Archive for April, 2011


Lemon Phyllo Pie

April 29, 2011

My girlfriend Cathy gave me this recipe.

She told me about how wonderful it was and I knew I had to make it.  The first time I made it, it didn’t turn out correctly.  I didn’t cook it long enough, but that’s because it started to brown on top too early and I got nervous.  The next time I made it, I used a different oven and kept an eye on it.  No problems at all, but if it did brown too early, I had planned to cover it with foil.  Why I didn’t do that the first time, I’m not sure.

Made correctly, this is a very light, super moist dessert.  It’s actually called Portokalopita and it should be made with orange.  I’m not a big fan of orange flavored things, so I used lemon instead.  I have tried it with the orange (thanks Cathy) but I really like it better with the lemon.

This recipe is unique because you use dried phyllo sheets.  That’s right, no flour in this but dried phyllo sheets.  I opened them up and placed them on a cookie sheet while I made the syrup, flipping them over once.  Also, I suggest that you make the syrup in enough time to thoroughly cool down.  I’ve wondered if you could use a flavored greek yogurt, like honey or citrus and may try that when I make it again-or not.  If you can’t find greek yogurt, you can use sour cream.

This pie is best served cold, but room temperature is fine too.

Lemon Phyllo Pie

  • Syrup:
  • 1 C sugar
  • 2 C water
  • 2 T Thyme honey
  • Zest of 1 lemon, stripped
  • Pie:
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 1/3 C olive oil
  • 2 T baking powder
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 C Greek yogurt
  • 4 eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • 10 sheets phyllo
  • Juice from 2 lemons

In a saucepan over medium-high heat combine the water, sugar, honey and strips of lemon zest. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes. Cover the saucepan and set aside to cool. You can actually make the syrup a day ahead, just store it in your pantry not the fridge.

Remove the phyllo dough from its package and allow it to dry out.  I placed the sheets on a large cookie sheet.  Make sure to flip the sheets over, you want them to be nice and dry so that they are easier to tear.

Once you are ready to assemble the pie, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a 8×11 baking dish.  In a large bowl whisk the 4 eggs until just combined. Add the oil, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, yogurt and baking powder and whisk well.   Tear up the phyllo sheets and add them to the egg mixture.  Use a rubber spatula and stir until phyllo is coated.

Bake the pita until set and golden on top, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, score lightly into pieces with a sharp knife and then pour the  cooled syrup over the warm pita. Set the portokalopita aside and let cool completely before serving.

Here’s the original recipe.


A Brush With Greatness

April 28, 2011

Meeshie is off this week for her spring break.  The weather, of course, has been less than stellar so we went to the museum yesterday.  It was the Chicago History Museum, one of my favorites.  They have relics from the Chicago Fire, information about the Columbian Expedition, examples of Chicago’s architecture and a wing dedicated to Lincoln.

My husband was unable to join us, so I picked up my mother.  We were on the road by 10:00 am.  I figured that I would be beating the rush hour traffic by that time.  Not so.  The expressway into the city was horrible.  I’m talking bumper to bumper.  At one point we just sat in our car for 10 minutes not moving.  It was bad and there was no accident in sight.  I tried to exit the expressway to get on another one-I was on the Stevenson heading north and wanted to get on the Kennedy heading west.  No go.  I decided to stay on the Stevenson and discovered that the ramp for the Kennedy was closed.  As we sat in traffic we saw that the Stevenson heading south was empty.

And then we saw the motorcade.  The President was in town yesterday to be on Oprah.  His entourage was amazing.  There had to be at least 40 cars and that didn’t include the police escort.  Since Megs Field was bulldozed a number of years ago, the President landed his helicopters in the parking lot next to McCormick Place.

We came into to the city to experience some history and we witnessed some as well.  Regardless of how you feel about our current President, it was cool to not only see the motorcade but the huge helicopters, and there were three of them, sitting in the parking lot right next to the lake.

The trip to the museum was great.  Meeshie really enjoyed it.  The Chicago History Museum is one of my favorites and it’s a hidden gem.  The museum is near the Lincoln Park Zoo and if the weather would have cooperated, we could have taken a walk along the lake front.  But its been raining here for what seems like forever.

I really wanted to go to Chinatown for lunch, but Meeshie wasn’t feeling it.  So we opted for something entirely different.  Ed Debevic’s.  It’s a place I frequented quite a bit in my youth.  It hasn’t really changed in 20 some years and Meeshie loved it.  Of course what 8-year-old doesn’t like diner food served with a ton of sass?



April 26, 2011

I made this salad for Easter brunch.  It’s Panzanella or bread salad.  Lovely.

It was amazing.  I loved it.  It is the perfect side for a gathering.  What I liked about it is that it satisfied everyone.  I can see it served at a shower, but it was perfect for brunch.

The dressing was just the right compliment for the beans and bread.  The hint of basil and the use of the oven roasted tomatoes were perfect.  You could also just cut up the tomatoes, toss with some of the olive oil, salt and pepper, and cook them for about half the length of time as the beans.

I also loved this salad because sometimes I get into a salad rut and this really makes me think of summer.  Cut this recipe in half and you have a great side to any summer meal.

Also, this salad can easily be adapted to the grill, if you don’t want to heat up your kitchen the middle of July.


  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/2 C plus 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3-12 inch lengths of crusty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (12 Cups)
  • 3/4 lb cherry or grape, oven roasted tomatoes
  • salt, to taste (I used truffle salt, but you can use a fine sea salt)
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar ( I used a fig flavored balsmaic vinegar and omitted the sugar)
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 1-19 oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 lb lightly salted fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/3 inch dice
  • 3/4 C fresh basil, chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Wrap the garlic clove in foil and roast in the oven for 25 minutes, until soft.  Mash the garlic in a medium-sized bowl with a pinch of salt.  Slowly add 1/2 C of olive oil, whisk until combined well.  Place the bread crumbs in a large bowl and drizzle 3 T of garlic oil, tossing to combine.  Divide the bread between 2 large shallow baking pans arranging them in a single layer on the pan.  Toast in the oven, stirring once or twice, until golden about 10 – 12 minutes.

While the bread is toasting, prepare the green beans.  Toss the green beans in a medium-sized bowl with the remaining 3 T of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Once the bread is finished, toss the beans in a single layer onto one of the discarded pans.  The beans will sizzle slightly.    Roast the beans for 12-16 minutes.  Keep an eye on the beans.  Switch the position of the pans halfway through and stir once or twice.  You want the beans to be tender.  Cool the beans until you are ready to assemble.

To assemble the dressing.  Whisk the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to taste and garlic olive oil together.

Place the green beans, oven roasted tomatoes, bread, chickpeas, mozzarella  and basil in a large bowl.  Drizzle with dressing and stir to combine well.  Let stand for at least 10 minutes at room temperature stirring again before serving.



April 23, 2011

I found this recipe last week.  It’s like monkey bread, but in a pan with lemon.  I know-lemon flavored pull apart bread.

It’s as good as it sounds.  I was planning on making it for Easter, but I couldn’t wait and we had it for breakfast this morning.  There is some left and I may serve it on Sunday.  If I want to share.  I also made a cinnamon brown sugar version that I plan to serve tomorrow.

This bread has a lemon cream cheese icing, but I didn’t make that.  It also calls for some orange zest, but I just kept it all about the lemon.  The steps to put into the pan appear to be complex, but they are really simple.  Once you’ve cut the pieces, tip the loaf pan (short side on the counter) and stack the pieces until the pan is full.  Also, I suggest you line the pan with parchment paper for easy removal and clean up.  The filling does become somewhat caramalized.  Also, it may talk longer than 35 minutes to cook and if that’s the case, cover the bread with foil until it’s done cooking.

Lemon Pull Apart Bread

For the sweet yeast dough
  • 2 3/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 C  sugar
  • 2 1/4 t (1 envelope) instant yeast
  • 1/2 t fine sea salt
  • 1/3 C Half and Half
  • 1/4 C butter
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs , at room temperature
For the lemon paste filling
  • 3/4 C  sugar
  • 4 T finely grated lemon zest (4 lemons)
  • 1/4 C butter , melted
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, the yeast, and the salt and set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and set aside.  In a small saucepan, melt together the half and half and butter until the butter has melted.  Remove from the heat, add the water and vanilla, and set aside until warm (115 to 125°F) , about 1 minute.    Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and, using a rubber spatula, mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened.  Add the eggs and stir the mixture until the eggs are incorporated into the batter.  The eggs will feel soupy and it’ll seem like the dough  and the eggs are never going to come together.  Keep stirring.  Add the remaining 3/4 C flour and stir with the spatula for about 2 minutes.  The mixture will be sticky, that’s just right.  Place the dough in a large, greased bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel.  Place in a warm space and allow to rest until doubled in size.  You can then refrigerate the dough overnight for use in the morning.  Just allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes before rolling out.
While the dough is rising, make the filling.  In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, the lemon  zest and melted butter.
Make the bread.  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a  9x5x3 loaf pan with parchment paper. Or, lightly coat the pan with nonstick spray.  Gently deflate the dough. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 20-by-12-inch rectangle.  Spoon the  melted butter/sugar mixture generously over the dough. Cut the dough crosswise into 5 strips, each about 12 by 4 inches. (A pizza cutter is helpful here.)   Stack each strip on top of one another.  Cut the strip into six equal slices again.  You’ll have six stacks of six squares.  Layer the dough squares in the loaf pan.  While there is plenty of space on either side of the strips widthwise in the pan, fitting the strips lengthwise is tight. But that’s fine because the spaces between the dough and the sides of the pan fill in during baking. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until puffy and almost doubled in size.  Bake until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.

Here’s the original.


An Unusual Twist On An Old Favorite

April 21, 2011

I came across this recipe last week and knew I had to try it.  The unusual preparation really caught my attention. 

Let me also state that Meeshie is not a fan of mac and cheese unless it comes in the blue box.  That’s not only sad, but frustrating.  There are so many great mac and cheese recipes out there that I look at, wishing I could make them.  And I guess that I could, but that’s a lot of mac and cheese.

This recipe is unique because you boil the noodles in milk and you don’t make a roux.  Dont worry though, it’s still creamy and thick without the roux. 

The best part was, Meeshie enjoyed it.  She still insists the blue box is the best, but she ate this up!

Let me also point out that I used penne pasta because I didn’t have any elbow macaroni.  I also used two kinds of cheese, sharp cheddar and Dubliner Irish cheese.  I wanted to use up the Dubliner cheese that I had in the fridge so that’s why I used two cheeses.  And because I did that, I placed some cheddar cheese on top of the macaroni before putting it into the oven.  I also used a very small amount of bread crumbs and would probably skip them next time.

Oh, and did also mention this recipe is pretty easy?

Civil War Mac and Cheese

  • 4 C Milk
  • 2 C Elbow Macaroni
  • 4 T Butter
  • 2 C, packed, grated cheddar cheese
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 t Nutmeg
  • 1/4 C Bread Crumbs
  • Salt, for the macaroni

Heat the milk and salt in a large saucepan until steamy. Stir in the dry macaroni and let the milk come to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer.  Pay attention while the macaroni is cooking in the milk as the milk may foam up and boil over.  Cook the macaroni for about 15 minutes or until done, the macaroni will absorb most of the milk.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  As soon as the macaroni is done, remove from the pan and put inside a casserole dish.  In the used sauce pan, place the butter and stir in the grated cheese, pepper and nutmeg.  Once the cheese has melted, pour the sauce into the macaroni and milk mixture and stir to combine.  Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake for 20 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

Serve with a salad or use this dish as a side instead of potatoes.

Here’s the original.


And How Was Your Saturday?

April 19, 2011

Saturday, my mom took Meeshie and me to see a children’s play in Oak Brook.   My mom has taken Meeshie to see some plays in the past, but they’ve been at the Beverly Arts Center and lately Meeshie’s been feeling that those have been too babyish for her. She was excited because it was Charlotte’s Web, which we’ve read before and she reread prior to the performance.

I was excited to go for a few reasons. First, it was nice opportunity for girl time. My mom and Meeshie really enjoy each other’s company. So much so that I sometimes feel like I’m intruding. Second, I mentioned it was in Oak Brook, right? I thought that after the play I could maybe get a little shopping in before lunch.

So that morning I ran around and did my normal errands. Then I got Meeshie in the car and drove to my mom’s, where we then drove to the play. Once, we got to the play, I turned off my cell.

Now, while I was doing my errands and getting to the play, my husband was doing some errands as well. One of those errands involved picking up a roast for Easter brunch. Once the performance was done, and we got ready to do some shopping, I turned my phone back on.

I had a voice mail from my husband. I tried his cell and the house. No luck. I kept trying and still no answer. By this time we are heading over to get something to eat and I was debating on whether I should just go home. What if something happened to him? What if he’s experienced low blood sugar and was in an accident. What if he’s at home, on the floor, convulsing?  For those of you that are wondering why I was freaking out, see this post.

Now, my mind is racing. I called the neighbor and ask them to go over to the house and check to see if his car is there.  After what seemed like forever, my phone rings.  It’s my husband demanding to know why I gave the neighbor permission to come into our house.  My relief soon turned to anger.  Why didn’t he answer the phone?  I thought that his blood sugar was low and he was disoriented.  It turns out he was just wrapped up in something at home and wasn’t answering either phone.


Heavenly Tomatoes

April 17, 2011

I’m getting ready for brunch next Sunday. 

I love brunch  and I really love it on Easter.  I’ve set my menu and I’m just trying to get everything ready for next week.  Brunch is ideal because you can make some things in advance and just reheat them.  Like muffins.  I made some great ones last week and if they last, I’ll serve them, but they don’t I’ll still have plenty to offer.  Another reason to love brunch, the variety.

Today I made some wonderful oven roasted tomatoes that I’ll be adding to a great panzanella.  My friend Cathy gave the recipe to me and I’m so excited to make it. Panzenella is a bread salad.  Have you ever had one?  They are so good.  I’m hoping to share it with you later in the week.

I’m also hoping to share a great greek dessert and a variation on french toast strata.  No ham on the menu this year, but I am dry aging a roast.  Yum!

Oh, on a totally different vein, I bought a dozen mangos.  Any good recipes?

I found this recipe for oven roasted tomatoes last summer.  It’s a great way to use up those cherry tomatoes from your garden.  They are also great with the store-bought too.  We use these on hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, salad or just as a snack.  The flavor and texture of the tomatoes are superb and the process is so simple. 

Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

  • ¼ teaspoons Shallot Salt
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • ½ teaspoons Fresh Thyme (Leaves Only)
  • ½ teaspoons Chopped Fresh Chives
  • 1 teaspoon Chopped Fresh Basil
  • ¼ cups Olive Oil
  • 1 pound Cherry Or Grape Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Line a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a food processor, combine salt, garlic, and fresh herbs. Crush to a coarse paste.  Stir in the olive oil and set aside.

Cut tomatoes in half and lay cut side up on the prepared pan. With a pastry brush, lightly brush the cut side of each tomato with the oil. Reserve the remaining oil.

Bake for 2-3 hours.

When cool, place in an airtight container and drizzle with the remaining olive oil and store in the refrigerator.

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