August 24, 2016

Here are some of my favorite links this week, August 24, 2016.

1.  I like salt.  Here is a podcast about it.

2.  Olympics in Greece, always? Not sure how I feel about it.

3.  Something to think about the next the “going gets tough”…it could lead to a happier life.

4.  Couldn’t we all maybe be a little Danish instead?

5.  Maybe being lonely can help your creativity.

6.  Olive oil and dark chocolate?  These muffins are my spirit animal.

7.  All you need to know about making mother sauces right here.

Gold Medal for Rio Olympics…and a winning Caipirinha

August 21, 2016

You guys, the Olympics are over.  Now what will I watch?  Waaah!!!  I have been obsessed for the past two weeks!  Every.  Single.  Night.  Swimming, gymnastics, track and field, diving, beach volleyball on Copacabana beach!!!  And of course synchronized swimming.  Come on!  Synchronized swimming, you know you love it.

I have always loved watching the Olympics.  Summer Olympics.  Winter Olympics.  No matter.  I love it all.  I am envious of the athleticism.  I wish I could dive, or run fast or have perfect aim for archery.  Yes, archery, that is so bad a$$.  Okay, okay, I secretly wish I was a synchronized swimmer.  Or a rhythmic gymnast.  That’s like Olympics for ballerinas.

Here are my favorite Olympic moments from the Rio 2016 Olympics:

1. Michael Phelps super hero swimmer.  Before every race, Michael Phelps wildly swings his arms around his body in some sort of odd slappy, stretch.  I love this moment.  We will never get to see him flap his arms around his body again!  So many Olympic memories watching this guy’s career.  I feel like he has been swimming forever.  This time, I swear I was trying to match every stroke to cheer him on.  I am exhausted.  I have never cheered so much in my life, or done so much Olympic “air swimming”.

2.  Team Great Britain’s uniforms.  Move over Canada, there’s a new cool uniform in town.  Have you seen Great Britain’s Olympic uniforms?  So sharp. Or should I say “on fleek”.  It has the coat of arms as the main part of the uniform with the Union Jack in the background in subtle muted colors.  I want one!!!  Could I be British please?

3.  The Olympic Cauldron.  
Have you ever seen a more elegant and beautiful Olympic flame?  It was designed by Anthony Howe and meant to be a “low emission” Olympic flame, which went with the sustainability theme of this games which I LOVED.  It was high on drama.  A stunning gold-mirrored, wind-powered, kinetic sculpture reflected the Olympic flame.  Beautiful, simple, elegant, tribal, stunning.  It looked like the sun.  (I want one of these too.  An Olympic cauldron, not the sun…never mind.)

4.  Mo Farah and his heart-shaped finishes.  How super cute is this guy?  He was the 5,000 and 10,000 meter defending gold medalist from the London games and he did it again in Rio!  Now all four of his kids have a medal each he had said.  How sweet is that?  We “heart” you too Mo.

5.  The Brazilian soccer team winning the gold medal match.  I cried as hard as every Brazilian in the country that day.  Talk about stress!  After a double overtime, shoot out match Brazil won over Germany!  And I yelled and cheered and cried.  And did you see the medal ceremony for them?  A whole stadium singing the Brazilian National anthem together gave me Olympic-sized goosebumps. I mean to win a gold medal in soccer, the national sport of your country, IN your country, which is also hosting the Olympics?  I’m done!  So awesome and inspiring!  Watch here.

In honor of my favorite sporting event, I will salute Rio and the Olympics by sharing a recipe for their favorite national drinks, the Caipirinha.  Thanks Rio, that was fun…(but in 2020, will have Olympic Hello Kitty in Japan…OMG.  I can’t wait).

Olympic Caipirinha

serves 1

2 oz Cachaça (Brazil’s sugar cane spirit)

2 limes

2 teaspoons sugar

ice cubes

Rim a pretty tumbler with sugar.  (I like the way it looks and tastes)  Add half a quartered lime and 2 teaspoons sugar to glass. Muddle.  Remove muddled limes and add fresh quartered limes, 2 shots of cachaça and ice cubes (I like spheres) and stir.  Decorate with lime wedge.



(Caipirinha photo in this post is mine…all other photos in this post are graciously from the internet/media)

Behold the Sensitive Courgette!  (that’s a fancy word for zucchini)

August 7, 2016

Courgette, zucchini, summer squash, golden zucchini..same same.  So why all the name calling?  No matter what you call them, they are still squash, picked while young and have thin skins.  So don’t mock them, their feelings are easily hurt…Oh, the sensitive courgette.

You’re at the Farmers Market and you have been taken aback by the cute zucchini arrangement, the gold ones, the dark green ones, the light green ones,  the stripped ones.  So you buy them.  All of them. Maybe too many of them.  What do you do with them?

I have the answer. A one pan meal, perfect for summer!  Briami.  It’s what I call a Greek zucchini bake.  All along the Mediterranean, you find variations of this dish: Italy’s caponata, and Spain’s Pistou, and zee French ratatouille!  But I love the Greek briami the best!  No bias AT ALL!!  It might also be the easiest version to make however if that tempts you.

Observe in 3 steps:

First, slice up your zucchini.  All of them!

Next, add herbs, garlic, onions, olive oil and tomatoes.  Mix them up and pop them into a 400F oven.

Finally, let it bake, brown, meld their flavors together for a little over an hour and eat!  With feta!

It’s Mediterranean nirvana. Not the band with teenage angst, although they were thin-skinned and sensitive like zucchini too, but nirvana the Buddhist concept of “heaven”.  

Nevermind.  (See what I did there?  I made a Nirvana song reference?  Ok ignore me.)

Aaaaaaanywaaaaaay, It’s good. And good for you.  So try it! 🙂
So how do we make Courgette Nirvana?

Greek Briami

serves 4

2 medium zucchini

2 medium summer squash

2 medium potatoes

1 medium red onion

12 cherry tomatoes


Olive oil,

Salt pepper

1/2 cup crushed tomato

1/2 cup water 

1/4 cup olive oil 

Pre-heat your oven to 400F.  Slice the zucchini, squash, potatoes and cherry tomatoes place in a baking pan or dish. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, mint and olive oil and mix together in the same pan.  Add the water and bake for about 1-1.5 hours stirring half way to make sure thing brown evenly…and that’s it. Done! Presto! 
Enjoy with a piece of feta and assyrtiko wine.



August 3, 2016

Here are a few of my favorite links this week August 3, 2016…

1.  The spiralizer isn’t just for zucchini noodles anymore.

2.  It took me forever figure out Snapchat, now I have to learn Instagram Stories?  Argh!

3.  How about a little EL VY?

4.  I am totally awesome at growing an orchid

5.  So if you think the world is kind of losing its mind these days, colliding black holes might be why.  A rip in the fabric of the space time.

6.  Are you a writer

7.  A kinder, gentler volcano 🙂

8.  And the week would be right without a little Adele.

9.  Everything you need to know about the Rio Summer Olympics.

Γεμιστά! Say what? Why say stuffed tomatoes when you can say “yemista”?

July 31, 2016

Yemista should be called “yummy-sta”…ok, forget I said that. Still friends?
It’s summer. It’s August. It’s hot. All the veggies at the farmers market are seducing you.  It’s high season for tomatoes and peppers. And that salad you keep making, BORING! So what do you do with all of your tomatoes and peppers? Stuff ’em, I say.
Stuffed tomatoes and peppers are pretty delicious and easy to make. It’s one of those throw ’em together and forget ’em dishes. It’s the classic summer-time meal taking advantage of your excess tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.  Yes I know you over shopped at the farmers market.  I saw you!

When I was younger and before adulthood and responsibility set in (a-hem, and a full time job…waaah!) I spent the entire summer in Greece, relaxing on the beach, reading a book and watching the waves while sometimes contemplating if I wanted a cappuccino fredo or a frappé. Hey, coffee selection was a critical decision back then. I miss when life was that simple…but that’s another blog post.

Upon my return, the “welcome back to Chicago” meal my mom would make for me was yemista. She would make a whole pan full of tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and eggplant, stuffed with rice and ground beef, baked in the oven, filling the kitchen with the smells of summer.  The smell of Greece.  Yes Greece smells like a roasted, stuffed tomato.  Trust me.  Let’s ignore the fact that you are baking in the middle of summer okay? Turn on the AC. Thank me later.

Actually, this is one of the cute ironies of this dish. You have to make this dish in a hot oven in the middle of the hot summer. That’s when tomatoes and peppers are at their finest. If you try to make it in winter, fail! Sad boring unripe, un-flavorful veggies. Summer-time stuffed tomatoes = hipster irony. 

Anyway, this meal extended that summer vacation feeling just a little bit longer. A little. Kind of. Ok not really. All it did was make me instantly nostalgic for my favorite beach in Greece, the sun, the waves, the coffee, the music, the food, my tan. 
“But you were just there yesterday,” my mom would say. “How can you miss it already?” This from a woman that calls her brother in Greece to make sure he sent her shipment of olive oil for the year, and required me to bring her mizithra, mountain oregano, dried sage, chamomile, honey, and Greek Coffee. “Papagalos brand okay? The rest is not coffee.” Oh she doesn’t miss it at all. Sigh. So yes, this dish can do that for me.

And so, I bring to you this recipe to transport you to a small Greek village for a few hours. Just imagine sitting in the sunshine with some fresh ripe tomatoes stuffed with rice and ground beef, peppered with fresh mint and slathered in olive oil. Serve with a square of salty feta and a little retsina and you’re set.
So let’s be ironic and make this hot dish in the middle of the hot summer! Yaaas people! Here’s how…

Yemista: Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers
Serves 4, or 2 incredibly hungry people (this recipe has been scaled down from my mother’s version which is enough to feed a small town in Greece)

4 ripe medium to large tomatoes
1-2 green peppers (or eggplant, or zucchini, choice is yours)
2 potatoes cut into wedges
1 small red onion finely diced
1 clove garlic
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup of rice
1/2 cup crushed Marzano tomatoes
2-3 tablespoons finely cut fresh mint
Salt & pepper

How to make this rockin’ dish:
1. Begin by slicing the tops off your tomatoes and peppers and scooping out and hollowing out the core and seeds with a spoon. Salt the interiors a little bit and arrange in your baking dish. Like this:

 (As an extra flavor bonus squish the tomato cores between your fingers, strain and save the resulting tomatoe juice to top your dish with before placing in oven)

2. Sauté your red onions in a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add your clove of crushed garlic.  Finally adding the ground beef to brown.  Season with salt, pepper and your freshly cut mint.  Add 1/2 cup of crushed Marzano tomatoes and saute until cooked through.  Set aside.

3.  Peel and cut your potatoes into wedges, seasoning with salt and pepper and placing them around the tomatoes and peppers in the baking dish.

4. Go back to your sautéed ground beef that has been cooling and add 1/2 cup of rice and stir.  Begin filling your tomatoes and peppers about 1/2 way to 2/3 full.  Make sure the filling is placed loosely inside so that there is room for the rice to expand while baking.

5. Place the tops on your veggies, pour the tomato juice you set aside earlier over them also adding a 1/2 cup of water to the bottom of the baking dish.  This will help the rice cook through. Drizzle olive oil over the veggies and potatoes to help brown.

6. Bake at 400F and forget about it…well, only for about 1.5 hours (try to check on them every 30 minutes to make sure things are moving along). it’s ready when the rice is cooked through and the veggies have browned.

Serve, eat and enjoy!