Flexible recipe for potato lasagna

HARTFORD — According to her mother, Jill D’Andrea is just a big kid.

It’s OK. She’s a children’s librarian. Even Dr. Suess would approve, since he said, “Adults are just outdated children.”

D’Andrea, 50, who even owns a Dr. Suess hat, shares a recipe for potato lasagna that is kid-approved — especially by her own.

“It’s really good,” said 16-year-old Benjamin as he slips through their warm and welcoming kitchen and dining room recently.

“You can’t eat it all the time,” D’Andrea said, “but it’s a good comfort food.”

She said her family loves “high-carb stuff,” and since they’re not big meat-eaters, this plus a vegetable side will make a meal for them.

“The main thing is a good batch of mashed potatoes,” she said.

And if her mashed potatoes are lumpy, the kids, including Megan, 20, will call her on it, she said.

The lasagna, which D’Andrea also calls a “giant pierogi,” comes out with a crust of cheese on the top and layers of buttery goodness underneath.

Even as she tastes her own helping, an “mmmmm” can be heard with the first bite.

The recipe is flexible. Options include omitting the onions, adding peppers and or mushrooms, and substituting sour cream for the cream cheese. Using a lasagna pan would allow for an extra layer, as well.

D’Andrea has been making this for a long time, and she had to write down the recipe in order to share it. But usually, she’s a “recipe queen.”

Her husband, Robert, on the other hand, prefers to go without directions.

“He’s a really good cook,” she said. “I’m like the peasant baker.”

Pat Shaffer of Cortland, D’Andrea’s mother, said her daughter has always been a baker.

“In eighth grade, she made a cake that looked like a typewriter,” she said.

Shaffer also lamented the summer days she was at work and her teenage daughter was home.

“She used to rearrange the kitchen,” Shaffer said.

D’Andrea, who earned her master’s degree in library science in 2010, said she loves offering programming for the children at the Liberty branch of the Warren Trumbull County Public Library.

The library’s club-type classes include Movin’ & Groovin’ (“for those who can’t sit tight at storytime”), Princess Palooza and Messy Mondays.

“I just love being animated and silly,” D’Andrea said.

Another offering is the Kidz Cooking Club.

“I’m trying to teach the kids that it just doesn’t come out the drive-through window,” she said. “Sit down and eat with your family.”

D’Andrea does more than eat with her family. She and son Benjamin have run a couple 5Ks together. D’Andrea enjoys bike riding, Zumba and using the paddleboat in their pond. Both children are entrepreneurs — Benjamin makes and sells homemade applesauce, bread and rolls, while Megan sells eggs from the family’s chickens.

The family makes homemade pizzas together, and grills them in the summer.

Last year, Robert D’Andrea got a motorcycle. According to his mother-in-law, it was one of the few times she’s ever heard Jill complain about him.

“She was going on and on,” Shaffer said. “The next thing I know, she comes over all dressed in leather.”

D’Andrea said she loves putting this recipe together, going through the layering process, and her mom said people love “good and simple.”

“Food pulls people together,” D’Andrea said. “It just does.”

Potato lasagna

10 potatoes, cooked and mashed

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 sticks margarine, softened

2 sweet onions, sliced and sauteed

4 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese

9 cooked lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Use the 10 potatoes to make your favorite style mashed potatoes. Add 1 1/2 sticks of margarine and 8 ounces cream cheese when mashing the potatoes.

Place three lasagna noodles in bottom of dish. Gently spread half of mashed potatoes evenly over the noodles. Sprinkle one cup of cheese on top of potatoes. Add half of sauteed onions evenly on top of mashed potatoes. Repeat this sequence, ending with three lasagna noodles. Top with remaining 2 cups cheese, making sure the lasagna noodles are completely covered with cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes or until cheese is thoroughly melted. Cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 9.