Since childhood, I have loved Thanksgiving more than any other holiday. An occasion of pure joy, happiness and love, my entire family would gather at my Grandmother’s house. From cooking together, laughing together, and finally sitting down to eat the delicious turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie; it was and still is one of our favorite times of the year.
As amazing as my thanksgivings always were and continue to be; it is only when I got older that I was able to truly appreciate what made the day so wonderful. The ability to “give thanks” to our creator for the bounty he has blessed both my life and the lives of my family members with, is humbling. And for me, a holiday that is centered around loved ones while eating delicious food, and taking a moment to thank God, is about ‘as good as it gets’ in life!
We all know that Thanksgiving can turn into a bit of a gluttonous affair, so I want to encourage all of you to enjoy, but eat carefully while spending this special time with your family and friends. As you know, right now I am on a strict regimen of lifting weights and cardio, eating only certain foods to drop weight and build muscle. And while it has not been easy, it is about to get even harder because I will not be giving myself a pass on Thanksgiving. So come Thursday, I will be limiting all sugar, breads and gluten. I will be ‘indulging’ in lots of turkey, a variety of vegetables and 1 slice of my special Greek dish, Moussaka! A side I will be making for 60 of my closest family and friends!
Giving thanks, and naming my blessings one by one…
- I am so grateful for my beautiful customers from countries all over the world. The support and love I receive from them is worth continuously working hard to perfect my formulas to make them feel better about themselves, exude confidence and seize all the blessings life has to offer.
- I have been a single working mom for over 10 years. I have worked hard to ensure that my son would be a good person that loves God, and cares about the world and the people in it. So to watch him grow into this kind of man and more, is one of the greatest blessings in my life. From being at the top of his class in law school, to finding a wonderful woman to marry and make his partner in life, I know that his success is the combination of all my hard work, great friends and family, and of course, God.
- I am thankful for my assistant, Sara who keeps me organized so I can do my best.
- I thank God everyday for my health and using me as a vessel to create blessings in other peoples lives’.
- I am grateful for all my loyal friends that are there for me through both the good and turbulent friends. It’s easy to walk with a friend that is doing well, but when life knocks you down, very few friends will get in the trenches with you. Luckily, I have found my few friends that will jump into the trenches with me.
Try the Moussaka…I promise the compliments will just keep coming!
1/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup Greek extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound ground lamb or substitute ground beef
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, cored, and thinly sliced
1 serrano chile, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup grape juice
1 (28-ounce can) plum tomatoes, pureed until smooth with their juices
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
Honey, if needed
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut crosswise into 14-thick slices
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup soft goat cheese
1 cup grated Romano
1 lemon, zested
For the lamb: Soak the currants in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 6-quart saucepan over high heat. Add the lamb, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cayenne, and salt and pepper and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a large strainer set over a bowl and drain; discard any liquid left in the pan. Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the onions and bell pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the serrano and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
Return the lamb to the pan, add the grape juice, and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree and currants and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes. Stir in the parsley and oregano and season with salt and pepper and honey, if needed. Remove from the heat.
For the eggplant: Heat the canola oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Season the eggplant slices on both sides with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add the eggplant slices and fry until tender and lightly golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the eggplant slices to paper towels
For the bechamel: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until pale and smooth, 2 minutes. Still whisking constantly, add the milk and bay leaf and cook until thickened. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg and discard the bay leaf. Let the sauce cool for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, goat cheese, and lemon zest and whisk into the bechamel sauce until smooth.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 3-quart baking dish or casserole dish.
To assemble: Put half the eggplant slices in the dish and cover with half the meat sauce. Top the sauce with the remaining eggplant slices, and then the remaining meat sauce. Pour the bechamel over the top of the meat sauce and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle Romano evenly over the top, place the dish on a baking sheet, and bake until browned and bubbly, 45 to 50 minutes. Top with more chopped parsley, if desired. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Recipe courtesy Bobby Flay