Recipe: Homemade Lasagne

I love homemade lasagne almost as much as I love spaghetti bolognese. The only separating factor is the extra steps that it takes to make lasagne. To combat this – I now make these in bulk, and freeze them. That way, the actual preparation is done on a lazy Sunday afternoon – rather than right before dinner. This Recipe for Homemade Lasagne is designed to freeze and cook later. So let’s fill your freezer and give your family some wholesome dinners to heat and serve.

The Empowered Cook shares a freezer friendly homemade lasagne recipe. It is designed to be made in bulk and frozen - saving you time in the kitchen!

A note on freezing

When making meals for the freezer, you will need to choose your storage method. I will sometimes simply use the casserole dish that I will cook it in – and then freeze it whole. Or I will line the casserole dish with a few layers of aluminium foil and then once the dish is frozen, I can lift out the dish and simply freeze it by itself. This lets me re-use my casserole dish – pretty handy when you only have one.

But for lasagne – I find the best method is to use the disposable aluminium foil trays. I just find that this works the best – they are stable so you don’t need to worry about ‘smooshing’ the lasagne as you swap trays, and they heat evenly in the oven.

You decide though – whatever works best for you.

A time-saving note

For this recipe, I use a batch of spaghetti bolognese sauce posted here. You don’t however, need to make that fresh on the day – you can pull it from the freezer and defrost it for this recipe. I will always heat the sauce if I do this. I have found (by my own research and by trial and error) that this works best. If you’re not sure about defrosting, cooking and refreezing food – perhaps do some of your own research.

Ok – let’s get down to business – the Recipe for Homemade Lasagne.

 

Homemade Lasagne
Ingredients
  • 1 batch bolognese sauce
  • 1 packet lasagne sheets dried
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups cheese grated
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder optional
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder optional
  • salt
  • pepper
Instructions
  1. We will start by making our bechamel (or white cheese) sauce. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, start to melt the butter. Add the flour, and with a whisk - give this a good stir. This will make your roux. You need to cook this roux for a few minutes until it smells like a yummy shortbread biscuit. This is to cook the flour.

  2. Once it smells good, you can add a few tbsp of millk while whisking. Once that has combined with your roux, add some more milk and keep whisking. Repeat this process until there is a smooth sauce created. Note: I usually get impatient and increase the amount of milk I add as I go along. I have found that as long as you start slow, you can finish fast. 

  3. Once all the milk is added, add your seasonings. I like to add garlic and onion powder - but you could simply just add salt and pepper if you like. 

  4. Now, switch your whisk to a wooden spoon. We now need the sauce to heat up and thicken. This will take a few minutes. Just keep stirring fairly regularly with your wooden spoon. 

  5. While waiting for the sauce to thicken, let’s heat up the bolognese sauce. Pop this on the stove on a low heat, stirring occasionally.

  6. When the bechamel sauce is to your desired thickness - remember this is going into the lasagne, so it doesn’t need to be perfect! - you can add half the grated cheese and stir this through the sauce. 

  7. Next - we get to assemble the lasagne. In your chosen dishes - casserole or aluminium foil tray - place a couple of spoons of sauce in the bottom and spread this around to cover the base. This doesn’t need to be too much - it’s just enough to help moisten and cook the bottom lasagne sheets.

  8. Now place your first layer of lasagne sheets. I sometimes break mine up a bit if they don’t fit perfectly - but they don’t need to completely cover the dish. Just do your best. 

  9. Next - another layer of sauce (a bit more than the first layer) - followed by a good drizzle of the bechamel.

  10. Repeat this a few times - lasagne sheets, bolognese, bechamel - until you get a few centimetres from the top of the dish. You want to finish your layering with lasagne sheets. 

  11. Onto the last lasagne sheets, cover these a good layer of bechamel. Sprinkle this with the rest of the grated cheese.

  12. You’re done! Flash freeze these dishes (i.e. freeze for about an hour or two - until they are solid) - and then wrap them really well. Remember to label them too - including how to defrost and heat - and then place in the freezer. 

  13. To cook: defrost your lasagne, and then heat at 180 degrees celsius for 45-55mins - until hot all the way through, the cheese has melted and the top is golden. Serve with a green side salad. 

Weeknight Dinner Recipe: Chicken and Kale Hash

Making a yummy Weeknight Dinner Recipe that everyone will eat, and that you can cook fast, is a pretty important tool in The Empowered Cook arsenal. I have a couple of staples – and today’s recipe has become one of them. It is fast, cheap, delicious – and makes a tonne, so there is always leftovers in our house.

A hash is simply a course mix of different ingredients – finely chopped and with some spices added. It is a great way to use leftovers – but it can be a meal cooked from scratch, in it’s own right. I love hash meals, because they are generally healthy and fast – my two main objectives for a good Weeknight Dinner Recipe.

The Empowered Cook shares an easy weeknight dinner recipe that the whole family will love. It is fast, cheap and healthy - and freezer friendly!

This Weeknight Dinner Recipe is adapted from Heather at Beauty that Moves – I’ve made several changes to make this fit our tastes. Be sure to check out the original too.

We generally serve this as is – but you could very easily serve this alongside some other vegetables, and it would be delicious with a poached or fried egg on top. You could make the recipe stretch even further by serving with a few sausages. Either way, this is such a versatile Weeknight Dinner Recipe – you need to add this to your next meal plan now!

Enjoy – and make sure you tag #theempoweredcook when you make this one and share it on social media!

 

Chicken and Kale Hash
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 500 grams chicken mince
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 large carrots grated
  • 4 cups kale thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. You'll need a fairly large pan to make this dish. I use a large cast iron casserole pot. Whatever you choose, pop this on medium-high heat and add the olive oil.

  2. Next, you'll need to add the chicken mince, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano and onion to the pot. Chicken mince can be quite 'sticky' so you'll need to be fairly vigorous with your sauteing here. I find 'stabbing' the mince as it cooks, a good technique. Keep sauteing for about 6-8 minutes, until the onion has soften and the chicken is cooked. 

  3. Add the carrots and kale now. This will look like a lot (this is why you need the big pot!) but it will shrink down as it cooks. Saute for another few minutes, stirring frequently, until all the vegetables are tender. 

  4. Lastly, have a taste and season. I have upped the cumin and oregano from the original recipe as we like a lot of flavour - but feel free to add more if you think it still needs it. 

  5. This recipe can be frozen: simply pop it in a freezer safe container, label it and pop it in the freezer. To reheat, you'll need to thaw and then stir-fry with a few tablespoons of water in a pot on the stove top. Very easy. 

 

Lunchbox Treats: Mum’s Chocolate Slice

We were always the kids at school with the homemade lunchbox treats. The homemade biscuits and slice, wrapped in paper. I desperately wanted to fit in – i.e. not stand out – so I would often unwrap my lunch inside my bag, so that people wouldn’t see that it was wrapped in paper. They were delicious though – and everyone knew that. I would often get asked to swap Mum’s Chocolate Slice with a store bought muesli bar.

Now that she is no longer here – I would love some homemade lunchbox treats from my Mama. I do still have her recipes, and her Chocolate Slice is still a firm favourite in our house. I know that I’ll be sending my little one to school with homemade lunchbox treats when he starts school in a few years time.

Do you need some lunchbox treats for your family? The Empowered Cook shares her Mum's recipe for Chocolate Slice - fast, easy, and cheap - and delicious.

This recipe was a staple at our house. Mum would make this very regularly. She would make it in bulk and freeze it too.

I make this now and also freeze it. Having a selection of homemade lunchbox treats in the freezer is such a helpful thing for packing lunches. You can easily grab a couple out, and once you’ve added a sandwich or wrap, you have a lunch made.

Looking for other lunchbox treat ideas? Follow me on instagram, where I share some snaps of my little one’s lunchbox.

 

Mum's Chocolate Slice
Ingredients
  • 2 cups desiccated coconut
  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 250 grams butter
  • 1 batch chocolate icing optional
  • 2 tbsp desiccated coconut, extra optional
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to moderate (190-200C). Prepare your tray - I use a lamington tray or two square cake pans for this slice. Line with baking paper or lightly grease with a little butter or coconut oil.

  2. Melt the butter.

  3. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

  4. Add the melted butter and mix well.

  5. Press this mixture into your tray. I use the wooden spoon to do this, but often finish the job with my hands.

  6. Bake in the oven for 15-20mins. Be aware of your nose - once I can smell the slice, I know it’s done!

  7. Remove from the oven and let cool. It is easier to cut when still slightly warm.

  8. You can then top with chocolate icing, and a sprinkle of coconut, and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container for about a week or freeze for longer. 

 

Recipe: Floured Fried Fish

This Floured Fried Fish Recipe is a bit of all-rounder. It is delicious as a light meal in summer, served with a simple side salad. But it is also delicious in cooler months when served with mashed potato (or roast spuds too!) and vegetables.

It is simple and easy – and a great way to get your family eating more fish.

For me, growing up in the country away from the ocean – eating fresh fish wasn’t something we did very often. So this is one of the few recipes that my Mum didn’t teach me. I learnt this recipe from a bunch of different cook books and have adapted it to make it even more simple and easy. Even though I am always so nervous about cooking fish – I find this recipe suits me perfectly. I need to do very little with the fish – and yet it still turns out beautifully.

The flour provides a slight crispy coating, while the flesh is still soft and not dry.

The Empowered Cook shares her Floured Fried Fish Recipe - a simple and fast way to cook fish, with a crispy coating. Serve with salad for an easy dinner.

What fish to use?

I’ve tried this recipe with barramundi (my favourite), ling, flounder and flathead. But I think you could try it with any simple flavoured fish.

Serving Suggestions

Like I said above, serving this with a simple salad is a really delicious, really light, meal. But it also works well with mashed potato and vegies.

Floured Fried Fish

A simple, light way to cook fish.

Ingredients
  • 4 fillets fish
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 3 tbsp rice bran oil
Instructions
  1. Prepare your fillets. I usually cut mine into similar sizes to make this process easier. 

  2. Grab two plates. On one plate, place the milk (you might like to choose a bowl for this step if your plate doesn't have a lip edge). On the other plate, place the flour, salt and pepper. Stir the salt and pepper into the flour (this is now your seasoned flour). 

  3. Heat the rice bran oil in a large skillet or fry pan.

  4. Once the oil is starting to heat, prepare your first fillet. Dip it first in the milk, turning it over once. Then press it into the seasoned flour - making sure to evenly coat both sides. 

  5. Place the coated fish in your large skillet. Let this cook for approx 3 minutes - but this will depend on the size and thickness of your fish. It should be a nice brown colour as it cooks. 

  6. Turn the fish over to cook the other side. This usually takes less time that the first side - so about 2 minutes. 

  7. Once brown on both sides, and cooked through - place the fish on some paper towel to drain while you cook the remainder of the fillets. 

Recipe Notes

You can use barramundi, ling, flounder, flathead or any simple flavoured fish for this recipe. 

Recipe: Basic Bolognese Sauce

Every cook needs a Basic Bolognese Sauce in their repertoire. It such a staple. Spaghetti Bolognese is possibly my favourite family meal. We eat it pretty much weekly in our house.

Plus – a basic bolognese sauce is not just about Spaghetti Bolognese. A basic bolognese sauce also makes a lasagne, a pasta bake, even a yummy variation for shepherds pie.

This is also a freezer meal staple. It is rare that I do not have a couple of bags of this basic bolognese sauce stashed in my freezer. All I then need to do is cook some pasta, defrost and heat the sauce – and dinner is on the table in around 15 minutes. A healthy, homemade dinner in 15 minutes – an awesome trick to have in your freezer.

A basic bolognese recipe - perfect for spaghetti bolognese or lasagne. Freezer friendly too!

Sure, you could buy a jar of pasta sauce from the supermarket. It will cost you a few dollars and it is quick and easy. BUT – take a look at the ingredients. Take a look at the sugar. Can you pronounce the other ingredients on the label? Do you know what they are?

This recipe is all about making a sauce from scratch. The flavour comes from vegetables – the amazing golden trio of carrot, celery and onion. The result is a rich, flavourful tomato sauce – deliciously tasty and full of wholesome, homemade goodness. Who can resist?

A basic bolognese recipe - perfect for spaghetti bolognese or lasagne. Freezer friendly too!

The below recipe for basic bolognese sauce will make a lot of sauce. But it is meant to be something that you make once, and then freeze. I will usually make this batch – and eat a serve for dinner – and freeze the rest.

I portion it into 2-3 cup servings and I freeze in snaplock bags. Don’t forget to label and date them – not that the sauce will hang around in your freezer for long! Trust me!

So the below recipe will make you around 4 meals – that is, 4 snaplock bags of 2-3 cups serves.

Go ahead – give this a go. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Do you love spaghetti bolognese as much as I do?

Basic Bolognese Sauce

A basic bolognese sauce recipe for spaghetti bolognese, lasagne or more. Freezer friendly too!

Ingredients
  • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 sticks of celery diced
  • 4 carrots diced
  • 2 medium or 1 large onion diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 3 tsp oregano
  • 1 kg beef mince the best you can afford
  • 4 x canned tomato preferably whole but diced is fine
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole pot on the stove top - medium high heat. Use as much olive oil as you think will be needed to coat your vegetables.
  2. Add the diced carrot, celery and onion. Season generously with salt. Give this a good stir so that everything is well coated with the olive oil and salt.
  3. Allow this to cook for 10 minutes or so - stirring occasionally so that it doesn’t stick. You want the vegies to be nice and soft but not brown.
  4. Add the garlic and oregano, and stir for a few minutes.
  5. Next, add the beef mince and break up any big chunks. There’s no need to brown the beef mince completely here - just make sure it’s broken up.
  6. Now add the canned tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes slightly and give everything a good stir.
  7. Now comes the important part. You’ll need to simmer this for about an hour. Keep the lid slightly askew. Stir occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
  8. After about half an hour, if the sauce is still quite liquid - remove the lid and simmer for the next half an hour uncovered. This will allow the sauce to thicken.
  9. Once you’re happy with the consistency, taste and season as you like.
  10. Allow to cool slightly and then package up for the freezer (or serve for dinner!)
Recipe Notes

Serve with cooked pasta, or for something different, serve over cooked vegies (I love this sauce served over sauteed kale).

This recipe is completely freezer friendly. Portion and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

To use from frozen, you can simply pop the frozen sauce in a pot with a splash of water and a drizzle of olive oil. Pop a lid on the pot and reheat over a low heat - stirring frequently. 

Recipe: Sausage Rolls

This week, I am sharing my Sausage Rolls Recipe. These are simple to make and a staple in our house. My family loves them – and I often make them for parties (a great addition to a buffet!).

Sausage Rolls can be easily and cheaply bought – but they are full of… well… who knows!

Making your own, from ingredients that you choose, is so much healthier. And it is quite easy.

I sometimes make a double-batch if I am looking to store these in the freezer. But generally I make the batch for lunch, and store the leftovers in the freezer. We either eat them for lunch, as a snack or we serve with mashed potatoes and vegetables for dinner.

Let’s get started with the recipe.

A recipe for homemade sausage rolls that your family will love. They can be enjoyed as lunch, dinner or a snack. Leftovers can be frozen too!

Ingredients

500g beef mince

2 cups of breadcrumbs

1 large carrot / 2 small carrots, grated

1 large zucchini / 2 small zucchini, grated

½ brown onion, finely chopped or grated

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 pack of puff pastry

1 egg, lightly beaten and set aside in a small bowl

Sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional)

Method

Step 1 – Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a few oven trays with baking paper (optional – but saves on washing up!).

Step 2 – Slowly separate the frozen puff pastry sheets and lay them out so that they can defrost. I use a large knife to kinda leverage them apart. Leave the plastic wrap on the bottom of each sheet.

Step 3 – Combine all the ingredients (except the egg and seeds) in a large bowl. Don’t overmix – just enough to combine the ingredients together evenly.

Step 4 – Each sheet of puff pastry will make 2 long sausage rolls. To do this: cut the puff pastry sheet in half horizontally (i.e. from left to right across the sheet). On the long edge of the now cut half, pile and squish the meat mixture into a sausage roll shape. Next, gently fold over the puff pastry and meat mixture to make the roll. Lightly brush the edge with a little egg to help it stick as you roll. Press it lightly together. You can choose to leave this as a long sausage roll or chop in half or quarters – it is up to you. Lastly, pop the sausage rolls on your tray, leaving a little gap between. Repeat with the rest of the puff pastry and meat mixture.

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Step 5 – Brush the top of each sausage roll with beaten egg. You can also sprinkle these with sesame seeds or poppy seeds – but this is optional.

Step 6 – Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden brown.

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Will you give this recipe a try? Go on! Share your photos with me – don’t forget to tag #theempoweredcook and I’ll be sure to come have a look at your creations!