Thursday, July 30, 2009

Party at My House

I love throwing parties. Sure, they can be a bit of work, but who cares about that once the food is served? Other then under seasoning the potatoes (my fault!) , everything was super delicious. My husband manned the grill with his bro cooking up some delicious Italian sausages. I also got to make beer can chicken -- loved it!

Hot Italian Sausages : We started off with some of these delicious sausages. They were spritzed with lemon and accompanied by grilled panini bread and tzaziki.

Mussels : My mom made these - for the first time ever! They were steamed with wine, garlic, tomatoes and onion. The juice was great for bread dipping too.

Mushrooms: I added onions, bell peppers and red chilies. They were further flavoured with salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Salad : Mixed greens, peppers, onions, tomatoes, etc.

Zucchini Fusilli : A simple pasta with zucchinis, and a homemade sauce made of plum tomatoes and spices.

BBQ Potatoes : These poor guys were under seasoned. Woops.

Meat : T-Bone, Prime Rib and Strip loin steaks, and pork chops. Wicked.

Beer Can Chicken : My proud moment that day! It is best right out of the oven, but it was still delicious when company arrived. I used a Montreal chicken rub for the marinade.

Unfortunately, dessert was forgotten, picture wise. I will make up for that the next time around.


My brother surprised us to a dinner invitation, which of course, we could not refuse. He said he was going to make paella for the first time. At first I was jealous, because I wanted to make paella but never got around to it. That night jealousy turned into pure joy, as it was one of the best meals I ever tasted. He got the recipe from a food show called The Main, and also referred to the recipe on the paella pan's packaging.

He first seared some chicken thighs, which were seasoned with salt and pepper.

He removed the chicken and sauteed garlic, onions and tomatoes with olive oil.

The chicken was then added back to the pan, along with the rice, some bay leaves and white wine. (My husband splashed some beer in when my bro wasn't looking!) Cumin and safron (American grown) were added for some great taste.

Ok, lost some steps here. I just couldn't take pics of all the steps that night. I was just enjoying the compilation come together. Basically, the pan was placed in the oven for a bit, and then the seafood (lobster, mussels, shrimp and scallops), were added, and then back in the oven for a short period of time. It was then topped off with parsley.

I can't wait to try this myself. believe me : it was AWESOME!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BB to the Q

Our summer so far has been a pretty wet one, so when I heard of a sunny day coming up, I thought of 3 things: B - B - Q ! There was a great deal on strip loin (or was it sirloin?) steak, so off I went! I picked up five thick juicy steaks, and some other barbecue treats. My husband bought a great spicy Italian sausage, but there is no pic here, which is a damn shame. He also picked up some pork chops. For sides, I made a salad and some rosemary potatoes. It was a great and simple impromptu meal , and I definitely want another one just like it soon.

Great Steaks & Chops

We simply add salt, pepper, garlic and oregano to these.

I think the bbq is one of the many reasons I could never be a vegetarian!

I do, however, appreciate my veggies. We cooked these potatoes on the bbq, wrapped in tin foil. They were coated in olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, rosemary and onions. Absolutely delicious!

This is my plate. My husband perfectly cooked my steak - much to the horror of my in laws and best friend! The next day I had a leftover steak, cooked the exact same way, and it was like butter ; not bad for being nuked in the microwave.

Banana Bread

Let's face it: banana bread isn't bread, it's cake. Regardless, it's a great way to use up those poor bananas on your counter. I had five bananas ripening away, so I figured I had to use them. I quickly Googled this recipe and made some pretty tasty loaves. Other than the quantity of bananas, I doubled the recipe. Sorry about the crappy pic!

Recipe found here .

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Feta Pie with Homemade Filo Dough

My in laws gave us a tonne of feta cheese - A TONNE! So, I decided to make a feta cheese pie using the filo dough I make for my spanakopita. This is the first time I made it, and it turned out really well. Next time however, I will add more cheese, and will cook the pie longer. Once again, I don't have exact measurements to off .. woops.

1 soup bowl flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
some salt
1 table spoon vinegar
warm water


10 eggs
lotsa feta cheese

1. For the dough I use my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer, but I have done it by hand as well. Add the flour, salt, vinegar and oil to the mixer and slowly mix with he dough hook attachment. Slowly add the water until a nice soft dough is formed. Set aside.

2. For the filling, whisk all the eggs and then crumble in your glorious feta, and then add the parsley and pepper. Set aside.

3. Now the fun part - rolling the dough! I was using a smaller baking sheet for my pita, so I divided my dough into 4 balls the size of a tennis ball.You will need 2 sheets of dough for the bottom, and 2 for the top.

4. Until this site has video, the description here may be a bit vague. You will need to roll the dough out as thin as you can, rotating the dough, and flouring it in between turns. Lay the first sheet on the bottom of the baking sheet, and drizzle some olive oil over it, and spread it around.

5. Make your 2nd sheet, and place it over the first one.

Pour the egg mixture over top.

Roll out your 3rd sheet, and place it over top the entire pan. Let the edges over hang. Drizzle with olive oil.

8. Roll out your final sheet and place over top. You can crimp the edges if you like.

Place the pie in a 350 degree oven.

See how it is bubbling up? When the egg mixture becomes more solid, you can pre-slice where your pieces are to let the steam escape.

This is before I cut the pieces...

.. and after. Now back to the oven to finish cutting.

Ideally, it should be a lot more brown, but i was worried the filling may be too dry. The entire pita was very moist, tasty and flaky. Definitely a recipe I will do again.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Vanilla Cupcakes with Royal Icing

At Easter I usually bring a trifle to add to the dessert table. I wasn't in a trifle mood this year, so I decided to make cupcakes. I used a recipe from the Joy of Baking website found here.

I thought these were good, but not super duper. The cake was very delicious, but maybe not as fluffy as I like. I did not have any cupcake liners, so I just buttered the pan, which made them nice and buttery. My younger brother was only so-so on these, saying it reminded him of corn bread. Weird.

I also used Joy of Baking;s royal icing recipe found here. My brother also wasn't into it, as he prefers a whipped frosting. I loved the icing, which had a refreshing lemon flavor.

I'll try a different recipe next time. There's always a good excuse to make cupcakes.

Easter Feast

I'm very big on family dinners. I think its really important to surround yourself with great people and delicious food. This Easter, we went to my parent's place for the annual Easter feast. For some stupid reason I did not take photos of the desserts - woops. From mouth watering prime rib, lamb in red sauce, to the best roasted lemon potatoes, my mom did a great job feeding us all. And to think she kept apologizing for not making enough food!

Mom's Homemade Bread

Cheesy Pastries

Friends of the family always bring these delicious cheesy pastries. I was very surprised to learn that they use the Parmesan cheese in the green can! Seriously--they taste so high class, I was in shock.

Pork Souvlakia

Roasted Lamb

My mother has mastered this. I, on the other hand, have a lot of work to do.

Green Salad

Lamb in Red Sauce

Absolutely delicious! The meat just fell of the bone. I must learn this one. I believe there is some cinnamon and clove here.

Pasta with Red Sauce

Wonderful combo here - it uses the red lamb sauce! My cousin is vegetarian and I thought it was really cute how my mom suggested to his mother he have some, as she made the sauce very light. Ah well!


No skimping on quality here.


Roasted Veggies

Yummy peppers, mushrooms, eggplants and onions roasted with the perfect amount of spices for a nice kick!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tsoureki - Greek Easter Bread

Every year at Easter time, my mother makes a truckload of tsoureki, or Greek sweet bread. I think she makes the best tsoureki in town, but maybe I am a bit on the biased side. With a baby in the family now, and celebrating our first Easter with him, I thought it was important to bake something traditional for the holiday.

I sat down with my mom, and she gave me the ins and outs of her recipe. She even gave me the unique Greek spices that I didn't have in my spice rack. As you can see, there are some odd measurements here : a water glass of oil and 20 soupspoons of sugar. That's just the way it is in a home recipe I think. I eagerly tackled this, and was overjoyed with the results! I can honestly say it is a mirror image of my mom's bread. Sure the braiding isn't as well done, but I never braided anything before, ok? In-fact, I Googled how to braid bread to get the design right. Gotta love Google.

8 Eggs
20 soupspoons sugar
4 teaspoons yeast
1 water glass vegetable oil
1 water glass milk
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 lemon's zest
½ teaspoons anise
½ teaspoon mastihi
½ teaspoon mahlepi
sesame seeds
sliced almonds

1.Warm up the milk (not too hot!) , and add it to a medium bowl which has the yeast. Stir it up a bit. Add 1 cup of flour to that, stir and wait. This mixture is your proof, and will plump up in size and become all frothy and fluffy, in 15 minutes or so.

2.In a large bowl, combine your eggs, sugar, all spices, vanilla, zest and oil. Hand whisk to combine the ingredients together.

3.If your proof is ready, add it to the egg mixture.

4.With one hand, add flour to the mix, one cup at a time. With the other hand, mix the dough together. Keep adding flour until you get a nice soft dough. Your dough should be sticky, but also fairly smooth.

5.Cover dough with a clean cloth, and let rise for at least 2 hours, or until doubled.

6.Once your dough has risen, prepare your baking sheets. I used Silpat® sheets, but you could also line your baking pan with parchment paper, or use a non-stick spray. Sprinkle the baking surface with sesame seeds.

7.Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 5 equal parts each part represents a loaf. Form each loaf into a braid or whatever shape you like, and place on baking sheet. (Try braiding, as it is the tradition, and looks impressive!)

Let these loaves rise another 2 hours, or until doubled.

9.Once doubled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Apply an egg wash to the surface of each loaf, and sprinkle sesame seeds and sliced almonds on the top.

10.Bake for 22 minutes. (Test doneness by inserting a knife and making sure it comes out clear.) Do not over bake! If the bread browns to quickly, avoid burning by laying tin foil on top.

This bread is great for dipping in tea or coffee, or just simply munching on its own. You'll also love the aromatics that will fill your home – a very fond memory of my childhood.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Strawberry Soft Serve Ice Cream

For Christmas, my younger brother bought me a Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker. With my brother in law and his family over, I decided to whip up some strawberry ice cream. The machine works great -- it takes about 15-20mins to make some pretty tasty ice cream. The first time I tried it, I made vanilla ice cream, and it was delicious, but too soft. So this time, I had the machine go for 30 mins. A half hour is too long though, as the ice cream becomes too thick to come out of the dispenser. Regardless-- very delicious and successful! I can't wait to try it for some frozen desert pies and cakes. Way to go, bro!

Recipe from the Manual:

Strawberry Ice Cream
Makes about ten ½-cup servings
8 ounces very red, ripe strawberries –
fresh summer berries or frozen
berries, thawed
²∕³ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
²∕³ cup whole milk
1¹∕³ cups heavy cream

Mix the first 3 ingredients in a Cuisinart chopper, or blender to make a nice smooth mixture. Then add the cream. (I didn't have heavy cream--but coffee cream worked fine). Leave mix in the fridge until ready to use - delicious!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Vasilopita - Greek New Year's Bread

On New Year's Day, the Greeks have a really tasty tradition: You are served a delicious Vasilopita! There are 2 forms of this: a cake and a bread. Both are super yummy, and also share a lucky surprise - a coin! Whoever gets the coin is considered the lucky one for the year. (My mother in law got it this year, by the way!)

Although I do like the cake, I chose to make the bread version for my first attempt at Vasilopita. This is my mother in law's recipe. She showed me it during a spanakopita and bread lesson. My mother also makes a very tasty bread version, but I did not have some of the ingredients that she uses, so I opted for this recipe. The only thing is, I never got any really accurate measurements. Instead of 1 cup or 2 cups, my recipe lesson called for 1 water glass of this and 1 soup bowl of that. I couldn't remember exactly how big my mother inlaw's water glass and soup bowls were, so I played it by ear.

My sister in law was also making a bread version, and it was fun calling each other to see how our doughs were rising. I can tell you we both weren't fully confident until it got out of the oven. Not to worry, we both came up victorious in this sweet holiday adventure!

RECIPE - more or less!

2 bowls of flour (cereal/soup bowl)
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 cup vegetable oil (I used a dry measuring cup)
1 bowl warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 shot and a half of ouzo
some sugar
sesame seeds
icing sugar to dust

Get the Yeast Going
Fill your bowl up with warm water, and a little bit of sugar. I added close to a teaspoon, I think. Then add the yeast.

Mix the Dry Ingredients

While the yeast gets ready, add the flour, cinnamon, ground cloves and brown sugar. Stir it up and add the vegetable oil. With your hands, mix the ingredients together to form a crumbly mixture.

Forming the Dough
You can mix by hand, but with a baby in the house, I find it easier to use my beloved Kitchen Aid Mixer! With the dough hook going, add the water and yeast mix and then add in the ouzo. If the dough looks a bit dry, add some more water. I also added another swish of vegetable oil. Get this mixed until it forms a bowl and nothing sticks to the sides of the bowl.

Rise Dough, Rise!
Flip this fragrant dough on to a larger bowl, and add a drop of vegetable oil on top, so a skin does not form. Cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours, or until doubled.

Punch and Rise Some More!
After this first rising, hand knead and punch away at the dough for a good 5-10 minutes. Save some dough for decorations later, and use the rest to form a nice sized loaf. I used I spring form pan for mine, but you can use a baking sheet too. I rubbed a bit of vegetable oil on the sides and bottom of the pan, and dusted the bottom with some flour and sesame seeds. Once you get your loaf in there, cut a slit into the top, and hide your coin, making sure to seal the dough again.

Some Coin Advice
Instead of a regular coin, try going to the coin shop and picking up an inexpensive collectible that no one is used to seeing. You can get some neat ones for less than 5 bucks! Wash the coin well, and wrap in tin foil. (I hate it when dough gets stuck on the coin, so this is a good tip!)

Decorate and Rise Again
Now you can decorate! Brush the loaf with an egg wash of beaten egg and water. Take the extra dough you saved and make whatever decorations you want to cover the top of the bread. I made some swirls. Once fully decorated, brush the loaf with the egg wash again, and top with sesame seeds. Set loaf aside for an hour and a half, or until doubled again.

Bake and Wait
After the second rise, place in a preheated oven, at 350 degrees for an hour. TIPS: keep an eye on it! If it rises a lot, you may need to lower the rack. Also, if it browns too quickly, lightly cover with foil.

Sugar Shower
Once the bread is baked, let it cool, and dust with icing sugar. I spritz the top with water to make a bit of an icing. This also helps the sugar from falling off the cake.

Now, cut and enjoy - on New Year's Day of course! Happy New year's and have fun finding the coin.