Baklava

dessert 0 Comments
Sweet, Sweet Heaven

Is it sad that what I was looking forward to most about a month spent in Greece and Turkey was the baklava?!
The first photograph taken in Turkey was of me eating baklava
So it only makes sense to continue my obsession in the USofA!
A little time consuming to make, but simple once you have all the ingredients prepared and ready to assemble
I use walnuts like the Greeks
Pistachios are used in Turkey
I served them plopped down in the middle of a cupcake paper

Recipe is courtesy of Florence Stamos.
Ingredients:

A baklava factory in Turkey
I asked for one piece and they would not let me pay for it.  They insisted that one piece is always a present and they don’t charge for it :o)
 “do not disturb”

Just a typical walk through Istanbul

Greece In June

Destinations 0 Comments
My cousin Mindee and I spent a wonderful week exploring the island Sifnos in preparation for her wedding that will be held there next summer. 
Compared to Mikinos and Ios catering to the younger crowd looking to party, Sifnos is a much more laid back island with quiet beaches, lush hills ideal for hiking and luxury hotels and restaurants.  Sifnos caters to the foodies and familes…making this the perfect location for Mindee and Peter’s wedding!
Throughout the week we met with the wedding planner, decorator and makeup artist and had many incredible meals along the way.
Sifnos is proud of their island specialties like creamy goat cheese, slow cooked lamb (8 hours in a ceramic pot) and chickpea balls and soup. 
Everything on this salad, from the olive oil to the goat cheese, was produced on the island
I’ll share a few pictures and traveling tips for if you ever find yourself in Athens or Sifnos.
We happened to arrive into Athens on the day that protests and riots were taking place.  If you pay attention to world news, you might recall Greece’s economic crisis. So, instead of taking the convient bus that runs from the airport to the city center, because rioters were blocking the streets, we took the underground.  First bump in our trip, no big deal.  We make it to our wonderful hotel, Hermes Hotel where we stayed for one night before making our way to the island.  I recommend this hotel if not only for the amazing breakfast and perfect location to the old quarter, Plaka.
Dinner in the Plaka
Up at 6 am thanks to jet lag, we walk up the hill through the winding alleys between ancient stucco homes to the Acropolis 
It’s 9 am on our way down the hill from the Acropolis and an old wobbly man on his way home from an early morning grocery run yells and points behind us, “Acropolis, that way!”
“We went!” I replied
We actually would recommend hitting the popular places before the tourists and sun come out
We took the 5 hour ferry to Sifnos and stayed in the port town Kamares for the first night on the island
Alk Hotel is nice and conveniently located
Boy fishing for dinner in Kamares Bay
Kamares Sunset
We then spent the next 3 nights in a small town on the other side of the island called Platis Yialos.
We stayed at Kohylia, a lovely hotel right smack dab on the water
My 2 favorite Greek dishes:
Grilled octopus and dolmas at our hotel’s restaurant
The deliciousness makes up for the terribly slow service
Painting the famous blue shutters 
On our walk down to the tavern for dinner

Chickpea Balls

On mine and Mindee’s first night on Sifnos, Greece, we had a wonderful dinner at O Argiris in the port of Kamares.
We started our dinner with chickpea balls and a Greek salad followed by melt-in-your-mouth slow cooked lamb called Mastelo, all Sifian Specialties!

Chickpea balls are similar to falafel only not as spicy.  Falafel is made with cumin and coriander where chickpea balls call for fresh herbs and potato 

This recipe was adapted from a cookbook written by a Greek woman living on the island that does just about everything…. from wedding planning, dance lessons, ceramic classes, hike tours and cooking classes.  The cookbook is not very specific with ingredient measurements and cooking times… which just goes to prove the easy-going, laid-back mentality of the Greeks :o)

Ingredients:
1 part chickpeas
1/2 part potatoes, boiled and peeled
1/2 part onions chopped
Parsley, dill, marjoram, mint
2 garlic
Red wine to kneed
Flour to roll in and oil to fry

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a blender
Put into a large bowl
Add a little wine at a time and kneed to combine
Roll about 1 heaping tablespoon
Roll in flour
Set aside
Fry about 5 at a time in oil
Drain on paper towels

Our view from the restaurant 

Gorgonzola, Caramelized Onion and Apricot Chutney Flat Bread

Savory gorgonzola and sweet apricots make a heavenly combination

My friend Kate from Seattle (we met 3 years ago while living in Thailand) came to visit for a couple of days and on her last night here we had a Sex And The City, Wine and Flat Bread Marathon.
Kate is a great cook (enjoying healthy foods like me!) and so fun to be in the kitchen with.  We also made a Margarita with Eggplant (a specialty of hers) and a Pesto with Fresh Tomatoes (a specialty of my mom’s).
Partially inspired by sipping wine while cooking, we’ll credit our healthy appetites to the 3.5 mile run across Golden Gated Bridge earlier that day :o)

This is an amazing combination worth trying on a panini or served in bowls along side crackers for an appetizer.  I don’t eat pork but I just thought of another good idea: apricot glazed pork tenderloin, thinly sliced, caramelized onions spooned over and blue cheese crumbled on top, serve hot and melting.  Maybe sprinkle with fresh thyme to add some color.  Oh, you could use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for an incredible rich and flavorful dinner entree.

Ingredients:
Flat Bread, I used Udi’s Gluten Free
Chevre Cheese
Apricot Chutney (recipe here)
1 t olive oil
1 Sweet Onion thinly sliced
1 T brown sugar
1-2 garlic cloves chopped
Gorgonzola or another stinky blue cheese

Preheat the oven to 350
Make the caramelized onions:
Add the oil and onion to a heavy sauce pan (not too big)
Cook slowly over medium heat for a couple of minutes
Add the brown sugar and garlic
Spread a thin layer of chever of the bread
Followed by chutney
Caramelized onions and crumbles blue cheese
Sprinkle with good salt
bake for 15 minutes

Margarita Eggplant, with Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil and Tomatoes 
 A favorite of mine while growing up:
Pesto, Fresh Tomatoes and Sun Dried Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Basil, Feta and Parmigiano 

yum

Lemon Torte

I have been craving lemon poppy seed cake… 
…so when my friend’s mom, Rosco, gave me a bag of Meyer lemons from the tree in their backyard, I was more than anxious to get home to my cookbooks…

Rosco is so loving and generous and insisted that I take home with a bag full of lemons.  This recipe only takes 4 lemons and I can not wait to try more recipes with the remaining 20 something lemons!
Serve along side bowls of whipped cream and fresh berries.  Simply whip heavy cream with a little sugar and lemon zest.  I used one of those little hand held, battery operated, frothers that are used for milk in your coffee.  Light and easy to transport to a friends house and simple to clean.

I’d hardly say I adapted the recipe from Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights Cookbook
I changed it around to make it a bit healthier (in my opinion) and ended up with extra batter.  This actually worked out for the better.  I filled 2 little dishes with the remaining batter and was able to enjoy a sample size for myself before bringing the torte to a friend’s house the following day.  It would have been painfully difficult to look at this torte on my counter for a day and not be able to try it!

I substituted honey for sugar.  1 cup for 1 cup is the same in recipes.  Though, you want to pay attention while baking that it does not brown too quickly (honey will do that).  Also, I added a 1/4 t of baking soda to neutralize  the acidity from the honey

Ingredients:
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 cup honey
6 eggs separated
3 lemons, zest and juice (3/4 cup juice)
2 cups blanched almonds, ground
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 baking soda

Preheat 400
Grease and flour a 9 inch springform pan

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside 
Cream the butter and honey

Add egg yolks one at a time, while dropping the whites into a separate large bowl
Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form
Add to the butter mixture
Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture with a spatula
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes
(with a cookie sheet on the rack below incase batter drips through the springform pan)
Turn the oven down to 285 and cook for another 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

When using honey instead of refind sugar you need to adjust cooking times and temps.
If you use sugar:
bake at 300, not 285
bake for 40 minutes not 35
you will not use baking soda

 cornmeal gives this a nice texture and makes this gluten free
 Cool completely on a rack before removing it from the tort pan

Apricot Chutney

appetizers 0 Comments
Spread on a baguette with chevre for breakfast, a flatbread with gorgonzola for lunch or dollop on vanilla ice cream for dessert

 I made this with the dried apricots I received in a care package from a very special someone living in Holland

For a week I waited by my window like a puppy hoping to be home when the FedEx man arrive.  Then, just as I was about to head out the door to a client’s house, the doorbell rang- Yah! I dropped my purse and ran downstairs to sign for my mystery box.  First of all, receiving anything in the mail (other than bills) is exciting, especially when it’s food… from another country… sent from a wonderful person!

In my mystery box there was apricots, dried figs, and baklava. Baklava is my absolute favorite sweet in the world! I can not be in the same room (house) as baklava and not eat it.  Seriously, I finished 1 kilo in 2 days. Yes, the phyllo did get a little soft during its week long journey, but whatever, it’s packed with pistachios and drenches in butter and honey!  Throw it in the blender and I’d still eat it.  Ok, now I’m salivating.  Enough about that.

One batch makes a lot.  I served it on three occasions this week:
1- My dear friend Mac who lives and works in Baja California, was home for the weekend and we served the chutney with Manchego cheese on crackers
2 – My dear friend Morgan, who currently lives in Switzerland ,came home for a short week visit and on her last night us girls got together for cocktails, laughs, cheese and wine (ingredients for the perfect ladies night!) Here we served the chutney on crostini with chevre.  Morgan served a Parisian cocktail made with Proseccoo, St. Germain and mint leaves from here mom’s garden.  So refreshing!
3 – My dear from Kate who lives in Seattle (we met two years ago while living in Thailand) came to visit and we used the chutney to create a savory, yet sweet, flat bread for dinner. Incredible!  (amazing recipe here).
(love you, miss you, kiss you guys!)

Ingredients:
400 grams dried apricots chopped (converter) it was about 3 cups
1 sweet onion chopped
3/4 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup brown sugar (I think, I can’t remember.  It’s up to you how sweet you like it)
cinnamon stick

Combine all the ingredients in a heavy sauce pan
Bring to a boil
Cover and simmer for 15 minutes

Enjoy…in many ways!

Oh, if you want to make this less sweet and more savory swap a red onion for the sweet onion, skip the raisins all together and add chopped garlic

Nori Rolls with a Raw Almond and Sun-Dried Tomato Spread

Get creative with the fillings.  Really anything works in Nori Rolls.  I used quinoa to make this a full protein lunch and a raw almond and sun-dried tomato spread to add healthy fats, protein and flavor.
Once you get the hang of rolling and assembling you’ll be amazed at how easy it is and wonder why you don’t make them more often

You can lay the seaweed out on parchment paper if you do not have a bamboo roller (I just didn’t feel like getting mine down from storage- how often does one really roll seaweed!?)
Thin layer of spread, followed by a grain then veggies
Easy a 1-2-3!

Nori Rolls:
Seaweed
Sliced Veggies
Grain (quinoa or rice are my favorite)
Directions:
Have a little bowl of warm water near by.  You will be using this to dip your finger into when securing the seaweed roll closed
Lay a piece of seaweed down on bamboo (wax paper…)
Working in the third closest to you
Top with a thin layer of spread (Almond Pate, Hummus, Tahini with lemon and watered down a bit, peanut sauce…)
Top with veggies
Roll Tightly
Dip your fingers into the water and run them across the last 1/2 inch of seaweed
Press the wet seaweed against the roll


Almond Pate:
1 cup Almonds Soaked 8-24 hours
Sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 T fresh squeezed Lemon juice
2 t Tamari, soy sauce or shoyu
Cayenne for a kick (optional)
Salt and pepper
Directions:
Drain the almonds
Place Almonds into a food processor and blend until smooth
Add the remaining ingredients and process until well mixed and blended.

Notes:
Use a grain that is cooled completely.  If you must- throw it in the freezer for a few minutes if you’ve just cooked it.  If you do not have rolling bamboo (I’m sure there is an actual name for it) you can use wax of parchment paper.

Cut into bite size pieces, these little guys make pretty party appetizers

BBQ oysters at Heart’s Desire

For those of you who think you don’t like oysters because you’ve only experienced them raw (like I) it’s time you have a BBQed oyster!
I’ll admit, it may just be the butter and hot sauce smothered on that make oysters so delicious.  But whatever it is, I don’t care, they are amazing!  So meaty and fresh, how have I been living life without these little fishy bites of heaven?  Ok, that’s a little much, but,  shame on whomever thought my first oyster experience should be raw.  Shame on you.  You’ve ruined me for the past 10 years.

Picnic and BBQ area at Hearts Desire Beach

A friend who’s currently living in Switzerland has returned home for a short two week visit and we figured what better reason to squeeze in some fun day trips and things we don’t do nearly enough (like hikes, Tomales Bay, movies, BBQs…)

The beautiful drive to Tomales Bay is about an hour
and worth every minute and twisty turn

We stopped at Tomales Bay Oyster Company to stock up on the goods- 150 oysters, gloves you’re suppose to wear, and one of those special knifes for “shucking”

Morgan’s first BBQ oyster 
Cynthia and Justin make a great team
Biddle is a shooter pro

Almond and Coconut Berry Tart

I’ve been waiting for an excuse to experiment with coconut flour and coconut butter for some time now.
So, when my friends and I decided to take a trip to Tomales Bay to BBQ oysters, I thought, “What better opportunity?  If I happen to not like oysters, I’ll still have an entire tart to enjoy!”
Well, I happened to love BBQ oysters, especially the butter and hot sauce smothered on top (check out the BBQ here)


Not only is coconut flour gluten free, but it’s high in protein and fiber too.  Coconut butter is a good substitute to cow’s butter if you are looking for a vegan option.
Coconut flour and honey make this delicious dessert vegan and gluten/sugar free!

For the Crust:
2/3 cup Almond Meal (our almonds ground to a powder)
2/3 coconut flour
1/3 cup honey
3/4 cup coconut butter

For the Ganache:
12 oz good quality chocolate chips
1/4 cup coconut butter
3/4 cup almond (rice or coconut) milk

Preheat the oven to 350
Butter a spring tart pan
In a food processor combine the crust ingredients.
Do not over process, it will look a little dry, that is fine
Pour the mixture into the pan and press firmly down
Bake for about 7-10 minutes until lightly brown

Meanwhile make the ganache filling
In a double broiler melt the chocolate chips
Remove from the heat and add the butter and milk
mix well until well incorporated

Pour the chocolate ganache mixture over the crust and return to the oven for 15 minutes
allow to cool completely on a wire rack
Add berries
Top with shredded coconut (optional.  After I did this I thought it looked a little silly.  But it is a nice reminder to the eaters that coconut is incorporated in the crust and chocolate ganache too!)
Notes:
I let mine sit over night on on a cooling rack and in the morning added the berries.
I added one nice line of berries along the border, pressing down a bit to hold them in, and then filled it in a little more casually.   I like food to look and more natural and not so uniform and perfect, but it’s up to you.  A mixture of berries would be lovely too.

Aunt Izzy’s Brown Sugar Nut Shortbread

baked goods 0 Comments
I can’t believe I’ve lived 26 years without these, how did I ever survive!?
Someone tell me, honestly, is there anything better than butter, sugar and nuts melting in your mouth?

I was introduces to these little bites of heaven at The Royal Wedding Tea Party Izzy and Mindee hosted.
Mindee is so creative.  She served these in tea cups as party favors to guests as they left.  I finished mine before I made it to the car.
card reads: “You’re my cup of tea! xoxo, Mindee”
Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1 cup pecan pieces (I used almond meal because that’s what I had on hand)
pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Preheat oven to 300
Grind the nuts.
Combine nuts, flour and salt
Cream the butter and sugar
Mix in nut mixture
Serving Options:
Either Press down into an 8 inch spring tart pan or use baking papers.  Mold with your hands to fit the shape of papers you choose and prick the tops with a fork.  I’ve used squared like shown in the picture, round and oval. 
More Photos from The Royal Wedding Tea Party

Silver is polished and China is placed
Cream and sugar is served along side jam and my mom’s scones on cake stands

Beautiful assortment of tea sandwiches

Nana serving herself tea sandwiches
The Royal Wedding is played on TV while we eat, drink and laugh

Momo’s Date Drop Cookies

baked goods, nuts 2 Comments

This cookie recipe has been passed down in our family for years.  Momo is my great Grandmother on my mom’s side.  A family gathering is not complete with out a batch of Momo’s cookies served.

My mom, Aunt Izzy and Nana were headed on a road trip for Mother’s Day and I sent them on their way with a box of Momo’s and Brown Sugar Nut Shortbread cookies to munch on in the car.  My favorite cookies for my favorite women!

A few things that make these cookies extra delicious:
Surprise, there’s a nut in the date!
Sour Cream in the dough
Browned Butter frosting

The browned butter frosting is SO delicious!  
Rich, sinful, and unexpected- you’ll love it!

I’ll admit, they are not the most aesthetically appealing cookies.  But, you’ll forget all about looks the moment the first tastes of browned butter and sweet date hits your lips.  Anyway, didn’t your mother teach you, true beauty is on the inside.

Also, check my notes below the recipe.  I had a few mishaps…

Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 t vanilla
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 t salt
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg
2 1/2 dozen (about 30) Medjool dates
Pecans or walnuts.   Same number nuts as dates

Frosting:
1/4 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 t vanilla
(little water if necessary)

Preheat oven to 400
Stuff the dates with a nut and set aside
Combine the dry ingredients into a bowl and set aside
Cream the butter and sugar
Add the egg and mix until just combined
Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the sour cream
Wrap dough around the date
Bake for about 10 minutes
Cool on a sheet for a minute or two before transferring to a cooling rack

Meanwhile, make the frosting.
Melt the butter until brown
Add the sugar and vanilla
If looking a little too thick, add water, a tad bit at a time.
Frost the cookies and enjoy! I know you will!

Notes:
1. When wrapping the date with dough: You don’t need to use too much dough.  It is alright if a little date is peaking through the dough.  The dough will melt around the date while cooking.  I made the mistake of wrapping too much dough around the dates the first time I made these)
Also, the dough is also sticky, that’s ok, it’s suppose to be.
2. When Browning the butter: This is tricky.  You will be waiting for the butter to go from melted to browned for what may seem like an eternity.  Then, the second you get board and turn your back on the stove it’ll burn! So, eyes on the melting pot of butter at all times!
3. They can last for a week in an air tight container.  I know this because I sent a box to Europe to my favorite Turkish mom for Mother’s Day,  and were still tasty when they arrived a week later (well, most importantly, no one got sick!).  The date and nuts remind me of flavors in Middle Eastern recipes too.

For Your Party, Start with Style

One thing I love most in life is throwing dinner parties for friends and family.
The other thing I love most is making a party beautiful, stylish, creative and chic!

Favorite Places to Get Inspired:
Hostess with the Mostess
Hello Naomi
Cakes Likes a Party
Society Picnic
Joyful Wedding and Events
Style Me Pretty

Favorite Places to Buy the Goods:
Acme Party Box Company
For Your Party
Paper Source
Luna Bazaar
Shop Sweet LuLu
Etsy
100 Layer Cake

And lastly, the proper placement of silverware

A Hostess…

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…must be like a duck- calm and unruffled on the surface, and paddling like hell underneath 
Audrey Hepburn

Green Curry

I am currently obsessed with Thai Curry!  What’s better than a big bowl of warmth with a bit of a kick!?


I have started making curry daily for lunch AND/or dinner.  I have discovered that using almond milk, as oppose to coconut milk, gives the nice creamy texture without all the fat that comes with coconut milk.

The vegetable, grain and protein combinations here are endless.  Really, once you get the hang of making it, you can pretty much use a combination of whatever is in your fridge and pantry to make a wonderful curry.
I will give the recipe for this combo because I happened to photograph it, but I’ve made many and will list other possible combinations below

Serves 2
Ingredients:
3/4 – 1 cup of a cooked grain (use your Basic Grain recipe that you should always have ready and on hand)
2 T Thai Curry Paste (red or green)
Handful of edamame beans
Handful of Snap Peas, cut crosswise
Handful of Cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 Baby Bok Choy, roughly chopped
2 Cups Almond Milk or one can Coconut milk

In a sauce pan, combine your grain, beans and peas, curry paste and about 2 T milk.
Saute for awhile so the vegetables really get a chance to cook in the curry and absorb the flavors
Add the remaining milk and bok choy
Simmer partial covered for a few minutes or until vegetables have reached desired tenderness

Note:
If you are making your grain at the same time, do not add it to the curry.  Simply pour your warm curry over your warm garin.  I mixed my grain into my curry because it had been in the fridge and needed to be warmed.
If you are using a meat, add it to the pan during the first step with the curry paste.
My Other Favorite Ingredients:
Shredded Carrot
Shrimp
Any type of beans
Tofu
Potatoes
Japanese Eggplant
Can easily be doubles, tripled…  You really can not mess up here… So simple and delicious!