[A Gathering with the Skaff Family]
Story by Laneil Skaff & Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography
When Moorhead's Laneil Skaff invites you to a family gathering, we'd advise you to drop everything and see what's cooking. This time, we visited the South Fargo home of her daughter, Jenna Stowers, and were greeted with seven of the nine Skaff grandchildren, along with her other daughter, Julie Stoe, and daughter-in-law, Christine Skaff. With Laneil at the helm and the entire family slicing, dicing, and rolling dough, this was a celebration of life, love and family favorites.
Meet the Chef: Laneil Skaff, Moorhead, Minn.
"When our family gathers, whether it’s for birthdays, holidays, lake days, or any day - food becomes the thing that brings us together. Some meals we label as “New Recipe Night”, but on birthdays, the birthday person gets to write their own menu, and “Family Favorites” are repeated often. The recipes I am sharing today fall under the “Family Favorites” category. Recipes don’t have to be complicated to warm the heart and feed the family. You may just grow to love these as much as we do!"
Lasagna is always a hit with the family…and we think the same of the soup. It is a warm hug in a month where winter just isn’t quite over. The trick to making fantastic lasagna soup…keep the noodles out of the soup until you serve it. It's also a great soup to freeze, again, without the noodles.
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage, breaking up into bite-sized pieces and brown about 5 minutes. Remove from pot (leave drippings.)
Turn heat down to medium. Add onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute. Add meat back in and push ingredients aside a little to add tomato paste. Cook for 2-3 minutes – stirring, until tomato paste turns a rusty brown color.
Add diced tomatoes, bay leaves, chicken stock, and bullion. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
While soup is cooking, bring a separate pot of salted water to a boil. Cook noodles until barely al dente – drain and stop cooking with cold water. Set aside.
When ready to serve, put basil in soup and stir to combine. Two options for the noodles: place some noodles in the bottom of each soup bowl or, if serving the whole pot of soup, put noodles in soup pot and serve immediately. Serve soup in bowl, add a small scoop of Cheesy Yum, Mozzarella cheese, grated Parmesan (optional) and sprinkle with basil.
Cheesy Yum Topping
Looking for a healthier option? Instead of Italian sausage, try ground turkey or lean ground beef. Just make sure to include the spices typically found in Italian sausage and add those to your meat.
Italian Sausage Seasoning:
Mix all spices together – mix into 2 lbs. of meat of choice.
Can also be made in large quantities and stored in a well-sealed glass jar.
Winter Fruit Salad
Let’s face it – winters are long in the upper Midwest and winter fruit gets a little boring. This recipe made its debut at one of our Christmas weekend meals. The grandchildren scooped up seconds and thirds. The kiddos love to cook, so peeling the oranges is great for the littles, and the older grandkids can slice the kiwi and measure the dressing. It's a simple dressing, but it really brightens the flavors of the fruit.
Fruit Salad Dressing:
Place all fruit in a large bowl.
In a small bowl whisk together the juice, honey and poppy seeds.
Pour over fruit and toss gently.
Veggie Veggie Dip
Although Ranch dressing is a Midwest staple for dipping everything, our family has found that this dip, with lots of veggies IN the dip, is full of flavor (and even a little healthy.) I got this recipe from a friend over 30 years ago; it came with her new food processor. I told her a few years ago that we still love and use this recipe from her...she had forgotten all about it! I’m sure glad we haven’t forgotten.
Place all vegetables in a food processor first – then cream cheese, sour cream and seasonings. Pulse until veggies are in fine pieces and cream cheese is well mixed. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight, if possible.
Make the Veggie Bowl:
Place mini romaine leaves around the bowl, then fill with crushed ice - this will help keep your veggies nice and crisp. Push your favorite veggie spears into the ice, then sprinkle with mini tomatoes.
This recipe started in my eighth grade Home Economics class. It's nothing special, but for some reason, it's a multi-generational family favorite. I had to make them all the time...for my siblings and parents, then for my kids. They still ask for them when they get to choose their birthday meal, and now my grandchildren beg for breadsticks and enjoy helping roll them out. I am often running to the oven to quickly get them out because I got busy finishing the meal, and of course, forgot the bread. The first question asked as the breadsticks hit the dinner table…"How many do each of us get?”
Melt the butter in a 9x13 cake pan (not glass).
Roll each biscuit into a breadstick. Starting at middle and rolling out, roll a little longer than the width of the pan. They do all fit (just squeeze them in). Take a little butter from the pan, with your fingers, and smear on top of the breadsticks, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Don’t burn them! Let sit until butter is soaked into breadsticks.
There is a restaurant in Arizona that always serves their bread with these amazing spices and olive oil. I think the waitress could not figure out how we could eat so many dishes of it (or probably so much bread, for that matter). This recipe is our own re-creation, and it's as close as I have found.
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. At this point, I pour it all out onto a large cutting board and chop a little more to get the herbs even smaller. Return to bowl and drizzle in ½ teaspoon olive oil and 1/8 teaspoon lemon juice.
To serve-place 1 ½ teaspoons spice blend on a small plate and add 3-4 tablespoons olive oil. Dip breadsticks in (or any good Italian bread).
Midwest Nest Magazine is a monthly print and digital publication that focuses on culture around the upper midwest.