Saturday, April 22, 2017

Dolmathes (Stuffed Grape Leaves) inspired by "A Touch of Spice" #FoodnFlix

What an amazingly beautiful movie.  Beauty in the scenery.  Beauty in the food.  Beauty in the relationships.  Beauty in the telling of the story.

"A Touch of Spice" was chosen for this month's Food n Flix by Cam of Culinary Adventures with Camilla.  You are welcome to join us by following these Guidelines, starting with watching this movie about Fanis and his family.

Image result for A touch of spice

The movie starts with "Appetizers" taking place in Istanbul, where Fanis lives with his mother who is native to Istanbul, his father, who is from Greece and his maternal grandfather with whom he is very close.  His grandfather owns a spice shop and develops in Fanis a love of gastronomy and astronomy using the smell, taste and texture of spices in the lessons he gives.  You see many people walk through his doors, all of whom have a lasting impression on Fanis.

The movie moves onto the "Main Course" with Fanis and his family being deported back to Greece as there is now dissension between the two countries.  Fanis' beloved grandfather remains behind with the promise to visit but the reminder to look at the sky each night should his visit be delayed. Fanis becomes so engrossed with his cooking and spices that his family resorts to calling in a priest for an exorcism and locks him out of the kitchen.  Fanis' responds to this by living in the bathroom for two years.  So, yes there is some beautiful humor in this film as well.

The movie finishes with "Desserts" which finds Fanis back in Istanbul with his grandfather and his first love.  Hence we finish with the beauty of relationships that hold both joy and sadness.

I quit taking food notes during the first 5 minutes of the film.  There was way too much food to ever keep track of.  There was food being served, eaten, discussed, made and shared in each and every scene.

Dolmas (stuffed vegetable dishes) were everywhere.  Stuffed tomatoes, stuffed peppers, stuffed eggplant and the dish I finally decided to make, stuffed grape leaves.

I love stuffed grape leaves.  Our son in law, Pierre, is from this region and his mom makes the best stuffed grape leaves ever.  I requested her recipe and she was kind enough to share it.  Like most cooks who are sharing a traditional food from their childhood, it was a loose translation.  It had all the ingredients but no measurements.  Those of you who are cooks, understand this dilemma well. Those dishes that we learned from our Moms and Grandmas that have some of this, some of that, a pinch of this, a dash of that....and time measurements....forget about it.  How long to cook it?  Until it is fork tender, of course.

So I turned to a gorgeous cookbook, written by Debbie Matenopoulas called "It's all Greek to Me". Debbie has taken the recipes handed down by her family and has written instructions that any home cook can follow.  Her recipe for Domathes Gyalantzi  had all the same ingredients as the one from Pierre's mom so I combined the two recipes and was pretty pleased with the results.

Stuffed Grape Leaves
adapted from a recipe by Marlaina Kamel 
and It's all Greek to Me by Debbie Matenopoulos

1 (16 oz) jar grape leaves
Good olive oil
1 lg. Vidalia onion, finely chopped
3/4 c. long grain white rice
1 1/4 c. water
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1 T. chopped dill
2 leaves of mint, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
juice of half a lemon

Remove the grape leaves from the jar and rinse thoroughly, separating the leaves while rinsing and placing them in a colander to dry.

Boil a large pot of water.  Add the rinsed grape leaves and submerge in the boiling water.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.  Set aside.

Heat 2 T. of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook for a few minutes, until translucent but not brown.  Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until translucent, about 4 minutes.  Add the water, parsley, dill and mint.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Set aside to cool.

Place a small amount of the rice mixture onto the bottom side of the grape leave (the veins are more pronounced on the underside of the leaf).  Fold in the sides and roll into a neat little package. Continue until all the rice is used.

Place a layer of grape leaves in the bottom of a dutch oven.  Add the stuffed grape leaves in an even layer, seam side down, stacking layers if necessary.  Pour 1/2 c. of good olive oil over the rolls and then cover with a heat proof plate.  Add enough water to cover the rolls and the plate, season with salt, pepper and the juice of half a lemon.  Cover the dutch oven and cook over a medium low flame for 30-40 minutes.  Carefully remove the plate, and use a slotted spoon to remove the stuffed grape leaves to a platter.  Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold.  Print Recipe

Friday, April 21, 2017

Shrimp Fried Rice #FishFridayFoodies

Welcome to Fish Friday Foodies.  This fun group gets together on the third Friday of each month to share a fish/seafood recipe based on a theme chosen by one of our members.  This month, our friend, Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories asked us all to share One Pan Dinners, saying "Fish Friday for April is One Pan Dinners. Sheet pans, Dutch ovens, skillets, or casserole dishes. Make a meal with fish that can be prepared in just one pan, and perfect for the busy cook."

If you would like to join Fish Friday Foodies just leave a comment below with your blog name and email address.  Next month Cam of Culinary Adventures with Camilla is hosting "Marinated and Raw".

Who doesn't love One Pan Dinners?  They are easy to throw together, delightfully delicious and clean up is a snap.  Perfect for a Friday night.....Let the weekend begin!!

One of my favorite ways to create One Pan Meals is in my wok.  I love making stir fry.  They are quick, easy and great way to use up whatever ingredients are on hand.  You can use any vegetables, any meat and serve it with rice or noodles or just as is with some sweet dinner rolls.

Today, I am using up some rice that was leftover from a meal earlier in the week.  When making fried rice, you want to start with rice that is at least a day old.  I wanted to make this meal even simpler so I used a package of frozen mixed vegetables instead of chopping up a mixture of fresh.  I had dinner on the table in less than half an hour.  Now that is the way to start a weekend!

Shrimp Fried Rice

12 oz. large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 T. peanut oil
4 scallions, white and light green, sliced
1 1/2 t. garlic paste
1 t. ginger paste
2 c. leftover rice, chilled
3 T. low sodium soy sauce
2 eggs, beaten
1 (4 serving) package frozen mixed vegetables

Place 1 T. of oil in the bottom of a wok placed over med high heat.  When oil shimmers, add the shrimp.  Cook and stir until the shrimp turn pink.  Remove to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the wok with the scallions, garlic and ginger.  Cook and stir until fragrant about 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir to coat.  Cook for a minute or two until rice starts to crisp. Stir in the soy sauce and cook, stirring until absorbed.  Push the rice to the side and add the eggs to the wok.  Scramble the eggs, incorporating the rice into the mixture, until eggs are set.  Add the frozen vegetables and reserved shrimp.  Cook and stir until warmed throughout.  Print Recipe

More Amazing One Pan Dinners

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Strawberry Margarita Bundt #BundtBakers

Sometimes I'm lucky and am able to cover 3 events with one post.  That is not the case today.  Three events.  Three desserts.  Three posts. Each one just as delicious and exciting as the next.  You will see that I have already posted a Banana and Coconut Cream Pie for Improv Cooking Challenge and a Carrot Cheesecake for Crazy Ingredient Challenge.  Both were creamy and delicious but this Strawberry Margarita Bundt is mine and Frank's personal favorite.

Our friend, Patricia, from Patty's Cake, is hosting this month's Bundt Bakers event and has chosen the theme "Cocktails".  YUM!!!  Patricia left it up to us whether we wanted to add actual alcohol to our recipe.  You know me...Pass the Tequila!

I knew, as soon as I heard the theme, that I was going to go with Strawberry Margarita.  This is because I had a jar of homemade Strawberry/Tequila jam that our son, Anthony, had made for us and I knew it would be the perfect glaze for this cake.

This was one of the desserts I offered up after Easter Dinner.  It was a great addition to our table and the best was easy peasy!  I started with a boxed cake mix, substituted packaged Strawberry Margarita Mix and Tequila for the water and baked it up. You could easily make this non alcoholic by using a full cup of Margarita mix and deleting the Tequila and substituting plain strawberry jam for the Strawberry/Tequila jam that I used. 

When the cake was cooled, I melted the entire jar of Strawberry/ Tequila jam and poured it over the cake.  Now, if you are not fortunate enough to have a son that provides you with Strawberry/Tequila jam you can just use 8 oz of Strawberry Jam.

I served it up with a dollop of whipped cream and a cute little Easter cookie.  It was a great ending to a perfect Easter feast.

Strawberry Margarita Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
3/4 c. strawberry margarita mix
1/4 c. tequila
3 eggs
1/3 c. canola oil
8 oz. Strawberry/Tequila jam

Place all ingredients into large bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour into a bundt pan that has been liberally treated with baking spray.  Bake in a preheated 350* oven for 35-37 minutes, until a skewer inserted removes cleanly.  Remove to a rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing the cake from the pan onto the cooling rack.
When cake is cooled completely, place onto a cake platter.  Melt the jam in a small saucepan over low heat and drizzle over the top and down the sides of the cake.  Print Recipe

More Fun "Cocktail" Bundt Cakes


#BundtBakers is a group of bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bundts with a common ingredient or theme. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme or ingredient.

You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board. Updated links for all of our past events and more information about #BundtBakers, can be found on our home page.

Carrot Cheesecake for #CrazyIngredient Challenge

The vote came in over at Crazy Ingredient Challenge and the winners were  Carrots and Graham Crackers.  CIC is a fun little group where each month the members vote on 2 sets of 4 ingredients. The ingredient with the most votes from each group get joined together to give us the mandatory ingredients to be used in a recipe.  It is fun and you can join us by emailing Lori at

I was extremely pleased with this month's ingredients and immediately knew that I was going to make a cheesecake to serve up after Easter dinner.  Carrots and Easter just seem to go together so well...I guess because of that cute little bunny rabbit that hides eggs all over the world.

I found this recipe at Taste of Home and knew it would be perfect.  I adapted the recipe slightly by using frozen carrots that I thawed and pureed instead of cooking my own.  I also omitted the streusel topping and added a dollop of whipped cream to each slice before serving.

The cheesecake is baked in a water bath so the top was perfect without a crack to be seen.  The recipe recommends allowing the cheesecake to refrigerate overnight which was perfect because I certainly had enough to do on Easter Sunday and was happy to have as much prepared as possible beforehand.

My friend, Rob, who joined us for dinner said that it was "the best cheesecake" he had ever had. Music to every cook's ears.  

Carrot Cheesecake
adapted from Taste of Home

2 sleeves full size graham crackers
1/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. butter, melted
3 packages cream cheese
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 T. brown sugar
3 eggs
1/4 c. heavy cream
2 T. cornstarch
1 T. sour cream
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 t. lemon juice
1/2 t. ground cinnamon.
1 (12 oz) package frozen carrots, thawed and pureed
1 pint heavy cream, whipped

Place the graham crackers in a heavy duty gallon sized bag that zips shut.  Using a rolling pin, smash and roll the crackers into crumbs.  Add the 1/4 cup sugar and butter to the bag.  Shake and knead to combine.  Press this mixture into the bottom and 2" up the sides of a 9" springform pan.  Bake in a preheated 350* oven for 6-8 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Leave the oven on.

While crust is cooling, beat cream cheese and sugars in the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth.  Add the eggs, cream, cornstarch, sour cream, vanilla, lemon juice and cinnamon.  Beat at medium speed until well combined, scraping as necessary.  Add the carrot puree and mix in on low speed.  

Pour filling into crust.  Place pan on a double thickness of foil and securely wrap the foil around the bottom of the pan and up the sides.  Place the springform pan into a flat bottomed roasting pan and add hot water to come up to 1" on the sides of the pan.  Bake for 60-70 minutes, until the center is just set.  Cool on a wire rack for half an hour.  Remove the sides of the springform pan and cool to room temperature.  Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight before serving with a dollop of whipped cream.  Print Recipe

More Carrot and Graham Cracker Creations

No Bake Banana Coconut Cream Pie #ImprovCookingChallenge

I'm Bananas about Coconut so I was pretty happy with the ingredients for this month's Improv Cooking Challenge.

Improv Cooking Challenge is a group of bloggers led by Nichole of Cookaholic Wife.  Each month we are assigned two ingredients and are allowed to post any recipe we like as long as those ingredients are included.  Kind of like Chopped but with no time constraints.

As soon as I learned what this month's ingredients were I knew that I wanted to make my husband a pie.  He loves Banana Cream pie and he's crazy about Coconut Cream pie so I knew he would go ape over a Banana Coconut Cream Pie.  Ape, get it?  Banana's?  Oh, never mind!

I found this easy peasy No Bake version by Nestle's while doing a google search.  I used a premade graham cracker crust that was not deep dish.   This meant that there was a bowlful of filling left for Frank to have sans crust while he was waiting for the pie to set and be served the following day.

Since the pie was filled to the brim, I didn't "frost" it with the whipped topping as suggested in the original recipe but dolloped the topping on when serving.

Banana Coconut Cream Pie
adapted from Nestle's

1 premade graham cracker crust
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 c. water
1 (3 oz) pkg banana cream instant pudding
1 c. coconut flakes
1 (8 oz) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 lg. banana, sliced

Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and water in a large bowl.  Mix in the pudding and coconut.  Fold in 1/2 of the whipped topping (1 1/2 cups).

Place the banana slices in a single layer on the bottom of the pie crust.  Pour the filling over the bananas.  ( If you are not using a deep dish crust, you will have filling left over.) Refrigerate for at least 4 hrs before serving with dollops of the remaining whipped topping.  Print Recipe

More Coconut and Banana Creations

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

BLT Grilled Cheese with Avocado #FantasticalFoodFight

April is National BLT month.  It is also National Grilled Cheese month.  So when Sarah, the leader of our Fantastical Food Fight, chose the theme of BLT for this month, I decided to combine the two.

Sarah instructed that our entry must be a sandwich that contains bacon, tomato and a leafy green.  I decided to use baby spinach as my leafy green.  I also added some avocado slices for a little extra green.  You can learn all about Fantastical Food Fight and how to join by going to Sarah's introduction post.

Layer upon layer of goodness in this sandwich.  Start with a slice of cheese, add the bacon, layer on the spinach and then the tomatoes.  Top this with some avocado and then another slice of cheese. Generously butter the outside of the bread and grill it to a golden brown.

This would make a perfect breakfast, you could even add an egg if you so chose.  It would also be  a marvelous lunch paired with some chips or fries or you could do as I and serve it up with a hearty bowl of Bean Soup that you make from your Easter Leftovers and call it dinner.

BLT Grilled Cheese with Avocado

For each Sandwich:

2 slices whole wheat bread
butter, room temperature
2 slices colby jack cheese
4-5 slices bacon, cooked crisp
small handful of baby spinach leaves
2 tomato slices
3-4 slices avocado

Place one slice of bread on a board and cover with a slice of cheese, bacon, spinach, tomato and avocado.  Place the second slice of cheese on top.  Cover with a second slice of bread buttered on the side facing up.  Carefully, transfer the sandwich to a hot griddle, placing the buttered side of the sandwich down.  Butter the slice of bread now facing up.  Grill until bottom is golden brown.  Flip so that the top buttered side is on the griddle and grill until that side is golden brown and the cheese is melted.  Print Recipe

More Amazing BLT's

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Slow Cooker 40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken #4theLoveofGarlic

Tomorrow is National Garlic Day.  We have been celebrating for the past 6 days with Cam of Culinary Adventures with Camilla.  She invited 6 of us to try out the Garject garlic press from Dreamfarm and had Melissa's Produce provide us with a slew of garlic.  We received regular garlic, minced garlic, black garlic and elephant ear garlic.  We got TONS of garlic!!

Dreamfarm is also allowing us to raffle off 6 of their amazing garlic presses.  The Garject is not your ordinary garlic press.  It is heavy duty and equipped with an ejection handle so that you need not worry about peeling the garlic before mincing.  I can't tell you how much I love mine!

I have been going Garlic Crazy around here.  I have made Quick and Easy Garlic Knots and this yummy Garlic Soup with Noodles and Peas.

You can learn more about this celebration and enter to win your very own Garject by going to my Intro post.  Hurry, the raffle ends tomorrow.

The first thing I thought of when I received all this garlic was 40 Clove Chicken.  I had made 40 Clove chicken once, before I started blogging.  I braised it in the oven and it was decadent and delicious.  The day that I was making this was an errand day and I had planned to do a Whole Chicken in the Crockpot.  I decided to make my 40 Clove Chicken in the Slow Cooker to enjoy this wonderful gift I had gotten.

The Garject, as wonderful as it is, did not help me at all with this recipe.  All 40 cloves had to be peeled.  The best way to do this is to give each one a sharp whack with the side of a butcher knife. The skin will split and then easily peels off.  I had gotten a garlic stone as a sponsor gift for an event last year, but haven't been able to locate it since our move.  That doesn't mean that I had to run my errands with my hands reeking of garlic.  Wash your hands, rinse, rub them on your stainless steel sink, wash again, rinse and all that garlic odor will be gone.

I placed the chicken, breast down into the slow cooker, surrounded it with sweet potatoes and garlic and left to take care of all my running around.

When we got home the house smelled absolutely amazing.  I guess a vampire may not have thought it smelled wonderful but I, a self professed garliholic, swooned when I walked in the door.  Within moments I had the chicken carved and the dinner was served.  We had plenty of chicken for dinner that night using the breast meat and enjoyed pot pie using the dark meat and leftover gravy later in the week.

Slow Cooker 40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken
adapted from Cooking Light

1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs)
1 c. chicken stock
1/4 c. dry white wine
3 T. flour
2 T. butter, melted
2 T. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 t. Italian Herbs
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
40 cloves of garlic, peeled

Treat crock of slow cooker with cooking spray.  Wash the chicken with cold water, season inside and out with salt and pepper and place breast down into the crock. Scatter the sweet potatoes and garlic around the chicken.  Whisk together the chicken stock, wine, flour, butter and lemon juice.  Pour over the chicken, potatoes and garlic.  Sprinkle with the Italian herbs.  Cover and cook on high heat for 6-8 hours.

Remove the chicken to a cutting board.  Remove the skin and wings, discard.  Cut off the drumsticks and thighs, place onto a platter.  Remove the breast meat from the carcass and remove any bones, slice and place onto the platter.  Surround with potatoes and garlic.  Strain any fat from the gravy. Ladle gravy over chicken and serve.  Print Recipe