Irish soda bread

Irish soda bread

Irish soda bread

 

If you have been following our blog and reading our stories, then you may know that we Greek Canadian sisters are both married to Xeni (if you are Greek, you know exactly what this means…and if you are not Greek, well, Xeni is you).  One of us is married to a man who is of Irish and Scottish descent, and so it seemed fitting to share a recipe from his original neck of the woods, especially with St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner.

Irish soda bread is classified as a quick bread because it does not include yeast, hence there is no proofing time where the dough rises, and then rises again.  Here, baking soda and buttermilk combine to do all the work.  The result is a bread which goes from flour in a bowl to warm bread in your mouth in about 45 minutes.  The Irish know that sometimes, there are more important things to do than spend hours in the kitchen.

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Koulourakia with orange (Νηστίσιμα κουλουράκια με πορτοκάλι)

Koulourakia with orange (Νηστίσιμα κουλουράκια με πορτοκάλι)

Koulourakia with orange (Νηστίσιμα κουλουράκια με πορτοκάλι)

 

Our parents make so many types of koulourakia (Greek for cookies that are great for dunking into coffee or milk) that it is almost hard to keep track of them all.  To help differentiate one koulouraki from the other, they often refer to a key ingredient.  So here, we present to you koulourakia with orange…because, you guessed it, they contain a fair bit of orange juice.  They also often refer to different koulourakia by the person who prefers them over all others.  So these, along with being koulourakia with orange, are also affectionately referred to as “Georgia’s favourite”.

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Pasta with tomato sauce (Μακαρόνια με σάλτσα ντομάτας)

Pasta with tomato sauce (Μακαρόνια με σάλτσα ντομάτας)

Pasta with tomato sauce (Μακαρόνια με σάλτσα ντομάτας)

 

This is about as great as one pot meal can be.  First of all, it includes pasta.  Usually, that would be enough to win us over, but this dish has a few other things going for it too.  In order to make this easy, quick and thoroughly satisfying recipe, all you need are a few ingredients that you likely hopefully already have in your pantry.  If you don’t have these things in your pantry, we suggest it’s time to do a bit of shopping.  Before you go…you may want to consult this 🙂 .

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Mussels with red sauce (Μύδια με κόκκινη σάλτσα)

Mussels with red sauce (Μύδια με κόκκινη σάλτσα)

Mussels with red sauce (Μύδια με κόκκινη σάλτσα)

 

Some ingredients give the impression that they will be a lot more complicated and costly to work with, than they actually are.  A great example of this is mussels.  Because we tend to talk about food a lot, we’ve learned that many people have never cooked mussels, assuming that it would be difficult to create a meal with them.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, mussels are an incredible way to present a fancy meal with almost no effort.

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Vegan date cake (Νηστίσιμο γλυκό με χουρμάδες)

Vegan date cake (Νηστίσιμο γλυκό με χουρμάδες)

Vegan date cake (Νηστίσιμο γλυκό με χουρμάδες)

 

Make no mistake, dates feature very prominently in this cake.  If you are not sure that you like dates, or if you think that you would not like dates, you should probably give this cake a try.  Truly.  The only reason you should pass on it is if you are 100%, definitely and absolutely, a date hater.  And even then, unless you are deathly allergic to dates (or any of the other ingredients in this cake), you should give it a go.  Dates are an incredible fruit, and frankly, we think that this is an incredible cake.

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Orzo with shrimp (Κριθαράκι με γαρίδες)

Orzo with shrimp (Κριθαράκι με γαρίδες)

Orzo with shrimp (Κριθαράκι με γαρίδες)

 

There are some foods which were always considered somewhat of a treat when we were growing up.  Shrimp was one of those foods.  Maybe because it was often a little pricier than our usual fare, or maybe because our parents tried to reserve seafood dishes for periods of lent, when they would be appreciated even more.  Whatever the reason, when shrimp made its way to the table, it was a good thing.

The great thing about cooking with seafood like shrimp, is how easily a delicious meal can come together; shrimp literally cooks in minutes.  It’s also incredibly versatile and is delicious grilled, fried, steamed, boiled and baked.  There is no shortage of ways to prepare shrimp (did you see what we did there?) 🙂

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Youvetsi with chickpeas (Γιουβέτσι με ρεβύθια)

Youvetsi with chickpeas (Γιουβέτσι με ρεβύθια)

Youvetsi with chickpeas (Γιουβέτσι με ρεβύθια)

 

Our parents always managed to put filling and delicious food on the table, whether they were rushed, tired, or simply not in the mood to cook (rare, but it did sometimes happen).  Youvetsi (sometimes called Giouvesti) was the perfect solution to any of these situations.  A baked dish of orzo, tomato sauce and protein, this is a relatively quick, and incredibly easy way to feed a family.

When our parents needed something quicker than quick, and easier than easy, they turned to preparing youvetsi this way.  Unlike the more typical versions which include meat, like lamb or  chicken, this recipe is made with chickpeas.  By turning to legumes, this youvetsi is perfect for meatless Mondays, during lent, or when you simply want a vegetarian (actually, vegan) option.

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Eggplant stew (Μελιτζάνες στιφάδο)

Eggplant stew (Μελιτζάνες στιφάδο)

Eggplant stew (Μελιτζάνες στιφάδο)

 

Several weeks ago we shared a favourite childhood meal, rabbit stew.  We knew  that this recipe would be met with some strong reactions; eating rabbit is clearly not for everyone.  Although we totally understand and respect this, we felt that it was a shame that not everyone would taste the wonderful flavours of this stew…rabbit aside.  Then we remembered that sometimes our parents would replace the rabbit with eggplant!  And we laughed, because we realized that this too could be met with some strong reactions; eggplant is not the most popular ingredient out there.

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Lagana (Λαγάνα)

Lagana (Λαγάνα)

Lagana (Λαγάνα), a traditional bread eaten on Clean Monday.

 

This is probably one of our favourite times of year.  In Greece, carnival season is ending and Monday marks the beginning of lent for Greek Orthodox Easter (Pascha).  Although we live in Canada, and there are no such Carnivals, we do what we can to keep with some of the Greek traditions and customs.  Many people have abstained from eating meat this past week and will now continue to abstain from meat, eggs and dairy until Easter Sunday.  Whether you are fasting entirely, partially, or not at all, is of course a personal decision.  Throughout our lives, for various reasons, we have fasted in the ways which were most appropriate for us at the time.  One thing that has always remained constant however is that on Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday), we eat lagana.

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Pasta with tomato sauce and feta

Pasta with tomato sauce and feta

Pasta with tomato sauce and feta

 

We sure love simple, and when simple is simply delicious, well…we love it even more.   When things get busy, hectic, and overwhelming, knowing that there is a way to get a meal on the table in short order, using a few ingredients you likely already have on hand, is a gift. This gift is often wrapped in pasta.

There is probably nothing more satisfying than a nice bowl of pasta, or comfort carbs as we like to call them.  Not only are they versatile, but they are usually inexpensive, and readily available.  Here we’re sharing a lovely recipe for spaghetti (one of our top 5 noodles) topped with a rich, but simple tomato sauce and handfuls of crumbled feta.   This might become your go-to meal when you are pressed for time, but it’s so delicious that you may find yourself making it even when you have the entire day to spend in the kitchen.  It’s simply that good.

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