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2014 Cooking Up Kefi Gift Guide

11 Dec

For the Triathlete trying to keep it together in the off season:

Athleta Power Lift tights

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Bring on the winter blues! The fleece lining in these running tights will maintain heat and the flattering cut will keep her style intact… unless she could not care less about style, in which case the functionality of these guys will be appreciated twofold!






Bike Fitting by Smiley

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It’s unanimous: Smiley is the best guy in the DMV for a bike fitting. The DC Tri Club’s forum post with RAVES about his services is four pages long, and those people know a thing or two about bikes. Fittings with Smiley ain’t cheap, but the value is unmatched– for $275 he’ll give you as many visits as it takes to get the fit right, plus a six-month tweak if you need it. If getting fast is a New Year’s resolution for the triathlete you know, you cannot go wrong with Smiley!

Bike trainer

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The fairytale that runs through my head is that if I had a bike trainer, I would ride every single day for hours and hours. Basically, these systems turn your road bike into a stationary bike so you can ride for miles and miles without turning off the Kardashians. KMBGKef has one and swears by it. There are lots of different models at various price points, but conventional wisdom is that, with trainers, you get what you pay for.



SolidCore8Hear me now: there is no better cross-training work out for a triathlete/runner/ballerina/underwater basket weaver than Solidcore. The only way I can describe it is to say that it is Pilates on PCP–expect your clothes to be soaked with sweat and your muscles to quiver with fatigue at the end of this 50-minute class. PurplePenKef turned me on to it and after only a few classes I can say with certainty I’m stronger because of it! NB: most classes are not sausage fests, as pictured here.

For the food enthusiast who just-so-happens not to eat gluten or sugar:

Adjustable Liquid Measuring Cup

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File this under “things I can’t believe we didn’t think of before”– this measuring cup not only lists several different systems of liquid measurements for easy conversions (mL, oz, cups), but the plunger acts as a squeegee so you push out the entirety of the ingredient. The cook on your list will never waste the amazing Greek honey she lugged all over Monemvasia again! (Bed Bath & Beyond says it is dishwasher safe– don’t believe it. The numbers will wash right off!)


Babycakes NYC Complete Baking Kit

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Erin Mckenna is the queen of solid gold sh!t. Her bakery whips up dozens of the best gluten/sugar/nut/dairy free baked goods out there. They ship a few pre-made goods throughout the country, but I love to give these mixes for anytime use. Her cookbooks are great, too– I made recipes of hers for an ice cream parfait, a salted caramel ice cream cake, and a black forest birthday cake.


The Newest Cookbook from the Best Chef on God’s Green Earth


Still not hip to Ottolenghi? Check out his roasted eggplant with buttermilk sauce, the time I made the whitest (and yummiest) salad ever, a revolution in grape leaves and pies, or the post where I realized that fennel could be caramelized. Then go buy the new book and hop on a flight to London to eat in his restaurant.

The hostess who really loves to have people over even though she doesn’t own a dining room table:

Grey Moggie Paper

Screen shot 2014-12-11 at 12.03.49 PMAs JetSet will tell you, the number of social graces your girl Chef Kef feels compelled to fulfill become less by the year. One little piece of Emily Post I will never relinquish, however, is the handwritten note. There are very few things in life that give me the same thrill as finding the perfect card for the occasion and dropping it in the mail–bonus points if it’s a surprise or just-because card. Anyway, Grey Moggie is a DC-based paper shop with a great selection of sappy and sassy paper goods.

Neighborhood Coasters

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Take it from me: table space in a city is coveted real estate some of us would kill for. What better to protect that property than these cedar wood coasters etched with your host’s favorite neighborhoods? Sadly, there’s no DC option (boo), but Baltimore, San Fran, New York, Chicago, LA and …Minneapolis all made the designer’s list. Ouch.


Monogram Bangle


It could just be that I am a product of my environment (where we took nameplate necklaces very seriously until about 2010), but I have always thought personalized gifts are the best ones. I love this elegant and modern update to the initial charm bracelet, and I bet there’s lots of hosts out there who would think so too.

Mother Necklace

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I work on a postpartum unit in a hoity-toity East Coast hospital–suffice to say I’ve seen a lot of “push presents” in my time. If multiple carats are in your budget this year, by all means… but if I were a new mom and was hosting for the first time since my world suddenly began revolving around poop consistency and feeding schedules, this is absolutely the gift I’d want.

The person who thinks we’d all be better off if we supported people doing amazing work instead of spending money on ish no one really needs:

The Ferguson Municipal Public Library. Through it all, the Public Library in Ferguson has stayed open and continued to serve the community as it grieves the murder of Mike Brown. Currently only one full-time librarian is employed there, and his plans for the generous donations pouring in are to create healing kits children can check out to help process traumatic events and to hire a full-time children’s or program library.

Legal Aid. There’s been a lot of attention paid to two cases that exemplify inequity in our court system, but countless Americans whose stories will never make the news don’t get the justice they deserve because they lack financial access to legal advice and council. The Legal Aid Society represents civil cases regardless of ability to pay in cases ranging from housing disputes to class-action consumer matters.

Metro TeenAIDS. My people, always and forever–these guys are arming DC’s young people with information, skills, and jobs to fight HIV transmission, stigma, oppression and cycles of poverty. In other news, they have some very cool intern opportunities (paid and unpaid!) — if you have any righteous college/master’s students in your life, you should let them know!

Girls On the Run. In the next life, when I marry for money instead of wonderful and fulfilling love, I will be a full-time Girls on the Run volunteer. This organization (which almost definitely has a chapter near you–they’re everywhere!) teaches girls the transformative power of running through a confidence- and skills-boosting curriculum. Ahmazing.

Giving Thanks

27 Nov

I wondered a couple of years ago if we had lost our ability to be grateful. The cynical side of me worries that the November narrative of thanks is just another bad example of hashtag activism– seems like we’ve barely finished proclaiming to the world how grateful we are for the things we already have before we rush out the door to accumulate more ish we don’t need for people who may not even express how grateful they are to receive it. But–since today is Thanksgiving and not Day 1 of Intro to Cultural Critique– I’ll just leave that right there.

Instead, here are two interesting takes on being grateful. One comes to us from an amazing runner in North Carolina who is taking every moment she has by the horns:

The other is directed at Christians and use of the word “blessed,” but I found it a thought-provoking and universal reflection on what we’re grateful for and how we talk about our thankfulness: The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying

Happy Thanksgiving, Keftanis! I hope you all find something to be thankful for, today and every day.


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.

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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.

Chef Kefi’s Gift-Giving Guide

25 Nov

If you hack into my email, you’ll find a little document that has a list of all the people I love and, next to each name, an ever-changing list of ideas for their Christmas/birthday/anniversary present.  I shudder at the idea of giving gift cards or, worse, cash (perish the thought!), and instead spend all year in search of the Perfect Gift for each of the people on my list.

Now, it might seem that a post about gifts is a strange way to end Gratitude Week.  It has become trendy to be cynical about gift giving at this time of the year– but, for me, a huge part of Christmas* Kefi is the gift-giving.  I loathe the idea of HAVING to give a gift and rather relish the process of thoughtfully and meaningfully choosing something that will tickle the recipient pink.  Are there other ways to show love and say thank you than to give just the right thing to just the right person? Yes–and some of them are better ways.  But I believe that giving gifts with the intent of showing gratitude–not with the intent of checking off a list or outspending our brother-in-law–is a worthwhile and reasonable way to say “thanks” to those who love and support us all year.

Ok, now that we’ve rationalized the consumerization of Christmas*, back to the gift guide. If you’re reading this I assume you’ve survived the up-all-night, door-busting, last-sweater-grabbing madness of Black Friday.  I’ll also assume that–owing to either too little sleep, too many cranberries, too much family, or too little patience for the crazies trying to fight you for a pair of argyle socks– you didn’t find something for everyone.  So I present for you Chef Kefi’s Gift Giving Guide for everyone left on your list.

For the Homebody

 Clockwise, from left:
a) This stylish carafe is great for wine, juice, water. Plus, the cups fit inside, so it’s easily storable or portable. b) Bring the great outdoors inside with this funky little bathroom organizer, great for the conservationist on your list. c) Who could resist this toaster, which comes in 4 different colors, has an adjustable width for toast/bagels/whatever, and one of those pull-out crumb trays for easy clean up?  d) Never be caught without enough casserole- this 5.9 qt dish is great for anyone who cooks for a crowd–plus it comes with a decorative bamboo serving bowl, so it can go from oven to table in seconds. e) This bubbled beverage dispenser is an about exorbitantly-priced as it gets–but my oh my, what a great gift for someone who entertains! Just imagine it full of summer sangria….holiday cheer will flow throughout the year! f) You’ll have the birds singing for whoever hangs their hat on this wall hook. g) If they don’t wear coats, but you still really want to give them something for their wall, try this wall-mounted fish tank—  a unique accessory for the pet-lover with space constraints.

For the Green Team

a) I love these easy-to-clean collapsible boxes for sorting recyclables. b) The stars will come alive for the astronomer-to-be with this at home star projector. c) You should warn the recipient of a 4g ninja flash drive that any wasted paper will result in a prompt round-house kick to the gut. d) Once you give them these beautiful glass bottles, why would they ever use plastic again? e) I’m told cork is eco-friendly–pass that on to whoever gets this cork iPhone/iPad case! f) If everyone got one of these sustainably-sourced and reasonably priced watches, we could all stop counting down the time left til the end of the world… right? f) The green foodie will be reminded of your generosity all year long if you bestow a locally-sourced, in-season CSA box unto them for months to come!

For Everyone Else

 a) If you know Time’s Man of the Year, make sure his status is known 24/7 with this magazine cover pillow case, which also comes in Vogue, Esquire, and Playboy editions. b) For the long-winded techie, this retro phone receiver plugs into iPhones, Droids, and iPads so they won’t talk their own ear off. c) Who wouldn’t want to grow their own mushrooms in a box? d) Give this jazzy little milk-steaming system and get free lattes all year long! e) I bet you anything that the person with everything on your list doesn’t have a personalized bobblehead of themselves! f) A single-serve French press seems just about the closest thing to giving world peace. g) I’ve always been a sucker for a good name plate, and I bet someone on your list is too! h) It’s not you who’s tipsy–these cognac glasses make the stuffy after-dinner drink fun.

And that brings us to the end of Grattude Week at CuK. Have a great weekend.

** I’m aware that it’s crappy to pretend everyone celebrates Christmas–please forgive my laziness; I am a sucker for alliteration.

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