Khachapuri -Georgian Cheese Bread

This bread is often topped with an egg and put back in the over until it is just set but the center is still runny. I am not a fan of runny eggs in anything so they are not on my breads. The original is just made with just cheese (top)

I created another one with a thin layer of pesto under the cheese and I have to say I loved that one better! But that is the beauty of cooking and baking you can make it your own and add what you love best!!

You will Need:

Dough

  • 1 tsp flaked sea salt (like Maldon)
  • 1 pkg or 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 4 – 4 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (yes use the EVOO – don’t save it )

For the filling

  • 1 1/2 cups crumbled FETA – I beg you not to use North American Feta it is not the same as the Greek Feta not even close!
  • 1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • olive oil or melted butter to brush on crust
  • eggs if you like that sort of thing on your bread

Step 1: in the bowl of a stand mixer add the dry ingredients: salt, yeast and flour.

Step 2: In a large measuring cup or microwave safe bowl add the wet ingredients: honey, water, milk and olive oil. Heat in microwave for 1 minute.

Step 3: add the wet to the dry and with the dough hook mix for about 4 minutes until the bowl is almost clean. Then I always do a few minutes of kneading on the counter to get the correct amount of flour added until the dough is no longer sticky.

Step 4: Once smooth oil a bowl with more olive oil and then cover an let rise until double. 1 1/2 hours in a warm place.

Step 5: Crumble and grate your cheeses and leave in fridge until ready to assemble.

Step 6: Once doubled gently deflate and place back in oiled bowl for a second rise about 45 minutes this time.

Step 7: cut dough into 4 equal pieces and flatten out into a sort of square shape then roll up edges for form a ledge. Pinch sides to create the traditional shape or just make them round like a pizza

fill with cheeses

or add your favorite spread like pesto on the bottom and then top with cheeses.

Step 8: Bake for about 15 minutes or until they are the level of browned you like (by the way in Italy the best pizzas have some level of char on them because that is considered a component/ingredient – they are not just melted cheese and bread)

EAT Warm!! and if you have lots left let them cool and freeze them for later. When you are ready to eat them toss them in a hot oven again for 5 minutes to warm up

Koulouria – Greek Easter Cookies

These Greek cookies always remind me of my first boyfriend Peter’s Mother. She was a great cook! They remind my husband of his grandmother. I have never attempted to make them before so I thought I would try. All the recipes on the Internet have enormous quantities that make 150 cookies or use crazy amounts to make enough to feed thousands. My recipe is for 2 dozen and they can be frozen, if you don’t have an army to feed. They turned out great and the house smells of orange and vanilla when they are in the oven. Simply glorious!  They are a dry dense cookie that is not too sweet and perfect for dunking into to steaming hot mugs of coffee or tea. My version uses Olive Oil instead of butter because…well, I love Olive Oil and will always choose it first.

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup mild Extra Virgin Olive oil (there are lots of mild options from California or Texas)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp fine orange zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice (1 orange)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (or vanilla paste if you can find it)
  • 1/4 whipping cream
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 5 1/2 cups of fine pastry flour
  • 1 egg & 1 tsp water for egg wash
  • some sesame seeds for sprinkling on tops

Step 1: gather all ingredients so you don’t forget anything – measure and place them in order.

Step 2: With a paddle to begin and the dough hook to finish, add the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sugar and blend for 1 minute.

Step 3: add eggs, orange zest, orange juice and vanilla, cream and cinnamon. Mix until blended well. Leave it running for a good 2 minutes.

Step 4: In a bowl add flour, baking soda and baking powder. Mix with a whisk to incorporate. Change the paddle for the dough hook- this will get dense because you are going to form cookies with your hands. Add flour 1 cup at a time and just mix until incorporated a few seconds, then add more flour until you get a heavy dough. This will be sticky but if you pat it will not stick to your hands. Once you are there stop. (don’t over mix)

Step 5: place dough on floured surface. You wont need too much flour since there is oil in the batter. This is where you can use an ice cream scoop to get even sized balls or just divide the dough in half and then keep cutting everything in half until you get 24 even sized balls. Should be a ball that can fit in your hand slightly larger than a golf ball.

Step 6: roll out each ball into a log with a bit of flour so it doesn’t stick to the counter. You can roll out to about 10-12 inches in length. Fold in half and roll it around itself until it looks like a rope.

Step 7: place on parchment lined cookie sheets -there should be a bit of room between them as they will rise a bit. Mix the egg and water and whisk with a fork to make the egg wash. Brush each cookie and sprinkle on sesame seeds.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes turning to make sure they bake evenly.

Served warm they are great but they will last a few days in a Ziploc bag and this is when they are perfect for dunking! or you can freeze some for another day. The Easter Bunny came to the window because it smelled so good too….I guess that is a lucky sign!

Happy Easter!

Baked Jalapeno Poppers

OK! I must admit these were pretty good. They are perfect for a party because they can be made made ahead of time, then just baked until “melty” and delicious!

You will need:

  • 5-6 Jalapenos (this recipe can easily be doubled for larger crowds!)
  • 2 Spring onions (scallions)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic -minced finely
  • 1 tbsp your favorite Bar-B-Q sauce
  • 2 heaping tbsp of cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro (coriander)
  • 3 strips of bacon- cooked well and chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup of cheddar or spicy cheese I used a Habanero cheese!

I found this Habanero cheese which has some pretty nice heat but you can use any sharp cheddar or jack cheese you prefer.

Step 1: If you are sensitive use gloves when handling chilies. Slice Jalapenos in half, lengthwise, then clean out seeds and membranes with a spoon. Place on a foil lined baking sheet.

Step 2: cook bacon and then chop info small dice.

Step 3: chop all ingredients finely and place in a bowl. Reserve a few bacon bits for topping.

Step 4: fill mixture in jalapeno boats and top with some breadcrumbs. Bake in a 425 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes or until peppers are soft and topping is browned.

Finish with a few more bacon bits and serve with a bit of sour cream to cool that heat!!

Flourless Chocolate Almond Ricotta Cake

This is a simple, flourless cake made with olive oil, ricotta cheese and a hint of orange. It is great with some fruit and a spoon of whipped cream if you like.

You will need:

  • 1-2 tsp of butter -softened for greasing the pan
  • 3 tbsp dark cocoa – divided
  • 1/4 cup mild buttery olive oil – I used a Bozzano from California (do not use anything that says LIGHT – this is poor quality oil)
  • 3 oz of your favorite dark chocolate chopped
  • 300 grams of whole ricotta cheese -its just over 1 cup if you don’t have a scale
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup almond milk (or any kind you like)
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • 2 cups ground almonds
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds to top
  • whipped cream & berries to serve (if you like! and I do!)

Step 1: pre-heat oven to 375 F. I like to line a 9 inch spring form pan with parchment paper and then butter generously. Using a sieve dust 1 – 1 1/2 tbsp of cocoa powder onto the pan and then tap to get all areas covered with cocoa. Tap out any remainder cocoa to a small plate or piece of wax paper and set aside to be used in the cake later.

Step 2: in a small bowl add the chopped chocolate and the olive oil and melt in microwave for 1 minute. Stir and leave to cool.

Step 3: in a mixer add the ricotta with eggs and mix for 2 minutes until smooth, Scrape down sides at least once. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and sugar and combine for 20 seconds.

Step 4: Add milk, orange extract and vanilla. Mix for 20 seconds until combined.

Step 5: in a small bowl add the ground almonds, remainder of the cocoa, baking powder and stir to combine. Add in 2 batches and stir only to combine.

Step 6: Spread batter into prepared pan, sprinkle sliced almonds on top and bake 55-60 minutes. It will fall slightly when it cools. Let cool in pan and serve warm or completely cooled.

Warm Spinach Salad

Eating alone does not have to be take out or something boring. Big Pete is away at a conference and I still like to cook something delicious even if I am dining alone…because I am worth it!

This is a simple spinach salad with a half a chicken breast and the dressing is made right in the pan then poured over the salad while still warm.

You will need:

  • a few big handfuls of baby Spinach or Spinach and Arugula
  • 2 strips of bacon
  • 1/2 small yellow onion – sliced into half rings
  • a few slices of red onion
  • great extra virgin olive oil (always!! I am using a beautiful Itrana from Quatrociocchi ) you will use some for cooking and some to finish
  • a dash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 chicken breast sliced -cooked then chopped
  • 6-7 white mushrooms sliced
  • 1/2 small tomato chopped into small dice (approx 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tsp of mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp of jalapeno jelly
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: cook a couple of slices of good quality bacon on a medium heat flipping it from time to time to get an even crispiness. I like mine just shy of cooked until it is crumbly but you cook it as you like. Once cooked remove from pan and place on paper towel to absorb excess fat and set aside to cool, then chop.

Step 2: toss a couple of big handfuls of baby spinach and arugula to a big bowl. There are lots of other ingredients here so don’t worry that this is not enough.

Step 3: slice up a half a yellow or white onion and saute on medium heat in a bit of your good olive oil (honestly don’t ever buy that junk stuff from the grocery store buy real oil of decent quality no matter what!) saute until browned. While your onions cook slice up a bit of red onion into half rings and toss along with a handful of blueberries into your bowl with the greens.

Chop up your tomato and set in a small bowl.

This salad is a combination of raw and cold and warm and spicy. The tartness of the blueberries along with the raw onion goes so nicely with the warm chicken covered in the sweet and spicy jalapeno jelly.

Step 4: add a splash of balsamic vinegar when the onions are just starting to brown. Cook for a minute or two more then add your chicken. Remember to add a bit of salt and pepper and cook chicken until browned and cooked through. Remove from heat and chop. You should have your chicken chopped, your tomato chopped and your bacon chopped.

Step 5: in the same pan saute the mushrooms until nicely golden around the edges and then add back the meat, your mustard, the jalapeno jelly and a dash of red wine vinegar. Stir until a simple sauce starts to form.

Step 6: add all remaining ingredients. Cook 1 more minute.

Toss the warm ingredients over the cold taste and adjust for salt and pepper once more. I also always add a little drizzle of my great olive oil for a perfect raw oil finish. Think of olive oil as a condiment here. Eat right away!

Salted Chocolate Cheesecake Bites

I just wanted a bit of something decadent and these came to mind. I created a half batch but it can easily be doubled. You can freeze them for a perfect frozen bite when you get a hankering for a little something!…OK maybe you might want 2!

What you need:

Small Batch

  • 1 8 oz package of cream cheese – room temperature
  • 1 egg – room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste (or pure extract- the paste is worth looking for!)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch

Crust

  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp vanilla sugar (or just regular sugar)
  • pinch of salt

*use a loaf pan used for baking a loaf of bread

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Full Batch

  • 2 8 oz packages of cream cheese – room temperature
  • 2 eggs – room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla paste (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
  • 6 tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • 2 heaping tbsp vanilla sugar
  • pinch of salt

*use a small brownie pan 7 x 11 or 8 x 8 square pan

  • 1 4 oz bar of dark chocolate (or 2 for full batch)
  • 1 tsp of coconut oil (or 2 for the full batch)
  • Maldon sea salt

Heat oven to 325 degrees F

Step 1: in a stand mixer place softened cream cheese – using the paddle attachment mix for a minute, then scrape the paddle and bowl to mix well and avoid lumps.

Step 2: add sugar and mix again for another minute, then scrape down bowl and paddle to avoid lumps. Add eggs, vanilla paste and cornstarch and mix again for 3 minutes -scraping  once to make sure it is a smooth mixture.

Step 3: in a large bowl add graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar and pinch of salt. Mix with a wooden spoon.

Step 4: place parchment paper in the pan so that there is an overhang as you will be lifting the baked cheesecake out and onto a cutting board to slice. Press crust mix into the pan in an even layer.

Step 5: Pour cheesecake mix over crust and bake 30-35 minutes or until the centre is slightly wobbly – the parameter  will puff and get slightly browned. The centre should be only slightly wobbly – no longer liquid.

Step 6: let cool, then slice into small squares, mine were 1 inch approx. If you want to cut off the uneven edges you slices will be perfect. Use a large knife dipped in hot water and then dried on a tea towel -for each smooth cut. Place separated squares on a cookie rack over a sheet pan to scrape up extra chocolate.

Step 7: Melt dark chocolate bar or two (small batch big batch!) and 1 or 2 tsp of coconut oil – you can use a double boiler to melt chocolate or just do it in a microwave in 20 second increments until melted.

Step 8: pour slowly over the squares to coat as much as you like -reusing the excess. Let set for 20 minutes or so and then add a sprinkle of flaked sea salt. You can keep in the fridge or freeze them for a frozen 1 bite treat.

OK, I might just need 1 more!

Filipino Chicken Adobo

 My pal Dan was talking about his favorite foods from the Philippines and Chicken Adobo came up in the conversation! I said “I have never made Chicken Adobo!” His eyes lit up and he described the sweet, sour and rich tastes he remembered growing up. I said “I have to make that!”

So this one was made with love for Dan! and of course Big Pete!

This is slow simmered until it thickens and gets all dark and wonderful. It is sweet, sour and tangy. Served piping hot over fragrant Jasmine rice, I promise you will love it!

You will need:

  • 8-10 organic chicken thighs
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic -chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1 tsp crushed peppercorns
  • 1 cup canned tomatoes (crushed or pieces)
  • 1 small onion
  • scallions or onion sprouts to serve
  • your favorite rice – I like Jasmine
  • 1 small pork tenderloin chopped in large slices(optional for a Pork & Chicken Adobo version – if you prefer!)

Step 1: I like to clean off some of the big pieces of fat on the thighs and then I cut them in half or quarters. Place in a large bowl.

Step 2: take an onion and lots of garlic and mince finely. This will just disappear in the sauce. Add to chicken.

Step 3: add your cider (or white) vinegar and soy to the bowl.

Step 4: add the palm sugar or brown sugar if you don’t have palm (you can find it in any good grocery store or health food store)

Step 5: you can add canned tomatoes but I had fresh seasonal so I just did a rough chop and threw them in the food processor. Add to the bowl. Add the cracked peppercorns – don’t worry you can add lots!

Step 6: marinate for a few hours or overnight.

Step 7: OPTIONAL* you can  also add some pork tenderloin but, I do not add until the last 1/2 hour of cooking. I have chopped into similar sized pieces as the chicken and you can add some of the sauce to it to marinate before adding to the pot.

Step 8: add to a large heavy pot – this is when I bring out the heavy enamelled cast iron Le Crueset.(they are worth every penny by the way!) Turn on medium heat, let come to a boil and then just lower to a steady blip for 3 hours or until the sauce is reduced and the chicken is tender. If you are adding the pork add it in the last 15- 30 minutes because the meat is so tender.

It gets all thick and dark caramelly brown!! My mouth is watering just looking at this picture.

Serve over Jasmine rice and a few onion sprouts or scallions to make it pretty!

The boy could hardly wait to eat a big bowl of it! Big Pete approved!!

I hope Dan liked it too!!

Cinnamon Kouign Aman

 The smell of warm pastries and cinnamon sugar is the way I woke up Big Pete this Sunday morning!

Get the coffee and be prepared to be dazzled!

Kouign Aman (pronounced Queen Aman) are a French lacquered pastry from Brittany. I have always wanted to try making them. They do require a bit of effort over 2 days but, they are well worth it. It is like making a typical croissant dough and then when you roll them out the last time you roll them in sugar instead of flour. Once they cool slightly, they are flaky and crunchy and definitely buttery. Kouign Aman literally translates to butter cake.

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups of warm water
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 envelope of dry yeast
  • 4 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 4 sticks of unsalted best quality butter – let come to almost room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder

Step 1: In a bowl add warm water, honey and yeast. Let bloom for 5 minutes to make sure yeast is active.

Step 2: in a stand mixer with a dough hook add flour, salt and melted butter. Mix for a few seconds then add yeast mixture. Mix until well combined approximately 2 minutes. The dough should literally clean the bowl when it is done.

Step 3: Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Step 4: On a large sheet of parchment  spread the butter to form a square which is  8 inches x 8 inches. Fold up and place in fridge to get firm for 30 minutes.

Step 5: on a floured surface roll out dough to a 12 inch square.

My square was too large- if you make it 12- 13 inches it should wrap the butter with very little over lap.

Step 6: place the cold butter on top of the dough in a diamond fashion, then fold like an envelope to enclose butter.

Step 7: pound the hard butter gently to start rolling without breaking through the dough. Roll out the.  dough to roughly 24 inches x 8 inches. Fold into thirds. Brush off excess flour and pinch ends. The goal is to roll out and fold to evenly distribute butter.

Step 8: wrap in plastic wrap and put in fridge for 20 minutes.

Step 9: roll out again and fold into three again.

this is your second fold – mark it so you remember. Wrap and pt back in fridge for another 20 minutes. Do this 4 times. After the 4th roll wrap dough and leave in fridge 6-8 hours or overnight.

Step 10: heat the oven to 425 degrees F and remove your dough for the final roll out. This time instead of flour you will roll out the dough in sugar or cinnamon sugar.

Step 11: roll out to a 16 inch x 16 inch square. Cut off edges to make even 4 inch squares (use a clean ruler)

I used 4 inch cheesecake pans as a mould -you could just place right on parchment paper or you could use a large muffin mould. I prefer the bigger ring as the muffin pan makes the pastry rise up instead of outward. The outward spread makes the pastry more flaky and crunchy.

Step 12: Pinch each point to the center of the square and then take each new point and fold to the center again. I also made a few with just one fold. I like the traditional double version better.

You can even roll into croissant shapes. Let rise one final time for approx 20 minutes.

Bake approx 20 minutes or until browned and crunchy.

Let cool slightly then dig in! They are very buttery and crunchy…then go do a workout!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

This easy slab cake is delicious and moist and has zucchini and olive oil in it…don’t worry you would never know it was anything but chocolate cake!

You will need:

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter (1/2 cup) at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup mild extra virgin olive oil- I strongly encourage you to buy really good quality EVOO and use it lavishly!!
  • 1 tsp vanilla (or maybe 2 if you like!)
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups finely grated zucchini
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup dark cocoa
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips or 1 great 80 gram chocolate bar – chopped
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp good vanilla extract or vanilla paste
  • 1 tsp gelatin (unflavoured)
  • 3 tbsp cold water
  • 4-5 tbsp vanilla sugar
  • fresh berries

I used a 3quart/2.8 Litre glass baking dish – its easy to cut on the glass and stores easily in the fridge because the toppping is whipped cream.

Heat oven to 325.

Butter and flour your glass baking dish. Set aside.

Step 1: add room temperature butter and sugars to a stand mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer you can use a hand mixer. Mix until it resembles wet sand.

Step 2: add 3 eggs and mix on medium high for 3 minutes until pale in color.

Step 3: add vanilla ( I make my own) and olive oil and mix until incorporated.

Step 4: add buttermilk and mix well, scrape down bowl at least once.

Step 5: add finely grated zucchini and any liquid that it has into mixer.

Step 6: add dry ingredients to a large bowl and mix with a whisk. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cocoa. Whisk to blend and make sure cocoa doesn’t have any clumps.

Step 6: add dry ingredients to a large bowl and mix with a whisk. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cocoa. Whisk to blend and make sure cocoa doesn’t have any clumps.

Step 7: chop chocolate (or just use good quality chips)

Step 8: add dry ingredients to wet and  mix on low speed until just incorporated.

Step 9: I like to mix in the chopped chocolate by hand. This also allows me to scrape the bowl a few more times.

Step 10:  spread and level batter in pan.

Step 11: bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely.

Step 12:  Sprinkle gelatin over water and let bloom for 3-4 minutes then microwave for 10 seconds. Whip whipping cream with vanilla and sugar and slowly drizzle the gelatin in to the cream. This will stabilize your topping so this can last a day or 2 without getting runny.

Step 13: spread cream over cooled cake and arrange berries as you like and then cut yourself a big slab!!

and don’t forget to share with friends!! feed it to kids you will get some vegetables and olive oil in them and they wont even know it!

Mexican Salsa Burgers

I love a good burger!! I would travel long distances for a great burger! I think if I could choose my last meal, it would be a burger…and  sweet potato fries of course! I love them in any variation, beef, chicken, turkey, vegetarian. Yep! I love em all, if they are made well and with good ingredients. This is my latest creation. I made the Salsa first and thought this would great in a burger and it was!

You will need:

  • 1 lb. of best quality beef (80/20 is best – you do need some fat!)
  • 1 lb of best quality hot Italian sausages – casings removed
  • 1/2 cup your favorite Salsa – here is my recipe from the last post
  • 1 tbsp Mexican Seasoning mix
  • salt and pepper (I only add this while grilling the burgers)
  • great squishy buns
  • slices of avocado
  • more of your favorite Salsa to top
  • onions, hot sauce ….make this the burger you love!

Step 1: start with the best quality meat you have access to. I have organic beef and some great quality hot Italian sausage from my local market they make it in house. If you can’t find it without the casings like this just buy actual sausages and remove the casings.

Step 2: gently and with love loosen the meat so it is not compacted and becomes a tough burger. The very best burgers are ground fresh which makes a nice loose burger. I did not have my own ground but I always try to chop it or separate the meat so it is not as dense and compact. Add your Salsa.

Be gentle in mixing ingredients to avoid compacting burgers too tightly. Add your Mexican seasoning mix. I wait to add salt and pepper and just sprinkle on top while grilling.

Step 3: slice up and arrange all your condiments…..Mmmm avocado and a squeeze of lime!

Step 4: divide the meat into equal parts. A simple method is just to divide mass in half and then keep dividing each piece into half until you have 6-8 equal sized burgers. Gently form into patties.

Step 5: I place each burger onto wax paper and normally we cook 3. Big Pete has 2 and I am good with 1! The rest I wrap up and place into Ziploc bags and toss in the freezer for a day when I don’t feel like cooking and can dip into my freezer pantry for something yummy that I know exactly what the ingredients are!! That is the magic of a well stocked kitchen and for me the freezer is just an extension of my pantry.

YUMMYLIOUS!!!