Rustic Ciabbata with Dates.
It’s that fun time of the month again, Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club, a virtual event in which food bloggers are assigned a site in secret, then blog about a chosen recipe at midnight of Reveal Day. In two words: incredibly awesome. But what is more awesome than that is the blog I got this month. I almost passed out from excitement, thrill, and joy. Why? Because my assigned site is one of my favorites in the whole food blogosphere: Karen’s Kitchen Stories. Just to make an analogy, if blogging was like acting, my Secret Acting Club assignment would be Meryl Streep. Yeap, that awesome!   I’ve been reading Karen’s blog forever, I consider her as one of my personal gurus in bread baking. She is the type of baker who is not afraid to push the limits, moving easily from tangzhong type breads to bialys, baguettes, all sorts of rustic sourdoughs, Pullman type loaves, really amazing what she can do with flour, water, salt, and yeast, often wild (the yeast, not her).  At my last count, she’s got 247 bread recipes in her blog. Two hundred and forty-seven. You can collect your chin off the floor now. I bookmarked so many recipes that it was not even funny. Just to give you a small sampling of the breads that tempted me: Cheese and Herb Happy Bread,  Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Rolls , Corn and Jalapeno Rolls (oh, my!), English Muffin Bread (I really need to make this one!), Tangzhong Whole Wheat Bread (very interesting method), Kesra Moroccan Flatbread, Hawaiian Style Sweet Rolls (reminds me of my childhood in Brazil), Stuffed Pretzel Bites (O.M.G.!). Of course, that doesn’t include the breads from her site I already made like the delicious Ka’Kat. or Forkish’s Warm Spot Sourdough. But of course there’s a lot more than bread in her blog. For instance, if you like stir-fries, she has a section on Wok Wednesdays that is a must-follow, holding so far 57 entries.  The bottom line is, I had no choice but to make two recipes from her site. A rustic ciabatta, because it would be almost rude not to choose a bread from Karen’s blog, and some mini-meatloaves because they looked so incredibly cute, I could not stop dreaming about them…

Ciabatta Dates Flax2

(from Karen’s Kitchen Stories)

for the soaker:
48 grams flaxseeds
72 grams (1/3 C) water
for the poolish:
125 grams unbleached bread flour
125 grams (1/2 C) water
pinch of instant yeast
for the final dough:
278 grams (~1 1/4 C) water
All of the poolish
300 grams unbleached bread flour
50 grams coarsely ground whole wheat flour
25 grams coarsely ground rye flour
10 grams (1 3/4 tsp) salt
2 grams (~ 3/4 tsp) instant yeast
All of the soaker
84 grams dried dates, seeded previously, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
The night before baking day, mix the soaker and poolish in separate bowls. Cover both bowls with plastic wrap. Leave enough room in the poolish bowl for it to double in size.
The next day (about 12 to 16 hours later), measure the 278 grams of water into a large bowl or dough rising bucket. Add the poolish, and mix it into the water with your hand to break it apart. Add the flours, salt, and yeast, and mix the dough with your hands, stirring, pinching, and folding the dough to absorb all of the flour and dissolve the salt and yeast. When you pinch the dough, you should not feel any grit.
Once all of the ingredients are combined, mix in the soaker with your hand until evenly distributed. Add the dates, and mix to distribute. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot.
After 45 minutes, stretch and fold the dough over itself from all four “sides.” Repeat the 45 minute rest followed by a stretch-and-fold two more times (a total of 3 stretch-and-folds).  Let the dough rest for a final 45 minutes, covered, in a warm spot.
Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, and gently nudge it into a rectangle. Be careful not to deflate the dough. Using an oiled bench knife, cut the dough into three equal pieces. Pick each piece up with floured hands and place it on a floured couche or parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with the rest of the couche or oiled plastic wrap.  Let the dough rest for 20 minutes, while you heat the oven to 475 degrees F, and set it up with a steam pan on the lowest rack and a baking stone directly above it. Fill a spray bottle with water.
When the oven is at the correct temperature, transfer the loaves to the baking stone (see notes above, or place the baking sheet with the loaves on it in the oven). Place a cup of boiling water in the steam pan (cover your oven’s window), and spray the oven walls with water. Quickly close the door.  Bake the loaves for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating halfway through. They are done when the internal temperature reaches 200 to 210 degrees F. Cool on a wire rack.


to print the recipe, click here

I made this bread in one of those perfect Saturdays!  Why? Because I woke up before 5am feeling super energetic, could hardly wait to get downstairs and play with my ingredients already measured since the evening before.  During the first 45 minutes rise I did a nice P90X yoga while the house was still dark, peaceful and silent…  As in a perfectly timed symphony, just as I finished my exercises, Phil woke up and made me a fantastic cappuccino…. the dogs immediately joined us in welcoming the weekend…Told ya: perfect Saturday!
Back to Karen’s ciabatta: the dough was a pleasure to work with, gaining strength at each folding cycle. In the composite photo above, the dough is shown after the last folding cycle, all plump and shiny.  I used whole flaxseeds, Karen used ground, but I followed the exact same method, including the volume of water to make the soaker. You can use whatever type of flaxseeds you have in your pantry.  Most important thing is not to deflate the dough too much as you coach it into the ciabatta shape. The less you mess with it, the better.  You will be rewarded with a ton of holes, a very airy bread, comme il faut.
Crumb shot

We both loved this bread! The dates offer a burst of sweetness that plays well with the almost sour nature of the dough given by the extended fermentation of the poolish.  Cut a slice, toast it very very lightly, top it with some Gorgonzola and you will have to tie yourself to your seat not to fly away in a magic carpet….   Awesome combo.


And now, for the bonus recipe from Karen’s site…  Adorable meatloaves in individual servings.  Her recipe used beef, I changed it slightly by using ground turkey.

miniloaves served11

(adapted from Karen’s Kitchen Stories)
1 shallot, coarsely chopped
1 rib celery, diced
1/3 cup packed flat leaf parsley leaves
4 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch slices
2/3 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup boiling water
1 pound 85% lean ground turkey
1/4 pound ground pork
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup jarred chili sauce, such as Heinz
Spray a half sheet pan with spray oil and heat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a food processor, pulse the shallot, celery, parsley, and bacon several times until well chopped.  In a large bowl, combine the oats and boiling water and stir. Add the mixture from the food processor and combine.
Break up the ground turkey and pork and add them to the large bowl. Whisk the eggs and add them to the meat and oat mixture. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup of the chili sauce to the meat mixture. Mix with your hands until everything is well mixed.
Divide the mixture into four equal parts and shape each into a small loaf, placing them onto the baking sheet. Take 1/2 cup of the chili sauce, and brush it over the four loaves.  Bake the loaves on the center rack for about 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and brush the loaves with the rest (1/4 cup) of the chili sauce. Turn on the broiler, and place the pan back on the center rack. Broil for about 5 minutes, until the chili sauce just begins to brown.

to print the recipe, click here


PicMonkey Collage11

These meatloaves were sooooo good!  The chili sauce is a must, do not skip it. They turned out moist, flavorful, spicy but not overly so. I served them with sweet potato noodles that were recently published in my guest post over at Foodbod. The recipe made 3 loaves and we enjoyed them for dinner, then I had leftovers for my lunch a couple of days in a row. Heaven. Just heaven. If I may make a public confession, I had some slices straight from the fridge. Cold. Yeah, standing up, with a Jack Russell staring at me wondering how long it would take for Newton’s Law of Gravity to work its magic in his favor. HA!  Not a chance!

Karen, I hope you enjoyed your assignment this month. It goes without saying that I spent the past 4  weeks anticipating this Reveal Day, anxious to share the recipes I made from your blog. For my readers, if you don’t yet know Karen’s Kitchen Stories, stop right now and go pay her a visit.  Not only she is a great baker and cook, but a very cool person with great sense of humor and wit.  Plus, she is the Grandma of two beautiful boys, and lucky to live very close to them, so it’s easier for her to spoil them rotten.  I intend to follow her footsteps and do my best to spoil Greenlee at every chance I get…   Maybe one day I can teach Greenlee to bake a chocolate cake for her Dad too. Oops, did I just use “teach” and “bake a cake” in the same sentence?  Excuse me while I go grab a thermometer. I might be running a very high fever… (sigh)

ONE YEAR AGO: Green Rice

TWO YEARS AGO: Potato-Crusted Italian Mini-Quiches

THREE YEARS AGO: Beetroot Sourdough for the Holidays

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cod Filet with Mustard Tarragon Crust

FIVE YEARS AGO: Soba Noodles: Light and Healthy

SIX YEARS AGO: Potato-Rosemary Bread


Chocolate Zucchini Cake Pieces
The last Monday of October is here in all its pre-Halloween glory, and chilly not-so-glorious mornings!  It is Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club, and here I am to disclose the blog I was assigned to cook from: The Colbert Clan, hosted by Kate. Now, I must confess that this month I almost decided to skip participating because we traveled so much.  I kept the blog going normally, but we barely stayed home. First a trip to Santa Monica, CA, back home for 24 hours, then we caught a plane to São Paulo, Brazil.  I knew that my only chance of sticking with the Secret Recipe Club would be to jump on the assignment right away.  So, I took a slightly different approach to it, and went straight with a search for a cake. Cake? Me, the anti-cake-baker? Yes, you got that right. I wanted to take a chocolate cake to the department and that’s what I searched for.  The choice was easy, painless, and very sweet: a Chocolate Zucchini Cake, adorned with a luscious buttercream frosting which yours truly made with only minor boo-boos. It was an almost painless baking experience, which is saying a lot. But let me tell yo a little bit about Kate. She is a young, stay-at-home Mom of three kids, and her blog reflects life-style of someone who needs to get good food at the table for a family of five.  I am sure it’s not easy, kids can be picky, and juggling everyone’s desires is like a full-time job!  Kudos for her…   I could not resist browsing a little bit through The Colbert Clan, and was tempted to make her Mini-snickers Cheesecakes, which are simply adorable with a drizzle of caramel on top. I am sure my colleagues at the department would be absolutely thrilled…  And, since we are on the subject of cuteness, how about these Macaroon Kisses? Definitely something to consider as a baking project…  But, chocolate cake was on my mind, and without further ado, let me share the recipe with you.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

(from The Colbert Clan)

for the cake:
1/2 cup oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
2 cups shredded zucchini
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

for the frosting:
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 and spray your 9×13 pan.

In one bowl mix together oil, sugar, vanilla, egg and milk until combines. Add grated zucchini.In a second bowl mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

Pour dry ingredients into wet mixture and mix.

Pour into your 9×13 pan and bake for 28 to 30 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting: Beat the butter until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and milk. Mix in cocoa and powdered sugar, whip until the mixture is smooth and creamy. I did not have to use all the powdered sugar mixture.

Cut in squares and serve.


to print the recipe, click here


Comments: I’ve always wanted to make a chocolate cake with zucchini in it, because it’s so intriguing! Of course, I am very fond of a particular type of carrot cake from my childhood, and zucchini is not too far from carrots as far as food is concerned. Plus, chocolate can make many things taste delicious and decadent, even the humble zucchini.  This cake is simple to prepare, the hardest part was shredding the squash.  Now, a piece of advice for novice bakers: if you are a neat freak like I am, and decide to rinse the sieve after making the cake batter, make sure it is 100% dry before you go sifting the cocoa powder for the frosting.  If there is water in it, you’ll have a big mess on your hands, especially if you are puzzled about the cocoa not going through and decide to “help” it with your fingers.  Enough said.

The cake was a big success with our colleagues, and of course Phil had to remind me of speeches he gave me in the past, like  “The Importance of Frosting on Any Cake,” and  “Why Cakes are Not Real Cakes If Not Smothered in Frosting.”  He is thrilled that I seem to be getting his point, after so many years of food blogging.  Our marriage only gets better and better.

Kate, I hope you had a great time cooking from your assigned blog!
I invite my readers to browse through the collection of goodies made by my fellow virtual friends from The Secret Recipe Club with a click on the blue frog at the end of the post.

ONE YEAR AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Honey-Mustard Dressing

TWO YEARS AGO: Bewitching Kitchen on Fire!

THREE YEARS AGO: Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chiarello’s Chicken Cacciatore

FIVE YEARS AGO: Donna Hay’s Thai-Inspired Dinner

SIX YEARS AGO: Panettone


Here we are. Last Monday of September, which means Summer is gone. Over. Finito. Acabado. I could sit here and whine for hours, filling your screen with paragraph after paragraph describing in detail my despair, frustration, and overall gloom. Telling you how my interactions with human beings are affected as the average daily temperature goes down. You don’t want to be around me in January, even with all that New Year upbeat aura. But, enough with the negativity.

The last Monday of the month brings many reasons to be joyful, as it is Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club. This month I got a fantastic blog to stalk and cook from: A Palatable Pastime, hosted by Sue, who lives in Ohio with her husband and two lovely cats. She develops her own recipes – often with a Southern US flair – and not only has won several contests, but her productions have been featured in many top-notch sites like LDS Living, Mrs. Field’s and the Christian Science Monitor’s food section. I was thrilled to stalk her site, although a bit overwhelmed by the number of possibilities bookmarked to pick, cook, and share with my readers today.

Twelve recipes made the final list, but to keep it manageable, I’ll just mention half of them: Sweet Potato Biscuits (I’ve always wanted to make them… was very close to choosing it for this assignment), Thai Salmon Curry….   Vegan Mushroom Pumpkin Chili (her description tells me it’s a winner of a recipe), Dutch-Baby Pancake (another recipe I’ve always wanted to try), Thai Larb Soft Rolls… and Sue’s Almost Famous Meatballs (great post!). There were so many tasty options to choose from, but in the end I made a batch of her Amazing Apricot Bars. No doubt 2015 is the year of the apricot in the Bewitching Kitchen…  These turned out spectacularly amazing!

Apricot Bars

(from A Palatable Pastime)

For shortbread crust:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (8-1/2 ounces)

For topping:
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats, toasted
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey

For finishing:
1/3 cup apricot jam
3 tablespoons sweetened flaked coconut

Heat oven to 350F.

Butter the inside of a glass 8×8-inch square baking pan. Cream together the butter and sugar (thoroughly mix until sugar dissolves). Stir in the vanilla, salt and flour and mix into a dough. Press dough evenly into the bottom of the buttered baking pan, then chill in the refrigerator while you continue.

Mix the dry ingredients for the topping together in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter with sugar and honey over low heat. Stir in the dry fruit topping mixture and bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes then remove from heat. Take out the baking pan, and spread the top of the dough with the simply fruit apricot spread. Top the spread with the cooked fruit mixture.

Sprinkle the topping with an extra 3 tablespoons of sweetened flaked coconut. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing into squares.


to print the recipe, click here


The bars were juicy, sweet, with a slight tang from the cranberries to balance flavors. The crust., which I find the trickiest component of this type of concoction was perfect: not too hard, not too crumbly.  As usual, I brought the whole batch to our department, and by 9:30 am, not a single crumb was left on the platter.  So, I advise that if you intend to share it friends, make sure to grab a square for yourself right away…  They are seriously addictive.


Sue, I thoroughly enjoyed stalking your site, I love the way you go the extra mile to explain the technique behind your recipes, so that even a novice cook will be able to make the many tasty things you share on your blog.  I hope you also had fun with your assignment this month. My readers are invited to browse through this month’s collection by poking the cute frog at the end of this post.

Apricot Bars2
ONE YEAR AGO: Spiralizer Fun

TWO YEARS AGO: Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

THREE YEARS AGO: Carriage House Apple-Walnut Pie

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chicken Marsala

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Home, sweet home

SIX YEARS AGO: Levain Bread with Caramelized Onions


If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will probably be a bit surprised to see another Secret Recipe Club feature just one week after the last one.  Here’s the reason: some months have five Mondays, but there are only four groups of blogs (A through D) in the club. So in some months a Monday would be empty of virtual fun, and that is sad.  The moderators then had this brilliant idea of coming up with a special theme for these extra Mondays in which all groups participate. Since football season is starting, the theme for today’s Reveal Day is “Tailgating“. Now, I must say I’m not too wild about tailgating, probably because I did not grow up in the US. But, nothing makes me miss a party, and I loved coming up with a recipe appropriate for the occasion. I was assigned the blog Dancing Veggies, hosted by Amanda, a member of Group A. One of the things I got a kick out of stalking her blog is the way she chooses pretty creative, unexpected names for her posts.  For instance, what do you think a post called “Heart Racing” would be about? A bowl of chili? a hot Indian curry?  Nah. It’s about Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies!  :-) How about a post called “Meet me at Midnight?” Caviar on toast and a shot of vodka?  A platter of oysters on the half shell?  No, not really. That one is about German Chocolate Brownies…  For this tailgating event, my contribution is a plate of cookies, and since Fall is knocking at the door (stiff upper lip ON), my cookies include the P word. Talk about someone who dances with the music… that’s me, baby, all the way! And speaking of dancing to the music, Amanda just explained to me the meaning behind her posts titles: they are all song titles, the “dancing” part of her blog, Dancing Veggies.  Too awesome for words!

Pumpkin Choc Chip Cookies2

(slightly modified from Dancing Veggies)

makes about 30 cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed pumpkin
1 + 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 cup mini dark choc chips
1/4 to 1/2 cup white choc chips

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Cream the butter and sugar for 5 minutes, until slightly fluffy. Add in the egg, salt, and vanilla extract and beat for a few more minutes before adding in the mashed pumpkin.

In a small bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, and spices. Slowly add to the wet ingredients and beat until just mixed. Spoon the dough onto cookie sheets in walnut sized portions. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until a golden orange shade. Cool on a rack.


to print the recipe, click here


Comments:  My main modification of the recipe was to use a mixture of white and dark chocolate chips. I am very fond of white chocolate and had just a little bit left in a bag, so I decided to put them to good use.  I left the amounts pretty flexible in the recipe, because Phil loves a cookie that is loaded with chips, so see how much your dough can take and go for maximal pleasure.  I think dried cranberries would work great too, by the way. The texture of the cookies is on the chewy side due to the pumpkin puree, which by the way, I used canned.  As usual, no one will be able to taste the pumpkin, it just gives them a mysterious flavor.  The nutmeg and cinnamon of course complement it all beautifully.  A perfect Fall cookie (stiff upper lip threatening to fail).

have a cookie

You cannot have summer back, but you can always have a cookie!

Amanda, I had a lot of fun browsing your collection of recipes, in fact your zucchini fritters were insistently calling my name, but I thought that maybe those would be hard to enjoy at tailgating with the dipping sauce and all. So I stuck with cookies, easy to grab and run away to the stadium not to miss the kick-off. As usual, everyone can check the collection of tailgating recipes by poking the cute blue frog at the end of the post.

ONE YEAR AGO:  One Million Page Views!

TWO YEARS AGO: Tlayuda, a Mexican Pizza

THREE YEARS AGO: Paradise Revisited

FOUR YEARS AGO: Feijoada, the Ultimate Brazilian Feast

FIVE YEARS AGO: Vegetable Milhojas

SIX YEARS AGO: Italian Bread


Once again the end of the month brings the excitement of Reveal Day for us members of The Secret Recipe Club.  For those who don’t know what it’s all about, the club pairs two food bloggers in secret, and on reveal day everyone posts their recipe of choice.  I was assigned the blog Turnips2Tangerines, hosted by Lynn, from Wisconsin. Lynn’s site is a very sweet spot, with many recipes centered on all things dessert, but you will also find plenty of savory dishes to drool over. She also publishes a monthly feature called Culinary Adventures, where the cooking of a particular country is highlighted through a menu and recipes. Very nice, check her latest post on Sweden by clicking here.

When classes are over Phil and I tend to get a lot busier in the lab, with daily meetings at 7:30am.  I know that the occasional sweet treat is more than welcome by our students, so I jumped on Lynn’s blog with that thought in mind.  The moment I saw her post on lemon lavender bars, I looked no further.  But, at some point I must make her Chai Spice Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting. They look adorable, and of course, spices make sweets special.  Or how about a Banana Bundt Cake with Maple Glaze? Yeah, baby…

(from Turnips2Tangerines)

for the crust:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup cold butter
1/2 t culinary lavender

for the filling:
4 eggs
5 T fresh lemon juice
1 T grated lemon peel
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1 t culinary lavender

Heat the oven to 350 F.

In a bowl combine flour, confectioners’ sugar and lavender; cut in butter until crumbly (I used the food processor).  Press into an ungreased 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Make the filling by beating the eggs in a bowl until frothy.  Stir in lemon juice and peel.
In another bowl combine the sugar, flour, and baking powder. Stir into the egg mixture, mixing well with a whisk.  Pour over baked crust, and sprinkle lavender over the top.

Bake for 25 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack, cut into bars. If you want, sprinkle confectioner’s sugar before serving.


to print the recipe, click here


Comments:  Yellow might be one of my favorite colors, so it’s only natural that I always have plenty of lemons in the fridge. Plenty.  I cannot imagine cooking without them, even savory dishes.  Lavender is another flavor I am fond of, but of course it needs to be in small doses, it’s easy to have it overpowering a dish. In these bars, the amount of lavender was just right.  I decided to use the food processor for the crust because I felt that the lavender would be better dispersed throughout the crust by doing so. After processing, I dumped everything on the counter and made sure the flour was all coated with butter, no big spots of dry flour remaining.  It is also important to try to spread the crust as evenly as possible, so that it browns at the same rate in the oven. I almost managed to do that, but one corner ended up a bit over-baked.  No major harm done, though.

The bars made a Monday morning early meeting much easier to go through…


Lynn, thanks for a lovely recipe, and I hope you had a great time with your assignment this month!  For my readers, you are all invited to browse through the goodies made by my fellow screters from group D. Just poke the blue frog at the end of this post, and have a blast!

ONE YEAR AGO: Quinoa Fried Rice

TWO YEARS AGO: Carrot Flan with Greens and Lemon Vinaigrette

THREE YEARS AGO: The Secret Recipe Club: Granola Bars

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Awesome Broccolini

FIVE YEARS AGO:  A Twist on Pesto

SIX YEARS AGO: Ciabatta: Judging a bread by its holes


When I was 13 years old I could not WAIT to turn 18. It took forever, but as you may have noticed, I made it. Now that I feel like setting the brakes on time, days pass flying by, turn into weeks, months, so here we are at the end of May, and I find myself with quite a few years added to those eighteen. Unreal. Anyway, the last Monday of May brings with it the formidable joy of Reveal Day from The Secret Recipe Club.  If you don’t already know about it, a food blogger is paired with another one in secret, has about a month to pick a recipe and cook from it, then the whole group blogs about their chosen dish at the exact same time.  Nothing is cooler than this, you must admit. I was paired this month with Life on Food, hosted by Emily, a 31-year-old woman with stunning blue eyes and a food blog that is a stalker’s dream! She’s been blogging since 2008, and her index of recipes is quite extensive. At first I decided to make something sweet, and almost settled on her Blackberry Oat  Muffins.  But then, I flirted with Carrot Cake Pancakes and with Pistachio Dark Chocolate Toffee.  Not sure what happened to my sweet tooth, but the outcome was nevertheless perfect:  a fantastic dish of juicy meatballs laying on top of toasted orzo. Life on Food means life is good!


(slightly modified from Life on Food)

1 quart chicken stock
2 slices white bread, crusts trimmed
Milk, for soaking
1 pound ground lamb
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced, plus 2 tsp zest
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
olive oil, for drizzling
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup orzo
3 cups fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta

Heat the oven to 400 degrees . In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock over low heat; keep warm. In a small bowl, soak the bread in the milk.

In a large bowl, combine the lamb and egg. Wring out any excess milk from the soaked bread and crumble the bread into the meat. Stir in 1/4 cup parsley, onion, garlic, lemon zest, oregano, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Drizzle with olive oil; mix. Roll the mixture into 20 meatballs and arrange on a nonstick or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until browned, 15 to 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the orzo and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in a few ladles of the warm stock and allow it to absorb before adding more. Keep adding stock a little at a time and cook until the orzo is al dente.

Stir in the spinach to heat through in the last-minute of cooking. Remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and feta. Serve the orzo in shallow bowls. Top with the meatballs and remaining 1/4 cup parsley.


to print the recipe, click here


Comments: In the opening paragraph of her post on this recipe, Emily says… I plan my meals, snacks, grocery lists days in advance.  I don’t want to be unprepared. Currently I have only about 2 cups worth of flour. I want to make muffins that require 3 cups. I am stressed.  That gave me such a big smile, because I am exactly the same way. With the added quirk of often forgetting what I have hidden deep inside in the pantry, so I “think” I have only a cup of flour, but two unopened bags will be found when I bring yet another from the store. I never fail to amaze myself.

This was a great meal, my main change was to use a gluten-free bread which I had in the freezer begging to be used up. The bread was made with almond flour and some ground nuts, I thought it would go nicely with the lamb meatballs, and indeed it worked well.  The toasted orzo was super creamy, more like a risotto with all the starch of the pasta as part of the sauce.  It did not take that long to cook, we like our orzo very al dente. 

Emily, I hope you had a great time with your assignment!  And, as usual, I invite my readers to go poke a blue frog. Said frog will take you to a collection of goodies made by my fellow friends on The Secret Recipe Club for today’s reveal day…

ONE YEAR AGO: Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

TWO YEARS AGO: Penne with Trapanese Pesto


FOUR YEARS AGO: Spring Pasta

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ice Cream Melts for Mango


It’s shocking but we are arriving at the end of April. Hard not to use a beaten up expression like “time flies”. It simply does. But, birds are singing, owls are making a ton of noise in the middle of the night, sun is shinning, and I am a happy camper, having stored all my sweaters, coats, and boots far away from my sight. As usual, the last Monday of the month brings with it Reveal Day: a showcase of posts made by food bloggers who participate of The Secret Recipe Club, and are paired in secret.  My assignment was the blog by Julie, Confessions of a Cooking Diva.  Don’t you love that name? Made me wish I had named my blog The Drama Queen Cooks…. Tongue in cheek, of course. As regular readers know, I am a level-headed, composed, unflappable individual. Julie is originally from Idaho but lives in Utah with a cuddly cat and a basset hound, a type of dog I find very cool with its incredibly sharp sense of smell. Julie shares with me a deep fear of baking, but admits that nothing scares her more than spiders. I’d have to settle for cockroaches as my number one fear, but we are basically virtual sisters.  I assembled quite a few recipes on my list of possibilities, like her One Pot Green Chile Mac & Cheese… her Caribbean Jerk Salmon Tacos… her Turkey Sausage….her Black Bean Burgers…. and her Apple-Pecan Cheesecake… But, my love for spices spoke loudly, so here I am to share with you an AMAZING recipe for cookies that marry a traditional gingersnap with chunks of white chocolate. Heaven. Pure heaven in cookie shape.

Gingersnaps White Choc Chips

(from Confessions of a Cooking Diva)

1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup molasses
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 + 1⁄4 tsp. baking soda
1+1⁄4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1+1⁄4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 eggs
3+1⁄2 cups flour
1⁄2 bag of white chocolate chips (I used 3/4 bag)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare baking sheets by spraying them with cooking spray or line them with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Mix in the molasses, oil, vanilla, baking soda, salt and spices until well combined.

Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth. Slowly add in the flour, half a cup at a time. Mix well. Stir in the white chocolate chips. Scoop the dough into balls and roll them in sugar. Place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 10 minutes. Then allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing and placing on a cooling rack.


to print the recipe, click


Comments: Recently I read a book I’ve had for a long time but stayed sitting on a shelf, patiently waiting for me.  It is called BOUCHON BAKERY, a masterpiece of a pastry book, written by Thomas Keller & Sébastien Rouxel. My only criticism is its coffee table format, not very user-friendly.  But if you don’t mind that, it is well worth getting. The book goes well beyond recipes. In fact, it offers a deeper view of what it takes to start and maintain a bakery of the level of Bouchon. A lot of merit goes for the man in charge, Sébastien Rouxel, and his almost compulsive attention to detail. In Sébastien’s opinion, you cannot be a good pastry baker unless you are neat and organized, to the point that your bench is spotless clean at the end of the day, and as clean as humanly possible while you work.  As he says, being neat and organized doesn’t start when you get to work, it starts when you wake up.  That is quite a statement!  So, let’s say that I was under the spell of the book when I worked on this assignment.  My kitchen looked very professional, all ingredients lined up, detailed prep work.  I am afraid it won’t last, but it felt great…


As to the cookies, they are FABULOUS. It is important not to over-bake them, so 10 to 11 minutes and you are done. I baked them mid-afternoon on a Sunday and took them to the department next morning. They were still soft, with a bit of moisture and chew, which is the way I like a cookie. If you prefer a more snappy creature, bake longer.  The white chocolate goes very well with all those fragrant spices, that made our kitchen very inviting.  Too inviting, maybe?


 The ball can wait. I rather fetch a cookie!

 Julie, it was nice to “meet” you through this month’s adventure, our students and colleagues in the department sure appreciate your recipe very much, and so did I!  Have a great Reveal Day! And, if I may offer you a little gift, here it is. Print it and stick it on your fridge in case you need it.


As usual, my readers are all invited to dive into the collection of delicious recipes featured by my fellow virtual friends from Group D of  The Secret Recipe Club by clicking on the cutest blue frog in the world, right at the end of the post.

ONE YEAR AGO: Turkey Chili with Almond Butter

TWO YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club: Leek and Cheese Tart

THREE YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club; Triple Chocolate Brownies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Shaved Asparagus Salad

FIVE YEARS AGO: Indonesian Ginger Chicken