Peach Butter (Delicious!)

Summer might be gone officially, but unofficially its fruit still remains :) Watermelons, green grapes, red grapes, nectarines, oranges, apples, and PEACHES!!! A ripe, naturally sweet peach can do wonders for you – it can change your mood, it can give you a much needed pick-me-up, and it can bring back memories of previous summers that you spent as a child running naked through the sprinkler in your backyard! Come on, I know I am not the only one :) Right? Right? 

Homemade Fig Cake

Greek Cakes
Figs are so popular here in Greece, especially during August! But if you are like me, there are just so many figs you can eat alone. I am sure that there are tons of recipes that you could add figs to including jams, breads, spreads, and cakes. I came across this great little recipe a long time ago and have been waiting to flourish in fresh figs to make it. It was so easy to put together and the taste was simple yet full.
I thought it was quite good for breakfast, and paired nicely with a little espresso!

Easy Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

American Favorites
Well, forget my last post of not always getting what you want because it looks like we are moving after all; NOT to the US (yet) but we are changing houses here on the island. I am getting really excited for the 1st to hurry up and get here already! We decided after MUCH back and forth finally because sometimes quality of life is worth not having those few extra bucks euros, right? Well, I sure hope so :) 
I can’t wait to show you pictures of my new kitchen too, besides going from a 2 room house, we will now have 2 bedrooms (for you to all come visit!), 2 bathrooms, a living room, small office, and a dining room table (have I ever mentioned that we eat holding our plates, usually on the couch?!) We will most definitely feel like a king and queen in our new home, and even though we will not be able to afford any outside luxury – our home is sure to become a place of peace and comfort, not to mention full of SPACE!!!!! 
What better way to celebrate than with a chocolate cake! 
This is a chocolate cake for everyone: easy enough to make, but scrumptious enough to share and show off to family and friends! 
I changed my mind on the frosting last minute, typically it calls for a white chocolate frosting but I tried a more unusual one that I came across from another very well known blogger! 

 This cake is so delectably moist, it can be served without any frosting at all if you choose! (Recipe from Good Housekeeping) 

Easy Chocolate Buttermilk Cake Recipe:
Printable Recipe
2 1/4 cups AP flour
3/4 cup cocoa, unsweetened
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup oil (Canola, sunflower, olive, ect)

 3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease two 9″ rounds or a Bundt pan, dust pans with cocoa and/or line with parchment paper. In large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In medium bowl, with a wire whisk, mix buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla until blended. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mix and whisk until smooth, but careful not to over beat. Divide batter evenly between pans or pour slowly into Bundt pan, spread evenly. Bake until toothpick is inserted and removed clean – about 30 minutes for rounds or 40-45 for Bundt cake. Cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes, then run knife around rounds and flip gently onto the racks. Or, if using Bundt pan, run tip of knife around to loosen edges and invert until cooled and easily removed from pan.

For the frosting, I wanted to try this vanilla/butter one I came across on the Pioneer Woman’s website. It was actually submitted by someone else, but just got great reviews. Here is the recipe. It turned out pretty good on the cake, but I won’t lie and say it was the BEST frosting ever, in my opinion is wasn’t. I thought it was too soft and whipped, at least for the hot summer; I kept the cake in the refrigerator and it helped it to set up a bit more. The flavor was a nice, smooth vanilla and butter taste, but I guess I was more used to a decoration frosting. In my full opinion, this cake really does NOT need a frosting, at most I think a light glaze would have been perfect! I loved the chocolate cake and it really was so simple to make!!! What do you think, have you tried this frosting before and if so, what did you think?

I am not sure when we will have internet up and running at the new place, but I am eager to show you the then and now pictures! 
Thanks (as always) for dropping bye and I would love to hear from you anytime! 
Kali Orexi, 

White Eggplants and a return to Lesvos

Vegetable Sides
Well, what can I say except that I am back to the island and still not quite settled in yet, grrr… suitcases still erupting with clothes! The past few days that we returned together to the island, we have been searching for a new apartment to live in for the following year. If we aren’t going to be moving abroad, then I would gladly welcome the change of a new living environment. The problem is that we (definitely) don’t always get what we want – that lesson is always hard to learn, again and again!!! After looking at around 8 other places to live, we found one we loved but probably out of our budget and the rest were not worth the extra stress/costs of moving, either similar size  or much older. As of now, we are staying put in our current shoebox. 
Another subject to discuss is the generosity of Greeks, specifically, Greek mothers :)
I always love visiting my in-laws and I am in a much better place now than when I was simply “dating” their son and not able to communicate at all (they speak no English, I spoke no Greek), and when there is a communication barrier, there must be another way to express approval, gratitude, and love. With Greek moms, this is easily shown by cooking and in return you eat what everything they put in front of you. Seriously, I am not exaggerating one bit; simply ask my mom, my cousin, and best friend who came to Greece for the wedding and were stuffed like it was going to be the last Thanksgiving of eternity at every meal. When there is a second third plate of food handed to you, there is only so many times you can politely say no before just accepting it while trying to force a face that you are still hungry. If you have Greek blood in you, I am 100% sure that you understand – especially when visiting your mom or yiayia!  Up until maybe only a few months ago, this was the very problem I faced with every Greek “momma” that I visited in their home. I was overladen with spoon sweets, liqueurs, biscuits (aka hard cookies), pitas, coffees, juices and anything else they had prepared the previous day or so, enough for a full meal to say the least. In the beginning, I was embarrassed because I usually didn’t even like the “typical” offerings, so, as soon as they would leave the room, I begged my husband to finish mine off for me before they returned – true story, multiple times! 
But now things are better, for one, I can communicate in Greek so much better. Not fluent, but at least enough to politely refuse when being offered something that I really don’t want or have room for. Also, I think I have “gained” somewhat more of a family status, instead of just being a visitor/guest. Lastly, I quit finishing everything on my plate (before I was full) so that when offered, I could simply show I still have some on my plate to enjoy – Caution: this approach does not always work, many times they do not think twice about loading you up with triple portions at a time. 
Back to the focus though, their generosity, Greek women (especially moms) have a knack for giving you anything and everything you show interest in – almost to anyone, not just a guest. The Greek culture itself is probably one of the most giving cultures I have lived in, because they live by a philosophy that, “If it isn’t too much, than it isn’t enough”! Most of the time I welcome this generosity, but sometimes (to be really honest with you) I find it a little too old-fashioned for me. Okay, I only think this when it is expected to give instead of giving because you want to – the other time is when I “discuss” with my husband that we only need 1 bunch of bananas or 3-4 apples since we are only two people. When he does the shopping or cooking, I’ve learned to expect a generous portion! 
Overall, I love the generosity. For example, upon leaving the main land for the island, we had enjoyed many fabulous meals prepared by Presvitara (my mother in law) and one in particular I enjoyed was the “Santorini” fried eggplant (white eggplants battered in flour and fried in olive oil – simple but fantastic)! The day we left I was handed a bag of 5 huge white eggplants + a bag of Halkidiki olives + a jar of local honey + two bags of a special grain + an extra large jar of spoon sweets from yiayia (grandma). My first thought was, “How the heck are we going to carry all of this stuff with us when I alone brought back 2 HUGE suitcases plus hand luggage?”. After the brain maneuvering and seeing my husband’s eager grin to make sure we take it all with us, I conceded that where there is a will – there is a way. Good thing we were taking the 13 hour boat ride, or our luggage limits would have never been approved. Finally, 4.5 bags in hand each we made it to the island with everything, including 5 battered white eggplants! 
And this is what happens when you leave the kitchen for 5 minutes and your husband finds a permanent marker! 
Needless to say, I didn’t have time to prepare anything fancy with them, I simply fried them up into delicate yet salty/sweet eggplant fries – WOW!!! 

What I learned and what you need to know about white eggplants is that they are the original – the reason they were named “eggplants” in the first place is that they looked like little eggs hanging from their leaves! They also are slightly sweet and not bitter, which is great because you don’t have to bother sweating them before using! They do have thicker skins, which should be removed, and sometimes contain bigger and more obvious seeds (but theses shouldn’t be a problem for you)! 
I am not sure if I have come across these in the US before, maybe I have just always overlooked them but you shouldn’t make the same mistake: instead, see them, buy them, try them, love them! 
And although it is hard for me to always live by the philosophy, “If it isn’t too much, then it isn’t enough” (simply because I don’t like wasting things) we should all have an abundantly giving heart! As my husband sees it, “Then they will always have enough to share with others” and it is true that the more you give, the more you will receive – we just got half of a 50+lb. bag of local potatoes! You can now expect some more potato recipes very soon, I mean we are only TWO, how can we possible eat 25+ pounds of taters before they go bad?! Potato recipes welcome :) We have already eaten lavish mashed potatoes for dinner one night and Shepard’s pie the following – I am hoping to get more creative than that in the next few days so, please email me your favorite potato recipe if you are feeling generous. 
I also plan to get back into updating 2-3 times per week now that we are almost settled back into what will hopefully be an even better year than last :) 
Kali Orexi to all of you friends and followers, 

The Feast of the Dormition of Mary

In my journey of being a Protestant to joining the (Eastern) Greek Orthodox faith, there has definitely been some ups and downs. The first down was in the beginning of dating my husband and discovering that we not only had many cultural differences but religious ones too. I then lacked the faith that we could find some common ground to stand on together without trying to persuade one another to the other side, God proved me wrong! At that point though, there was already an abundance of love pulling us together, so from there we began the challenging road of figuring out how we could be together and what it would look like in an everyday life setting. The first high came when I began to look into the history of Christianity and Orthodoxy. I was enthralled to discover so much about not only the roots of the Christian faith itself but also the foundations of the Orthodox faith. I became captivated about where, when, and how Christianity started and even carried on today in so many of the same ways! 
I won’t recount all of the ups and downs I have faced thus far, but another one of the difficulties I had in accepting the faith was all the emphasis the Orthodox place on the Virgin Mary. Growing up Protestant, the only fuss made about Mary was around Christmas and even then it wasn’t such a big deal. Through all my reading and asking about why there is so much attention given to the mother Mary, I have learned or realized why more in depth through a few of the following reasons: …(this is not an extensive list)
1. Mary was chosen by God to bear his son; God specifically chose to not only use a human, but MARY uniquely!

2. She is seen as the bridge God used to send Christ to earth and because of this bridge, she is called “All Holy” and receives veneration.

3. She is seen as the fulfillment of the Old Testament archetype revealed in the Ark of the Covenant, because she carried the New Covenant in the person of Christ, giving her respect and reverence as a result.

4. The Orthodox make a great distinction between worship and intercessory prayer, just as we ask others to pray for us, asking the Virgin Mary or other Saints of the faith to intercede on our behalf is common practice. This though is much different than praying to them or giving them your adoration, which in the Orthodox faith is held only for Christ himself! 

5. She is called the “Theotokos” as an affirmation of the divinity of Christ being both fully God and Man. 

6. She is recognized as the highest saint of the faith because she accepted the will of God without hesitation, thus making her the perfect Christian model for us to eagerly follow. 

Although, I honestly cannot say that I have asked Mary to intercede on my behalf, I do not see it as a division of my faith anymore. I especially like the example of heeding God’s will and creating a “saint worthy” life to be left as my mark. There is still so much I am learning about this faith, and in spite of the fact that I am living in the country that full force practices Orthodoxy, I feel lost so much of the time with the language barrier. Church itself is so very different in practice than what I am used to or how I would even prefer to grow spiritually, but I am pressing forward with determination to make the most of where God has placed us for the time being!!!

Tomorrow, August 15th, is the “Dormition of the Theotokos” (Mother Mary) celebrating the death, resurrection, and glorification of Christ’s mother. According to Orthodox tradition, Mary died like all humanity, “falling asleep” not voluntarily, like her Son, but by the necessity of her mortal human nature which is invisibly bound up with the corruption of this world and then the ascension of her body into heaven. For a greater understanding and explanation of the icon (above) for this feast, please visit the GO ARCH webpage (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America). We plan to celebrate with a huge feast for lunch, I will include a picture asap with all the wonderful delights we have/will prepare!

All of the struggles we have and will face, by the grace of God, make us not only stronger individually but together in our marriage and the unique faith we have found together! My prayer for each of you today is to not only be thankful for where God has you now (despite the ease or difficulty of season), but to whole heartedly trust – without evidence of what your eyes see, be led by your spirit instead – where He is taking you! I am in the middle of trying to do the same, so let’s journey together!

Side note: we will be in Lesvos another year after MANY ordeals and lack of communication from anyone within the department that sends teachers abroad! This is me trusting and looking by faith that God’s plan for our lives is better than our own, amen!

Lefkada, Greece

I am safe and sound in Greece after 24 hours of traveling and a small side trip with my wonderful husband. I have gotten to travel some within Greece, but there are still so many wonderful places we haven’t been yet either. I think one could spend a year just traveling in Greece – mainland and the thousands of islands – and still not see all the beautiful hidden jewels of this country. There are a total of 6,000 islands and islets of Greece, but only 227 of those islands are inhabited – and only 78 or so have more than 100 people living on them. Each island and even city is known for something unique and special from that area and there are hundreds of different village accents depending on where you are traveling. 
Upon picking me up from the airport, we drove to northwest Greece and visited a smaller island that is reachable by a bridge, Lefkada. This was a couple of the best days in my life. Now, it could very well be that I had been away from my husband for 2 months and we could have been in a village forgotten by God and still been happy, but I think Lefkada was beautiful as well. 
The one thing I was not a fan of was traveling in peak season, now that it is August we were surrounded by more tourists than Greeks (not that it is a bad thing, just the density of people was troubling). We even took a day boat trip to visit a couple of the nearby smaller islands and swim at some beaches unreachable by car, and we didn’t find out until the trip that it was actually a Scandinavian tour – we were 2 of the 7 Greeks aboard, I was the only native English speaker!!! So, I admit that I don’t do well with crowds, I would much prefer visiting somewhere with a few people and feeling like it was more authentic and special; no Disney Land for me :) 
Staying to ourselves wasn’t really a problem either, we toured the island and didn’t bother much with the mainstream nightlife or crowded villages. The one place Lefkada is famous for that we did go though, is Porto Katsiki (Port Goat – named because of the steep cliffs that the goats often love). This was probably the most popular beach on the island and supposedly in the top 10 of Greek beaches overall. IT. WAS. SPECTACULAR. But it was also VERY crowded and I got easily annoyed by not only the hundreds of people that kept flooding in but also the audacity for them to charge for parking at a public beach after driving an hour and trekking down to the actual beach. We stayed only an hour and when we were in the water swimming and not inundated by all the people and shouting, it was picture perfect! I felt like we were placed in a postcard and all the colors came to life, a little surreal to be true. I definitely recommend visiting in more of the mid season so you don’t have to share the beach with as many people, but keep in mind that the water will be pretty dang cold outside of August-September! Here are a few UNEDITED photos from Porto Katsiki and some other beaches around Lefkada. 

I will try to post some more pictures when things settle down a bit more, as of now we are in north Greece with the in-laws and trying to figure out exactly where we will be next year. There is still a small chance we could be moving stateside, but we aren’t holding our breath until it actually happens. I will keep you updated as we find anything out! As of now, we will 99.9% chance be in Lesvos again. We are trusting that God is in control and not us, He always knows better, right?!

I haven’t been cooking lately either, just enjoying lots of gyros, summer fruits and vegetables, and now my mother-in-law’s amazing cooking. Especially during times of fasting like now (until August 15th for the Ascension of Mary) she can transform the most simple dishes into complete masterpieces!!! I will have to observe and learn some of her secrets, and maybe I will share them with you too!!!

Hope you are all enjoying the wonderful summer, especially if you are near a beach!!! 

Banana Blueberry Muffins

American Favorites
Since I have been in the US, I have taken several trips. I have flown to Virginia and Kentucky, and driven to/through North Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Florida!!! Let’s just say I have hardly slowed down long enough to enjoy all the wonderful and endless ingredients around me. But every once in a while I stopped for just enough time to make something delicious, like these banana blueberry muffins with an oatmeal streusel topping!!! 

 After two months, two weddings, two wonderful trips (one with family and one with friends), and still no official news from the Greek government, I am VERY ready to return back to Greece and see my husband! I have come to fully realize that you can be surrounded by lots of people and lots of things, but if you are away from the one you love – life just isn’t as sweet and time goes by twice as slow. I wonder why the grass always seems greener until you step over, then somehow you grow to miss the old, brown grass from where you came:) I am all for changes and challenges in life, but in less than 4 days, I will be back with the Mr., and even though not all will be right in the world, my heart will be back at ease and I will be in the arms of someone who loves me dearly. And maybe the brown grass will even seem a little greener once I get back, but then again, maybe not?! Ha ha. 

Banana Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Recipe: Makes 12 regular muffins
Printable Recipe
1 cup all purpose Flour
1 cup whole wheat
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 – 1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup oil (EVOO or Canola)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk (or almond milk with 1 tsp. lemon juice)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup blueberries (tossed in 1-2 T. flour)
2 small bananas

Streusel Topping:
2 T. cold butter
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch cinnamon

Line your muffin pan or grease very well. Wash and dry your blueberries and then toss them in a small bowl with your extra flour, set aside. Mash your bananas in another small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl combine brown sugar and oil, whisking or mixing quickly until light in texture. Add buttermilk, egg, and vanilla whisking until uniform. Either combine in a separate bowl all the dry ingredients or use a mesh bowl strainer to sift over the wet mix, stirring slowly using a folding form, careful to only mix until combined. Slowly fold in the bananas and blueberries, careful again not to over stir.

Preheat oven to 375°. In another small bowl mix all of your ingredients together with a fork or your fingers, until crumbly. Sprinkle over the tops of your muffins and put in preheated oven. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and tester stick removes clean. Enjoy warm with a little butter or cold glass of milk!

I took these little guys on one of my trips with me and there were plenty to go around. I loved them as breakfast or as a mid day snack and I hope that you will too. Some people may not be into the combination of banana AND blueberries but feel free to replace with any fruit or nut you like instead. I also prefer the whole grain taste and slight “nutty” hint when using whole wheat flour, but it is also very easy to replace the wheat using 2 cups all purpose flour. Whatever floats your boat :) Make it work for you! 

In another week or two I will be back in my comfort zone and home environment for cooking and taking pictures, believe it or not that has actually become Greece even through my limited options. I promise not only more regular posts but also better pictures and recipes too! Until then though, I truly hope that you are enjoying your summer and making the most of each sun filled (and super hot) day!

Kali Orexi,

Summer Dips

Beans and Legumes
Howdy Friends!!!
Finally… an updated blog post! These dips are both easy and delicious!

I am still in the States, moving around and staying busy as ever. Believe it or not, we have still not heard any updates about transferring abroad and I am leaving in 9 days back to Greece. As of tonight, the EU leaders are trying to determine what the future holds for Greece and how to prevent a domino effect of bankruptcy and default, although, “Greece is in a uniquely grave situation in the euro area,” the statement said. Article Here.  And as of now, it looks that everyone is pulling together to help Greece, read further here. I won’t bore you with the details but the links above are from the BBC webpage and provide very insightful information if you are interested.

I hope to hear something, anything, as soon as possible so we can officially move forward with our lives. These last two months in the US have been bittersweet to say the least, although I have gotten much needed quality time with my family and friends, I miss my love. Although, there are endless things to see and do here, I miss my very bestest friend. All I can do it keep busy and not stop too long to think about how much I miss him, and also keep trusting that God has a plan for all of this – His will be done, not ours. We are both walking forward in faith, blindly trusting that the best is yet to come!

I wanted to share a couple of delicious and very simple recipes for parties or just fun appetizers. The first one is made with black beans and I love black beans!!! Greece doesn’t sell black beans (as far as I know) and I have been craving for them for the past year and half – they are my favorite legume by far :)

Summer Black Bean Salsa Recipe:
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can whole corn (white or yellow), drained and rinsed
1/2 red bell pepper or tomato, chopped
1 small avocado, neatly chopped
1/4 cup onion of choice, green or purple
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
1 – 2 limes, squeezed
1/2 – 1 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper

Drain and rinse beans and corn, chop all other ingredients and squeeze limes and stir in spices. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 3 hours, serve with tortilla chips – Scoops work great!

The second dip is more of a Texas classic with a funny name. Texas Caviar Dip was actually invented by a New York chef who moved to Dallas to work at Neiman Marcus, but had no clue what to do with black eyed peas. She eventually came up with this simple, affordable dip that the rich customers just loved!

Texas Caviar Dip Recipe:
1 can black eyed peas
1/2 bell pepper of choice, chopped, optional
1 can corn, drained and rinsed, optional
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 chile or jalapeno pepper, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (or parsley if preferred)

1/4 cup olive oil*
1 T. apple cider vinegar*

1/2 tsp. salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder*
1/2 tsp. dried oregano*
1 tsp. cumin*
(*or as a spice substitute use italian dressing, a little goes a long way!)

Mix everything in a bowl and let refrigerate overnight or at least a few hours to enhance flavor!

I also had some extra black beans that I blended with a spoonful of sour cream, some jalapenos, salt and pepper, and some minced garlic. This was terrific drizzled over the dips, spooned onto a chip, or even served with a fresh quesadilla!

If you have never tried these, I suggest that you whip them up for your next get together. The summer is the perfect season to enjoy these bean melodies. Remember, make it suit you, use whichever bean you prefer most and mix and match the ingredients that you love.

Thank you again for all sticking around during this chaotic season of life and for each and every prayer said on our behalf. We trust and know that God has a plan, His will be done – not our own! 

Hope you’re having wonderful summer.
Kali Orexi,


Spaghetti with Lentil Meat(less)Balls?

Unique and Special
I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July!!! I didn’t do really anything special, we were and are under a burn ban here so I didn’t even really get to see any fireworks. I didn’t make anything red, white, and blue because that usually involves making cupcakes or some other sugar infused dessert. I have been really trying to get fit and use all the nutrition knowledge that I studied and learned at Baylor University (there must be some benefit from a degree I am not using at all :) right? 
Well, I am getting serious about getting back in the shape I was when I was rowing on the crew team or when I was cooking for a diabetic (lots of veggies and fruits with controlled carbs) while living in Belgium. My weakness is carbs – I love bread and to be real honest, I also love baking and trying new recipes, oh, and I can ALWAYS eat ice cream! My other problem is that I hate to see food go to waste, so I usually end up eating it (and enjoying every bite along the way!). I really love finding and sharing new recipes too, but along the way I have picked up some very unnecessary weight that I just tell myself is the newlywed 15 (but more like 20). I love healthy food too and so I am going to stay with the Greek inspired mediterranean dishes but I will also be adding some really good substitutes or “healthy” indulgences on occasion too. 
We eat a lot of pasta on the island, mainly because it is so cheap and easy to prepare. We typically combine it with a simple homemade sauce or even some sauteed veggies, but to get the needed protein when not eating much meat, legumes are a good alternative. I came across this recipe on one of the bloggers I follow, her name is Jennie and her recipe for these lentil ricotta balls is wonderful. I love that she topped her spaghetti with some fresh basil, if we would have had some on the island when I made these it would have enhanced the flavor even more! 
So, the next time you are in the mood for something a little different or even just a lighter and healthier alternative to meatballs, please make these. You can always make extra lentils and freeze them for an easy go to meal when the pantry gets low too. The texture is of course different from hearty, more dense meatballs but I just really fell for little guys. Now, these are in no comparison to kleftedes (Greek meatballs), which I will share a wonderful recipe with you as soon as I lose a few more pounds! But if you have never had the authentic Greek meatballs, then you really don’t know what you are missing anyway, right? 
Lentil “Meat(less)Balls” Recipe
2 cups cooked lentils
2 lg. eggs, slightly beaten
2/3 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1-2 T. parsley
salt and pepper
Olive or Canola oil for frying
Process the ingredients together, pulsing a few times until smooth. Rest for 1-2 hours in the fridge. Shape into 1-1 1/2″ balls and lightly fry in hot oil until golden brown. Sprinkle with extra parmesan and serve as is or place over spaghetti as a meat alternative or even make a meatless ball sandwich!!! 

I also now have my computer back after having sent it off for some maintenance, so now I will try to get back in the routine of posting more often as I have in the past. I am still in the USA and my wonderful husband is still in Greece, we are still patiently waiting to hear back whether we will be moving here somewhere or staying on the island another year. Fingers are tightly crossed for finding out this week, but with the all the “stuff” happening in Greece right now, I am not sure when we will find out. All prayers are still greatly appreciated! I’ll keep you up to date! 
Kali orexi friends, 


Traditionally Greek
So, I must admit that cooking Greek food in the US (especially where there isn’t a Greek community or available authentic Greek products) is much more complicated and interesting than I expected. I am not sure how many of you have been facing similar issues when trying to recreate any of my (or other) Greek recipes. I have found that there are some quite huge differences in a few Greek products here compared to there, especially the yogurt and feta quality and consistency. But there are also big differences in the vegetables, specifically cucumbers – American cucumbers are freaking huge; I recommend using the British or mini cucumbers for your tzatziki or Greek salads. The tomatoes, eggplants, and even zucchinis are extraordinarily large too (Texas sized, maybe?) and not as flavorful as the garden grown variety.

On the other hand though, I have thoroughly enjoyed the oversized kitchen with granite countertops, a kitchen island, convection oven, dishwasher, and outdoor grill! I guess the grass is always greener on the other side!!!

A couple of weeks ago I made one of the most popular Greek dishes, called moussaka. This is a rich eggplant based, lasagna-like dish that is also sometimes made with potatoes (mine is at least, but you could easily substitute for a double portion of eggplants)! My family loved it and I will most definitely be making it again and again. My husband says it is the “king” of Greek foods, maybe that is because it takes like 3-4 hours to prepare or maybe because you feel like a king when you are eating this divine dish. 

Moussaka RecipeServes 6-8
2 medium or 1 extra large eggplant
sea salt
3-4 medium potatoes
salt and pepper
1 lb. lean ground beef (or lamb)
1 large white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed
2-3 T. EVOO + extra 
1 cinnamon stick (or 1/2 tsp. cinnamon)
1-2 bay leaves
pinch all spice
3-4 fresh tomatoes or 1 large can whole peeled tomatoes, processed
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 -1/2 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs 

Bechamel Sauce Recipe
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
4-5 cups hot whole milk (substitute 2% milk if preferred)
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ tsp nutmeg
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 1/2 – 2 cups hard cheese (kefalotyri, parmesan, or romano) 

Eggplant and potato preparation: Wash eggplants and trim the steams. Leave or peel off the skin and cut lengthwise or round thinly sliced pieces. Place in a large strainer and sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Set aside for 30 minutes to let sweat out the bitter juices of the eggplant. Rinse with chilled water and pat dry with paper towels. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and either grill, broil, or fry until soft and tender. Grill for just a few minutes on each side or broil for 10-15 minutes on a baking tray or fry lightly, until the eggplant is lightly browned and soft. Set aside to cool.

Clean the potatoes really well, removing the skins if desired. Thinly slice with a sharp knife into 1/4″ rounds. Let soak in a large bowl of cold water for 15 minutes and then pat dry. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill for just a few minutes on each side or broil for 10-15 minutes on a baking tray or fry lightly, cooking until centers are soft. Set aside to cool.

Meat sauce preparation:
Heat a lightly oiled skillet on medium-low heat. Sauté the onions for 5 minutes and then add the garlic and cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until transparent and soft. Add the meat and sauté until lightly browned, season lightly with salt and pepper.

Carefully drain of any excess fat and then add tomatoes, and sprinkle half of the breadcrumbs. Mix thoroughly and then add all the spices (cinnamon, all spice, and bay leaf) and wine. Cover lightly and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until all liquids are absorbed. Turn off the heat and set aside uncovered. Before assembling, add 1 ladle of the bechamel sauce to the meat mixture and combine well.
Bechamel sauce preparation: 
To save time, prepare the sauce while the meat is simmering. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Gradually add the sifted flour, ¼ cup at a time whisking quickly until smooth. Repeat until all of the flour is added and there are no clumps. Increase the heat to medium-low and slowly add the milk continuing to whisk constantly. The sauce will slowly begin to thicken, about 10-15 minutes. Once it coats a spoon, remove from heat and slowly add the beaten eggs in a stream and then the spices. Return sauce to the heat and whisk for an additional minute or two until all ingredients are combined. Set aside to cool.

Assembling the moussaka:
Preheat the oven to 350/180 degrees. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of your baking dish (square for thicker, rectangle for thinner). Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs over the bottom of your pan, align the potato slices on top of the breadcrumbs, overlapping slightly. Spread half the meat mixture (remember to have added 1 ladle of bechamel sauce) on top of the potatoes, and then layer the eggplant slices, also overlapping slightly – making sure to cover the entire dish. Spread the remaining meat mixture over the eggplants and top with the remaining bechamel sauce. 

Bake for 30 minutes, and then sprinkle the cheese on top. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the top becomes golden brown and bubbly. Leave the moussaka in the oven with the oven door cracked open for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the moussaka to cool for an additional 15-20 minutes before serving, this ensures that it sets up properly.   

Whoohoo.. did you make it through all that? I imagine you only read every detail if you planned on preparing this bad boy! I promise that your endeavor will not be in vain though, you will be thankful with each and every bite you take!

This recipe only appears quite complicated, truth is that it just has many steps involved. I tried to be detailed and it really is worth the effort for an impressive Greek-style dinner. Let me know what you think. Thanks so much for your support and patience during this transitional stage of life. 

Kali Orexi,