Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Baking 101

We all know the best part of the holiday season is all the baking that occurs. In my house, my Mom and I have always bonded over a big ball of cookie dough and box full of different colored sprinkles. I'm happy to say that this year is no different. Since the day after Thanksgiving, we sat for over an hour at Barnes and Noble flipping through countless magazines planning our baking menu for Christmas 2010. Here is the tentative list...keep in mind that working a full-time job in the medical field is not very conducive to how many things we have our list. Ouff, different story for a different day.

THE list:
-Peanut Butter kisses
-Sugar cookies with candy cane kisses
-Melomakarona (Greek tradition)
-Kourambiethes (Greek version of a sugar cookie)
-Various biscotti
-Gingerbread cookies
-Various Christmas loaves

Let's see what I can actually/realistically accomplish in the next 6 days. It's gonna be tough! Here goes my first recipe:
Candy Cane Sugar Blossoms
1. Preheat your oven to 350 & gather all your ingredients
2. In a mixing bowl, mix together butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, and egg.

Mix until you get this smooth, creamy mixture!! So delish.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

4. Mix in to cookie dough alternatively with milk until you achieve this beautiful ball of joy.
5. Using a tiny ice scream scooper or teaspoon, scoop out even balls of dough and place them on a baking pan lined with a cookie sheet.
6. Take each individual ball and roll in whatever festive sprinkles you want!! This part is completely optional but it makes the cookies look really FUN. Caution- the dough is really sticky so you may want to spray PAM in your hands or flour them lightly.

Place your cookies in the pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes. Mine took exactly 9.5 minutes. DO NOT flatten the cookies before placing them in the oven. While your cookies are baking, unwrap your pepperminty kisses if you haven't already.
These are SOOO good. I may have eaten a handful while the cookies were baking...I don't remember exactly. I think it's called post-massive sugar consumption amnesia or something like that.

Once you remove the cookies from the oven, immediately press a KISS in the center of each cookie. Allow them to cool completely before you move them (or eat them). Your friends and loved ones will absolutely adore this variation to the traditional Blossom cookie.

Make these ASAP!!! I'm hoping that I can manage to make some more this week. Only 5 more days until Christmas. The baking pressure is on!!! Have a wonderful Monday everyone.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tis the Season...

Tis the season for a warm, hearty, belly-warming BOLOGNESE. I mean seriously, what's better after a hard day at work than a gigantic bowl of pasta with extra cheese & meat sauce?! Alright...I started off by heating up Laconiko olive oil.

Then, add in your choice of meat and cook until the pink color has left & the meat is slightly browned. I used ground beef but i'm sure ground turkey would've been just as delicious.
Stir in the oregano, red pepper flakes, and garlic and cook for a couple more minutes.
And add 1 cup of wine. YUM!! This is when the entire kitchen starts smelling like winter.
Stir in wine and add in tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, S&P until combined.
Bring to a boil, then lower heat and allow this lovely little sauce to simmer for 10-12 minutes. In the meantime, bring plenty of water to a boil. I like to add in a drizzle of olive oil & a pinch of salt before putting in my pasta of choice.

Cook the pasta until you reach the desired texture. Now...back to the simmering sauce...
We aren't done yet. Now, add in your freshly grated nutmeg, fresh or dried basil (whatever you have), and some egg nog. I know, I know...the original recipe calls for heavy cream but let me tell you- EGG NOG is where it's at!!! It added such a uniquely satisfying but subtle flavor to the sauce. Try it. You'll love it!

While you let this bubble away, grate some Parmeggiano. The saltyness of this cheese is oh-so-amazing in the savory bolognese.
Combine the pasta with your bolognese in a very large serving bowl.

Serve this meal warm. Place a good amount of pasta in your individual bowl and top with plenty of Parm...a little glass of wine doesn't hurt either!

I'm so excited for you to try this recipe. You will LOVE it!!!! Look below for your grocery list.

- Olive Oil
-1 lb ground beef (or meat of choice)
-4 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 Tbsp dry oregano
-1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you like spicy)
-1 1/4 cups dry red wine
-1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
-2 Tbsp tomato paste
-1 box dry pasta of your choice ( I used elbows )
-1/4 to 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
-1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil or a few shakes of dry basil
-1/4 cup heavy cream (I used EGG NOG!)
-1/2 cup freshly grated PARM...ok, ok, I had more of 3/4 cups!

This recipe TRULY takes like 30-40 minutes total cooking time. PERFECT for a busy weeknight after you had a long day at work. Try it, love it, and leave me a message letting me know if you liked it or any variations that worked for you.

Kali Oreksi!! xoxo, C.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pom Wonderful

First and foremost, a HUGE thank-you to the wonderful people at POM for sending me all the great supplies I needed to host a dinner party for my loved ones. POM was so generous. I came home from work a few weeks back and found these waiting for me....FOR ME!! I never get surprises in the mail so I was ecstatic!!!

Are those POMS not gorgeous?!? I couldn't wait to dig in and try them...but wait a minute, how the heck do you open it? Fear not. The smart folks at POM thought of that too. They included a goodie bag FULL of amazing things, including a darling cutting board with instructions on "how to open a pomegranate".

Each one of my guests received one of these generous gift bags filled with coupons and recipes!!

Now, let's get talking about the menu I had planned for my POM supper.


Appetizers: Greek bruschetta with pesto; Baked Brie topped with raspberry jam, pomegranate seeds, and caramel

Aperitif: Pomegranate Sangria

Dinner: Baked ham (and a smaller Turkey ham) glazed with brown sugar, various spices, and a pomegranate glaze; Couscous with fresh herbs & Pom seeds; Fresh spinach salad with toasted walnuts, Pom seeds, freshly cubed Parmesan, and a Pomegranate Vinaigrette.

Dessert: Marble cheesecake served with a fresh raspberry & pomegranate topping

I had so much fun planning this menu, and with the help of my amazing Mom, who cooks better than anyone I know, we pulled it off without a hitch!! Grab a glass of wine, sit back on your comfy couch, and get ready to join me on my dinner adventure...
First came the Sangria...
A bottle of POM, an entire bottle of Shiraz, a cup of Organic grapes, 1/4 cup Metaxa, 1/4 cup simple syrup, a splash of Triple sec, one sliced green apple, one sliced orange, and 1/2 cup Pom seeds.

and one glass for me before I get started on the cooking :)

I love these glasses so much because of the Greek key, which is my heritage. I never get to use these fancy glasses so this was the perfect excuse to do so!! WARNING- this sangria is strong. Just when you think you're going to innocently eat the fruit on top, BAM!!! It hits you all at once.


Step 1: Cut off the "crown" of the POM

Step 2: Make one slice down the middle, and another slice across (making 4 squares)
Step 3: Pull slices apart as if peeling wedges of an orange, then place slices in a bowl of water while you use your fingers to loosen up the seeds.
Do you see what happens?? The seeds sink to the bottom of the bowl, while the white membranous part floats to the top. You then take a sifter, throw away the white parts, and then scoop out your beautiful seeds!!


Greek Bruschetta

I love to use this mix of little tomatoes. The smaller tomatoes have much more sweet flavor and the various colors add such a nice touch to a traditional bruschetta.

Add in a bowl with several green onions (or red onions if you prefer), a hefty handful of crumbled feta cheese (I use Dodonis), salt & pepper to taste, and enough extra-virgin olive oil to coat. I really ONLY use Laconiko ( It's the best quality olive oil I've had.
Slice up your favorite loaf of bread. I chose to use an Italian loaf from Wegmans. Toast these for about 5 minutes until slightly crisp. Then, top with your favorite pesto. Mine is homemade and kept in the freezer until ready to use.
Then top with tomato + feta mixture. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until warmed & serve immediately.
These are so amazing...when you take a bite, you first experience the crunch of the toasted bread. Then you get the wonderful taste of the garlicky pesto, and savory feta. Bliss!


I placed 1/2 jar of delicious Raspberry Jam in a saucepan with POM juice, pecans and Starbucks caramel sauce. Stir and bring to a simmer while you place your brie in the oven to bake.

One bite of this and you'll fall in love. The cheese is so smooth, melty, and buttery while the topping is crunchy and sweet with a hint of tart from the POM juice. While this is a lovely appetizer, it also makes for an AMAZING sandwich spread the next day. Place some of this on the inside of a turkey sandwich, top with spinach, and you're in for very pleasant surprise.


First comes the salad. In a bowl I placed fresh spinach, cubed Parmesano Reggiano, finely chopped walnuts, a few POM seeds, and a deliciously sweet & tangy Pomegranate Vinaigrette (courtesy of Costco).

Then came the ham(s). One is a traditional spiral ham & the other is a turkey ham in case any of my guests preferred it.
Keep in mind that my camera is an ancient Kodak...not only did this look MOUTH WATERING in person but the smell would mesmerize you. It smelled like home. These were glazed with brown sugar, ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, raisins, pomegranate seeds, a squeeze of fresh orange juice, and POM juice. It made for an incredible tasting ham!!

Lastly, our couscous!! I used Israeli couscous. I prefer it's texture and size over the regular couscous,plus it cooks faster-a plus in my books. I first sauteed mushrooms in Laconiko olive oil with some salt & pepper. Once soft, I removed from the heat and added it into the cooked couscous, drizzled it with plenty of olive oil, added a bit more S&P, and cut in thick slices of fresh basil. Lastly, I added in the POM seeds.

Look how beautifully those colors pop out. And honestly, I wouldn't have originally thought these flavors would work so well together. But the sweetness of the olive oil, with the tart and crunch of the POM seeds and the earthyness of the basil made this such a success.

(The best part, am I wrong?!)

Homemade marble cheesecake with a homemade graham cracker crust. It is SO worth the effort to make this exquisite dessert yourself then to buy one in a store and be unaware of what ingredients are inside. Here there are no surprises- just whole, pure ingredients. What could possibly make this better??

The most splendid cheesecake topping, of course!! Whisk together and reduce fresh, organic raspberries with POM juice, some agave nectar for a sweet touch, and POM seeds. It's outstanding and really makes any cheesecake look so festive this time of year.


The decor I chose was very personal. I have been collecting wine corks for a very long time. I decided to make name cards with each persons name and place them into a wine cork of that person's favorite type of wine. For example, my sister had Coppola Merlot, I had a sweeter dessert wine, my Dad had his all-time favorite Chardonnay, and my Beau had a wonderful white!
I placed a festive red runner on the dining room table and had a souvenir POM for everyone to take home and experience for themselves. Each one of my guests also took home those fabulous bags provided by POM. Did you notice the decorative pomegranate in the picture above?? That was given to us by one of our relatives in Greece. Pomegranates are not only thought to be good luck, or "kali tixi" as we say it in our culture, but they also grow by the plenty in the Southern most coast of Greece, where my boyfriend produces his insanely amazing olive oil.

I wish you ALL could have been at my party, because not only does my camera not do the food justice, but there is nothing more rewarding and satisfying to me then sharing my passion of food with those who I love and admire the most. I hope to continue to provide you all with new recipes and fun twists on different foods...Thank you for joining me for this POMtastic supper. Until next time, Kali Oreksi!!