Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Cubs, Magical Popcorn and the Great Pumpkin too!

October 29, 2016

It’s almost Halloween you guys and as a tradition, I watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” every year.

I love how Linus and Charlie Brown argue about if the Great Pumpkin or if Santa Claus are real.  Very astutely Linus states, “If it’s one thing I have learned never to discuss: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.”

I adore Linus, not just because of his clever one liners, but because he represents innocence and unwavering hope, no matter what.  Don’t we all need that sometimes?  A little hope and belief in our dreams?

Like the hope that the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series.  If you’re in Chicago tonight or Belize…yes, I said Belize you are watching Game 4 of the World Series tonight.  Hoping and believing, like Linus.

So the Belize thing…apparently in the 1980s, Belize managed to pirate the signal from the Chicago television station, WGN.  A whole generation has grown up in Belize with an almost spiritual reverence for the Cubs and they are going nuts now!  Did you know that?

Come on Cubs!  The people of Chicago and Belize are depending on you!

Finally, I have this unwavering hope and belief that you are going to love this recipe I have for popcorn today.  I too promise you a real spiritual experience.  It’s buttery, nutty, sweetened with honey and just enough salt to make it all come together like magic in your mouth.

It’s the brown butter that’s the sexy little secret making this popcorn so special.

Oh, and why say “brown butter” when you can say “le beurre noisette”?  Doesn’t it sound better in French?  You have heard me say things like this before, here and here.  (Foreign languages are fun.)

Anyway, call this popcorn what you wish.  I call it “le popcorn avec le beurre noisette et le miel” but you can say “brown butter with honey” and it won’t matter.  It will be amazing.  It will be what you turn to, to sweeten up movie night or watching the Cubs, LOL.

So how do we make this religious batch of popcorn?

Brown Butter, Honey and Salt Popcorn

Serves 2 (or one person having a spiritual experience)


3 tablespoons popcorn kernels

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup honey

2 teaspoons sea salt flakes


First pop your popcorn in an air popper.  This will take less than 5 minutes.  Set the fluffy white popcorn aside.

Next, carefully begin melting your butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Watch it carefully as it melts…slowly it will begin to bubble and you will see the milk solids separate.  It’s these milk solids that will start to brown.  You want to swirl your pan slowly as this happens until the milk solids have turned into a nice nutty color.

Once the butter browns, turn off the heat and add your honey to the butter and stir.  You should now have a light brown liquid.  Pour it carefully over your popcorn, add a teaspoon of salt and stir to coat.  Finish by topping it off with the final teaspoon of sea salt flakes.

Turn on the Cubs game or “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”.  Eat, pray and watch.





October 26, 2016

Here are the links I love this week, Wednesday, October 26th, 2016.

1.  I adore Matt Beringer of the National.

2.  Have you ever wondered what Anthony Bourdain eats at home?  Now we know.

3.  Flourless chocolate torte?  Yes please.  I’m making this soon!

4.  I bought the last 1lb jar of Chicago Co-op Honey.  You guys, it’s so different, so light and so good!

5.  James Cordon and Lady Gaga do carpool karaoke…love.

6.  Well here is a little something “Halloween-like”…a story about a Cuban-Greek-American witch.

7.  Spicy Sichuan noodles…yum!

8.  Have any of you ever done the Whole 30?  Shutterbean did.

9.  Pork? Prosciutto? Gruyere?  Carrots?  Yaaas, Bev! Yaaas!

Pastichio, like lasagna, but different…way different.

October 23, 2016

So it’s been a while since I posted an actual recipe on the blog…the past few weeks, I have mostly been telling you about all the fun I have been having around town.

Well, this one is a special request for my niece Francesca, who requested a pastichio recipe.  So this one’s for you kid!  Family recipe getting passed on.

Of course testing this recipe was not easy.  I had to translate my mother’s recipe from Greek which feeds about 1,000 hungry Greeks to this more manageable “family-sized” version. (Okay I’m exaggerating.  A little.  Not really.  Okay a little.  But it’s true, her recipe serves a lot of people.)

So today I had my mother over and had her experienced and watchful eyes supervise me while I made my very first pastichio.

What is pastichio?  It’s thick macaroni noodles, ground beef in a light tomato sauce all covered with mizithra and Bechamel sauce baked in the oven.  Sound familiar?  It’s kind of like a lasagna, but with a very different flavor profile:  it has the warm flavors of cinnamon, clove and salty mizithra cheese.  The perfect fall dish.

I want to say it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3…but I would call this a “medium” in terms of difficulty.  Only because there are 1, 2, 3 main parts you need to orchestrate:

1.  Fat macaroni noodles with mizithra

2.  Cinnamon and clove seasoned ground beef and

3.  Bechamel sauce – the keys to the universe.

Let’s first talk about the fat macaroni. It’s more like really thick bucatini.  It looks like fat spaghetti with a hole in it.  My mom likes to use the Misko brand.  But if you can’t find them, I am sure that rigatoni or penne would work too.  Shhh, don’t tell my mom I said that.

Next is the ground beef.  My mom is a stickler for the right meat-to-macaroni ratio but feel free to edit to fit your preferences.  I like to use between a pound to a pound and a half.  I mean you have heard of “approximate baking theory” right?  Turns out that theory works here too.

Finally we have the bechamel sauce.  It’s the “glue” that hold this whole dish together.  Now there are different schools of thought regarding the bechamel sauce for pastichio.  Some people like a really thick creamy layer and they use lots of butter and lots and lots of eggs to top the ground beef and macaroni.  Me?  I prefer my moms version…it’s a lighter, simpler bechamel and she lets some of it work it’s way into the nooks and crannies of the macaroni mixture with a thinner layer of bechamel on top.  The choice is yours, but I like this version best.

So let’s get this party started and I will walk you through the steps.  But first, the ingredients…

Vaso’s Pastichio (that’s my mom)

1/2 lb. “pastichio” macaroni

1/2 – 3/4 cup grated mizithra

1.25 lbs ground beef

1 cinnamon stick

4-5 whole cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground cinammon

4 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup of water

4 cups of whole milk

1/2 cup fine semolina

3 eggs

Here is how to make pastichio.  The pasta and beef can be made at the same time.  Your bechamel sauce will be the final step.

Fat macaroni noodles:

First set a pot of water to boil.  You will need this to boil your pasta for 10-13 minutes.  You know, “al dente”.  Be sure to salt your water once it comes to a boil before adding your macaroni.

Seasoned ground beef:

While waiting for your pasta water to boil, in a skillet or cast iron pan add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and bring up to a low to medium heat.  Then add your ground beef and begin browning it.

Once the meat has browned, add the tomato paste, cinammon, cinnamon stick, whole cloves, salt and pepper.  Easy on the salt because mizithra cheese you add later is salty and you don’t want to over do it.

I really recommend you to count how many cloves you added so you can fish them out later before assembling the dish.  Otherwise you are in for a strong tasting surprise if you bite down into one.

Finally add a cup of water and cook the meat down until it has thickened and all the flavors have melded together.  Set aside.

In the amount of time it takes you to prepare the meat, your pasta should be done too.  Drain the pasta coat with a small splash of olive oil and get ready to assemble the dish.


In a large bowl toss your macaroni with the grated mizithra and then toss the ground beef mixture in as well.  Put your mixture in a 9×11 baking dish and set aside.  You want all of it be well coated like this:

Super simple bechamel sauce:

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a large pot, on your stovetop, add 4 cups of milk and 1/2 cup fine semolina and stir over a low heat for about 15 minutes.  It’s important to stir slowly and constantly so that you don’t get lumps.

Sorry bechamel sauce is really high maintenance.  Kind of like a Housewife of Beverly Hills…But worth it.

After the sauce has thickened nicely, kind of a like a loose cream of wheat consistency, turn off the heat and set aside to cool, stirring it every now and then to prevent a skin from forming.  I would say this “cooling” takes about 10-15 minutes.

After 10-15 minutes your sauce will still be very warm but can now tolerate the eggs.  Use a hand mixer and mix 3 eggs until foamy.  Then stir them into your semolina mixture quickly to prevent clumps.  Don’t be afraid…just do it 🙂

Your bechamel is now ready.  If you like you can add a touch of nutmeg, but likely unnecessary because you have the clove and cinammon working for you in the ground beef.

Finally pour the bechamel carefully over the macaroni, mizithra and beef mixture in your baking dish.  If you feel it might over flow, take a fork and move some of the pasta around to let the bechamel work its way into the nooks and crannies of the dish.  In the end you still want a thin layer of bechamel on top to protect your macaroni from burning.

Place into a 400F oven for 45-50 minutes until the top is nicely browned.  Let cool and serve.  This version serves 6 people 2 pieces each.  Or 4 hungry people 3 pieces each.  Or 2 super hungry Greek men. LOL.




October 19, 2016

Here are my favorite links this week Wednesday, October 19, 2016:

  1. I love reading anything about home decor.
  2. Best chocolate bundt cake…thanks Martha!
  3. Michelle…yes.
  4. Michelle in Versace…wow!
  5. I think I am going to make something with delicata squash this week.
  6. You know what they say about an apple a day.
  7. I think I will watch this move this weekend.  I love Rome.
  8. I bet having a capsule wardrobe helped her out…LOL!
  9. Well this is different.  Jolene.
  10. Neat.
  11. Have you seen it yet?  This is Us.  Come on!  Watch so we can talk about it.

#linklove_wednesday …on Friday!!! OMG

October 14, 2016

I have been remiss in my duties this week.  Here are my favorite links (although a little late) for this week ending October 14, 2016:

1.  What do you think dreams are?

2.  Mayo…on a steak?  Come on!

3.  But no mayo on this potato salad?

4.  This was my favorite cake as a kid.

5.  I like this long read.  Make some coffee. And enjoy.

6.  Somehow, I don’t think my grandmother would have approved.

7.  Mind blown!

8.  You guys are you watching this?  Please start watching this.  So good!

9.  Hmmm.  Very, very interesting General Tso’s…cauliflower???

And yes, I know it’s Friday.  Quit picking on me. 🙂