Thursday, May 23, 2013

Meet Lori!

Hi, I'm Lori Churchill and I'm thrilled to be part of this group! 

I live in the beautiful mountains and high desert of Salt Lake City, Utah.  I am a transplant from Washington State where I grew up, but I consider Utah to be my home.  I am a proud military wife.  My husband Carl (Army Ret. Lt. Col - 21 yrs.) and I have been happily married for almost 25 years.  We have two awesome kids, our 19 year old daughter, Denai, and our 16 year old son, Trevor.  I completely adore and am devoted to the three of them. 

My life is pretty busy.  Not only am I a mom and wife, but I'm also a licensed massage therapist of almost 9 years, I sit on the board of my son's Lacrosse team and I'm co-founder, along with my husband, of our specialty coffee company - Lock-n-Load Java

We have a 9 month old Boxer puppy and three rescue cats.  Yes, I am a glutton for punishment, but it was much easier than birthing and raising another child.  Every time my kids asked for a sister or brother we ended up at the Humane Society.  I admit the puppy was my idea…what was I thinking?  Lol!

Nature is soothing to the soul and I feel at peace when I'm outside.  I love the outdoors, picnics, skiing, mountain biking, hiking with our puppy Kingston, camping and sunsets with a good German beer or a glass of red wine in hand. 

I was a vegetarian for 7 years, so having an organic garden is a must for us.  I love the first tomatoes of the season with fresh basil, olive oil (mine will be Sciabica from now on) and a nice drizzle of Italian balsamic vinegar, there's nothing better!  We are big fans of supporting our community and getting fresh, top quality ingredients by buying locally.  We participate in a couple of CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) where members buy "shares" at the beginning of the season and then share in the harvest with the local farmer.  We do both a local organic veggie CSA and a local no hormones pork, poultry, and grass fed beef CSA.  As an adult, I've always felt the importance of getting back to our roots.  My grandparents owned a dairy farm where they raised their own beef, chicken and pork, and grew their own veggies.  They were self sufficient in every way, wasting nothing and conserving everything!  I strive for a small carbon footprint in my day to day decisions in order to leave the beauty of the earth and nature to my children and grandchildren.

Before we moved to Utah, my husband and I spent 4 years in Germany.  We enjoyed many European cuisines, coffees, beers and wines.  We also spent time in France, Holland, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Crete, and Greece experiencing great food, spirits and culture.

Cooking is my passion and one of many things that brings me joy…it's an expression of love that I can share with my friends and family.  I don't have a signature dish, but I am always up for learning something new.  I love to read cook books, search the web for new recipe ideas and garden with my husband.  Actually, I mostly just watch him do the work because he's better at it than I am, and he looks good in shorts without a t-shirt!  Lol!  But really, I do like to harvest everything he grows.  It's a good thing he is the gardener, because it's been brought to my attention that I DO NOT possess a green thumb.  He is a great cook and was a sous chef during his college days.  That is a good thing, because 25 years ago when we first got married, I was on a steep cooking skills learning curve.  During that time, he always smiled and ate everything I cooked, even when I couldn't eat it myself.  Now we love each other's cooking and I get compliments all the time from him and the kids.  Patience is a virtue, right? 

If you're like me, a mom, wife and business owner, you have a pretty busy life style.  You probably think you don't have time for the daunting task of making freshly prepared lasagna mostly from scratch.  But I'm here to tell you that if you break this up into 3 days of small tasks, anyone can take this on.

Old World Garden Lasagna with Toasted Pine Nuts and Béchamel

Day 1 - Make red sauce, strain yogurt, and chop veggies
Day 2 - Make pasta and toast pine nuts and make Bechmel Sauce
Day 3 - Mix ricotta and strained yogurt, cook pasta, sauté veggies, assemble and bake

*Red Sauce
Virgin olive oil (enough to generously cover the bottom of the pan)
1 medium onion - diced
4 cloves garlic - pressed or diced fine
1 - 6 oz can organic tomato paste
2 - 15 oz. cans organic tomato sauce
1 - 28 oz. cans organic crushed tomatoes
NOTE - we often use fresh garden Roma tomatoes to make this red sauce, but canned works well when they are not available
1/4 cup fresh basil (tightly packed)
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano
2-3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red table wine
Pinch of salt

*Ricotta and Yogurt
16 oz. organic ricotta cheese
16 oz. organic yogurt (strained for 48 hours)
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 organic egg
1 Tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

2 - large organic carrots (thinly sliced)
2 - medium organic zucchini (medium to small dice)
2 - medium organic yellow squash (medium to small dice)
4 cups organic baby spinach 

*Whole Wheat and Semolina Pasta 
4 medium organic eggs
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons warm water

*Pine Nuts
1 cup pine nuts (gently toasted)

*Béchamel Sauce
1/4 cup organic butter
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 cups organic whole milk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons balsamic
Pinch of nutmeg, salt, pepper

*Other Ingredients for Assembly
Pecorino-Romano cheese
Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil 
Virgin olive oil

Red Sauce
Sauté onion in olive oil in a large stock pot until soft and translucent.  Then add 4 cloves pressed or chopped garlic and gently sauté for another minute.  Add tomato paste, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes and your fresh herbs (basil, parsley and oregano) minced.  Add 2-3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red table wine and a pinch of salt.  Now sit back, relax and let and it slowly cook and thicken all day.  Don't forget to stir regularly.  The house will smell GREAT!

Put three layers of cheese cloth in a strainer (place strainer over a bowl to catch the liquid from the yogurt).  Pour the yogurt into the strainer, then cover yogurt with a piece of parchment paper so that it stays moist.  I like to cover the yogurt and then loosely tie the four loose ends of cheese cloth together to keep the yogurt from forming a skin on top.  Let it sit in the refrigerator for 48 hrs.  Discard liquid from yogurt.

Chop veggies thinly or dice with food processor.  Put in gallon Ziplock freezer bag to store in refrigerator until the third day.

Make Pasta 
adapted from Cooking with Chef Jaxon
Put eggs and oil in food processor and gently pulse 2 or 3 times to mix.  In another bowl mix whole wheat flour, semolina flour, and salt.  Pour all of this flour mixture into the food processor at once and gently pulse 4 or 5 times until the eggs and flour start to come together.  Add 2 Tablespoons of warm water and continue to pulse until the dough forms into a ball.  Take out and knead by hand for 2-3 minutes - adding dustings of flour until dough is smooth, slightly glossy, and no longer sticky.  Put glass bowl over dough and let rest for 30 minutes.  Now it is ready to be processed by a Kitchen Aid or similar pasta maker.  I make lasagna pasta on measurement #4 on my Kitchen Aid.  Allow pasta to dry on a parchment paper lined rack (we use a broom stick) until your fingers do not stick to it when you touch it (approximately 45 minutes).  Cut into sections the size of your lasagna pan and stack onto a cookie sheet.  Make sure the pasta is dry before you layer it or it will all be stuck together by the next day.  Put a plastic bag over the cookie sheet and pasta, and store in the refrigerator.

Toast Pine Nuts
Heat a lightly oiled cast iron skillet and add pine nuts.  Stir nuts over a medium heat to lightly toast and brown them, without burning.  Store in a bowl overnight on counter.

Béchamel Sauce 
adapted from Joy of Cooking
In sauce pan, melt your butter over medium low heat.  Add flour, stirring until smooth.  Cook 3-5 minutes until a light golden color.  Heat milk in a separate pan until hot to touch but not boiling. Pour heated milk into the flour and butter mixture while rapidly whisking it.  Bring it to a boil and then turn down to a medium low heat and allow to slowly cook and thicken for approximately 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and add balsamic vinegar, grated Parmesan cheese, and seasonings, stirring to thoroughly mix.  Store in covered glass or stainless container in refrigerator until the next day.

Mix Ricotta and Yogurt
Finely mince 2 garlic cloves.  Chop fresh parsley to yield approximately 1 Tablespoon.  Add minced garlic, chopped parsley, ricotta, strained yogurt, 1 egg, and seasonings in glass bowl.  Mix thoroughly. 

Sauté Veggies
Sauté zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots in olive oil.  I usually start with the carrots and sauté them for a couple of minutes and then add the zucchini and yellow squash for another minute or so.  Be careful not to overcook since they will cook further in the lasagna dish.  Wilt spinach in a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Put into a cheesecloth and press out excess water and chop.

Cook Pasta
Heat large stock pot of water to boiling.  Add 5 or so pasta sections and cook only 2-3 minutes.  You want them al dente - cooked but not soft.  Take the sections of lasagna pasta out and place in a strainer, then transfer to a lightly oiled cookie sheet and allow to cool.  Once cool, assemble your lasagna.  I like to cook my pasta in a few batches so I don't have too much pasta cooking at once - this avoids overcooking and pasta sections breaking as you try to remove them.  I cook enough for a section at a time and wait to cook the next section until I need it.

Oil the bottom of the lasagna dish and cover with a thin layer of red sauce to begin with.  Place your first layer of pasta in your baking pan, add ricotta mixture, veggies, red sauce, cheeses, pine nuts, a little Béchamel, fresh basil then drizzle a little olive oil, layering in this order until done.  I was able to do 4 layers of pasta, ending with red sauce and lots of Parmesan cheese and pecorino-romano cheese on top.  I would recommend doing at least three layers, but it's purely your preference.  Change the direction of your pasta each time you place a new layer.

Cover with foil and bake at 450°F until hot and bubbly.  Remove the foil 10 minutes before you remove your lasagna from the oven to brown the top.  I like to bake it for a couple of hours and then let is set for 10-20 minutes before serving.


  1. I like Lasagna!! I think this recipe is going to rock.

    1. Peter! We agree with you! We'd love to heard from you if you happen to make this recipe!