Is there anything better?
I don't think so!
I love dishes loaded with melting cheese. I'm a sucker for ooey, gooey cheese that just tempts you to keep biting and biting until you devour all that goodness.
I'm also a sucker for lasagna. I love finding fun ways to jazz it up. Ways to cook it differently. I've done Mile High Lasagna where I made the biggest lasagna on the face of the planet. I've done Lasagna Soup which was so good I could not stop eating the stuff. I may have knocked hubs out of the way at one point so I could snag the last bowl. What's a little faceplant between spouses, I mean seriously, suck it up man. I loved the lasagna soup so much I decided to make it over into Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup where I then took a blow torch to it to brown it. Yup, I love me some manly tools, it's a girl thang.
So when I asked Dara of Generation Y Foodie to be my next willing victim for my Burning Down The Kitchen series, it was an easy decision what I was going to make. Of course I was going to make her Skillet Lasagna. I saw it when she first posted it and about passed out with envy how deliciously she makes her lasagna, and how pretty her photos were. It was a recipe I bookmarked long ago and never quite forgotten. I mean how could you forget about such a yummy, decadent lasagna that was so easy to make. You know me and easy dishes. We go together like pepsi and ice. Honestly I love easy so much you'd think my nickname in high school was loosey goosey or something.
Dara and I have worked together before. She guest posted for me last March and made a wonderful Chicken Caesar Pasta. Recently I guest posted for her and made Black Forest Bites. I adore Dara so any chance to work with her I'm going to jump at. She's just that awesome.
So without further ramblings...
BURNING DOWN THE KITCHEN WITH DARA OF GENERATION Y FOODIE:
1. How did you get started blogging?
I started blogging in January 2011. I had been thinking about it for a few years. While in law school, I was a bit of an anomaly because I went home and cooked dinner every night. Friends started asking me for recipe recommendations and instructions for how to make certain dishes. I found that I was constantly emailing recipes and menu ideas to friends and it seemed easiest to just put everything on the internet.
At the time I had just graduated and was used to working round the clock. Having nights and weekends felt strange so I wanted to do something fun and productive during my “off” time. I really just started the blog for my friends and family. I am still pretty surprised anyone else actually reads it.
2. What’s your favourite part of it?
My favorite part of blogging is having a creative outlet. My day job is very serious and intellectual. I enjoy having fun experimenting with recipes, photography and writing. I also just really love cooking and eating, and sharing these experiences with others is a huge bonus.
3. Do you have a least favourite part?
The tech part. I am hopeless when it comes to this stuff. I can’t do any fancy web stuff no matter how hard I try or how many YouTube videos I watch. Photo editing is also something I am hopeless at.
4. Tell us how you fell in love with cooking?
I’m not sure I ever really fell in love, it’s just always been a part of my life. I am very lucky to have grandparents who have played a very active role in my life. When I was a child, I loved visiting my paternal grandmother, because she always let me bake and cook with her. We would look through her recipe books and Martha Stewart magazines and I would pick recipes and we would cook them together. I made my first multi layer cake when I was 7 and I remember feeling this tremendous sense of achievement.
I also have wonderful memories of visiting my maternal grandmother on Sundays for big Italian dinners filled with pasta, meatballs, braciole and lots of fresh Italian bread from the bakery on the corner. These traditional dishes were the first I learned to cook and still my all time favorites.
Since I was a child, I have always associated cooking with experimentation, having fun and good times with family. So when I had to start doing it for myself, I never saw it as a chore, but something enjoyable and creative. My fiance and I have a great time thinking up new recipes to try or trying to recreate things we had in restaurants. It’s a lot of fun.
5. What’s it like living in Boston, is the culinary world fabulous there?
Boston is an interesting city with a lot of history and a ton of local culinary flavor. I’m not a huge restaurant person since I love to cook. I prefer a local pub for a beer and a burger more than the newest cool restaurant. Despite the climate, there is an amazing array of local food here, including produce, meat, cheese, grains, and “foodie” products like local hot sauce, hummus and chutney.
I live in a large urban city next to Boston called Somerville. It is foodie heaven. I live within walking distance of multiple farmer’s markets, coffee shops, and fabulous restaurants. Filled with specialty food stores and adorable bakeries, we even have an artisan popsicle company that carts a freezer caddy around on a bicycle. The incredible Taza Mexican Chocolate is manufactured around the corner from my apartment. Since it’s a very diverse city, we have a ton of specialty ethnic markets, as we have large Asian and Brazilian populations. I love trying out new ingredients and learning more about different styles of cooking. There is even a local cheese company that makes fresh mozzarella and string cheese. It’s heaven.
6. Your day job is working as a lawyer, how do you juggle both careers?
One sort of supports the other. Cooking and blogging have given me a wonderful creative outlet and a way to unwind from my day job. Practicing law has taught me structure and discipline that I apply to cooking and blogging. I actually feel most balanced when I’m doing both well. When one takes over and the other starts to slip is when I get out of sorts.
7. Do you have a favourite time of the day to cook?
Not really. The only time of day I cook is frantically in the evenings and sometimes on Sunday afternoons. I wish I had lots of time to plan out my cooking and blogging, but it’s usually on the fly. Some of my most successful recipes and photos have been put together after 9pm on weeknights. When I’m inspired, I generally go for it.
8. Can you tell us a little bit about your kitchen.
After living in a series of horrifying basement apartments while in law school, I was so excited to find our current place. The kitchen is a lot bigger than I’m used to and actually has cabinets to store things. I feel very fortunate. It’s not huge or super fancy, but has enough counter space and storage capacity for most of my gadgets and blogging supplies. I have a small $20 Ikea table I use for photography, I set up some lights and a tripod and that’s really it.
9. Take us through a typical day in the life of Dara.
My life is extremely boring. I cringe writing this. Basically I go to work and then come home and hang out with my dog. After work, I either go to the gym or cook some new recipes and take photos. Then I work on my blog or watch TV. I am counting the days until Mad Men comes back.
10. What’s your favourite pub food?
Hm... Good question. I love fish and chips, but I am also partial to giant, greasy burgers. Also: french fries and obviously beer. So I’d say everything really.
11. Sweet or salty when snacking?
Both. My absolute favorite snack is Little Lad’s Herbal Popcorn which is made in Maine. We call it “Crackcorn” because it is so addictive. My dog is obsessed with it. We sit together on the couch and eat it while watching Downton Abbey.
12. Are you a butter girl when baking, or do you like low fat alternatives?
I am actually pretty anti-butter. I don’t usually buy it and cook without it probably 98% of the time. For some strange reason, butter always upsets my stomach, so I just learned to cook without it and mainly use olive oil, Greek yogurt and applesauce as alternatives.
13. Favourite spice or herb in the world?
Chili pepper. I am obsessed with chilies, both fresh and dry. I love learning about new varieties and how they are used in different types of cuisine. This year, we grew ten types of chilies in our tiny backyard garden and I had such a blast. Some I used fresh, others I dehydrated and ground into powders and others I used to infuse olive oil. I still use my summer crop every day in my cooking and each type has a different use.
14. Least favourite spice or herb in the world?
I like them all - the more exotic the better.
15. Fruit or veggies for late night noshing?
I eat dinner pretty late so I usually don’t snack a lot at night. When I do it’s always fruit or dark chocolate. There is this amazing chocolate company down the street from my apartment. They make stone ground Mexican chocolate. I have a bunch of flavors and treat myself after dinner.
16. Any culinary trips you dream about taking one day?
So many. My main goal is to travel all over southeast Asia learning all about Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese cooking. I want to sample all the street food, see all the sights and learn authentic preparations so badly! I love going to various ethnic markets and trying out new Asian ingredients. My coworker is currently teaching me about Korean cooking and I’m trying out some new recipes.
I love exotic ingredients and I will try absolutely anything. I am super adventurous about food. I really want to try eating insects. I saw this special on Cambodian markets, and they sell chocolate covered spiders! I need to try that.
17. If you could cook with any person, living or passed, who would it be and why?
Martha Stewart. This is a crazy story, but I actually met her a few years ago. Craig and I were hiking in Maine and met her on the side of a mountain. She is an avid hiker. Anyway, she invited us back to her house for breakfast and we hung out with her and some of her friends who were staying for the weekend. She fed us and gave us a tour of her house!! I think I was shaking the whole time.
Since meeting her and witnessing first hand how magnetic, powerful and gorgeous she is, I am absolutely obsessed. She is one of my lady idols and I would kill to cook with her. I want to share a bottle of wine and some pasta and learn her secrets for world domination.
18. Do you have a favourite cooking show, if so what is it and what do you love about it?
I don’t actually like many cooking shows. Since I actually enjoy cooking, I get bored watching other people do it. However, I love eating and travel shows. My absolute favorite is No Reservations. I love Anthony Bourdain and his perspective and the way he seeks out new food experiences. I get so much of my recipe inspiration from his adventures. I also love this other show on the Travel Channel called Dangerous Grounds, which is about sourcing coffee in many remote regions of the world. I am obsessed with coffee, it is truly my great love, and I enjoy learning about different types as well as the socio-political implications of the global coffee trade.
19. Apron or no apron when cooking?
I have many adorable aprons people have given me over the years but they always seem like one more thing to wash. So I usually go without and ruin my clothes with various stains.
20. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Is blogging still a big part of the picture?
I have no idea. I hope that blogging and cooking are still a big part of my life. I find that blogging has allowed me to develop a whole new creative skillset. I’m really just beginning to learn about so many aspects of cooking, photography and web design. I hope to continue on this journey.
On a smaller scale, I really hope to conquer my phobia of baking bread. I have never tried and am totally intimidated. I need to just try it already. I want to make my own sourdough so badly but am just too chicken. Let’s hope 2013 is the year!
Isn't she adorbs? I just adore this gal. Dara I sure hope one day we get to meet in person. I'll sip umbrella drinks with you and gab food or law any day of the week.
I just had to make Dara's Skillet Lasagna for the recipe portion of BDTK. I tweaked very little as it was just too fabulous as is. I had to swap out ricotta as we're not huge ricotta fans here. I added some basil and oregano simply because I like to add basil and oregano to everything. Honestly its shocking I haven't invented a basil and oregano ice cream yet. My addiction to those two herbs runs deep. Anyhoo...here's my version of Dara's Skillet Lasagna.
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 8 cups pasta sauce homemade or store bought, you will be dividing it into four 2 cup portions
- 1 small red onion diced
- 1 small white onion diced
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 tablespoon shallot flakes
- 3 cloves of garlic pressed
- 1 box of dried lasagna noodles divided into 3
- 1 package 500 g pizza mozzarella cheese, grated, divided into 3
- Parsley for garnish if desired
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a very large saute pan or dutch oven, brown your ground beef along with your onions. They cook at about the same rate so it's a time saver. If you don't want to cook them with the beef you can cook them separately in a little olive oil. You could also pop them in the microwave and cook them in there to soften them.
- Once the meat is brown and juices run clear you can add your pasta sauce, parmesan cheese, oregano, basil, shallot flakes, and garlic to the pot and mix over a medium low heat till well combined. You can turn it down to a simmer to keep it warm at this point.
- Now in a really large cast iron skillet, or two smaller cast iron skillets (I used two 10 inch skillets as I don't have a large one), use non stick spray to coat the inside of the skillets.
- Pour 2 cups of the sauce into the bottom. Spread evenly.
- Now place a third of the noodles in broken pieces over top of the sauce.
- Pour another 2 cups of sauce over top.
- Sprinkle with a third of the cheese over top.
- Add your second layer of noodles, sauce and cheese.
- Add your third layer of noddles, sauce and cheese.
- Pop in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, covered with foil.
- Uncover and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. I like my cheese dark but you can do yours the way you like it.
- Remove and dig in, remembering that the handle of cast iron skillets are freaking hot people!
- Serve with a big old cheesy smile!
This is one amazing dish. I would suggest if you want to take photos of lasagna that you not be a giant piggie and take them the first day you cook it, instead of scarfing an entire pan in one sitting then realizing you didn't take any photos of either of the ones you made so you have to reheat it the next day so you can snag a photo for your post. Not that anyone here would do that or anything. Someone is too busy forming run on sentences to do that. *blushes*
I would love to encourage you all to check out Dara's cookbook. She has a page on her blog where you can take a peek at it. It's a stunning collection of holiday recipes and the book is aptly named Gen Y Foodie Holidays. You can purchase it on Amazon. I plan to buy it for myself before the holiday season. I love cooking for the holidays and Dara does it up in style so I know this book is worth adding to my cookbook collection. Yours too!
Thanks so much to Dara for allowing me the pleasure of interviewing her today. You are amazeballs and I really hope we get to meet up at a conference some day.
Other amazeball recipes of Dara's you will love:
Rainbow Hash- freaking brilliant!
Raspberry Mango Salsa- freaking gorgeous!
Rainbow Peanut Slaw- freaking chock full of goodness!
Chicken Corn Chili- freaking making this soon!
Lemon Rosemary Roast Chicken- freaking fabulous chicken!
Thai Chicken Pizza- freaking amazeball pizza!
Pesto Roast Potatoes- freaking made these and love them!
Mexican Rice Salad- freaking full of awesome stuff!
Mexican Chocolate Cookies- freaking want 10 of these right now!
Baked Coconut Chicken Fingers with Pineapple Sauce- freaking blew my mind!
Thanks for reading and get in your kitchen and cook up some amazing lasagna skillet today! You will thank me!
Toodles and smoochies! xx