Good Riddance 2016 with mAd Spicy Feta Dip

It’s finally evening and I have stolen a few moments to relax and gather my thoughts after a very busy Christmas weekend.  It was very fun this year at the mad cafe.  My uncle Nick and aunt Jill drove across the state from Tampa, my brother and Jim came from Denver and my mother in law is visiting from Northern Greece.  Our friends, Lia and Amanda also joined our festivities and it was just relaxing and happy.  Aside from all the finger food and cookies and sweets, we enjoyed delicious wine, bubbly and each others’ company.

Wishing you and your family peace, love, health and happiness

I’d say the highlight of the cooking was roasted veggies with garlic and turmeric along with the spicy feta dip and the au jus roasted pork loin.  The main topic of culinary discussion this year was over the desserts and specifically, Amanda’s first (and successful) attempt to a chocolate ombre cake!  It was such a thoughtful surprise dessert to bring, and it was so sweet of her to mention that I inspired her to make it.  This is why I love my friends so much 🙂

Reflecting on 2016, so much has happened and not all of it was great.  In fact, many in our circle suffered a great deal; some lost family or friends to illness or accidents, others lost their jobs and had to move.  Two who are my age bravely worked through serious health problems, including surgery and forms of chemo.  And others in our circle lost their spouse to death or divorce.  Some sounded so stressed out because of the economy in Greece.  Most recently, a dear friend on the east coast was so upset because she realized the person she loved so much didn’t feel the same – and wouldn’t be upfront with her.  2016 is one of those years that has left me wondering about all the challenges the people I care about were facing and thinking of ways I can help bring a smile to their face.

Personally, 2016 has been overall an ok year.  From a business perspective, it’s been hugely successful and rewarding on many levels.  Watching Anna grow into a fun, quirky 10 year old, who is taller than her mom, has been such a privilege.  I’m blessed to have peace and love in my tiny family as we continue to mindfully work together towards common goals.  And it hasn’t been without personal challenges and struggles.  I am happy to reconnect with people who I realized mattered to me, and at the same time I’ve chosen to let go of those who don’t want to be happy.  It’s one thing when you don’t know how to be happy… it’s another when you don’t want to be.

If I have a wish for 2017 it is to be more human; to learn, to appreciate, to not be afraid to try new things, and to refuse to sit idly in contentment.  I have such dislike for the word contentment.  Feeling content is responsible for so much inaction, and lack of enthusiasm.  It feeds off of fear, insecurity and a sense of dependence.  Being content is feeling not quite happy, but not unhappy either.  It’s that limbo state of “happy enough.”  Who sets the “happy enough” standard, if it’s not you?

Make it count in 2017:  cherish your loved ones, appreciate your blessings, hold onto a solid support system with people who cheer you forward and reach higher!

The mad cafe Christmas Eve spread! Anna circled the spicy feta dip to help out 🙂

On the food front, I have several recipes lined up to share with you.  Since it was a success at the mad cafe, the spicy feta cheese dip makes for a special treat anytime.  A note about feta: we can have a lot debates about feta, but as with most ingredients, the quality of cheese makes all the difference.  Opt for the real deal… Dodoni is my favorite feta and Kolios is a close second.

MAD SPICY FETA DIP (TYROKAFTERI)

Prep time:  15 minutes   Idle time:  at least 1 hour refrigeration before serving

Ingredients

1/2 lb Greek feta

Tyrokafteri (spicy feta dip) can be really spicy so make sure you warn your guests (photo credit: brittneyg.typepad.com)

3/4 cup of Greek yogurt

1 small hot pepper, finely chopped (size depends on how spicy you want the dip!)

1 tbsp paprika

1/2 tsp crushed pepper flakes

1 tsp of red wine vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Salt/pepper to taste

Serving suggestions: warm pita bread, raw veggies, olives

Directions

Mash the feta in a bowl with a fork and mix in the yogurt.  Add the rest of the ingredients until well combined.  Adjust the seasoning as needed.  If the mixture is too solid, add more yogurt and olive oil.  Like the tzatziki, don’t be fooled with the garlic… a little goes a long way and will taste stronger as the flavors work together.  Cover the mixture and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

 

 

 

fascinating perspectives on life, art and food

Anna's ornament from 2013... a gingerbread cookie from IKEA that had been decorated with tons of icing and sugar (polyurethaned)
Anna’s ornament from 2013… a gingerbread cookie from IKEA that had been decorated with tons of icing and sugar (polyurethaned)

One of the reasons I love the holidays is because I get to see my friends for our various “annuals.”  For instance, my friend Sarah came over last week with her daughters to decorate the Christmas tree and holiday cookies with Anna.

They have been doing this since they were 3 and 4 years old so it’s a big deal at the mad cafe!  It is always so fun watching them decorate and how they develop their own perspectives of holiday traditions.  Seeing their handmade ornaments hanging and recalling the memory year after year is priceless.  I hope they will continue this tradition with their own families one day.

We call them the three musketeers!
We call them the three musketeers!

I also get to have an annual “holiday tea” with my dear friend Teresa, who is a former colleague.  We went to lunch one day outside the office a while back and just hit it off!  She’s one of those people I enjoy talking to because she shares with me a different perspective on things that I always find so helpful.

Specifically, we had a spontaneous discussion yesterday about personality traits and characteristics and how best to reach each person in a way that will have an impact and be effective.  She had this exercise at work, and it applies to everyday contact with people.  I won’t go into all the details, but it’s fascinating to learn how best to get through someone who is a distracted extrovert, let’s say,  vs. an introspective deep thinker.  Who knew sharing a pot of white spiced pear tea could spark such interesting conversation!

T and me having tea
T and me having tea!

There are other annual holiday gatherings scheduled and I remind myself how grateful I am for the friends in my life.  What’s especially interesting is that many of my friends don’t necessarily know one another, which makes it that more fascinating to get to spend time with them one on one.  Honestly, I love listening to my friends’ stories and getting their perspective on various topics.  Many of them have called me their therapist.  I don’t know about that, but it’s great to see my friends feel better once they’ve shared something that preoccupies or interests them.  To have a good friend you need to be a friend… and personally I’ve been very selective with mine.

 

Michael and Anna sketching at the Norton in 2013
Michael and Anna sketching at the Norton in 2013

Speaking of perspectives, Teresa mentioned that it really made an impression on her when she saw in our living room three sketches that Michael, Anna and I did a couple of years ago at the Norton Museum.  We love going to Art After Dark where they have a family art do-it-yourself activity.  I especially enjoy Sketchbook Thursdays when there is a live model to sketch on timed poses.

So, a while back the three of us attended one of those live model workshops and instead of using a pencil, the medium was blank ink.  Of course, that means you can’t made corrections.  We sketched out about 3-4 poses of the same model and at the end we compared our work and it was fascinating to see how differently we perceived each pose.

Anna's perspective
Anna’s perspective – I love the detail on the buttons and the wacky eyes!
Didi
Didi – I didn’t have enough time to finish his left arm!  In middle school I’d sketch spiked balls on a chain, so this was new material for me!
Michael
Michael’s has strong, confident brushstrokes and we laughed about proportions

Naturally, Anna was only 8 at the time of this workshop,  I hadn’t sketched anything since high school, and Michael is basically great at nearly everything he puts his hands on, so each piece was very different.

Now the challenge… what does this have to do with food?  Everything!  We all have different perspectives and thoughts about food, recipes and what we enjoy.

My mom heads back from Greece today so I can’t wait to see what photos she is bringing with her along with tons of Greek treats.  I’ll do my best to post a recipe tomorrow when I have more time.

Happy Sunday!