Friday, September 30, 2011

Baklava!



Yet another family tradition! Every year my Dad would get out the baking pans and make a huge portion of Baklava to enjoy during the holidays. He would give it to friends and family as a delicious treat when they came over for visits as well as gobble up one himself. Mmmmmm. I always enjoyed this undertaking and when I could, I helped him make it.

A couple of weeks ago my hubby sent me a link to the the Honey Harvest Hootenanny on October 1st ( link ), a fundraiser for an awesome place in downtown Oakland that teaches people how to live more sustainably. They put on fun events and also have interesting classes, everything from farming, rainwater harvesting, bee keeping and even arts and crafts. If I wasn't pregnant, I would have really enjoyed partaking in their bee-keeping series. You can check out their website at http://aplaceforsustainableliving.org/

During this "Honey Harvest Hootenanny" they are holding a competition of foods made with honey that don't have any refined sugars in them. Gary then suggested some Baklava. At first I rolled my eyes and thought, "Yeah right, at 8 months pregnant? You got to be kidding me!" But as you've read in previous posts, somehow my nesting instincts have strayed away from cobwebs and dusty corners and been more geared towards cooking and crafting. I bought the ingredients and I decided to put it together.

Now Baklava has a reputation of taking forever to make, it really wasn't all that bad. Overall, from beginning to end, I think it took about 3 hours. The original recipe that came from my grandmother's cookbook was not an option because it uses white sugar, not only that, but to be honest, I always had trouble understand what the heck she was talking about. A lot of times her measurements would be along the lines of, "a spoonful of this" and "a shot full of that". Without my Dad to help me, I decided I needed a more "legit" recipe to follow. Sorry Yayoula! I started looking for alternative recipes and found this awesome blog called The Nourishing Apron. I CAN'T WAIT to try other recipes that she's posted. This Baklava recipe was inspired by hers, although not without my own tweaks and knowledge of making this scrumptious dessert.

Here ya go!


Baklava:

-The night before, thaw out phyllo dough in the fridge. Keeping the dough in the box, set out an of hour before assembling Baklava so that it will come to room temperature.

- First, make the syrup

Ingredients for syrup:
2 cups of water
1 cup of dates, pitted and quartered
2 cups of honey
1 Tbs of cloves

-Simmer all ingredients, except the honey, in a covered pot for about 1/2 hour.



-Pull syrup off stove and ad honey, stir and set aside to let cool.


Ingredients for pastry:
1 lb box of whole wheat phyllo dough
2 sticks of butter
1 Tbs allspice
1 1/2 lbs of pecans
Small hand-full of whole cloves for decoration

-In food processor, coarsely grind pecans


-Add allspice to pecans and blend a few seconds more

-Melt 2 sticks of salted butter in a pot.

-Butter bottom of a 9x13 inch platter

-Take phyllo out of package and put on baking sheet, usually the phyllo sheets are large and can be cut in half to fit almost directly into your 9x13 inch platter. Important(!): Cover dough with a damp kitchen towel so that it doesn't dry out between uses.

-Add a layer of phyllo dough to bottom of platter, then drizzle and brush butter on.

-Add 6 more layers of dough the same way.

-Take a handful of pecans and spices and put a thin layer on top of doe, a bit heavier than a "sprinkle".


-Cover with another layer of phyllo dough, butter, and pecans. Note: In the beginning you may have to cut the phyllo do to fit the pan.

-Repeat process three or four times.

-Re-enforce with an extra layer of phyllo dough and butter (no pecans). Then start process again till all the nuts are gone.

-Add 4 more layers of butter and dough.

-Cut diagonally and put a clove into each square.


-Cook in oven at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes till golden brown.

-When baklava comes out of the oven, poor syrup between pieces of baklava, you should hear a nice sizzle. Be careful not to cover entire piece with syrup as it will make it soggy.

-Set aside and let it cool! It's usually best eaten room temperature after it has "firmed up" a bit and the honey has been sucked into the pastry.

Mmmmmmm! Salivating again!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nesting? or , . . . Crafting!


So I think that this pregnancy has inspired a different form of "nesting" for me. Instead of cleaning the dirty corners of the closet (which I probably should be doing) I have been getting my craft on instead. Projects I have going on, . . . making a x-mas stocking for the new addition (a family tradition), making stuffed felt red stars for Serafin to decorate and give to the family as holiday gifts, re-upholstering those dang dining room chairs (STILL and currently a no-go situation. I swear they WILL get done one day!) and last but not least, the Halloween costume for the munchkin.

Fortunately, I have finished the costume! Unfortunately, as of yet, she refuses to put it on! Who knows, I may be in labor on Halloween, so even if I can get her used to it by then, it still may have to wait till next year!

Anyway, my darling Serafin loves ladybugs, so I started to try and figure out what I can put together. I'm really no good at my sewing machine, something I aspire to improve upon, so I was determined to try and figure something. It's amazing what you can find online, after doing a search on "no sew" lady bug costumes I managed to put together a mish mash of a lady bug get up.

First, . . . the wings (no sew, all you need is the material, a pair of scissors and some glue!)



Then of course, . . . the tutu (they are surprisingly easy to make).



And, . . . last but certainly not least, lady bug antennae (not sure about these, I think they might need a re-do, any ideas?)



Add some black leggings and a black top and voila my friends, you have yourself a little lady bug! Now if I can only get her interested in wearing it--will ad a picture when I do (even if it's in the middle of May)! Bahhhhh!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monterey Bay Aquarium!



What an awesome place! By far one of the most impressive aquariums I've been to. The fish were beautiful and even more so, was watching the munchkin's awe and excitement. "Fishies, Mommy, Fishies!" She would say as she ran off. I had a moment where I really reveled in parenthood.

I love having a family and I can't wait to see what our second child brings to us. I am truly blessed.

There are times, such as when we were walking through the aquarium, that it hits me hard just how much I love watching my daughter grow. Watching how she gets excited about things and wants to explore EVERYTHING makes my heart warm. Amazing. I love being a parent. On a side note, i'll admit, at 7 and 1/2 months pregnant, it was more than exhausting trying to keep up with her, by the end of the day I was definitely ready to go home.

Here are a few more photos of our short trip as well as a little video of my favorite exhibit, the jelly fish (I had trouble taking myself away from them, they were so mesmerizing)!









video

Dolmas!

©Gary Dorrington


Mmmmmmmm, dolma's (or stuffed grape leaves). My dad just recently went to Greece and every time we skyped he would make me drool describing all the yummy food he was eating. To satisfy my craving I decided that it was time to pull out an old favorite recipe--dolmathes (in greek) or dolmas. I've been rolling dolma's since I was a babe, my fingers actually have muscle memory after all these years. We used to always make them on special occasions, the entire family sitting down to partake in the tradition. There was never a feast without these "green turds" as I used to call them when I was little.

They really aren't that hard to make, they just take a while to roll, especially if there is only one of you, so if you can, prepare the stuffing, sit down with a friend and partake in the joy of creating delicious, healthy food for you and your family.

Another tribute to my mom, . . .

Yalangi Dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves)

Good as a main course or appetizer. Make lots because you won't be able to eat just one!

Ingredients:

1 16 oz jar of grape leaves, washed and set aside. Or about 50-60 fresh grape leaves
6 bunches of scallions, cleaned, roots removed and white parts chopped finely
3 zucchini, grated
Juice of one large lemon
1 head of red or green loose leaf lettuce, chopped in small pieces
2 cups of rice (white, long grain)
1 cup of olive oil
2-3 cubes of chicken bouillon, dissolved in a little water
About 8 oz (or to taste)feta cheese, (a tangy variety like Bulgarian or Greek), grated
1/2 bunch of fresh dill, chopped
1 big handful of mint, chopped into tiny pieces
Salt to taste

Prepare the above ingredients. When ready, put the ingredients (with the exception of the grape leaves) in a large bowl. Mix together and taste and, if necessary, adjust the seasonings. Set the bowl of ingredients down on your working space. You will also need a dinner plate, a spoon and a small knife.

Select a heavy, deep cooking pot that can go on top of the stove and has a cover. Pour a bit of olive oil in the bottom and line the bottom of the pan with some of the coarsest grape leaves from the jar. If all the leaves seem tender, you may use lettuce. Place a grape leaf, inside up, in the center of the plate. The stem should be closest to you with the leaf pointing away from you. With the knife, cut away the stem and coarse vein. Overlap any cut parts.

Mix the stuffing together with the spoon (do this before making each dolma to make sure the juice doesn't accumulate on the bottom), and then fill the spoon with stuffing. Place the stuffing about 1/3 way up from the stem. Roll by first folding the end closest to you over the stuffing then folding the sides. Roll up until complete. Place in the pot seam side down. Pack dolmas side by side until you finish one layer. Repeat again for a second later. You will accumulate a lot of cuice as you roll the dolmas. This should be added to the pot. Place a small plate on top of the second row. Do not add more rows. Put more dolmas in another pot, if necessary.

Place the pot on high heat at first and when it starts to boil, turn down to medium heat. Cook for 20-30 minutes depending on the rice and the coarseness of the grape leaves. You can also add a little water if necessary. Taste for doneness. If the rice is cooked, take the pot off the heat. Open the top and let the dolmas cool on the top of the stove. Dolmas are better served at room temperature. They may be prepared up to 4 days in advance. Refrigerate if made in advance and allow dolmas to get to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!