Dr. Cheryl Woodson

Woodsonian Informational Thoughts on Thursday: Have Some Traditional Holiday Dishes, but Are You Tired of Turkey? Try a Specialty Lasagna

My aunt, Pauline Cothran was an amazing cook. After her kids were grown, she went to work as a nutrition specialist in the Philadelphia public schools. Aunt Leenie knew everything there was to know about spices, and though I’ve lived most of my adult life across the country from my Philadelphia family, whenever I wanted to cook like home, I could always call Aunt Leenie for instructions. Here’s one of our traditional family recipes that’s always on my table for the holidays, and a couple of new main dishes.

Cothran Family Macaroni and Cheese      

1 stick of margarine                                                                         Garlic, onion, paprika garnish, salt to taste                  I usually skip the salt because it’s in the cheese.

1 lb elbow macaroni                                                                        8 cups -mixture of grated sharp/ extra sharp cheddar     (Yes, I will often make sure at least half of it is low-fat cheese)

Few tsbp flour (Cothrans don’t use cornstarch)                 Grated Parmesan cheese

1 qt milk (Sorry Mother, I use skim.)                                        Tsp Olive oil

Deep-dish Lasagna pan

Melt margarine and use flour to make a paste.  Pour in milk slowly, using a whisk to break up any lumps. Add seasonings and 2 cups of cheese, stirring until all is melted. Try not to burn it, but if you do. Pour it into a new pan and pass it off as “hickory smoked.” This has worked for me (-:.

Boil macaroni according to package directions, but don’t overcook.

Line pan with a light coat of olive oil. Alternate layers of macaroni, sauce, grated cheese over and over until pan fills to about 1/2 inch from the top. Be sure the cheese is the last layer and don’t be stingy.

Bake at 325 degrees until cheese is golden brown. Sprinkle paprika on top. I like to let it sit for 15-20 minutes before serving.


Dr. Woodson’s Lower Guilt Lasagne. This is veggie. You can also add tofu, and shellfish. Carnivores, try very lean ground beef, turkey,or chicken.

16 oz tomato juice                                                            10 oz crushed or diced tomatoes

8 oz tomato paste                                                             16 0z low fat cottage cheese

8 cups grated part-skim mozzarella                            small block of parmesean

lasagna noodles ( try whole wheat)                            chopped onions, garlic, oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil to taste ( Want spicy? Add as many hot red pepper flakes to sauce as you dare (-: )

large bag of frozen veggies of choice                          deep dish lasagna pan

Mix spices into cottage cheese and sit in refrigerator overnight ( at least a few hours) to deepen the flavor.

Simmer tomato juice, tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, and spices ( you could skip this and buy pre-made sauce, but pick one without sugar.) I let this sit in refrigerator like the cottage cheese mix.

If you use tofu, or meat, or turkey cook it in a saucepan before you put it into the sauce. You can let any of that sit in the sauce overnight, but I recommend putting in the veggies, or raw seafood in right before you bake. It will cook along with the lasagna.

You don’t have to pre-cook the noodles. Cover the bottom and sides of lasagna pan with a thin layer of olive oil, and cover the bottom with a layer of sauce.

Alternate layers of noodles, sauce, 3 tsbp dollops of cottage cheese in rows ( 3 dollops across) all the way down the pan,) grated cheese until pan fills to about 1/2 inch from top. Leave room to put a final layer of noodles, sauce and mozzarella on top and sprinkle liberally with parmesan.

Pre heat oven to 325 degrees and bake until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Don’t worry, the noodles will cook thoroughly. I like to let it sit 15-20 minutes before serving.


Dr. Woodson’s Salmon-Dill Lasagna in a White Sauce

Instead of tomato sauce, make a white sauce like the Cothran macaroni, but add one large can of pink salmon, skinned, and boned, with juice. Use shredded mozzarella, or swiss, instead of cheddar, but don’t put cheese in the sauce. Add onions and/or mushrooms if you like.

Instead of Italian seasonings, use garlic and dill in the sauce and cottage cheese,letting both sit in refrigerator for a bit. Alternate layers of dry lasagna noodles, sauce, cottage cheese mix and grated cheese. Sprinkle Parmesan on top, bake, and serve just like the red lasagna. Enjoy!

Next Week : How to Enjoy the Holidays When You’ve Lost Loved

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