A maple, brown sugar and Dijon glazed ham served with a pineapple salsa
If you’ve been with us for a while then you know that both of us are married to men who are not Greek. Although they have both embraced our Greek culture, religion, heritage, customs, language and traditions, they are xeni (the Greek way of say not Greek). Both men are a beautiful medley of English, Irish and Scottish descent and with a Canadian lineage that goes back a few generations at least.
John is Billie’s husband, and he is a gem. As a child he spent a lot of his time with his maternal grandparents, Viola and Eldon, surrounded by love, kindness and food that his grandma served with pride. This was a very traditional home where the man of the house worked and the woman kept the home pristine and comfortable, and every night dinner was a committed affair. The table was always set perfectly, manners were paramount, and meals began with a prayer and thanks. John relished the time he spent with his grandparents and thrived under their care. Sleepovers with grandpa and grandma were the highlight of young John’s week. It’s no wonder that when John and Billie were married, Viola and Eldon were the two people who walked him down the aisle. They were so proud.
Is it a puree? Is it mashed potatoes? Is it a spread? We’re not really sure what the best word is to describe skordalia. So, instead of trying to label skordalia, let’s just describe it. This is a recipe that mixes boiled and mashed potatoes with a lot (like, A LOT) of mashed garlic, vinegar and oil. Skordalia is creamy, tangy, definitely garlicky, and one of those recipes that we always think we should make more often.
This is most certainly our favourite time of the year. The period of Great Lent which precedes Orthodox Pascha, along with the weeks of Kreatini (Meatfare) and then Tyrini (Cheesefare) which come before it are opportunities for renewal, spiritual growth and a deepening connection with our faith.
The choice on how to live during Great Lent is a personal one. There are certainly “rules” which are dictated by our faith, but situations, contexts, beliefs and capabilities vary and so anyone who is interested discussing their own personal reality is encouraged to speak to their parish priest or spiritual father.
Valentine’s Day always makes us smile, not because we happen to each be married to wonderful guys that make love fun (although that is wonderful) but because growing up we were always our parents’ Valentines.
Every February 14th (and sometimes on February 15th when the chocolate hearts and pink stuffed bears were on sale) our parents would surprise us with Valentine treats. As young kids, we were thrilled. Along with the gifts we were given, our parents would also purchase for us large Valentine’s Day books filled with cards that we would punch out of the cardboard pages (remember those?) We would spend hours deciding which classmate would get which card, and which card we would save for our Ma and Ba.
Unconventional vasilopita for an unconventional year
Purists and traditionalists may cringe at this post, and we’re prepared for the fall out. We know that there are certain things that are sacred and should not be tampered with. Like garlic in tzatziki or bechamel on pastitsio. We get it, we really do!
But let’s face it guys, 2020 has been a very unusual and unconventional year and 2021 is starting off that way as well. In our part of the world we are in the midst of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implications are huge. Restaurants remain closed except for take-out, retail shops are now closed, schools are either closed or via distance learning, and gatherings of any kind are prohibited. For those who prefer to ring in the new year in the comfort of their bed, sleeping, this is great! For many others, this sucks – big time!
A soft centered ginger molasses cookie with a hint of orange
You may recall us telling you that growing up we didn’t know what gingerbread cookies were. Ginger, in any form, was not an ingredient used in our childhood Greek kitchen. When one of us was a teenager, rebelling against traditional Greek cuisine (what were we thinking?!), we purchased the Better Homes and Gardens Cookies for Christmas Cookbook. We still have that book and its stained, dog-eared and kind of smelly pages are a testament to just how much we use it when holiday baking season arrives. In that book we discovered a whole new world of cookie goodness that went well beyond melomakarona, kourabiethes and koulourakia . In that book we were introduced to florentines, and shortbread, and gingerbread men, gingerbread houses, and gingersnaps. Ginger became a new fascination, and obsession.
Remember when you were a kid and you made someone that you loved a card, or a macaroni Christmas tree ornament, or a finger painting of what was clearly an abstract masterpiece? Remember how excited you were to offer your gift and to sit back and listen to the accolades? Remember the pride, the joy, the downright glee? We really, really hope that you do.
We remember that feeling, and frankly, we’re having the same kind of feels right now. But now it’s not about art, or arts and crafts…it’s about baking and we are practically bursting to finally be able to share with you our recipe for amygdalota. Youppi!!
November 15 marks the beginning of the Nativity Fast for Orthodox Christians, a period of fasting which prepares us for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ on December 25th. This is one of four major fast periods observed during the ecclesiastical calendar and although there is an important focus on abstaining from certain drink (wine) and food (meat, dairy, eggs, fish and oil) there is equal emphasis, if not a larger emphasis, on prayer and almsgiving.
Almsgiving is the giving of alms; money and physical gifts offered to the needy or the poor. It is meant to change the giver, encouraging us to detach from physical comforts and excesses, and it reminds us that giving is a social act, which places us in a relationship with others. It is an act of solidarity with those who are struggling, and can be a show of support to those who are facing seemingly insurmountable odds and life challenges.
Cranberry sauce that is not from a can…. you can do it!
We believe that there are three types of cranberry sauce people in the world. The first are those who like to open up a can and plop the contents onto a dish to be sliced and served. We are not those people, although we 100% respect and adore that many canned cranberry sauce friends tell us that the sight of the unmolded can of sauce, complete with rings from the can, reminds them of home and their childhoods. You know, we are all for that! The second class of cranberry sauce people are those who realize that making fresh cranberry sauce may be the easiest culinary feat possible, and so they do. We have become those people, but the truth is, for most of our lives, we fell into category three. This last group of sad, deprived folks are those who never knew of cranberry sauce growing up, because holiday turkey was lamb and it was served with tzatziki.
A layered Christmas bread with the most unbelievable texture and flavour
Christmas traditions certainly vary across cultures, regions and families; some are embedded within religious traditions while others are developed through years of “that’s just the way we do things”. One tradition which our family shares with many other Orthodox families is the baking of the traditional christopsomo, which literally translates to Christ’s bread. This bread is typically baked on Christmas Eve and eaten on Christmas Day and is replete with symbolism and meaning.