When I did the reader poll a few months ago, one of the most common answers for what you’d like to see more of were Greek recipes. Given my blog’s moniker, I don’t blame you.

I’ve had a hard-ish time expanding the Greek repertoire on here because the blog’s been around for so long that I’ve posted nearly every Greek dish I’ve had growing up (although some of the posts are…not pretty, to say the least). There can be variations on common dishes, surely, but I often hesitate to call some things “Greek” when really they may be fusion or the only Greek thing about them is feta (a pet peeve of mine) and, anyway, I’d  have the European Blog Police on my hands for anything they did not deem 1 million percent authentic. Others I honestly haven’t thought to post because their commonality for me makes me not even consider it (I realize this is silly; they may not be common to YOU, after all). Finally, it can be because I just haven’t—or don’t—measure ingredients, which makes them difficult to blog. (OR, it’s a dish like gemista/stuffed vegetables, which I have made countless times and still cannot manage to get “right” enough to post. Sigh.)

Anyway, spanakopita is sort of a combination of many things. We don’t eat it often because…I don’t know. I guess I tend to make miniature “cheater” spanakopita. They aren’t really easier, I guess, but they are nice for when you don’t want to work with phyllo or you want to use them as appetizers or portioned items. I also like miniature spanakopites and tyropites better, probably because the crispy, buttery phyllo is the best part, so it’s nice to have it envelop everything. :) And, the measuring thing. I basically never measure fresh herbs. Never. Even here I kinda sorta did, like more than normal, so I could write something down. Basically because I didn’t think “a shitload” of dill was necessarily an appropriate measurement for a blog.

Spanakopita is really not difficult to make at all. I’ve had issues with phyllo over the years but honestly, it’s been so much easier for me to work with lately so maybe those Greek genes finally kicked in. Ian is not the world’s biggest spanakopita fan, which is a bummer (he likes the mini pies well enough, though, because there is less spinach and more crispy dough), but Zachary is spanakopita-obsessed. He is often telling me I don’t make it enough. When I did this last time he made me promise to save him some because he not only wanted to take it to school for breakfast, but wanted to eat it alongside other dinners for the week.

 

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2015 Year in Review

December 31, 2015 · 4 comments

in best of

Here we are. The end of another year. A year that included my NINTH (whoa) year of blogging.

My plans for this blog in 2016 are to finally have a site redesign (you’re going to love it, both for looks and functionality, I promise), post a little more often, and do a few non-food related posts. In the reader survey I did earlier this year, over 85% of you said you’d be interested in posts that are not food related (which made me feel great because I *think* that means you like me!) so I plan to occasionally do some touch-base-on-our-lives type of posts. (And I promise, non-food related posts does NOT mean a bunch of sponsored posts or trying to shill stuff. That’s not my style.)

This year didn’t have as many changes for us as many years prior. The biggest life event this year was that our eldest started kindergarten (!) but he won’t actually go to a new school until first grade, so it wasn’t a really big change for him, since he was already attending his current school. Our youngest, meanwhile, took probably the best school picture ever (dying).

Still, it’s been busy. My husband and I are still dealing with long commutes, our weeknights are a blur, and unfortunately no one has gifted me a cleaning service.

Before I get to the food, want to hear some of my other favorites of 2015? Suuuure you do.

Favorite books I read (this year I read 32, which is closer to my pre-kids total and good for me): Let the Great World Spin, The Martian, Ready Player One, Me Before You, Bad Feminist, I’ll Give You the Sun

Favorite albums that came out this year (I am not as hip and up-to-speed as I used to be, but alas): Sleater-Kinney’s No Cities to Love, Sufjan Stevens’s Carrie & Lowell, Courtney Barnett’s  Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, and Wilco’s Star Wars.

Favorite shows: Mad Men, Better Call Saul, Jessica Jones, Daredevil

So! Without further ado, I bring you my top 15 of 2015. These are my personal favorites. Traffic often tells a different story, and while I like everything I post (or I wouldn’t bother), I especially like highlighting MY favorites, in case you missed them.

And feel free to check out the best of years past.

Top 15 of ’15 (in order of posting date):

Bacon, Gruyere, and Scallion Muffins: I said when I posted these that even though it was really early in the year, I was fairly confident they’d end up on the “best of 2015” list. And here they are. Savory muffins with bits of bacon, dreamy gruyere, and instead of oil or butter—bacon fat. Yeah, these are good.

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Hi! I hope you’ve all been enjoying the holidays. We had a really wonderful Christmas at home this year and, as an added bonus, our holiday travel is pretty spread out. We’re going to do Christmas with Tom’s side on new year’s eve and we won’t be doing it with mine until mid-January. Usually, even the years we have Christmas at home are not exactly relaxing because there’s packing, etc. to do for leaving the very next morning. We’ve all been enjoying the time off!

I know that a lot of people like to eat black-eyed peas on new year’s day for good luck, and with 2016 just around the corner, what better time to post this fantastic stew? Black-eyed peas are something none of us ate much of until pretty recently. No real reason other than not thinking about them and just a general lack of meals I’ve saved that include them. Or maybe because I got so homicidal hearing Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” so many times that I decided to ban anything with the words black-eyed peas from our home. Maybe.

Anyway, they’re good. The kids like them, as they seem to enjoy any sort of bean/legume, and they’ve been a nice change of pace from the other beans we eat more frequently. And this stew is hard not to like. My oldest kid, who has been having some issues with spice lately, did think this was a bit too spicy. He put it aside and I thought he was done, but then he went back to it and ate it in its entirety, so I guess it was too good for him not to keep eating. My youngest had no problems and loved it, and the adults were fans as well.

The first night, I completely forgot to add the cider vinegar to this, so I’ve been adding a bit to my bowl before warming it up, and it definitely adds just a slight tang and depth of flavor. This recipe claims to serve 4-6 but unless you are serving giants, I’m pretty confident you’ll get more than that. Thankfully, the leftovers are just as good if not better, and I have no doubts it would freeze wonderfully, too.

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Happy Holidays!

December 24, 2015 · 1 comment

in misc.

Merry Christmas and the happiest of holidays from our family to yours!

Wishing you a very happy 2016!
 

 

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Meaty Manicotti

December 15, 2015 · 4 comments

in beef,italian,pasta

This conversation happens pretty much weekly in my house:

Me (to Tom): Anything in particular you want to eat next week?
Tom: Hmm, not really.
Me:  Well, can you give me some ideas? I don’t want to do this on my own again.
Tom: I’ll try to think of some.

Tom starts doing work/falls asleep/plays video games while I begrudgingly finish making both a menu and a grocery list, which have become the bane of my existence as of late.

Tom: How about ____?
Me: I already made the list NO THANKS TO YOU.

So, yeah. BUT! Recently I asked this, expecting things to go as they normally do, and he suggested meaty manicotti. I was surprised both at the suggestion at and the specificity of his request. This dish is one our family really likes, and since I needed a Sunday meal, it was the perfect idea.

This is kind of your standard pasta-with-meatsauce dish, but there is a secret ingredient to make the “meaty” in its moniker even more so – pepperoni. The flavor is a background one, adding more saltiness and just a liiiittle bit of spice the mixture, but it works so well. Also, there is a lot of cheese. Boatloads of cheese. Pantsloads of cheese.  I reduced the amount and probably could have reduced it a bit further. Even lessened, we’re talking over 2 lbs. of cheese. I was able to make more than 16 manicotti, so after eating it for dinner and having a couple days’ worth of leftovers, we were still able to freeze some. I guess the good news is that cheese goes a long way.

Let me just get out of the way that I think cannelloni is a better descriptor for this than manicotti (I just know a full-blooded Italian is going to send me a ragey email or something, hah). Don’t shoot the messenger! Take it up with ATK if you have a problem. ;)

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Coming back to work after Thanksgiving break, I made a vow to myself: no more chocolate, random desserts, doughnuts, and the like until Christmas. Then about an hour into my workday, a cookie from our shared snacks area somehow made its way into my my mouth. Sigh.

Being “good” this time of year is hard. I’m coming off a Halloween-candy-and-pie hangover and entering a season of treats, potlucks, and the urge to drink peppermint hot chocolate. And wine.

If you can’t keep your hands off the sweets, what you can do is make good choices for your meals, right? Well, that and exercising, which I do do with regularity, but it’s certainly not as fun as eating (which is probably part of my problem…). This meal will counteract some of December’s inevitable spike in sugar. It’s easy, healthy, and delicious. I feel like we eat a lot more variety in the carb and side department than most people, but I still get sick of the same stuff. Every once in a while I remember, “hey, we all really like lentils! Why do I not make more lentils?” and then, well…I make more lentils.

This is a complete meal made in one pot and is earthy, comforting, and full of protein. We did end up having a salad on the side, but if you want to get a green in there and avoid making something else (even though it’s easy to do so, as 90% of this meal is  hands-off cooking), wilting in some leafy greens at the end would be an excellent choice.

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Hi there. Allow me to introduce you to your new favorite salad for this time of  year. You should totally make this for Thanksgiving. Everyone knows Thanksgiving is all about the side dishes since the protein of choice, turkey, is subpar at best.

This salad has it all. Slightly spicy arugula? Check. Caramelized butternut squash? You bet. Smoky bacon? Duh. Creamy goat cheese? Ding ding ding. Toasty pecans? Yes sir. Seriously, I cannot sing this salad’s praises highly enough. I do love salad, don’t get me wrong, but it’s rare that they are my favorite part of a meal. We had this alongside a simple roasted chicken – which is, indeed, one of my all time favorite meals – and this salad stole the show.

I…don’t have much more to say other than go make this, likerightnow.

 

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We’re really big cannellini bean fans. Like, really big. We love them in soups, salads, sides, and of course one of our favorite dinners. Recently, I wanted to make a soup that had protein and some substance, but didn’t have rice or pasta. That can be tough, especially when you’re not a fan of “plain” soups like tomato. Nothing against pasta or rice, of course, but we tend to already have both once a week or so, and I like variety. This soup, loaded with vegetables, chicken, beans, and bacon certainly fit my criteria.

I keep telling myself I’m going to move exclusively to dried beans and I haven’t yet because I am just forgetful (meaning, I don’t remember to cook them in advance and don’t have time to do so on a weeknight). However, this time I did remember to throw a bag in the crockpot, which is the easiest way to cook them in my opinion. No soaking, no boiling. Just toss them in there, cover them with water, and cook on low for however long you are at work or whatever. Super easy, and also a bit more economical. Also, last time I made a bean soup using canned beans I ended up in urgent care, so probably safer, too. ;)

I made a few changes to this soup, the most prominent being using twice as many beans. In addition to that, I blended about half of them with some broth before adding them to the pot, which is a really great way to thicken soup without adding a bunch of calories through flour, cream, or cheese. In all honesty you don’t really need the cream added at the end, but it does give it a bit of a silkier texture and half a cup across 5ish servings won’t break the calorie bank.

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It occurred to me recently that I don’t even have a “side dish” category on here. Don’ get me wrong, I do love side dishes—sometimes even more than the main course—so I’m not entirely sure why this is the case. In the more recent years it probably has something to do with cooking being more a survival mechanism than a joy, which in turn makes side dishes a bit of an afterthought. Salad, blanched or roasted vegetables + bulgur or rice. Done.

When I do potatoes as a side (rare these days, especially non-sweet potatoes), I usually just roast them. They’re easy and pretty fabulous that way (particularly if you’re using fingerling potatoes). I’ve had this version saved for a while, though, and decided to make them recently when my meatloaf-obsessed child requested meatloaf. Meatloaf begs for some type of potato as a side, so I settled on these.

The cooking method for these potatoes is not terribly different from how I make my Greek lemon-oregano roasted potatoes, so I knew they’d be a hit. You roast the potatoes for a while to develop a golden, crisp exterior, and then you add chicken broth and roast them again. The broth makes the potatoes soft and tender on the inside. These potatoes are incredibly creamy and delicious.

The whole family loved these, even Zachary, who is weirdly finicky about potatoes. He hates mashed potatoes (see? weird), likes fries (duh) and crispy roasted potatoes, but isn’t a fan of softer potatoes like baked potatoes or those in stew or soup. Since these are a combination of crisp and soft, I didn’t know which way he’d go but he placed firmly in the “like” camp and asked for seconds (yay! but also boo! because that’s less for me).

 

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I don’t know how  many pumpkin muffin and bread recipes one blog needs, but I’m just going to go with “never enough.” I’m not quite as fanatical about pumpkin as many people are (don’t get me wrong, I DO love it, I’m just not dying to get my hands on pumpkin spice meatloaf or something), but I’m not going to deny its awesomeness in baked goods. Adding pumpkin puree to baked goods makes them incredibly moist, and since pumpkin is a superfood, it obviously turns everything you make healthy.

Truly, though, I did make these pretty healthy. I’m pretty good at making lower calorie muffins that are good but those usually don’t include streusel, which is like a whole other superfood, at least in my book. These don’t have quite as much butter in the topping, but they still give you that streusel-y goodness. The muffins themselves are made with white whole wheat flour, a minimal amount of sugar considering how many muffins this makes, and clock in right around 200 calories each, which isn’t bad at all.

The recipe makes 18-20, which is kind of annoying, sorry. I try not to do that but it just worked best this time, with proportions. What we did is fill a 12-well muffin tin and then as many mini muffins as we could; I think we got around 16. The boys took 2 mini muffins to school each morning with some yogurt for breakfast. They helped make these with me, and they love not only to assist with baking, but with telling their teachers the next morning allllll the ingredients that went into them. :)

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