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Kalitsounia- Another Reason to Use The Huge Mini-Muffin Tin Your Mother Gave You

18 Apr

If there ain’t no party like a West Coast party ’cause a West Coast party don’t stop, then there is definitely no dinner party like a Cretan dinner party because you will never, ever, ever want the food to stop. And I am pretty sure Coolio would agree with me that these kalitsounia are proof positive that cooks from Crete are not effing around. Part custard treat, part tart, part muffin, these bite sized treats defy your dessert definitions. My favorite part of making these is the reminder of how perfectly unpersnickety Greek pastry is–this dough is forgiving and easy to work with, and the filling practically pulls itself together.

This was my first time at the kalitsounia party, so I borrowed heavily from this recipe, and my teensy tweaks are reflected below. I also benefited tremendously from MamaKef’s compulsive gift giving–these guys are a great reason to whip out your 48-count muffin tin again and the Cake Boss Linzer cookie cutter kit (sans cutout attachment) was PERFECT for creating perfectly-sized dough rounds with pretty scalloped edges. But, as always, these are mere suggestions and you just go ahead and do whatever your heart desires.FullSizeRender (24)



For the dough

  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1/2 c Greek yogurt, left to sit in colander/strainer for ~10 min to reduce liquid
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 3.5-4.5 c flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste (or extract)
  • juice of 1/2 orange
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
 For the filling
  • 15 oz of soft myzithra cheese (you will prob have to live in NY, Baltimore, Toronto, or Melbourne to find this outside of Greece– for the rest of us, ricotta worked just fine for me)
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 eggs and 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp cinammon

For the topping

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TBS water
  • 1 TBS cinnamon


  1. Using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer, combine olive oil, sugar, yogurt and eggs in a large bowl. Add in the orange juice, lemon zest and vanilla and blend again until just combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder, mix well, and then add gradually dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Knead the dough with your hands, until it softens. You may need to add flour–the dough should be soft and pliable, but not stick to your hands. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and set the dough aside to rest for at least 30 minutes- no need to chill.
  2. Using either a rubber spatula or a standing mixer, combine sugar, eggs and cinnamon until well mixed.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F, lightly grease a mini-muffin tin. On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/10 of an inch (good on you if you have any idea what a tenth of an inch is–I just went with “as thin as I could get it without its being see through”). Use a 6-inch cookie or biscuit cutter to cut the dough into rounds.
  4. Drop one round into each minimuffin slot. Fill with about 1-1.5 tsp filling. Whisk together egg and water, then brush the top of each pastry with the egg wash. Sprinkle the top of each with cinnamon.
  5. Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes, or until golden. Allow to cool in pan, then pop out and enjoy– these are even better when served the next day!

The Best Nachos Ever (Hint: It’s the Fennel)

24 Feb

FlailKef and GingerKef host an annual Oscar party. I’m not much for the show, but the food is always awesome. This year, SummitKef swept everyone’s ballot by bringing these gorgonzola, fontina nachos with FENNEL and mint.

photo(2)I thought for sure that the mint would be the best supporting actor (clearly those two cheeses took top billing), but the fennel managed a major upset and got all the praise for the night. Do yourselves a favor: make sure House of Cards isn’t the only thing you’re binging on this Friday.

Gorgonzola, Fontina, Fennel & Mint Nachos


  • 8 oz. tortilla chips (preferably unsalted or lightly salted)
  • 10 oz. coarsely grated fontina (2-1/2 cups)
  • 5 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola (1 cup)
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint


1. Pour the tortilla chips onto a large rimmed baking sheet.

2. Sprinkle the chips evenly with both cheeses.

3. Crush the fennel seeds with a roller (or a mortar and pestle if you are channeling your inner apothecary). Sprinkle over the cheese.

4. Broil until the cheese is melted, 1 to 3 minutes. Garnish with the mint and serve hot from the baking sheet.

Kale Feta Pesto

3 Jun

I’ma tell you something straight up– Kermit has been LYING to us all these years. It is so friggin easy to be green.

All weekend I was craving green but ended up eating nachos (go figure). So when it came down to grocery shopping last night, I was a green-buying machine. I even ended up buying pre-made spinach fettuccine, which surprised everyone involved because I’m not really into pasta and I’m not really into pre-made food. But after a 12-hour shift and a 5-mile hill-interval run, anything goes.

Once I got home with all the sprouts and leaves and crowns and bunches, I had to figure out what to do with all that iron-heavy produce. I remembered this delicious and so, so easy cilantro pesto and decided to see if I could make it even greener without expending very much effort. Done and done. I really like this earthy-yet-tangy pesto and am looking forward to putting it all over my other cosas verdes this week.


On a side note–RP’s gluten-free pasta was pretty yummy. It probably won’t become a regular in my kitchen because a) the first ingredient is rice flour and b) there’s no ACTUAL spinach in the spinach fettuccine (RP– you can do better than spinach powder!), but as a non-pasta-connossieur I found it enjoyable in a pinch.

Kale Feta Pesto


  • 1 bunch of kale, washed
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, washed
  • 1/3 c pine nuts
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 1/3 c feta cheese
  • juice of 2 limes

1. Combine everything in a food processor. Add more leaves or oil to suit your taste and texture preferences.

2. Add as much as you’d like to hot pasta of your choice.

Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with Maple Browned Butter Sauce

24 Oct

Pumpkin is awesome, and if you need further proof please see:

Still not convinced? I applaud your commitment to skepticism but regret to inform you that it’s futile: prepare to be amazed by the glory of pumpkin.


Now that I’ve convinced you of pumpkin’s supremacy over basically everything else (karpouzi notwithstanding), do not even THINK of transferring your skepticism toward your own ability to make gnocchi.  It goes like this: you make some dough, you cut it, you cook it.  So put on your big girl panties, grab some pumpkin, and let’s make some gnocchi.

This gnocchi recipe in particular is on the sweeter side- when FlailingKef and I taste-tested the first batch we couldn’t quite decide: savory or sweet? We were happy eating something that was equal parts dinner and dessert until I decided to throw some sauteed spinach into the mix– and that’s when we knew we had “chosen wisely” and found the holy grail (shout out to the three other people still suffering through the increasingly-miserable-and-offensive How I Met Your Mother). You’ll have enough for 5-6 servings, so grab some hungry friends while you’re reaching for those panties!


Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with Maple Browned Butter Sauce


  • 1 c  canned pumpkin
  • 1 c ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 c grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3-4 cups all-purpose flour (I used gluten free)
  • lots of fresh rosemary (I used two very big sprigs)
  • 1/4 c unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • spinach for serving (optional)


1. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin, both cheeses, eggs, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

2. Add 2 cups of flour to the mix and stir to combine.  Keep adding the flour 1/4 c at a time until you have a dough that is sticky but still moldable. The goal is to be able to roll out the dough into a log–so go for that consistency. Once you’ve got it, knead dough into one ball and cover  with a damp towel.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and let it simmer while you shape the gnocchi.

4. Flour a cutting board or your counter. Separate your dough ball into eight(ish) equal sections. Roll each section into a small log that is about half an inch thick.  Then cut each log into several pieces that are about 1-inch long– now you have gnocchi!

5. Use a fork to gently indent one side of each piece of gnocchi–this will help it absorb sauce later.

6.  Drop gnocchi into the boiling water a few at a time- if you cook too many at once they will stick together. Cook them until they rise to the top- when they’re floating they’re done. If you’ve got a slotted spoon, use that to pull out the gnocchi and lay them on a cookie sheet or plate. If you don’t have a slotted spoon use whatever you got. Life will go on. Repeat until all gnocchi are cooked.

10. Once you’ve got a plate full of cooked gnocchi, melt the butter in a large pan over medium-high heat and cook until there’s no more froth and the color has taken on a brown tint (but is not yet burnt!). Add the maple syrup and about three-fourths of the rosemary.

11. Add a single layer of gnocchi and let them cook for about 2 minutes.  Use your slotted spoon (or alternate utensil) to remove gnocchi.  Repeat until you’ve used all the gnocchi.  Transfer to  whatever you’re serving/storing them in and drizzle with the leftover sauce and remaining rosemary. Serve with spinach sauteed in the same pan as the butter sauce.

Cheesey Spinach Casserole Worth Fighting Over

12 Jun


JetSet Kef is not one for violence–his general amenability and short attention span work against him in a fight, plus he’s quite gifted in the Eastern Mediterranean/Maybrook, NY leisure sport of “just sittin,'” so he doesn’t bother getting riled up about much.  He did, however, once threaten an ex-boyfriend of mine with these menacing words: “I eat a lot of leafy greens. I could take him.”

Luckily, the duel never came to blows, and JetSet Kef maintains his nutrient-dense diet. I have joined him in his obsession with spinach, and usually bring an entire bag of sauteed spinach as a base to my workday lunch. One never knows when a fight between JSK and a man pitifully devoid of iron could break out!

I found this spinach casserole here— it’s worth reading her ode to steakhouse sides if you have the chance. I did some tinkering, mostly because I think mayonnaise is among the most vile substances on earth. Warning–this is not even a little bit healthy. It is so delicious and decadent that for the very first time in my life I uttered the phrase, “Holy moly, imagine if this had bacon in it!” Poor BFKef was so disappointed when I came back to my senses and reneged my offer to make another one full of pig fat.

3-Cheese Spinach Casserole


  • 1 pound fresh spinach (I used a 16 oz bag of frozen chopped spinach)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • olive oil, for sauteing.
  • 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt (FIBBYDY)
  • 1/4 cup of cream cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced OR 2 TSP garlic powder (which I used because I was feeling lazy)
  • 1 tsp cloves (trust me)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 c grated/shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4-1/3 c feta


1. Preheat oven to 375F. Heat just enough oil to coat your saute pan over medium-high heat (a 7 if you have those nifty numbers on your dial). Throw in the entire bag of spinach and spread out to be as thin a layer as possible. Let it hang out like that for 7 minutes or so, or until the bottom is a little brown. Once the browning begins, “flip” the spinach the way you would an egg and reorganize it into a single layer again. Leave be until the thawed liquid has really thinned out, which will require another 5-6 minutes or so. You want the spinach to be cooked but not runny.

2. While the spinach is cooking, dice your onion. Once the spinach is cooked, transfer to a strainer. Heat another 1-2 TBS of oil in your pan and cook the onions until soft and fragrant, which should be pretty quick as the pan will be hot. I like my onions a bit brown so I let them go for about 4 or 5 minutes.

3. Combine all ingredients, including the sauteed spinach and onions. Grease lightly whatever casserole dish you’ve got (I used two of the 1.5Q small squares) and distribute mixture evenly throughout pan. Cook for 30-40 minutes, or until top is browned and you’ve got some bubbling going on. Let cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!

Caprese Empanadas

22 Mar

Empanadas have got to be one of the greatest foods on the planet.  I mean really- what’s better than a no-fork-required doughy treat with a surprise filling? I rest my case.

I expected this to be one of the recipes I had to sell to the Kef crowd–but I was surprised by how quick and easy this recipe turned out to be. I made the sad mistake of burning mine, so be careful in the final baking stage not to overcook. The dough is paleo-approved (the cheesy filling decidedly not so), and the great news is you can fill these guys with just about anything you like for a great result.

Have a great weekend!

Caprese Empanadas

For the Dough

  • 1.5 c unsweetened shredded coconut flakes
  • 1 c almond meal
  • 1/2 c arrowroot powder (I know…I know. I didn’t have it in my kitchen, either)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TBS apple cider vinegar (lemon juice would be a good sub here)
  • 1 TBS watered
  • oil of your choice for brushing empanadas

For the Filling

  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 5 oz mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup basil
  • tomato sauce for dipping (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grind the almond meal and coconut into a fine powder using a food processor.  Scrape the bottom and sides of processor bowl and grind again for about 2 more minutes.

2. Add arrowroot and salt to processor and mix again until combined. Add eggs and vinegar and mix in processor again until a cohesive dough forms–mine actually formed itself into a lovely dough ball. If necessary, add water 1 TBS at a time (I needed 1 TBS to get all the dough together). 

3. Gather the dough into a firm ball. Generously dust a sheet of wax paper with arrowroot powder and roll the ball in it to dust all sides. Place another sheet of wax paper on top and roll out to 1/8-inch thick (I was at BFKef’s and used a wine bottle…make do with whatcha got). Use anything hard, round, and about 6 inches in diameter (I used a small Tupperware) to cut out 5-6 empanadas. You will probably have to cut a few, reform the ball and roll out two or three times in total to use all the dough.  Place your circles on an ungreased baking sheet.

4. To make the filling, finely dice and mix the basil, cheese, and tomatoes. Place on each circle 1-1.5 TBS  of filling –RESIST THE URGE TO OVERFILL. Fold in half and “crimp” the ends together to seal the empanada. Crimping an empanada requires about the same skill level as crimping your hair — just get to scrunching. Once sealed, brush generously with oil.

5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your empanadas. To brown them, turn the oven to “broil” for the last two minutes–BUT BE SURE TO WATCH LIKE A HAWK. I left mine for about 30 seconds too long and nearly ruined the whole shebang. Let cool and enjoy! If you’d like, use a tomato sauce for dipping.

Eggplant Rolldakia

12 Mar
There is nothing in this world as relaxing to me as an afternoon in the kitchen. Luckily, I found some time during this crazy week to throw open the windows, enjoy the 55 degree weather, blast the Erykah Badu Pandora station (if you don’t know, now you know), and tinker about with some potential additions to the Greek Easter line up.
I loved making these eggplant rolldakia (alternate Kef name “Egg(plant) Rolls,” but the Greek won out over the pun this time). The inspiration came from this vegan version, but I had to cheese mine way up.
Eggplant Rolldakia
  • 1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce (my money is on smoky marinara)
  • 3 medium-large eggplant (length more important than girth in this case)
  • salt to sprinkle
  • olive oil
  • 30 oz ricotta cheese
  • 8-12 oz feta, depending on how feta-y you like your filling to taste
  • 1/2 c grated romano (or parmesan if you are working with a nurse’s budget, like me)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 c minced basil
  • 4-5 cloves minced garlic
1. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease rimmed 2-3 baking pans and let them heat up in the oven as it preheats. Put ricotta cheese in a strainer to get rid of excess liquid. Wash eggplant, chop off the stems. Slice eggplants vertically into thin strips, aiming for slices that are 1/2 inch thick or less. I found that I did a crappy job on the first one but had the skill honed by the third eggplant–so learning curve ain’t a steep one. Lay slices on clean dish towels or paper towels, sprinkle fairly generously with salt and let sit for 15 minutes or so–you will see the excess water come to top of each slice.
2. As the eggplant slices sit in salt, stir in a bowl until combined the ricotta, feta, romano, egg, garlic and basil. 
3. Wipe off the moisture from the top of the slices. Arrange slices in a single layer on the hot pans–they will probably not all fit in one round. Cook in oven until slightly browned on bottom, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook another 4-5 minutes more so other side browns as well. Once both sides are slightly browned, take off pan and let cool. Repeat until you’ve gone through all the slices.
4. As you work through browning all the slices, start filling the cooled eggplant with cheese. Put 1-1.5 TBS of filling at one end of a slice and roll tightly, finishing with the seam down. Repeat until either filling or slices run out (I had some extra filling left over).
5. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet (no need to regrease). Don’t let them touch, but the rolls can be very close together. Mine fit on one large pan. Distribute tomato sauce among rolls, spreading it between and over them.
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Rolldakia are done when the eggplant look more brown than white–sorry that is the best way I can describe it. If you take them out and they are not easily sliced with a knife, they are not done.
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