Monday, April 23, 2012

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

We spent a lazy Sunday with friends this past weekend. I took these cute shots of the kids enjoying watermelon, swimming, swinging, and lizard hunting. Oh to be a child again.....

See the tiny lizard in her net?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Greek Easter 2012

We celebrated Greek Easter this year out at the family farm. It was a great crowd, and we all polished up on our Greek dancing. The food was amazing. Stavro made his famous prime rib. Of course their was lamb and my personal favorite, pastitio.

Aunt Patra got a little toasted and decided we needed to break plates while we were dancing. It really cracked me up that my sister in law didn't miss a beat and immediately came over with the vacuum to clean it all up. We who were dancing just kept right on circling around her and the vacuum cleaner. Crazy Greeks...Ha!

We all challenged each other with red eggs, which is a Greek Easter tradition. One person challenges another to the contest with the words Christos Anesti (Christ is Risen). The challenged replies Alithos Anesti (Indeed he is Risen). Holding the pointed end, one person holds their egg as the other hits it with his or her egg. The eggs are then reversed and the game is repeated. The winner is the person whose egg remains uncracked.

This Easter season has been filled with memories. May we all be reminded of the great love Christ has for us and our families, and honor him in our own ways.

Greek Dancing....OPA!

Red Egg fun

Dave's egg was the winner!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Go fly a kite

Kites were in the children's Easter baskets this year, and today was a particularly windy day. They were quite a production to get up in the air, these kites. First, we had to assemble them correctly. Then, we often found ourselves frustrated at how easily the string would tangle into knots.  So many failed attempts! Finally, just the right amount of wind and kid power combined, and all the frustration went flying away on the wings of a butterfly and blue angels jet. The squeals and giggles were outrageous.
I encourage you.....go fly a kite. It does good things for the soul.

Greek Easter Bread: Tsoureki

1 packet yeast
1/4 cup warm water

1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
grated rind of one orange
1/2 tsp orange extract
1 tsp cardamon
1/2 cup water

7 cups bread flour
1/2 cup whole milk, warm
1 stick butter, melted (1/4 lb)
1/2 cup cane sugar
3 eggs

1 egg white
1/4 cup almond slivers (optional)
3 hard boiled eggs dyed red (optional)

This recipe makes one round braided loaf or two rectangular loaves. The red Easter eggs represent Christ's blood.

Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water, set aside.
Put cinnamon, orange peel, orange extract, cardamon and allspice in 1/2 cup water, bring to a boil. Set aside to cool. Add flour to large glass or wooden bowl, and carve out a well in the center. Whisk together eggs and sugar. Heat 1/2 cup milk and melt butter. Add all wet ingredients to flour well. Combine with your hands, using a wooden spoon to push flour from side of bowl. Transfer dough to a large, lightly greased glass or wooden bowl. Knead for 15 minutes or until dough is smooth.

Cover with a towel. Set aside in a warm spot to rise, until it has doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Punch down. Knead again for 5 minutes. Cover and allow to rise again.

Shape dough into one round or two rectangular loaves. I separate dough into three balls then roll each ball into even ropes. I then twist each rope together in a braid and form a wreath in a greased pan. Do not flatten. Gently push the hard boiled red Easter eggs into the dough and glaze with egg wash. Sprinkle generously with almond slivers. Set aside to rise again for 30 minutes. Do Not Cover with towel. Bake at 350* for 45 mins. Cool on racks.

Tip: Greek Easter bread is especially good when toasted, buttered, and sprinkled with cinnamon.

I wish I had a picture of the first Tsoureki I ever made, but alas...I don't. There is a story though. As you can see from the recipe, this bread is pretty much a labor of love. A few years ago, my friend Heather happened to be here while I toiled at my first ever attempt. I was so thrilled with how it turned out, and excited to present it to my Greek husband when he got home from work. I was so proud of myself at getting it right. The house had the most amazing aroma. His reaction was about a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10. He said rather unenthusiastically that it looked "great" and he walked right passed it. Heather jumped to my defense. "GREAT???????" she said....."It's BEAUTIFUL, FANTASTIC, SUPER, AWESOME! She has worked on this Easter bread for hours, and all she gets is 'great?'" Poor hubs didn't know what he'd walked into. It was kind of a set up. In his mind, it was no big deal. This is something he was used to having the sights and smells of at Easter time. His Yia Yia, Mother, and Aunts had him spoiled. The three of us had a big laugh that day. When we broke the bread with his family the next day, everyone enjoyed it. George gave me an extra big squeeze and said it was the best tsoureki he'd ever put into his mouth.

Here are photos I took today showing step by step.

Zesting orange

Wet ingredients into well

Helpers to knead the bread

 3 tbsp red dye with just boiled water & 1/2 cup vinegar to achieve the deep red eggs

Rolled out dough


Happy Greek Easter!

Good Friday Greek Lentils

Today is the day the Greek's celebrate Good Friday. Greek Easter is this Sunday, and my kitchen is abuzz with all kinds of things. This afternoon, I made Lentil soup without the oil for my Hubs and family members who are strict fasting for Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The kids and I drove the soup up to the restaurant in our house clothes, and called for George to come outside to get it. I hung up the phone and within a few seconds, our cousin Jimmy was at my car ready to collect. He said he was "starving", since he's not had meat for a week, and now the last couple of days are the toughest. The recipe for this delicious soup is to the right. If you are using it for a Holy day, you must omit the olive oil.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Laid back Easter fun

After Easter brunch, everyone headed out to the pool. The weather could not have been better, and I really enjoyed the laid back vibe. The "big" boys had trick competitions to see who could make the highest splash, and who could tip over a cup that was placed on the side of the pool. They also had a blast teaching Tre' and Steven how to do forward and back flips into the water. Dad quietly observed from the lanai, and Heather and I were trying to enjoy soaking up some rays when my sweet hubby and cousin Jimmy decided we both needed to cool off. Needless to say, we all four took a dip. Heather and I ended up being drowned rats, while Steven came to our defense trying to fight off the perps. Funniest part was that Heather came up from the depths, not trying to catch her breath, but checking out both hands to be sure her nails were still in tact. One tip did get broken, but she was a good sport about it. All in good Kountanis fun. I'm sure she went straight to the manicurist first thing this morning and had it fixed.
I really enjoyed myself this day, and I think everyone else did too. I loved looking around and seeing the faces of people we love. And, I think Yia Yia may have relaxed for the first time in a LONG time. That makes me happy. Next up.....Greek Easter next weekend!

Easter brunch

I decided to change things up this year and host an Easter brunch instead of lunch/dinner. I broke out all of my favorite breakfast recipes, and supplemented with croissants, muffins, and fresh fruit. It was a huge hit! The baked cheese grits got many A+'s. George said his favorite was the sausage casserole, and my father in law enjoyed the baked french toast with cream cheese in the middle. All of these recipes are already posted, and you can find them alphabetized in the column to the right. They are terrific to prepare the night before and just pop in the oven before company arrives. Steven even commented on how it seemed like Christmas morning in our house, because these are my Christmas breakfast recipes I use, and bake them while we are all opening gifts. After brunch, the parents hid Easter eggs for the kiddos to hunt.

Breakfast items are always a hit with children.

Cheers! I love a good Mimosa.

Who will find the golden egg? Tre' found it this year.