New Blog…same great stories

I have had some recent inquiries about why there hasn’t been a post on I’m from Baklava and Ouzo in nearly a year.  I’ve been meaning to address this, I promise, but time has literally gotten away from me and I’m still running behind with my arms outstretched pleading, “Wait for me!”  I was picked up by a local blogging network called The Scoop Blog Network, where I’ve been writing since August 2012 for a blog called Serving Up Fort Collins.  It’s a recipe blog, similar to Baklava and Ouzo, but incorporates local ingredients from my home town, Fort Collins, CO.  It’s been really fun, quite an adventure really, and is keeping me extremely busy.

My writing style has remained consistent, I’m just telling my stories from a different platform.  The transition has opened up some new opportunities for me…like judging pizza competitions, learning about local Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), and how to manage deadlines and an editorial schedule.  I’m posting twice a week!  Every week!

So, I hope you’ll follow me on this new adventure and I thank you for being a devoted Baklava and Ouzo reader.  Here’s where you can find me now:  Serving Up Fort Collins

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Just try it…Mikey did!

We all remember Mikey from the Life Cereal commercials in the 1970s and 80s, right?  “He won’t try it. He hates everything.”  But guess what, “He likes it! Hey, Mikey!”  This ad campaign ran from 1974 to 1986 and became one of the longest-running commercials ever.  Everyone has their list of things that they scrunch their nose up to.  On my list are coconut, oysters, and pickled beets.  Contrary to the lengthy lists of some, my list is pretty short so I’m willing to try most things.  Yet, unfortunately, I live with a couple of finicky eaters.  Countless times, I have heard myself say, “Just try it, it’s good!” and am surprised each and every time by a turned up nose and annoying winces.  “Tastes change,” I keep pushing, “How do you know you don’t like it if you’ve never tried it, just one little bite?”  Insistently, I place a tiny portion on their plates, exercising my “mother knows best” viewpoint.  Rarely, do I get the response I’m looking for but I keep trying (sigh).

As a true testament to that cliché idea that tastes change as you get older, there are many things I could rattle off that I’ve grown to love, like spinach for instance.  You’ve heard this story if you’ve read one of my very first posts for Greek Spinach Pie (SPANAKOPITA).  Just recently, I’ve discovered a fondness for sweet potatoes and butternut squash after being a dinner guest at my friend, Cori’s house and taking a small, polite serving.  After a long history of snubbing both, I walked out her front door with her recipe.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes in my oven since, simply tossing them with olive oil and sea salt.  Thank you, friend!

Baked Kale Chips Photograph by Andrea Karapas

Unlike my disgust for pickled beets, my resistance to kale, on the contrary, has been because I never knew what to do with it.  It’s only since I’ve made more of a conscious effort to eating healthier, that it’s made its way into conversations of nourishing, wholesome eats.  On January 2nd of this year, I embarked on the latest of numerous attempts to lose weight, get in shape, become healthier, whatever you want to call it.  As you can imagine, I’ve been the recipient of many pieces of advice, tips, and guidance.  One of these chats introduced me to the health benefits of kale.

Known as one of American’s healthiest superfoods, kale has countless health benefits.  Its risk-lowering benefits for at least five different types of cancer, high concentration of anti-oxidants, cholesterol-lowering ability, and its role in supporting the body’s detoxification processes should be more than enough reasons to add this leafy green to your weekly grocery list.  It appeared on my grocery list a few weeks ago after remembering a conversation I had with a co-worker.  She gave me quick and easy instructions on how to make Kale Chips.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything crunchy on this diet so even if it was green and leafy, if it was crispy I was signing up for it.

The only work was in washing and drying the leaves, however if you have a salad spinner, your time is quickly reduced.  Once your kale is washed and dried, remove the thick stems and ribs from the leaves and tear into bite-sized pieces. Lay the kale leaves on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and a bit of garlic salt.  Bake in a preheated 350° oven until edges are brown but not burnt.  (see full recipe below)

These little things melt in your mouth.  They didn’t satisfy my crunchy craving quite like a bag of Doritos would but I felt good eating them.  I even got one of my picky eaters to try one too.  They didn’t grow on him quite like I had hoped but at least he tried just one bite.  Give ‘em a try….you might like them too!

Baked Kale Chips Photograph by Andrea Karapas

Baked Kale Chips
Ingredients:
1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic salt
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt. Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com

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“Fancy up” your Valentine’s Day with a little red velvet

Guest blog post for The Intentional Momma.

Valentine’s Day is the one holiday of the year where, depending on your relationship status at this particular point in time, you can either feel blissfully and romantically in love or woefully and unhappily alone.  It can be a roller coaster from year to year, especially during those awkward middle school years where relationships come and go in the blink of an eye and if your timing is off just slightly, you risk humiliation in the form of going unnoticed or feeling invisible.  If you’re privy to my No Ordinary Girl or Grilled Cheese Sandwich post, you’re aware that this is one of my worst fears.

I’m going to take you back to a memorable Valentine’s Day, one that stands out to me as if it was yesterday.  In the winter of my 7th grade year I had the opportunity to go shopping at the Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, MI with some girlfriends.  “Big Deal”, you say?  This was a HUGE deal to a small town girl who lived nearly 20 miles from the nearest mall worth going to.  The Twelve Oaks Mall was even bigger than that one!  Add in the fact that I was going to be able to shop without the supervision of a parent and this was a pretty sweet deal.  I convinced my mom to hand over enough money to buy myself a winter coat.  I remember telling some sob story about how my winter coat didn’t fit that well anymore and that I just needed something warmer.  Michigan winters can be cruel.  I don’t recall exactly how much she gave me but it was enough to have a nice day at the mall with some friends.

There were several winter coats I tried on that day but the one I actually came home with was the last one my mother would have pictured me in when I was pleading my case for a few bucks.  I found myself a black, rabbit fur coat and she was a little less than pleased with me when I showed it to her once I got home.  How I found myself in a fur store is beyond me, but when I tried that coat on I immediately fell in love and realized I had completed my look for the Valentine’s Day dance that happened to be the following weekend.  Since my timing happened to a bit off that particular year, I was without a special someone, however I had my eye on a tall, cool drink of water and I wasn’t going to go unnoticed.  I planned to show up “fancy”.

Underneath my black, rabbit fur coat, I wore my 2-piece, pink and black leopard print pantsuit that tapered at the ankle, accented with a wide black belt and black pumps.  The confidence that ran through me that evening is almost indescribable and I’m certain that I’ve never been able to channel it at that level since.  One thing I didn’t anticipate though was having to take that coat off at the dance.  Caught between the decision of ending up with BO from sweating under that heavy coat or leaving it in the bleachers out of sight and risk having it stolen from me, I compromised with leaving it in the bleachers but checking on it between songs, which didn’t leave me much free time to work on landing the boy.  Ahhhh…the awkwardness of a 7th grader.

The evening ended just how it should have, with me and my fur coat.  With as much as I loved that fur coat on that Valentine’s Day in 1986, he was no match for it.  And whether anyone else at that dance remembers it or not, it was our night to shine…and in my story, we did.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting Photograph by Andrea Karapas

When thinking of what to bake for this post, I immediately went to the “fanciest” dessert that would stand up to my black, rabbit fur coat story…Red Velvet Cupcakes.  With its deep red color and sweet cream cheese, vanilla frosting, it’s one of the most elegant and richly delicious cakes, not to mention stunningly beautiful.  Dating back to the 1940s when it became popular in eateries and bakeries throughout Canada, the Red Velvet cake got its deep red color from the use of boiled beet root.  Today red food coloring is commonly used to enhance the color.  This recipe comes from the browneyedbaker, who adapted her recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.  I’ve tried many Red Velvet cupcakes at bakeries and this one stands up to the best of them.  It was scrumptious to say the least.  An extravagant dessert whether you’re spending your Valentine’s Day with a special someone or your favorite “fancy” black, rabbit fur coat.

Note:  I’m pretty sure no rabbits were harmed in the making of this memory.  If the rabbit fur was real, there’s no way I would have managed that price tag.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting Photograph by Andrea Karapas

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting Photograph by Andrea Karapas

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: 12 cupcakes
Ingredients for the Cupcakes:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons red food coloring (use less if using gel food coloring since it’s more concentrated)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons distilled white vinegar

Ingredients for the Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 ounces butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin/cupcake pan with liners.
On medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.
In a separate small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter and mix on medium speed until completely combined. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.
Again, reduce the mixer speed to low and add the salt, baking soda and vinegar. Turn to high and beat for another couple of minutes until completely combined and smooth.
Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a thin knife or skewer inserted into the center of the largest cupcake comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes and then remove cupcakes from the pan and place them on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: Using the whisk attachment, whip the butter and cream cheese on high speed for about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl down as necessary. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar until all is incorporated. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Increase the speed to medium high and whip for a few minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary.

*Note: This recipe can be doubled to make an 8 or 9-inch layer cake.

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Holiday Magic. It’s no hocus pocus.

A Guest Blog post for The Intentional Momma

Ahhhh…the magic of the holidays, it moves us to display bounding amounts of generosity and love toward one another.  There’s an energy in the air that moves our spirit and softens our heart.  It goes beyond hearing our favorite carols, seeing our neighborhoods come to life with beautiful lights, and even our children’s annual visit to the awkward Santa Claus in the mall.  It’s in the subtle moments that the magic happens:  the light in your child’s eyes as they open the gift they really wanted most but never added to their list, the pride in her heart as you hang the handmade ornament your daughter made in 1st grade on the tree, and the kindness that’s shared in providing for a family less fortunate.  Somehow, these moments pierce our very being like no other time of the year.  The memories of the physical gifts we receive seem to fade quickly from year to year while the magical gifts of the spirit live on for us to share much later.  They take on a deeper meaning and touch our soul.

My family has had many holiday traditions passed down through the generations and some new ones that we’ve created ourselves along the way.  A favorite of mine that has been tucked away for nearly 20 years is the old tradition of lighting your walkway with luminaries on Christmas Eve.  Adopted by the small town I grew up in, every house would line their sidewalk with candle-lit paper bags.  Since my aunt and uncle would host Christmas Eve at their house, I’d take that magical walk from my house to theirs down the street that was lit at my feet.  Add a light snowfall to that walk and it’s a memory burned into my heart.

I remember teaching my oldest daughter, Julia how to make paper snowflakes, sharing with her my shallow knowledge of the fact that no two snowflakes are alike, even when they’re created with paper and scissors.  One year we covered all our windows with them and each one was as unique as she is.

Mexican layer dip is a long-standing tradition as an appetizer for my family during the holidays.  If I added up all the Mexican layer dip I’ve eaten throughout my life over the years, there’s no doubt that it would add up to a disgustingly memorable amount.  Though all those years put together couldn’t outshine the unforgettable Christmas Eve that my older sister, Angela, and I put away nearly the whole thing on our own.  Hiding out in a room by ourselves, pretending to be in deep conversation, we indulged until we were repulsively ill.  In these moments are the magic of the holidays.  The time we spend with family, creating warmth, love and memories.

White Chocolate Party Mix and Peppermint Hot Cocoa Photograph by Andrea Karapas

This feature highlights two of our recent favorite holiday treats, White Chocolate Party Mix and Peppermint Hot Cocoa.  Both represent the holiday magic that happens when you bring individuals together.  Alone, each ingredient is special…but together, they create magic.  The White Chocolate Party Mix was discovered at a work-related holiday party.  A dish to pass at the top of my “A List”, my friend, Christa, was a hit with this one.  I nearly passed it up, heeding her warning that if I ate one piece, I’d be hooked forever.  With Chex Mix, m&ms, and peanuts melted together with white chocolate, this is the closest to sinful that holiday treats can get. 

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Photograph by Andrea Karapas

Who doesn’t love hot cocoa during the holidays?  Add in a World-famous Hammond’s Peppermint Candy Cane and you’ve got a special drink.  As beautiful as it is delicious, this piping hot cup full of goodness will warm your spirit and dissolve your stress from holiday shopping.  Hammond’s Candies have been a Denver tradition since 1920 and if you haven’t been on a factory tour yet, add it to your holiday “To Do” list.  Quickly becoming recognized throughout the world for their hand-crafted candy canes and other specialty candies, Hammond’s knows how to cater to a sweet tooth.  Don’t miss their two-day annual Candy Cane Festival coming up this weekend on Dec. 9th and 10th.

Each year brings new memories and new traditions.  Gifts will be exchanged and treats will be shared.  Yet, it’s the magic that stays consistent throughout the years.  I’ll be digging up some old traditions this season with the luminaries down my front walk way, paper snowflakes on my windows, and Mexican layer dip amongst the spread of goodies.  But it’s the magic I’ll be watching for in my daughters’ eyes, in my partner’s laugh, and all the stories we’ll retell.

Martha Stewart’s Peppermint Hot Cocoa
Ingredients:
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 quart milk
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (3 ounces)
7 peppermint sticks; 3 crushed (1/4 cup), 4 left whole
pinch of salt
Instructions:
Place cocoa in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk until cocoa has dissolved. Add chocolate chips and crushed peppermint; simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate and peppermint have melted, 8 to 10 minutes.
Bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Add salt. Ladle into mugs; serve each with a peppermint stick.
Recipe from:  Martha Stewart

Fresh Whipped Cream
Ingredients:
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
2 to 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, sifted, or granulated sugar, to your taste
A few drops vanilla extract
Instructions:
About 15 minutes before you plan to prepare this topping, place a medium-sized bowl and the beaters from your electric mixer in the refrigerator.
When you’re ready to proceed, pour the cream into the chilled bowl.  Starting at medium speed, beat the cream until it starts to thicken.  Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the cream holds soft peaks.  Add the confectioners’ sugar, stirring it in with the beaters so it doesn’t fly up in your face when you restart the machine.  Continue to beat the cream until it is stiff but not grainy.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed, no more than several hours.
Recipe from:  Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie    By~ Ken Haedrich

White Chocolate Party Mix
Ingredients:
1 pound family bag Traditional Chex Mix
2 pound bag of plain m&ms
1-12 ounce tin of unsalted peanuts
2-12 ounce bags of white chocolate morsels
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 200°.  Combine Chex Mix, m&ms, peanuts, and white chocolate morsels in a large disposable aluminum baking pan.  Slowly melt the chocolate, stirring often.  When chocolate is completely melted and incorporated into entire mix, pour onto baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Smooth into a thin layer.  Place in freezer for at least 1 hour to harden.  Beak apart and store in sealed container and in a cool area.
Recipe from: Christa Menning Johnson – Fort Collins, CO

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Add a romantic picnic to your Fall “to-do” list.

Autumn is my favorite time of year!  I’ve never been a huge fan of summer so when there’s relief from the hot sun, I begin to enjoy being outside.  There are many favorite things I love about fall, raking leaves and jumping in them, bonfires, apple cider, the changing colors, and picnics. Yes, picnics!  Summer is traditionally known for its hosting of picnics but I tend to prefer them in the spring or fall when you can actually enjoy them without all the sweat and bugs.

One of my most favorite picnics was what you might consider the simplest, without much
planning or supplies, but with one of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen.  It began in Monterey, California at La Sala’s Bi-Rite Market and Deli. Without much thought, other than not wanting to just grab Subway, we came upon this deli as we were about to head south along Highway 1, California’s famous Pacific Coast Highway.  Not sure what we would find when we got in, yet trusting the “Great Sandwiches” sign painted on the front window, we took a chance. The varieties of homemade bread in baskets along the front deli counter were the first indication that we made a great decision.  We all chose our bread, which was then freshly sliced and loaded up with sliced meats and fresh veggies.  Wrapped in butcher paper, our sandwiches were tossed in a bag with some cool, bottled beverages and we set off on our coastal adventure.  If you’ve never driven Highway 1, add it to your bucket list now!  Named one of the nation’s most scenic highways and byways by National Geographic, its views are not only stunning, but breathtaking.  With a good sandwich in hand, it’ll top your list of most memorable experiences for sure. There was deep engagement of every one of my senses as I sat on a boulder overlooking Big Sur’s region of coastline.  In addition to the magnificent view and the deliciousness of my homemade sandwich, the sound of the waves breaking against the shoreline and the salty smell in the air made this one of the most sensual experiences I’ve encountered.  Are you packing your bag yet?

Romantic Fall Picnic at Horsetooth Reservoir Photography by Andrea Karapas

As I thought of my next blogging adventure last weekend, while craving a delectably hearty sandwich, I was reminded of my picnic along Highway 1.  I decided to ambitiously embark on a mission to recreate this memory locally, here in Fort Collins, CO, only the sandwiches would be made in my kitchen.  This recipe comes from Giada De Laurentiis, and if you have ever watched her show you know that she aspires to create the most romantic picnics for her and her husband, Todd Thompson, a fashion designer for Anthropologie.  Leaving behind the cheesy, toothy smiles and the annoying, intermittent Italian accent, I ventured to replicate her passion for romantic picnics.   I found a sandwich recipe with some of our favorite ingredients and paired it with a bottle of California red wine.  I added them to a picnic basket with a few romantic touches and we headed to Horsetooth Reservoir for a romantic Sunday picnic to stimulate our sensual side.

The marinade for the steak is one that I will definitely use again.  Consisting of only 4 flavor-intense ingredients: balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and cracked
mustard seeds, it stimulates both your taste buds and sense of smell.  I imagine my neighbors were quite jealous at the scent of my rib eye steaks sizzling on the grill in the middle of a Sunday afternoon.  One of the best tips I’ve received about grilling any kind of meat is to let it rest 10 minutes after grilling in order to let the juices redistribute in the meat before cutting into it.  This step was a key factor in the tenderness of these steaks and led to one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever tasted.  The second layer of flavor came
from the freshly crumbled Gorgonzola cheese. Mixed with sour cream and spread thickly over the crusty baguette, its salty and robust flavor complements the steak beautifully.  The sandwich is finally topped with fresh arugula, adding a peppery finish to the steak.

You can’t have a romantic picnic without a bottle of red wine so I called upon my friends
at Red Truck Winery and their 2009 California Cabernet Sauvignon to bring a little passion to our outdoor table.  The weather was quite lovely, a beautiful fall day overlooking the clear water.  The companionship was even better as we shared favorite memories over a bottle of wine and a deliciously made sandwich.  I encourage you to add a
romantic fall picnic with that special someone to your Fall “to-do list”!  Buon Appetito!

Steak Sandwiches Photography by Andrea Karapas

Steak Sandwiches Photography by Andrea Karapas

Steak Sandwiches
Ingredients:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds, cracked
3 (12 to 14-ounce) rib-eye steaks
4 ounces Gorgonzola, crumbled
1/2 cup sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 baguette (about 2 feet long), split lengthwise
2 cups lightly packed arugula
Instructions:
Combine the vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard seeds in a large resealable plastic bag. Add the steaks and seal the bag. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours, turning the steaks occasionally.
Prepare the barbecue for medium-high heat or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Drain the marinade from the steaks. Grill the steaks to desired doneness, about 6 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let the steaks rest for 10 minutes. Cut the steaks crosswise into thin slices.
Meanwhile, stir the cheese and sour cream in a small bowl to form a thick spread. Season the cheese mixture, to taste, with salt and pepper. Remove some of the bread from the center of the baguette halves. Spread the cheese mixture over the baguette halves. Arrange the arugula then the warm steak slices over the baguette bottom. Sprinkle the steak slices with salt and pepper. Cover with the baguette top. Cut the sandwich crosswise into 6 equal pieces and serve.
Recipe courtesy of Giada De Lauentiis.

Posted in Bread, Dinner, Entertaining, Italian, Lunch, Sandwiches, Savory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back to the basics…love, laughter, good health and beer bread.

It’s strange how the less important things in life can so quickly consume us. We look away for just a minute and the water fills up passed our heads, threatening to drown us. Our bodies tread water as fast as they can, coming up for air periodically just to keep afloat.  Ironically, we forget about the drain at the bottom and that with just one hard pull, we can reclaim control over our lives.

I’ve been treading water for a while now, in survival mode, wading through bills, tedious tasks, and responsibilities that ought to belong to others.  This happens to me every so often no matter how much I try to be conscious of how much is on my plate.  Sometimes I feel like I have the broadest shoulders in the universe, carrying the weight of the world at times.  Once again, I’ve lost sight of the precious things I love, that keep me joyful.  These
are the things that give me perspective. They let me see the world the way it should be viewed:  through joyful eyes rather than weary ones.  They’re the simple things:

  • laughing so hard that your cheeks hurt
  • eating a caramel apple on a stick
  • going for a walk on a beautiful Autumn day
  • sharing a bottle of wine with a girlfriend
  • writing a letter to my grandmother
  • coloring with brand new crayons
  • reading a really great book that a friend recommended
  • staying in my pajamas all day
  • frosting sugar cookies
  • letting my daughter brush my hair

Eileen's Beer Bread Photography by Andrea Karapas

The simplest thing I’ve ever baked is Beer Bread.  I first tried this recipe when a friend and former co-worker, Eileen, brought it in for a work party.  I had never tasted anything like it before and probably ate enough for 3 people, leaving little for others to try.  I begged Eileen for the recipe and she rattled it off as she quickly wrote it down for me, only 4 ingredients:  flour, sugar, beer and butter.  I tucked it away in my recipe box and it was nearly 2 years before I pulled it out and actually gave it a try myself.  This past week I was looking through my recipes, searching for something simple to offset my recently unmanageable life.  There it was…beer bread, on the same tiny yellow piece of paper that Eileen had written it on so quickly from memory.  5 loaves later, it’s now in my memory to rattle off to everyone else that falls in love with this simply delicious bread.

When was the last time that you took inventory of the simple things that bring you joy?  Do it now!  It’s time to reprioritize and get back to the basics, the things that are most  important, the 4 ingredients that really matter…love, laughter, good health and Beer Bread.

Eileen's Beer Bread Photography by Andrea Karapas

Eileen’s Beer Bread
Ingredients:
3 cups self-rising flour
½ cup sugar
12 ounces light-colored beer
1 stick butter
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375°.  In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar and beer. Mix well with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.  Pour into a loaf pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Place a stick of butter on top of the bread and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  Cool. Remove from loaf pan.

Posted in Appetizers, Baking, Bread, Breakfast, Dessert, Dinner, Entertaining, Lunch, Savory, Sweets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Keep your enemies closer.

Exercise is my nemesis.  Nemesis is defined as a formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent.  Its root is in Greek mythology, meaning “to give what is due”.  The Greeks personified vengeful fate as a remorseless goddess in Nemesis, the goddess of revenge and retribution.  True to form, she has beaten me down more often than not, each time leaving me to wonder if I’ll ever win the fitness battle. 

Physical activity has never been my friend.  In fact, I’d choose to do just about anything instead of it.  Even in elementary school, the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge had me begging for mercy.  Along with millions of other children, I will forever be scarred by the feelings of humiliation brought on by the Rope Climb in gym class.  Whoever thought it was a good idea to make chubby kids climb a rope while their peers circled up on mats below to watch and laugh should be severely reprimanded for causing emotional distress to generations of children in this country.

At 38 years old, my physical health is becoming more and more important to me.  I’m seeing the effects of increased weight gain and being out of shape everyday.  Shopping has turned into a nightmare as I’ve been banned to the smallest section of space in every department store with unattractive and poorly fitting clothes.  Even the maternity section has cuter options than the plus department, leaving me feeling disrespected and wanting retribution against those who mock me.  Forcing overweight women to wear ugly clothes just isn’t fair…or is it?

Working in a multilevel building, I’m repetedly enticed on a daily basis by the elevator.  Whether it’s the fear that someone is watching me, thinking I’m lazy or the internal guilt for wanting to take the easy way up, I usually opt for the stairs.  But the inner battle is noticeable and increasingly bothersome.

Last weekend something clicked.  Like a swift swat on the back of the head, I was finally ready to do something about it.  Of course, the realization of my beach wedding approaching quickly may have had a little something to do with the lightbulb switching on.  Being an overweight bride just isn’t part of my deams.  So, I recruited my groom to join me in my effort to look and feel my best when I cross over into the happily ever after phase of my life.  It’s been one week since we joined a gym and committed to making the healthiest choices when it comes to how we eat and take care of our bodies.

Feta and Spinach Stuffed Grilled Chicken & Herbed Garlic Quinoa Photograph by Andrea Karapas

Knowing how I’ve failed in the past in setting reasonable and attainable weight loss goals for myself or in conquering the temptation of comfort foods and a fluffy couch, I am trying a different strategy this time.  My focus is on making one good choice at a time and taking baby steps instead of trying to take one giant leap.  Expecting to see results without putting in the time and effort is stupidity.  This meal was my first good choice this time around.  Still honoring my love for great tasting food, I took my favorite flavors and rolled them into a lean chicken breast, creating my Feta and Spinach Stuffed Grilled Chicken.  The bed of Herbed Garlic Quinoa represents my willingness to incorporate new and healthy things into my lifestyle.  A lighter, faster-cooking alternative to rice, Quinoa is a grain traced back to Andean civilizations and appreciated for its nutritional value.  Quinoa is a source of high protein, a balanced set of essential amino acids, and dietary fiber.  Both red and white varieties can be dressed with any of your favorites and served as a side or main entree lunch salad.

I’ve won 7 small battles with a week of exercise and eating healthy.  With one week behind me and only 42 more to go, I’m on my way to winning the war against fat and complacency.  One never conquers a war against their nemesis by sitting back and eating cheeseburgers.  You’ve gotta take the bull by the horns and keep marching forward.  In short, keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.

Feta and Spinach Stuffed Grilled Chicken & Herbed Garlic Quinoa Photograpy by Andrea Karapas

Feta and Spinach Stuffed Grilled Chicken
Ingredients:
4 thinly-sliced chicken breast cutlets
2 cups chopped fresh baby spinach
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
Instructions:
Combine spinach, feta, olive oil and parsley. Spoon 1/4 of the filling into the middle of each chicken breast and roll.  Secure each rolled chicken breast with two toothpicks.  Place over medium heat on grill.  Grill chicken until cooked thoroughly.

Herbed Garlic Quinoa
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 dash fresh lemon juice
Instructions:
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the quinoa, and toast, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Stir in broth, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender.  In a bowl, toss quinoa together with garlic, parsley, thyme, salt, and onion.  Sprinkle with lemon juice, and serve

Posted in Chicken, Dinner, Entertaining, Greek, Healthy Meals, Lunch, Savory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Make new friends…but keep the old.

Moving from Michigan to Colorado 14 years ago was both exciting and scary.  It was a big, new adventure for a small-town girl who only made a few, short moves from her hometown of Clinton, a tiny, rural town in Southeastern Michigan.  Tearful goodbyes among close girlfriends made the move bitter sweet for me and I felt a bit uneasy at the thought of being 1200 miles away from those who knew me best.  The months following my move to Colorado were spent unpacking, looking for a job, and getting settled.  No girlfriends required.  But as time passed, I began to miss the face-to-face girl talks, shopping, frozen margaritas, and nights out dancing, the things that can only be done properly with a girlfriend.  Resistance began to rear its ugly head at the thought of making new friends.  It had been 18 years since I was forced to make any new ones.  The small town I grew up in afforded me the advantage of developing longstanding friendships with individuals who know your backstory, because they themselves have a supporting role.  Making friends in the first grade is quite a bit easier and a lot less intimidating because rejection has fewer ramifications when you’re 6 years old.  My persistance to remain friendless in Colorado lasted many months.  Yet, determination to avoid the superficial introductions and potential incompatibilities kept me isolated, to say the least, and only added to the lonliness I already felt.  Not to mention, I was also setting a poor example for my 7 year old daughter who had also been transplanted.  Although, she was having much better luck, without much effort.

A shift in perspective came when I made my very first friend in Colorado, Megan Panesi, after 6 long months in a brand new state.  She was a co-worker at the day care center I found a job at and we hit it off at an after-work party for another co-worker.  We had a love of dancing in common and that was enough for me to begin making an effort.  I will forever be grateful to Megan for unknowingly teaching me that new friendships are just as valuable and should be treasured as fully as old ones.

Over the 14 years I’ve lived in Colorado, many friends have come and gone from my life, both new and old.  Some have transitioned out due to my own house cleaning, ridding my spirit of toxic energy, and others have left of their own volition.  As I’ve come to learn more about myself and my values, I’ve become more selective about the friends I let into my life.  There are few old ones that remain true, many new friends that are becoming old friends, and countless new friendships I look forward to making. 

Classic Sangria Photograph by Andrea Karapas

Summer is one of the best times of year to spend with friends.  It’s a slower pace for most and a time for rejuvenation.  After a long 10 weeks of making pie, I took a much needed break from flour on my face and my dear friend, the rolling pin, to kick my feet up with a new friend and a glass of deliciously cool and refreshing Sangria.  Sangria is a wine punch from the Spain and Portugal region typically consisting of a light, dry wine (usually red), chopped or sliced fruit such as apple, orange, lime, melon, berries, grapes or peaches; a sweetener such as honey, sugar, simple syrup or orange juice; a small amount of brandy or flavored liqueor; and in some US recipes, Seltzer or Sprite.  Add ice and you have one of the best summer drinks ever invented.  This Sangria recipe is a classic one.  It’s made with Rioja, Spain’s flagship wine that takes its name from the La Rioja region of Northeastern Spain.  Only seven grape varieties are permitted in Rioja wines and the reds are ripe with strawberry-raspberry Tempranillo fruit, a variety of black grapes grown in the region, and underpinned with a warm oaky note, the result of barrel-aging in the winery.  The Granny Smith apples, oranges, limes and grapes in this recipe are the best part of this drink and lead to red-stained fingers due to the undeniable temptation of fishing the fruit out of your glass. 

Warm Bruschetta with Grape Tomatoes, Feta, and Basil Photograph by Andrea Karapas

In order to feed the hunger along with quenching the thirst from the hot, summer sun, we indulged in a selection of savory tapas.  Tapas, meaning “small bites” is a term used to describe a variety of appetizers or snacks in Spanish cuisine.  Tapas has expanded to many other parts of the world and has evolved into a culture of sophisticated eats.  I chose 3 of my favorites to spotlight for you:  Warm Bruschetta with Grape Tomatoes, Feta and Basil;

Stuffed Mushrooms with Spinach Photograph by Andrea Karapas

Stuffed Mushrooms with Spinach; and Grilled Scallops wrapped in Proscuitto.  All three were very simple to pull together for an afternoon with a girlfriend.  The mushrooms can even be stuffed in advance and baked just before serving.  This was the first time I have ever grilled scallops and they were delicous.  Whole Foods had fresh scallops in their seafood department that were enormous so I decided to go with the smaller, pre-packaged, frozen scallops.  It was an excellent choice because they were a little easier to work with when wrapping and skewering.  Eating light never tasted so good.  Forget the fact that I ate about 5 of each. 🙂 My only mistake here was that I should have invited more friends!

Sangria and Tapas Photograph by Andrea Karapas

 
Classic Sangria
In a pitcher or large bowl, combine 1 orange, halved and cut into 1/4 inch slices, 1 lime, thinly sliced crosswise, 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into 1 inch pieces, 1 cup green grapes, halved, 1/4 cup brandy, and 1 bottle (750ml) dry red wine, such as Rioja or Cabernet Sauvignon.  Stir to combine and refrigerate 1 hour (or up to overnight).  To serve, add 4 cups (32 ounces) chilled lemon-lime soda and ice.
Serves 8 (per drink:  182 cal.)
Recipe from:  Everyday Food

Warm Bruschetta with Grape Tomatoes, Feta, and Basil
Preheat oven to 400°, with racks in upper and lower thirds.  In a 9-by-13 inch baking dish, combine 4 cups grape tomatoes, halved, 3 ounces feta, crumbled (3/4 cup), 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 3 garlic cloves, minced, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar.  Season with ground pepper.  On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange 1 baguette, cut into 1/4 inch slices, in a single layer, brush with 2 tablespoons oil  Place bread on top rack and tomato mixture on bottom rack.  Cook until bread is toasted and tomatoes have softened, 10-12 minutes.  Top bread with tomato mixture and 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil; season with coarse salt and pepper. 
Serves 6 (per serv:  226 cal.)
Recipe from: Everyday Food

Stuffed Mushrooms with Spinach
Ingredients:
24 medium mushrooms (about 1 1⁄2 pounds total)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the baking sheet
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1- 5-ounce package baby spinach, chopped
kosher salt and black pepper
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup Gruyère, grated (2 ounces)
Instructions:
Heat oven to 375° F. Remove the stems from the mushrooms; finely chop the stems and reserve. Coat a baking sheet with oil. Bake the mushroom caps, stem-side down, until just tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and chopped mushroom stems and cook, stirring, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the spinach, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper and cook, tossing, until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes more.

In a bowl, combine the spinach mixture with the bread crumbs and cheese. Spoon into the mushroom caps and bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
Recipe from:  Real Simple

Grilled Scallops Wrapped in Prosciutto
Ingredients:
1 pound paper-thin slices prosciutto
2 pounds medium scallops (about 40)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
2 lemons, halved, plus wedges for garnish
Freshly ground pepper
Instructions:
Preheat grill to high. (If using a charcoal grill, coals are ready when you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill for 2 seconds.)

Halve 1 slice prosciutto lengthwise. Fold in half lengthwise, and wrap around sides of 1 scallop, overlapping prosciutto ends. Repeat with remaining prosciutto and scallops. Thread several scallops on each skewer.

Drizzle scallops lightly with oil, squeeze lemons over skewers, and season with pepper. Grill scallops, turning once, until just opaque, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with lemon.
Recipe from:  Martha Stewart

Posted in Appetizers, Bread, Dinner, Entertaining, Lunch, Savory, Seafood, Spanish, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

For the love of PIE ~ Week Ten: Love

10 Weeks ~ 10 Pies ~ 10 People ~ 10 Virtues

There’s no sweeter way to honor those who have impacted my life with virtue than by baking pie.  For the next 10 weeks, I will be spotlighting a pie each week that represents a special person in my life that has passed on one of life’s important virtues to me.

Week Ten

We spend our whole lives wanting to be loved.  It is one of the most basic of human needs following food, water and safety.  We long for it, search for it, feel empty without it.  Because of this, it’s no surprise that love is the most popular topic for songwriters. Whether it’s about a crazy little thing called love, the glory of love, or 50 ways to leave your lover, love songs put our emotions into words that we sing along to and cry with.  Love can bring us an abounding amount of joy as well as immeasurable amount of sadness.  Though it was Alfred Lord Tennyson, in his 1850 In Memoriam poem that said, “ ’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Many make the mistake of searching for love without first discovering it within themselves.  For some, years of negative influence from others leads to low self-esteem and an unfavorable self-image.  Hurtful words are powerful and can be damaging to our spirit.  They break us down, creating a hole for self-esteem to escape like water through a cracked vase.  Absence of love for oneself leads to a never ending quest for true love in another because one’s ideal partner is a reflection of oneself.  It’s important to actualize an invisible shield to place over your heart to filter out hurtful and negative messages.  If our hearts are protected and strong, it’s difficult for others’ sharp words to penetrate.  Self-love is more than just loving yourself; it’s having respect for your own value and worth as well as confidence in your own abilities.  This is referred to as self-efficacy.  It’s being honest with yourself about your own strengths and weaknesses, and accepting both with humility and grace.

As a little girl, I was fortunate to have friends and family in my life that sent me loving messages of acceptance.  I don’t remember any specific quotes announcing my specialness to the world but I believed it for sure (see Not your ordinary girl or grilled cheese sandwich).  Though I took my fair share of bullying by those who shall remain nameless because they don’t deserve to be published in my blog and had my heart crushed countless times due to the loss of love in my life, I have remained strong and true to my spirit.  Somewhere along the way, I have learned that you can’t count on others to nurture your heart or feed your spirit.  It must come from within.  When we love ourselves, it is then that we have enough love to give to another and naturally it will be returned.

Because we all can do better, I’ve provided eight tips on how to fill your own spirit and love yourself more:

Stop comparing yourself to others – the endless messages we receive from media and society about perfection are damaging to the soul.  The more worth you place in others, the less you place within yourself.  Learn to accept yourself the way you are and you’ll be much happier.   

Forgive yourself – Even more difficult than forgiving another is forgiving yourself.  Guilt and shame can last a lifetime but love is eternal.  The sooner you forgive yourself for past mistakes, the sooner you can love and accept yourself …leading to a fuller life.

Stop seeking approval – Living your life constantly seeking approval from others diminishes your self-worth.  Learn to trust yourself in knowing what’s right for you, not what others think is right for you.

Appreciate Silence – The world is noisy.  When we’re silent we can hear our spirit and get in touch with ourselves.  It is only through silence that we can reflect most thoroughly.  I have the biggest revelations and best ideas when I’m in the shower.

Be kind to yourself – If you’re always giving to others, you may have nothing left for yourself.  Those that find themselves always giving usually have the biggest hole in their heart to fill.  Finding balance among the kindness you show yourself and the kindness you show others is difficult to achieve but will help you give more genuinely.

Be honest with yourself – Self denial doesn’t do anyone any good.  When we lie to ourselves and bury our feelings we fail to grow.  It’s when we’re truthful about our emotions and admit our faults that we continue to flourish and stand taller.

Cultivate your dreams – Life without dreams is like a sailboat without water; it’s stagnant.  Keep chasing your dreams, eventually you’ll catch up.  Even more important…stop and smell the roses along the way.  It’s a sweet reminder that you might already be there.

Believe in yourself – Quiet the voice in your head that says, “You can’t!”  Listen to the voice that says, “Anything’s possible!”  Whichever one you listen to will be right every time.

Fresh Peaches Photography by Andrea Karapas

The pie I chose this week is a Lattice-Top All-Peach Pie.  I love peach pie.  It has always been one of my favorites.  During my fruit tree research, I discovered that for optimum growth, peach trees require a constant supply of water.  The best-tasting fruit is produced when the peach is watered throughout the season.  This tender, sweet fruit needs nurturing.  It requires more nutrients than most other fruit trees.  Because its delicate flesh can be bruised easily, I chose the lattice top which metaphorically acts as a shield to the tender fruit.  Latticework is historically used as a support to a structure, allowing it to stand tall.  The lattice top crust was intimidating to me for a long time.  It looks fancy and complicated though it’s actually pretty simple if given proper visual instructions.

Because the season for truly good, ripe peaches is short, I like to use frozen peaches for my pies.  They taste as good as fresh and eliminate the labor of blanching, peeling and pitting the peaches.  The author of my pie book, Ken Haedrich, states that the quality of frozen produce in the US is quite often superior to that of fresh due to the very short duration of time between harvesting and processing.  Once you’ve got your crust made, it’s a pretty quick pie to pull together and guests at your picnic will be quite impressed.

Poet, Veronica Shoffstall stated, “Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring your flowers.”  I love this quote and it’s perfect for this post.  Go forth and nurture your spirit.  Love yourself.

This pie series has been a lot of work AND a lot of fun.  It has allowed me to honor many special individuals in my life who have impacted me positively both as a child and an adult.  Thank you for letting me share my stories and loved ones with you.  The last 10 weeks has also given me the opportunity to practice making pie, one thing I’ve dreamed of mastering for quite a long time.  If you’ve taken nothing else from my blog posts, know this..if you want to become good at something, practice.  You’ll almost always get better at it.

Lattice-Top All-Peach Pie Photography by Andrea Karapas

 

Lattice-Top All-Peach Pie Photograph by Andrea Karapas

Basic Flaky Pie Pastry
Ingredients for a double crust:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 cup cold water
Instructions:
Put the flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor.  Pulse several times to mix.  Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse the machine 5 or 6 times to cut in.  Fluff the mixture with a fork, lifting it up from the bottom of the bowl.  Scatter the shortening over the flour and pulse 5 or 6 times.  Fluff the mixture again.  Drizzle half of the water over the flour mixture and pulse 5 or 6 times.  Fluff the mixture and sprinkle on the the remaining water.  Pulse 5 or 6 times more, until the dough starts to form clumps.  Overall, it will look like coarse crumbs.  Dump the contents of the processor bowl into a large bowl.  Test the pastry by squeezing some of it between your fingers.  If it seems a little dry and not quite packable, drizzle a teaspoon or so of cold water over the pastry and work it with your fingertips.
Using your hands, pack the pastry into 2 balls as you would pack a snowball.  Make one ball slightly larger than the other; this will be your bottom crust.  Knead balls once or twice, then flatten the larger ball into a ¾ -inch-thick disk on a floured work surface.  Shape the other half into a square ¾-inch thick; you’ll use this for the lattice top.  Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight before rolling.

Lattice-Top All-Peach Pie
Ingredients for filling:
Two 1-pound bags frozen sliced peaches, partially thawed
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Instructions:
On a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper, roll the pastry into a 13-inch circle with a floured rolling pin.  Invert the pastry over a 9 1/2 –inch deep-dish pie pan, center, and peel off the paper.  Gently tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and sculpt the overhang into an upstanding ridge.  Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Combine the peaches, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 1/3 cup of the sugar in a large bowl and toss well to mix.  Set aside for 10 minutes to juice.  Preheat the oven to 400° F.
In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar.  Sprinkle this mixture over the fruit and mix well.  Stir in the vanilla and nutmeg. 
On another sheet of lightly floured waxed paper, roll the remaining pastry into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle.  With a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, cut the pastry into 8 lengthwise strips, each 1 inch wide.  Turn the filling into the chilled pie shell and smooth the filling with your hands to even it out.  Moisten the rim of the shell slightly and dot the filling with the butter.  Follow the link above for putting together the lattice top.
Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for 35 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 375° F and rotate the pie 180 degrees, so that the part that faced the back of the oven now faces forward.  Just in case, slide a large aluminum foil-lined baking sheet onto the rack below to catch any spills.  Continue to bake until the top is golden brown and any visible juices bubble thickly, 35-45 minutes.
Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

Posted in Baking, Dessert, Entertaining, Pastry, Pie, Sweets, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

For the love of PIE ~ Week Nine: Patience

10 Weeks ~ 10 Pies ~ 10 People ~ 10 Virtues

There’s no sweeter way to honor those who have impacted my life with virtue than by baking pie.  For the next 10 weeks, I will be spotlighting a pie each week that represents a special person in my life that has passed on one of life’s important virtues to me.

Week Nine

Little Miss Stubborn was, as you might imagine, extraordinarily stubborn.  Once she had her mind made up there was no unmaking it.  If she decided to go out, she went out.  Even when it was pouring rain!”

I think Roger Hargreaves had my daughter, Sydney, in mind when he wrote this addition to his successful Mr. Men and Little Miss series launched in 1981.  English author and illustrator, Hargreaves, created brightly-colored, simple characters that have been a part of popular culture for over 25 years.  His books have sold over 85 million copies worldwide in 20 languages.  A lover of fellow British authors such as JRR Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, and Roald Dahl, Sydney always has her nose in a book and is the kind of kid that will read by flashlight under her covers into the wee hours of the night.

It started the day she was born.  Weighing in at nearly 10 lbs just out of the womb and fighting every inch of the way to stay in, that girl was just as stubborn then as she is today, eleven and a half years later.  Early on as a toddler there were daily battles with Sydney’s willful spirit which allowed for countless opportunities to exercise lessons in patience.  I remember several instances of her refusing to clean up her toys after I had graciously spent time stacking blocks and cups, playing restaurant and grocery store, and reading books one after another.  It was with much frustration, and a level of stubborn will that mirrored hers, that I would take her by the arm, pulling her through the room, opening and closing her tiny hand around each toy to put it away where it belonged.  As she screamed, I would softly sing the Clean Up Song.  As she got a little older and on days when I wasn’t in the mood for practicing patience, I would stand in the middle of her room and announce empty threats of throwing all her strewn about toys in the trash.  This didn’t have quite the effect I was hoping for which led to the heart-breaking task of walking through her room with a big black trash bag as she sat there and watched, tears streaming down her face.  Somewhere in the back of her mind, she must have known that her will was much stronger than mine as it never motivated her to ever clean up her own toys.  Given my tender and undeniable heart, the trash bag never left the garage on trash day and her toys would magically appear in their designated spot a few days later.

With tantrums in the middle of Old Navy over flip flops, being removed from a family dinner at Applebee’s after spitting out a bad bite of macaroni and cheese, and middle-of-the-night car rides to wait out an escalated tirade that woke up the neighbors, Sydney has been a challenging child, to say the least.  Though bullheaded and obstinate in her attitude, she has taught me an astounding amount of patience.  Patience is defined as the ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay; quiet, steady perseverance.

Mint & Oreos - Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie Photography by Andrea Karapas

I chose a Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie to represent the patience I’ve learned from Syd.  With a wait time of at least 3 hours to overnight before sinking a knife into this delectable frozen pie, it’s a lesson in patience for all.  The Oreo Crumb Crust is the perfect shell for the vanilla ice cream and minty marshmallow filling.  You’ll need a trip to the liquor store for the crème de menthe and crème de cacao that go into making this a true Grasshopper dessert.  This pie is named after the Grasshopper cocktail, a sweet, mint-flavored after-dinner drink.  According to Wikipedia, the name of the drink is derived from its green color which is provided by the crème de menthe.  The drink reputedly originated at Tujague’s, a landmark bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans and gained popularity during the 1950’s and 1960’s throughout the American South.

With the opportunity to mother such an overwhelmingly willful and stubborn daughter, this little grasshopper is now much better equipped to apply this virtue in all aspects of her life with individuals who exhibit these same attributes.  The spirited ones are those who go on to do great things and I expect nothing less from Sydney.  She’s strong and I’m confident that if her own mother couldn’t break her spirit, nothing will.

Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie Photography by Andrea Karapas

Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie Photography by Andrea Karapas

Oreo Crumb Crust
Ingredients:
3 cups coarsely broken Oreo cookies (18-20 cookies)
Pinch of ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2-3 teaspoons milk
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 325° F.  Combine the Oreo cookies and cinnamon in a food processor.  Pulse repeatedly in long bursts to make fine crumbs.  Transfer the crumbs to a large bowl.  Add the butter and mix well, first with a fork, then with your hands, rubbing the mixture until evenly combined.  Add the milk and rub again until the crumbs clump together when pressed between your fingers.  Transfer the crumbs to a 91/2-inch deep-dish pie pan, pressing them into the bottom and about halfway up the side.  Refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes.  Place on the center oven rack and bake for 6 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool thoroughly, Refrigerate for 10 minutes before filling.

Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie
Ingredients for filling:
1 quart vanilla ice cream
¼ cup whole milk
5 cups mini marshmallows
3 tablespoons green crème de menthe
3 tablespoons light crème de cacao
1 ¼ cups cold heavy or whipping cream
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Garnish:
Small chocolate-covered after-dinner mints (Andes)
Fresh mint leaves
Instructions:
Place the ice cream in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to soften somewhat.  Using an ice cream spade or a large metal spoon, spoon the ice cream into the chilled pie shell.  Press it in evenly and smooth with the back of the spade, but take care not to crack the crust.  Place in the freezer while you prepare the filling.
Combine the mild and marshmallows in a large saucepan, preferably nonstick, and melt over low heat, stirring often.  Remove from the heat and let cool, stirring occasionally.  When the mixture has cooled to room temperature, stir in the crème de menthe and crème de cacao.  Set aside.
Using a chilled medium-size bowl and chilled beaters, beat the heavy cre3am with an electric mixer until it holds soft peaks.  Add the confectioners’ sugar and continue to beat until stiff but not grainy.  Fold the melted marshmallow mixture into the whipped cream until evenly blended.  Scrape this mixture over the ice cream, smoothing the top.  Freeze for at least 3 hours or overnight.  Once the surface of the pie has firmed up, cover loosely with aluminum foil.  Ideally, the top layer should be firm but slightly yielding when the pie is served.  To serve, garnish each slice with an after-dinner mint and 1 or 2 mint leaves.

Recipes from:  Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie
By~ Ken Haedrich

Posted in Baking, Chocolate, Dessert, Entertaining, Pie, Sweets, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments