mom’s stromboli

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Everyone has that one dish that takes them back home. No matter where they may be at the time, one bite of this dish will immediately transport them back to a moment long gone. One bite, and they are back in the kitchen with grandma or sitting at the table with family. For me, this dish has always been my mom’s stromboli.

As shocking as it may seem to people who know me now, growing up I was a very picky eater. My childhood diet can basically consisted of ramen noodles, peanut butter, and Reese’s cups. More often than not, I complained regardless of what my poor mom put in front of me on the dinner table. However, one of the very few meals I would eat without a single complaint was my mom’s stromboli, and she would never hesitate to make it at my request.

She made many types of stromboli, but when I asked for it she knew exactly what that meant – the one stuffed with her homemade meatballs. Nevermind that it meant making a batch of fresh meatballs for her obnoxious, picky daughter, or that it meant she was stuck in the kitchen forever, only to then be tasked with not only preparing and cooking these items, but then protecting the fresh-out-of-the-oven meatballs from hungry passers by.

Of course you don’t have to make your own meatballs, and I rarely do. I never quite nailed mom’s meatball recipe, so I’ll be the first to admit that I would rather save the time and pick up an order of my favorite meatballs from one of our local Italian restaurants to chop up and use those instead. Mom’s favorite was stuffed to the brim with ham and melty provolone cheese, and she rewarded herself with one of those whenever stromboli was on the menu.


You could, of course, fancy this up by using your favorite homemade white bread, dinner roll, or pizza dough recipe, but I use a trusty box of Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix, because that’s what mom always used. You could argue that you don’t really save any time with that, as it’s basically just pre-portioned flour and salt with a packet of dough, but old habits die hard and I’ve yet to make a dough from scratch that can replicate the Pillbsury box mix. Plus, it wouldn’t have the same nostalgic feel when I made it.

It’s crazy how the connections we make through food can last a lifetime. The smell of this stromboli in the oven always takes me back to mom’s too-warm kitchen, the towel she would always have draped over her shoulder while she cooked, and the inevitable burns on my fingers from trying to snag a fresh-baked meatball before mom could resign it to its bready fate.


It’s been almost two years since she’s been gone, but it feels like just yesterday we were laughing so hard that we cried, and I still reach for my phone to call her for comfort at the end of a bad day. No matter how old you are, losing a parent is the one thing that forces you to finally grow up. No matter how old I was, I was always still her “little girl,” but now I’m just me – the me that she helped to mold and shape. Today would have been her 54th birthday and even though I can’t laugh with her anymore and I won’t be able to sing her “Happy Birthday” today (not without looking like a crazy person singing to myself, at least), I can still feel close to her when I make her recipes.

Happy birthday, mom. <3

mom’s stromboli

Yield: 2 strombolis


    For the dough
  • 1 box Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix (or 1 pound homemade dinner roll or pizza dough)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • For the filling
  • Meats/cheeses of your preference, recommended:
  • Meats: cooked meatballs tossed in sauce, sliced ham, pepperoni, salami, etc...
  • Cheeses: Melty cheeses like provolone, mozzarella, fontina, etc...
  • Optional: Fresh basil or spinach, roughly chopped
  • Additional
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • Warm pizza sauce, for serving


    Prepare your ingredients
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment and set aside.
  2. Prepare your filling ingredients, ex: slice or shred cheeses, if meatballs are too large quarter or chop them, etc. It's helpful if the fillings are close to room temperature rather than refrigerator-cold.
  3. Make the dough
  4. If using a different dough, ignore the dough ingredients list above and prepare per your own directions.
  5. If using Hot Roll Mix, combine hot roll mix and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and whisk to mix well.
  6. Add hot water and butter, and mix briefly on low to moisten the flour mixture.
  7. Add egg and continue mixing until a soft dough forms.
  8. Switch to a dough hook and continue mixing until the dough is smooth, it may be slightly tacky but should not be not wet or sticky. Add additional all-purpose flour, one tablespoon at a time, if the dough is too wet. *(see note below)
  9. Turn dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and divide in half. Cover dough with a kitchen towel and let rest for five minutes before continuing
  10. Assemble the stromboli
  11. Take one half of the dough and roll out on a lightly-floured surface. Roll into a rectangle roughly 13-by-10 inches in size. It can be slightly larger or slightly smaller, you don't want the dough to be too thin or it will rip when you try to roll it, however if it is too small then it will be difficult to roll.
  12. Top rectangle with desired fillings, ex: top with meatballs, then with cheese, leaving a 1-inch border. If you want to put some sauce inside the stromboli, be sure to use a very light hand with the sauce or it will end up just bubbling out of the dough. I usually leave sauce to be served on the side (with the exception of meatballs which i lightly toss in sauce prior to putting inside the stromboli).
  13. Roll the stromboli from the long end, folding it over itself similar to how you would roll cinnamon rolls.
  14. Lightly dampen the long edge that will seal the roll with water before completing the seal and press firmly to seal. Fold the ends under the roll to seal the ends.
  15. Carefully transfer the stromboli roll to your parchment-lined baking sheet and cut slits into the top to vent.** (see note below)
  16. Repeat with second half of dough.
  17. Cover stromboli with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. (I usually leave mine on top of the preheated oven to let it rise.)
  18. Bake stromboli
  19. When stromboli has lightly poofed, brush with an egg wash. If desired, you may sprinkle herbs or parmesan cheese on top - I find this is especially helpful if I have two stromboli that I want to be able to tell apart. I will sprinkle one with a topping and leave the other without.
  20. Bake stromboli for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown on outside and inside if fully-cooked. If the stromboli browns too quickly, cover lightly with a sheet of foil and continue cooking.
  21. Remove from oven and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
  22. Serve with warmed sauce on the side.


* You may also knead the dough by hand if you are more patient than I am. It comes together pretty quickly, I just prefer to use the dough hook.

**To transfer my stromboli, I usually extend my arm parallel to the stromboli and gently roll it onto my arm. I then rest it on my arm until I get to the pan and gently roll it off my arm and onto the pan.

the original chopped salad

gladly original chopped salad 0586Here in Phoenix we have a restaurant called The Gladly. And at The Gladly they serve an amazing chopped salad. Like, beyond amazing. So amazing, in fact, that some refer to it as our “State Salad” as though that’s a thing. It even has its own Facebook page.  Continue reading

slow-cooker carnitas tacos with quick-pickled onions

taco 2

We skipped a season here and, although I’d like to say we went from Winter to Summer, I think we actually skipped Winter… which means All of “Winter” was actually Spring and now that the calendar claims that Spring has sprung, it’s actually Summer here.

Are you confused yet? Me too.   Continue reading

greek nachos with lemony chicken and tzatziki

greek nachos 3

Last week one of my coworkers brought a giant bag of lemons to work and offered some to me. I graciously took some because I happened to be craving our favorite chicken wraps for dinner. We had the wraps, which we usually consume wrapped in a thin tortilla, for dinner that night when a wonderful thought occurred to me.

I was a few bites into my wrap when I turned to Mr. Eats and said, “What if I made these into nachos?”

I’m pretty sure he thought it was a terrible idea, even after I explained that they would be topped with the very same toppings we were eating at that exact moment. But, I didn’t let his lack of enthusiasm dissuade me at all. In this line of work, it’s a common occurrence for the people around you think you’re completely off your rocker when you try to explain your food visions to them. So I soldiered on.

So when the weekend rolled around and I made my nacho dreams come true.

Continue reading

pain au thanksgiving

11.14 turkey pain 2

I know that by now we have seen every possible use of Thanksgiving leftovers under the sun. We’ve seen them in pies, in soups, in sandwiches, and in salads, but one I had not seen was this masterpiece.

Imagine, if you will, your Thanksgiving leftovers tightly wrapped in a croissant dough and baked to perfection.  I think my knees just went weak…

May I present to you Pain au Thanksgiving! It’s very similar to its cousin pain au chocolate but instead of being filled with chocolate, it is filled with an entire Thanksgiving dinner … all rolled up into flaky buttery croissant dough… which is where it has apparently always belonged.

As soon as I got this idea I couldn’t wait to make it. I knew that I had to do it before Thanksgiving, so that you could use it for your leftovers. Of course, the added bonus of me getting to eat TWO Thanksgiving dinners this month may have weighed on my decision as well.

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For these, I used a standard croissant dough (you can use your own favorite recipe, I used this one only because I had successfully used it before). If you’re short on time (or motivation) you could even use store-bought puff pastry or some of those refrigerated “crescent” rolls in a pinch. Just keep in mind that a different dough may yield a different amount of pastries. My recipe yielded 24 pastries each one about 4 by 2 inches when baked.

For the filling, I used turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. I toyed with the idea of putting the gravy inside, but decided it would a> be too messy and b> be much better alongside the sandwich. Because, if there’s one thing I love more than a sandwich, it’s a sandwich with a jus for dipping.

I also opted to leave out the cranberry sauce since Mr. Eats turned his nose up at it. You’re welcome to include it if your guests are more cranberry-friendly – I personally think it would have been delicious stuffed inside or even drizzled on top as a glaze.

If you’re wondering what on earth you are going to do with 24 thanksgiving pastries, fear not! You can freeze the pains (baked or raw) and keep enjoying that turkey dinner for up to three months.

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Pain au Thanksgiving

Yield: 24 Pain au Thanksgivings                                                                  [  Printable Recipe ]

Time: 1 hour (prep), 8 – 18 hours (refrigeration), 15 – 20 minutes (baking)

For the croissant dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups milk, warm (105°F–110°F)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter

For the filling:

  • Thanksgiving leftovers: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, whatever you want!

Baking & Serving: 

  • 1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon water
  • Gravy, for serving


Making the dough:
1. In the stand of an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix the milk, sugar, and yeast. Let sit until foamy (appx 5 min). In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt, set aside until yeast has foamed.
2. Add flour/salt mixture to yeast, while mixing on low. (I usually add half, then once incorporated add the rest)
3. Once it comes together into a smooth, slightly sticky mass, shape it into a rectangle about 1 ½ inches thick, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and set in the fridge for about an hour until chilled

Laminating the dough:

1. Once dough is chilled, line up sticks of butter and smash with a rolling pin between two sheets of parchment paper until they are roughly the shape of an 8 x 5 inch rectangle. Wrap and chill, swapping butter for dough in the fridge.croissant 1
2. Unwrap dough and roll out onto a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as necessary* into a 16 x 10 in rectangle. Arrange dough w shortest side nearest you, put butter rectangle in the center, and fold like a letter—cover the butter with the bottom 1/3rd of dough first, then with the top. Brush off any excess flour with a pastry brush.

3. Turn dough 90 degrees so new shortest side is near you, then pound with a rolling pin at even intervals, making uniform impressions (this will help the butter to spread). Roll dough again into a 15 x 10 inch rectangle. Brush off any excess flour, and fold in thirds again, stretching the dough as needed to square off the ends—thus forming a 3 layer 10 x 5 inch rectangle.


4. Give yourself a congratulatory pat on the back for doing your (presumably) first ever “fold”, rewrap the dough in plastic wrap, and stick it back in the fridge at least another hour. (I’m not going to lie, I got a little impatient and may not have waited the whole hour… on that same note, I also left the house a while between another fold and it was in for over an hour, and alas the world has not come to an end)

5. Repeat 5 & 6 three more times, creating a total of 4 “folds”. Once you have completed your last fold, rewrap the dough and place in refrigerator for 8 – 18 hours.

When you’re ready to shape the Pain au Thanksgiving

1. Remove dough from refrigerator, unwrap and cut in half cross-wise. Re-wrap half of dough and place back in the fridge. Just look at all those buttery layers…

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2. Roll on lightly floured surface into a 16 x 12 inch rectangle, stretching as needed to maintain rectangular shape

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3. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Stretch each square so that it is slightly elongated and place a small amount of filling of your choice into the center. If you go over 2 tablespoons of filling you will probably have a hard time rolling it into shape.

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4. Fold one side over the filling and wet it slightly with some water. Fold the other side over and press down firmly to seal.*

5. Place onto a parchment-lined half sheet pan, seam side down. Continue with remaining squares, I was able to fit 8 onto each pan. Once the pan is filled cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set in a warm spot to proof until doubled in size 1 to 2 hours.

6. Remove other half from fridge and repeat the steps again.




When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375F and make an egg wash by whisking one egg with 1 tablespoon water.
Right before you put the dough into the oven, brush with egg wash. If you feel so inclined, you can sprinkle some shredded cheese on top for added flavor. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until well-browned.


To freeze raw:

Once you have filled and sealed the dough, you can place them seam-side down on a small baking sheet (that will fit in the freezer) and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Freeze for 1 hour until firm, then transfer to a freezer-safe Ziploc bag and return to freezer until ready to bake.

To freeze cooked:
Wrap cooled pains tightly in foil and place into a freezer-proof Ziploc bag.

To bake from frozen (un-baked):
Place frozen dough on parchment-lined sheet and cover with plastic wrap.Place on counter to rise overnight about 8 to 10 hours. Once doubled in size paint with egg wash prior to baking.

If you freeze croissants pre-baked:
Frozen croissants can be thawed overnight prior to reheating or taken from the freezer directly to the oven, in which case they will need a few minutes more to reheat.  Bake for 10 minutes at 375F from thawed, add a few extra minutes if baking from frozen.