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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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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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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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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Gorgeous & Delicious: Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

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I know, I know… it’s been waaay to long since I’ve blogged any recipes. The truth is, Andy and I had a magical, wonderful whirlwind wedding weekend. (Try saying that three times fast).  We had family and friends fly in from all over the world to celebrate. The whole weekend was brimming with such a positive, happy energy, it’s carried over to real life. Yay!! But now, it’s back to the blog, and this week, I wanted to post something special. After a week of literally eating giant slices of wedding cake multiple times a day, I knew it was time to put down the cake fork and get back on the healthy track. I’m not one to normally take notice of the negative effects of too much sugar and gluten, but after eating so much cake, my body has definitely revolted, leaving me feeling ill and craving all things nutritious and healthful. But who’s to say healthy can’t still be yummy and sweet-tooth satisfying? After doing quite a bit of research online, I came up with my own perfect recipe for a no-bake, gluten free, chocolate peanut butter dessert that’s so decadent you would NEVER guess that its-SURPRISE!!!- healthy!! The bananas work really well as a binding ingredient for the bottom “dough” base, and are a perfect, creamy swap to butter. I didn’t go the extra step and buy vegan chocolate, but if you substitute vegan chocolate for the chocolate here, you will have a delicious VEGAN dessert as well! Just make sure to refrigerate at least 6 hours, but preferably overnight, so that it will firm up. Store in the fridge in an airtight container.  You can cut them into large, desert-style pieces, or little tiny bite-sized snackable squares . However you slice them, I promise you will LUURVE them! Man it feels good to be back in the kitchen….

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My Crazy Yummy Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Today I’m posting a Comfort Classic recipe for Monday, since I actually haven’t made a real “one pot meal” in the last week. But I figure my spaghetti and meatballs are so delicious and comforting, which is just as important for a Monday meal. My spaghetti and meatballs recipe is one of my go-to classics dishes I have been whipping up for over 10 years now. After years of practice and perfecting, many a guest can attest that this is one of their favorite meals I’ve produced from my kitchen. It’s one of those comfort classics that I often times crave after a tough day. Or after an easy day. Then again I could eat this pretty much any day actually. I use a smoked cumin in the sauce, which adds a special, savory quality you will LOVE when you make it. Fresh tomatoes are also key to keeping everything fresh and bright. The meatballs are packed with all kinds of spices and even Parmesan cheese that really set them apart from other meatballs. And of course, I recommend using perciatelli instead of plain old spaghetti, for it’s magical sauce-soaking powers.  Give this a try. Trust me. You will NOT be disappointed 🙂

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A Childhood Favorite: Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

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It was a chilly, rainy day in Houston circa 1989. My brother and I had just come home from school. We had both forgotten our rain boots that day, and I remember my mom hurriedly pulling off our rain-soaked shoes and providing us with some of her very own luxurious terry-cloth slippers to wear. Propped up on the couch, we didn’t even have to start homework right away that day, and instead got to watch Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats on TV.  “You guys want a leetle snack?” My mom asked in her Greek accent, “How about some greeled cheese and tomato soup?” We had never had this before, but we were served it at a friend’s house last weekend, and I remember coming home and exclaiming that it was my new favorite food. “Oh, reeely?” My mom asked, looking at me through the rearview mirror with a curious yet almost hurt expression. Looking back to that moment, I now know that the competitive side in her that I so obviously adopted when it comes to cooking was up for a challenge. She was not only determined to make this “new favorite food” of mine, but to make it way better than what I had at my friend’s house. As she clamored out of the kitchen, large blue eyes a-twinkle with pride and steamy red bowls of soup in tow, I knew this was going to be one gooood snack. The sandwiches were grilled with a crisp olive oil coating, the cheese was so much cheesier, and the soup was hearty but not overly creamy like at my friend’s house. Even back then, I could tell this was better. And I told her so. My brother’s tomato stained face was his affirmation to her that he liked it, too. Fast forward 20+ years, and today, I have my own recipe that will hopefully bring my future children the same feeling of comfort we were brought on that rainy day all those years back.

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One-Pot Monday Recipe of the Week: Mushroom, Bacon and Leek Quiche

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There’s nothing I love more than breakfast for dinner. This quiche recipe is just so glorious and delicious, you will want to make it every week. I was inspired by the Julia Child recipe, and this is based on her recipe for a leek quiche. I decided to add mushrooms and bacon, since I love that trio of ingredients together so much. The bacon adds heartiness and a nostalgia to the quiche, while the mushrooms just tie in  so well I had to add them. Some other amazing combos that I’ve tried are goat cheese, eggplant, and red bell pepper as well as a tomato basil version. You can always get creative with what you decide to put in your quiche, which makes it fun and allows for creativity in the kitchen. Ok so, this isn’t technically one pot, as you will need a few separate pots/bowls to make it, BUT the finished product is in one “pot” or pie pan, soooo I thought I would include this for a one-pot Monday meal. It’s also a great feel-good food that will get you through the week as well. One bite and you’ll feel like you’re vacationing in Paris, sitting on a little bench on the cobble stone Rue De- something or other, rather than at your dining table. I’m thinking that’s what Julia Child was envisioning when she created her version as well.

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One Pot Monday Recipe: Yia Yia’s Lamb and Potatoes

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One of my absolute favorite Greek foods to cook has got to be lamb and potatoes. I remember my yia yia making it early in the mornings at the crack of dawn, as was her ritual every morning when we spent our summers at their home in Cyprus. Whenever I think of that house, I remember chipped celadon blue paint flaking off of the old wooden window panes and the smell of fragrant foods cooking in the kitchen. I can still hear the sound of my grandmother clinking her pots and spoons and hands around making lunch for us every day after we came home from a day at the beach. It was her way of expressing her love for her family, and I’m sure the compliments we always paid her for her tasty creations made her day as well. This lamb recipe is very similar to something she would make, that my mother and I now make our own versions of in our respective kitchens for our own loved ones. It’s more than just a recipe for me, I guess. It’s one of the catalysts that led me down this culinary road towards my very own rituals and recipes in my own kitchen.

 

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Crispy, Thin, NO-RISE Pizza Dough Recipe

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There’s nothing like the smell of a homemade pizza baking in the oven when you’re hungry. There’s something cozy and comforting about the combination of smells of garlicky tomato sauce and bread baking that I adore.  I know it may be tempting to go get some ready made pizza dough, but it’s SO EASY to make your own, once you try it, you won’t go back to the store bought kind. It’s also fun to see people’s reactions when you tell them that you made the whole pizza, including the dough, from scratch. Little do they know just how easy this pizza dough is to make! Not to mention that it’s a lot more cost effective to make your own as well. Once, I discovered this recipe, I was sold! I have tried dough recipe after dough recipe after dough recipe when it comes to finding the perfect pizza dough. After years of trial and error, I finally found the perfect dough!! It’s not only no-rise, which cuts the prep time down to about 10 minutes from start to rolling out the dough, it’s CRISPY! Yay!! Try this one out and let me know what you think!

 

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