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Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Traditions


Tomorrow will be a new year! There are so many traditions that I think are fun. In the south, we have some eating traditions. Black eyed peas are for good luck and any kind of greens (spinach, turnip, or collard) will bring money in the new year. I'm not really superstitious, but I will eat these "just in case". It's the time for resolutions, which I no longer make. Well, I can't keep them but for a few weeks or so. I hope that by next New Year's Eve I will be able to say that it was "my best year ever!".

I am going to a party tonight where everyone brings something to eat. I always mull over in my head over these events as I never know what to make. I was going to make homemade domathes (Greek stuffed grape leaves), but a lot of people are afraid to try them. I think I'll save making them for a time when a lot of relatives will be present, or at least a few people that I know can eat them by the handful. I'm one of those people. I can sit and eat tons of them. I tried to think of something different, yet familiar enough that people would like. I have some canned beans in the house, so I decided to make a salsa. Being that tomorrow is New Years, I decided to use black eye peas too. I usually don't measure many ingredients when making salsa, but I did measure these.

1 16 oz can black eye peas (drained and rinsed)
1 25.11 oz can black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 16 oz can garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 of a large green bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup chopped Spanish olives (stuffed with pimentos)
2 green onions (sliced thinly)
8 Jalapeno slices, finely chopped
1 4 oz can green chilies (drained)

I put the above ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, I whisk the following ingredients:

Juice of one lime
Juice of one lemon
Juice of one clementine (you can use 1/4 cup fresh orange or pineapple juice too)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
2 cloves garlic minced

Combine the ingredients and mix with the beans. Chill until serving time. Let come to room temperature before serving. Serve with tortilla chips.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy new year! Let me know some of your New Year traditions. I've heard there is going to be a "running with the suitcase" at this party. It means more travel in your future (from Colombia).




Sunday, December 13, 2009

Squash

I like all kinds of squash. I think that the yellow crookneck squash is my favorite. It was really the only kind of squash we ate when I was young. Not many variations on the way that we cooked it. Even now, it's a comforting winter dish.

It's really one of those "no need to measure" recipes that anyone can do. Basically it's just a few ingredients: squash, onion, tomato, and if you like potatoes (yes, I LIKE). I try to purchase the smallest yellow squash available as they are more tender and the interior seeds are not tough at all.

I dice and saute a medium onion (preferably Vidalia since they are so sweet---and I'm from Georgia) in a pot. Probably two or three tablespoons of olive oil (I don't use extra virgin for this part). I saute at a low heat until the onions are tender. Salt and pepper can be added. Wash and slice the squash into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. For one onion, I would probably have 8 small squash. Add the squash to the pot and add 1 16 oz can tomato sauce and one can of diced tomatoes (15 oz). During the summer, I always add chopped summer tomatoes as the taste is so good. During the winter, I just use canned tomatoes. Add two large Russet (baking potatoes) that have been peeled and chopped into one inch pieces. Add enough water to cover the vegetables and tomato sauce, bring to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes are tender. My mother used to take out some of the potatoes, mash them with a fork, and return them to the pot to have a thicker broth. It's a great dish to have on a cold winter evening. I sometimes put it in a soup bowl and eat it as a soup. You can also serve with a slotted spoon as a vegetable side dish.

Another way that I enjoy squash is the way my former mother in law used to cook it. They had a huge garden with many varieties of fresh vegetables. She would use the larger squash to make fried squash. I think that she would use a combination of vegetable oil and bacon grease in her cast iron skillet. The squash would be sliced into rings, dipped in cornmeal, and placed in the oil to fry. I think the heat was low as she would cover the squash to get it cooked through then, raise the heat, for the final crisping and browning of the squash.

On their land, they also grew zucchini. I will admit that I ate more than my fair share of zucchini bread. I liked it, but have not made any in years. I guess I ate more than my share during that time. When using zucchini, I like the small young ones. They can also be sliced into rings, coated with flour, and sauteed in a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil. After frying, they are delicious sprinkled with a balsamic and oil vinaigrette, then sprinkled with sea salt. It's a different twist on fried zucchini.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Varsity






Anyone who is a native of Atlanta, GA has been to the Varsity restaurant at least once in their lives. If not, WHY NOT? It's the world's largest drive in restaurant! Packed when there is a game at Georgia Tech, or any other events going on in the city. It's a fun place to visit just to watch the people. My favorite since childhood has been a chili steak with fries and a coke. With Atlanta being the home of Coca-Cola, I have always thought that the Varsity had the best cokes in town. Is it the crushed ice, the atmosphere of the place, or that coke just compliments a burger and fries?

The Varsity has it's own lingo from the welcome at the counter of "whatta ya have?" to ordering a "chili steak" (hamburger with chili) or a "P.C." (plain chocolate milk). They have a menu of lingo that is quite interesting and amusing. Why anyone would want a "P.C." when they have the best cokes in town is beyond me. We took our children there when they were young and sometimes I just have to have a Varsity meal. Luckily, there are several locations in the Atlanta area. There are several rooms for dining. Each room has a television on different stations. Watch a game, hear the news, etc..... Always a good way to start a conversation with the person sitting next to you. I don't think I've ever noticed if the "soaps" on the channels.

I know someone who used to live in Texas with family here in Atlanta. He would drive straight to the Varsity when he hit the city. If you are ever visiting the down town Atlanta area, you can ask practically anyone where the Varsity is located and you will get directions with a smile.

After all of this writing about the Varsity, I'll have to go soon. I just hope to go with someone who likes the onion rings as I have to have one or two with my meal.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hot Cocoa


Ah.............. sitting by a fire, a good book, and a large mug of hot cocoa. I will admit that I have used those (gasp) instant packs of cocoa in a pinch. If I'm at work, and need something hot to drink, I'll sneak away to the microwave with one of the infamous little pouches. I don't call that drinking cocoa though. It's just flavored hot water in my opinion.

My oldest son was home from college the week of Thanksgiving and we had hot cocoa one night. I make it the old fashioned way. Whenever I make hot cocoa, it reminds me of my days living in Paris. On most cold winter mornings, I would get the perfect size pot, fresh whole milk, Droste cocoa (which I still purchase when I see it), and make some warming cocoa before starting the morning trek to the local metro station. Something about the click of the gas stove and making cocoa that "jogs" the memory. Funny isn't it how some things spark a memory.

Hot cocoa

1 measuring container using my favorite mug (or any mug)
1 or 2 tablespoons sugar per mug (I like my cocoa sweet)
1 tablespoon cocoa per mug (you can use dark cocoa for a change too)
1/4 tsp. vanilla added to the milk in the pot

put the cocoa and sugar in the coffee mug. Add just enough milk or water to stir the ingredients smooth. You will probably use 1 tablespoon of water. Heat the milk in a pot to scalding. Just before serving, stir in the vanilla flavoring. Please only use REAL vanilla. The imitation vanilla is not tasty. You certainly don't want it to come to a boil. Nothing grabs your attention faster than Mt. Everest rising out of the pot just before it bubbles over the edge of the pot onto the stove. Yes, that has happened to me numerous times.

Pour hot milk over the choco/sugar mixture in your mug, add marshmallows or marshmallow cream, stir and enjoy.

Whenever my oldest son is home, I still get out his Tasmanian devil character mug from the Old Bugs Bunny cartoons. He has had this mug since he was 7 or 8 years old.

I have also read about making a thick hot cocoa by adding a little bit of cornstarch with the chocolate/sugar mixture, but have yet found the perfect measurement. The first time I made it it was too thick. It's something to attempt if you desire.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Success out of failure



Spaghetti sauce is an easy thing to make. Well not always. I usually have everything for a delicious spaghetti sauce on hand:


2 pounds ground chuck (for a nice hearty sauce)
1 large vidallia onion, chopped fine
1 pound sliced button mushrooms
2 teaspoons oregano
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 large bay leaf
1 32 ounces tomato puree
6 diced Roma tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup black olives sliced (I like olives on pizza, so why not in spaghetti sauce?)
1/8 cup green olives sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup of dry, red wine

In a large frying pan, saute diced onions in olive oil until translucent. Add ground chuck and brown until tender. I usually then drain the meat to get rid of some of the fat. Put meat and onions in a large pot. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for at least 30 minutes. I like to vary the pasta shapes that I use. On this particular day, I used the long hollow Greek pasta that is traditionally used for a Greek dish called pastisio.

I've made hundreds of pots of spaghetti, beef Burgundy, stews, etc... that call for wine. I've never had a problem opening the wine until I decided to use a new bottle opener that I had purchased. Instead of retelling the story, I'm just going to share my fb header and the comments that followed. I have a terrific sense of humor and the more I tried to get the cork out of the bottle, the more I laughed. I deleted the names as they know who they are and I won't forget that they share my zany sense of humor.



Lisa Poulos Williams has a fancy schmancy cork screw! It's awesome.... Guess who did SOMETHING wrong and has a perfectly good cork STUCK in the middle of the long neck wine bottle! What to do? What to do? %$^&&% (...so my spaghetti sauce may NOT have wine in it...HECK NO! I'm determined to get it.! hahahaha). Final outcome later....

02 November at 18:58 · ·
LOL. Push it down into the bottle with a butter knife! Works for me when my corkscrew fails. Good luck!

Cork saga continues: Cork in bottle. While trying to pour it, cork lodged back in the neck and wine wouldn't pour. I shook the bottle, cork moved, and about half the bottle went into the sauce. **Bleth sauthe *hic** I've everth mathe...*** hic***

HA ha! That's really funny, Lisa!!

you make me laugh

cook it longer, reduce the alcohol. low heat


Reduce the alcohol"!! Are you kidding?? That was the best flippin' sauce I've ever made!hahaha

I am cracking up that Your Son tells you to do the reduction and you're protesting. Very funny.

oh life's trials and tribulations!!!

i laughed

How many Greeks does it take to open a bottle of wine??? hahaha!!!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Jones Soda


Where do I begin? Being a native of Atlanta, I think that the only soft drink we had in the house was Coca-Cola. Coke, Coke, Coke and more Coke. We were such good eaters as children, that we could have coke with our dinner. I have never liked the taste of milk, never drank it when I finished my cereal, and can remember drinking very few glasses of it (...and that was at a friend's house who's mom had put it out with the dinner. I gulped it down and asked for a glass of water so that I could enjoy my meal). Anyway, I'm not sure when it started, but Jones Soda caught my eye in the store. Was it the humorous packaging, the funny names, or the outrageous flavor combinations?

I started purchasing the Jones Soda for a weekend treat for my sons when they were younger. Never knowing how something would taste or look. It always has the great carbonation though that tickles the taste buds. Flavors like Bubble Gum, Strawberry Lemonade, Popcorn (yes, popcorn), and many other combinations have adorned our refrigerator. My brothers have always had a terrific sense of humor and I have always enjoyed giving them funny gifts. My oldest brother, who was a coach, would receive funny neckties to wear at school. My other brother has been the recipient of Jones Soda for Christmas. His wife has been given a few cookbooks over the years as she enjoys cooking, so in a way he benefits too. First year, I gave him some Green Apple Jones Soda. The next year, I received the same soda wrapped in their Christmas wrapping paper. A tradition was soon started as the same soda went back and forth from house to house at Christmas. In 2005, Jones Soda came up with the brilliant "Holiday Pack" which has the following holiday flavors:

Turkey and Gravy
Wild Herb Stuffing
Brussels Sprout
Cranberry
and last but not least, pumpkin pie

I'm sure that the pumpkin pie and cranberry flavored drinks would actually be quite refreshing and delicious. I'd be curious about the other flavors though. This pack managed to find it's way to my brother's house one Christmas. The flavors can only mellow over the years for my great grandchildren to enjoy one day like the finest wines of the world (A bottle of Chateau Lafite 1787 sold for $160,000 at Christies in London). If many years down the road, you see Jones Soda being sold at Christies, you will probably see one of my sons in the audience. The tradition of Jones soda on many weekends and holidays will continue at our house. This Halloween it was Blood Orange Soda. It was actually good.

So next time you are out shopping, be on the lookout for Jones Soda. The children will think they are fun and the adults get the biggest kick out of the humor and flavor combinations. Let me know what flavor you try and what you think of it.



Saturday, October 17, 2009

The humble potato




Cooler weather has arrived in Georgia. Yesterday and today have been windy with drizzling rain. Lows have been in the 40's (F). Of course, in a few days, the temperatures may be quite different. This is fall in Georgia. Unpredictable. I did not turn on the heat last night, though it was quite cool in the house. No, I'll wait until I just can't stand it any more. I like a cool house (about 65-68) in the winter, but I know it was colder last night. So, officially, it's time to cook foods in the oven that take a while to cook. I certainly don't mind heating up the kitchen now.

I was thinking of what to make. I have lasagna, spaghetti sauce, and chili in the freezer for next week. I did purchase ingredients to have squash cooked with potatoes, tomato sauce and onions, but decided to wait to make that at another time. I glanced at the HUGE baking potatoes at the store and my decision was made. A simple green salad and a baked potato. I already ate the salad as I was hungry and determined NOT to microwave this huge monster potato.

I washed and scrubbed the potato with "fruit and veggie" cleaner, pricked holes in the potato with a fork, and put it in the oven to bake. About an hour at 400F. It will be worth the wait. I knew that a potato would be warming and filling. Simple, yet satisfying meal. I will top it with real butter (I can't remember the last time I used margarine at all), sour cream, and fresh chopped green onions. I may top it with sharp cheese too.

When I was growing up, there was a place in the fast food court of the malls that had only baked potatoes. They had numerous toppings from which to choose: broccoli and cheese, bacon, beef stew, bar-b-que (no, I never tried that), and numerous toppings that made the simple potato a hearty meal for the lunch time crowd. I think I may have eaten there once, but usually when I eat out, I try and get something that I cannot easily prepare at home. As a side note, I will say that it is much cheaper to eat Chinese food in a restaurant. Many years ago, I made sizzling rice soup, shrimp egg rolls, and two entrees. It was expensive, but delicious. I do have the ingredients for home-made Thai Phad (or Pad) depending on where you live). I'll let you know the success of my second try on that recipe. The first was just OK...not nearly enough veggies for me that time. It can't get any easier than a baked potato. Now, back to the potato..........

My other favorites:

French Fries: of course. That is the name of the blog after all. Nothing like a delicious french fry

Red potatoes: Wonderful as a warm potato salad with lots of bacon. It's October, so perhaps a nice German potato salad with my bratwurst.

Red potatoes: Steamed in their "jackets" served with lemon juice, butter, parsley and Parmesan cheese

Red potatoes: Served cold with a Greek Salad dressing drizzled on top of them.

Greek Style potatoes with lemon, oregano, butter, and olive oil.

Greek Style potatoes with tomato sauce, onions, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

Acorn Squash stewed with tomatoes, tomato sauce, onions, and potato cubes.

Mashed potatoes: I like them cooked traditionally with butter, salt, pepper, and milk (or cream)

Mashed potatoes: Mashed with cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, and fresh garlic

Sweet potatoes: Baked with butter and cinnamon

Sweet potatoes: Baked into a sweet potato casserole sweetened Southern style with pecans, brown sugar, and cinnamon

So many potatoes and different varieties. I can honestly say that I have never had a potato dish that I did not like. I've even made the Danish caramelized potatoes and the Swedish hasselback potatoes.

I remember once when in Switzerland I had a simple lunch consisting of steamed potatoes, pickles, and melted cheese on the plate. I will never forget this Raclette dish. To this day, Gruyere is one of my favorite kinds of cheese.

I have also made the Swiss potato dish called Rosti (depends on which area of Switzerland as to the spelling of the name). Basically, it is a giant potato dish made with shredded potatoes cooked in butter and oil in a frying pan. I have made this quite often.

I certainly drifted away from my original baked potato didn't I? Hopefully, one day, I will make all of the potato dishes I have described and remember to have my camera handy for the photos.

The ONLY potato that I do NOT like is the instant mashed potato.... I could go the rest of my life and not eat those. I think my potato is ready now, so off I go to eat a late dinner.

Mashed potato soup.......

This one would be easy without measurements, because many of us make mashed potatoes from time to time. What started out as mashed potatoes, quickly became potato chowder. I was making the potatoes and was ready to mash them. I decided to leave them very chunky. I added milk and butter, stirring gently. I decided to make it like a baked potato and added sour cream, chives, and cheddar cheese. It was truly a "stick to your ribs" warming meal!!! Bacon bits can be added too. The leftovers were even fine the next day.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

for the love of mushrooms



















I like all kinds of mushrooms. The plain white, button mushrooms to the exotic types. I like all of them. When playing trivia with friends at a local sports bar, I tried their grilled portobello mushroom sandwich and I was hooked. Now, I purchase them all of the time. I will always put some kind of mushroom and fresh parsley in my cart when I go to the market. It's a standby. This is a recipe for something easy to make for dinner that is filling and delicious. Last night I made a simple rice dish with mushrooms. I wanted the old fashioned white rice (no whole grain tonight).

In a skillet I slowly sauteed the following:

2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil


I saute4ed the mushrooms over low to medium heat until the butter was absorbed into the mushrooms and they were golden brown. Take your time on this step as it makes a difference. Plus, you don't want to burn your mushrooms. While there was still some butter in the skillet, I added a clove of garlic to give just a hint of garlic flavoring to the mushrooms. Be careful not to let the garlic brown. After the mushrooms were golden I added the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, and 3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley. In the meantime, I made some white rice. Put rice in bowl, top with mushrooms and add freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste. Quick and easy meal.

Portobello mushrooms are delicious grilled or broiled. I wipe each mushroom with a damp paper towel to gently clean them. Put them in a large dish and put 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons olive oil, a little lemon juice, salt, pepper, and oregano to taste. Let them sit for about 15 or 20 minutes then I turn them over to get marinade on the bottom of the mushrooms.

They are best put over coals until they are evenly browned and softened. You can also broil them in the oven adding olive oil as needed. Top with freshly chopped cilantro, red onion, guacamole, swiss cheese and tomato. Delicious. I didn't have any hamburger buns, so I used toasted English muffins for the sandwich bread for my portobello. Give it a try. It's good.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Comfort food


I have a list of many things that are comfort foods. How many people have french fries, crab, and ALL Greek foods as comfort food? Last weekend, I was trying to remember the last time I made home-made french fries cooked in the deep fryer. I could not remember the last time I made them, so what was I to do, but make some. My love for french fries can pretty much be explained in the title of the blog. You may want to read the first post for more details. For me, I use Idaho baking potatoes for my fries and ALWAYS, ALWAYS, use fresh vegetable oil. I'm sure the Varsity doesn't use fresh oil (and I like their fries), but I know my grandfather (Papa) always used fresh oil. After making a huge plate of fries sprinkled with sea salt, I suddenly remembered a segment I saw on a cooking show about deep fried hot dogs. Well, I don't eat hot dogs but once or twice a year, but I thought that while the kitchen smelled of fried food, I may as well deep fry a hot dog too. I will say that a hot dog grilled over charcoal is my favorite way to cook a hot dog, this is by far a close second. It was delicious.

Given that we may have had Irish steak and kidney pie or pear-plum jam in our pantry as a kid, I'm not the usual ketchup and mustard on a hot dog person. I'm always looking for different "toppers". I always use mustard no matter the additional toppings. So my current creative hot dog topping was Swiss cheese, sliced dill pickles, fresh tomatoes, mustard, and banana peppers. After that creative mix, I realized that the possibilities are limitless! It was a good combination believe it or not. Oktoberfest is just around the corner, so I'm sure I will have a German Frankfurter with delicious sauerkraut in the next month or so. I just couldn't open the container for just one hot dog, or I would have eaten most of it by the forkful... and I already had my plate of fries. Yes, I'm sure I'll be making my own sauerkraut blend with caraway seeds, onions, etc... when the time comes for Oktoberfest. Now, finding someone to finish the Guinness after I have the one sip.

What is your favorite method of cooking a hot dog? What are your favorite condiments on a hot dog? Let me know via the comment link. I'll be sure and give it a try.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Bacon, bacon, bacon


I must admit that there are not many people who do not like bacon. I don't eat it often, but I do enjoy the thick slice bacon. In spinach salad and of course the infamous "BLT"!! Bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich is the perfect summer lunch. Farm grown tomatoes add a certain, summer only, flavor to this simple sandwich. My sons love bacon and could make a meal of bacon itself. I know that David (my youngest @ 18) has made many bacon sandwiches. Forget the lettuce and tomato for him as those are vegetables the last time I checked. Yes, your child can grow up just fine having not touched a vegetable or fruit since the baby food became chunky. This from my child who ate his share of baby food spinach. It was a FAVORITE of his!! Thank goodness for 100% fruit juices! Oh, and the calcium from all of the cheese and yogurt he ate too. One day, he will be pleasantly surprised when he does eat something of the fruit and veggie family and enjoys it.
We've all done that haven't we. Something we never ate as a child, but once tried as an adult, we like it. Growing up, I was not fond of Chinese food. Once I gave it an honest try again in college, I had many years of Chinese meals to satisfy my new found enjoyment of this delicious cuisine. Now, I eat Chinese food quite often and have even made homemade egg rolls, sizzling rice soup, and many entrees. There is something about eating out of those little take out boxes that puts the fun back in eating.

Now, back to the bacon.... Bacon cheeseburgers, bacon sandwiches, bacon for breakfast, and one of David's new found favorites: Bacon wrapped pork chops. I first had this delicious treat at my friend's house. Sue is an awesome cook, who has introduced me to the many fine flavors of her South African heritage as well as from her travels. Not sure of the origin of this recipe, and I don't make it as good as her, but it's wonderful nonetheless. David will eat three at a time with no problem! He enjoys them.

Bacon Wrapped Pork Chops

5 center cut pork loin chops, cut about 1/2 inch thick
5 pieces maple, hickory smoked bacon (thick cut is best)
1 clove garlic, minced
olive oil
salt
pepper

Sprinkle the pork chops liberally with olive oil, pat minced garlic on each chop, add salt and pepper to taste and let sit for about 30 minutes. Wrap each pork chop with a piece of bacon. I don't wrap around the edges, but around the flat surface of the chops. No need to secure with toothpicks, as I just cook the portion with the wrapped end first. These are best cooked over a charcoal grill, but will do nicely in a frying pan. Fry the pork chops over medium heat until done, turning once. I fry the pork chops in a mixture of olive oil and butter (probably a good 3 tablespoons of each).

After the pork chops are done, I drain most of the oil except for about 3 tablespoons (the bacon will add extra flavor to the pan juices). Saute 1 onion sliced, 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves minced and several mushrooms in the remaining pan drippings. Add a little white wine to the mushrooms and onions after they have nicely browned and are tender. Serve with basmati rice, fresh peas, and crusty Italian bread. For a more casual meal, omit cooking the mushrooms, and serve with potato salad, and fresh crispy pickles, and yellow mustard to serve with the pork chops.

Make extra as your children will want to eat more than one of these!!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Greek Meatball Appetizers









When I was a little girl, Sunday lunch was at our house or my Aunt's house. It didn't matter where it was, there were always certain things on the table while lunch was being prepared. Greek olives (Kalamata), Feta cheese, stuffed grape leaves (if we were lucky), Greek appetizer meatballs (one of my all time favorites). and chewy crusty bread from the bakery. I still go to the International bakery on Cheshire Bridge Rd. to get delicious Greek cheeses. I don't go there often as I can't resist the baklava or other pastries.




Sitting around the table giggling with my cousins, lifting a lid on the stove, peeking in the oven were all weekly occurrences. Walking into the kitchen the aroma of Greek foods and spices wafting out into the carports, brought a feeling of great anticipation of favorite foods for lunch. I don't think I ever heard anyone say they weren't hungry, because we surely ate, and ate, and ate. Sitting at the table for hours laughing, talking, and nibbling on the foods on the table. My mom, Christina, was a great cook. She did not like lamb at all, but she made it often for the "carnivores" of the family (which was everyone else). Dad was usually the one who cooked the steaks when we had them as we liked them rare (but not cold in the middle). I know mom was probably squirming in her seat when she watched us eat it. She would eat meat, but she ate hers well done. No wonder she wasn't wild about beef. Well done beef loses so much flavor in my opinion. She would make the Greek appetizer meatballs sometimes and they were always a treat. They can be eaten hot, warm, or cold. I like them all ways. I used to dip them in yellow mustard sometimes for a change of flavor.


I had some ground chuck in the refrigerator today and decided that it had been a long time since I've made the meatballs (called keftedes in Greek).



Keftedes





Ground chuck (my pack happened to be about 1.12 pounds, but a pound will work for these ingredients




Juice of 1/2 lemon



1 small vidalia onion minced very fine


1 piece of bread made into crumbs


1 large egg


1/2 tsp. oregano


1/2 tsp. lemon pepper


1/2 tsp. salt


1 tsp. black pepper


1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves



Put the meat in a large mixing bowl. Mince the onion very fine and put in a mesh colander to drain the juices. Grate the bread with a rotary grater (it works great for fresh bread crumbs). Add onion, bread crumbs, oregano, egg, lemon pepper, salt, pepper, and juice of one half lemon to the ground chuck. Mince the parsley leaves very fine and add to meat mixture. Blend the meat mixture until all ingredients are incorporated. Form meatballs into walnut size shapes. I happen to like my "meatballer" gadget as it always makes them the same size. I made about 24 meatballs with this mixture. Heat 1/2 cup vegetable oil and about 1/8 cup olive oil in a large skillet. Over medium heat, cook the meatballs (about 8 at a time) about 8 minutes until done. I constantly am turning the meatballs in the oil to get them uniformly brown. After the second batch, you may need to add more vegetable oil. Drain on a paper towel lined plate until cool. Alternatively, they can be cooked over a charcoal grill (that is my favorite way to cook them). These are also great with tzaziki sauce too.

A variation on the above recipe........... I'm always changing recipes.

3/4 pound ground chuck
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
1/4 dried bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 egg
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed

Gently mix the above ingredients. Form into walnut-size meatballs. Put meatballs on oiled, flat skewers. Grill over charcoal until cooked through. Serve hot or cold.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Potatoes for Pittypat


Who, or what is a "pittypat"? I will start by saying that my mother had nicknames for many of her friends and my friends too. (some of the names I answer to are: "lisapou", "sisterbelle", "peanut", "lisamou", "lisabelle", "lise", "lee", and "ca-va"...I'm sure there are more). Patty was about 9 months older than I. I can honestly say that I've known her since the day I was born. We lived across the street from each other, our parents were the best of friends from way back until the untimely deaths of all but my father. Patty has two older brothers and so did I. Our oldest brothers were best friends too. We spent many evenings with entire families gathered together, cooking, chatting outside, going to relatives homes, etc.... Patty knew my cousins and I knew hers. Patty and I don't see each other often, but we do talk on the phone. Her birthday was yesterday and I sent her a note. How in the world does one little girl have so many names?? Patty is what I have always called her (she goes by Patricia), mom called her "Pittypat", and I think I heard "Tish" a few times too. Mom asked Patty what she wanted for her birthday one year. Patty said, "I want a pan of Greek potatoes"! Not sure if these are served in Greece or Cyprus, where mom's dad was from, but anything cooked at our house was "Greek" to our neighbors! :) Like I said, we ate at each others houses quite often. Her dad got me to try an onion ring by calling it a "Japanese Doughnut"! I think I even ate frog legs at their house once. Perhaps, that is why I enjoy so many different foods. Mom made Patty her birthday potatoes and she enjoyed every bite. I don't really measure, but it doesn't have to be exact. One version of Greek style potatoes:


I'll call them "Potatoes Pittypat"
  • 4 medium size baking potatoes
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • about 2 tsp oregano (you can add more or less to your liking)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 oz water
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive oil

13 x 9 stainless steel baking dish (I guess any kind will do, but mom always had her stainless steel pans. (leftover from the days when her and dad owned a restaurant)
Cut a baking potato in half lengthwise, then cut each half in half again.
Potatoes will look like long wedges (this is the way mom always did them)
Put enough potatoes in pan to cover the bottom, leaving some room between them. I will guess four potatoes should be plenty
Cut a large onion in quarters and place in pan
Add one 8 oz can of tomato sauce on top of the potatoes and onion
Add 1/2 to 1 cup of water in bottom of pan
Sprinkle potatoes with salt, pepper, and a dash of oregano
Drizzle olive oil over the potatoes (probably 2 tablespoons total)
Bake at 350 until for 45 minutes, then raise the temperature to 400F and cook until tender
Baste the potatoes and onion about every 15 minutes or so with the liquid in the pan
I can't eat these without thinking of Patty.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Chillin' n' Grillin'"


It's summer time and my entire diet changes to a lighter fare. With all of the terrific produce, I eat a lot of salad: green salad, bean salad, cobb salads, and many others. I don't like heating up the kitchen with stews, or baked dishes as I save those for after the first frost. I could cook every meal on the grill during the summer. Today, I have decided to marinate some chicken breast for dinner. My favorite way to grill chicken is "Greek Style" based with lemon. We had lemon chicken at least once a week when I was a child and I have not tired of it yet. Especially in the summer, when grilled on an open fire, dining al fresco! Dining al fresco on the deck, enjoying a freshly grilled chicken, lamb, or souvlaki (Greek shish kabob), feta cheese, bread and salad, is the perfect ending to a summer day.

Greek Chicken

5 large chicken breast (I don't purchase boneless, skinless, chicken if I'm cooking it on the grill)
3 lemons, juiced
zest of two of the lemons
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
3 sprigs of lemon thyme (I grow it so, I have it handy)
(If you don't have lemon thyme, use regular thyme---it's still good!)
1 tablespoon Greek Oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil

I prepare the chicken by washing it, and trimming off the small bones. With a fork, I pierce the chicken through the skin side several times to let the marinade really get in the meat. Set aside. In a medium bowl, pour in the lemon juice, olive oil, zest. thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Blend with a whisk until thoroughly blended. Put the chicken in a large "Zip lock" bag and pour on the marinade. Seal the air out of the bag and rub the marinade into the meat a little. Set bag in a large bowl (just in case it leaks a tad), put in the refrigerator for several hours. Preheat gas, charcoal grill, or broiler. Cook over medium heat until juices run clear.

Serve with rice, green beans, Greek salad, fresh country bread, and of course Greek olives.

This would be delicious with a tzatziki sauce too!

Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

yia yia's banana pudding!




There is nothing I enjoy more than the great taste of summer fruit:
Watermelon

peaches - Have you ever been peach picking? That peach fuzz is on there for a reason.... to make you itch and scratch for a few days! hahahaha,

strawberries - I remember picking them with my grandfather. He would actually pick them, I would eat them as he dropped them in the bowl. He didn't mind though.

blueberries - my former in-laws had bushes and bushes of berries. What a summer treat!! Delicious... I didn't mind picking the blueberries or strawberries.

grapes - My slinky is still probably in "Papa Jimmy's" grape vine somewhere on Hyland Drive.

I enjoy all fruit except for one. Banana. I will eat banana bread and banana cake (Have you ever had a banana cake with cream cheese and pecan frosting?..... good). I can eat it if served in a dessert, but I do not like to eat a plain banana. They're not juicy nor crunchy. Just "blah" texture. Are there any other fruits like it? ...ok, perhaps raisins and dates. I'd rather eat a giant bowl of lima beans to get the potassium! I have such a sweet tooth though, so a banana muffin brought to me by a coworker was much appreciated in the morning. I will say that I do make a good banana pudding. It is a recipe from my dad's aunt. We used to call her yia yia Maria. Yia Yia is greek for grandmother. Since I never knew my grandmothers, we called her yia yia. It's funny the things you remember about people. I remember her KITCHEN! The flames of her gas stove, the hugs, the love and the warmth felt in her kitchen. Her recipe for banana pudding was my dad's favorite. I decided that for a big crowd I would just double the recipe and have twice as much. I slaved over the stove making the custard until it was just right (so I thought). Beautifully decorated pan with Nila Vanilla Wafers (Nila is the ONLY brand I will use). I thought.. It looks kind of thin, but it will thicken after sitting in the refrigerator. I was so proud... This is one of my dad's favorite desserts. He will be so surprised! Who doesn't like banana pudding? .... well, me really, but I eat around the bananas! It's a southern classic. Meringue on top, baked to a golden brown, slivered almonds sprinkled on top. Yes, a masterpiece!! ...so I thought. Time to serve the pudding. It didn't thicken at all! Oh no! How embarrassing! Being from a family of jokers and everyone having a sense of humor, my brother put it in a cup and proudly stated. "This is the best banana pudding I ever drank!!". Peels of laughter and a lot of fun. I guess someone at the fast food places must have had the same thing happen to them. Have you seen banana pudding milkshakes on the menu?? Yes, I did it first!!! :)

Here's her recipe.... Just a hint though: I wouldn't double the recipe.

Banana Pudding

Vanilla Wafers as needed
3 large, ripe bananas
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 quart milk
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs, separatede
3 heaping Tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
slivered almonds or pecan pieces

Line a 7 X 11 baking pan with vanilla wafers and sliced bananas sprinkled with lemon juice. Top with more wafers. Layer bananas and wafers... I use as many wafers as banana slices. I would like a "non" banana pudding too... just "wafer" pudding! :)

Bring milk to slow boil in 2 quart saucepan

Beat egg yolks with cornstarch and sugar. Stir hot milk gradually into egg mixture. Return to saucepan. Cook over low heat until mixture thickens. If thicker mixture is desired, add more cornstarch. Remove from heat, blend in 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Pour pudding mixture over wafers and bananas.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Spread meringue over pudding. Sprinkle with almonds or pecans. Place under broiler until golden. Watch carefully!! Serves 8-10

Recipe of Mrs. Mary Pefinis (my yia yia Maria)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Grilled Vegetables with Pasta


Yellow squash was a staple at our house. We would see it year round in a pan with tomatoes and onions. During the winter and fall, it is one of my many "comfort" foods. A big bowl of squash and potatoes is delicious. Since summer is here, I don't eat hot soups or stews, but choose to have meals that don't heat up the kitchen. I enjoy cooking on the grill. If it can be cooked on the grill, I will try it.

Here is my recipe for summer vegetables cooked on the grill.

You can vary the amounts to more of your favorite vegetable.

5 small yellow squash (I like the smallest squash-I don't like the larger seeds in this recipe)
1 can artichokes (in water not marinated), drained
1 vidalia onion sliced
5 Roma tomatoes, sliced in one inch pieces
8 ounces farfalle pasta (bow tie pasta)
fresh parmasan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1/8 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
Olive oil
lemon juice

I usually make this over a charcoal grill. Slice squash and tomatoes into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Lightly brush with olive oil. Place squash and onions on grill pan and cook until tender. I like to raise the heat towards the end to get nice grill marks on the squash. Put the tomato slices on the grill pan and heat until heated through. Add artichoke hearts and heat until golden.

While the veggies are on the grill, cook the pasta according to package directions. I prefer the "al dente" texture. In large bowl, place the pasta and grilled vegetables. Add chopped parsley, basil, lemon pepper, salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and a bit of lemon juice. Toss and serve.


Friday, June 19, 2009

The "All American Sandwich"

(some of my "must haves" on a sandwich in the above photo... This was a snack as I don't put crackers on my subs!!~ not yet anyway)

What is the "All American Sandwich"? I guess it will depend on where you live in the country. Philadelphia, New York, New Orleans, all have their own special sandwich that is "All American". I'm sure that practically everyone has had a grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwich if they went to school in the U.S. I know my youngest son ate his share of peanut butter and jelly as well as grilled cheese. I don't think there is a sandwich I wouldn't try. Cole slaw on a sandwich? Sure why not? French Fries on a sandwich?....yeah, I'll try
that too!

When I was a student studying in Paris, I would go on picnics with my friends. A fresh baguette, still warm from the bakery, Swiss cheese, ham, and Dijon mustard was a great treat. How can one refuse a sandwich on a crusty baguette? When ordering some sandwiches, the French would use butter on the bread instead of mayonnaise. I must say that I liked the taste. My oldest used to eat ham sandwiches with butter too. Of course, Brad would eat a stick of butter if I would have let him.

My father has to be the all time peanut butter sandwich eater of the world! Even if he was going out to brunch with friends, his day would start with a peanut butter sandwich on toast and a cup of hot tea. I rarely eat peanut butter sandwiches, but when I do, I prefer the extra crunchy kind with strawberry jam! (Dad ate smooth). Delicious on toast for breakfast. I guess it runs in the family.

Sandwiches are a quick fix and can be nutritious and healthy, or they can be "down right" high in fat laden with cheeses, salami, and cold cuts of different kinds. Sometimes, I like a nice Italian sub with "the works"!! Olives, tomatoes, bell peppers, pepperocini, lettuce, pickles, and cucumbers. I like cucumbers on sandwiches. It gives a nice crunch, plus I like the taste of cucumber. On my sub (as we call them in the south), I like an oil and vinegar dressing with oregano, salt and pepper.

Today, I had a few cups of tea for breakfast, but had not had lunch. I remember my mom used to make fried egg sandwiches for us when we were kids. I still like them. I fried a few eggs over easy in butter, sliced some tomatoes and warmed them in the pan too. All I had was a hogie roll, so that was what I used for the bread. Swiss cheese, tomato, and fried egg sandwich. Just a little salt and pepper are all that is needed to adorn this treat. I must admit, I needed a fork too as I don't like my yolk cooked through. What a delicious lunch that brought back memories of my childhood.

Another favorite sandwich of mine is a vine ripe tomato sandwich on white bread with mayo. For some reason, whole wheat just doesn't do the tomato justice! I guess it is because of the childhood tradition. I don't eat as much meat as I used to, but a BLT (bacon, lettuce, and tomato) was another favorite sandwich for the summer. My youngest son, David, doesn't like veggies, so he would just eat a bacon sandwich with a few pieces of bacon on the side! :)

One of my favorite hot sandwiches is the Reuben. Corned Beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss Cheese, and special dressing and bread spread! YUM!

So many varieties that I enjoy, so many new ones to try. ...and the breads? Pita, pumpernickel, white, lavash, whole grain, baguette, Italian, onion roll, etc... I like them all! To me, it's not the ingredients, but the BREAD that makes the sandwich! The heartier, the better!


So many varieties... and only 365 days in a year! That could be an interesting blog.... "365 days of sandwiches"!!

Sandra Gadd is like a sister to me. I've known her for years. We have spent many lunches, afternoon teas, dinners, etc... together with family. When ever our family would have a celebration of any kind, I would always request her Tortilla Roll-Ups. It's the kind of recipe that is great for a night of watching football with friends, bridal or baby showers, easy picnic dinner, or something to make ahead for the lunch box.

  • Tortilla Roll-Ups
  • 2 8 oz packages of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 small can green chili peppers, chopped and drained
  • 1 small can black olives, chopped and drained
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 package large flour tortillas (8 to a package)
  • Picante Sauce
Put cream cheese in food processor with a few tablespoons picante sauce

Blend until smooth

Add remaining ingredients, mixing well

Spread mixture on each tortilla, dividing evenly

Roll up tortilla tightly and store in plastic bag for several hours or over night until firm

when ready to serve, slice into small pinwheels (1/4 to 1/2 inch thick)

Serve with picante sauce for dipping




Saturday, June 13, 2009

Lamb Burger




My local grocery store usually does not have ground lamb. Of course, I could ask for it and have it in a day or so, but I was just in the mood for lamb. When I'm in the mood for some specific item like ground lamb, mussels, crab or any specialty cheese, I shop at Whole Foods. They have always had the ingredients that I need for any meal. Their selection of homemade sausages; including lamb sausage, was very tempting, but I had my mind set on a lamb burger. Today, I was in the mood for Greek food. Off to whole foods I go..... (I always get a small cart while I'm there or else, I'd purchase half of the store!) I really enjoy the freshness of their meats, cheeses, breads, and produce.




Lamb Burgers


1.15 pounds lamb (you can use a pound, but this was the weight of my pack)
zest of one lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp Greek oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

I gently mix the ingredients and let it sit for about 30 minutes before forming patties. Using 1/2 cup measure, I made 5 patties and grilled over charcoal for about 7 minutes per side. Then let them rest.

I served them with fresh steamed green beans served with butter and lemon pepper, sliced tomato half grilled on the grill, tzatziki sauce, crusty ciabatta Italian bread, cheese, and Greek olives. What a treat! It was delicious.

For the sauce I altered the previous recipe to make a small amount. We'll just call it "lamb burger sauce"

1 8 oz container Greek style yogurt (plain, non-fat)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 small pickling cucumber, finely grated and moisture squeezed out in cheesecloth.
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summer Soup


As a rule, I don't make soup until the first frost of the year. It gives me something to look forward to in the cooler months. I have my fall/winter recipes and my spring/summer recipes. I don't think I've ever made hot soups in the summer. Cold soup I will eat. I've made avocado soup, cold potato soup (Vichyssoise), cucumber/yogart soup (based on Tzatziki sauce) and my favorite Gazpacho soup. The original recipe was from a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I took her basic ingredients and changed the amounts of my favorite ingredient, and lessened the amounts of my least favorite ingredients. I use the smallest onions I can find as I'm not wild about raw onions (...and in the summer, they have to be sweet Vidalia onions grown in south Georgia). She uses more garlic than I prefer, so I changed that amount too. I added more herbs because I grown them on my patio and use them whenever I think they will enhance a dish. I also added olives. I can eat olives by the bowlful, so I may as well add them to this wonderful soup.

Gazpacho

8 pickling cucumbers,, halved and seeded
3 bell peppers: cored, seeded and chopped (I use one of each: green, red, and yellows)
8 plum tomatoes
2 small Vidalia onions (I'm not much on raw onion, so I use the small one and mince it)
4 garlic cloves, minced
46 ounces tomato juice (6 cups)
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil (I used extra virgin olive oil from Kalamata, Greece....I'm Greek, What can I say? :D
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
6 springs of lemon thyme: I grow it on my patio, so I use it in a lot of things
10 or so fresh basil leaves: I grow this too.. so use it often
Italian parsley (1/2 cup chopped): Yet another herb I grow!
lemon juice to taste (I squeeze the lemon on individual servings as I like the citrus taste)
For Garnishing the soup:
black, green, and Kalamata olives 1/2 cup
lemon slices
3 or 4 chopped green onions


Roughly chop each type of vegetable. Put each type vegetable separately in food processor, and pulse until coarsely chopped. Don't process too much or you will have puree. After each vegetable is processed, or chopped by hand, combine in large bowl. Add garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and herbs if desired. Mix well and chill. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

This is a nice refreshing soup. I served with crusty Italian bread slices. Since making it for the first time, I have decided that I like the bits of vegetables more chunky than the result in the food processor.

Italian bread slices

Slices of hearty Italian bread (Get the very hearty loaf, not the prewrapped soft Italian bread), drizzled with olive oil, topped with grated lemon zest, shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, minced dill, and ground pepper. Toast until golden.

Especially nice for hot days in the U.S. with temps over 90 F.

Enjoy!

Labels

Ingredients I must have in my kitchen (It's a long list, but I try and have these items on hand)

  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Cheese
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Bread
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Greek Oregano
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Lemon ( At least 3 or 4 ALWAYS)
  • Peppers (Wax, Jalapeno, banana)
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Regular Olive Oil
  • Rice
  • Salad Ingredients
  • Sea Salt
  • Spanish Olives
  • White Balsamic Vinegar
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