats down so quickly. You can bet your sweet bippy that Mom doubled this recipe to feed her family!
PUFFS Heat water and margarine <USE BUTTER> to a rolling boil in 2 ½-quart saucepan. Stir in flour; reduce heat. Stir vigorously over low heat about 1 minute or until mixture forms a ball; remove from heat. Beat in eggs, all at once; continue beating until smooth.
Shape each into finger about 4 ½ inches long and 1½ inches wide with spatula. Bake as directed; cool.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes at 400° or until puffed and golden brown. Cool away from draft. Cut off top one third of each half and pull out any filaments of soft dough. Fill puffs with cream filling. Replace tops frost with chocolate frosting. Refrigerate until serving time.
FILLING Mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in 2-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute. Gradually stir at least half of the hot mixture into egg yolks. Stir into hot mixture in saucepan. Boil and stir 1 minute; remove from heat. Stir in margarine and vanilla; cool.
CHOCOLATE FROSTING Heat chocolate and butter in 1-quart saucepan over low heat until melted; remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar and hot water. Beat until smooth and of spreading consistency.
Please note, when they “invented” boxed pudding, Mom would make the vanilla pudding and use that as a filling for the eclairs. It was even suggested by Betty herself to use the substitute. Of course, as years went by, there was peppermint filing, eggnog flavor filling, ice cream filling and chocolate filling and more. Nothing ever tasted as good as Mom and Betty’s original homemade filling.
“Note: The line “You bet your (sweet) bippy!” was popularized in the American television show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, which ran from January 1968 to March 1973. George Schlatter, the executive producer of the show, said the following about the word: “Our shows are gone through quite thoroughly for taste. What upsets most of the critics are the jokes they don’t understand, and that’s more of an educational problem than a taste problem. We say things like ‘You bet your bippy!’ or ‘You bet your nurdle!’ I’m sure some people attach a dirty connotation to those words. We don’t even know what they mean; they’re just funny” (quoted in Joan Barthel, “Hilarious, Brash, Flat, Peppery, Repetitious, Topical and in Borderline Taste,” New York Times Magazine, 6 Oct. 1968). The hypothesis that the word was borrowed from Yiddish pipik/pupik “navel” has not been confirmed.”