Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Back to School, Greek Style

Today was my husband’s first day of Greek class. No, we are not talking about My Big Fat Greek Wedding kind of Greek classes, but language classes. You see, my husband is in seminary, and Greek is the language of the New Testament.

It wasn’t until I had already made dinner plans for tonight that I thought, “I should have made a Greek dinner!” You know, lamb kebabs or moussaka, a greek salad, and baklava for dessert? However, I have never made any of these except the salad, so I’ll stick with what I had planned for dinner, and whip up one of my husband’s favorite after-school snacks—hummus and pita bread. It’s not Greek, but middle-eastern, so close enough!

The hummus is very easy, but the pita bread can be a little time consuming. It’s worth a try, if you are willing to put fourth the effort. If not, whip up the hummus and buy some pita bread from the store. It’s a great after school snack!


2 (15.5 ounce) cans of chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cloves garlic

¼ cup tahini paste

2-3 lemons

2 tablespoons liquid from chickpeas

2 tablespoons olive oil

cayenne pepper (to taste)

Put the garlic in a food processor; pulse until it is well “chopped.” Add all of the other ingredients and blend until desired consistency.

Note: I sometimes add olive salad mix, or kalamata olives, or whatever kind of olives that I have on hand. It's really good, and you should try it. But, of course, it is not mandatory.

Pita Bread

2 ½ cups warm water

1 packet active dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)

1 tablespoon honey

2 cups whole wheat flour

3 cups white flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon olive oil

In a small bowl, stir the flours and salt together.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add yeast and honey to 1 cup of warm water and stir until dissolved. Mix in ½ cup of flour mixture and let stand about 20 minutes, or until bubbly. Slowly add the rest of the flour and water mixture and mix on low speed for about 10 minutes, scraping down the side of the bowl when necessary. Allow the dough to rest for about 10 minutes, and mix on low speed for about 5 more minutes.

Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl and turn to coat the top of the bread (or I used Pam spray to spray the top of the dough). Cover the bowl with a damp towel, and let rise in a warm spot for about 1 hour (or until doubled in size).

Preheat the oven to 500ยบ and place a cookie sheet in the oven.

On a well-floured surface, turn out the dough (sprinkle some flour on top; the dough will be sticky and a bit difficult to work with). Using a knife or a spatula, cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. The dough will stick to the counter, so make sure that you use plenty of flour and coat the pieces. Using your hands, spread each piece into a 6 inch round, like a small pizza crust. Let the rounds rest for 10 minutes. Working with two rounds at the time, transfer them to the oven and cook for 4 minutes. Flip them over with a spatula and cook for 1-2 minutes more.

**The pitas are supposed to “puff,” but only one of the six that I made puffed. If it does puff, press down with your spatula until it is mostly flat. If yours do not puff, and you want it to puff (so that you’ll have a little pita pocket to make sandwiches, etc.), try spraying the round with water 2-3 minutes before you put it in the oven.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Progress, and another Versatile Salad

Here's a little bit of what I've been up to lately:

We bought this bookshelf from Ikea. I think that it looks pretty, don't you? Those two frames at the top hold two tiny little paintings that my husband and I bought in Montmartre.

This is some of today's handiwork. We hung all of these frames!

Our little kitchen table.

Our "hutch" and the plates that I hung last week.

Another part of our kitchen, and a painting that I also hung last week.

I've decided that I work best when I'm working on one thing at a time, or in this case, one room at a time. So, today...the hall. Tomorrow, I think I'll work on our bedroom. Hopefully I'll have some more progress to show soon!

Saturday night we went to a "mixer" for incoming students. It was a barbecue, and we brought a salad with us. I also made a similar salad last week, so I'll give you both variations here.

Mixed Green Salad with Pecans, Goat Cheese and Fruit

10-12 ounces mixed salad greens
8 ounces crumbled goat cheese (you could also use blue or feta cheese)
Fruit--I use 2 pears, cut into slices, or 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup white sugar
pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (I used "Pear Infused White Balsamic, you could also use Cider Vinegar or Red Wine Vinegar)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
fresh ground black pepper, to taste

For the Pecans:

Place a piece of parchment or wax paper on the counter. In a skillet over medium heat, heat the 1/4 cup sugar until it just begins to melt. Add the red pepper and pecans. Stir until the sugar is melted and the pecans are coated. Transfer to the parchment paper and sprinkle with salt. Allow the pecans to cool completely and break into small pieces.

For the dressing:

Mix the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, mustard, sugar, salt and peppers in a small bowl. Whisk well.

To serve, toss the greens with 1/4 cup of the salad dressing. Put the pecans, fruit and cheese on top, and toss lightly. Add more dressing sparingly, if needed.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

A summer salad

To me, summer just aches to be celebrated with good food. I take that back--I love celebrating every season with good food. I love the change in the seasons, when I get to dust off those recipes that haven't been visited in a year.

This year, with our recent upheaval, we haven't had too much time to celebrate summer. We had a short stay at the beach with my parents, just before we moved. Those few days, plus the wonderful going away dinner with all of it's homemade indulgences that my family gave us (barbeque, home-made baked beans, old-fashioned potato salad, oh my!), have really been the extent of our summer bliss.

So, now that we're some-what settled, it's time to enjoy the season. I decided to try out Ina's "summer garden pasta," which I made more into a salad. Here it is:

Summer Garden Pasta Salad
adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small cloves garlic, minced
5 basil leaves, julienned
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
pinch or two of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 oz dried pasta (I used campanelle, but fusilli would work well too)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (fresh, please)
several handfuls of mixed baby greens

Mix the first seven ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and allow this to marinate at room temperature for about four hours.

Cook the pasta in boiling water with salt until al dente. Drain and add the pasta to the bowl with the cherry tomatoes. Add the cheese and toss well.

Place a handful or two of baby greens on a plate. Put a few spoonfuls of pasta on top, making sure to drizzle a little of the olive oil marinade over the salad, and sprinkle some extra cheese on top. Enjoy!

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Friday, July 17, 2009 place like home...

Our first few days were spent trying to find a "home" for the following:

Boxes in the Living Room

Boxes in our bedroom (whew!)

Boxes in the kitchen

After several days of working and eating out, it was time for a home-cooked meal. So, on the eve of Mom's departure, I cooked our first meal in our new apartment, fajitas. It was nothing fancy; just a packaged spice mix, some peppers, onions and chicken breasts, but there's nothing like cooking in a kitchen to make it feel like home.

There are many things that have still not found their home in our apartment, but my husband and I certainly have.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Not as they seem...

Things are not always as they seem. Like when Juanita, our GPS device, tells us that a Starbucks is five miles away, and then commences to take us on a 30 minute joyride through the West Virginia countryside. This would all be fine and well, except my husband is behind us in a very large Penske truck, and Juanita wants us to take curvy, up and down side roads that are clearly marked with signs that forbid trucks. We made it, though, and had our coffee. Also, come to find out that the coffee shop was inside a Target, so we had a little shopping break, too. Once we made it back to the interstate, we were a little disappointed to see that the next exit had both a Starbucks and a Target, visible from the road.

Being carried across the threshold

So, when I was fighting tears on the day that we moved into our new apartment, it was not as it seemed. I wasn't sad, well I was sad to be leaving home, but that wasn't really the emotion that was coming out of me. It was everything--the move, the fact that our sofa couldn't fit up the stairwell into our apartment (which in reality means that I get a new sofa, so really cause to celebrate), the fact that our box-spring wouldn't fit up the stairwell into our apartment--hmm, I could have done without that one, and the fact that I had been up half of the night before worried about all (or most) of our possessions in a truck and wondering whether I had locked the car, which contained three computers and my new camera. All of these things set me on this emotional coaster; I always get emotional when I am lacking sleep. When the tears came, in the midst of moving boxes and furniture up to our third floor apartment, I tried to escape to the kitchen to clean the new refrigerator, so that no one would see me!

Our Kitchen

I really felt bad for the guys who were helping us move in--I think that they may have thought it was their fault that I was so emotional. Does anyone else ever do that?

All of that to say, that we really do love our new apartment. It is in a wonderful neighborhood, it is much bigger than we anticipated, and we are happy here. It is an adventure that my husband and I will be able to enjoy together, and I think that our marriage will be truly enriched over these next four years.

The Living Room (and my adorable mom); Our Bedroom

The thing that we needed that first night was a good meal and a good night's rest. The tenant who lives on the floor below us recommended a tavern just up the road. We ignored the fact that we were dirty and shabbily dressed, and went to the tavern, which was just what we needed! Mom and I both enjoyed a wonderful portabello sandwich, topped with spinach and cheese (I may try making that one later), and my husband ate a cheesesteak and sweet potato fries, which he said were divine! Two beers for my husband and a glass of wine for both me and my mom put us in dire need of a bed. Sleeping in the apartment was out; without a sofa for my sweet mother to sleep on, and with our sheets boxed up somewhere in the apartment, we headed around the block to the local boutique hotel, leaving all of our "baggage" behind us. After all...tomorrow is another day.
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Commencement Post

This is my commencement post. My husband and I are leaving what we know and love; our southern heritage, families, friends and jobs, and moving to a new and different time in our lives. We will be, hopefully, living simply, for the next few years, as we both obtain Masters degrees in the great unknown, or at least in the great Northeast (very much unknown for us).

We covet your prayers as we go through these changes. We look forward to new adventures, new friends, a new church, and so much more, but we will not forget you, and we hope that you will continue to pray for us and keep in touch.

Because cooking is so much a part of my life, and because it reveals so much about what we are up to, a majority of this blog will be devoted to our "culinary adventures," if you can call it that!
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Recipe Index

Recipe Index


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