Easter Menu

Easter is upon us.

I am not ready whatsoever. Graduate school is kicking my butt, however I’ll be down to one internship in the summer so I should be less frazzled.

I have been racking my brain for the last few days about what to eat on the day the prodigal son rose. Bryan hates ham so the traditional Easter meal will never happen in this household.

I also wanted to make something easy since it’s just the two of us. Last year I didn’t even remotely got within the same room as what I had planned to cooked. It’s the overachiever in me.

Also, the gluten free thing makes things a wee bit harder. I have like 9 pie crusts and puff pastry in my freezer. So one of the desserts will not be gluten free.

So completely not traditional, and quick and easy,  and remotely gluten free. Sounds complex somehow.

Easter Menu

MAIN
Sausage, beans, and rice
Corn on the cob

DESSERT

Strawberry and creme pie – not gluten free
Greek custard.

Greek Burgers

When Mumika called stating she was coming to town, I really didn’t know what to make her first night. I was sort of grasping at straws as I went through my list of recipes to try.

When I came across this one, I knew it would be fun and different. I like testing new things out when Mumika is around. She’s literally my guinea pig, whereas Bryan will lecture me for 30 minutes on why he doesn’t want or like fired rice for dinner.

It isn’t a true Greek burger because I used beef instead of lamb, but all the components come across as Greek.

So If you are tired of the same ole bacon cheese burger and want to try something a bit more adult, more gourmet, and more elegant, this Greek burger is definitely for you. You could even make sliders out of it as a appetizer when having company over.

Greek-Burgers-

Greek Burgers

1 pound ground meat beef
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, divided
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 1/2 tablespoons Greek Seasoning
1 bunch of spinach, torn
1/2 cup Tzatziki sauce
1 sliced tomato
1/2 sliced red onion
6 hamburger buns

Directions
Combine the meat, red onion, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, feta cheese, bread crumbs and Greek seasoning in a mixing bowl.
Get those fingers nice and dirty until the mixture is thoroughly combined.
Form into 6 patties. Grill or pan fry over medium-high heat on each side until it ha reached the level of doneness you want.
Arrange some torn spinach leaves on the bottoms of each hamburger bun and place the patties on top.
Top with tomatoes, red onions, tzatziki sauce, and crumbled feta cheese.
Makes 6. Per Greek burger.
Bryan and Mumika loved this. I hated it. I blame the use of nutmeg in my Greek seasoning. It was all I could smell and taste.
Other than that, it was pretty amazing.
The crunchiness of the onion, the saltiness of the feta, the tomato, and the creamy tzatziki sauce created these amazing layers of flavor that enhanced all the components found in the Greek burger itself. This isn’t gourmet, it’s a masterpiece.
Only thing I would do is cook it a little extra. My first two burgers were still raw in the middle despite looking cooked on the outside. So cook it until there’s a little bit of charring on the outside. As Bryan so eloquently put it that night, “It’s not ready until it’s burnt.”
The reason why it takes so long to cook causing some charring is the amount of stuff put inside of it having to cook as well. Just something to keep in mind.

Tzatziki Sauce

The holy sauce of all sauces.
The one thing that makes shwarma shwarma and gyros gyros and if you decided to make either of these without the sauce, well, people are going to angry and it will be anarchy.
Usually it’s made with goats or sheep’s milk but um….yeah. I just don’t see that happening. Sometimes people put olive oil or lemon juice or parsley or mint. Yeah, didn’t do that either. I stripped it down to the nitty gritty.
I was scared of making this sauce to be honest. Bryan has such a high expectation when it comes to these things. It has to be better than perfect or everything is off.
But I passed with flying colors.
“Perfect.”
“What’s in it?”
So if you want gyros or shwarma but don’t feel like going out to get it, know that at least for now, there’s a rocking tzatziki sauce you can whip up that will make anything a bazillion times better. Or add pita chips and make it a dip.
tzatziki
Tzatziki Sauce
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoons dill
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cucumber, seeds removed and very finely chopped
Directions
Combine all  ingredients in a medium bowl.
Refrigerate for at least an hour before use.
Makes 12. Per 2 tablespoons
I actually made my cucumbers a little chunky because I wanted to see the chucks of cucumbers in there. But the more finely chopped they are, the better. If you want it chucky, then make it chunky.
And you know what it really goes amazing on top of? Greek Burgers!

Greek Seasoning

I searched high and low for Greek seasoning in three HEB’s and two Walmarts and came up empty handed. Why isn’t there Greek seasoning on the market? You have Italian seasoning, steak seasoning, poultry seasoning, even creole seasoning, but nothing Mediterranean or Greek.

However, at one place I did remotely find what I was looking for. Only problem was that it was essentially Italian seasoning and dried minced garlic. How is that even remotely close to being considered Greek?

Then I remembered that Mediterranean cuisine adds cinnamon and nutmeg to their ground beef. My own personal Greek Seasoning was born and it is amazing.

Greek Seasoning

4 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon paprika

Directions

Throw into a bowl and mix.

Store in an empty spice container.

Makes 4 tablespoons. Per tablespoon.

This is perfect for Greek burgers, gyros, and an other Greek seasoned meat.

Greek Tortellini Salad

In what seemed nearly a lifetime ago, I was in a wedding. I’m not going to talk about what happened at the wedding, because well, what’s done is done and that’s life and I took the bridezilla out of my life. A person can only take so much from another person before their sanity starts bailing.

At her wedding, which was in the afternoon, she decided on doing finger food instead of feeding the guests. There was red punch in a room away from the food, crackers, cold cut meats and cheese cubes, and sandwiches which were more like two slices of bread with some cheese, a glob of mayo and meat cut into fourths. There was also a tortellini salad like thing which was pretty much tortellini drenched in Italian dressing with tomatoes and olives. And I think that was it. I don’t remember much because I was hiding under a tent away from the reception trying to calm down from realizing I was a toy and a fool….. until the damn event planner got me and forced me to make my “maid of honor” speech even though the bride had decided the day before to bestow that role onto someone else. (Oh, look, I did write about it!).

The food was so pitiful, I had to go eat somewhere because I was starving. I hadn’t eaten a thing all day until the reception. And even that spread was lackluster. It was so sad. It made me sad looking at it. If your going to have a wedding between 2 and 3PM, please have the decency to feed people correctly, especially when it’s hot and muggy outside and the ceremony is outdoors. Maybe that’s why I picked a 4PM time for my wedding. I wanted to make sure they got a good meal in before many of them made their long 4 – 5 hour trips home.

I used to love cold tortellini salad, but for the most part it reminds me of that wedding.

Moral of the story – If you don’t want to be maid of honor, do not feel obligated to say yes. No is a perfectly accepted answer. I really should have said no.

And then I created this Greek Tortellini Salad, and all is right in the world.

I loved my Greek Pasta Salad. But there was something missing.

Tortellini!

So I revamped it. And even though there aren’t any avocadoes or walnuts, it still came out amazing!

image

Greek Tortellini Salad

1 20 ounce package cheese tortellini
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 large cucumber, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup Greek vinaigrette
4 thinly slices chicken breasts

Directions

Cook tortellini based on package instructions.

While tortellini is cooking, pan fry chicken until it’s cooked and slice it into chunks.

Place the tortellini and chicken into a large bowl.

Add the tomatoes, cucumber, olives, red onion, and feta cheese.

Pour Greek vinaigrette over the salad and mix into it until well combined.

Makes 12. Calories: 248, Carbohydrates: 24 grams, Sugar: 1 gram, Fiber: 1 gram, Protein: 17 grams.

It’s yummy. Bryan kept asking for more. What was supposed to last one day only lasted a day.

This would be great for a picnic.

Hummus

I was in college when I was introduced to hummus. It was spring semester of my third year and all of a sudden my life revolved around hummus and Stacey’s pita chips.

Funny story about Stacey’s pita chips. A year after I moved back to Texas, I happily found them on shelves in Krogers. One of my roommates mailed me a huge bag of Stacey’s pita chips for my birthday because I was so pissed I couldn’t find them anywhere down here when I came home.

I tried to get Mumika into hummus but when she found out the nutritional value of tahini, she flipped out.

“You only use a little bit and it goes a long way,” I tried to explain, but she was having none of that.

Nearly 10 years later and she’s a hummus making machine. I don’t know what changed her mind, probably a friend of hers was all hummus is good for you and she was all like oooo, hummus.

The greatest thing about hummus is that you can add anything to it. Olives. Roasted red pepper. Dill. Garlic. Feta cheese. Jalapeños.

Below is the basic recipe. Nothing too fancy but insanely flavorful. You can use it as a base and add whatever you like to it.

Hummus

Hummus

15 oz can chickpeas
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup tahini

Directions

You are going to need a food processor for this.

Dump garlic and chop until minced.

Add tahini, olive oil, salt, and lemon juice. Process until it looks whipped.

Drain and rinse chickpeas. Add to the processor and process until smooth.

If it looks lumpy, add water and process again.

Makes 2 cups. PER TABLESPOON. Calories: 25, Carbohydrates: 2 grams, Fiber: 1 gram, Protein: 1 gram.

I love how this all comes together to make the perfect dip. It’s tangy, it’s spicy, it garlicy, it’s creamy. Perfection.

I personally love it with pita chips, tomatoes, or cucumbers. Although it goes well with pretty much any vegetable out there.

And it tastes so much better than store bought.

 

 

Greek Pastitio

Mediterranean cuisine is so different from here. The spices they use are completely different. The flavor profile is completely different. I feel like they use spices that normally wouldn’t work and yet everything packs a punch.

When most people think Mediterranean/Greek food, they think gyros, pasta, grape leaves, and what have you. There’s so much more to it. More than baklava, hummus, pita…I came across this recipe and it amazed me it was Greek. Then I saw the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Pastitio is made differently amoungst the Mediterranean countries, but the principle is the same. You have a meat based sauce and a cream based sauce with pasta and cheese. I sort of view it as a Greek version of lasagna but a hundred times better. It’s Greek comfort food at it’s finest, literally. So if you’re tired of normal lasagna and don’t feel like attempting vegetable versions, this is the dish for you.

It’s different. But in a good way. Great for pot lucks.

Greek Pastitio

SONY DSC

Noodles:
a box of ziti

For the meaty tomato sauce:
1 small onion, diced finely
2 cloves of garlic, diced finely
1 pound ground beef
15 oz can of tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

For the creamy cheese sauce:
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 tablespoon butter
2 eggs, beaten
3  oz. freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions

Put a pot of water on the stove to cook the macaroni and get it cooking according to the package directions.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat, then add the ground meat and chopped garlic & onion and sautee, stirring frequently, until the meat is browned and cooked and the onion is soft and translucent.

Stir in the tomato sauce, cinnamon, salt, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and stir and cook until the mixture is hot.

Drain the macaroni and stir it together with the meat sauce.

Spray a 9×9 square baking pan or several with cooking spray and spread the macaraoni & meat sauce flat in the pan, pressing down with a spoon to flatten and compress the mixture a bit.

In a saucepan, heat the milk and butter till hot and the butter is melted.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs till they are well beaten, then whisk in about half of the hot milk mixture.

Add the egg mixture in a slow stream back into the saucepan, whisking constantly with one hand while pouring with the other.

Reserve about 1/3 of the cheese, before adding the cheese and remaining nutmeg to the sauce and continue cooking and whisking for just a couple minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken.

Pour the cheese sauce over the meaty macaroni mixture, spreading with a spoon to cover the baking dish.

Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake at 325 for about 50 minutes.

Makes 8. Calories: 423, Carbohydrates: 46 grams, Sugar: 5 grams, Fiber: 2 grams, Protein: 25 grams.

This is absolutely amazing. The cinnamon and nutmeg changes the beef completely. It’s a whole new flavor profile that compliments both the tomato sauce and the béchamel. How is this possible? I have no clue but I couldn’t stop eating it.

Maybe I’ll change the way I make my spaghetti, add some cinnamon or something. I used to add chocolate to make the tomato sauce vibrant back in the day until Mumika caught me and yelled at me for it.

If you’re family is tired of the normal Italian pastas, maybe it’s time to start looking into the Greek’s version. What’s great about this recipe is that it’s a lot like your Italian grandmother’s lasagna where all you remember is her slaving over that damn stove making sure all the components are meshing and simmering to perfection. Then years later you find out it didn’t take her all day. In reality, she threw all that into a slow cooker and called it a day, but it was her little secret. This pastitio gives off those exact vibes. It looks like it took forever to make, but it didn’t.

So make this Pastitio for the family and make them think it took you all day. There will be a lot of, “No, stay seated. You put so much effort into making this amazing meal. I’ll take care of the dishes.” Because after all, that’s how your Italian grandma got out of doing anything.

 

Mediterranean Quinoa and Red Bulghur

So a few months ago, Bryan went through another phase of his health food kick. I learned from the whole milk debacle.

This time Bryan wanted to try different grains. We’ve done white rice and brown rice. I prefer white rice, it has less arsenic than brown. So next was the other grains. Bryan’s all about wild rice. Something about ninja’s eating it in feudal Japan because it gave them the right amount of carbs and protein or something to keep them fit. Obviously I wasn’t truly listening to him even though he and I have had this conversation more than once.

Mumika has been on her healthy grain kick for at least 4 years. When I looked at the carb count, it astounded me how many carbs were in it. 53 grams of carbs?!?!?!? And this was the healthier version of rice?

The big thing about quinoa and red bulghur is that it’s technically complex carbs. People need to eat more complex carbs. It feed the brain better than French fries.

Maybe we will do this quinoa thing 4 times a year that way I can claim we eat remotely healthy grain wise.

And now for something completely different….

What do vegetarian Zombies scream out what they want when hungry? Graaaiiinnnnssss….

 

image

Mediterranean Quinoa and Red Bulghur

2 cup uncooked quinoa and red bulghar
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/2 lemon, squeezed
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups cucumber, peeled and diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halves
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh pepper

Directions

Cook the quinoa and red bulghar in rice cooker.

Put all chopped vegetables into a huge bowl.

When quinoa and red bulghar is finished cooking, fluff it with a fork and let it cool down for about 10 minutes.

Add quinoa and red bulghar to the vegetables and mix.

In a small bowl mix salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil to make the dressing.

Mix lemon dressing with the grains and vegetables until well combined.

Add feta to huge bowl and mix until everything is nicely combined.

Makes 12. Serving size is a cup. PER Cup. Calories: 146, Carbohydrates: 16 grams, Fiber: 3 grams, Protein: 4 grams.

So here’s a few things to consider A) You can find the quinoa and red bulghar near the rice. Or you can go to a health food place and find it there paying an insanely expensive price (which I don’t recommend, that’s stupid, why are you paying $4.99 for a stupid little bag when you can get it at the grocery store for like $2.99) Seriously. B) when cooking in a rice cooker, you don’t need as much water as rice. Instead of putting water up to your knuckle, put it up to the top of your fingernail. C) There’s no c. I thought there was but there isn’t.

This is absolutely amazing. The grains are slightly different. I feel like I’m eating yummy sand with pops of red.

Actually the whole thing pops. There’s pops of tomato which goes nicely with the pops of feta. There’s pops of cucumber which seems to make the whole thing taste fresh. There’s pops of lemon whose acidity pairs nicely with the saltiness that is the feta. I sort of felt like I was at some high scale restaurant that frowns on normal things like rice.

Pfft. Rice. Who eats that? We eat quinoa. And there noses are up in the air with their heads tilted so far back you can see the mucus in their nose. Wow, that’s a little too disgusting and vivid there Michelle. Sorry, it escalated a wee bit faster than I thought.

But you get the point.

What to try something different? This recipe is perfect for jumping head first into the “health” craze.

And the sad thing is, you’ll want seconds.

Greek Pasta Salad

A few years ago Bryan and I attempted P90X. We started it in July of 2010 because Bryan had gained a lot of weight during my pregnancy and we felt it would help with my recovery due to the near death and coma 4 months before.

Diabetes like to try to kill me. Or at least when I was on name brand bovine RNA, it did. After the 2nd near death and coma, I decided generic would work which happens to use Human RNA. Now why would I put insulin for a cow in me instead of a human to begin with? Beats me. Sometimes I feel that most doctors are about the drug companies and not the patient. But that’s for a different rant.

During the 2 months we lasted (I started my internship for grad school – 40 hour weeks at the internship, 3 hours a week for class, 25 hours a week at work – and Bryan managed to sprain a muscle doing yoga the second week caused us to stop), I had to change our eating habits to fit the needs of a body doing a form of extreme exercise. I came up with this recipe because a) it has a lot of protein in it, b) packed with vegetables, and c) it was filling.

Bryan and I love the Greek pasta salad at the local Mediterranean restaurant we used to go to, so I decided to make it and adapt it to our protein needs. I think Bryan had to eat like 8 ounces of protein a meal back then. It was insane.

Now it’s a spring/summertime favorite of ours.

image

Greek Pasta Salad

12 oz bag of garden rotini
6 thinly sliced chicken breast
1 tablespoon Italian seasonings
1/2 cucumber, chopped
tomato, chopped
6 oz crumbled feta
1/4 cup greek dressing
2 oz chopped walnuts
avocado, deseeded and chopped

Directions

Cook the pasta. Drain the pasta in a colander.

While the pasta is cooking, season chicken with Italian seasonings and cook the chicken. Once chicken is cooked, chop it up.

In a large bowl, dump pasta, chicken, feta, cucumber, walnuts, avocado, and tomatoes.

Mix contents in the bowl until well combined.

Add greek dressing to the pasta salad and mix.

Makes 10 servings. Calories: 359, Carbohydrates: 37 grams, Sugar: 2 grams, Fiber: 3 grams, Protein: 26 grams.

I love this dish. Every time I make it, it tastes amazing. Everything compliments each other. There’s the tanginess of the greek dressing, saltiness of the feta, crunchiness of the cucumbers, creaminess of the avocadoes. Perfection.

This is perfect as a side (without the chicken), or a well balanced dinner. It has everything -carbohydrates, protein, and vegetables – you need. Heart it.

 

 

Tomato, Cucumber, Feta Salad

I love tomatoes.
I love cucumbers.
I love feta.

It only makes sense that these three foods should come together to make a mini salad. It’s not a full salad; it’s not a few random vegetables put together; it’s a mini salad. What’s a mini salad? All the good stuff inside the salad without the leafy greens.

When Bryan grills (something I’ve been making him do on a weekly basis), it’s a steak with either green beans or asparagus that has also been grilled. It tastes amazing, but I wanted something light and crisp to go with it. Enter, this salad.

It doesn’t get healthier than this. Two of the ingredients are considered negative calorie food. What’s negative calorie food? Food that causes your body to expend more calories digesting it than the amount of calories in it. Most vegetables, except the nonstarchy ones, are negative calorie foods.

It pairs well with any meat. We happened to have it with steak. You can put it on top of chicken or fish. Hell, it would be great as a snack.

image

Tomato, Cucumber, Feta Salad

50 grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup cucumbers, chopped
1/2 cup feta

Directions

Dump ingredients into a bowl and mix.

Makes 4. Calories: 78, Carbohydrates: 8 grams, Sugar: 3 grams, Protein: 3 grams.

I like simple recipes. I like simple recipes that taste delicious.

There’s the crunch from the cucumbers, the sweetness of the grapes, and the saltiness of the feta that creates something so magical, so simple, so perfect. I could eat this every day.

Unfortunately, my husband ate it all. That’s right. Before I could go back for more, he poured all the contents in the bowl onto his plate and ate it. Then he looked at me and said, “More?” Really sweetie, really! Next time, I’m going to have to use a pint and a half of tomatoes, a whole cucumber, and a cup of feta. Something tells me he will still manage to eat all of it. Dump the whole thing on his plate or just eat out of the bowl.

This is going to be staple in my house, I can feel it.