Fran’s Favorites: A birthday meal for Jill

By Fran DeWine

Today is our daughter Jill’s birthday, so we are all busy preparing for a great birthday party for her.

It is always fun to have favorite foods for birthdays — and I think when you are from a big family, as I was, it is even more important to have your own very special day with your favorite foods.

I thought about some fun themes for her party — like moon food since she was born the year Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon. Homemade moon pies possibly? But in the end, I decided to go with her very favorite — Italian food.

Jill always loved Italian as a child, and she still does. So tonight we’re going to have lasagna, which has been a favorite of ours over the years. Jill also asked for homemade ravioli, which I have only made a couple of times. I do love to make homemade pasta, but I usually make noodles. So today we will try our hand at ravioli. All my kids love homemade rolls, so I got up this morning and made a big batch. I put them in the freezer (before baking) and I will let them thaw and rise later today so I can bake them fresh and hot for dinner.

Dessert has to be very special, and Jill already made her requests. She asked her sister Anna to make banana pudding, and her sister Alice is making Tres Leche Cake. My job is to make something chocolate. She loves German Chocolate Cake. I usually cheat and make a box mix German Chocolate Cake, in three layers, and then I make homemade icing/filing. Just in case that’s not enough dessert, we’re having some very good homemade ice cream choices, too. Happy Birthday, Jill.

My Favorite Lasagna

Brown and drain:

1 pound ground beef

1 onion, chopped


6 cups spaghetti sauce (can use large jar of Prego or Ragu, plus 2 cups water)

Let simmer for about half an hour.


1 pound lasagna noodles. Cook according to directions on box (need at least 9 noodles). Add a little oil or butter. Drain.

Mix in bowl:

1 large carton (24 oz.) cottage cheese

2 eggs

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated

Put about a cup of sauce in bottom of 9 x 13” pan. Lay 3 noodles on this, then half of cottage cheese mixture, then half of mozzarella cheese. Repeat with another layer of each. End with a layer of noodles and more sauce.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Let sit 15 minutes before serving. Can make ahead and refrigerate.

Filling for German Chocolate Cake

Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 12 minutes:

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup sugar

3 egg yolks

1 stick butter

Remove from heat.


1 teaspoon vanilla

about 1 1/3 cups coconut

1 cup chopped pecans

Beat until cool and of spreading consistency.

Makes enough to cover tops of 3 – 8 inch layers.

By Fran DeWine

Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native, guest columnist and First Lady of Ohio.

Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native, guest columnist and First Lady of Ohio.