tuesday motivation meal: mad chicken parmesan

Wham!  Tax season reality is certainly setting in quickly.  It’s amazing what two days can do in terms of workload.  We’re already busy with incoming clients now that e-filing has officially begun.  The best part is that the new clients coming in are overall the right ones for our business, making it that much more rewarding to see.

I’m tweaking our marketing efforts just a bit, and it seems we’re in really good shape to take on the season!  We’re really excited for the new interns that will be helping us this year.  And I can’t wait for my new computer to come in, finally, which will be faster that this laptop.

I also heard from my good friend Zoe out in San Francisco… her mom snail mailed some our old photos and I hadn’t seen them in so long.  We are both laughing so much.  Since we didn’t have them when I wrote the original post with Zoe and our culinary adventures with empanadas… we’re sharing a classic one here.  I don’t want these to be misplaced again!

Since it is Mardi Gras this photo is timely! Zoe and I at the IBM dance for families. I remember we both didn’t want to pose for that photo!

This time of year challenges me not only to discipline myself making meals for one or the two of us (when Anna is home), but also to find the time to cook food in a a healthy and tasty way.  One of the mad cafe’s favorite meals is chicken parmesan.

I’m sure this is a classic for many families, whether they enjoy this dish in a restaurant or at home.  Since this is heavy on sauce and cheese, I try to make it a little bit lighter.

 

 

MAD CHICKEN PARMESAN

Prep time: 20 minutes  Cooking time:  45 minutes  Yields:  4-6 servings

Ingredients

4 chicken breasts

It may be odd to substitute part of the panko with hemp seeds, but it gives the Chicken Parm really good texture and flavor

1 jar of spicy marinara (make your own, or your favorite brand)

3-4 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup hemp seeds

4 oz fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp cayenne pepper

2 eggs, beaten in a bowl

2/3 cup shredded mozarella, part-skim

1/2 cup shredded Parmegiano cheese

Salt and Pepper

1 box of pasta, we prefer penne or ditalini – you can opt for whole grain… (to me it tastes like cardboard, so I go for the real thing!)

Directions

Preheat the oven 350F

Mix the whole wheat flour with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper in a bowl.  Also, mix the panko and hemp seeds in another bowl.

Wash the chicken breasts, dry with paper towels and lay flat on a glass or non-porous cutting board.  With a sharp knife, carefully cut the breasts horizontally – in half.  Dredge each breast in the flour mixture.  Next, dip into the beaten egg, and then coat well with the panko and hemp seeds.  Repeat the process for each chicken breast and set on a platter.

In a skillet heat the olive oil and cook the breasts just enough to turn lightly brown on each side.  Remove and set aside on paper towels.

Meanwhile, make the pasta.  Opt for al dente about 5-7 minutes of boiling in a pot with 1tbsp of olive oil and salt.  Drain.  Mix the pasta with the minced garlic and half of the spicy marinara and layer evenly in an oven safe dish.

Lay the chicken breasts on top of the pasta layer.  Add the rest of the sauce to cover the chicken.  You don’t have to drench it in sauce, just enough to cover it somewhat.  Sprinkle the parsley, mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 45minutes.  Remove the cover and set to broil until cheese is brown and sauce is bubbling – about 3-4 minutes.

Serve immediately!

 

 

mad impromptu pasta for one

It’s official now, we’re in tax season mode!  Michael is in Boston through the end of April since most of our work this time of year comes out of that location, and I am here taking care of… well, everything else.  My friends ask me how I feel every year when January rolls around, and now it’s been the fifth tax season I know what to say:  at least it is familiar at this point!

I am aware of what will happen over the next three months.  The stress will gradually mount, endlessly testing my limits.  Our workload will quickly become overloaded only to seem unmanageable, until we figure out how to manage it somehow.  And I’ll get used to cooking for two, or three – or one – depending on the day. It’s likely that I’ll have even less time this season, but I’m determined to stay healthy and fit regardless of the piling workload.

Tax season can mean unlimited coffee time at the mad cafe.  This machine and the white one in Boston definitely get their workout this time of year.

And April will come before we know it.  Again.  Tax season is so compressed.  It sometimes seems like a dream that will never end until you wake up suddenly and realize you have your life back!

But, as with most things, there are definite upsides.  It’s awesome to measure the growth and success, and helping people plan their tax strategy soundly is very satisfying.   It’s amazing how we are able to make a difference in people’s lives when we help them with something as mundane and boring as taxes.  And the really good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel… one deadline wraps up, and then the next one toes the line.

Basically, it is what it is.

Acceptance is a big life lesson and one I still resist from time to time.  I think it’s a personality trait I carry since I was little, but I’m improving and learning to embrace things as they come.  There are times when I feel so confused, asking questions actually confuses me more.  Or there are times when I really want an answer, and I won’t get it… ever.  And that is frustrating when trying to gain insight.  So, in those situations, the only sensible answer is to accept – and learn to leave some things alone.  That’s always been difficult for me because it’s my nature to feel and explore things, and I’m just endlessly curious.

With time I am learning that things are what they are in life, and I just have to stop asking questions when there is no purpose or resolution.  Gosh, it’s still so hard to go against yourself, but in the end, accepting things can be quite liberating!  Or it might be stupid.  I’m not sure yet.

After yesterday, though, I’m glad I’m not in Sean Spicer’s shoes having to talk to the press and outright lie and sound like a dictator.  It feels like we’re not in 2017, but 1984.  I need to re-read the book.. though Orwell’s Animal Farm was my favorite.

Anyway, since today was a Sunday I cooked for myself… creating an impromptu pasta dish was simple and delicious!  It’s amazing what you can do with a few simple ingredients.  I’ve adapted the recipe for 4 servings. Happy cooking 🙂

MAD IMPROMPTU PASTA WITH VEGGIES

Prep time: 15 minutes  Cooking time: 20 minutes Yields: 4 servings

Impromptu pasta is awesome! It allows so much creativity. The simplicity of pasta is extraordinary.

Ingredients

1 package of egg noodles (or any pasta you like)

1 small package grape tomatoes, cut in half

1 small sweet onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 handfuls of fresh spinach, washed and roughly chopped

1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped

1 tbsp of mascarpone cheese (or 1 tbsp butter)

4 oz good feta cheese, crumbled

Optional: 1/3 cup of white wine, Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp crushed pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Yes, I’m actually boiling the pasta with the cauliflower. These are egg noodles… so it only takes a few minutes.

In a large pot, bring to a boil 6-8 cups of water with a dash of olive oil and salt.  Toss in the pasta and the cauliflower.  Boil uncovered until both are tender, about 7 minutes (al dente), or however long for your preference.  Drain and set aside.

In a wok or a large skillet, heat the olive oil and sweat the onions, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the grape tomatoes and garlic, stir for about 2 minutes.  Stir in the spinach, a handful at a time.  The greens will wilt quickly.

Add the crushed pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

Anything fresh in the kitchen can work with impromptu pasta

Toss in the crumbled feta and mascarpone (or butter).  Pour in the wine, if using, and cook the sauce on medium for 2-3 minutes.  Cook on low until sauce thickens slightly.

Mix the pasta with the sauce and serve immediately.

Whether eating on your own today, like me, or with company remember that pasta is made for sharing 🙂

EmKo… a unique dining spot in WPB

After changing our dinner reservation three times, when things kept popping up, we finally experienced EmKo last night.  Located in the newly developed Norton corridor in WPB, EmKo made such an impression on me.  Michael and I hate waste and find it rewarding to reuse materials, whether in renovations or artistic decor.  This place seems to agree… modern creativity is their vision.  And it’s obvious the moment you pull up to the valet.

Inside Jereve at EmKo. There is a market, a coffee bar a lounge and an art gallery. Modern creativity is abundant from the decor to the food.

We experienced dinner at Jereve, EmKo’s restaurant, and I remember being mesmerized the moment I walked in!  The restaurant, we were told by our host and sommelier, was uniquely designed and custom to fit a modern artistic vision.

Simplicity and modern creativity is everywhere at EmKo.  I enjoy relating to this yellow bird 🙂

Their beliefs: “Be all in or get all out.  There’s no half way..” resonated with me.  Simplicity is also embraced… “Overthinking kills creativity.”  Ditto.  And, my favorite, “Simplicity and modern ideas are the foundation for a creative process. There are no limitations to what you can do.  I instantly felt connected.

At this point,  I couldn’t wait to try the food.

This dish is probably the best photographed from the bunch…the corn and quinoa salad was fresh and delicious.

The menu was simple and easy to understand and we opted for dishes to share in order to try different flavors.  By the way, the staff was fabulous – the service was impeccable, and very helpful.  And the wine!  The selections were thoughtful and balanced.

 

 

 

We enjoyed everything we tried, though I’d like to highlight the shrimp toast… oh my, this dish was probably the best thing I’ve had in a long time.  The photo I took really doesn’t do the dish justice… but it reminds me of a french toast, crunchy and crispy, paired with

Shrimp toast, Jereve at EmKo PB – a must try dish

a delicious sweet glaze and picked radish and pickled cucumber to balance out the flavors.  Humble, artistic, flavorful and just exquisite!

My brother is in town and we may end up there again tonight – this time at the lounge!

 

 

So, I took the day off at the mad cafe… and I loved it!  Thank you Emko for such an amazing gastro experience.

Stay tuned for more recipes soon.

 

 

 

 

mad apple pie to welcome 2017!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I cannot wait for the last few hours of 2016.  It will be great to wake up tomorrow, after sleeping in a bit, to a fresh new year 2017!  At the market today, at the coffee shop and everywhere I was hearing people wish Happy New Year to complete strangers, their kids and their dogs.

 

Just look at these amazing, crusty breads!

This morning we took Michael’s mom out to the Green Market in WPB.  When I say today was an absolutely gorgeous day, it’s true!  In fact, I want to spend as much time outside today as possible.  There’s no humidity, the sun is bright and there’s a light breeze from the east.  I’m typing this blog outside on our bistro table (this was my Christmas gift from the mad cafe :).

At the Green Market I was in complete foodie heaven!  From pop-up bakeries to organic produce and Cuban coffee from Havana’s, it was just wonderful to walk around, look at everything and watch people as they walk by.

Serious eye candy for the mad cafe chef!

The highlight of the market this time of year is the Christmas tree made from sand.  It will be gone in a couple of days so everyone was snapping photos today.

Gorgeous day to enjoy the last days of the sand Christmas Tree in WPB

After staring, touching and buying some of the local produce, I felt inspired at home and decided to use up the honey crisp apples that have been in the fridge since last week.  I have been meaning to bake an apple pie for a while.  If you are anything like me, which most people aren’t, you take a bite of an apple pie and poke around the crust and leave the rest to waste.  That’s why I never buy or order apple pie… and I don’t make it.  Like, ever.

But, today was different!  Many of you have resolutions, etc… mine is to try to new things, to explore and learn more where I can.  So, yes, the apple pie is ready and out of the oven and cooling.  This experiment came about because I’ve ready SO many recipes and everyone’s is always the best.  Like with many of the Greek treats, pie is one that’s subjective since it’s tied with memories of childhood.

In my family, my mom would hardly ever bake pies, but my grandmother Aphrodite was very fond of apple pie.  In her food diary she was fair in giving recipes credit to those who shared them with her… “Mrs. Vans chicken… Mrs. Vans phinikia, etc.”  She eventually perfected her own apple pie recipe though and proudly called it “Mrs. Karatinos Apple Pie.”  And the crust was delicious.  And I still couldn’t eat the whole piece of pie because the filling was too sweet.  And I would always feel badly…

Mrs. Karatinos’ Apple Pie

So, over the years I studied tons of recipes for apple pie, with the hope that one day I would find one that was not too sweet, or mushy, or sour.  I didn’t find one specific recipe, and therefore I’ve formed my own that I’m happy to share with you: Mad Apple Pie… to welcome 2017!

 

 

 

MAD APPLE PIE

Prep time:  30 minutes  Baking time:  1 hour (convection oven)

Ingredients

About 8 cups of honey crisp apples, peeled, cored and quartered

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

Evening out the apple pie filling

1/4 whole wheat flour

2 tbsp butter

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp mace

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp good salt

3 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp fresh orange juice

zest of a lemon

zest of an orange (or tangerine)

Eggwash (one egg with a little water, lightly beaten)

For the Dough (this is Mrs. Karatinos’ recipe):

3 cups all purpose flour, sifted

2 cups COLD crisco (you can use cold butter instead)

1 tbsp salt

3/4 cup COLD water

Directions

Make the dough first:  Mix the cold crisco and flour by working lightly with fingers into a large ball.  Dissolve the salt in the cold water and pour into the flour mixture all at once.  Work the dough with a large fork until the dough is formed… divide into 4 balls.  You’ll need two for this 9″ pie and you can freeze the rest for another pie.  Refrigerate the dough while you prepare the filling.

Preheat the oven at 400F

Make the filling:  cut thin slices of the quartered apples, about 2 mm thickness.  In a bowl, mix together everything else… sugars, salt, flour, spices, butter, juices, zest, etc. and toss the sliced apples until well incorporated.  You don’t have to cook the apples at all.

Mad apple pie… voila 🙂 Out with the old in with 2017!

Prepare the pie:  Take out the two balls of dough and roll out with a rolling pin (use flour as needed to roll out).  Lay the bottom dough in a 9″ deep dish pie pan enough so that there is excess dough over the sides.  Make sure no air bubbles at the bottom.  Pour in the filling and even out.  Lay the other layer of dough on top and work with your fingers to crimp the sides well.  You can use a fork to finish off the crimping.

Brush egg wash on top with a pastry brush.  Cut a few slits around the middle of the pie and sprinkle some coarse sugar on top (optional).

Bake for about 1 hour until the crust is golden brown and filling starts to bubble.  Let the apple pie cool.  Serve warm.

Happy 2017!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

it’s not Christmas without holiday punch

Is it really less than three weeks until Christmas?  I’m a bit behind this year on decorations, and plan to have the tree up by Wednesday.  It’s always fun to have Anna’s friends over every year to decorate our Christmas tree.  Last year was the first year when no one broke an ornament… except for me.  I broke the pickle, of all ornaments, as I was trying to hide it so the kids wouldn’t find it.  Supposedly, whoever finds the pickle ornament on the tree wins a prize.  There is no prize for when you accidentally break it though, just the honor of clean up.

A South Florida Christmas requires flip flops.
A South Florida Christmas requires flip flops.

My mom always calls December “happy month.”  For the life of me, I don’t agree with her.  The juggling, the stress of preparing, and keeping everything to some perfect timeline that I already not is just not going to happen.  And even if everything does go as planned, for some bizarre reason, I’m still waiting for that one moment when it will all turn awry… and it usually does, especially when it involves awkward moments at extended family holiday gatherings.  Then again, I also look at it as another way to make interesting and amusing holiday memories!

How do you keep sane when you are hosting Christmas eve?  I turn to the mad cafe and keep as busy as I can with preparing food.  Michael and Anna are great with welcoming people at home and keeping the conversation going.  This year, my plan is to not have anything formal for Christmas.  Instead, I think it will be best to have stations with different hors d’oeuvres, seasonal bites, and sweets so that guests can just help themselves whenever they like.  I may even make a holiday punch to narrow down the choices of drinks.

I love this 60s punch bowl! Time to put it to good use.
I love this 60s punch bowl! Time to put it to good use.

Actually, that’s a good idea, and now I know what recipe I’m going to share with you.  I started this post without one specific recipe in mind, so this is perfect!

I do have my grandmother’s punch bowl and have hardly used it the past several years, so it will be a great opportunity to bring it out.  She has a recipe for punch in her notebook, to which I have added my own holiday twist.  Enjoy!

MAD HOLIDAY PUNCH

Prep time: 15 minutes –  Chill time:  1 hour minimum – Yields: 1 punch bowl and a lot of laughs
Ingredients
4 tbsp. sugar

Prosecco from the Italian region of Valdobbiadene is my favorite!
Prosecco from the Italian region of Valdobbiadene is my favorite!
1 cup pomegranate juice
2  bottles chilled Prosecco
1 cup of Riesling (or similar – a sweet white wine)
2-3 medium oranges
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
1 cup fresh pineapple, diced
Note: Have plenty of ice available
Directions
Well, you basically combine all the ingredients in a punch bowl, with the exception of the ice, and still well until sugar is dissolved.  Let the mixture chill in the refrigerator for about an hour before serving over ice cubes.
A little goes a long way, so please drink responsibly!

 

 

greek coffee… sweet, semi-sweet or plain?

For a while I’ve been waiting for the right moment to write this post.  Over the years, I have had various conversations about Greek coffee, both with Greek and non-Greek friends.  The answers always vary and can be so entertaining.  Some friends abide by the Greek coffee routine morning and afternoon.  Afternoon coffee in Greece is probably more important than the morning ritual, as people get together to talk about the day, and mainly gossip.

This method tests patience and timing... you have to wait to take the briki off the heat until the coffee is about to boil over!
This method tests patience and timing… you have to wait to take the briki off the heat until the coffee is about to boil over!

My other Greek friends at this point prefer Nescafe frappe, served cold, or warm in the winter time.  Since I left Greece in ’98, cappuccino and espresso freddo have become the daily afternoon staples of socializing.  But, on certain days, even now, tradition still prevails with the humble Greek coffee, or as we call it “elliniko.”

Greek coffee here in the States is a whole other deal.  I would imagine nearly everyone with an ounce of Greek heritage has coffee stashed somewhere in the house.  I have mine next to the cook top in a glass container and rarely make it.  At the same time, I can’t imagine not having it there either.  It’s one of those must haves that you really don’t need on a daily basis, but for that one time you want to have Greek coffee, it has to be available!

So, my American friends who have tried Greek coffee react very funny, and it’s sometimes hard not to laugh.  This coffee is unfiltered and boiled, not brewed, and it becomes grainy as you keep drinking it.  It makes for funny reactions to say the least!  To many people, the coffee gives the impression that it is strong because no milk can be added to it – only sugar.  Everyone has a ritual as to how they drink their Greek coffee, and there are three ways:  sweet (glykos), semi-sweet (metrios) and plain (sketos).  Supposedly, the less sugar you drink your coffee with, the better you can handle the blows of life.

My grandmother's old brass briki pot makes a single serving
My grandmother’s old brass briki pot makes a single serving, but you can find larger pots easily.

You still won’t find a lot of men drink their coffee beyond semi-sweet.  Whereas for women it was expected that they would never drink their coffee plain.  Generally, at this point I find almost everyone I know drink it semi-sweet, which is also the way I like it.

The cool thing about Greek coffee is that it makes for great conversation.  Served with a glass of water to relieve the grainy taste, Greek coffee isn’t supposed to be downed like a shot.  It generally should take at least an hour.  You’re supposed to chat, take breaks and eat something, and keep talking!

Once you get to the very bottom, there will be what we call the “ink.”  It’s really the gunk of the coffee that is not possible to drink, and is discarded.  It’s a tradition in some homes, or just for fun, to flip over the coffee cup on the plate and let the grains settle around the sides for a few minutes.  That makes for another entertaining session of “reading the coffee” and seeing what is in your future.  In fact, it’s a business in Greece.  There are coffee ladies (kafetzoudes) who will gladly take your money to read your coffee cup and ponder your future… while your mind fills in the rest.

My coffee this morning...when I make Greek coffee, it's usually a "double" or diplo kafe. :)
My coffee this morning…when I make Greek coffee, it’s usually a “double” or diplo kafe. 🙂

I’m enjoying my first Greek coffee since the summer.  Since Anna had a nightmare, I’ve been up since 4:30am and Greek coffee seemed like the right choice!

 

How to make Greek Coffee (Ellinikos kafes)

This is essentially a method of preparing unfiltered coffee, so it’s super easy.  You will need a briki, which is a copper or brass pot that is wide at the bottom and narrow at the neck.  These days, you can find them made from stainless steel and they work just fine.

  • Greek coffee
  • Water
  • Sugar (optional, for sweet or semi-sweet only)

Prep time: about 5 minutes  – Yields: one coffee

Use one of your espresso size cups to measure one cup of cold water.  Pour water into the briki and add 1 heaping tsp of coffee.  Add sugar if you are using – 1 heaping spoonful of sugar for sweet, and half for semi-sweet.  Stir well and heat on medium high until the coffee boils.  You don’t need to stir while coffee is heating.  It has to boil to the very top for the coffee to be ready, so keep a close eye on it.  I’ve boiled it over too many times by trying to do too many things at once!

Serve immediately and in good company 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

When the day is off, bite into a rainbow chard pie

Not sure how to title this post, but now it does feels like a rainbow chard day.  I woke up happy this morning and excited since today is the annual Christmas tree lighting on Worth Avenue, where Santa parades down the beautifully lit street, passing the holiday decorated windows of Valentino, Cartier and Tiffany’s – usually in a Lamborghini.  Last year, he came through in a Rolls.  I guess it depends on the sponsor every year.  Palm Beach is la-la land for sure.  Where else can Santa ride in a sled like that?

santa
Santa coming down Worth Ave in a Lamborghini during the 2014 Christmas tree lighting

My morning wasn’t planned to continue so well though…  Usually, I’ll walk to school with Anna, but today we drove the few blocks and since I like to walk her up to the gate, I parked the car for five minutes in an empty parking lot of one of the private client banks that was still closed.  I should note two things: 1) that I was not comfortable doing that, and literally I was only going to be five minutes, and 2) there is zero parking for parents at Anna’s school… just a helplessly long drop off line that simply creates a ridiculous traffic pattern.

Are you an introvert like me? Loving this view of the Pacific a few years back.
Are you an introvert like me?  Loving this view of the Pacific a few years back.

So, as soon as I turned off the engine of my SQ5, this gentleman walks over and I knew what was coming.  He said, “Can I help you?”  Apologetically, I mentioned that I will literally be driving away in a five minutes just so that I can walk my daughter to school.  I’m sure he anticipated that answer, and rudely snapped, and said “Uh, ok and no more.”

The interesting part is that this was maybe the third time I’ve done this in six months.  It’s one of those moments I guess when, yes, I’ve done something I am not technically supposed to, but for heaven’s sake, it’s five minutes in an empty lot… some people have no empathy!  And not that I’m a wealthy private client, but what if I were, or what if I become?  Would I give my business to an office like this?  Ugh – I took a long morning walk to let it go…

From the posts of the last ten days, I’ve noticed from your feedback that many of you seem to enjoy not only the recipes but also the stories.  I’m not sure how you liked this one today, hopefully  you will excuse me as it has been one of “those” mornings!  Nonetheless, I do have a really awesome healthy recipe that I wanted to share that always brings a smile on my face when I’m feeling a bit… well, off kilter.

MAD RAINBOW CHARD PIE

Prep time: 20 minutes  Cook time: 30-35 minutes

Ingredients

1 pie crust for a 9″ pie pan – you can make it or I just buy it from the store if I’m in a rush

2 bunches of rainbow chard (or Swiss chard), washed and roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Saute the chard and greens handful at a time
Saute the chard and greens handful at a time until liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked

1 bunch of kale or spinach, washed and chopped (remove ribs from kale)

1 medium onion, chopped

1/4 cup chopped chives (optional)

1/4 cup quinoa

2 eggs

3/4 cup of milk

2tbs olive oil

1/2 tsp crushed pepper flakes

Salt and Pepper

1/2 cup shredded Asiago or Romano cheese (you can also use aged cheddar or Parmigiano)

Extra cheese to sprinkle on top

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Spread the dough in a 9″ pie pan and crimp the sides.  Smooth it out so there are no air bubbles on the bottom or the sides of the pie dish.  You can add pie weights so that the dough doesn’t bubble up.  Poke with a form randomly and bake for about 15 minutes.  Take out and set aside to cool.

Make the rainbow chard filling:  make sure all the greens are well washed and chopped accordingly.  Chop the rainbow chard all the way down to stems and keep them.  Only discard the rough kale stems.  On medium heat in a skillet or wok, heat the olive oil and saute the chopped onions, about 4-5 minutes so that they are lightly brown.  Stir in the quinoa, add garlic and pepper flakes and saute for another minute.  Add the chopped chard, stems first, and then the kale or spinach, handful at a time.   Lower the heat to medium, semi cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and quinoa starts to “open up.”  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Once filling is ready let it rest to cool for about 15 minutes.

Delicious and healthy, this pie makes great use of greens that you have in the refrigerator just calling out to be cooked!
Delicious and healthy, this pie makes great use of greens that you have in the refrigerator just calling out to be cooked!

Set the oven to 400F.

While the oven is preheating again, in a bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork and add the milk and chopped chives.  Add the 1/2 cup of Asiago cheese (or whatever you are prefer).  Note: you can always use feta… too 🙂

By now, the chard filling should be cooled and you can spread it into the pie pan, making sure it’s even.  Don’t over fill.  Slowly pour over the egg, milk and cheese mixture and gently fold it in so that it coats the greens.  Sprinkle shredded cheese on top.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until sides are brown and cheese bubbles up.

Enjoy a bite of a rainbow that you make yourself today.  I know I need to smile!

 

 

 

 

 

improve the morning routine with a healthy breakfast

Every since I was little I remember not feeling hungry in the morning and very rarely eating anything for breakfast.  Growing up in Kifissia, a northern suburb of Athens, my father would be the one to wake up my brother, George, and me at 6:30am sharp.  My father was very Greek in many ways, but when it came to keeping a time schedule he was extremely disciplined.  He would always say, “go to your appointments five minutes early, it’s embarrassing to be late.”  We were brought up to respect people’s time and not waste it.  And to this day one of my pet peeves is when people are late for one reason or another… and make up excuses… I don’t mean to lose respect for them, but I do.

This image is the closest I could find that looks like a "htipito aygo," though this one isn't... (photo credit drhyman.com)
This image is the closest I could find that looks like a “htipito aygo,” though this one isn’t… (photo found on drhyman.com)

Anyway, back to breakfast!  Memories of “proino” from my father included something called, “htipito avgo” which was a fresh raw egg beaten with sugar in a tea cup until it became batter.  That would bring awful thirst and force us to hydrate really well in the morning.  Since I didn’t really like the plain egg beaten, my dad would add cocoa powder in mine and I remember it was like liking the bowl from a cake mix!  Other fast healthy breakfast options in the morning included toasted bread or yogurt with honey and nuts with milk on the side.

My mom’s approach to breakfast was vastly different from my dad’s.  As a second generation American, my mom grew up in West Palm Beach, FL and considers herself a Florida native since there are so many transplants in the area.  She married my father in 1973 and they moved to Greece since his law practice was in Pireaus.  With her she brought the American influence to our home and our friends’ homes.  I’m grateful for the party favors she made at our birthday parties, and the decadent brownies and all the Betty Crocker recipes for cakes that wowed our guests!

 

My brother and I on the balcony of our first apartment in Pireaus, circa 1981
My brother and I on the balcony of our first apartment in Pireaus, circa 1981

So, at our home for breakfast on weekends, my mom would make the occasional bacon and scrambled eggs, or stacks of pancakes with maple syrup that was shipped from the US (no one knew what maple syrup was in 80s in Greece), and sometimes waffles.  Warm croissants with seasonal fruit were a staple, too.  But, eating breakfast on weekends was easy, we could sleep in and be a little lazy, contrary to the strict routine of the school week.

 

I still struggle with eating a good breakfast to this day.  In the mornings, I push myself to eat something with my coffee and it is still hard.  I wake up early to make breakfast for Anna, who is a pro at eating in the morning, and I’m trying to be inspired and follow suit.

But, she likes waffles and sausages and pancakes or cereal… and the occasional pop-tart (they make maple bacon flavor now, seriously?)… none of these appeal to me.

"AnnaFood" for breakfast
Typical “AnnaFood” for breakfast

So, I made an effort to build a healthy morning breakfast routine.  I made some homemade granola to store in a jar, and before I knew it, I could make bowls like the one below!

I’m sure you see tons of recipes for breakfast everywhere, and I’m only adding to the heap that is out there… but I think you will enjoy this healthy option!

MAD POWER BREAKFAST BOWL

You can make endless variations with seasonal fruit, the more colors, the better!

Prep time per bowl: 10 minutes –  Cook time (for granola): 1 hour and 20 mins.

Make the mad granola first. Makes 6-8 servings (store and use as you need)

Ingredients:

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 cup walnuts
1/4 cup sesame, toasted
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey (here is where I will say that Greek honey is awesome!)
1 cup dry cranberries or raisins, or any dried fruit you like
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the over to 250F.  You’ll want to mix the wet and dry ingredients separately first and then combine them.  First, in a bowl mix the oats, nuts, sesame, shredded coconut, brown sugar, and salt.  In another bowl, mix together by hand the honey and oil until well blended.  Combine both mixtures and spread onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, about an inch thick.

Instead of salt, you can try adding pretzel pieces, like I have done in this batch
Instead of salt, you can try adding pretzel pieces like I have done in this batch

Bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes – you may want to stir the mixture occasionally  throughout the baking process to ensure an even color.  Once nice and brown take out and mix in the dried fruit.  Let cool and store into a jar to use as needed.

 

 

 

To assemble the MAD POWER BOWL:

  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt (please use Fage!)
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Handful of blueberries, blackberries or strawberries (you can use any fruit, it’s tasty with green and red apples, too!)
  • Honey to drizzle on top
  • Granola

Add the yogurt in a bowl, top with granola, berries and sprinkle pomegranate seeds.  Drizzle with honey for extra flavor.  This will power you well for the morning and keep you full for a while!

Enjoy!  Kali orexi (Greek for bon appetit!)