On our way home from our mini vacation on Lake Michigan, we stopped to pick blueberries. The kids really enjoyed it (and were very meticulous about which “good” blueberries should get picked and placed in the bucket) and we got about 7 lbs. of delicious berries for a crazy good price (though my husband is still complaining we didn’t get more like 20 lbs.). Afterward, one of the employees showed Zachary how the machines separate and package the berries for stores, including how the mushy or unripe ones are tossed, and in my head I imagined a golden egg/Veruca Salt situation.

When we got home I flipped through a couple cookbooks to find a new blueberry recipe and came across this one. I really liked that it used whole wheat and pure maple syrup vs. refined sugar. I mean, there’s butter and a good dose of said syrup, so I’m not going to say it’s super healthy but it’s not terrible for you, either.

The glaze for this…I don’t even know what to say. I will say if you can somehow manage to not swipe your finger through the drippings on the baking sheet and into your mouth over and over and over until you’ve completely wiped the baking sheet clean…well, you’re a better person than I. I want to make this glaze and put it on everything, from pancakes to ice cream. It tastes like butterscotch and tight pants.

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Mpizeli (bees-EL-ee) is one of those things that always seems to be hanging out on the stovetop of every Greek home. I ate truckloads of it growing up and I still love it. It’s great as a side, of course, but I will literally just eat it as a snack—sometimes even cold from the fridge (I know, I’m weird). I actually prefer this pea dish at room temperature, so it’s great for potlucks, parties, and picnics. This kind of-sort of made it on the blog a bazillion years ago, as an alternate version of Greek style okra. It’s one of those things that, while still pretty common for me to make, is so normal I don’t even think about blogging it (likely because until recently I thought I already had. ;))

I put a ballpark dill measurement below but, honestly, I’ve never truly measured it. Even when I’ve tried in an attempt to be more concise with a recipe, I end up adding more as I’m cooking, so it doesn’t really matter. Bottom line is add what you want to add. You’ll probably end up adding a lot more than you think you will, though. There’s something about copious amounts of dill that really makes this. I have a friend who dislikes dill and initially didn’t even want to try this before proceeding to eat bowls full of it.

Also, this is a really forgiving dish. Another reason I haven’t really blogged this before is because sometimes I add a little water or a little crushed tomato as I’m cooking it, and it’s fine for eating but perhaps not for recipe documentation. Bottom line is just taste and add as you go.

Common additions to this dish are potatoes or mushrooms. You can also make a one-dish meal, similar to this kokinisto, with chicken or another protein.

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Reader Survey

July 31, 2015 · 1 comment

in misc.

Why hello! I hope you’ll excuse my infrequent postings as of late. Things have been kind of crazy and, truth be told, I haven’t been really motivated, either. We just got back from a short vacation in Saugatuck/Douglas, MI and had a lot of fun, but coming back doesn’t have me gunning to be productive. :)

I’m currently in the middle of a site redesign (that I’m SO excited for, and I think you will be, too) and I was thinking this would also be a good time to collect some feedback from my readers. I hope you’ll fill out a quick survey to let me know what you like and what you don’t about this blog, and if there are any changes (layout or content-wise) that you’d like to see. I would really appreciate it. (And it’s anonymous.)

I’ll be back next week with new posts!

Survey Link – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FFDJZQN

 

(Also, as a housekeeping note, comments haven’t been displaying on posts for some reason. I do still receive the comments and appreciate them, and they will be fixed with the new design. If you post a specific comment, I will be sure to send you a response via email. Thanks!)

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This summer has been…well, perhaps not great, weather-wise. I don’t mind the cooler weather at all, so I don’t take issue with that (well, except that we’re going on vacation next week and Lake Michigan will be FREEZING) but the rain. SO MUCH RAIN. Until the fourth of July weekend, we literally hadn’t had a 2-day rain-free period since before Memorial Day. It’s been crazy and definitely makes outdoor activities, like grilling, less frequent. Never mind the 80 bajillion mosquitos residing in our backyard, thanks largely to the swampland created by the rain. I will say, at least the rain is a good excuse for the days when it IS 90 degrees out and my husband wants to “open the windows and let in the breeze” instead of turn on the air. Dude. No.

At any rate, Tom was able to get out the past couple weekends and do some grilling, and I was thankful to catch a break from making dinner. I’ll admit that when he grills, chicken is almost never our protein of choice. I don’t know, it’s kind of like how I never order chicken at a restaurant. It seems like you should eat something more…worth it. But after a weekend visiting my family eating nothing but red meat, chicken it was.

This is a pretty standard chicken marinade in that it uses herbs, garlic, and lemon juice. The buttermilk is great because it not only keeps you from using too much oil, but makes the chicken incredibly moist and tender (always a good thing with breasts, especially, since they tend to dry out).  We all really liked these (although, Ian doesn’t care for zucchini) and my weirdo kids ate basically all the red onions themselves.

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There are times when writing blog posts comes very easily to me and I’m done in 5 minutes. Truth be told, that’s nearly every blog post because if I’m not feeling it, it doesn’t get written at that moment. Then there are days like today when I really want to share something with you, especially because it’s been a while, but I truly have nothing to write. It’s especially unfortunate because I seem to have all the time in the world being stuck on a delayed Metra train that’s making countless stops.  Random thoughts I’ve been having:

  • Why do Netflix original series have the longest theme songs ever?
  • Does everyone realize how funny Aziz Ansari is?
  • I don’t go to Starbucks often, and rarely get “fancy” stuff, so I’m still a little taken aback that I spent over $5 on a drink that doesn’t even have alcohol in it.
  • It’s even weirder when you see the old guy from your gym who makes sex faces outside the gym context.
  • E-books from the library are wonderful things.

Anyway, most of these things cannot be expanded upon (and I’m guessing you really wouldn’t want them to be) so let’s just talk about this pasta. This is another one-pot meal because if there’s anything you can count on in the blog these days it’s one pot meals or meatballs or maybe one pot meals featuring meatballs. And, like I said, I want to share it with you because you’re going to love it.

I changed the amounts a bit to suit our family/leftover situation, and I also didn’t use as much liquid as Tara. I’m not sure if I had thinner marinara or quicker cooking pasta, but either way, I started with less, thinking I could always add more, but didn’t need to. Also, while I have no qualms about using heavy cream (or half and half) what usually happens is I buy it for a recipe, forget to use the rest, and end up pitching it. To avoid the inevitable waste, I used Greek yogurt instead (bonus points, of course, for it being healthier), which worked great.  Finally, I wilted down some spinach into the pasta at the end.

Do I even need to say we all loved this? I mean, what is not to love about pasta, period? Let alone creamy pasta studded with sausage that can be cooked in one pot (okay, no one cared about that last part except for me).

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Even though I have long (LONG) been obsessed with fattoush, I was never a huge fan of tabouli growing up. I think maybe it was too much fresh parsley for me, which sounds silly considering there is a decent amount in fattoush and plenty in Greek cooking, but for some reason tabouli didn’t do it for me. Plus, I’ve only recently come around to mint in savory foods (and our mint plant is out of control, so I guess that’s  a good thing).

I’ve had it a few times as an adult and though it will never replace my beloved fattoush, I find that I enjoy it much, much more now. I love bulgur, but we were really low on it when I decided to make tabouli, so I used quinoa instead. It’s a great substitute but both are really healthy and good for you so this isn’t one of those times when quinoa necessarily adds a ton of added benefits (it does add slightly more protein and has fewer carbs). I of course increased the lemon juice/ratio to oil and did decrease the mint by a bit.

We had this one night with a pork tenderloin I marinated in my shawarma marinade and the roasted vegetables with za’atar and it was definitely one of my favorite recent meals (but I could eat Middle Eastern food every day so I guess  you’ll have to take that for what it’s worth). While Zachary was asking for more zucchini over and over, Ian kept asking for more quinoa, so things ended up working out perfectly. :)

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There are plenty of things I didn’t like or didn’t give a chance to when I was a kid, but the two that stick out most are beans and peppers. At a restaurant, everything ordered would need to have these omitted. Mexican food? Double rice and don’t even bother with anything but the meat for the fajitas. Sandwiches or pizza? Keep your peppers to yourself. And with anything at home, these would be pushed to the side or never added to my plate to begin with. I don’t even know that I tried these things. I just decided I didn’t like them.

It’s funny because I love love LOVE these things now. I posted a picture of charred Anaheim and poblano pictures to Instagram recently and titled it “my BFFs” because they kind of are. I am pepper-obsessed, especially when it comes to green chiles. We started a small garden this year but you better believe it still contained poblanos and jalapeños.

Obviously, I adored these burgers. They reminded me a lot of my other potentially favorite (or at least top 3) burgers, these queso fundido ones. These use peppers that are a little spicier (Anaheim vs. poblano) and don’t have chorizo, but otherwise they’re very similar and both ridiculously delicious.

These are in a grilling cookbook, but you can definitely make them indoors. The chiles can be charred directly on the gas flame of your range, or under the broiler. I like to use a cast iron skillet when cooking burgers indoors. Illinois doesn’t actually want us to do much grilling out this year, as evidenced by the nonstop rain we’ve been receiving since Memorial Day, so contingency plans are key.

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I mentioned recently that Zachary’s new favorite vegetable, until it inevitably got knocked out of contention, were broad/fava beans. Well, goodbye broad beans; zucchini with zaatar vinaigrette is in town.

Z has always liked zucchini/summer squash well enough. Like most vegetables he prefers it roasted or grilled. He won’t eat the version they have at school, and I think that’s because it may be steamed. So, it wasn’t surprising that he liked this version, but it *was* a bit surprising that he ate 4 servings of it, and only stopped because there was none left.

I added some lemon juice to the vinaigrette because I just feel like it goes so well with zaatar. The sumac will add some tartness already, but lemon vinaigrettes are the bee’s knees for me. This was a great side dish and a nice change of pace both from dressed salads and plain cooked vegetables. There is a good chance I will be dressing 90% of things with zaatar vinaigrette from now on.

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Welcome to this year’s edition of Did Elly Successfully Make Tom’s Birthday Cake? Sure, sort of.

Tom’s birthday cakes and I have had a sordid past. There was the cake-turned-trifle incident. There was the didn’t-make-nearly-enough-frosting-and-ran-out-of-ingredients fiasco. There was the I’ve-tried-3-times-to-make-this-butterscotch-sauce-and-I-just-can’t-do-it-so-you-will-be-eating-your-cheesecake-plain problem. I’ve gotten better for the most part, though, so there’s that. I still can’t successfully frost a cake, but we’ll get there.

When Tom chose this cake I was both excited and nervous. Excited because caramel is clearly one of the most delicious things ever. Nervous because I don’t have the best track record with caramel. I asked Tom if I could decrease the recipe since it was just us eating it and it called for over 6 cups of sugar and a pound of butter. He said no. (I did end up decreasing the cake portion a bit; see notes in the recipe.)

The good (?) news is,  you get to beat the caramel with a wooden spoon for 20 minutes (I don’t even know how you “beat” something with a wooden spoon, btw) so you’ll get an arm workout and burn off approximately 1/10 of the slice of cake doing that.

The caramel takes forever to make. Luckily you don’t have to stand at the stove the entire time, only stirring it occasionally for the last hour and a half, but it takes time. Yes, I did say “the last hour and a half” (which actually took me more like 1h40m). The cake is a very straightforward recipe that yielded a very tasty and moist cake.

You will notice there are no pictures of the whole cake. That’s intentional. My cake looked nothing like the gorgeous picture on the original recipe. After I made the caramel I texted Tom and said, “Good news: I successfully made the caramel and didn’t burn down the house once! Bad news: Your cake is possibly the ugliest ever.

The cakes’ moisture led to them being a bit difficult to frost with the thickened caramel (crumbs and all of that). Plus the caramel color was not that pretty as it started to thicken. And, well, no matter how beautiful or easy to work with frosting is, it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t know how to frost a cake, anyway.

BUT LISTEN. This cake is GOOD. I mean, how can this cake not be good? You are frosting it with caramel. Not caramel buttercream, not caramel sauce over regular frosting. STRAIGHT UP CARAMEL. It is possibly the richest thing I’ve ever made, and even I, who does not find things “too rich” pretty much ever could only eat a small slice (thank goodness, please remember aforementioned amount of sugar and butter). At a time, I mean. Obviously I ate this cake every night until it was gone.

 

tl;dr version: Great cake, amazingly delicious caramel “frosting,” ugly as sin, rich, fattening, worth it.

 

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You know how a lot of times you’re looking to add something to your menu/party, and often you go with “a green salad” because it’s lighter, and you don’t have to think about it, and it goes with pretty much everything? Well, nothing is more truly a green salad than this one.

This simple salad is from my new BFF Yotam and it’s perfect for spring. We’re growing green beans and spinach (just harvested our first batch!) so it’s really perfect for us. All you do is blanch vegetables, make a dressing, and you’re done. I staggered my vegetables using a big pot so I wouldn’t have to keep pulling them out before adding new ones, and that worked just fine (I will always look out for you when it comes to doing less work. ;-))

You know that I like a more acidic dressing, so I did bring the lemon juice up a bit. Unfortunately my store didn’t carry nigella seeds, and I didn’t really feel like going on a hunt for them. This is the second recipe I’ve wanted to use them in, so I plan to just buy some online to make sure I have them on hand for the next time. This time around, I just omitted them.

In my son’s ever-changing list of “favorite vegetables” you can now put broad beans/fava at the top of the list – until next week when something replaces it, I’m sure.

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