Greek Easter 2014: Part II

23 Apr

Previously, on Cooking Up Kefi…

JetSet and I were at Grandpa Joe’s house, and the situation was this:

The kitchen was a disaster

IMG_0110My brother and I were getting into all kinds of nose-picking-selfie shenanigans

IMG_0115the Mets were losing, and Grandpa Joe was napping. So… it was pretty much business as usual.           IMG_0120 Somehow, all of this pulled itself together and some Easter miracles occured. Namely:

the spanakopita (recipe later this week), which is always the very first thing we make,

IMG_0117some new lamb keftedes WITH DRIED APRICOTS (recipe also coming this week),

IMG_0121 - Copythe gluten-free picnic pie that was so good I ate it with my non-driving hand the whole way home,

IMG_0122JetSet’s painstaking, time consuming labor of love: eggplant keftedes-cum-casserole,

IMG_0119gluten-free/sugar-free koulourakia,

IMG_0124tsoureki that didn’t quite make it through MixMonster Kef’s crash course + eggs made by my Godmother,

2014-04-20 13.17.47the beet salad to end all beet salads (and finally pictured half-way decently here!),

2014-04-20 13.17.53Francesca’s Orange-Dijon potatoes,

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and Paulatimi’s Five-Ingredient Wonder.2014-04-20 12.58.50

Not bad for two days work, eh?

MamaKef put the finishing touches on her salad

2014-04-20 13.03.34while JetSet poured us mugs of wine.

2014-04-20 13.42.01And then ANOTHER Easter miracle happened– my Aunt said that JetSet “always looks like Justin Timberlake.” Indeed, he has risen.


2014-04-19 17.58.08  IMG_0130Okay so baklava is pretty much always good–it’s flaky dough painted with butter and butter and butter (and then some more butter) and layered with sugar, spices and nuts. How is it possible to improve on such a good thing?

2014-04-20 14.38.52Well, if you use this awesome, creamy honey and finally heed the advice of every Greek on the face of the planet, your results will improve. What advice, you ask? The hot-to-cold principle, which states that if you have hot baklava you must have cold syrup, or vice versa. We did cold syrup to hot baklava (instead of hot syrup AND hot baklava) and the results were stupendous.

How good, you ask?

In case that testimonial isn’t good enough for you, my phenomenal Grandma Rita put it best:

2014-04-20 14.59.52“That’s baklava so good you have to eat the crumbs off your boob!” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: just TRY and tell me your grandma is better than mine. You’re fighting a losing battle there.

We had a stupendous meal full of the two major food groups: laughs and carbs. Grandma Rita made stuffed peppers (very sadly not pictured here) and Aunt Tina supplied the hardboiled eggs. A GREAT time was had by all.

No family gathering is complete with out a selfie– Ellen, you and Lupita have nothing on us!

IMG_0132 - CopySadly, the weekend had to end and I had to leave the la-la land of my family’s loving glow.

JetSet and I took one last photo (this one remiss of spinach and flour) and then I headed off into the sunset.

IMG_0134 - Copy

This is a record-setting post, so I’ll cut it off here– I had the most delightful weekend with my family. Our Greekness is so very, very much your weakness.

The Terror Twins Do It Again: Greek Easter 2014 Part I

22 Apr

You may have heard the Good News this weekend: it was Greek Easter! This year, Orthodox and Western Easters fell on the same day, so JetSet and I rallied the family to Pennsylvania for a big, fat Greek Easter celebration. (NB: There will be two…yes TWO… more Greek Easter celebrations to come. Buy stock in spinach now.)

The prep work took place at my Grandpa Joe’s house. This is where JetSet and I conjured the eggplant and Fage to SOUND THE ALARM OF EASTER!
2014-04-18 17.24.27


We got started at about 5 PM on Friday (after a truly epic shopping trip in the Wilkes-Barre Wegmans). JetSet started with his eggplant keftedes, while I worked on spanakopita and the Picnic Pie (aka: Spinach Pie on Crack).2014-04-18 21.23.29By midnight, I was pretty spent–so I requested my evening reading be brought to me “in my easy chair,” where I may have nodded off for a minute or two.

2014-04-18 23.09.55


After a good night’s sleep and my first run in two weeks (long story for another time), we got right back to work. Years ago, my dad, HomeBrew Kef, would go to baseball games just for the satisfaction of throwing peanut shells on the ground– y’all don’t know LIVING until you’ve had the satisfaction of throwing excess phyllo dough alllllll over the floor.


2014-04-19 16.56.43In the past, JetSet has graciously served as the sous chef. After three years apart on Easter, my dear brother returned to America with his spinach swag turned ALLLLL the way up. Charged with the creating the most sacred dish of Easter, he took our collective baklava game up about three levels with nothing other than my (very) watchful eye and a few unsolicited pieces of advice (because what fun is it to cook with your know-it-all sister if she just sits tight and lets you do you?).

2014-04-19 17.58.28Prior to the baklava, Grandpa Joe was pretty happy to be left out of the madness happening in his kitchen. But once we got that flaky, honeyed goodness going, Grandpa Joe was all ears. Here, JetSet gives him the scoop:

2014-04-19 18.03.30In the event that you didn’t know, my grandfather is THE cutest man on the face of the planet (not to mention the most upstanding citizen alive). Y’all should be waiting with bated breath for the post he’s gonna get all to himself one of these days.

I’m winding down on the prep pics here, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this pretty little lady right here– the Sunbeam MixMaster (nickname: MixMonster Kef)!

2014-04-19 21.23.31

This 12-speed from the class of 1983 belonged to my grandmother and was probably last used in the 20th century. The bowl didn’t turn on its own and it was nearly impossible to cream butter and sugar together, but it was so special to use my grandmother’s kitchenware for the weekend. Though she died almost 15 years ago, I’ve really been missing her lately, and it was nice to feel like she was with us for the weekend… though I’m quite sure she would have found her grandchildren’s cooking methods a bit… unorthodox.

286417_10100261870695835_639936075_oCome back tomorrow to see the fruits of our labor, a trip down the mountain to my fabulous Grandma Rita’s house, a family selfie that rivals Ellen’s Oscar stunt, and find out what dish was so good it had to be eaten off a boob!

Some New Favorite Things

10 Apr

Last time I told y’all about some of my new favorite things, it was full of Solid Gold Sh!t. I’m back with some more favorites and, this time, some even have nutritional value!


If your life hasn’t been changed in awhile, it’s time to try using Cup4Cup gluten-free flour in your favorite recipe and see if you can tell the damn difference– I’m gonna tell you right now (να σας πω κάτι): you will not be able to tell the difference. If Cup4Cup made a GRAINFREE flour, I’d pay $100/lb for it.


Cara Cara oranges are friggin KILLLLING the snack game these days. LordyLOU I could eat a dozen of these. Hurry up and find ‘em– season ends this month!


Sukhi’s Indian Simmer Sauces are the fastest way to get a delicious meal fast. I love, love, love these sugar-free/gluten-free pastes–throw the veggie of your choice t + 1 can of coconut milk (or water…but why?), simmer for 15 minutes, and–voila!– dinner is served. Disclaimer: these guys are NOT sodium free.



BFKef loves his nickname, “Big Easy,” and I love South Africa–so this totally delicious red with ” a succulent bouquet of dark cherries, mulberry, dark plum and honey” is totally our bag.  If it’s good enough for the WineAdvocate, it’s definitely good enough for CasaKefi. We’ll really know we’ve made it when our new favorite wine is feature on my still-favorite wine site VinePair.

I Absolutely Refuse

8 Apr

Last week I worried about the Dunkin’ Donuts Peeps monstrosity– this week’s threat to humanity as we know it comes to us from Subway, you know, “where athletes eat.” With the Winter Olympics over, Subway can no longer purport that world-class competitors fuel their training with processed meat and bread with shoe rubber in it, so the natural next step is to hock the “Mediterranean Collection,” which includes feta, olives, and a “thick creamy” tzatsiki sauce. I am so very much not impressed.





What do you guys think? Yay or nay?

Happy Birthday, MamaKef!

8 Apr


My mom is the very best and it’s her birthday– that’s really all you need to know. Happy birthday tot he best of the best!

I Don’t Know Whether to Laugh or Cry

1 Apr

Dunkin Donuts will begin selling Peeps doughnuts on March 31 through Easter.


Avo Mojito Ice Cream- No Ice Cream Machine Needed!

1 Apr

The other night I was fiending for something sweet– I’m talking ripping everything out of the cabinet, searching the back corner of the freezer, contemplating eating honey from a spoon kind of fiending. I finally settled on an odd combination: the most perfectly ripe Hass avocado drizzled with maple syrup. Surprisingly, it was actually quite lovely.

That got me thinking about creamy, delicious avocados… why must they always be a savory, relegated to sides and dips? I decided that it’s high time avocado had it’s day in the sweet sun and that, gosh darn it,  I was going to make it happen. Okay, maybe I didn’t say gosh darn it. But I really did eat avocado and maple syrup.

A little googling brought me to David Lebovitz’s avocado coconut ice cream. I’m going to go out on a not-often-visited limb here and say that the dairy and sugar version of this recipe is probably to die for, whereas my vegan, refined-sugar-free version is merely just another (very good) reason to live.

photo 2-7

Don’t get me wrong: I really, really like this ice cream. I added lots of mint and lime juice to give it that refreshing mojito taste (can you tell I’m realllllly done with winter?) and let it get good and frozen in a washed-out container of the world’s best gf/sf ice cream on the planet, Luna & Larry. It is not very sweet, and it is most definitely not for those among us who do not enjoy the taste of good-for-you. Final thoughts: this is more like a gourmet gelato you savor a single scoop of, not a frozen treat you polish off a pint of.  Perfect for the next time you’re in the throes of the sugar shakes and just need something to wet your whistle.

Avo Mojito Ice Cream


  • 2 medium ripe avocados (about 1.25 c)
  • juice of 5 limes
  • 1/4-1/3 fresh mint
  • 1 14-oz can coconut milk (NOT the low-fat kind)
  • the cream from 1 can of full-fat coconut milk (put a can in the fridge. Let it sit for 1-2 hours. Once nice and chilled, DO NOT SHAKE, open it up, and spoon out the solid cream from the top
  • 1/2 c sugar (I used coconut sugar)
  • 2 TBS rum
  • 2 TBS maple syrup (you can probably pass on this if using cane sugar)
  • pinch of salt


1. Put the avocado, lime juice, and mint in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend again until completely smooth and combined.

2. Put in a glass container (or a recycled ice cream container if you’re never more than 24-hours from your last pint, like me!) and freeze until COMPLETELY FROZEN–this took about 4.5 hours for me. Do not try and judge this in its not-completely-set phase. The flavors come together as they freeze.

** I did not make the dairy version linked above–I used only coconut milk and it set up perfectly without churning. Therefore, I cannot swear 100% that the original version with cream won’t need a churning session in an ice cream maker. But I made a churned batch and an unchurched batch with the coconut milk and it made NO difference whatsoever, so I can bet with 60% certainty that it will be okay with the dairy version, too.


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