A Few Days in Greece

28 Oct

Someone in the world thought it would be a good idea to make it dark at 4:30 pm just so it could be light at 6:59 am… friggin’ kill me. For my daily dose Vitamin D these days, I’m reliving MrKef’s inaugural trip to the Hellenic Republic–if you need some sun-drenched, punch-drunk-love pictures, here’s how Greece totally won over a skeptical MrKef and why we’ll never vacation pretty much anywhere else.


While planning our trip, MrKef thought Greece would be all beach all the time. I tried to explain the ideal vacation day (historic something in the morning, late lunch, beach/nap, shower/nap, late dinner, drinks, repeat) but he just couldn’t quite wrap his mind around it. So, we decided to split our time between Athens and Prague. Sadly, flights didn’t quite work out so we only had a few days in Athens, but “thems the breaks,” as HomeBrewKef would say.


After some hilarious airport hijinks, we made it to the lovely home of my darling Aunt Fifi. Point for Greece: She and MrKef were fast friends over non-alcoholic beer:


We ate some homemade gemiste, took a divine nap, and woke up to this beautiful view of the port of Rafina:


Afterward, we headed down to Marathonos to stroll along the promenade. Point for Greece: “I can’t believe how whole families just come down here and hang out in the square! It’s amazing–the kids can play and the parents can have a drink! I love this!”

The next day, we drove out to Sunnios. MrKef was juuuust about sold on Greece when he saw just how beautiful a drive along the coast it is, but I knew it was going to take one big push to get him over the edge. I made a miscalculation and tried to woo him to the Greek side with a Cappuccino Freddo, but I married the one lawyer in America who’s not into coffee, so that didn’t do much for him. Me, on the other hand? HEAVEN.


We arrived at the Temple of Poseidon, which is absolutely stunning. I could tell MrKef was close to re-negging on his previous anti-all-Greece-trip sentiment. Imagine my surprise when he nailed it RIGHT on the head– “Greeks are so brilliant. There’s a beach and a restaurant right next to this tourist attraction. You can do it all in one place in one day.” It feels good to be right.


We headed back home to a house full of Greeks eager to meet Edgar. Some tiropita and pantomiming later, and it was nap time again.

As if a mid-day nap isn’t treat enough, we were greeted by coffee, tea, and a view when we woke up. Also, my aunt is a wonderful human who fills my little heart with so much joy, even when we only share about three-quarters of a language.


We took a trip down to the Port to take a walk and watch the ferries come in, and Greece won an unexpected point: MrKef loved the feral cats and the funny places we found them. This one really tickled his funnybone:


The next morning, we packed up the car and headed into Athens– I won about 100,000 lifepoints for driving in Athens and not killing myself or someone else, if I do say so myself. We had a free stay at the Hilton Athens, and we made quick use of the central location. MrKef was on a MISSION to see the Acropolis, so we headed there first with a quick stop off at Parliament to see the changing of the guards.



We toured the beautiful new Museum of the Acropolis, and then set off on a long walk up to the Museum of Archeology. On the way, I passed a Gregory’s an of course had to eat a spanakopita the size of my head. God bless that Gregory.

We took a long tour of the museum, which is not fancy but is really well done, and even found the perfect funeral arrangement for HomeBrewKef– an Egyptian king was buried with this model brewery so he could keep enjoying cold ones in the afterlife:


Because my family is so wonderful, my cousin met us with his wife and daughter for a coffee in the exquisitely-renovated courtyard of the museum. Then we moseyed on back to the hotel, where we found this so thoughtful gluten-free gift waiting for us from the Hilton! Marriott, you are dead to us.


At this point, it was like 11:30pm and even Greeks were surprised when we were trying to start dinner. Luckily, the good people of Lonely Planet had our backs and recommended a very cute, reasonably-priced Taverna in otherwise way-too-trendy-for-my-budget Colonaki. MrKef, punch drunk on the awesomenees of Greeks for the last 10 centuries, DEMANDED a saganaki, and Oikeio truly delivered.




We wandered up the street to a fun bar filled with people our age (read: not young)., and I enjoyed a lovely beverage that came with a spoonful of berry puree because… why not? And then, it was seriously bed time. We were pooped!


The next morning, we started at the Panhellenic Stadium. Then we strolled back up to the Central Market near Omonia Square, where we stocked up on spices and MrKef pondered how to smuggle raw meat into the Czech Republic.



Then, a catastrophe happened: I had been desperately looking forward to a trip to the Museum of Greek Gastronomy. We got there only to find… it has closed almost two years ago. I cannot remember a vacation day when I was sadder. Truly, a Greek tragedy!


But then I saw this hilarious little transliteration error, and I remembered why Greece is the bestūüôā If I start going by KookKefi, RN from now on, you’ll know why:


We wandered back through the Plaka and Monasteraki, where MrKef tried on pretty much every pair of shoes known to man. We ended our 15,000-step day at the stunning Agora:




We met my cousin for dinner and ice cream, and it was suddenly time to go. MrKef signed in blood that he would come to Greece for at least a week next time, and I am *this* close to his realization that Greece is the only place we ever need to vacation anytime again. #OurGreeknessIsYourWeakness


Stay tuned for a recap of our 5 glorious days in Prague.



The Best Way to Eat Vegetables–Muffins!

20 Oct

A few posts ago, I wrote about how much I loved the cookbook Run Fast Eat Slow. Today, I’m sharing my favorite recipe from the book–Elyse and Shalane, the authors, are kind enough to share it on their web site, so you should surely return their karmic favor and buy the book!

These muffins are PERFECT. Perfect texture, perfect sweetness, perfect¬†moisture, and perfectly filling. PLUS, they are chock full of carrots and zucchini. If I had kids who were picky eaters, I would feed them these and call it two of their 5 servings of fruits/veggies.¬†But, I don’t… so instead I’m gonna bring a batch over to¬†my #1 Cookie Monster over in Arlington this weekend, TheSunshineofMyWholeDamnLifeKef , who will not mind at all that there are vegetables mixed in with her “cake” (PILFKef, DO–if you are reading this,¬†and have a less-healthy request, call me.).

Plus, they look beautiful EVERY time. These are so good. Elite marathoner and recipe co-author Shalane Flanagan suggests eating them before a long run… sometimes blogger and currently-injured-runner Chef Kefi, RN suggests eating them before anything.


Superhero Muffins


  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (use gluten-free if sensitive)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I have been using slivered almonds- you do you)
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins, optional
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup grated zucchini (about 1 zucchini)
  • 1 cup grated carrot (about 2 carrots–or buy the bag of pre-shredded ones)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup Grade B maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • paper muffin cups


  1. Preheat the oven to 350¬įF. Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper muffin cups. Put the grated zucchini in a strainer and push out excess water (ed note: the original recipe doesn’t call for this, but I have always done it. No need to make yourself crazy, but get out what moisture you can).
  2. In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, oats, walnuts, currants or raisins, if using, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, zucchini, carrot, butter, maple syrup, and vanilla.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
  5. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups filling each to the brim. Bake until the muffins are nicely browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 25 to 35 minutes.  


Probably the Best Thing Ever Written About Running

19 Oct

Brought you to by Lauren Fleshman, via Oiselle:


Real Running

To run

with a body

that strains

and screams

with limbs bones and ligaments

stretched at the seams

miles away

from seeking the gaze

of anyone anywhere

only the haze

of the finish line calling

the most primal parts

of an effort explosion

spray-painted like art

on the tunnels

that pass below

all that’s expected

of women in a culture

that worships

the effortless.



is magnitude

felt in our bones

as we push back the earth

and bugs splat on the chrome

and gradually “maybe I can”

becomes must

and we haul toward the finish

our pulchritude dust

and all of the photos

show legs made of mush

with a jiggle and smash

of the violent downbeat

what if we saw them

and didn’t delete

but used them as tools

to evolve aspiration

to stand up and say

i’ll take strained ventilation

and skin patchworked

from vasodilation

from the blood that pumps

from my soul to my heels

because this

is what effort

is made of.

Roasted Root Vegetables in Fall Curry

5 Oct

Usually I try to hold out one week more before calling it quits on summer, but even I have to face facts when it’s already dark out by 7:15pm.¬†Today’s recipe is a perfect entrance into autumn, and you won’t waste any of¬†summer’s last precious light making it– it’s as easy as chop, roast, sauce. Oh, and it comes to us from the good folks behind the Whole 30, so it’s vegan, gluten free, sugar free, full of healthy fat, and just all around awesome.

That’s all I have to say about that– one of these days I’ll miss summer enough to recap our trips to Athens, Prague, New Orleans, Charleston, and WVa. ¬†For today, just enjoy the curried veggies!


Roasted Root Vegetables in Fall Curry


  • 4 TBS olive oil
  • 1 cup potatoes (sweet or regular), peeled and¬†chopped
  • 1 c rutabagas, peeled and¬†chopped
  • 3/4 c turnips, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 c parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 c carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1.5 tsp ginger, grated or diced
  • 1 clove garlic, grated or diced
  • 2-3 tsp curry powder, to taste
  • 500 mL full fat coconut milk
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Toss vegetables in 4 TBS olive oil. Spread oil-covered veggies in a single layer, using one or two cookie sheets as needed. Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until veggies are tender and lightly browned.
  2. While they roast, put remaining 1 TBS olive oil in saute pan over med-high heat on stove. Add onion and garlic and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Add the ginger and cook for another minute. Add curry powder, stir well, then add coconut milk. Reduce the mixture to simmer for 8-10 minutes (do not boil). Once nice and thick, remove from heat and season with lime zest and juice.
  3. Top the veggies with the curry sauce and enjoy!

Chocolate Fig Ricotta Pie

28 Sep

It will be FIG season for exactly 2 more minutes– hurry up and make this super-easy pie that got good reviews from many normal eaters. Alternatively, try this¬†Raspberry FIG Challah,¬†crowd-pleasing FIG appetizer,¬†FIG tart,¬†FIG scones, or FIG jam. I love ’em all.


Chocolate Fig Ricotta Pie


  • pie crust of your choice (I used GF)
  • 2 c Ricotta cheese
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (or substitute 2 tsp vanilla extract… but bean is really best here).
  • 2 TBS sugar (I used coconut sugar) + more for sprinkling on top
  • 4-8 TBS grated dark chocolate (this is somewhere between a 1/2- 3/4 bar)- I used this sugar free kind and no one could tell the difference
  • 15 dried figs,¬†sliced in half lengthwise.
  • 2/3 c liqueur of your choice (I used Godiva chocolate)
  • about 9 fresh, ripe figs, sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 400F. If using premade pie crust, use a fork to poke holes throughout the bottom of crust. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until just golden brown. When done, set aside.
  2. Throw the dried figs in a small pot and cover with liqueur. If they aren’t almost all the way covered, add water until they are. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 10 minutes, or until soft and fragrant. Do not burn! Once soft, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  3. Combine the ricotta, vanilla, and sugar until just combined. Do not go nuts mixing this.
  4. Sprinkle about half the grated chocolate throughout the cooled crust. Spoon half of the ricotta mixture over the chocolate and spread evenly. Push¬†the dried figs into the ricotta layer, cut side up, distributing them evenly. Cover the figs with second half of the ricotta and spread evenly. Arrange the fresh figs as you’d like, sprinkle with sugar.
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until crust is golden, figs are a bit caramelized, and center is set. Take out of oven, sprinkle with remaining grated chocolate, and place back in over for 2-3 more minutes, until chocolate is a little melted.
  6. Allow to cool, then serve.

Two Timely Books

26 Sep

Presented with minimal comment: two absolutely phenomenal novels that, although set nearly 200 years ago, contribute immensely to the conversation of residual racism and racial violence in America.

The Underground Railroad- Colson Whitehead

Image result for colson whitehead underground railroad book

I have loved Whitehead since The Intuitionist, and was thrilled to find he had a new novel coming out.¬†The Underground Railroad¬†is¬†a book that commands your attention from sentence one: “The first time Caesar approached Cora about running North, she said no.” What follows is a freedom struggle that’s as bold as it is devastating. Whitehead loves to veer his readers¬†right to the border of fantasy and reality, and uses his penchant for the bizarre to blur the lines between the shocking realities of life as a slave and events so strange you can’t help but wonder if they’re true. Jumping through time and characters, Whitehead delivers a cat-and-mouse chase so fraught with generational guilt and ancestral entitlement even Javert might have opted out. The ending feels just a little too made-for-the-big-screen, but still delivers the visceral punch of a tremendous story told by a tremendous writer–Ana Duvernay, if you’re reading, PLEASE¬†consider adapting this for your next movie!¬†I would absolutely call this a must-read in 2016.

Homegoing: A Novel– Yaa Gyasi

Whew lordy, where to start? Gyasi is a Ghanian-born writer who moved to Alabama in her teens and, after graduating with her MFA from Yale, chose to take on the nearly impossible: tracing¬†a direct line from the slave trade to modern systemic oppression using the stories of only two families. Not impressed yet? She does it by devoting just a single chapter to each generation’s character. And, for her final trick, she makes you care deeply about almost each of those one-offs as if their story had spanned the entire novel, not just a short chapter.

There is a lot to love about this book–it’s character driven, beautifully written, and never looks away from the cruelty of the slave trade and its lasting implications. One story branch¬†follows an Asante family as alliances shift and colonial capitalism takes root in West Africa; the second branch¬†follows the descendants of a kidnapped, enslaved, and tortured Fante woman through several decades in America. I couldn’t get enough of the West African ¬†stories–Gyasi does such justice to the customs, character, and culture of a people usually mis-represented as primitive, hapless, and uncalculating. The chapters that take place in America, while just as interesting, lack the¬†self-possesion Gyasi allows their counterparts in modern-day Ghana. There’s a bit of symbolism attached to the American chapters– we are meant to understand that each of the characters is¬†representing something, drawing a line from past to present. A powerful point, to be sure, but there are a few chapters that feel just a bit contrived as a result.

This book is a wonderful insight into the struggle¬†to be free, the systems that hinder progress, and the generational melancholy of people who are black in America. Gyasi’s command of history is tremendous, and her carefully-crafted characters become beloved tour guides to America’s¬†dark side. Please let me know when you’ve read it!

Friday 5: Cookbooks I Love

23 Sep

It’s Friday, school’s back in session, and I’m looking forward to the weekend–so today, we’re talking cookbooks. For a more substantial read, check out this not-new-but-really great essay from Brit Bennett.

Plenty- Yotam Ottolenghi

This book is worth it just for that cover recipe- but, seriously, here’s a man who knows how to treat a veggie. For more of his genius, search “Ottolenghi” on this blog and see the million ways he’s changed my life.

Run Fast, Eat Slow- Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky

Everyone and their brother is eating¬†the Superhero muffins from this book– what could be better than zucchini, carrots, nuts, and cinnamon all wrapped up in the perfect pre-run muffin? The amazing American marathoner Shalane Flanagan teamed up with a college teammate to create a book dedicated to athletes and the fuel that nourishes them. Lots of the book is gluten free, most of the book is sugar-free, and all of the recipes are DELICIOUS. In just this week I’ve made the aforementioned delicious muffins, zucchini-quinoa risotto, cherry tomato and shrimp pasta, and a sweet potato salad that might have changed my core character– I’m obsessed. ¬†The best part about this book is that they’ve given a purpose to each recipe– sweet potato fries are “whole foods carb0-loading,” giddy up energy bites are “for preworkout energy,” and the Greek bison burgers are just perfect “for pumping iron.” Makes meal planning painless.

The Complete Book of Greek Cooking- Rena Salaman & Jan Cutler

NePaKef found this for me in the bargain bin at Books a Million (tells you how long I’ve had this book, DC people!), and I was highly skeptical of a book about Greek food written by two people with very unGreek last names. HOWEVER. Some of my favorite Greek recipes come from this book- this twist on the old spinach pie classic, a surprisingly good pine nut tart, and this sausage-meatball hybrid that’s quickly become MrKef’s favorite that I really need to share on this blog. Unlike many Greek cookbooks, there’s no discussion of tea cups for measurement– the recipes are easy to follow and their success is easy to replicate. My copy is well-loved, and I bet yours would be, too.

The Whole 30- Melissa & Dallas Hartwig

I missed the Whole 30 train –but I love this dang book. It’s filled cover to cover with grainfree, glutenfree, dairy free, sugar free recipes that are quick, easy, and delicious. The sweet potato salmon cakes are a staple in my lunchbag these days, and MrKef is loving the grilled curry-coconut chicken. I love not having to dream up substitutes for sugary sauces. All the flavor, none of the crap–totally my bag.

Cake Love: How To Bake Cakes from Scratch- Warren Brown

This was my first “grown up’ cookbook wayyyyy back in my Bryant Street days, when GrewUponASoybeanFarmKef and I would try to make the Swiss Meringue buttercream ten times in a weekend before we finally got it to set up correctly. Brown’s recipes aren’t simple– these are day-long, sometimes full-weekend baking projects–but the payoff is huge: a mojito cake with fresh mint and a rum buttercream icing? Yes please. If you want to learn about the art of cake making, I love this approachable, clearly-written, gonna-be-delicious-even-if-you-eff-it-up cookbook as a starting point.

Thanks to Courtney, Cynthia, and Mar for coordinating the Friday 5 Link Up!




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