My Top Desserts for Your Valentine

by Mary Papoulias-Platis

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Valentine’s Day is a day of celebrating with friends, family and loved ones. As the day nears, we all need a special treat to serve after a fabulous dinner. Or a wonderful dessert to come home to after an evening out. I enjoy making several of these desserts for my family and they can be made ahead so you can enjoy your celebration. So dig in, and have yourself a delightful sweet for your loved ones.

This recipe can be made ahead, and serves many! Organic strawberries is my choice but switch out with the berries of your choice.

Don’t skip the sauce , it adds so much more flavor to this dish.

BERRY SEMIFREDDO RECIPE

Cherries also are a beautiful presentation wrapped with phyllo in these crunchy triangles.

Make ahead and freeze the triangles before baking, and bake them off as you need them.

CHERRY PHYLLO PILLOWS RECIPE

Of course, my one and only chocolate baklava can’t be beat!

It’s made for a large group in a sheet tray, so this can made ahead and baked on your special day.

BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE BAKLAVA RECIPE

Lastly, if you have no time to spare this is and exciting ending to any day, especially Valentines.

Select your favorite ice cream and pour your favorite brand of hot coffee over for a warming evening drink!

WARMING COFFEE AFFOGATO RECIPE

Whichever recipe you select to make, place your  heart and soul into the kitchen and deliver a sweet-loving surprise!

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Mary

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My Top 4 Stuffed Vegetable Dishes

by Mary Papoulias-Platis

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It’s been cold outside, and this doesn’t happen that often here in Southern California.  As the weather dips, I often take out my stuffed vegetable dishes and plan my family meals. This method of stuffing meats, vegetables and fruit is an old Greek tradition. We often serve them with a side of Greek yogurt or sour cream. These recipes can be made ahead, refrigerated and reheated in the oven. Sometimes, the flavors are more intense the next day.

But before shopping for the ingredients, I first venture outside to see what my garden has to offer. I try and plant peppers, eggplant, artichokes, and cabbage yearly in my boxes just for recipes such as these. My winter garden would include cabbage, beets, snap peas, fava beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts and many varieties of greens.  Later in the year my spring garden includes artichokes, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, squash and green beans. The vegetables in this post can be found at your local farmer’s market or at your local grocery store.

I would like to encourage you to plant organic varieties for better health, and here are a few sources that can be found online. These are a few of my favorite seed companies below.

Organic Seed Companies: The Whole Seed Company , Renee’s Garden Seeds, San Diego Garden Seeds

 

I first chose lamb-stuffed peppers because this is a requested dish from my family and is easy to prepare as well. We stuff peppers with everything and anything we have on hand. I tend to have a big bag of peppers in my refrigerator at all times. You can also use red, orange, or yellow varieties for this recipe. For a larger group I do stuffed the peppers whole, but you must give them a longer cooking time. This recipe makes it easier to get dinner on the table sooner. Peppers are so versatile they can be added to so many dishes including quiche, chili, stew, and soup. Here are a few additional pepper recipes you may enjoy:  Greek Orzo Salad, Garden Tabbouleh, and Grilled Vegetable Chili.

Lamb Stuffed Green Peppers-Recipe

Let’s move on to Eggplant Stuffed with Grains. What I love about this recipe is that 1/2 of an eggplant is a meal in itself. The grains provide a hearty dish for the entire family. Serve it along a green salad and your dinner is complete. I look for the longer shaped eggplants, but any eggplant will do. Eggplant should be added to your garden list to grow, it’s a heavy bearing plant, so you have  fresh eggplant for the entire season.  Eggplant is another staple in the Greek Diet. Here are a few more recipes to try; Eggplant Dip, Eggplant Phyllo Pie, and Eggplant Rounds. 

Eggplant Stuffed with Grains- Recipe

One of my favorites dishes to order at an Italian restaurant is stuffed artichokes. You don’t see this dish in many places, but I happen upon one at a local Las Vegas hangout that was so memorable and delicious, I came home and created my own recipe. Try and find large artichokes with green strong leaves that are tightly closed. Artichokes are very common in the Greek diet, so I have included them in many of my recipes. Here are a few more dishes for your recipe box: Thyme Infused Artichokes with Pesto , Braised Lemon Chicken and Artichokes, and Arugula Salad with Fava Beans and Artichokes.

Artichokes Stuffed with Mushrooms

Now, on to comfort food for my entire family~my Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. This is one of my first blog post recipes, can you tell by the picture. I know I need to re-shoot it, but for now this picture shows our dinner plates, so it’s real. A very traditional meal Greeks often eat in the winter when their cabbage is ready to pick from their garden. I love to grow cabbage every season, because my winter garden is pest-free. If you stopped by to see me at the farmer’s market this is the recipe I served to you many times. Cabbage is also a great vegetable to add to your soups as I did here in my Cabbage Soup with Fresh Vegetable Stock.

Greek Stuffed Cabbage Rolls – Recipe

So these are my Top 4 Stuffed Vegetables Dishes from my recipe box for you to enjoy!

Eat Healthy and Enjoy Life,

Mary 

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Orange Panna Cotta with Orange Compote

by Mary Papoulias-Platis

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Traveling up to Melissa’s Produce almost monthly to meet and have lunch with cookbook authors, is one of the most enjoyable times in my culinary career. I don’t think Robert who runs this program understands the impact it makes on us, as we continue on our path into the culinary world. We have learned so much information from the presenters such as cooking tricks, tips and proper techniques which has furthered our cooking skills as well. Many authors shared with us their struggles and success over the years in their business. And we have heard it all, from living a beautiful relaxing life in France to a enormously non-stop busy schedule of two authors in an apartment in NYC.

It is truly is a blessing to have Melissa’s Produce as a support in the industry. Their contribution to the culinary world is always leading the way with excellence and integrity.

 

Let’s meet Jamie Schler , cookbook author of her new book Orange Appeal.

These are a few of the dishes from her cookbook that we had during the luncheon at Melissa’s .

Morrocan Spiced Orange Slices in Orange Blossom Water

Savory Orange, Onion, and Olive Focaccia

Sweet and Sour Marmalade Oven Baked Chicken

Quinoa Salad with Orange, Pecans and Cranberries

During this month at Melissa’s we had the honor of meeting award winning author Jamie Schler. She introduced her new cookbook Orange Appeal. From her presentation we learned all about the varieties of oranges from her birthplace, Florida. She grew up among the orchards near Indian River, where she spent winters picking and devouring tangerines, mangos, avocados, tomatoes,watermelons and  more. What a lucky girl! Her one jingle heard from her youth was:

“A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine.”

Today I’m sharing a recipe from her cookbook that was so sweet, creamy and new to my taste buds. I loved the fresh topping made from blood oranges, (I used oranges from my tree) with a touch of vanilla. Um…..introducing her Orange Panna Cotta!

Orange Panna Cotta with Orange Compote

Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert, but add oranges and you have an exceptional dessert to serve at a dinner party or for your family.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 6 people

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy or light cream, divided
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons whiskey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange extract or orange blossom water

Orange Compote

  • 2 medium oranges
  • 3 teaspoons granulated brown sugar or honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Pour one cup pf the cream into a heavy-bottom saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin on top; gently tap the gelatin to push it under the liquid. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.

  2. Place the saucepan on low heat and allow the cream to heat slowly, whisking gently for 4-5 minutes until the gelatin dissolves completely. Do not allow the cream to come to a boil.

  3. Whisk the sugar, remaining cream, orange juice, and zest. Continue to cook over low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is thoroughly warmed. Stir in the whiskey, vanilla and orange extract. Remove from the heat.

  4. Divide evenly between 6 glasses or pudding bowls and cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate overnight.

Orange Compote

  1. Cut away the orange peel, white pith and outer membrane from the orange. Cut the fruit into small cubes about 2 cups.

  2. Place the fruit, brown sugar, and vanilla in a saute pan and heat to a low simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

  3. When ready to serve, spoon a heaping tablespoon of compote on top of each panna cotta. Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

TIPS!

  • When the recipe calls for a supremed orange the technique behind it is very important. First of all, taking the shortcut and just peeling the oranges and chopping them into small pieces won’t do. You have the tough membrane and part of the pith included. What you want to achieve is a smooth small orange bite to blend with the light smooth feel of the panna cotta. Learn to supreme an orange here at Martha Stewart.
  • Also, as you supreme your oranges the juices will be dripping everywhere. So make sure you do this over a bowl to collect all the juices. And squeeze the orange to release more juices before throwing out. You can save the juice for a vinaigrette, smoothie, or a sweetener.
  • With any custard-type dessert, make sure to individually wrap each cup to protect the freshness of the dish. Scents collect in the refrigerator and the can impart their flavor onto your dessert.

My family enjoyed the freshness and simplicity of this dessert. And requested it again for our next dessert.

More Orange Recipes from my Blog!

Blood Orange with Sweet Potatoes

Blood Orange Ice Cream in Phyllo Cups

Seville Orange Curd with Buttermilk Scones

Citrus heaven,

Mary 

 

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Pumpkin Maple Syrup Dip

by Mary Papoulias-Platis

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How often do you make a pumpkin pie and have a small amount of pumpkin puree left over?

Here’s a quick dip to make with your leftover pumpkin puree, which can be sweet or savory. Just change up the spices and turn it into a savory dip. Serve with your favorite crackers, bread, carrots, celery or nuts. If you are in a pinch use organic pumpkin in a can.

Ideas:

For Sweet: Use cinnamon, nutmeg, powdered sugar, fresh orange juice, or add fresh fruit such as an apple, pear, dates, or banana.

For Savory: Use garbanzo beans, white beans, sweet potato, herbs such as oregano, thyme, parley, cilantro.  Add onions, fresh peppers, or any green such as spinach, green onions, kale.

Note: This could also be served along with a cheese board for a new fresh taste. Serve with cheese that match your choice of sweet or savory.

Try and use a freshly roasted pumpkin, see my instruction below.

How to Roast a Pumpkin Instructions

 

Pumpkin Maple Syrup Dip

This dip can be made with fresh or canned pumpkin for dipping with fruits or veggies.

Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword pumpkin
Author Mary Papoulias-Platis

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg (8 ozs.) cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup - or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Instructions

  1. In a large mixer beat cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth.

  2. Add the spices and maple syrup and beat thoroughly.

  3. Place in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

  4. Serve with fruit, chips and vegetables.

Try my other pumpkin delights!

Pumpkin Walnut Tahini Cake

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Coconut Walnut Pumpkin Bread

Simple but delicious!

Mary

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When I plan for my Thanksgiving dinner every year my dessert list is always filled with our family’s favorite pies.

What is it about pie that we cannot replace with cakes, cheesecake or cookies?

It all started when I married into the Platis’ family, and my mother-in law Helen served homemade pies for all occasions. She actually had frozen pies in her garage freezer year around. Now that’s hard to beat as a newlywed to the family. So, I sat in her kitchen for hours watching and writing down recipes as I attempted to roll out fresh crusts and prepare the many fillings she had in her recipe box. She was known for her pies in town, and I remember neighbors dropping by as early as 6:00 in the morning for one leftover slice.

It’s Thanksgiving week and I was strolling through the market remembering the many times we shopped for special ingredients getting ready to bake again for the holidays. Fresh pumpkins, spices, butter, flours, sugar, evaporated milk, nuts, whipped cream, and it went on and on as we dropped these items into our baskets.

Family Favorite Fresh Pumpkin Pie

Today, I’m preparing fresh pumpkins for our family Fresh Pumpkin Pie. I bought four small pumpkins roasted them, scooped out the filling, pureed the flesh in the food processor and placed it in a sieve to sit overnight in a bowl to drain. And it’s ready in the morning for pies.

For details on how to prepare the fresh pumpkins you can find the details on this post, “Cooking Techniques on How to Roast a Pumpkin”.

As I continued to learn different fillings for our holiday pies, my mother-in-law was carefully reading through her current magazines for new ideas. She always had a large basket on the kitchen floor filled with magazines and food articles from the food section of her local paper. They were her treasured few she saved every month.

We would often go to Marie Calendar’s for pie, and one pie struck a chord with her, and it was the multi-berry pie. She couldn’t stop talking about it so we played together in the kitchen until we found our our version of the pie, which I named Our Razzleberry Pie.

Our Razzleberry Pie

It took us many tries with this pie, only because we needed a better thickener for the large amount of juice left from the berries. Even tough you can use flour, or cornstarch we chose our last choice – tapioca. It seemed to do the job. After baking this pie it needs to sit and cool , and or placed in the refrigerator to set up. What a gem of a pie.

As we continued baking together for the holidays, my mother-in -law insisted on her favorite old-fashion pie to be included. For some reason she would bake this for her girlfriends and the grandkids over and over. Again, I remember going to her friend’s house and tasting it there for the first time. But knowing her as well as I do, she made it her own. So, this pie is made every year in her memory ~ She was the best mother-in -law a girl could have!

Pineapple Sour Cream Pie

This was an interesting pie, in that it was the most often requested dessert we made.  And we threw many parties every year.

Why? I’m not sure other than it was a real comfort food for that generation. It may not be the healthiest pie to make, but many memories are associated with this pie. Is it not what it’s all about? Hat’s off to a mother-in-law and her famous Pineapple Sour Cream Pie.

Best Bosc Pear Pie

Now it’s my turn to share with you my favorite pie for the holiday season. This pie was presented at a local garden party I had attended many year’s ago. It stayed with me for months. I tried to recreate it, and searched for it in my large collection of cookbooks. Nothing. I even called my good friend Wendy several times to try and find the recipe.

After many years, my best friend called and found the recipe from a one of her mother’s dear friend. She attended the garden party and was a terrific baker! And now I can share it with you!

Trust me this pie will always be my personal favorite pie, Best Bosc Pear Pie.

 

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving every year, than baking up a set of memorable family favorite pies, just for the memories!

See you in the Kitchen,

Mary

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Greek Festivals in September 2019

by Mary Papoulias-Platis

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The taste of Greece is everywhere this month!

Don’t miss these California Greek Festivals as they prepare to educate, entertain, and feed you with the best Greek food in town!

I haven’t been all these festivals, but my goal is to get to them all within a year. My daughter attended San Francisco’s and was excited to share how great the food was that day. Modesto was the other festival she attended and had a similar story.

I’ve been to San Juan Capistrano’s and they are so dedicated to bringing you a wonderful experience with their food, music and entertainment. Pasadena’s festival is one of the oldest in California, and be prepared to spend the entire day there.  There is so much to see for everyone. Where your walking shoes, they are in a large sprawling park.

 

September 20,21, 22nd  Saint Anthony Greek Orthodox Churchin Pasadena, Santa Anita Park, 285 Huntington Dr. Arcadia  Festival News

September 28-29th  Saint Basil Greek Orthodox Church in San Juan Capistrano, 27129 Calle Arroyo, San Juan Capistrano Festival News

September 21 and 22nd  Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation of Modesto, 313 Tokay  Modesto,Ca. Festival News

September 20,21,22nd  Annunciation Cathedral in San Francisco, 245 Valencia St., San Francisco  Festival News

September 27,28,29th  Saint Katherine Greek Orthodox Church, 9165 Peeks Elk Grove Festival News

 

Safe Travels,

Mary 

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Fanouropita / Saint Phanourios Cake

by Mary Papoulias-Platis

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Have you lost an item, and just can’t find it?

Turn to Saint Phanourios, the finder of lost articles. Traditionally, Fanouropita is cake is baked on August 27th., in which the baker makes a wish for good fortune. When an item is lost, the cake is baked to ask all saints for help in finding it. The items lost can be a missing piece of jewelry to good health and happiness.

My sister-in -law insisted I make this Fanouropita cake for you, to help carry on the tradition of baking.

I do know as I traveled Greece, baking is a very important custom for several Greek holidays. I attended a special service in Tripoli one Sunday, and the women brought beautifully decorated breads to have them blessed by the priest. Oh, I wish I had taken a picture! But, I nearly got kicked out of the church that day for sitting up front.

Here, I’ve made you the traditional recipe.

Fanouropita - Saint Phanourios Cake

This cake is baked in hoping to find a lost item in the Greek Tradition.

Course Dessert
Cuisine Greek
Keyword cake
Servings 6
Author Mary Papoulias-Platis

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 orange grated rind
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4-5 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds (optional) or dust with powdered sugar when cooled

Chocolate Cake

  • 2 teaspoons good-quality chocolate powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. Combine 4 cups of flour with the baking powder and spices and set aside. For the chocolate cake: add the powdered chocolate and instant coffee granules.

  2. Beat together the oil and sugar until blended. Add the water, orange rind, orange juice and walnuts and continue to blend.

  3. Next, blend in the dry ingredients until smooth. If too thin, add more flour until thickened.

  4. Pour batter into a buttered 10x14 inch pan, or two 8 or 9-inch pans, sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional) and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. For the chocolate cake, let it cool and dust with powdered sugar.

This cake is made with pantry ingredients, which most cakes are in the Greek home.

But as you know I love updating a recipe to fit in with my California twist, that I often give to my Greek recipes.

The strawberry fields in our area are still producing colorful sweet berries. All I did here is add chocolate and coffee to the original recipe to give it more of a punch! (the measurements are above in the recipe).

During the baking of the cake, say a prayer for Saint Phanourios’ help and for the soul of his mother, a troubled woman.

Share the cake with seven or more people, but do not reveal what you are trying to find.

Sesame seeds are often used to top breads and cakes in the Greek cuisine. Greek cakes are traditionally not too sweet, and are often served for breakfast or as an afternoon treat.

You may also like my Vasilopita Cake, baked for New Year’s Eve.

Mike, have you found your keys yet?

Love to All, Mary

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Spicy Greek Pickled Cherries

by Mary Papoulias-Platis

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Summertime spells fresh cherries in our home. Although, I have never seen a cherry tree (so sad) I would love to have planted one in my backyard. My mother grew up with a cherry grove in her village of Corinthos Greece, which I would hear about during her days of storytelling to us kids. She served cherry desserts and drinks to everyone who came to visit. They were her favorite fruit.

Our varietals here are the Bing and Rainer varieties. I try to visit our local farmer’s market as much as possible. These are the two varietals I see in our markets.

 

I love to pickle vegetables and fruits when they become seasonal. They come in handy for cheese platters, meze and appetizers or just serve them on a salad, with pork tenderloin, or in your favorite sandwich.

You can see more pickled recipes from my blog here:  spiced pickled apples,  spiced pickled green beans , and  pickled spiced peaches. 

Let’s get started…

As you boil the cherries skim off the froth that appears on the top of the surface. Discard.

After 10 minutes or so, the cherries are ready to be removed. Place in a bowl and cool.

They should be plump and full, do not overcook.

Once you remove the cherries, cook the syrup down a bit and place in a container to cool. Add back into the cherries, or keep on the side for a salad dressing, marinade or drink.

Spicy Greek Pickled Cherries

In the summertime who can pass up pickled cherries over their green salad, on a cheese board or over any protein as a kick to their dish! Use any spices you like to change up the flavor - a jalepeno, ginger, or red onion. 

Course Side Dish
Cuisine California Greek

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole vanilla bean
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 lbs fresh cherries, pitted (about 4 cups)

Instructions

  1. Combine the sugar, vinegar, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, star anise and salt in a saucepan. Simmer for 5 minutes.

  2. Pour the mixture over the cherries, allow to cool, then cover and refrigerate.

Recipe Notes

Add these cherries to your salads, on any protein such as lamb, pork or fish.  Place in a small cup and add them onto a cheese tray.

These are one of my favorite pickled recipes, so don’t pass them up!

Summer Goodness,

Mary

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Post image for Greek Festivals in California for August 2019

If you happen to be traveling through our beautiful state and need a bite to eat, stop by our authentic Greek festivals for the day! Bring your friends and family to experience the Foods of Greece. Dancing and live music is happening every night along with instruction if needed.

Sip on a glass of ouzo, or wine and spend the evening living Greek!

August 23, 24, 25 –  St. George Greek Orthodox Church, 2219 North Orchard, Fresno, Ca.

August 23, 24, 25Castro Valley Resurrection Greek Orthodox Church,  20104 Center Street, Castro Valley, Ca.

August 23,24th, 25th  – St. Nectarios Greek Orthodox Church, 20340  East Covina, Ca. 91724

LABOR DAY FESTIVALS!

August 31st, 1st, 2ndLong Beach Greek Fest – 5761 East Colorado, Long Beach, Ca. 90814

August 31st, 1st, 2ndSt. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church,  Monterey, Ca.

Coming Soon!

September is a full month of Greek Festivals – so watch for next month’s post.

Happy Summer, Mary

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