Greek Night!

Our first ever! Lots of prep, but it’s hopefully well worth it all. I made Greek dressing, tzatziki sauce, and marinated the chicken souvlaki. Oh – and I decided to make the pita bread to eat the chicken like a gyro. I love making bread especially different types like this one. The recipe is super simple with one rise lasting an hour, shaping then a rest of 15 minutes. They baked up really quickly too – just make sure your oven has preheated for at least 20 minutes.

Anyway, this dinner turned out fantastically which is always the desired outcome – especially when it’s my first try! The chicken flavorful, moist and juicy; the tzatziki sauce was creamy, garlicky and perfect with the gyros and the pita bread was a hit too. I bet the leftovers will be even tastier.

Souvlaki Ingredients – adapted from The Eclectic Cook

  • 2 lbs pork loin and/or chicken cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice (the juice of about 1½ lemons)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Whisk together garlic, oregano, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Combine the marinade with the pork in a large freezer bag. Marinade in the refrigerator for at least 24 and up to 48 hours. Rotate the bag to redistribute the marinade at least twice during this time.
Preheat the grill to medium high heat. If you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water before using, or use metal skewers. Thread about 5 pieces of meat onto each skewer, enough for one serving. Grill the skewers for about 15 minutes, turning two or three times. The chicken will take less time to cook than the pork, so start checking for doneness at about 10 minutes. The meat should register about 150°F for the pork and 160°F for the chicken when you take them off the grill. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Because of the marinade ingredients, the meat (both the pork and the chicken) may still be slightly pinkish inside even when fully cooked.

Tzatziki Sauce Ingredients – adapted from Culinary Cory

  • 2 (7 oz) containers of Greek yogurt
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, seeded and unpeeled
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP white wine vinegar
  • 1 TBSP fresh dill, minced
  • 1 ½ TBSP garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper

Directions –

Shred the cucumber with a grater and squeeze out the excess liquid. Add the dip ingredients to a medium mixing bowl. Stir until well combined. Garnish with any remaining dill. Serve with assorted fresh vegetables. Makes approximately 2 cups of dip.

Golden Pita Bread ingredients – adapted from King Arthur Flour

  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions –

1. Combine all of the ingredients, mixing to form a shaggy dough.

2. Knead dough, by hand ( 10 minutes ) or by mixer ( 5 minutes ) or by bread machine ( set on the dough cycle ) till it’s smooth.

3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and allow it to rest for 1 hour it’ll become quite puffy, though it may not double in bulk. If you’ve used a bread machine, simply let the machine complete its cycle.

4. Turn the dough onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 pieces.

5. Roll two to four pieces into 6″ pieces ( the number of pieces depends on how many rolled-out pieces at a time can fit on your baking sheet ).

6. Place the circles on a lightly greased baking sheet and allow them to rest, uncovered for 15 minutes, while you preheat the oven to 500 degrees. ( Keep the unrolled pieces of dough covered. Roll out the next batch while the first batch bakes ).

7. Place the baking sheet on the lowest rack in your oven, and bake the pitas for 5 minutes; they should puff up. ( If they haven’t puffed up, wait a minute or so longer. If they still haven’t puffed, your oven isn’t hot enough; raise the heat for the next batch.)

8. Transfer the baking sheet to your oven’s middle-to-top rack and bake for an additional 2 minutes, or until the pitas have browned.

9.  Remove the pitas from the oven, wrap them in a clean dishtowel ( this keeps them soft ), and repeat with remaining dough.

10. Store cooled pitas in an airtight container or plastic bag.





Try This…

Only if you like avocados, tomatoes and the flavor of lime juice. It’s a super simple snack that I came up with sometime last year when I had a craving for guacamole but I didn’t have the time or all the ingredients that go into my fave guacamole. Oh, and no chips either but this “salad” fit my cravings perfectly. Avocado does have a lot of fat, but really – how bad can fat be from a fruit?;o) Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Tomato and Avocado “Salad” ingredients –

  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 1 – 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • juice of half a lime
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions –

1. Toss all ingredients in a bowl.

2. Eat!

Italian Mac and Cheese


It’s been longer than I’d like since my last post, but as you may have read on FB, little Miss S has had a fever for the past three days. I’m doing my best nurse impression. Thankfully she hasn’t had any other symptoms than the high fever…but three days?

I have made this once before – it’s so good. I found this recipe after we purchased four pounds of mild Italian sausage from Sam’s Club for the first time. I didn’t have many ways of using that much sausage, and I rarely cooked with it. Since then, I have found a few really good recipes that feature this type, like sausage bread! It’s my family’s favorite and I will be sure to post about it soon. As for the cheese, I recommend not buying the pre-shredded “Italian Cheese Blend” at the store. There is usually corn starch or some other anti-clumping additive in pre-shredded cheeses that leave an unpleasant grainy-ness to the finished cheese sauce. That’s the mistake I made the first time and since then, I don’t buy the bagged cheeses. Thanks for reading!

 

Italian Mac and Cheese Ingredients – adapted from Let’s Dish

  • 1 pound penne, ziti or rigatoni pasta
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 3 – 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream ( I used half & half)
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded cheese blend ( I used Fontina, mozzarella, Pecorino Romano and Parmesan)
  • 1 – 14 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tsp hot sauce ( I used cayenne pepper), optional
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions –

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water and cook pasta to a chewy al dente, about 8 minutes.  In a nonstick skillet, brown and crumble the sausage. Drain cooked crumbles on a paper towel lined plate. Return pan to heat and add extra-virgin olive oil, butter, and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Saute about 3 minutes, until garlic is fragrant.  Preheat broiler to high heat.  Add flour to skillet and stir, cooking 2 minutes. Whisk in stock, then stir in cream. Bring cream to a bubble, then stir in 2 cups of Italian cheese blend. When cheese has melted into sauce, add tomatoes. When sauce comes to a bubble, remove from heat and adjust seasonings, adding hot sauce if desired.  Combine cheese sauce with sausage and pasta and transfer to a large baking dish.  Sprinkle with additional half cup Italian cheese blend and grated Parmesan.  Cook under hot broiler until cheese is browned and bubbly.


Arroz con Leche

I love arroz con leche. It reminds me of my  Grandma Tavita, my childhood and simpler times. This recipe isn’t exactly like my Gram’s but it’s pretty similar. It’s good, comforting and creamy – and not exactly health food. That’s why this is only my third time making it this year…and I eat it all by myself! M and the kids wont touch it – maybe when the kids are older they might want to. But, I think for some people, if you didn’t grow up eating something you may never like it. I love Mexican food, because of course I grew up eating it and it always reminds me of my Gram 🙂 I miss her! Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Arroz con Leche Recipe – adapted from Ingrid Hoffman

  • 1 cup long-grain white rice ( I use Jasmin rice)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3 whole cloves (I omit these)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 (12-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raisins, optional

Directions –
Soak the rice, cinnamon sticks, lemon zest and whole cloves in the water in a heavy saucepan for 1 hour.

After soaking, bring the rice mixture to a boil on high heat, uncovered. When it starts to boil (about 5 minutes), lower the heat to medium and cook for 10 to 12 more minutes or until water is almost evaporated.

While rice is cooking, beat the egg in a bowl. Add the milk and stir well to mix. Add the egg mixture, vanilla extract and condensed milk to the rice and cook over medium-low heat, stirring carefully, until it thickens slightly or until desired consistency, about 25 to 35 minutes.

Let cool uncovered.

Note: be aware that as the rice cools it thickens. The finished product will be thinner than traditional rice pudding.

Pumpkin Bread


Tomorrow morning there is a Moms4Moms meeting and it’s my table’s turn to bring cold food. I make this a lot, but the last time I made it, one of the loaves didn’t cook through as quickly as the other. For some reason, both loaves took way longer to bake than the recommended time. Hopefully this time around, I wont run into problems. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my food, so I threw away the loaf that didn’t quite get there…I was so bummed about it. I will be sure to keep an eye on my oven thermometer and give both loaf pans plenty of space in the oven. Also, the last time I made it I didn’t have any ground cloves! I have been shopping around for that spice for weeks now. At Publix, they cost anywhere from 4.99 to 7.99! I couldn’t find ground cloves at Target, and the specialty store I went to sold theirs for over 8 dollars – why are they so expensive? Well, today I had to suck it up and purchase the tiny container you can see in the ingredients picture. Next time I am in the need for several different spices, I’m going to shop online. I looked around at different sites, and every thing was much cheaper.

I love the way the house smelled when these were baking. Weirdness happened again with this recipe. One loaf took a good 10 minutes longer to finish baking than the other one. I made sure that it cooked through as I poked it with a toothpick in several places. I’ll know for sure once I cut into these later on tonight. The kids love this bread and I do too, but the last time I made it they didn’t get any. I may just take one and a half of the loaves to the meeting tomorrow. I am also bringing red grapes so I’m not being stingy with the goods! Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread Ingredients – adapted from Allrecipes.com

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil – you can substitute all or half the oil with unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar – I always use half white/half light brown sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg – fresh is best
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Directions –

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7×3 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Today’s Lunch

I love making sandwiches extra special. This has the “works” on it: baby swiss, romaine lettuce, tomato, roast beef and honey turkey. I use mustard topped with Boar’s Head deli dressing, kosher salt, pepper and dried oregano…not necessarily in that order. I’m running out of bread, so I will be sure to post one of my favorite bread recipes later on this week. I just wanted to share with you my favorite lunch – I eat this Monday through Friday and I’m not sick of it yet.