Holiday Side Dish idea: Pancetta Leek Stuffin’ Muffins

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One of my absolute favorite side dishes to experiment with over the holidays has got to be stuffing. I am always looking for new and creative ways to make stuffing, but usually I just change up the ingredients: toasted chestnuts, smoked chorizo, artichoke hearts…. I’ve basically tried it all. EXCEPT for experimenting with the actual shape in which the stuffing comes in, which is normally some type of ceramic rectangular or oval shaped vestibule of deliciousness. Until one day. While scouring through all of my baking pans looking for my tried and true “stuffing pan”, I got distracted, most likely by Nala or Sammy, only to return back to the kitchen to spot my muffin pan sitting prettily on the counter, just begging to hold the delicious stuffing.  “Please Mrs. Despina, let me try it… just fill up one tin…I’m staaarrving!” Ok, so it wasn’t actually speaking to me, but sometimes it’s fun to pretend. Ok, it’s always fun to pretend in the kitchen. Anyways, a half hour later, and the stuffing muffins were born, and they quickly ousted any other pans in the kitchen from taking a step near any of their future stuffing babies. Hopefully this doesn’t happen in your kitchen, reader, but if it does, I promise that you and your guests’ bellies will be happy.  Now go bust out that muffin pan and get to making some stuffing babies!

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Thanksgiving Side Dish Idea: Low-Gluten Farro pilaf w/ Carrots, Celery, Leeks and Chicken Sausage

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Happy Friday before Thanksgiving to all!! As everyone prepares for the upcoming holiday ahead, we usually have our main courses covered… turkey, chicken, roast beef or maybe lamb if you’re Greek like me and can’t pass up a holiday without lamb. It’s usually the SIDE dishes that have all of our panties in a twist, figuring out just WHAT the heck to make that’s yummy and thanksgiving-y. Well, since I will be cooking a few of the side dishes this upcoming Thanksgiving, I thought I would get started early “practicing” some ideas this week, This way I would have a plethora of fool proof ideas to choose from, and you, reader, will get some ideas on what to make come next Thursday as well! The question then became, “where do I start?”. After scouring the Food and Wine archives for some ideas, I came across a farro soup recipe that I thought looked great, but bookmarked for another meal, another day.  I continued to scour the web, but that farro recipe kept creeping back into my train of thought…until I couldn’t shake the farro fever. I then recalled one of my favorite dishes at Oddfellow’s here in Dallas: a farro salad with the freshest, most delicious veggies that holds such merit in my belly that I have even picked it over their buffalo mac and cheese come ordering time. Well, maybe once. Crazy, I know! Anyways, the wheels in my brain started turning, and I then came up with this Thanksgiving side dish idea that’s rustic, original, and so delicious you would never know it was “good for you”. I present to you my chicken sausage & veggie farro side dish.  It’s highly addictive…but who cares?? Edit: While farro is low in gluten, it is NOT glute free. Good for those watching their gluten, but not for the gluten- intolerant. That tricky little bastard. That is all. Enjoy the recipe. The end.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Remix: Chocolate Chip Cookie…Pie!!!

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I LOOOVE chocolate chip cookies, especially with a tall glass of milk when it’s chilly out. Is there anything better than a warm, goo-ey-full chocolate chip cookie waiting for you when you get home from work? Well, the only thing I can think of that could top a chocolate chip cookie would be one giant chocolate chip cookie, specifically, in the form of a pie. Yep, Chocolate. Chip. Cookie. Pie. This recipe is based on a decades-old Nestle Tollhouse classics recipe that I found when surfing the web for the perfect pie. The first time I ever tried a slice, I was sure I was teleported into a gooey, chocolate chip heaven. Make this alongside your pecan and pumpkin pies for something different this Thanksgiving, when you are trying to impress the in-laws or other side of the family, and you will be SURE to make an impression.

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Fluffy Oat Waffles w/ Blackberry Sauce

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Greetings!! After a very temporary culinary hiatus, I am back and ready to share more recipes just in time for the cold weather and upcoming holiday season ahead. I will be posting some of my favorite healthy and comfort classic foods to give everyone some ideas on what to cook for all of your holiday parties these next couple of months. That’s right, Culinary Jam is back (again), and this time with a silver tray, tall glass of OJ, and breakfast in bed!! Who doesn’t love a fluffy home-made stack of waffles dripping with maple syrup when it’s chilly out? In this recipe, I’ve made a healthy, gluten-free, sugar-free version of my beloved waffle, to satisfy my craving for these gut-bombs for breakfast but with out the gut-bombing-ness of all that gluten and sugar. And the best part is they taste soooo good, you would have no idea that they are good for you. Think of it as a “safety meal” you can enjoy without the guilt so that when you DO chow down on all of those holiday treats, you won’t feel quite so much like a tubby Santa.

(Serves 4/ Difficulty: Easy)

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Soupa Avgolemono- Yia Yia’s Egg-Lemon soup

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Happy Wednesday Everyone! I have to say, it feels wonderful to be back in the blogosphere! Yes, I know, it’s been a hot minute since I last posted. I’ve been exploring new job options, all keeping with the end goal of learning to run my own successful business one day. Working the classic 9 to 5 versus my usual and familiar yet erratic Realty gig has been invigorating in that reassuring, “I can be just like any other hard working human” sort of way. In the searching process, I have to admit, I was neglecting my passion for cooking. Now that I am back, it feels so good to be back in the kitchen, creating. Through all of this, I have learned that no matter what the future holds, I can always count on cooking to bring me back to life and re-ignite my creative passions. I can always find comfort in my very own kitchen. So, with that, for my first recipe post in over a month, I present to you a classic from my Yia Yia’s kitchen: My all-time favorite comfort food, Soupa Avgolemono

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One Pot Monday Presents: Kolokithokeftedes! (AKA Greek Zucchini Fritters)

ImageImageSince returning from my overseas adventures, I’ve slowly gotten back into the swing of things. I have noticed that I am cooking more Mediterranean-themed meals, however, hoping to hold onto my Cyprus summer memories just a little bit longer through my cooking: yet another magical quality of food. So, in keeping with this “not wanting to let go of summer” theme, I present to you: My version of squash patties, or “kolokithokeftedes”.  These are also “One-Pot”, so a great One-pot Monday meal as well. Just make sure to use the freshest ingredients possible, as usual, to do these babies the justice they deserve. I actually remember making some version of these at the beach house in Cyprus, after plucking a few stolen zucchini from the farm next door. One bite, and you will be transported to a Mediterranean island far, far away.

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Ingredients:

 

1.5 lbs zucchini squash, grated

1 large egg

¼ cup olive oil

1 ½ tsp salt

1 tsp freshly cracked pepper

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp fresh thyme

1 heaping tablespoon of freshly minced mint

¼ cup parmesan cheese

 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

¼ cup bread crumbs

½ cup grated yellow onion

zest of 1 large lemon

 

½ cup of flour, for coating

1 tsp lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving

 

The instructions are easy. Just mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Form the patties at your desired size.

In a large frying pan, heat up 4 tbs olive oil over medium high heat.

Right before placing patties in the pan, coat each side with flour in a shallow plate.

Cook for about 4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Repeat in batches 

As soon as they come out, season with extra salt and lemon juice.

These are really good with tzatziki sauce or hummus on the side.

 

 

 

Melomakarouna for the Decapentavgustos! (Greek Honey cookies for the August 15th Holiday!)

ImageImageHappy 15th of August to all of my Greek friends! For those of you who aren’t of the Hellenic persuasion, the 15th of August is a big religious summer holiday that celebrates the Ascention of the Virgin Mary or “Panayia”. She represents Mother Earth to the mainlanders, and Mother sea to all of the islanders. All Greeks named after the Virgin Mary with names ranging from Mary to Mario to Panayioti celebrate this special day along with her and are given many presents, asked advice, and considered closer to God on this day. This even includes the name Despina, or the ancient version of how they addressed the Panayia (woohoo it’s my name day too! So, if anyone wants to surprise me with a really nice, lavish present today, please, by all means, feel free! ) On this day, which is the third holiest aside from Christmas and Easter, the Virgin Mary, or Panayia, is asked to preform miracles on Earth, ranging rom solving family feuds to playing matchmaker. Whatever the miracle, Greeks can be sure of a couple of things: the day(s) off from work surrounding the Holiday (those Greeks and their excuses to take off work and party, right?), a Panigiri or festival will take place, and lots of good food, wine, and merriment. Maybe even a miracle or two. 

In commemorance of this special day, I decided to make one of my all-time favorite Greek desserts to share. Melomakarouna, or “Honey Cookies”, are a delicious treat that always reminds me of the holy holidays: Easter, Christmas, and hey, why not Decapentavgoustos as well? These are super easy to make, and the orange and cinnamon flavors really evoke the warm feeling of celebrating a holiday with friends. There is nothing better than enjoying a Melomakarouno cookie with a steaming cup of coffee or tea and chatting with friends and family. On a side note, yet another perk is that these are Vegan-friendly, as there is no egg or dairy in these cookies! I hope you enjoy, and add these to your holiday favorites as well, though they are delicious any time of year you want to feel that warm holiday feeling.

 

 For the Cookies:

-4 cups flour

-3/4 cup olive oil (regular, not extra virgin)

-1/4 cup vegetable oil

-1/3 cup sugar

-zest of 1 large orange

-1/2 cup orange juice

-5 tbs brandy

-1/2 tsp salt

-small pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

-1 tsp baking powder

-1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, for topping

– ½ tsp cinnamon

 

For the Syrup:

-1 cup honey

-1 cup water

-1/4 cup sugar

– 1 cinnamon stick

-3 whole cloves

-1 small 1” piece of lemon rind

-1 small  1” piece of orange rind

-1 tsp lemon juice

-cinnamon for sprinkling on top

 

In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a small bowl, lightly press together the orange zest and sugar until they form an orange colored sugar, and the orange oils have coated the sugar well.

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Transfer to a large mixing bowl, and blend in the oils, brandy, and orange juice.

In the mixing bowl, slowly add in the dry ingredients, pulsing and mxing with every ½ cup or so of added dry ingredients until all is blended and a dough forms. The dough should be moist, but not sticky.

On an ungreased cookie sheet, place 1 tbs rounded dough balls, spacing evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cookies are a light golden brown.

While the cookies are baking, begin making the syrup immediately.

In a large saucepan, whisk together all of the syrup ingredients, and bring to a boil. Now reduce the pan to a simmer on medum low, and simmer for about 25 minutes.

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Repeat this process with the rest of the cookies. To serve, serve warm with coffee. To store, keep them at room temperature, so that they stay soft.

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye, Cyprus: My last meal at Zephyros

ImageImageAfter 3 relaxing weeks of adventures in Cyprus, topped off with an overnight stay in Amsterdam, it’s bittersweet to be back. Since my husband could only partake in a week’s worth of Cyprus fun, I’ve been so happy being back on the same part of the planet as him. However, leaving my cousins, whom I consider my “second” brothers and sisters, is always such an emotional and tearful experience.  Continue reading

Glikolemono: The Sweetest Cafe in Larnaca

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The other day after an afternoon of perusing the shops in downtown Cyprus ( very exhausting life while on vacation here, I know), we decided to find a cafe to sit down for an afternoon caffeine pick-me-up. After walking around for a bit, my cousin Christoula suggested we try out her favorite cafe, Glikolemono, which means “Sweet Lemon” in Greek. Nestled in an alleyway, which is quite the trend for cafes and restaurants on this island, with rows of adorable vintage cafe tables and chairs, sits this charming little cafe. Inside, the floor is a Moroccan tile, and the pastry windows are alive with the sweet treats that they churn out fresh daily from their quaint little kitchen in the back.  Continue reading

Thia Koula’s Famous Keftedes

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The other night we went over to one of my favorite Great Aunts, Thia Koula’s, house for dinner. We always look forward to such occasions as, aside from my amazing Yia Yia who is no longer with us, she was our favorite cook of the family. We always arrive at her house famished, knowing that there will be plenty of delicious food to sample and fill our bellies to the point of almost exploding with happiness. Thia Koula is pictured below, the beautiful lady on the right:

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