Holidays · New Favorite

Koulourakia Greek Easter Cookies

2020 was quite the year, and Easter was no exception.  During the lockdown, my daughters and I cooked different things and did a front porch, socially distanced food swap.  We each ate our Easter Dinner in our own homes, different than our normal family gatherings.

The following weekend, our neighbor invited everyone in our cul-de-sac to partake in a Greek Orthodox Easter dinner.  It was warm enough to gather outside, socially distanced, to celebrate this special day.  For the potluck gathering, I made Koulourakia, Greek Easter Cookies.  The cookies are a wonderful, orange-flavored butter twist cookie.

They were fun to make and similar in design to the Kringla I make at Christmas.  The cookies are especially good with a hot cup of coffee. This year, Greek Orthodox Easter will be May 2, 2021.  I may be inspired to make these yummy cookies once again!

KOULOURAKIA GREEK EASTER COOKIES

3½- 4 cups all purpose flour 420- 480 grams (3½ + ½ cup separated)
 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar 150 grams
zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup butter 115 grams, cubed, room temperature
2 large eggs room temperature
1 large egg yolk room temperature
 teaspoons vanilla extract pure
1/4 cup orange juice freshly squeezed
1/4 cup milk room temperature
1 teaspoon ouzo or Sambuca (optional)

Egg wash:

1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
2 tablespoons sesame seeds sprinkled on egg wash

  • Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Place rack in the center of oven. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Sift together 3½ cups flour and baking powder and set aside. The other 1/2 cup of flour is reserved in case we need to add extra flour (see recipe note).
  • In a bowl of a stand mixture, with the paddle attachment, whisk together the orange zest and the sugar.
  • Add the cubed room temperature butter and cream together with the sugar until light and fluffy. This can take up to 5 minutes. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time beating well and scraping down the bowl between each addition.
  • Add the egg yolk and again, beat well and scrape down the bowl.
  • Add the vanilla extract, orange juice, milk and ouzo (if using). Beat together for 30 seconds.
  • On low speed, add the 3½ cups of flour and baking powder. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Add a few tablespoons of flour if the dough is still sticky. (Optional: cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes).
  • With a medium sized cookies scoop, portion and roll into a 7-inch log.
  • Shape into desired shapes (braids, pinwheels, twists, etc…) Refer to pictures in the post.
  • Place on parchment lined cookie sheets about 1 inch apart.
  • Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  • Bake for 13 minutes or until cookies are golden brown.  (This was too long in my oven.  I baked for 11 minutes and probably could have done even less.)
  • Allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to wire rack to completely cool down.
  • Can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for about 2 weeks. Cookies can also be frozen.

Recipe from shelovesbiscotti.com

New Favorite

Spring Bliss Bowls

Spring Bliss Bowls are so yummy that I made it twice within two weeks. There were so many ‘wows’ in this recipe. Wow, I have NEVER used pesto on rice…it’s amazing! Wow, I’ve NEVER roasted radishes…they are delicious! I roasted all vegetables on the same cookie sheet and it worked fine. You can also add protein such as sliced chicken breast if you like. If you don’t like the vegetables in the recipe, change it up. Any combination of vegetables will be great. Go for it!

SPRING BLISS BOWLS

INGREDIENTS:

serves 4

1 cup short grain brown rice
extra virgin olive oil
seasoned salt and pepper
10oz. bag cauliflower florets, trimmed into similar sized florets
3 small golden beets, trimmed, peeled and chopped
1 bunch radishes, trimmed then halved or quartered if large
1/2 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed then chopped into 2” lengths
1/3 cup + 1/4 cup prepared basil pesto, divided (recipe recommends Buitoni-I used my homemade pesto)
2 Tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup pepitas/pumpkin seeds (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees then line two half sheet pans with foil, spray with nonstick spray, and set aside. (I used one cookie sheet vs. two).
  • Add brown rice plus 1-3/4 cup water, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkling of seasoned salt to a small saucepan with a tight fitting lid. (Refer to the cooking instructions on your particular bag.) Bring to a boil then place a lid on top, turn heat down to low, and gently simmer for 40 minutes. Taste – if rice is still crunchy, add 2 Tablespoons water then continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Remove pot from heat then let sit
    and steam with the lid on for 7 minutes before fluffing and cooling slightly. Once slightly cooled, stir in 1/3 cup pesto.
  • Meanwhile, add cauliflower to a medium-sized bowl then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with seasoned salt and pepper. Spread onto one half of the first sheet pan then oil/season beets in the same bowl and spread onto the other half. Roast for 15 minutes then stir.
  • While the cauliflower and beets are roasting, oil/season the radishes then spread out onto one half of the second sheet pan. Roast for 10 minutes with the beets/cauliflower then stir. Add oiled/seasoned asparagus to the remaining empty half of the second sheet pan then roast with all the other vegetables for 10 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender.
  • Breakdown of cooking times: Cauliflower/beets: 35 minutes. Radishes: 20 minutes. Asparagus: 10 minutes.
  • Add remaining 1/4 cup pesto to a small dish with chicken or vegetable broth then stir to combine.
  • Scoop pesto rice into four bowls then top each bowl with a quarter of the roasted vegetables. Drizzle with pesto sauce then top with 1 Tablespoon pumpkin seeds, if using, and serve.
  • For Meal Prep: Let all components cool then portion into containers, cover, and refrigerate. Microwave for 1-1:30 minutes or until warm then eat.
  • Notes
    I like to keep each vegetable separated in case they cook quicker or slower than the other vegetables.

Recipe adapted from IowaGirlsEats

Garden · Home · New Favorite

Layered Baked Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a vegetable side dish filled with wonderful flavors.  Every time I say the word ‘Ratatouille’ I have to smile and think of the Disney animated film Ratatouille. The young rat, Remy, dreams of becoming a famous French chef.  Such a funny film, great to watch with children, grandchildren or in the privacy of your own adult home…no one needs to know you’re watching a cartoon!

Celebrate after watching the film by enjoying the real deal!

LAYERED BAKED RATATOUILLE

2 cups (16 oz.) crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 small onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dry) (plus more for sprinkling)
½ tsp. salt (plus more for sprinkling)
¼ tsp. pepper (plus more for sprinkling)
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced*
2 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced*
2 small eggplant, thinly sliced*
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1” squares
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese, to top (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Spread 1 tbsp. olive oil in the bottom of a 9 inch cast iron skillet. In a small bowl, mix the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into the base of your skillet.
  • Layer the sliced vegetables vertically around the skillet, packing them as tight as you can. (We find that it is easier to layer the zucchini, squash, and eggplant in the skillet and then go back in and tuck the red peppers within the layers after the other vegetables have been filled in.)
  • Season the top of the vegetables with additional salt, pepper, and thyme. Drizzle with more olive oil.
  • Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until bubbly and the vegetables are softened and starting to brown slightly.
  • Garnish with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Recipe from Curiouscuisinere.com

Family · New Favorite · New Traditions

Crusty No-Knead Bread

Crusty Bread that I don’t have to knead?  Just what I needed to go with the soup I was making.  Honestly, the recipe seemed too easy but it worked perfectly.  I baked the bread in my Lodge Dutch Oven and I baked it according to directions.  The crust was a little too brown, but the interior of the bread was perfect and tasted great!

It is wonderful served with soup and also wonderful as a sandwich.  As long as I plan a day ahead, I can make this bread any time!

CRUSTY NO-KNEAD BREAD

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. active dry yeast
1 ½ cups water 
room temperature

  • Form the dough: In a big bowl mix the flour, salt and yeast together. Pour water into the bowl and using a spatula or a wooden spoon mix it until well incorporated. You do not need to activate the yeast before, even though we’re using active dry yeast. The slow rising process will do the trick.
  • Allow it to rise: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit on your counter or inside your unheated oven for 12 to 18 hours.
  • Preheat your oven: Preheat oven to 450°F. Add your cast iron pot to the oven as it’s heating and heat it as well until it’s at 450°F. Usually when the oven is done preheating your pot should be hot enough as well. Remove the pot from the oven and remove the lid from it. Use oven mitts, as to not burn yourself.
  • Shape the dough: Flour your hands really well and also sprinkle a bit of flour over the dough. With your floured hands gently remove the dough from the bowl and roughly shape it into a ball. Sprinkle some extra flour directly into the bottom of the pot. Take the ball of dough and drop it into the pot. Cover the pot with the lid and place it back in the oven. Alternatively, you can also place the ball of dough onto a piece of parchment paper, then lift the parchment paper and drop it in the pot, with parchment paper and all. This could also ensure that your bread doesn’t stick at all to the bottom of the pot. I have found that if I use parchment paper, the bread doesn’t brown so much on the sides, but otherwise it’s still crusty and delicious.
  • Finish the bread: Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on, after which remove the lid and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove the bread from the pot, it should fall out easily. Let cool completely before slicing into it and serving.

Recipe from JoCooks.com

Family · Family Favorites · New Favorite

French Macarons by Daughter Megan

French Macarons are such a light, sweet delicacy.  I never would think of making them, yet, one day, my oldest daughter, Megan, called to say she’d had a dream about making Macarons and was going to bake them that very day.  Megan is the dessert maker in our family, always coming up with something new and delightful. Even so, I thought they would be extremely difficult, especially at Denver altitude.

Never fear!  The results were stunning and delectable.  The only change Megan made to the recipe was reducing the vanilla and adding almond extract to both the cookie and to the frosting. I’ll leave the Macaron making to Megan and praise (and enjoy) the results!

FRENCH MACARONS

For the Cookie

  • 100 g egg whites room temperature or 3 large eggs
  • 140 g almond flour or 1 1/2 cups
  • 90 g granulated sugar just under 1/2 cup
  • 130 g powdered sugar or 1 cup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 5mL (Megan used 3/4 tsp. vanilla and 1/4 tsp. almond extract)
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar 800mg

For the Buttercream

  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened 226g
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar 100g
  • 1 tsp. vanilla (Megan used 3/4 tsp. vanilla and 1/4 tsp. almond extract)
  • 3 tbsp. water 30mL
  • 1 pinch salt

Instructions

For the Macarons:

  • Sift the confectioners sugar and almond flour into a bowl.
  • Add the room temperature egg whites into a very clean bowl.
  • Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites. Once they begin to foam add the cream of tartar and then SLOWLY add the granulated sugar.
  • Add the food coloring (if desired) and vanilla then mix in. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
  • Begin folding in the 1/3 of the dry ingredients.
  • Be careful to add the remaining dry ingredients and fold gently.
  • The final mixture should look like flowing lava, and be able to fall into a figure eight without breaking. Spoon into a piping bag with a medium round piping tip and you’re ready to start piping.
  • Pipe one inch dollops onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (this should be glued down with dabs of batter). Tap on counter several times to release air bubbles. Allow to sit for about 40 minutes before placing in oven.
  • Bake at 300F for 12-15 minutes, rotate tray after 7 minutes. Allow to cool completely before removing from baking sheet.

For the French Buttercream Filling:

  • Combine sugar and water in medium saucepan. Heat over low heat while stirring until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium- high and bring to a boil
  • Put egg yolks in a stand-mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat until thick and foamy.
  • Cook the sugar and water syrup until it reaches 240 degrees F. Immediately remove from heat. With mixer running, SLOWLY drizzle hot syrup into bowl with yolks.
  • Continue mixing until the bottom of the bowl is cool to the touch and the yolk mixture has cooled to room temperature.
  • Add in butter one cube at a time allowing each piece to incorporate before adding the next. Add vanilla and salt. Continue mixing until buttercream is smooth and creamy. (About 5-6 minutes.) Add food coloring if desired.

For Assembly

  • Pipe your filling onto the back of half the shells. Form a sandwich and repeat. Macarons should be aged in the fridge for 1-3 days for best results. This allows the filling to soften the shells inside.

Notes

  • THE MERINGUE!!!! That meringue HAS TO BE STIFF! I had no idea French meringue could be whipped to such a thick marshmallowy consistency but all it takes is a bit of extra whisking. You’ll notice the meringue start to fill the whisk when you’re getting close to the right stage.
  • Sift, Sift, SIFT! Those larger pieces of almond flour will mar the surface of your macarons. Best practice is to sift then whiz in the food processor and repeat two more times. Discard the larger particles, don’t try to press them through the sieve.
  • Use a scale if possible, accuracy helps with this recipe.
  • The mixing will take some practice, you will fold and fold the batter and then use the spatula to GENTLY press the batter against the bowl. You want to remove some of the bubbles but not to many… Continue this until it reaches a thick “lava” consistency. It should slowly fall off the spatula in ribbons and be able to form a figure eight without breaking.
  • Pipe the macarons perpendicular to the surface. If your tip is pointing a bit in any particular direction when you pipe the macarons might be oblong or malformed.
  • Add your coloring to the meringue after it reaches the soft peak stage.
  • When you are finishing the piping motion stop squeezing the bag and pull up with a circular motion.
  • The macarons will be best after 2-3 days resting in the fridge.
  • If you over-bake the shells and they’re too crisp, brush the bottom with some milk before assembly to soften them up.

Recipe adapted from Preppykitchen.com

New Favorite

Smoky Eggplant Dip

Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables. It started with fried Eggplant in my Mother’s kitchen, and through the years I have experienced eggplant in many ways.  I have made Ina Garten’s Eggplant Spread dozens of times.  This recipe is more like baba ganoush, with that wonderful smoky flavor.  The dip would be wonderful served with a fresh Greek Salad.

SMOKY EGGPLANT DIP

Makes about 2 cups

2 medium eggplants (about 1 pound each)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt, or to taste
6 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste), well-stirred if a new container
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or pressed
Juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste, if desired
Pinch of cayenne or aleppo pepper
Pinch or two of ground cumin
2 tablespoons well-chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
Toasted sesame seeds or za’atar for garnish (optional)

  • Heat oven to 375°F.
  • Brush a baking sheet or roasting pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt.
  • Prick eggplants a few times with a fork or tip of a knife. Over a gas flame, grill or under a broiler, evenly char the skin of your eggplants. I like mine quite smoky and like to leave no purple visible. Transfer to a cutting board, and when cool enough to handle, trim off stem and cut lengthwise. Place cut side down on prepared baking sheet and roast for 30 to 35 minutes, until very, very tender when pressed. Let cool to room temperature.
  • Next Step Option 1: Food Processor: In a blender or food processor: Scrape eggplant flesh from skin and into the work bowl. Add tahini, lemon, cayenne, cumin and 1 tablespoon parsley. Blend in short bursts (pulses) until combined but still coarsely chopped.
  • Taste and adjust ingredients if needed. You may wish to add more salt and lemon.

To serve: Spoon into a bowl and drizzle with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Scatter with second tablespoon of parsley, and some toasted sesame seeds or za’atar, if desired. Serve with pita wedges or naan.

Recipe from Smittenkitchen

New Favorite

Italian Spaghetti Squash Egg Cups

What do you do when you have a lot of leftover spaghetti squash and Italian sausage? You invent a recipe for egg cups. Through the years, I’ve made many types of egg cups, but spaghetti squash is a new one.  Frankly, I didn’t expect them to be very good, but they were delicious!  I made them and refrigerated them, heating them up in the microwave the next day.  I’ll definitely be making this again, and again.  

ITALIAN SPAGHETTI SQUASH EGG CUPS

5 eggs, beaten
3-4 cups cooked spaghetti squash
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup cooked Italian Sausage, crumbled
1/4 shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
Extra shredded cheese to sprinkle on top of the egg cups before baking.

  • Mix all ingredients together. Pour into greased muffin tins (they tend to stick so grease generously). Sprinkle extra shredded cheese on top of each cup.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Makes about 16 egg cups

 

New Favorite

Pasta with Chard and Bacon

A few years ago I watched the Rachel Ray episode where she made this dish, sharing it was one of her husband’s favorites.  It’s easy peasy and so delicious!  It reminds me of a pasta with bacon that I made when the kids were small.  Delicious!

PASTA WITH CHARD AND BACON

1 large bunch or 1.5 pounds large, leafy Swiss chard
1/2 pound meaty bacon
2 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 onion, white or yellow
1 leek
4 cloves garlic
salt & pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons thyme
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup stock, optional
1 pound spaghetti
1 cup pecans
about 3/4 cup heavy cream
about 1 cup grated Pecorino cheese, plus more for serving

  • Gather your ingredients.
  • Place a large pot of water on to boil for pasta.
  • Stem the chard. Chop the stems. Coarsely chop the greens and keep separate.
  • Stack the bacon and cut the bacon into batons 1/8 to 1/4-inch wide.
  • Peel and chop the onion. Halve the leek lengthwise and trim the tough green tops. Run the leek under the water and wash thoroughly. Chop the leek, whites and light greens. Peel the garlic and grate or chop.
  • Heat a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and render, then remove from pan, if desired. Reserve 2 tablespoons drippings in pan, drain off excess if there is any.
  • Add EVOO or butter to pan and add the stems, onions, leeks and garlic. Season with salt, pepper, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and thyme and soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add wine and stock if using and let it absorb.
  • Salt boiling water and cook pasta to 1 minute less than package directions for al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup starchy water.
  • Toast nuts while pasta cooks in small skillet over moderate heat.
  • Add cream to sauce, wilt the greens into stems and add a little nutmeg. Return bacon to pan. Drain pasta and add to sauce and greens with reserved water and cheese. Toss pasta 1 minute. Adjust seasoning and serve topped with chopped toasted nuts and pass more cheese at table.

Recipe adapted from RachelRay

Book Club · New Favorite

Crock Pot Beef Bourguignonne

Beef Bourguignonne is savory, hearty meal of tender beef with rich flavors.  I’ve enjoyed it many times with friends in their homes or in a restaurant but this was my first attempt to make it at home.  It was easy to make and even better to eat.

CROCK POT BEEF BOURGUIGNONNE

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 lb. beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 thick bacon slices, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 yellow onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick
5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
6 fresh thyme sprigs
6 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
1 lb. white button mushrooms, halved
1 bottle Pinot Noir
1 tbps. beef demi-glace

  • Place the flour in a large bowl. Season the beef with salt and pepper, add to the flour and stir to coat evenly. Transfer to a plate, shaking off the excess flour.
  • In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until almost smoking. Working in batches, brown the beef on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a slow cooker.
  • Add the bacon, carrots, onions and garlic to the sauté pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker along with the bay leaves, thyme, parsley and mushrooms.
  • Off the heat, pour the wine into the sauté pan and set over medium-high heat. Whisk in the demi-glace and bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Add to the slow cooker, cover and cook until the meat is fork tender, 6 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Discard the bay leaves.
  • Transfer the beef bourguignonne to a platter and serve with steamed potatoes. Serves 10.
Family · Family Favorites · New Favorite

Royal Riviera Pear Salad

Juicy, fresh pears are such a treat!  For the past few years, I’ve treated myself to Harry and David pears. The grandkids beg for sliced pears like it is candy.

In addition to enjoying the pears by themselves, this Pear Salad is to die for.  The combination of blue cheese and candied, or spiced, nuts it wonderful.  The dressing is light and a perfect compliment to the salad. My pears are almost gone but I’ll savor every remaining bite!

ROYAL RIVIERA PEAR SALAD

1 head Butter or other lettuce, washed and dried
2 Pears, peeled, cored and sliced (or diced)
2/3 cup blue cheese (if you despise blue cheese–replace with a cheese you like)
2/3 cup candied nuts (I use my homemade spiced pecans)

Dressing:

1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup walnut oil (or canola)

  • To create dressing, whisk together the first 5 ingredients.  Gradually whisk in the walnut oil.
  • Gently tear lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Arrange on four chilled plates.
  • Place fans of pear slices on lettuce.
  • Crumble blue cheese evenly on top.
  • Drizzle dressing generously over the salad.
  • Sprinkle with nuts and serve at once.

Recipe adapted from HarryandDavid