Buttery Garlic Knots

These garlic knots were the perfect accompaniment to the lasagna I made the other night. Warm and fresh out of the oven, soft in the middle, every bite is full of garlicky goodness. If you thought the garlic bread at Olive Garden was good, these will knock your socks off! They were surprisingly easy to make and highly addicting.

Buttery Garlic Knots
Recipe adapted from Repressed Pastry Chef & King Arthur Flour blog & here
Makes 16 knots

3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup milk (I used 2% milk)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast (Rapid Rise Highly Active Yeast)
1-1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water (warm up water for 8 seconds in microwave)

For the filling/topping...
4 large cloves garlic
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. sea salt
Pizza Seasoning or Italian seasoning, to sprinkle on top of the knots

To make dough—
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the dry ingredients together then add the olive oil, milk and water. Using the paddle attachment or dough hook, mix and knead to form a smooth, elastic dough, adding additional water or flour (I added about 10 more tbs of flour) as needed. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and allow it to rise for about 1 hour, until it’s doubled in bulk. (I heated a cup of water for 45 seconds in the microwave then put my bowl with the dough inside and closed the door to speed up the process. It doubled its size within 40 minutes)

In a small skillet, melt 2 T butter with 2 T extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant but not brown, about 2 minutes. Add the sea salt and mix well. Divide the butter mixture into two bowls. Add rosemary to one of the bowls and use it as the "filling" to glaze over the dough before you knot them. Use the other butter bowl as the glaze when the knots are done baking. Remember to scoop from the bottom of the bowl so the garlic pieces are on top of the knots along with the butter. Finish with a sprinkling of pizza seasoning.

Shape the dough into a rectangle 16" long and 8" wide and flatten dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Divide the dough into 3/4 to 1 inch intervals using a pizza cutter or sharp knife and then divide dough evenly in half vertically. Take each piece and taking the palm of your hand flatten dough to about a 1/4 inch in thickness and spread rosemary butter over dough. Fold dough in half lengthwise and press edges together (taking top part and folding it over bottom half like you would a sheet of paper) then roll into a rope about 10 inches long like this website. If dough is sticking to board or is too wet then add a sprinkling of more flour so it will be easier to work with. Tie each rope into a knot, tucking the loose ends into the center. Place the knots on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover loosely, and let rise for 45 minutes to about an hour, until very puffy looking. (After tying the dough into knots I put them in the fridge over night. An hour before I was ready to serve I removed them from the fridge so they could come to room temperature and then put them in the oven. They did not puff up but stayed the same size)

Before the end of the last rise, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake the knots for about 14-18 minutes, until golden. You do not want them to get too crisp since they should stay soft in the middle. Remove from oven and brush with remaining garlic butter mixture and sprinkle tops with pizza seasoning. Serve rest of sauce as dip.

Turkey Lasagna with Tomato and Creamy Bechamel Sauce

Fall is my favorite season to cook and I'm getting excited to rip into my kitchen with a laundry list of new recipes to try. What better way to welcome the season then whipping up a lasagna. I found this recipe from another blog and the name of the post was "Best Lasagna Everrrrr." Obviously I was intrigued and had to try it for myself. This lasagna is unique in the fact that it's made with turkey, no boil lasagna noodles, a puree of vegetables and the best part - no ricotta filling. It tastes surprisingly light for a lasagna and the vegetable puree adds a depth of flavor and the sauce tastes like it's been simmering all day. The dish is very authentic and tastes like something you'd get from one of your favorite Italian restaurants.

This was my first time using no boil lasagna noodles and they're so convenient and easy I don't think I'll ever go back to the regular stuff again. With the no boil noodles, they blend in perfectly with the filling and every forkful is a perfect bite of hearty sauce and ooey gooey cheese. See.....the noodles are almost invisible in the picture above...yummm-meee! The overall texture of the lasagna is very smooth and creamy and the combination of tangy tomato sauce and bechamel are the perfect marriage.

This dish is definitely worthy to serve to company and made even more special served alongside homemade buttery garlic knots - which I'll post about later. I made this for my friends and they enjoyed the lasagna very much and some even went back for seconds :) By the end of the night, half the lasagna pan was empty and only a few garlic knots remained. I'd say dinner was a success and everyone left with a happy and full tummy.

Turkey Lasagna with Tomato and Creamy Bechamel Sauce
Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
8 to 9 servings

Red Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced (see garlic tutorial here)
1/2 large onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or a mix of dried oregano and basil)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

White Sauce:
3 cups milk (not skim, I used 2%)
5 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
9 lasagna noodles, boiled for half the time on the box (or use 12 of the no-boil noodles, of which I far prefer the Barilla brand)
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking pan (3 Qt) with cooking spray or with a napkin dipped lightly in olive oil and set aside.
In a large skillet, brown the ground turkey over medium-high heat, breaking the meat apart into pieces with a wooden spoon and season with salt and pepper to taste. When turkey is cooked through, drain the grease and set aside.
In a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and one tablespoon butter. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. When oil/butter is hot, add the garlic, stirring constantly. When the garlic is lightly browned, but NOT burned, add the onion and mushrooms. Continue cooking on medium-high heat until the vegetables are soft and browned and the fluid has mostly cooked out. Remove from heat and either using a handheld immersion blender or transferring the vegetables to a blender, blend the vegetables to a paste-like mixture. Return the pot to the heat (pour the pureed vegetables back in, if using a stand-alone blender) and add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Then add the diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Stir. Cover and let the sauce sauce simmer for 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Right before using the red sauce in the lasagna, stir in the reserved ground turkey and season with more S&P to taste.
While the red sauce simmers, if using lasagna noodles that need to be boiled, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and boil the noodles for half the time suggested on the box. Once the noodles are cooked, drain, but do not rinse. Add a dab of olive oil to keep them from sticking together. If you are using no-boil noodles, you can skip this step.
Also while the red sauce is cooking, melt the four tablespoons butter and when melted, add the flour, stirring constantly to combine and letting the mixture cook, while stirring, for a minute or two. Gradually add in the milk, whisking constantly. Add the salt and pepper. Slowly whisk the white sauce, ensuring it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan, while cooking it over medium heat. Continue slowly stirring or whisking while the white sauce cooks and thickens quite a bit, about 5-7 minutes. Adjust with S&P to taste
To begin layering the lasagna, keep in mind that you’ll have three layers of noodles as well as three layers of the sauces and cheese – so plan on splitting all the sauce and cheese piles into thirds so you don’t run out at the end! (Dividing cheese into thirds was basically 1/2 cup of Parmesan and 1 1/4 cup of Mozzarella for each of the three layers) On the bottom of your lightly greased baking pan, layer three pre-boiled noodles or four no-boil noodles, slightly overlapping the no-boil noodles. Layer the red sauce, white sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, spreading all to the edges and top with another layer of noodles. Again, layer the red sauce, white sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and top with the final layer of noodles. Layer the sauces and cheeses again.
Cover the lasagna with a greased layer of aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is nice and bubbly. Remove the foil and turn on broil and melt cheese until nice and brown. Let the lasagna sit for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

How to freeze lasagna from Foodie Bride blog:
On lasagna night at home, I make a big ol’ mess. I bake a full batch in a 9×13 pan even though it would probably serve 8-10 people. I refrigerate the foil-covered leftovers in the pan overnight so it firms up. I then cut the cold lasagna into single portions, wrap each square in two layers of plastic wrap, and freeze on a baking sheet for about an hour or so. Once frozen solid, I’ll put the frozen squares in a large freezer bag. I put two squares in the fridge the night before the next lasagna night – reheating in a small baking dish is super easy and clean up is a breeze. And the best part is that I only have to do “lasagna dishes” once.

Outrageously GOOD and "healthy-ish" Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream with a Secret Ingredient

Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha!!! Just imagine a mad scientist in his lab celebrating after inventing a cure for all of man kind. Now, imagine that scientist is ME and I successfully made ice cream with tofu. That's right - your eyes are not deceiving you......TOE....FOO! When I thought of the idea, I thought there would be no way it could work. But since I've wanted to try this recipe for a while now, I thought - what the heck.

Well friends, let me tell you - this ice cream is O.O.C. - out of control!!! This is the kind of dessert when you take a bite your eyes instantly get BIG because it is the BOMB! I'm glad lobster wasn't around when I made this because I was hovering over the kitchen sink licking the mixing arm of the ice cream maker. Then, something terrible almost happened. Thankfully I caught myself before the event took place, but, I was literally inches away from licking the bowl of the ice cream maker until genius here realized it's frozen metal and my tongue could possibly get stuck to it. I imagine that would be very difficult to explain to lobster and the paramedics.

I'm so glad my little experiment was such a success! Lobster could not detect the tofu whatsoever. The inspiration for the tofu is due to the fact that lobster and I are trying to eat healthier so I thought I'd make a "healthy" ice cream. Don't think you can have those two words in the same sentence but - anyway, instead of heavy cream I substituted Silken firm tofu and swapped 2% for whole milk. That automatically makes the ice cream healthy right?! Let's just pretend the other half of the recipe is not made with sugar. Baby steps I say! I'm so glad I made this to celebrate the day of my birth many, many sad moons ago. This just softened the blow of aging another year. Happy Birthday to MEEEEEEE :D

Other recipes to sneak in tofu:
Lemon "Cream" with Fresh Raspberries
Lighter Eggplant Parmesan
Spinach Lasagna Rolls
Tofu "Egg Salad" Sammie

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz
One generous quart (liter)

I know I’m sounding like a broken record, but be sure to use good salt. I use fleur de sel, but if you don’t have it, a mild-tasting sea salt will do in a pinch, such as Maldon, fine gray salt, or kosher salt. Don’t use ordinary fine table salt; it’s far too harsh.
Because of the caramel in this ice cream, once churned and frozen, it’ll remain nice & creamy (as shown in the photo.) To make it firmer, crank up your freezer a bit or store it in a shallow pan.

For the caramel praline (mix-in)
1/2 cup (100 gr) sugar
3/4 teaspoon sea salt, such as fleur de sel

For the ice cream custard
2 cups (500 ml) 2% milk, divided
1 1/2 cups (300 gr) sugar
4 tablespoons (60 gr) salted butter*
scant (no more then) 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 10 oz package silken tofu, firm
5 large egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. To make the caramel praline, spread the 1/2 cup (100 gr) of sugar in an even layer in a medium-sized, unlined heavy duty saucepan: I use a medium size non-stick pan. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or brush it sparingly with unflavored oil.
2. Heat the sugar over moderate heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved. (Or most of it—there may be some lumps, which will melt later.)
Continue to cook stirring infrequently until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it’s just about to burn. It won’t take long. (I stopped when it became a dark auburn color)
3. Without hesitation, sprinkle in the 3/4 teaspoon salt without stirring (don’t even pause to scratch your nose), then pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet and lift up the baking sheet immediately, tilting and swirling it almost vertically to encourage the caramel to form as thin a layer as possible. Set aside to harden and cool.
4. To make the ice cream, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup or so of water so they’re floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts/liters) over the ice, pour 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it. Remove tofu from container and drain out liquid. Add tofu to a blender with 1/4 cup of milk and blend until completely smooth.
5. Spread 1 1/2 cups (300 gr) sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Cook over moderate heat, until caramelized, using the same method described in Step #2.
6. Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in all of the tofu mixture, stirring as you go.
The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. Stir in remaining 3/4 cup (250 ml) of the milk.
7. Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read 160-170 F (71-77 C).
8. Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or until thoroughly chilled.
9. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
10. While the ice cream is churning, crumble the hardened caramel praline into very little bits, about the size of very large confetti (about 1/2-inch, or 1 cm).
11. Once your caramel ice cream is churned, quickly stir in the crushed caramel, then chill in the freezer until firm. (I churned my ice cream for 25 minutes then added the caramel pieces and churned for an additional 5 minutes)

*I add 1/8 tsp kosher salt to 4 tbs of unsalted butter to make salted butter

Note: As the ice cream sits, the little bits of caramel may liquefy and get runny and gooey, which is what they’re intended to do.

Variations: Add some strong liquid espresso (or instant espresso powder) to the custard to taste, prior to churning the ice cream to make Coffee-Caramel Ice Cream.
Other options might be some of the mix-ins in The Perfect Scoop, like gooey Dark Chocolate Truffles, crackly chocolate Straciatella, or Oatmeal Praline folded in at the last minute.
This is also excellent served with warm Mocha Sauce (page 166), although it’s also excellent melting over sautéed apples or alongside a wedge of apple pie or tarte Tatin for a caramel double-whammy.

Feta wrapped in Phyllo Dough with Honey and Roasted Figs

Dessert or appetizer? Either way you serve it, this was delicious!! Sweet and salty - my favorite! I served this dish as an appetizer, but it's so sweet and decadent you could just as easily have this for dessert. Each bite gives you a sweet and salty party in your mouth - but nothing beats that first bite. Once you stick your fork into the phyllo, you hear a nice crunch and the cheese begins to ooooooze. Then, once you put the whole thing in your mouth, you get a hit of salty goodness from the cheese, crunchyness from the phyllo dough - take all that deliciousness and mix it with the honey and sweet roasted figs - it's the perfect combination of textures and flavors...NUM! Did I describe that well enough for you?! :D Run, don't walk to eat this plate of delicious yummyness. It's a guilty pleasure, but one worth all the extra calories. Pure decadence!

Feta wrapped in Phyllo Dough with Honey and Roasted Figs
Recipe from Food Network
6 servings

* Phyllo pastry sheets from 1 frozen package (recommended: medium or thick style, if available)
* 1 1/2 pounds Greek feta cheese, in block form
* Vegetable or sunflower oil, for frying
* 3/4 cup Greek honey
* 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
* 1 small jar candied figs, or fig jam


Thaw the frozen phyllo pastry sheets in the refrigerator overnight, and then bring these to room temperature prior to use for easier handling.

Drain the feta cheese from the brine. Cut the block of feta using a thin, sharp knife into 6 slices, approximately 2 by 4 inches and 1/2-inch thick. Set the slices on a clean kitchen towel to dry.

Lay the phyllo sheets on a flat surface and cut with kitchen scissors or a small sharp knife to size. They should be cut into rectangles, approximately 8 by 12 inches. Use a ruler if needed.

Lay 1 cut piece of phyllo in front of you like a sheet of wrapping paper - the 12-inch length top to bottom. Place a slice of feta at the top end of the sheet slightly below the edge and wrap it up as you would a small package. Fold the top end of the sheet over the feta and then fold the left and right sides over. Flip the partly wrapped feta down the sheet towards you until it is fully wrapped. If needed, a little water can be used to seal the last edge of the sheet onto itself.

Set aside with the sealed edge on the bottom of the package so the weight keeps the phyllo closed. Do not stack packages on top of each other. Continue to wrap all the pieces of feta.

Heat the oil to 350 degrees F in a deep sided skillet using sufficient oil to float the package, about 3 to 5 inches of oil. Fry to a golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side. The pastry should puff up slightly. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain on a paper-towel lined plate.

Serve each package on an individual plate or, if on a serving platter, do not stack the packages. Drizzle each package with about 2 tablespoons of honey and sprinkle with a teaspoon of black sesame seeds. Top with cut roasted figs.

Cook's Note: Uncooked packages can be frozen for later use. If freezing, dust lightly with cornstarch or flour to help keep them separate.

Honey Roasted Figs

1 lb. fresh figs

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Wash, slice, remove stems from figs. Quarter the figs and arrange in baking sheet sprayed with PAM.
3. Roast for 8-10 minutes, or until they begin to brown.


This is the kind of dish you should eat when it's cold and dreary and all you want is something warm to fill your belly. So let's just pretend it's not summer and 90 degrees out. I had Moussaka for the first time in Greece and fell in love with this dish. It's very similar to lasagna minus the pasta and tomato sauce. The meat is flavored with red wine, all spice, and cinnamon slowly simmered until it becomes rich and thick. The meat is then layered with potatoes and eggplants and topped with a creamy bechamel sauce. Anything bathed in bechamel makes everything better! If you can imagine from all those ingredients, this is a hearty and rich dish. It was delicious, rich and decadent - almost sinful - I feel like I'm describing a dessert. Well, if dessert could be savory - this would be it. Enjoy!

Anchorage Greek Festival Recipe
Excerpted from Tastes Like Home: Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska © 2007 by Laurie Helen Constantino
Serves 4-6

*This dish can be made ahead of time

Meat Sauce:
• 1 pound ground beef or lamb (I used ground sirloin 93/7)
• 1 3/4 - 2 cups diced yellow onion, 1/4" dice
• 1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
• 2.5 - ounce tomato paste
• 3/4 cups red wine
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/2 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 tsp. allspice
• 1 cinnamon sticks
• 2 tbs minced fresh Italian parsley
• 1/4 cup Panko or toasted dried bread crumbs

• 1- 2 large eggplants, approximately 1 1/2 pounds
• Olive oil
• Salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1 large baking potatoes

• 1/4 cup butter
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 2.5 cups whole milk (I used 2%)
• 2 egg yolks
• 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
• Salt
• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground white pepper (can substitute black pepper)
• 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Brown the meat, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in a large pot. Add the onions and continue browning. When the onions have softened and begun to turn golden, add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the tomato paste, wine, salt, pepper, cinnamon sticks, and allspice, and cook for 45 minutes to one hour, until the sauce is thick and rich. Stir in the minced parsley and Panko or bread crumbs. Remove cinnamon stick and taste and correct the seasoning as needed.

While the sauce is cooking, preheat the oven to 450°F. Slice the eggplant longways (lengthwise) 1/2" thick. Lightly salt the slices and put in a colander to release excess moisture for about 1/2 hour. Lay on paper towels to soak up any extra moisture. Then spray PAM and season lightly with ground pepper. Bake eggplant slices for 15 - 20 minutes, turning them over after 10 minutes, or until the slices are golden brown.

Peel and slice the potatoes lengthwise 3/8" thick. (You don't want paper thin slices - on my mandoline I used a medium slice) Brush both sides of each potato slice with olive oil, and season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake potato slices for 8- 10 minutes in preheated 450°F oven until they are just tender. The potatoes should not be cooked all the way through.

Warm the milk over low heat or in the microwave. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, mix in the flour and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly stir in the warm milk and cook, stirring, until the sauce is thick and smooth. (You may need to turn up the heat to medium high in order for it to thicken) Add the nutmeg, salt and white pepper to taste. Quickly whisk one cup of hot milk sauce into the egg yolks, and stir the egg-milk mixture back into the sauce. Cook over very low heat for two minutes, stirring constantly, being careful not to let the sauce get hotter than a low boil. Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in 1/4 cup grated cheese. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To assemble the Moussaka, lightly brush the sides and bottom of a 8" x 8” pan with olive oil. Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom of the pan. Spread half the meat sauce evenly over the potatoes, and sprinkle 2 tbs grated cheese over the meat sauce. Layer half the eggplant over the cheese. Cover with the remaining meat sauce, and sprinkle with 2 tbs more cheese. Cover with the remaining eggplant.

Pour as much béchamel as possible over the last layer of eggplant (the pan will be very full). Bake for 50 - 60 minutes, or until the béchamel is puffed and golden brown. Let cool for 30 minutes, cut into large squares, and serve.

Cook's Illustrated No-Knead Bread

I guess I'm a little late jumping on the No-Knead Bread band wagon, but better late then never I say. I've always been a bit intimated working with dough, but after making this loaf, I can't wait to make my next one - bring it on!!

I'm pretty selective when it comes to bread - often times I'll remember restaurants based on the bread they serve. I was hoping the recipe would produce an airy-like ciabatta, but the end result was a lot more dense. However, the texture and flavor were spot on so I didn't mind it's denseness. Don't know if that's a word, but I'm new to this country :) The crust had a nice crunch to it and the flavor was similar to a sourdough - it really did taste like something you'd get from the market. While the bread was baking, it perfumed the house with smells you would only get from a bakery. I equate the smell to the sensation you feel when walking into a Subway sandwich shop - I guess that's a bit ghetto - so just imagine the smell of fresh bread exuding from a cute french bakery. If you've never attempted to make your own bread from scratch, I highly recommend it. It's not as intimidating as you'd imagine and if I can do it, yoooou can dooooo it!

Cooks Illustrated Almost No-Knead Bread
Adapted from the recipe originally published in the January 2008 issue of Cooks Illustrated

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces)**, plus additional for dusting work surface
1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces), at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mild-flavored lager (3 ounces) (I used Heineken)
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

Lay 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. (I thought kneading it would make it more dense so after removing it from the skillet, I proceeded with the next step) Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours. (Mine took one hour)

About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lower third part of oven, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. (I removed mine at 207 because the top was browning too much) Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 hours.

**I actually weighed my flour on a scale

*I changed the recipe a bit. I put my dough in the fridge after eight hours. By then it had risen pretty well and there was little holes across the top. I then left it in the fridge for another 36 hours and cooked it the following day. I read this develops the flavors of the bread more and mine was very tasty. For the second rise, I gently removed the bread from the bowl and shaped it into a ball. I read if you punch down the dough or knead it too much it will produce a dense bread. I guess it really didn't matter since my bread came out dense anyway. I then only let the bread rise for an additional hour instead of the two stated in the recipe b/c after I gave my dough the finger :) the impressions stayed for a few seconds so I knew it was ready. Happy baking!

Trattoria Garga Cheesecake

During our honeymoon, lobster and I spent a week in Italy and had the most amazing meals during our visit. I remember one meal in particular was cheesecake we had at a cute little restaurant in Florence called, Trattoria Garga. I had read numerous reviews about their famous cheesecake - that should not be missed. Therefore, we made a detour to the restaurant so WE could have this dessert. The cheesecake was light, creamy and not overly sweet. It was a nice change from the dense rich cheesecakes we are all too familiar with - aka The Cheesecake Factory. This was more like a dainty little cheesecake that was smooth and velvety - which could be dangerous to the gluteous maximus area. Since it's so light and airy you could quite possibly consume too much in one sitting - so I've heard.

After we returned home, I googled the recipe and to my surprise I actually found it online. Hence, I present you with: Sharon's Cheesecake - light, smooth and velvety flavored with sweet mascarpone. Don't know who Sharon is, but Sharon's cheesecake is damn good and definite keeper.


Recipe from Saveur magazine

Makes one 10 inch Cake

2 cups finely crushed digestives - English whole wheat biscuits (I used graham crackers)
1 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

11/2 cups cream cheese
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. mascarpone
1 cup sugar
3 eggs

1 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1. For the crust: Preheat oven to 325°. Mix crushed biscuits and sugar together in a medium bowl. Add butter and stir until well combined. Transfer crumb mixture to a 10" springform pan. Using your hands, spread mixture out in an even layer, then use your fingertips to press crumb mixture into bottom and up side of pan about 1" to form an even crust. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake until crust is set and golden in places, 15–20 minutes. Set crust aside until cool.

2. For the filling: Beat cream cheese and mascarpone together in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually add sugar, beating well, about 1 minute. Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Pour filling into crust and bake until just set, 40–45 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

3. For the topping: Combine yogurt, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Pour onto cheesecake, spreading it out to cover top of cheesecake completely. Set aside at room temperature at least 2 hours before serving.

4. Run a knife between crust and inside ring of pan and remove ring. Serve cheesecake with sliced strawberries, if you like.

Greek Patty Melt with Cotija Cheese and Muhammara

You know you've made something delicious when you take a bite and your first reaction is mmmmm! I LUV it when that happens! Mmmmms = happy dance = a happy blogger. This burger was well received and is now a new fave! Each bite packs a flavorful punch and the muhammara is absolutely amazing. I could have eaten it straight up all by itself. Gimme a bag of pita chips and I would've been a happy girl. The sauce reminded me a lot of my other favorite dip - but this one's even better. It was a perfect compliment to the bold flavors of the meat and the combination of flavors just made these burgers sing!

I learned a great cooking tip while making these burgers as well. The recipe uses Greek yogurt to bind the burgers which I thought was a unique twist, since normally I use an egg to bind any type of ground meat. I found the yogurt held the burgers together well and they showed no signs of falling apart on the grill. How many times has that happened to you when you try to cook a burger on the grill? Well have no fear, yogurt is the new binder and you'll have a perfect burger every time. Try it, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. The yogurt also acts as a double-duty ingredient - it not only keeps the burger together, but also adds moisture which keeps the burger juicy and moist. If you enjoy Mediterranean cuisine and big bold flavors, then you'll definitely enjoy these burgers!

Greek Patty Melt with Cotija Cheese and Muhammara

Adapted from Grill It with Bobby Flay

2 servings

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 10 oz pounds ground turkey
  • Olive oil
  • 2 Hamburger buns
  • 1/2 pound cotija cheese, grated (can substitute feta)
  • Muhammara, recipe follows
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced and grilled


Preheat a grill over indirect medium-high heat.

In a large bowl, combine the parsley, yogurt, garlic, coriander, salt, cumin, paprika, and allspice. Add the lamb and mix gently by hand until evenly combined. Shape the meat into 2 patties, each about 4 by 6-inches by 1/2-inch.

Lightly oil the patties and arrange them on the hot side of the grill. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, flip, and cook another 4 to 5 minutes until cooked through. Top burgers with cheese in last few minutes of cooking until cheese gets nice and soft. Transfer the burgers to the bread, top grilled onions and Muhamarra.


  • 1/2 pound red bell peppers, charred, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 small hot red peppers, charred, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped*
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, about 5 ounces, toasted
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, from freshly toasted seeds
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • 1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 lemon, zested and juiced
To char the bell peppers, cut each pepper in half and cut out the inside membrane and seeds. Next take your palm and flatten the pepper cut side down and make it as flat as possible. Place the pepper cut side down on a baking sheet that you spray with PAM or lightly oil and broil for 10 minutes or until peppers are black and charred. Remove peppers and place in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. After 15 minutes remove peppers from bowl and peel off black skin. Do the same thing with the peppers if you decide to use them. Next, put all of the ingredients, except the lemon zest, in a food processor and process until a smooth paste forms. (Start with 1/2 hot pepper, taste, and then add more if you want it hotter.) If the mixture is too thick, drizzle in a little more olive oil. Stir in the lemon zest by hand. Taste and add more salt and hot pepper, if desired.

*I omitted the pepper and added a pinch of cayenne.

Italian Meatball Sub with Spicy Sausage and Mozzarella

Tonight I did a horrible thing! I fed lobster the worst meal ever. When I say worst, I mean health wise. Taste wise, this sub rocked! I try to make healthy meals most of the time, but since lobster really likes meatball subs I thought I'd go nuts and use full fat everything and anything. We're talkin' FULL FAT cheese, bread, meat - MAN FOOD people! I bought ground pork from the market and even though it looked frightening and had scary fat white bits running through it - I bought it anyway. I rarely buy ground meat from the store unless it's turkey since it's so much healthier grinding your own meat at home. That way, you know exactly what part of the animal you're actually using. Unlike the market, who knows what type of mystery meat is goin' in that sucker.....aaaaand that's what's in my tummy right now. Ewww, I'm getting grossed out just thinking about it.

Well, at least our health was worth the sacrifice since the meatball sub was fabulous! No wonder it was the winning recipe on "Top Chef." It was full of flavor and nice an spicy - just how I like it! If you plan on making this, don't freak out like I did when you start throwing the spices on to the meat. I thought for sure I must have miss calculated the quantity of measurements when I cut the recipe in half, since it seemed like a ridiculous amount of spices was going into the meat mixture - I may be Asian, but I lack a bit in the math department. Anyway, what I thought would be a disaster ended up being a pleasant surprise and my oh my were these meatballs tasty. They had a nice spicy kick and were the STAR of the sammie! So next time you're looking for a guilty pleasure, make these and enjoy every bite. NuM!

What are some of your guilty pleasures? Mine always involve sweets and tend to look like this and this and this and......

Italian Meatball Sub with Spicy Sausage and Mozzarella
Adapted from Top Chef
3 servings

• 1/2 lb ground beef (80/20) (I used ground turkey, 93/7% fat)
• 1/2 lb ground pork
• 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley (about 1/3 cup chopped)
• 2 large cloves garlic
• 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
• 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
• 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (I used ground cumin)
• 1 1/2 tsp regular paprika
• 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
• 1 1/2 tsp cayenne
• 2 tsp kosher salt*
• 1 tablespoon black pepper
• 2 egg whites

Tomato Sauce or your favorite can of spaghetti or marinara sauce:
• 1 15 oz cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand*
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/4 cup white wine
• 1/4 bunch flat leaf parsley (about 1 to 2 tablespoons, chopped - just eyeball it)
• 1 teaspoon red chili flakes, plus more to taste
• 1/4 cup chicken stock (I used broth)
• 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonade
• 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used 2 tbs)
• Salt and pepper and sugar, to taste

• 1 onion, sliced
• 1 red bell pepper, sliced
• 1 Tbl oil
• Salt and pepper, to taste

• 3 Italian bread baguette, toasted (I used French rolls)
• Fresh mozzarella, sliced or shredded
• Grated parmesan


For the Meatball:
1. In a food processor, puree parsley, garlic, and lemon zest. (I was too lazy to use a processor so I measured out 1/3 cup of parsley chopped, then finely chopped/minced it afterward, then I finely minced the garlic and turned it into a garlic paste - I did this by adding one tsp of salt on top of the minced garlic then using the back of my knife crushed the garlic against the cutting board until it turned into a paste - it also dispenses the garlic more evenly throughout the dish. If you'd like to see a demonstration, click here) In a large bowl, mix all remaining ingredients. Add puree mixture and mix everything together.
2. Taste by cooking a small patty on a grill or sauté pan to insure proper seasoning. Next form into meatballs. I made mine about twice the size of a golf ball which equaled 9 balls. I broiled them in a broiler pan for 8-10 minutes on one side then flipped them over and cooked them for another 5 minutes. Be sure to check them during cooking since they can brown quickly. If you don't want to broil them you can cook them over flattop or grill. (Since you're cooking ground pork you should make sure it reaches internal temperature of 160F)

*I used 2 tsp of salt (1 tsp when I made the garlic paste and another teaspoon in the actual meat mixture itself) then made a tester patty and added more salt to taste. The original recipe says to use 1 1/2 tablespoons but I don't think I used that much.

For the Tomato Sauce:
1. In a saucepot, sweat garlic in olive oil and red pepper flakes until aromatic. Add wine, parsley, and reduce by half. Add chicken stock and tomatoes, and allow to simmer for at least 15 minutes or reduce down to desired consistency. Adjust flavor with salt and pepper. Finish with basil (I like my sauces to be thick so I simmered it down to the consistency of a marinara sauce. The sauce tasted a bit acidic so I added a bit of sugar)

* I used diced tomatoes and crushed them with a wooden spoon after I put them in the saucepan. The sauce tasted a little bland so I also added 7 slow roasted tomatoes I had in the freezer to add more flavor. If you’d like the recipe for slow roasted tomatoes, you can find it here.

For the Peperonata:
1. On griddle, cook all vegetables until al dente. Season with salt and pepper.

To Serve:
I sliced the bread down the middle but not all the way through and scooped out a bit of the inside so the meatballs could stay in place. I toasted my bread in the toaster oven for a couple minutes until warm and a bit crusty. Remove the bread from the toaster oven and place a bit of sauce inside the bottom of the bread then place meatballs inside bread add more sauce, top with peperonata. Garnish with mozzarella and finely grated parmesan. Pop under the broiler until the cheese is nice and melted. Watch them closely since the top of the bread can easily burn.

*I used Francisco International French bread rolls. The bread had the right texture since it was nice and soft but I did not realize they are packaged already sliced a bit horizontally. It wasn’t the end of the world, just a bit cumbersome when trying to make the subs. I would recommend using soft bread versus a bread with a thick crispy crust. Enjoy!