Thursday, October 12, 2017

Seven Layer Greek Dip

Seven Layer Dip- when you hear this name, probably the first recipe you think of is the delicious gooey goodness of refried beans, guacamole, salsa and sour cream topped with all the fixin's. But everyone brings the Mexican version to parties... how about changing it up Mediterranean style next time? Here I layer creamy hummus, bright and zippy Greek yogurt sauce similar to Tzatziki, garden tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese and Kalamata olives for a fresh and unexpected spin on a traditional party favorite. This recipe has become a go-to of mine to bring to parties and get-together's with friends.  It is ALWAYS a huge hit and the recipe is always requested.  In fact I bought this appetizer to a recent neighborhood Recipe and Wine Night party and won 1st Place for best Appetizer! Its great served with fresh pita bread, a veggie tray, crackers or pita chips. And if you happen to have leftovers, roll them inside a pita with some crunchy lettuce for a delicious wrap.

While you could totally buy a tub of hummus and pre-made Tzatziki at the store, I love making my own for this app. Hummus is one of those recipes that is SO EASY that after making it the first time you will wonder why you ever bought it pre-made at the store. The ingredients are inexpensive, you can easily change the flavors by what you happen to have in your fridge and all you do is literally dump all the ingredients into a food processor or blender, push a button and DONE.  Simple as that! I am going to share with you my favorite Hummus recipe if you wish to give it a whirl! But either way, store bought or homemade, this Seven Layer Greek Dip is sure to be a huge hit with all your up and coming holiday parties!

Seven Layer Greek Dip

1/2 English cucumber, quartered and chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup sliced Kalamata or black olives
3 Tablespoons finely chopped red onion
a few sprigs fresh dill, stems removed

For the Hummus
2 (15 ounce) cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), juices from one can reserved
1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup lemon juice (roughly the juice of two and half lemons)
3-4 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed red chili flakes
pinch cumin

Combine in food processor or blender the garbanzo beans, tahini, 1/4 cup lemon juice, garlic, salt, red chili flakes and cumin.  Bend until smooth.  Taste and add more lemon juice to suit your taster.  We prefer  it more on the lemony side.  It will be quite thick at this point.  Slowly add in some of the reserved garbanzo bean juice to thin it out.  Blend again.  Add more of the juice, blend and taste. Repeat until you reach the right consistency.  You won't need all the juice just enough to get it creamy!!  The texture should be smooth and creamy and not too thick.

For the Greek Yogurt Sauce
1 1/3 cups thick plain Greek yogurt, like Fage
1-2 garlic cloves, finely minced (I love a lot of garlic flavor, so I use 2 cloves)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon fresh dill, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh parley, minced

Combine all Greek Yogurt Sauce ingredients in a medium sized bowl and set aside. If you prefer a more mild flavor, you can make this up to a day in advance stored in the fridge.  The longer it sits in the fridge, the less "bite" the garlic will have.

Putting it all Together

On a large platter or 8x8 pan, evenly spread the hummus. Next, careful not to smear together with the hummus, evenly spread the Greek Yogurt Sauce on top of the Hummus creating your second layer. Top with cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, and red onion.  Sprinkle minced fresh dill over the top (kitchen scissors work great for snipping dill evenly over the layered dip!)

Serve immediately with pita bread cut into wedges, fresh veggies, crackers or pita chips.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Fridays Feasting with Friends Featuring Erin Fabian

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Erin Fabian

Today's guest is a truly special person in my life, and one I am very excited about sharing with all of you.  Erin Fabian is a dear friend, fellow educator with Babywearing International of Cleveland and easily one of the kindest and most compassionate people I have ever, ever met.  Has there ever been a time when you've met a person in life and you just know they were put into yours for a specific reason- that is my sweet Erin. What started as a mutual love for teaching others about Babywearing, has grown into a friendship built on faith and fellowship. When I think of Erin my mind wanders to Proverbs 27:17 "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." She is my wonderfully levelheaded friend, my confidant and go-to when I need support and honest advice.  She makes me feel stronger when I am near her and helps me to see things more clearly. Plus she is just so darn fun! What a treasure to have in a friend! So without further ado, I give you Erin. 

What is your occupation?
I am a pharmacist by training but I work for a medical publishing company. I write information for health care professionals on poisonings and overdoses and the use of medications in pregnancy and lactation. So, if you overdose on something, the ER doctor might look up what to do for you in the stuff I write. Or, if you want to take a medicine while pregnant, the doctor or pharmacist may look in the information I write to decide what to tell you.

What is your favorite thing to cook?
I prefer to bake. But, in general, I like to cook meals that are a part of family traditions or are a part of a meaningful celebration.

If I had to pick a “favorite”—it would be Potica. Potica is a Slovenian nut roll that my grandma taught my father, sister, and I to bake before she passed away in 2014. Her husband’s family owned a bakery on the east side of Cleveland and she had learned how to make potica as a young wife from her mother in law. She would always scoff that various bakeries would put breadcrumbs in their nut rolls which is why they didn’t taste as good as hers. Any time she would taste another person’s potica, there would be a comment about the thickness of the dough, the presence or absence of raisins, and just a general sense of disapproval. She had her ways and they were the best.

Potica was her signature dessert and it was a big deal that she even let us know how to make it. We spent YEARS fighting tooth and nail to get her to tell us all of the ingredients. Slowly but surely, she began to fill in the blanks of the frustratingly empty handwritten recipe card that she kept in her recipe box (WHY do handwritten recipes NEVER include all the ingredients or instructions?!). She was always so smug sitting in the corner supervising our efforts—smirking when we would trip up. The Christmas after she passed away, my dad, sister, and I decided to keep our Christmas tradition of baking potica alive and we struggled to get it just right that year. The following Christmas, our world would be rocked.

Erin's sister Nickele and their grandmother making Potica

In preparation for “The Baking of the Potica 2015”, my mother headed to the grocery store to gather the necessary ingredients. A sucker for interesting packaging, she decided to go with a different type of flour. The package had caught her eye because it looked “old fashioned”. She went with it. To her surprise, when she unpacked the groceries at home, she spied something eerily familiar on the back of the flour bag. A recipe for nut roll. That was exact, word for word, my grandmother’s recipe card. Annoying omissions and all. What. The. Hell.

As it turns out, the flour company was an old Cleveland institution back in the early 1900’s—just when my grandfather’s family ran their bakery. We have done some investigating but we cannot determine which came first, the family potica recipe or the flour company recipe. We may never know.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
Anything that requires too many dishes or gadgets. I have only recently began living in a house with a dishwasher and I still just cannot get used to using it. I still like to hand wash dishes as I cook and too many dishes make me bananas. Speaking of bananas, my husband and father in law love my banana cream pie and it requires the use of a lot of dishes. So that’s my answer. I don’t like making banana cream pie.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
Favorite: That’s hard. I have specific favorite things from a bunch of different places. I love the french toast from L’Albatros. I love the affogato from Crop Bistro (no longer on the menu…boo). I love s’mores ice cream from Mitchell’s. I love hummus and milk shakes from Tommy’s. I love the way my kids eat anything they get at Yours Truly and don't complain while they are there.

Dying to try out: The Farmer, The Butcher, The Chef in Austinburg, OH

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
Likely I would have a theme to said party—so some sort of theme music.

If it is friends hanging out, probably something chill. Iron and Wine, The Wood Brothers, The Devil Makes Three, The Band, Mandolin Orange, Mipso, Trampled by Turtles, The Avett Brothers.

If it is a gaggle of toddlers and preschoolers and frazzled moms (most likely): Caspar Babypants

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
Apple crisp with vanilla bean ice cream

What are you currently reading?
Discovering the Enneagram by Richard Rohr

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
Tie between a stand mixer and the InstantPot

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
My family would say chicken paprikas

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?
The fact that we have four distinct seasons, the lake and the various things that come with it (sailing, swimming, sunsets), awesome rivers for paddling, great biking, a thriving wine region, countless destinations for family vacations within a reasonable driving distance. The fact that our cost of living is low. The growing optimism that is palpable downtown. Our museums. The orchestra. The theater.

Seriously, aren't her daughters just the cutest?!

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?

My mom rarely made the same thing more than once—but she did routinely make a certain tortellini sausage soup. And yes, I still make that. My grandma made many of our meals when I was a kid. One of my favorites was Hawaiian Bread French Toast on Thursday mornings. I tend to make french toast with challah bread instead. But I will break out the sweet bread if I am feeling nostalgic.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
Zero idea. I am not much of a movie enthusiast. I’ll go with movies I have probably seen the most in my life: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Goonies, and Beauty and the Beast. As you can tell, I haven’t watched many movies as a grown up apparently.

What was your happiest moment in life?
Falling in love with my husband and the birth of my kids (separate moments—I loved my husband before my kids were born)

Erin and her husband Jayson

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Costco and Giant Eagle mostly (but would shop at Wegman’s hands down if we had one closer to us!)
What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
These dark russet potato chips that are like a whole bag of burnt potato chips. LOVE.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
Get our chest freezer moved back into our house (we recently underwent a giant renovation and not everything has been moved back) and start back on freezer meals for weeknights.

One word that best describes you is:
Eclipse 2017 anyone?!

And now for your favorite recipe:

Chicken Paprikas
Serves 4-6

1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp bacon grease
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
4-5 lbs chicken thighs
1 ½ cups water
½ pint sour cream
3 tbsp bacon grease
Enough flour to make a roux

In a large dutch oven or similar pot, brown onion in 2 tbsp bacon grease; add seasonings and brown until fragrant. Add chicken. Brown for 10 minutes. Add water; cover and let simmer slowly until tender (2 hours).

Remove chicken from the liquid, discarding skin, bones, and knuckles. Set meat aside.

In a medium pan, melt 3 tbsp bacon grease. Add flour and whisk to make a roux. Slowly add liquid from the chicken pot to the roux until well mixed. Add all back to the chicken pot. Add sour cream to the pot and mix well.

Return the chicken to the pot.

Add galuska (see recipe below), if desired
Heat through and serve
For more gravy, add ½ pint sweet cream to sour cream

Serves 4-6 people

3 eggs, beaten
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
½ cup water


Mix all ingredients together and beat with a spoon
Drop batter by teaspoonful into boiling salted water.
Cook about 10 minutes; drain and rinse with cold water
Drain well and add to paprikas or serve on the side.

***Recipes adapted from my grandmother and the ladies of the Hungarian Reformed Church - Fairport Harbor, OH***

making silly faces with her daughter

Monday, October 2, 2017

Classic Ratatouille 

We belong to our local CSA, Fresh Fork Market and just LOVE IT. Wednesdays are my favorite day of the week when we get to head to the neighborhood truck and pick up our weekly share. The bags are overflowing with the most gorgeous fruits, veggies, and since we get the Omnivore Share, meats too. It's such a fun way to not only support local farms and small businesses, but also try things you may never have picked up at the grocery store on your own. It keeps meal time exciting for sure! 

But sometimes I gotta admit on weeks when we are particularly busy (like last week!) I have to play a game of catch up to use my veggies before 1) they go bad 2) we are hit with next week's share doubling our fresh food and loosing space to store it all in my fridge! In these situations soups, stews and stir-fry's are kings in our house! And Friday was one of those days. In my crisper was zucchini, patty pan squash, eggplant, a variety of peppers and my counter tops were full of tomatoes (just to name a few!!). What was the best way to use this all up? Ratatouille of course! 

Ratatouille is a delicious vegetarian stew from the Provence region France using the best of summers bounty. It can be eaten as a side dish, spooned onto nice crusty bread, served over rice, stirred into pasta, we love it over roasted chicken and as a base instead of sauce for homemade pizza; its uses are endless! I won't lie, it is a bit of a labor of love due to lots of vegetable chopping and sauteing in batches, but its a super easy dish to throw together and can be made in advance and reheated throughout the week.  I actually think Ratatouille tastes even better the next day because then all the flavors have had a chance to meld together. It also freezes wonderfully! This recipe has become a favorite and I hope you love it as much as we do. 


Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 onions halved and then sliced into wedges
2 peppers, deseeded and chopped into 2" chunks
2 eggplants quartered and then chopped into 2" chunks
2 zucchini or yellow squash halved and sliced
5-6 tomatoes roughly chopped, juices and seeds included
1 can whole plum tomatoes or stewed tomatoes, undrained
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
A few sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 bunch fresh basil
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Add 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil. Once oil is hot add your chopped peppers, zucchini, and eggplant and sauté until they begin to soften and brown a bit. Do not cook through. Work in batches if needed and transfer cooked veggies to a bowl. Set aside.

Add a teaspoon of oil to the stockpot along with the garlic and onions. Sauté for 15 minutes until soft and beginning to caramelize. Add the cooked vegetables, tomatoes- fresh and canned, whole sprigs of thyme and Balsamic Vinegar to the pot. Stir well to combine, gently scraping the bottom of the pot to incorporate the wonderful brown bits into the stew. Cover and turn the heat down to low. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add a good pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper and stir well. Simmer for an additional 15-30 minutes allowing the sauce to reduce and thicken. The longer the veggies simmer, the softer and silkier they will become. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Remove the stems of the thyme and discard. Now you want to chiffonade the basil. You do this by stacking the basil leaves on top of one another and then roll up. Thinly slice the basil creating long thin strips. Sprinkle the basil into the ratatouille, reserving a bit for garnish. Stir to combine.

Serve alongside crusty bread, trust me you'll want it to sop up all the delicious sauce. Enjoy!


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