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Comfort foods combine to create meal to delight

FRANKLIN LIVING—Whether it’s an annual observance like Mother’s or Father’s Day, a special gathering to celebrate a graduation or birthday or even a casual family dinner on a Tuesday night, this menu of comfort food favorites – lasagna, salad and caramel pie – is sure appease the appetite.

Cindy Coan, FACS instructor at Russellville High School, said she loves serving up a tasty lasagna for a variety of reasons, from its nearly universal appeal to its versatility for serving at a range of occasions. “It is a comfort food but also can be dressed up and served at more formal meals where you want to impress your guests,” Coan explained, noting the dish serves a crowd but also freezes well. It’s also, Coan added, “the perfect food to share with neighbors. I often share a pan of lasagna with friends who have had a new baby or neighbors who have had a sickness or who need a pick me up.” Coan will include a recipe card, with instructions for baking or freezing, with each gifted lasagna.

For added tastiness, Coan recommends fresh ingredients. “During the summer when fresh tomatoes are a’plenty, I like to make a batch of homemade spaghetti sauce and put up bags in the freezer. This homemade spaghetti sauce elevates this lasagna recipe,” Coan said. She also suggested home chefs consider growing fresh basil in a pot near the kitchen door. “Chopped fresh basil sprinkled on the top of the cooked lasagna just before serving is another technique for adding freshness and makes even the most inexperienced cook seem well seasoned.”

Scratch-made salad dressings – to top whatever salad mix you like – and rich caramel pie round out this tempting meal. “Raspberry vinaigrette dressing is a little sweet, which complements the flavor of the lasagna. My students are often hesitant to try a new dressing because they are so accustomed to ranch dressings, but they find they love the flavor,” Coan said. “Olive Garden Copy Cat recipe is more tangy. It also complements the flavor of pasta and cheese dishes.” The pie is another student favorite and, like the lasagna, is a good candidate for freezing. “The recipe makes two pies. This allows you to serve one and keep one for another event, or it will also serve a crowd and can be made ahead. Wrap with clear plastic wrap when freezing.”


One of the many reasons to love this lasagna recipe is that you don’t have to cook the noodles first before layering the dish.     

1 pound ground beef

3 cups (28 oz. jar) spaghetti sauce

1 1/2 cups water

1 3/4 cups (15 oz. container) ricotta cheese

2 cups (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella

2 cups (8 oz.) shredded cheddar

1/2 cup grated parmesan

2 eggs

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

8 oz. package lasagna noodles, uncooked.

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a 3-quart saucepan, brown meat and drain. Add spaghetti sauce and water and simmer about 10 minutes.
  3. In a bowl, stir together the ricotta, half the mozzarella, half the cheddar, the parmesan, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper.
  4. Pour about 1 cup of meat sauce to cover the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking dish.
  5. Arrange three uncooked lasagna noodles lengthwise over the sauce and cover with another cup of sauce.
  6. Repeat layers of lasagna, sauce and cheese filling.
  7. Top with layer of lasagna and remaining sauce, and sprinkle with remaining cheddar and mozzarella cheese.
  8. Cover with foil. Bake 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake additional 15 minutes.
  9. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting. Makes 10-12 servings.
  10. Alternate method: This recipe can be made with cooked lasagna noodles by following the same instructions except OMIT the addition of 1 1/2 cups of water to the spaghetti sauce.

Caramel Pie

1/4 cup margarine

7 oz. coconut

1 cup chopped pecans

8 oz. cream cheese

1 can of Eagle brand milk

16 oz. Cool Whip

12 oz. caramel topping

2 deep dish pie shells

  1. Cook pie crust according to package directions.
  2. Melt magazine in a skillet and sauté coconut and pecans in margarine. Set aside.
  3. Cream together Cool Whip, milk and cream cheese.
  4. Let pie crusts cool completely.
  5. In cooled pie crusts, layer Cool Whip mixture and pecan mixture.
  6. Drizzle with caramel on top.
  7. Cover and freeze until just before serving.
  8. Store in freezer.

Raspberry Vinaigrette

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

1/2 cup raspberry preserves

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the ingredients.

Shake well until blended.

Copycat Olive Garden Salad Dressing

1 packet of Good Seasonings Italian Dressing Mix

3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. white vinegar

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 Tbsp. mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Whisk briskly so there are no clumps of mayo.
  3. Keep refrigerated.
  4. Yields 1 1/2 cups.