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.ย 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’.

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:

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pittsburgh:

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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.

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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!

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Greek Week: Greek Pizza

YUM, YUM, YUUUUMMY! This is a semi-healthy and super easy recipe for Greek pizza. Oh, and did I mention it’s yummy? Because it totally is.

Now, I’m no Popeye so my interest in spinach is very minimal. The recipe calls for an entire container, which for some of you may not be enough. Use as much as you’d like and either save the rest for next time or use in another dish. Perhaps you’d like to make the ladybug bites and put the spinach toward the dip. Just an idea ๐Ÿ˜‰

You’ll need:

  • 4 pita breads
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 package chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced
  • 3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried mint
  • garlic powder

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Slice your tomatoes, crumble your feta cheese, and make an assembly line with the rest of your toppings. I found this to be the easiest and fastest way to make the pizza.

3. Place your pita breads on a foil covered cookie tray (or two if necessary) then spread about 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese on each.

4. Sprinkle some garlic powder (as much as you’d like) and continue with the rest of your toppings. First apply your spinach, then tomatoes, then feta. Top with crushed dried mint.

5. Bake in the oven for 10-14 minutes. If you like your “crust” to be on the crunchier side, leave in longer. Enjoy!!

I hope you all enjoyed Greek week! I will absolutely share more Greek recipes in the future so keep coming around. Thank you so much for all of your kind words so far. This blogging thing is fun! Gimme some oven lovin’.

Greek Week: Baklava

The day has come! I’m finally sharing one of the world’s most loved desserts’ recipe. Though the traditional baklava is made with layers of phyllo dough, this recipe is much easier, cheaper, and amateur-friendly for all of my anxious and hungry readers. It just finished baking and the smell has invaded my home. My mouth is salivating as I write this. Warning — this is a very sweet and sugar-filled dessert! You’re in the wrong place if you’re someone that’s watching what you’re eating ๐Ÿ™‚

I won’t lie, this is one of my sloppiest dishes. Lucky for me, it tastes a lot more delicious than it looks. Practice makes perfect, don’t forget that!

You’ll need:

  • 2 (8oz) cans of crescent dinner rolls (Pillsbury, store brand, etc.)
  • 3 cups walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

glaze:

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice

Note — I like my baklava gooey and very moist. If you don’t like too much syrup, cut the glaze ingredients in half.

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Open one can of crescent rolls and press the dough on the bottom of a 13×9 pan. I used an aluminum one but any kind works. I like this one because I can just throw it away and not have to worry about the messy clean up! Make sure there are no gaps and even push up about half an inch on the side to create a bowl-type crust.

3. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes.

4. While the crust is baking, prepare the mixture. In a medium size bowl, combine the walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon. Mix well.

5. Spread the mixture evenly throughout the pan.

6. Open the other can of crescent rolls and roll out one big piece of dough. Place it on top of the walnut mixture and press out to the edges of the pan.

7. Using a sharp knife, score out lines length-wise and diagonally to create diamond shaped pieces. Set side.

8. In a small saucepan, bring glaze ingredients to a boil.

9. Poor half of the syrup evenly throughout the pan and set the other half in a small bowl on the side.

10. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven and dough. Remove from oven when the crust is golden.

11. Spoon remaining syrup over the cooked baklava to soak in. Refrigerate, cut, and enjoy!

I would love to hear if any of you have made this or any other recipe I’ve provided. Let me know! And be sure to gimme some oven lovin’.

Greek Week: Greek Pasta Salad

So. I know this is the third salad I have posted in the last week, but what can I say? I like easy meals! I promise this will be the last for a while though. And by a while I mean at least 3 days ๐Ÿ™‚

This Greek pasta salad is a great side dish or main entree. It can be eaten warm or chilled. It’s yummy whichever way you choose!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box bow tie pasta
  • 1 cup pitted black olives, sliced
  • 1 cup grape/cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 cup feta crumbles
  • 1 cup Greek vinaigrette dressing (or more if you’d like)
  • 1 tablespoon of dried mint (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Steps:

  1. Cook the pasta. Duh.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, you can cut the olives and tomatoes, if they’re not sliced already.
  3. Once the bow ties are finished, drain and rinse them with cold water.
  4. Combine the olives, tomatoes, feta, and dressing with the pasta. Add your crushed dried mint, if you have it, and stir until all are well coated.

  5. Sprinkle some Parmesan and eat up!

Add a scoop to your steak or just whip out a fork. Dig in and enjoy. While you’re at it, 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’.

Greek Week: Orchard Chicken Salad

Welcome to Greek Week! Yesterday, I told you all about a Cypriot cheese called Halloumi that I loooove. Since I included that into the delicious little bacomelets, I thought I would do a whole week of foods that either are Greek or include at least one Greek ingredient. I guess this is technically day 2 of this, but since Halloumi was “optional” in the last recipe, today’s meal will officially begin the Greek Week experiment.

I know I recently posted a salad recipe, but my fellow blogger Liz made a request for chicken salad so this is dedicated to her. I hope you all like it as much as I do!

You’ll need:

  • 3-4 cups of shredded chicken
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup red grapes, halved
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • salt and pepper to your liking

Steps:

  1. Combine mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, mustard, honey, and lemon juice in a bowl. Whisk until well blended.
  2. Add in the cranberries, celery, grapes, walnuts, and chicken. Toss until completely coated.ย 
  3. Season with salt and pepper (I used 1/2 teaspoon of each).
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

How you want to eat it is up to you. You can serve it over greens, on toast, in a wrap, or in a croissant as I did. I had enough for 6 sandwiches with extra still remaining for a salad. It’s yummy and doesn’t require too much.


Bon appetit! Or as we say in Greek, kali orexi! Gimme some oven lovin’.