Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dolmathes- It’s How We Roll!

I made Dolmathes (yaprakia- as they say on the Island of Lipso) for an Open House (a Drop in- as they say in Florence, SC) last month and it’s time to share the recipe before the Lenten season comes. 


  • In a large bowl I added 1 ½ lbs. of ground beef and 1 cup of short grain rice.  Most Greek cooks swear by Uncle Ben’s rice.  I also add more rice than most recipes.  I like the extra rice.
  • I put a large onion, a fist full of fresh parsley leaves, and a fist full of fresh mint in a large food processor.  It looked like pesto when I stopped it.  I used the food processor because my son hates chunks of onions in his food.  (My mom also adds dill.)

  • I added 3 large cloves of garlic by grating them on a zester over the open processor and spun the blades a few seconds more.  I could have added more even though my mom doesn't use garlic.
  • Then I added the onion mixture, one egg, salt and pepper and a ¼ c grated kefalotiri cheese to the meat and rice.  The cheese really wasn’t necessary but I still had it left over from the Open House. You can add Parmesan cheese.  (My mom doesn't use cheese or egg.)
  • I squished it all together with my hand- leaving the other free to take pictures.

  • I used ½ a large jar (16 oz) of grape leaves.  I will use the rest to make Lenten dolmathes with rice, dill and zucchini instead of rice and meat.  The jar tightly holds two bunches of grape leaves in brine.  Pull out a bunch and rinse each leaf under cold water.  I line them around a colander to drain for a moment.  You can always get more fromthe jar.   

  • Line the bottom of a large stockpot with 4-5 grape leaves.  This will keep the dolmathes from scorching.   

  • On a flat surface- (I use a cutting board or a cookie sheet) lay a grape leaf stem side up on a flat surface. Some recipes will tell you to trim off the stem, but it really isn’t necessary.   
  • Form an oblong meatball about 3 inches long and place on grape leaf stem. 
  • Fold to leaf closest to you over the meat,
  • Fold sides in and roll along table to form dolmathe. 

  • Place the dolmathe off to the side, seam side down so they don’t unravel, until it’s all done. 
  • When all the meat is used, lay the rolls along the bottom of the pot filling as much space as possible and a layer at a time. 
  • Add about 4 cups Chicken Broth, (vegetable broth for Lenten recipe) enough to cover the rolls plus 2 inches.
  • Invert a heat proof plate over the dolmathes to keep them from floating.  You may need to weigh it down with an empty jar.  Add water to jar if it’s not heavy enough. 
  • Bring broth to a boil then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 1 ½ - 2 hours.  Keep an eye on the level of broth.  You can always add water to the pot if necessary.
  • After 1 1/2 hours

Dolmathes are great for dinner parties because they stay hot for a long time.  You can serve with lemon or an avgolemono (egg-lemon) sauce. 
  • Set 2 eggs on the counter to reach room temperature.  Separate whites from yolks in two bowls.  
  • Whip the egg whites with a hand mixer in a large bowl until frothy.  (I had an aunt who would do this by hand with a fork!) 
  • Add yolks one at a time and beat a few minutes more. 
  • Slowly add the juice of one lemon.
  • Heat 2 cups of chicken broth in microwave or on stove top.  (You can also use the broth from cooking the dolmathes) 
  • Slowly pour 1 cup of hot broth into bowl while beating egg/lemon mixture.  Be careful to temper the egg slowly so the egg doesn’t curdle. 
  • This sound means that dinner will be ready in 15 minutes, so start setting the table. 
  • You can incorporate the rest of the broth without the mixer. 
Put cooked dolmathes on a platter or bowl.  Pour avgolemono on top.  Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I Never Knew! Rice Pilaf Without a Box.

All these years I never knew how to make rice pilaf without a box until this morning when I was watching the Rachel Ray show! She made rice pilaf with toasted orzo and rice as part of a larger meal.  Watch the first minute and half of the link below to see for yourself, how easy it is. 


I toasted mine with olive oil, a grated garlic clove, and dried parsley.   It is a yummy lenten side dish. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ah, Facebook!

"Ah, Facebook!" the nun exhaled. "We live in a time where we don't hear our friend's voice but we know what they ate for dinner."

I've been thinking of how ironic it is that I write a blog about cooking. Among my friends and family, there are far better cooks out there. I'm the one who thought my husband was wonderful because he baked a chicken for dinner when we were first married. I'm also the one who called home for cooking instructions, "Mom, how do I make spaghetti meat sauce?" more than I called to see how everyone was.

I am also one of those people who posts pictures of my meals on Facebook. Why would I do such an odd thing? I don't have the healthiest relationship with food, (but I am working on it.) Some days my posts reveal too many of my bad eating habits, as in my love for creamy, cheesy foods.   Mostly, I am surprised and a little proud that what I served my family turned out pretty good.

My dad was a great cook. My mom is a great cook. We never ate frozen meals, TV dinners or spaghetti sauce from a jar growing up. It was more along the lines of baked chicken, chicken avgolemono or meatball soup and pot roasts. It was usually Greek cooking or Asian- my dad loved Chinese food.

Even during fasting periods, when we wouldn't eat meat or dairy, we still ate well. Fasting periods weren't times of suffering and torture because my parents had a great collection of meat free recipes.

As the fasting season approaches, I am looking forward to sharing meals and ideas for a healthy and creative fasting menu. If you have a favorite recipe let me know.

"Ah, Facebook."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In a Pinch, I Get the Need to Kneed.


I don’t know why it took me so long to make homemade pizza.  It is now my favorite go-to!  Last night we were in a pickle… nothing planned and not in the mood to go to the grocery store.  But we had salad stuff, flour and cheese.   I still have a chunk of mozzarella, asiago and provolone left over from our open house. 
What I liked about last night’s dinner was that with a large salad, I was able to make mini pizzas to serve on the side.  This way, we ate our veggies and we had a  small treat.  The dough I didn’t need is sitting in the fridge and I will have a nice warm roll with my lunch today.  I am really glad I figured out the dough thing (I am no longer a yeast killer nor impatient with yeast) in time for Lent.  Fasting isn’t about suffering but obedience and self-control.  So this Lent, with the bean soups and increased vegetables, we can also treat ourselves to a fresh roll or two... in moderation of course!

Pizza Dough 

·        Combine 1 t sugar and 1 ½ c warm water.  Sprinkle 1pkg active dry yeast in water and set aside for 10 minutes or until foamy.
·        Stir in 1 T olive oil.
·        Combine 4 ¼ c all-purpose flour with 1½ t salt in a food processor.  With the machine running, add the yeast mixture until dough forms a ball.  If it’s too wet, remove dough from processor and kneed on a floured surface until elastic and smooth. 
·        Lightly coat a large bowl with oil and place dough in bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and cover with a large towel.  I usually heat the oven while I am mixing the ingredients and then turn oven off at this point.  This usually warms the oven enough and I let the dough rise on top of the oven.
·        The dough should double in size in an hour.
·        Turn oven back on to 350 degrees.
·        Punch down the dough.  Half of the dough is plenty for one pizza.  You can make a pizza or use smaller amounts for minis.  The dough you don’t use can be placed in a floured bag and stored in the fridge for a day or you can freeze in a floured bag, thaw in the fridge the night before you are ready to use it and rest on counter for 15 minutes. You can also thaw dough for 1 ½ hours on your counter before you need it. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

What?! Leftovers?!

As I mentioned before I don't care for leftovers. I would rather make them into another meal than eat the same thing. Unfortunately I don't know how to do this without adding a bazillion calories. If you have any ideas please let me know. I usually just add cheese.

Tonight we are planning on eating such a concoction.

Elbow macaroni, leftover turkey/beef meat sauce, broccoli, provolone, ricotta, Parmesan, and asiago.

Monday, February 04, 2013


Fats are an important part of cooking.  They add flavor, depth, and color (by browning) to your food.  Unfortunately, they also add calories, which is why most people think all fats are bad.  Now, I’m not the most educated cook, and my recipes are usually Greek, so when I saute, (I very rarely fry) I basically use butter, olive oil or coconut oil.   Most Greek recipes don't call for coconut oil, but it's so healthy and adds great flavor, I can't resist.

I wanted to offer more info on cooking with fats like why these fats are so great to cook with?  I’m just too busy to do this now…  You will have to stay tuned. 

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Greek Loukoumades Are Easier Than You Think.


I never had much luck with breads or dough.  My yeast never did what it was supposed to do.  It seemed my yeast was spoiled or my water was too hot.  So I stopped trying.  After scanning through cookbooks and seeing how EASY IT IS to make homemade pizza, I gave it another try.  That’s when I learned that my problem wasn’t my yeast but that I didn’t wait long enough for it to activate.  Anyone who knows me sees this as no surprise.  I can be impatient.

So, with this new found knowledge I made Loukoumades, Greek honey puffs (doughnuts)!  Below is the fasting (VEGAN) recipe.

·         Dissolve ½ t sugar in ½ c lukewarm water in a large bowl.

·         Sprinkle 1 packet dry yeast into large bowl and set aside for 15-20 minutes.

·         In another bowl, mix 3 c flour, ½ t baking powder, ½ t baking soda, and ½ t salt.

·         When yeast is ready, use a mixer to incorporate dissolved yeast, 1 ½ c lukewarm water and 1 t whiskey or brandy with dry ingredients.  Using a mixer, mix for about 3 minutes to be sure there are no lumps.  You might need more water.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a bath towel and place in a warm location for 1 ½ - 2 hours, till dough doubles in size. 

·         While the dough is rising, make the syrup.  Boil 2 c sugar in 1 c water.  Add an orange peel and a cinnamon stick.  Boil for 10 minutes before you add ½ c honey.  You can also use this time to finely chop walnuts for the topping.


·         When dough is ready heat 2 c canola or corn oil to a med-high temp in a 3Qt pot.  I added 1 c corn and 1 c coconut oil.  I like using coconut oil, but it has a lower heating temp, it gets hot faster.  (I think they call it a lower boiling point; it’s been a long time since chemistry.) 


·         Using two spoons scoop blops of dough into the hot oil and watch it bubble.  By “blop” I mean to describe scoop the dough with one spoon and push the dough off the spoon and into the hot oil with the other.  If the oil is hot and deep enough, the dough will puff up and move freely around the pot.  You can fit 6-8 blops of dough at one time.

·         Turn the blops using a slotted spoon and fry until golden brown on each side. Remove the blop, now turned puffs, to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb excess oil.  When they are all cooked, dip the puffs in the warm syrup with a slotted spoon and place in a platter.  Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts and cinnamon and serve immediately.  And there you have it!  LOUKOUMADES!!


I read you can leave the dough in the fridge for a few days, which is great because if you want to surprise your dinner guests with a great dessert, make the dough early and after dinner, heat up the oil and syrup and fry the dough.