A Year of Holidays: Father’s Day (Part 1)

A review of Three-Meat Lasagna and Chocolate Strawberry Cake from the Father’s Day section of “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays.”

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Father’s Day (Part 1)

This year, in celebration of my husband being an almost-father (2/3 of the way there!), I decided to make the Three-Meat Lasagna and Chocolate Strawberry Cake from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays (the Father’s Day section, of course!).

Truth be told, there are differences between the lasagna in the cookbook vs. the lasagna on the website.  She swaps out and adds new ingredients in the cookbook, and does the layers differently.  It’s pretty similar, but not quite exact.20200620_145544

I made the cake a day beforehand with a couple of friends over video chat, but if you’re making this the same day as the lasagna you can prepare the cake part in advance, and throw together the rest within 20-30 minutes after dinner.

Three-Meat Lasagna

I prepped all the ingredients first, including chopping onion, removing skins from the breakfast sausage (not listed in the steps, but necessary), chopping the pepperoni, and cooking the lasagna noodles.

The meat sauce is made by cooking the onion, garlic, ground beef and sausage in a large pot until the meat is brown.  The pepperoni is then added in and cooked for a few minutes before draining the grease and adding the tomatoes, tomato paste, pesto, some parsley, salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper.  Once it’s all stirred together, it boils for about 25-30 minutes.

While that simmers, the cheese mixture is made by simply mixing the ricotta cheese, eggs, shredded parmesan, remaining parsley, salt, and pepper together until completely combined.  The fresh mozzarella is also sliced.

Once you’re ready to assemble, it’s layered like this: 4 noodles, 2/3 of the meat sauce, 4 more noodles, the ricotta cheese mixture, the mozzarella, the remaining 4 noodles, the rest of the meat sauce, and a sprinkle of grated parmesan on top.

It’s cooked with tin foil at first, and then the foil is removed for the last 15 minutes or so.

It’s supposed to be “bubbling” when you pull it out of the oven…I left mine if for 5 extra minutes, and it still didn’t bother, but certainly looked hot and corners of the pepperoni on top were turning black so I removed it at this point anyway.

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Make sure you let the lasagna sit for the 10-15 minutes suggested before digging in!  I only waited 8 minutes, and mine was very messy and did not stay together well (not that it affected the taste at all!).

Taste: 10/10

This is definitely not a traditional lasagna, but it’s absolutely amazing and sooooo cheesy!  The pepperoni also adds a sort of pizza taste.20200621_175210

Difficulty: Average

This lasagna was not as tricky as I expected it to be.  It did take me about 1.5 hours to prep and assemble, and then another 45 minute to cook and cool, but the actual assembly was not bad if you prep the ingredients in advance so you don’t feel rushed.

Cost: Pricey

You’ll need an onion, garlic, ground beef, country/breakfast sausage, pepperoni, canned whole tomatoes, tomato paste, pesto, parsley, red pepper flakes, ricotta cheese, eggs, shredded and grated parmesan cheese, fresh mozzarella cheese, lasagna noodles, and salt and pepper.

Chocolate Strawberry Cake

The cake base is made first, and as mentioned above it can be made earlier in the day before you prep the toppings.  I chose to cut this recipe in half since it’s just for my husband and I, and is meant to be served fresh / the day of.

Butter is melted, and the cocoa powder is added and stirred until smooth.  Then boiling water is added to the mix (which will make the mixture bubble like crazy!) and left to cook for about 30 seconds before removing from heat.

The dry ingredients are combined in a separate bowl, and the wet in another.  Then the three are combined, mixing the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients first about halfway, followed by the wet ingredients.

The whole thing is poured into a prepared cake pan (or two if you’re not cutting the recipe in half like I was) and it’s cooked until no longer jiggly.  Make sure you cool your cake base completely before adding the whipped cream, or the cream will melt!

While the cake cools, or later in the evening after you’ve finished dinner, the strawberries and whipped cream can be prepared.

The strawberries are hulled, sliced, and tossed with sugar and vanilla.  They are then left for 15 minutes to macerate before being drained of the excess juice.  While the strawberries macerate, you can prep the whipped cream by mixing heavy cream and powdered sugar with a hand mixer.

Finally it’s time to assemble!

The cake is placed upside down and smothered with nutella and whipped cream before being topped off with the strawberries.  If you’re making the full recipe, you would just repeat with a second layer of cake, nutella, whipped cream and strawberries.

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Taste: 10/10

Both my husband and I thought 9/10 at first bite, but after a couple more we bumped this up to a 10.  One of my friends gave it a 9/10, and the other (and her husband) also gave it a 10/10.  What really elevates this cake is the nutella…soooo good!!!  And with the whipped cream and strawberry topping it doesn’t taste too heavy.20200620_145956

Difficulty: Average

This is actually pretty close to being labelled as “easy.”  You’ll need to watch the cake closely, as the measure to make sure it’s cooked is that it doesn’t jiggle (not the usual toothpick coming out clean method).  You’ll also need to be ready with your boiling water when making the base, and be prepared to hold your hand mixer for a while when prepping the whipped cream.

Cost: Average

You’ll need butter, cocoa powder, flour, sugar, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla extract, baking soda, strawberries, heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and nutella (or another chocolate-hazelnut spread).  If you have to go out and buy all of these ingredients this will be expensive for you, but most people will have about half of these in their cupboard and/or fridge already.

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