Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Eastern Orthodox Easter

So a quick little note here. I recently met a Serbian Orthodox man who, every year, is asked if he celebrates "Greek" Easter, or if he celebrates "normal" Easter. He gets insulted by that. Poor guy...
But just to clarify, it isn't a cultural thing. It is a religious holiday, the same for all Christians around the world. The Eastern Orthodox church follows the older Julian calender, while the rest of the Christians use the Gregorian calender. So sometimes (most of the time), our Easter falls on a different day then the rest of the Christian's Easter.

Okay, now let's get to the food!!!

I'm really sad b/c I forgot my camera in the kitchen at my house when I was making the cheesecake for dessert (see previous post). I used my mom's, so thankfully I had something, but I didn't get a chance to photograph all of the food. But the most important part... the lamb.

My dad was up at 6am (way early for him on a Sunday) after going to bed at 1:30am. I don't know why he went to bed so late, probably b/c he waited until the last second to fix the lamb for the morning. I'm not sure b/c I went to church at 10:45pm for the midnight service like a good little Orthodox Christian.

Anyways, my dad opens the chest and stomach to take out the organs inside for other uses. He then seasons the inside w/ salt, black pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil and parsley (all dried herbs) He breaks apart a couple of heads of garlic and puts the cloves in side. Then he cuts 3 lemons in half and tosses those inside.
Using kite string and a big fat needle, he sews the stomach and chest back together. The pole is then pushed through the lamb's body from the bottom, up to and through the mouth.
He then ties the head and legs close to the pole and body to keep it from falling apart.

This may sound evil, but my dad started the tradition of telling the real little ones that this was our dog, Shadow. I don't know, you tell me, does the picture above really look like my dog? My dog is way too fat. But he is a cute little monster, isn't he???
So it was rainy this Easter and my dad had to improvise on where to put the lamb. We've tried to do it in the garage w/ the door 3/4's open, but it made the house really smokey. So he got this canvas cover that was given to him to use on our boat, but he never used, so he brought it to yiayia's house for a little lamb tent.
He's so smart when he wants to be...
While the lamb was cooking outside, the women were cooking inside. My thea Mary was making the salad (you can tell she's got some experience in that, she how skinny she is??) I was keeping her company while my pasticio and potatoes & carrots were in the oven. Lee, her "should be a husband by now" boyfriend Lee was trying to take bite out of my neck b/c he was trying to be like Edward, the character from Twilight that we all love so much.
After everything was finished, we sat to eat. We didn't all fit at the table, so some of the boys sat on the couch, watching the game. Note the two bottles of wine... Those were the halfway empty ones that remained after the first 3 were polished off...
Yep, we're a Roditis household. Those 3 bottles were finished off right about when everyone started to eat. The two left over weren't Roditis, which was why there was so much of them left. :) That's me all the way to the left, then my cousin Marnie, then my sister Katie and another cousin Anthony.
Our very deep red eggs. My aunt made then this year, giving me and my mother a break. She used twice the amount of dye and vinegar, trying to get the brightest color possible. They ended up pretty slippery and you had to hold them w/ a napkin otherwise it bleed onto your hand!
The custom is to hit another person's egg w/ your own (or let them hit you) and the one who's egg doesn't crack, hits the next person. And so on and so on until only one person is left w/ an uncracked egg. My sister Katie, cousin Anthony and I all cracked three other people's eggs before ours broke. My dad was the last one standing, but he only hit two eggs. If he had hit 4, it probably would have cracked too. Anyways, you are supposed to keep your egg and you'll have good luck the rest of the year. I still have my winning egg from last year...

Lee's not Greek, so he likes to do things w/ his own flair. This was referred to as "egg-butting"
We had a lot of desserts, but I wasn't quick enough and they were gone before I could get pictures. There was a pan of fudge brownies and the cheesecake in my previous blog (there are pictures there). Below this is the pineapple-orange cake my mom makes. Nothing too exciting, it's a box mix orange cake (I prefer lemon-pineapple myself) w/ a drained can of crushed pineapple folded in before it's baked. I tried to make a glaze for it, but mom wouldn't let me. It would have been yummy though...

In this picture are some other Greek cookies, different than the ones I used to make the cheesecake. They are kourabedes (powdered sugar topped crumbly-type cookes) and koulouria (my fav, they're like a cookie that's good to dip in coffee or hot chocolate. Like a biscotti, but better and softer)
So Easter was exhausting this year, as usual, but it's my fav holiday, hands down!

Melomakarona Cheesecake

I wanted to make something for my dad this Easter. He always works so hard on the lamb every Easter and no one really thanks him properly for it. I know how much he loves loves loves melomakarona cookies so when I saw this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, I knew it was going to be for Easter.

I didn't do anything different from Peter's recipe other than to use a whole container of Greek yogurt (which is 17.2 oz if you're using Fage) instead of just 16 oz and I omitted the orange zest. I'm not a huge fan of zest, but it didn't hurt the recipe at all. And of course, as you can see, no pretty decorations on top :)

I have to say though, the one beef I had was the cookie I used. I didn't have the time to make them myself (or the patience), so I bought some from the (only) Greek store near me. Ech, I really didn't like the cookies. Next time I'll get them from someone I know makes good ones!
But hey, my dad loves it, so who am I to say anything?

After I took it out of the water and took off the springform ring, I let the honey drip down the sides onto the foil. That was silly of me to do. It just made the bottom of the pan get all slippery, so I had to cover the top of the holder I had w/ plastic wrap for more grip. Annoying...
Oh and I also crumbled leftover cookies on top w/ the walnuts.

My family gobbled it up, except for my cousin Pete who thought I should have wowed them with someone more extravagent. When I asked him what that would have been, he said something about fruit on top w/ whipped cream. I told him it was too Baker's Square for me. (He used to work there a long, long time ago) I still love him even if he has no taste ;)

This was the last piece left that I took home and shared w/ mom last night for dessert. Neither of us got a piece on Easter, so we split it into two thin pieces and enjoyed.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


I can eat this all day long. In fact, I ate this for dinner last night and lunch today. Mmm.... yumminess. :) I should have saved some for my uncle though. He is the self-proclaimed King of Guac. I don't think he makes it though. I think he just likes eating it. I told him on Super Bowl Sunday that I made the best and he didn't believe me. I was so distracted by eating it, I forgot to save some and swing by to give it to him! Oops...

I didn't always liked guac. In fact, I hated avocados. I'm not sure when the turning point was, but now I can't get enough of the stuff. I have cravings like a pregnant woman for the stuff. This is my weakness. Put some of my guac in front of me and a slice of Oreo cheesecake or banana bread, watch out, I'm going for the guac. Which I guess is a good thing, considering what's in Oreo cheesecake and my banana bread... :)

So I always have people asking me what I put in mine. I have to say, you put what you like in it. If you don't like onions, skip them. If you like lemon juice instead of lime juice, use that. I put what I like in my guac and in all honesty, if someone doesn't like it oh well.
But here is what I do to mine....

I start out chopping all of my veggies. I typically use the same stuff in my guac each time. Jalapenos, red onion, roma tomatoes, garlic, bell pepper (whichever color(s) you want, I used orange this time), and giardiniera. I don't put cilantro in mine b/c in all honesty, I feel like cilantro tastes like soap. I never got my mouth washed out w/ soap as a kid, and I don't want to eat something that makes me feel like I am now...

I like chunky guac. The base has to be smooth, but I like the chunks of veggies mixed in like salsa.

I always cut the avocado last. They brown after sitting, so even if they don't turn brown five minutes later, they have a shorter shelf life for however long it takes you to chop everything else up.

I never use the veins or seeds in the jalapenos. When I cut the jalapeno in half, I use the plastic bag I had them in as a "glove" and use my nail to scratch out the veins and seeds so they are completely clean. Don't worry, I add my heat other ways...
I don't skin my tomatoes, just chop them up along w/ the onion and bell peppers into a small to fine dice and I mince the garlic, but don't cream it. I love using hot giardiniera w/ my guac b/c I love spicy carrots in anything. I used to just eat spicy carrots by the bowlful at my dad's Mexican restuarant (I miss that place just for the spicy carrots. Alberto made the BEST spicy carrots). But it's really good mixed into this. The jar you see below is my fav brand b/c it has no jalapenos in it. Just pepperocini, carrot, celery, red pepper, and cauliflower. I'm not a fan of the seeded jalapeno.... But I just scoop some out of the jar, chop it all up and toss w/ with the veggies. I also toss a bit of the liquid in the chopped veggies before tossing it w/ the mashed avocado. There is some of the heat...
I had A LOT of veggies. I only had two avocados and I should have either had three, or used less veggies, but honestly, that right there is a quarter of a large red onion, two small tomatoes, one orange bell pepper, 4 small cloves of garlic, two jalapenos, and about 1/8 cup of chopped giardiniera. You'd think it wouldn't be that much, but when you add only two avocados... Well.
To cut the avocado, take your knife and slice it lengthwise around the pit. W/out squeezing too hard, twist the two halves and pull apart. If your avocado is prefectly ripe, this will be easy. The tops of one of the avocados was apparently not ripe enough and I had a lot of pulling to do...
After you have the two halves, holding the pitted side, swing the knife carefully into the pit, twist and pull the pit out. I do this instead of using a spoon to scopp it out b/c I have a tendency to be a bit of a klutz, so pits go flying... Plus, the pit comes out cleanly as opposed to possibly losing some avocado that sticks to the spoon when you scoop.

Then, using a paper towel for a better grip, pull the pit off the knife.
So you can see the halves in the picture above. What I do it take a knife and score the avocado lengthwise and then widthwise so when you scoop the avocado out w/ a spoon, it comes out in chunks. Then I use a potato masher (I have a cute mini one!) and smash it all up. When it's in chunks, it makes it easier to smash. I should have gone out to get a third avocado, but I didn't mind the extra chunkiness to this batch.
Then mix it all together! You're not done yet! Squirt the juice from one lime over the mix for flavor and help keep the avocado fresh. Then, if you like more heat, do what I do and shake some Tabascio sauce on top, grated some fresh black pepper, sprinkle a pinch of salt and then mix it all together!
If you are making a lot, store some of it in an airtight container in the fridge. A new trick I learned from Ivy at Kopiaste... (check out her guac recipe posted 4/7/09) is too keep the pit in the guac. It keeps the bright green color and prevents the avocado from browning and going bad too quickly. I put this half in the fridge to save for work today and when I opened it at work, it was as bright green as you see here. But if you're having a party and have a big batch of it, don't leave it all out at once. It will definitely go brown quickly since it is exposed to air and all of the chips and veggies are getting dipped in... It's best to leave out a dip bowl and add to it when needed. Plus chilled guac is soooo much better than room temp guac!
These go best w/ thick tortilla chip, like yellow corn tortillas. They're ideal for scooping up big heaping piles of guac. Mmm.... I kinda wish I still had some left to eat now...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sweet Honeybee Bakery

Not too long ago, my friend Kristine and I (and her bf) went to go get some yummy dinner at Kuma's Corner (best burger place ever!) Afterwards, we went and checked out Sweet Honeybee Bakery. I saw it on one of my fav blogs, SugarPunk. Tracey is originally from the Chicagoland area and was in town this past X-mas season. While she was in, her and some friends (I missed out, sad) went on a Chicago Cupcake Crawl. One of the places she went was Sweet Honeybee's. I had never heard of it before, but wanted to go sooo bad once I did!!!

So Kris and I went on over and picked up a bunch of cupcakes. It took a fews day to go through them all, but dang were they good. I got 8 cupcakes, one cannoli and an eclair. Yep. And it all cost me about $21 bucks. Seriously??? When we went to Molly's, I spent about $35 on 5 cupcakes. Huge price difference there! Now it was really just a matter of the value. Yeah I paid a heck a lot more at Molly's, but was I getting good quality stuff here?

I think so!

Let's start with a review of the yumminess that is Sweet Honeybee's.

The eclair. Dad liked this. There isn't too much that he wouldn't like, but he said he really liked it. I'm picky about my ecliars, so I gave this one to him, knowing he'd appreciate the treat. The ganache was more like frosting than ganache and the pastry cream looked a bit, well, fake, but hey. He didn't have anything bad to say about it, so why not?

The Cannoli. Mmm.... I had this. I couldn't share this one. The filling was yum. The chocolate wasn't bitter. The shell was pretty crisp still. It had the crispness of a freshly made that morning shell, which was good enough for me. I liked. :)
The Carrot Cake Cupcake. I love me some carrot cake. I make a real good one too :) The cake was perfectly spiced. There wasn't too much or too little. And no nutmeg, which I was happy about (or at least that I could taste and boy, can I taste nutmeg!) It had the requisite walnuts and raisins and was topped with a delicious cream cheese frosting. Being that I am super duper picky about my cream cheese frosting, this was an A+ for the frosting. The whole cupcake overall was definitely worth getting. The Chocolate Cupcake w/ Chocolate Fudge Frosting. I gave this one to Mom. She devoured it. She's not all that great at describing things, so after a few questions I got this info outta her: Dense, but not too much so, moist. Not light and airy (ahem, dry) like box mixes. Definitely flavorful. The frosting was thick and fudgy. Smooth, not grainy texture, but not waxy. Overall, she loved it. I'd probably get it again to try for myself.
The Red Velvet. The cupcake had a very nice texture, not too dense or crumbly. Definitely moist. This was one I didn't have the first day (I think 3 days later?) and it was still soft and flavorful (haha, as flavorful as red velvet can be!) There was definitely a cocoa undertone to the cake, so that was a plus! The frosting was the same as the carrot cake, so still A+ material, even after a couple of days. The Champagne Cupcake w/ White Chocolate Ganache.
I'll be honest here. I don't like white chocolate, so I tired the ganache and frosting underneath, but didn't like it and just wiped it off to eat the cupcake. This was actually the first one I had specifically b/c I knew I probably wouldn't like the frosting. But the cake! OMG! It was very light and soft, almost pillowy texture. There were definitely some lemony hints w/ each bite. The cake wasn't all carbonated... I'm not sure why it's a champagne cupcake, but hey, it was definitely yummy! I'd get it again just for the cake. :)
The Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cupcake.
Not bad... The frosting was basically fresh pureed strawberries blended w/ whipped cream. Light and not waxy or over powering. The cake was the same. The starwberry wasn't overpowering, but I really wish it had been. The chocolate chips completely masked the strawberry taste, which I was pretty disappointed about. But overall, not a bad cupcake.
The Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcake w/ Cream Cheese frosting. Mmmm.... Thankfully, the chocolate chiops didn't overpower the banana in this one. The chocolate chips were kinda annoying, I think I would have preferred banana only, but I didn't mind them at all. The cupcake was kinda on the bread-like side than the cake-like, but still good! Definitely one I'd get again. The Oreo Cupcake. Not my favorite... The Oreos on top were soft and kinda stale. The frosting was waaayyy too sweet and flavorless. The cake was nice and chocolately though. I imagine it was the same as the Chocolate fudge cupcake my mom had b/c I would describe the cake kinda of the same way. The Key Lime Cupcake. I love Key Lime pie. So I had to try this one! The frosting definitely had a key lime flavor, but was a bit sweet. Kinda throws you off b/c you are almost expecting very tart. But I think it may have been too sweet for my liking. I'm not sure if it was b/c it really was too sweet, or if I was being biased since I think key lime should be more tart... The cake was delicious. It was light and fluffy and moist. It almost had a chiffon texture to it... There was a very light lime flavor that came through. Not overpowering where you feel like you are sucking on cleaner, but perfect. Honestly it reminded me of how the champagne cupcake had a light lemony flavor coming through, w/out actually tasting real lemony. Definitely would get again.
So that was my Sweet Honeybee Bakery experience. The man who helped us was most likely the owner and he was sweet and didn't look at us funny when two girls came in to order a crapload of cupcakes. :) If you live in Chicago, or are coming to visit, definitely check them out!