July 16, 2014

Recipe ~ Fresh Squeezed Peach Sangria

Fresh squeezed peaches? That's right -- the secret to this light and refreshing summer sangria, with the flavor of  ripe and juicy fresh peaches, is in the technique -- hand squeezing.

The recipe starts by making homemade peach nectar.  Ripe, peeled peaches are simply squeezed in a bowl to release their golden juice.  A small amount of sugar is added to the peaches to help release the rest of the juices.  Rested, then strained, the end result is pure ambrosia.  Here's how it can be used to make a delicious peach sangria:

Fresh Squeezed

Peach Sangria

yield:  8 servings

  • 10 large peaches (ripe, but firm enough to peel)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup peach schnapps
  • 1.5 liters white wine (the Riesling from Barefoot is a perfect compliment to the peaches)

Step 1:  Peel and pit 8 of the peaches.  Place in a large bowl.  Gently squeeze, with clean hands, to release the juices and to break into small pieces.  Stir in the sugar. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Step 2:  In a fine mesh strainer, over a medium bowl, strain the peaches.  You may want to use a small whisk to keep the mixture moving in the strainer, allowing the juices to flow into the bowl.  Discard the pulp that is left behind.  The nectar is ready to use or can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Step 3:  To assemble the sangria, start by pouring the wine into a large jar or pitcher.  Add the nectar and the schnapps.  Stir to combine.  Slice the remaining two peaches.  Add to the sangria.  Serve over ice. 

July 14, 2014

Recipe ~ Mallow-Krisp Baked Mini Donuts

Doughnut or Donut?
No matter how you spell it, people love them.
Consider this: There are more than 10 billion doughnuts made in the U.S. each year!
(source:  Huffington Post)

As a kid, my favorites were the powdered mini donut and anything with sprinkles.  In my adulthood, I've discovered the joys of a perfect maple bar or French Cruller.  But the distinction of favorite doughnut belongs to the "'Mello Submarine" from Psycho Donuts.  It's an old fashioned donut with marshmallow fluff and krispie rice cereal on top.  They're the delicious lovechild of a doughnut and a Rice Krispie Treat. They're super light, not too sweet and really do Snap! Crackle! and Pop! when you make them.


The 'Mello Submarine was my inspiration for a DIY mini donut recipe as my contribution to a donut blog hop with 9 other bloggers and organized by Vanessa of Our Thrifty Ideas.  Is your mouth watering yet?

My creation consists of a baked buttermilk doughnut topped with homemade marshmallow fluff and rice cereal.  The Rice Krispie Treat flavor gets a boost from a buttery marshmallow drizzle made out of the leftover fluff.  Since they're baked, not fried, and topped with marshmallow rather than frosting, they're much lower in fat and calories than regular doughnuts, but they're still big on taste.

Mallow-Krisp Baked Mini Donuts

(a.k.a. "Catcher in the Rice")

makes 2 dozen mini doughnuts

For the doughnut batter:
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  •  2.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 Tablespoons salted butter, melted
For the marshmallow fluff (you can use store-bought as a shortcut)
  • 2 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup (not HFC)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 cups Rice Krispies® cereal
1 Tablespoon salted butter 

Nonstick cooking spray 
Mini Doughnut Pan
Candy thermometer (optional, if you're making the fluff from scratch)

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Spray mini doughnut pan with nonstick cooking spray.

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla, eggs and melted butter just until combined.
  2. Fill each pan cavity approximately 1/2 full. Tap the pan on the counter to release any air bubbles and level out the batter.
  3. Bake the doughnuts for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the tops of the doughnuts spring back when touched. Let the doughnuts cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely while you make the marshmallow fluff.
  4. Begin the marshmallow creme by whipping the room-temperature egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until stiff.  Set aside. 
    In a 1-Qt (4-cup) glass measuring cup, stir together corn syrup and sugar.
  5. Microwave for 2 minutes, then stir gently with a wood or silicone spoon.
  6. Microwave for another 2 minutes.
  7. Microwave for an additional 1 1/2 minutes (You're aiming for 240 on a candy thermometer). 
  8. Using a batter attachment (rather than a whisk), beat egg whites on medium speed.  VERY slowly drizzle in the hot syrup.  Scrape down the sides, then continue beating for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is thick, white and fluffy. Transfer to a small, microwave safe bowl.
  9. Pour rice cereal into a small bowl with a mouth wider than the size of a mini doughnut.
  10. Use a knife or small offset spatula to spread fluff over the entire top of a doughnut.  Dip fluff side into the rice cereal and gently press to adhere.  Set aside on a parchment lined tray and repeat with remaining doughnuts.
  11. Add 1 tablespoon butter to the remaining fluff and slowly heat (on low power) in the microwave till warm.  Whisk till smooth.  Transfer to a pastry bag or ziploc bag.  Snip a small hole in the tip.  Drizzle marshmallow glaze over each donut.  Enjoy!

What is your favorite kind of doughnut?

Make sure to check out and pin the other 9 fabulous donut recipes participating in the hop today. Just click on the picture or title below to grab the recipe. 


July 4, 2014

Recipe: Zucchini Fritters with Garlicky Tzatziki Dip
from Debbie Matenopoulos' "It's All Greek to Me" {Book Review & Giveaway}

It's the 4th of July.
Happy birthday, America!
Today, as we celebrate our freedom,
we're also looking back and paying homage
to our ancestor, Anastassios Kolovos,
who at the age of 16, in 1908, immigrated to 
the U.S.A. from Vlahokerasia, Greece.
Anastassios represents the first chapter
in our family's American story.

Celebrating our cultural heritage has always been important to my family, and one way we stay connected with the traditions of generations past is through food.  I'm always eager to learn more about Greek cooking, so I was excited when I was invited to join the book tour for "It's All Greek to Me -- Transform Your Health the Mediterranean Way with my Family's Century-Old Recipes" from Debbie Matenopoulos.  

In Debbie's warm and authentic style, she weaves incredible family recipes, anecdotal storytelling, and stunning photography that will transport the reader to the Greek family table, and delight their taste buds with the flavorful, heart-healthy delicacies of the Mediterranean.  At the end of this post, you'll have the opportunity to enter to win a copy of It's All Greek to Me of your own.

Here are some of the recipes that I am most looking forward to trying:

Gigantes:  Greek Giant White Beans (page 183)

Horiatki Salata:  Greek Village Salad (page 86)

Kalamarakia Tiganita:  Lightly Fried Calamari (page 50)

Revani:  Almond, Orange, and Semolina Cake (page 254)

I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Debbie about her Greek heritage and her new cookbook:

Rook No. 17: If you had to name the three most characteristic Greek ingredients, what would they be?

Debbie:  The three most characteristic  Greek ingredients are oregano, lemon, and olive oil. Those are flavors that are very prevalent in most Greek cooking.  As we all are learning, the health benefits of lemon, olive oil, and oregano are immeasurable.  I believe that is one of the key reasons that The Mediterranean diet is so good for you.  ;) 
Rook No. 17: What is your most nostalgic Greek food from childhood? 

Debbie:  My most nostalgic Greek food from my childhood would have to be Gemista, otherwise known as stuffed peppers and tomatoes. I have such fond memories of coming home from track practice after school and walking in the house to that very recognizable smell. It would fill our home with the most amazing, mouthwatering scent. The tomatoes and peppers were filled with onions, flat leaf parsley, lean ground beef, and rice sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, and oregano. We'd crumble feta cheese on top of them sometimes. They are simply scrumptious.
Rook No. 17: What are common misconceptions about Greek food?
Debbie:  A common misconception about Greek food is that it is not good for you. I think people in the states think that because unfortunately most of them have only been introduced to things like Gyro's or Souvlaki's. The truth is those are the equivalent of Greek fast food.  That would be like telling someone in another country that all we eat here in America are hot dogs and hamburgers.  It's not exactly accurate. Greek food and the Mediterranean way of eating in my opinion is the most healthy way of eating on the planet. For years now, doctors and dietitians have agreed that not only is it heart healthy, but it also lowers cholesterol and helps you maintain a healthy weight.  The recipes in my book are proof of this. 

Rook No. 17: What region of Greece is your family from, and how does the cuisine of this region differ from what most American’s recognize as typical Greek food? Do you have a favorite regional dish?

Debbie:  My family is from northern Greece, a place called Xanthi. It's close to Thessaloniki (the second largest city in Greece) and also to Turkey.  There are different flavors in the food depending on the region of Greece you are from. In many regions, people put cinnamon in the savory dishes. I'm not a fan of that. The cuisine in Xanthi has been influenced by Turkish dishes given its close proximity to Turkey. There is a very popular dish that's often eaten in northern Greece called Imam Baldi, which means "the fainting priest" in Turkish. As the story goes, the dish was SO good that when the priest tasted it, he fainted. 

Rook No. 17: As a mother of two, I’ve enjoyed sharing my and my husband’s family heritage with our girls through traditions and cuisine. With a little one in your near future (congratulations!), what traditional dishes and customs will be most important for you to share with your child?

Debbie:  Thank you!! ;). I’m so excited about the baby. I am very proud of my Greek heritage and I want to share every aspect of being Greek with my baby. I will start speaking Greek with him or her from the beginning and hope to travel to Greece as often as possible to make sure my child has a comprehensive understanding of our culture. I will continue cooking Greek food and hopefully teach my child how to make my family's century-old recipes from an early age so that out family traditions will live on. The good news is, that if my child doesn't show an early interest in cooking like I did, at least I've compiled lots of family recipes in my cookbook so when he/she finally does come around, they'll all be there to explore. ;)

Today, we're celebrating our family's Greek heritage with the amazing, light as a lamb's tail Zucchini Fritters and Tzaziki from It's All Greek to Me. I'm a big fan of the french fry, the tater tot, the hush puppy, and the onion ring, but honestly, this crispy-fried fritter has them all beat. The ethereally light batter showcases the tender heart of the zucchini squash, sweet and briny feta cheese and mint, making for a toasty, melty little cheese puff that you'll want to pop till you drop.   Dip them in Tzatziki to put them totally over the top.

Kolokithopites (koh-loh-kee-THO-pee-tes)

Zucchini Fritters

(from It's All Greek to Me, courtesy of BenBella Books, Inc.)
*my notes in red* 

This dish is traditionally made to use up the zucchini pulp that is left when making Kolokithakia Gemista me Kima (Stuffed Zucchini, page 202). Greek families feel it is disrespectful to waste food, so they always find a way to use every part of the fruit, the vegetables, or even the animals they are consuming. These fritters are charmingly rustic, so don’t worry if they are not perfectly round.


  • 3 pounds medium zucchini, washed and stemmed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint (I used only 2 TB)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 to 8 ounces brine-packed Greek feta (about
  • 11/2 cups), crumbled small
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated kefalotiri or Parmesan cheese (I used Parmesan)
  • Olive or vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 recipe Tzatziki (page 76) (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Step 1:  Cut the zucchini in half down the center into half cylinders. With a small teaspoon or a grapefruit spoon, hollow out the zucchini skins by scooping out all the pulp, leaving about 1/8 inch of zucchini intact next to the skin. Leave the bottoms intact so that you are left with a “zucchini cup” that can be stuffed later. Take care not to crack or puncture the skins. Cover the zucchini skins and reserve in the refrigerator to make Kolokithakia Gemista me Kima.

Step 2:  Transfer the pulp to the bowl of a food processor or high-performance blender and pulse a few times to chop finely. Place the finely chopped zucchini pulp into a colander and toss with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Cover the zucchini with a plate and put a weight on top (such as a large can of tomatoes). Drain for 10 minutes, briefly rinse, then squeeze as much moisture as possible from the pulp with impeccably clean hands.

Step 3:  Whisk the flour, eggs, mint, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Gently fold the drained zucchini pulp into the flour mixture along with the feta and kefalotiri or Parmesan cheese (if using). Stir until the mixture resembles a thick batter.

In a deep skillet or Dutch oven set over medium heat, heat about 1/2 inch of the oil until it shimmers (see tip, page 42). Working in batches if necessary to prevent overcrowding, scoop out heaping tablespoons of the batter and carefully drop into the oil. The fritters will naturally flatten out. 

I found that my batter didn't perfectly flatten out in my oil.  So, I decided to form them with two large spoons, quenelles-style, and cooked them for 2 minutes on each side.

Cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until golden brown, flipping them over carefully, just as you would a pancake. Remove the fritters from the oil and drain on a large, oven-safe plate lined with paper towels. Keep fritters warm in the preheated oven as you continue to fry the remaining fritters in batches. Serve plain or with Tzatziki.

For the Garlicky Tzatziki (halved and adapted from It's All Greek to Me):

  • 1/4 seedless English cucumber, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup plain Greek Yogurt
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and mashed into a paste
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon minced fresh dill

Coarsly grate the cucumber using a box grater or food processor and toss with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt.  Place the grated cucumber in a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and drain for 10 minutes.  Squeeze as much  remaining water from the cucumber as possible, transferring the drained cucumber to a medium mixing bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients along with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and mix well.  chill for at least an hour before serving. 



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