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I learned to make this creamy yogurt dip as an exchange
student in northeastern Greece. I was placed with a family with two incredible
cooks—my host father was a retired pastry chef, and my host mother was a
no-nonsense housewife who spent most of her time in the kitchen. Jackpot! The
first thing I learned to make in their kitchen was this thick, garlicky
tzatziki; it’s been a staple in my repertoire ever since.
32 ounces/960 mL whole-milk plain yogurt
Fine sea salt
2 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise, green sprout
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Stack two 1-foot squares of cheesecloth and run
them under cold water. Wring out the fabric and lay it in a fine-mesh sieve set
over a medium bowl, allowing the excess cloth to hang over the sides. Pour the
yogurt into the fabric, gather up the excess cloth, and tie them up with
string. Place the setup (including the sieve and the bowl) in the refrigerator
until the yogurt is very thick, about 3 hours.
Peel the cucumber, halve it
lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Finely chop or grate the cucumber, place
it in a small bowl, toss with 1 teaspoon salt, and place it in a fine-mesh sieve set
over the sink to drain for 1 hour.
Scoop the yogurt out of the
cheesecloth and place it in a medium serving bowl; discard the whey and
cheesecloth. Rinse the cucumber, pat it dry with paper towels and place it in
the bowl with the yogurt. Finely chop the garlic and then use the side of a
chef’s knife to smash the garlic until it is a fine paste. Add the garlic paste
to the yogurt and cucumber, and stir well to combine. Season with additional
salt, and allow the dip to sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to allow
the flavors to develop. Drizzle with the olive oil immediately before serving.
Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to four days.