Monday, April 30, 2012

Baked Pasta au Gratin

Pasta Bake
Macaroni au Four is what my mother-in-law calls it, but we'll just call it Baked Pasta au Gratin.

I was at Longo's doing my grocery shopping over the weekend and stumbled across this ham.  It was on special and I thought I could make use of it in my baked pasta recipe.  Normally, I make this with fresh sliced black forest ham from the deli, but this was a deal I couldn't refuse.

My youngest daughter has been requesting this meal for a while now, but I've been avoiding making it due to my other daughter's allergy to pork.  She recently underwent BIE treatments and has been asked to avoid pork for 6 months to 2 years.  (The waiting time for her body to reprogram before getting updated blood work).

Momma to the rescue once again!  If you scroll down to the bottom of this post, you will see a pork free version I made for her before mixing the pork into the creamy cheese sauce.

This meal is a big hit with small children and is an even bigger one as they get older.

There is no need to season with salt.  The pork and cheese are quite salty on their own.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Dinner On A Whim

Today was such an eventful day.  It started with company for breakfast.  My sister came to visit with her daughter and grand-daughter, which is always such a treat.  We didn't get to see each over the Easter weekend, so we had a mini celebration over breakfast.  

I defrosted some Easter bread and cookies when they called to say they were coming over.  We toasted up slices of Tsoureki and topped them with peanut butter.  It went so well with our coffee.   We also dabbled into the Peach Cookies and Jam Filled Croissant Cookies.  Ten minutes out of the freezer and they were perfectly thawed and ready to eat.

While at the freezer, I decided to also pull out some grounded veal and let it defrost.  I didn't have a clue what I was going to make for dinner, but knew I'd figure it out later in the day.  

Well, 5:00 pm came a lot sooner than I could imagine and it was time to start preparing dinner.  Meatloaf came to mind.  I had a few potatoes in the cellar and some leek in the refrigerator.  Before you knew it, dinner was ready, the table was set and out came the Makedonikos wine.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tip on Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A couple of months ago I watched an episode of Steven and Chris and one of their guests, Theresa Albert (Nutritionist), was talking about healthy eating habits from around the world.  When they got to Greece, extra virgin olive oil was mentioned.  Theresa explained that there's a variety of olive oil being sold in the grocery stores today that claim to be extra virgin.  She said the way to know if the olive oil you just bought really is extra virgin, is to put it in the refrigerator overnight.  If it solidifies, it's extra virgin.   If it remains a liquid, it's not the good stuff.  (By the way, the oil will go back to a liquid state once back at room temperature).

Click here for an interesting article from that same episode.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Aunt Toula's Hot Meat Sauce

Aunt Toula's Hot Meat Sauce

While in Florida, my aunt decided to make a pot-luck sauce using whatever she could find in her fridge and cupboards.  We had just come back from the beach and Uncle Sam had worked up an appetite from his long walk on the beach.  ~This man never sits down.  If he isn't walking on the beach, you'll find him swimming in the water.  If he isn't at the beach, he's either taking a walk, in the pool, or cleaning up the landscaping.

The sauce turned out very tasty and extremely spicy, thanks to her El Pato Hot Tomato Sauce.  Aunt Toula made this dish in less than a half hour from start to finish.  She boiled some pasta while the sauce was cooking and in no time, Uncle Sam was enjoying dinner.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pasta Sauce

Pasta Sauce

Pasta is always a favourite in our home and my famous meat sauce is one that everyone seams to love.  I'm often asked for this recipe and have therefore documented my original version below.

Over the years of making this sauce, I've been known to cut back or add an ingredient to give this sauce a different flavour.  The possibilities are endless!  Some family members enjoy their pasta saucy and others like just a little sauce as illustrated, but the one thing that everyone loves is a handful of grated Swiss Emmenthal Cheese sprinkled all over.  

Try sprinkling some fresh chillies overtop to give this dish a bite.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cinnamon Twists

Cinnamon Twists

Using Argiro Barbarigou's recipe for Stuffed Tsoureki With No Egg from Everyday Greek, I created these cinnamon twists.    They kind of reminded me of a Cinnabon product.

These cinnamon twists were so much fun to make and were delicious when they came out of the oven.  We made some without the chocolate chips and preferred them that way.  The only thing we'd do different is add a little more cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Is it WINTER again?

Two weeks ago came out the flip-flops and open toe sandals.  It was time to put away the winter boots, coats and gloves.

Last week we did some major work on our landscaping.  I even threw down some new seeds to thicken the lawn and fill the holes from weeding and hired a fellow to irrigate the lawn.  Summer was coming after all.

In fact, it was so warm that I put my garden plants outdoors to get some fresh air.  Now the poor things are freezing at the family room window.  I've had to put the fireplace on to warm up the room for them.

This morning, it was winter all over.  It just doesn't make sense!  What's going on with our climate? There's so much talk about protecting our environment, but what are we really doing about it? Is the damage already done?  Last night's headline news states we'll be paying more at the grocery store due to the damage already done to our local crops from this bizarre spring weather.

How many people respected Earth Hour on Sunday night?

I remember my daughters and I carving out our Peach Cookies under candlelight 3 weekends ago.  It was Catholic Easter and the power went out for a few hours in the evening.  Can our power grid handle everyone cooking dinner in their homes at the same time?  It's time we do something about this!

Does it make sense that my iris plants were blooming last week and are in the process of getting snowed upon this morning?

What a wake-up call we woke up to this morning!  Check out the yard waste bags sitting at the curb for pick-up. (Photo on the left).   This neighbourhood was preparing for summer.  Looks like it's going to be a while longer before that happens. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Belgian Endives au Gratin

Belgian Endives au Gratin
Here is an old family favourite recipe.  I've been making this dish ever since my girls were little and it always surprised me to see the joy in their eyes every time I served this meal.  They never seemed to be bothered by the bitterness of the endives.  Must be their love for Swiss Emmenthal Cheese that makes this meal one of my family's most requested. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

An Abundance of Shellfish

Mixed Seafood Bake
This recipe was created due to a misfortune.  The freezer, located in the garage, was unplugged in error.  After 3 days, things started thawing.  The shellfish being the first.  Unfortunately, we had just stocked the freezer so we had to come up with a way to save all this food.  It was DELICIOUS!

1.  Slice onions and lay across bottom of glass baking dish.
2.  Layer with lobster tails. (Still in shell).
3.  Continue to layer with scallops and shrimps.
4.  Pour your favourite tomato sauce overtop (Passat is a good option).
5.  Bake at 350 °F for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

....... and this is what we did with the remaining jumbo shrimp.

Sautéd Shrimp

1.  Sauté sliced onions in olive oil.
2.  As the onions become translucent,  add 5 to 6 garlic cloves.
2.  Add jumbo shrimps in their shell.
3.  Watch the shells turn orange.
4.  Cover pot and allow to cook thoroughly.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bean Soup

Bean Soup

Growing up Orthodox Christian, we never ate meat on Fridays.  Beans, Lentils or Fish were usually served.  My mom and aunts would often boast about their own version of bean soup and would share their ideas.  Some made it spicy, adding a chopped up hot pepper to their soup, but the one thing that was always in common amongst all their recipes was the accompaniment of Kalamata OlivesFeta Cheese, dried chilli flakes and fresh bread for dipping.  (Coincidentally, our bread man always made deliveries on Fridays).

Oh the memories!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Baked Potatoes

Here's my version of baked potatoes.  Great for serving when you have a big crowd at your table and don't have a lot of time to watch over the cooking process.

Baked Potatoes

I prepared this dish early Easter morning and set it aside covered in foil.  About an hour before we were to sit down to dinner, I put the potatoes into the preheated oven and let it cook while I was able to enjoy the roasting of the lamb with our extended family out in the backyard.

Everyone gathers around the spit and we all get to enjoy a slice of lamb as it turns over the hot coal fire.  This is the best part of the lamb.  Add a glass of Makedonikos red wine from Tsantali winery in Greece and we're talking some serious tastiness!

When the lamb was ready to be served at the table, so were these potatoes.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Flambéed Mushrooms

Flambéed Mushrooms

My husband decided to bring a little of his talent to my blog and made these mushrooms as a side dish on Easter.  My cousin was the camera man and they had a little fun bonding in the kitchen while preparing this dish.

Serve on its own or over a bed of rice.  Yum!

Note:  When flambéing, let the flame burn out on its own.  It doesn't take long for it to extinguish.  Just turn the pan slightly on its side and the juices will put out the flame.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Gardening Progress: Week 5

Here we are, 5 weeks since planting seeds and our plants are standing taller everyday.  The stems are getting thicker week by week.  

This week was a bit of a breakthrough.  We had some warmer than usual weather on one of the days and were able to take the plants outdoors for a couple of hours to get some fresh air.  I can't wait to start doing this more often.

Salmon Pasta

Salmon Pasta

I made a similar dish while in Florida using a small amount of smoked salmon.  The original recipe calls for lox, which is what I used here.  This version is so much tastier!  I'm glad I was able to repost and share.  

The marriage of these flavours is incredible!  This recipe is so full of nutrition, however, I advise using a low fat cream.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Happy Easter! Xristos Anesti! Hristos Voskresna!

An Orthodox Christian Easter is celebrated with the sacrificial lamb.

Ever since I can remember, our family gathers together and celebrates with a lamb roasting on a spit.  This is always my families' favourite time of the year.  A tradition introduced to me by my parents and one that I'm sure my children will continue.

A time to share and be grateful to HE who sacrificed HIS life!

Easter Oration of St. Gregory the Theologian

Yesterday I was crucified with Him, today I am glorified with Him.
Yesterday I died with Him, today I am made alive in Him.
Yesterday I was buried with Him, today I am raised up with Him.
Let us offer ourselves to Him who suffered and rose again for us.
Let us become divine for His sake, since for us He became human.
He assumed the worse that He might give us the better.
He became poor that by His poverty we might become rich.
He accepted the form of a servant that we might win back our freedom.
He came down that we might be lifted up.
He was tempted that through Him we might conquer.
He was dishonoured that He might glorify us.
He died that He might save us. 
He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were thrown down through the fall of sin.
Let us give all, offer all, to Him who gave Himself a ransom and reconciliation for us.
We need an incarnate God, a God put to death, that we might live.
We were put to death together with Him that we might be cleansed.
We rose again with Him because we were put to death with Him.
We were glorified with Him because we rose again with Him.
A few drops of blood recreate a whole creation!

St. Gregory the Theologian was from Nanzianzus (where his father was Bishop), and was Archbishop of Constantinople from 379 to 382.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Eggless Tsoureki

Eggless Tsoureki

Egg free Tsoureki!  Who would have ever thought this would be possible?  Not me!  That's for sure!

One of my family members has an allergy to eggs and has been instructed to keep away from baked goods containing eggs for a while while her BIE treatments take affect.  So when I stumbled across a recipe in Argiro Barbarigou's cookbook EVERYDAY GREEK, I instantly knew I had to make this bread.  By the way, this is an amazing cookbook that I highly recommend.  Argiro's recipe was delicious, however, it didn't quite meet our needs for eggless Tsoureki.  Argiro's recipe was more like a cinnamon twist.  (A wonderful recipe that I will post later this week).

As we sampled the cinnamon bread, I looked over to my daughter and sensed a sadness. For the first time ever, she was not going to be able to eat Tsoureki.   I had to do something about it!  Momma to the rescue!

I put together a combination of a few different Tsoureki recipes I've inherited over the years and combined it with Argiro's recipe.  And voila, THE BEST TSOUREKI EVER!  In fact, I found this Tsoureki even tastier than aunt Toula's recipe.  

Friday, April 13, 2012

Easter Bread/Tsoureki/Choureki (Toula M)


What's an Easter celebration without Tsoureki?  I have never celebrated an Easter without this bread on our table.  Growing up, my mom and aunts exchanged loaves on Easter and shared their different recipes amongst one another.  ( I guess we can say that each aunt changed my grandma's recipe over time to suit their own tastebuds).  It's amazing how everyone makes this bread their own way and nobody uses the same recipe.  Everyone has their own kneading technique.

This is my aunt Toula's recipe.  It's amazing that even though I'm using her recipe, our bread tastes so different!  Psst!  She recently told me that she's been adding an extra glass of sugar and an extra package of Mahlepi.

Personally, I think this recipe is perfect and I won't be making changes anytime in the future!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs

Today was a busy day.  I spent the morning boiling and colouring eggs in preparation of our Orthodox Easter celebration this Sunday.  I dyed the eggs Red, Blue, Green and Yellow.  Most of these colours are for decorative purposes, however, the Red egg is the most significant to an Orthodox Christian.

Why the Red Easter Egg?

After the Resurrection of Christ, St. Mary Magdalene went to Rome, Tradition teaches that when Mary first met the Roman emperor.  Tiberius Caesar, she held a plain egg in her hand and greeted him with the words, "Christ is risen!"  Tiberius exclaimed:  "How can someone rise from the dead?  This is hard to believe.  It is just as likely that Christ rose from the dead as it is that the egg you are holding will turn to red."  Even as he spoke, the egg turned a brilliant red!  She then preached the good news of Jesus Christ to the emperor and the imperial household.

Mary Magdalene told Tiberius all that Pontius Pilate and the leaders of the Jews had done to the Savior, and preached the Good News to all!  Now you know why we crack dozens of eggs at Easter!
(Reference:  Holy Week in the Orthodox Church)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Melomakarona (Toula M)


These cookies drive me crazy and I have yet to make them like my mother.  ~ A soft exterior, with a crunchy interior and a flavour full of spice.

For some reason, the last few times I've made these cookies, they've turned out too soggy.  Placing them on a cooling rack after dipping them in syrup helps, but something's not quite right. 

While this recipe is still very tasty, it does not meet my standards.  I will therefore have to try a few different recipes I have on hand until I find that perfect one that matches my mom's recipe.  It's not just about taste and texture, but size too!

The closest Melomekarona cookie that I have tasted since my mom's passing were offered to us at Easter.  Now I have to convince my daughter to get a one on one lesson from her boyfriend's mom so that she can come back and teach me.  Nudge, nudge...........

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Peach Cookies (Voula S)

Peach Cookies

Another recipe from my sister's kitchen.

The process of making these cookies is very time consuming.  I highly recommend making these with a few friends in order to get these done faster.  What can be very tedious when working alone, can be a lot of fun when working with company.  This recipe yields plenty of peaches and there's plenty to share with those who helped.

Be creative like my sister who likes to decorate with silk leaves.  Why not make them out of chocolate?  ~Oh my, I'm giving you more work!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Jam Filled Croissant Cookies (Voula S)

Jam Filled Croissant Cookies
According to my husband, these are the best cookies ever!  My sister is the one that introduced him to these sinfully good treats.

Whenever we'd go over to visit, she'd have some ready to serve with coffee.  My husband would pretty much polish off the entire plate himself.  Eventually my sister started serving other deserts, insisting that she was all out and needed to make another batch of these croissant cookies one day soon.

My husband wasn't quite buying this story and knew where my sister kept her stash.  One day, while in her basement, he opened up her freezer and lo and behold, there was a container full of his favourite cookies.

It was from that day forward that she gave me the recipe and insisted that I take care of my husband's big appetite for these jam filled croissants.

These cookies are very easy and quick to make and yield a hefty batch.  Perfect for someone with a husband with a sweet tooth like mine!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Gardening Progress: Week 4

The garden is progressing very well.  The biggest change I saw this week was in the thickness of the stems.  I also noticed the leaves are getting bigger.

After transplanting last week, several plants didn't survive, however, new stems grew out of the same pots.  I'm anxious to see what happens this week.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Baklava Rolls (Toula M)

Baklava Rolls

Aunt Toula was invited to afternoon tea.  Usually, each lady brings along a plate of homemade goodies for sharing.  Even though it was late in the evening when she got the surprise invitation, she was in no panic.  She went to her freezer and defrosted some store boughten Athens Fillo Dough.  We were in Florida, so this defrosted in no time!

The next thing I knew, she was grinding up walnuts and melting butter.  The rest speaks for itself.  Just take a look at what she whipped up that evening.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Homemade Filo Stuffed with Cheese (Toula M)

Homemade Filo Stuffed with Cheese

These homemade filo triangles filled with cheese are so scrumptious that I don't know if I'll ever be able to enjoy store boughten filo again.

I'm not saying I'll never use store boughten filo.  - This is a staple in my freezer.  The homemade version was just such a special treat.  So flakey with a flavour that is out of this world.  I only wish my aunt owned a bakery - This is a must try for everyone!

Thanks for the lovely experience Aunt Toula!  Your Tiropitakia were delicious!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Filo Dough (Toula M)

Defrosted Filo Dough

Who would have ever thought Filo Dough was so easy to make?  Not me!  That's for sure!  Boy or boy, was I ever wrong.

Aunt Toula can whip these up in no time.  She has a method she uses when making an entire Pita (Greek Pizza) and another when she makes her Tiropitakia (Individual sized pitas stuffed with cheese).   What's the difference?  The number of layers she stacks upon one another.  Everything else is the same.

She usually makes a hefty batch and freezes them for future use.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


No matter how many times I attempt to make aunt Toula's croissants, something always goes wrong.  They still taste good, but they're never like hers.

Hopefully, the step by step breakdown I made note of while in Florida will help perfect the recipe.

Today, I'm attempting to make these croissants, less the eggs.  Wonder if they'll still be tasty?  Stay tuned....

.....I'm very surprised and pleased to say they turned out.  The colour isn't quite the same, but the flavour is.  Anyone with an egg allergy will enjoy this recipe, less the eggs.

Spinach Croissants (Toula M)

Spinach Croissants

Aunt Toula makes the absolute most amazing croissants that I have ever tasted.  There isn't one person out there that has tried them and didn't LOVE them as much as our entire family does.  We always get so excited when she comes to visit because there's always a special bowl full of this delicacy.

It took me a long time to get this recipe from my aunt.  I've attempted making them on my own, but something is always a little off.  While in Florida, Aunt Toula allowed me to watch and photograph her in action, step by step.

The entire building smelled so nice from the outside.  All our neighbours enjoyed a sample, including the UPS delivery man that my aunt befriended over the winter.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bread (Toula M)

Buns with Feta Cheese and Olives

There's nothing like the smell of fresh baked bread.  Just ask anyone in my uncle and aunt's condo unit in Florida and they'll tell you the same.  As aunt Toula baked away, the crowd outside her condo unit grew by the minute.  Everyone gathered around the door in hopes of receiving a piece of bread or two.  Of course my aunt is always one to share which pleased us all!

She made a variety of buns and braided loaves of bread.  Pair that up with some Dodoni Greek Feta and Kalamata Olives and you've got an amazingly delicious snack, or perhaps I should be saying meal.  It was so filling and so delicious!

Shadowing Aunt Toula In Her Kitchen

While in Florida, I had the pleasure of shadowing my Aunt Toula as she baked some classic family recipes.   My aunt is an amazing baker.  She has taught me how to make many types of breads, however, no matter how many times I try, I can never make them as well as she does.

I knew she would be baking throughout the week, so I asked to shadow her in order to capture all the steps.  She was more than happy to share her recipes and techniques.

Be sure to keep watching throughout the week, as I will be posting from Aunt Toula's kitchen. YUM!