Traditional Greek Holiday Cookies

Hi friends. My mom and I had a great little girls day last week where we baked up about 450 cookies (yikes!) for the holidays. While I could probably eat them all myself, we made as many as we did because we like to give most of them away to friends and family every year. Who doesn’t love receiving tins and platters of cookies, am I right?

The two types of cookies we made are called melomakarona and kourabiedes. Melomakarona are dark brown honey cookies topped with walnuts, and kourabiedes are sugar cookies coated in… you guessed it, sugar.

I will be coming back with recipes and directions for these cookies at a later time, but for today’s post I wanted to share the “behind the scenes” of the baking process. I snapped some photos as we were going along, as I think it’s so fun to watch the process progress. Let’s start with melomakarona.

fullsizerender-15The dough should be wrapped in some foil for about 10-15 minutes to let the ingredients blend/rest before starting.fullsizerender-5You can make whatever shape you want, but melomakarona are traditionally this kind of log design. We made two different types because of two different recipes. The round version are vegan!
fullsizerender-4Poking holes with your fork not only helps the cookie bake completely, but also aids in the absorption of the honey syrup.
fullsizerender-3The syrup should be made 3-4 hours in advance and set aside.fullsizerender-10You want to soak the cookies in the syrup immediately after they come out of the oven. That’s when they absorb the most.fullsizerender-13Crush the walnuts and add cinnamon for the topping.fullsizerender-6Sprinkle on top!fullsizerender-2We had some craziness going on…
fullsizerender-11So. Stinkin’. Good.

Time for kourabiedes! The dough looks similar and you want to let it rest the way you would with the other cookies.fullsizerender-8Make about 1in balls – again, you can make these into any shape you want.fullsizerenderOnce they’re cooked, let them cool completely. The sugar will get wet and nasty if they’re the slightest bit warm.
fullsizerender-14Coat the top and bottom.fullsizerender-1Add as much sugar as you want. I love adding a lot!fullsizerender-9Gimme some oven lovin’.

Trip Recap

Hello friends. I am back from the cruise and have some pictures to share with you. I love exploring new places so I had a great trip. I ate more this time than I did last year, but I won’t lie; I forgot to take pictures of soo many meals. It’s okay! I did photograph food that we never had before (alligator fritters and frog legs, AHH!), so you’ll be able to get a small glimpse of what our week was like.

Warning: the quality of these pictures isn’t the best because of all of the crazy lighting. Womp womp.

Breakfast:

image(2)

A croissant and bacon every morning with a beautiful view. Doesn’t get better.

Appetizers:

image(10)

Delicious bread with every meal.

image(12)

Shrimp, seared ahi tuna, and salmon tartare. YUM.

image(11)

Steak quesadilla with black beans, cheese, corn, sour cream and guacamole.

image(3)

ALLIGATOR FRITTERS!!!

image(13)

French onion soup.

image(17)

Frogs’ legs. UGHHH not a fan.

Entrees:

image(18)

Panko fried jumbo shrimp with curly fries.

image(16)

Pasta carbonara with chicken.

image(14)

Jerk chicken and fried rice.

image(19)

My favorite meal of the whole trip: bacon mac and cheese with chicken.

Desserts:

image(5)

Chocolate lava melting cake with vanilla ice cream.

image(4)

Baked apples and cream on puff pastry with caramel sauce.

image(15)

Cheesecake with strawberry topping.

image(20)

Fruit plate.

image

Creme brulee; the best!

And now some pictures of me being silly during one of our days.

image(7)

image(9)

image(6)

I told you I had fun. Gimme some oven lovin’.

Monsters’ Inc Cake

photo 1 

My little brother is not so little anymore. We celebrated his 19th birthday this past weekend with family, presents, and of course, food. What did you get him, Christa? Great question, made up reader, but I didn’t get him anything; I MADE him a surprise birthday cake.

Let’s face it; it doesn’t matter how old you are, Monsters’ Inc is a fantastic movie. One of my brother’s favorites, in fact, which is why I made him a Mike Wazowski cake. I had never done a cake boss-style dessert before, and it took soo much longer than I was expecting. It’s nowhere near perfect, but everyone, especially my brother, loved it. I was super relieved!

The cake itself was funfetti with Nutella buttercream frosting (and a secret layer of Nutella by itself, mmm), while the legs and arms were made from fondant. Boy, that fondant was exhausting to mix. My forearms were burning for hours. And for the record, my sister was the best taste tester I could have asked for, so thank you for your help, Elena!

I took some pictures throughout the process. I’ve already gotten requests for other cakes and I look forward to practicing and getting better with each one!

photo 1

photo 2

photo 3

photo 4

photo 5

photo 1

photo 2

photo 3

photo 4

photo 5

photo 1

photo 2

photo 3

photo 2

photo 3

Happy birthday, Yianni!

Gimme some oven lovin’.

Road Trip

image_29Hello friends. I was MIA for a few days because I spent the last week traveling part of the country. My journey began in New Jersey and went through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois before returning back home. We explored Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg and had a wonderful experience at each location. I took a bunch of pictures of the land but slacked in the food department. I’ll share some of what I have!

Chicago:

image_17

We went to Taste of Chicago which had tons of food, drinks, and music.

image_32

We also found this great area that had an outdoor concert by my new friends The Hot Sauce Committee. There we had fried calamari (the first of many), salads, and spruced it up with some fruity drinks. They also gave us a bread basket with a DELICIOUS olive spread. I think I may make my own variation and share it in the near future.

image_40

image_41

image_42

image_39

image_36

We also went to the top of the Willis Tower and took pictures on the skydeck. Holy. Crud. It was pretty scary up there! But the view was beautiful and totally worth the hour+ wait.

image_26

image_9

You can’t be Greek and not visit Greektown. We went to a highly recommended restaurant called Greek Islands and even met a waiter from my parents’ island. Small world. There, we had taramosalata, fried calamari (again), grilled octopus, souvlaki with vegetables, and rice. Even though it was 80 degrees, I got my favorite soup. It’s called avgolemeno and it was worth the extra heat.

image

image_19

image_18

image_2

Untitled

image_3

There is a chain in the city called Corner Bakery Cafe which is scrumptious! It reminded me a lot of Panera Bread but I actually think I like it more.

image_20

image_21

image_22

image_23

Pittsburgh:

image_4

We took a trolley up the mountain and ate at a restaurant overlooking the city. How beautiful is that view?

We ate spinach and artichoke dip, fried calamari (told you we ate it a lot), a buffalo chicken sandwich, and a gyro.

image_11

image_10

image_13

image_14

Harrisburg:

The highlight of this city was the crepes. They were easily the best I’ve ever had and the atmosphere of the restaurant made it just THAT much better. The place was called Au Bon Lieu and I highly recommend it to anyone in the area. The chef and server were so friendly and even gave us a free crepe! The tables were coated in blackboard material and they provide chalk to pass the time. I can still taste the Nutella and banana. MMMMMM. I can’t wait to go back!

image_4

image_5

image_3

Bahamas

Hello everyone! I am (un)fortunately back from my cruise to the Bahamas. I had a wonderful time and got some nice color to show for it. Since this is a food blog, I won’t go too much into detail about what we did. I took pictures of the food as often as I remembered, but we didn’t really eat anything crazy worth picturing. As a matter of fact, we didn’t each much at all period. Everyone raves about the food on cruises but we spent a lot of our time on the beach or sleeping, so eating wasn’t really a priority (erroneous, I know). Here are some pictures anyway.

 

We arrived in Florida and went to a restaurant named Sandbar in Cocoa Beach. They have this ridiculous 5lb burrito that we saw someone actually attempt! He failed but was incredibly close. Their picture wall only had a handful of successful patrons. While we were there, we decided to celebrate day 1 of vacation with a 45oz bowl of the Ultimate Hurricane. We just wanted the cool cup.

Sandbar is known for its tacos and they were mighty good, if I do say so myself. Mmm, shrimp tacos.

The following day we got on our ship and went straight to eat, of course. Three bowls of salad later, we decided to walk around.

For dinner, we went to the Wind Song restaurant. It was very fancy looking and they served meals like the one above. Chicken with pasta and pretty chocolate cake. I got something that wasn’t on the menu…

Then we went out! My leopard print and all.

We got breakfast delivered to us every morning.

Our first stop was Freeport. It was beautiful, despite the intense weather that brought all forms of seaweed all along the coast.

That was our lovely view while we ate my favorite kind of pizza. How American of us.

We also got room service for lunch almost daily. Laziness at its finest. These were various sandwiches we got throughout the trip.

Next stop was Nassau. We got lost in Atlantis for way too long but finally made it to the beach and loved it. We stuck to room service for most of our meals that day, but here are some pictures of the area.

Of course we went out again. I never realized how much leopard print I had…

Lastly, we went to Half Moon Cay. I’m not sure if this was a private island or not, but woooooooow was it beautiful! I don’t remember eating here either, so you’ll have to see the beach instead. How horrible…

I told you there wasn’t much food involved! It surprised me as well, most definitely, but we had a good time nonetheless. These pictures do not do it justice AT ALL, but maybe they’re enough motivation to get you wanting to go as well.

I will continue with my regular recipe posts starting tomorrow. Until then, toodles! Gimme some oven lovin.

Greek Week: Favorites

As much as I wanted to share a new recipe for each day of Greek Week, today was just not happening. Instead, I’ve decided to share some of my favorite Greek meals. Consider this a go to when you visit your next Mediterranean restaurant.

1. Koupepia

These are very similar to another dish that many are familiar with known as dolmades. While they share most of the same ingredients, koupepia have one unique feature: ground beef! MMM, cows. The mixture of rice and meat with spices and grape leaves is heavenly. This is by far my favorite Greek dish.

2. Souvlaki

I normally like pork souvlaki but chicken souvlaki is also very popular! Pieces of meat on a stick. What’s the problem? You often find this dish served with pita, tzatziki sauce, french fries, rice, or nothing at all. It’s full of flavor on its own so much so that you can just eat it like a corn dog. It’s delicious!

3. Gyro

I don’t like lamb. It’s definitely my least favorite of the meats but I can’t help but love gyros. Something about its smokey yet juicy taste makes it hard to stop eating. It’s usually in a pita sandwich served with tzatziki sauce and a variation of salad (lettuce, tomatoes, and onions). I always get it with just the sauce and it’s YUMMY.

4. Galaktoboureko

Who loves dessert? Definitely this chick. This pie involves phyllo dough that’s flaky and sweet like baklava with a mix of light and creamy custard that is to die for. It’s not too heavy yet filling all at the same time. I don’t have much to say about this choice other than if it’s offered, get it. You won’t be disappointed.

5. Loukoumades

Once again, these are sweet and delicious. Just the way I like it. If it contains a lot of sugar and is unhealthy for you, it’s pretty safe to say that I’ll adore it. Loukoumades are no exception. These dough puffs are deep fried (yum) and soaked in a honey syrup (YUM) then sprinkled with cinnamon on top (AHH!). These taste best when they’re fresh but you won’t go wrong with eating them even hours later.

These dishes are only scratching the surface of delicious Greekness. I will continue to share more recommendations as well as recipes throughout the week so stay tuned and gimme some oven lovin’.

Decorating

I like to consider myself a creative person. I’ve always been very much into art and craft making. I’m inspired by objects, colors, and designs that strike the eye in memorable ways and I greatly enjoy completing projects that do just that. Though I haven’t consumed myself in as much art making as I would have liked within the last few years, I find myself getting back into the habit of experimenting with various media and textures. One of those includes decorating desserts; something that I have never done before, despite my desire to do so.

So a few days ago, I went on over to Michael’s (which, by the way, is the greatest store ever made for someone like me. Seriously, heaven on earth) and purchased, among other things, Chef Duff’s decorating kit. Since I’m an amateur at this stuff, I figured starting off with a kit like this that contained all the pieces I’d need was a perfect purchase. Plus, it was on sale. I mean, come on. Love!

This kit includes 6 decorating tips, 4 couplers, and 5 disposable decorating bags, as well as a little case to hold everything neatly in. What a cutie. That day I also stopped at my local grocery store and grabbed the cheapest container of icing and waxed paper. You’ll see why.

I was really excited to start decorating and knew that, though I like to think it’s true, I am no Picasso. My hands pick up on techniques fairly quickly, but this is a type of art that I had never tried before so it was going to need some getting used to. I packed my first decorating bag and began doodling.

As you can see from the picture, I doodled a bit. I only used three of the six tips, though two of them look very similar to each other on the paper.

The waxed paper was marvelous because I was able to scoop all the icing up once I was done and put it back into the container. Now I can just reuse the same material for when I practice, and worry about getting the good stuff when I’m ready to decorate actual food.

I still have a lot to learn but this was a fun first time. If you have any kids, this is a great way to keep them busy while you work away in the kitchen. You can even make it a little contest and give the winning design a yummy treat! Be creative; it goes a long way.