GREAT RAPIDS – Lilly Laubenthal “Lilly-fie” her kitchen.
She’ll take a recipe and beef it up with herbs and seasonings until she gets it just right.
Her husband, Todd Otis, coined the phrase “Lilly-fy.”
Laubenthal did this for their vegetable-stuffed lasagna rolls.
She took a basic recipe for ricotta stuffed shells and made it her own by adding chopped mushrooms, asparagus, spinach and onions to the ricotta cheese base.
“I’m a big believer that I want to add veggies to whatever I can, just to make regular meals a little healthier,” Laubenthal says.
She said she had planned to share the recipe for the stuffed pasta shells, but since she couldn’t find them in any store, she substituted the lasagna noodles, stuffed them with the filling, then rolled them up.
Laubenthal said there was no trial and error before coming up with the vegetable combination for this dish.
She said she tweaks recipes to her liking and guesses how much seasoning she puts in a dish. She goes through her spice cabinet and if her selections smell good together, she throws them in.
Her grandmother taught her how to cook, but she found there was no room for creativity. Laubenthal started cooking basic recipes until she mastered them, then started “Lilly-fying” them.
“I just love being in the kitchen. I always have. It brings back good memories with my grandmother, cooking and baking.
Laubenthal admitted there’s been a lot of trial and error with his mac and cheese. It took a while to get the cheese combination right, she said.
She wants to work with grilled fish and play with flavors.
“I’ve never really been a big fan of seafood, but now that I know the flavor profiles and how they can enhance a dish, I’d like to start playing around with the fish a bit.”
Laubenthal likes to grill salmon and puts homemade pesto on it.
This dish is freezer-friendly, and Laubenthal said it’s one of her best dishes when she needs something quick and easy. She puts the prepared dish under vacuum and when she wants some, she takes it out of the freezer, thaws it and then cooks it.
“It’s perfect for a nurse,” she says.
Laubenthal used to work at the Toledo hospital but is now a travel nurse in a bid to earn enough money to develop the couple’s five acres and add gardens and livestock.
She was in Phoenix for three months earlier this year and plans to work at the Cleveland Clinic this summer.
She graduated from Perrysburg High School in 2012 and has been married since September. She and Todd have been together for eight years.
She has books specific to Midwestern gardening with what time to plant and harvest. His plan is to have tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, snow peas, squash, cucumbers, melons, and onions. If it flowers in that area, she will plant it, Laubenthal said.
The whole point of gardening is so she can make more preserves. She now cans fruit butter and sells it.
Laubenthal also wants pear, peach, apple and cherry trees and bees for honey, goats and cows for milk, and steers for beef. She already has hens that provide her with fresh eggs.
“I like the concept of knowing that I know how my animal was cared for before it was sent to the slaughterhouse,” she said.