Halloumi fries with a citrus lime mint dipping sauce

Halloumi fries with a citrus lime mint dipping sauce

Halloumi sticks with a sweet, spicy and tangy dipping sauce

We grew up eating so much cheese, one could imagine that we might be sick of it. But really, how could anyone tire of the endless variety of wonderful Greek cheeses, and the countless ways they can be enjoyed.  Oh sure, we would sometimes find a block of orange cheddar in the refrigerator, but we were much more likely to find feta, kefalotiri, kefalograviera, mizithra and halloumi; Greek cheese heaven.

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Oven-baked chicken and rice (Κοτόπουλο με ρύζι στο φούρνο)

Oven-baked chicken and rice

A complete and delicious meal of lemon chicken and vegetable studded rice

For us, this is the ultimate comfort food; a meal where the ingredients cook together slowly so that the flavours meld and develop, while you sit back and spend quality time with family and friends as things get perfect in the oven.  This oven-baked chicken and rice dish is that kind of food.  Although there is some active stove top work to do before you can pop everything into the oven and forget it, the work is minimal, and easy.  The result, is most definitely worth it.

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Upside down apricot and molasses cake

Upside down apricot and molasses cake

A classic cake which tastes of gingerbread and happiness

Upside down apricot and molasses cake

 

There is something so old-fashioned about an upside-down cake; whenever we make this dessert we feel that we should wear long, flowery dresses with embroidered aprons and then serve it with Salada in vintage tea cups and conversation about good books and family values.  We’re not actually sure when the first upside-down cake was made, but we’re pretty sure it was a long time ago and that it created quite a happy commotion.

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Stewed Swiss chard with vegetables and feta (Σέσκουλα γιαχνί με λαχανικά και φέτα)

Stewed Swiss chard with vegetables and feta (Σέσκουλα γιαχνί με λαχανικά και φέτα)

A perfect mess of vegetables that tastes better than you could hope

Feeling somewhat bloated and heavy after the holidays?  Resolved to eating healthier, including more vegetables in your diet, and to limiting processed foods?  Committed to cutting out all sweets, and eating only food which serves a vitamin and mineral fuelled purpose?  Well, we’re here to help!  And to remind you that we have a whole category of dessert recipes like galaktoboureko, baklava and koulourakia, because cutting out all sweets is dumb (unless your doctor tells you to cut out all sweets, in which case it’s very, very smart).

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Cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce

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.

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Mushroom and chestnut phyllo triangles (Πιτάκια με μανιτάρια και κάστανα)

Mushroom and chestnut phyllo triangles (Πιτάκια με μανιτάρια και κάστανα)

A vegetarian meze that is slightly sweet, light and crispy; perfect two-bites!

Mushroom and chestnut phyllo triangles (Πιτάκια με μανιτάρια και κάστανα)

 

We think that phyllo is the answer to most of life’s food problems.  Although rolling out your own phyllo is a skill which is honed over years of practice (or much quicker if you have a great recipe like this one), store bought phyllo is a breeze! Seriously!  Don’t listen to the stories about how it dries out too quickly or tears easily.  In fact, once you get used to working with store bought phyllo, you’re going to find yourself searching for things to wrap up in it!  True story!

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Custard with cherry spoon sweet (Κρέμα με κομπόστα κεράσι)

Custard with cherry spoon sweet (Κρέμα με κομπόστα κεράσι)

A simple make-ahead dessert that can be dressed up or down

Custard with cherry spoon sweet (Κρέμα με κομπόστα κεράσι)

 

One of our favourite treats growing up was a creamy vanilla pudding that came from a box.  This product, imported from Greece, was one of the only “processed” foods that our parents ever made for us, and we loved it!  Whenever we would see the unique blue box with a corn on the cob design on it in the pantry, we got pretty excited. We remember how our parents would mix this pudding powder with milk, cook it while stirring slowly and serve it in shallow bowls. Occasionally they would add a topping of fresh fruit (sliced bananas were a particular favourite) or a spoon sweet they had previously made and preserved.  We still see this box of pudding in the Greek grocery store we frequent, and although we have considered picking one up for old times sake, we’re a little worried that our adult taste buds won’t love it as much as we used to.  Uncomfortable about disrupting such fond food and family memories, we’ve decided to create something similar, using ingredients we know we love.

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Christmas koulourakia with yeast (Χριστουγεννιάτικα κουλουράκια με μαγιά)

Christmas koulourakia with yeast (Χριστουγεννιάτικα κουλουράκια με μαγιά)

Savoury Christmas koulourakia

Much of the beauty of Greek cuisine is that it varies from region to region.  In part this is due to agricultural possibilities (think mountainous landscapes versus islands surrounded by the sea), connections with other cultures, and local customs and traditions.  Every recipe tells a story, and offers a glimpse into the rich web of history, both cultural and culinary, that makes Greece and Greek food such an important and fascinating area of study.  Although many of these unique regional dishes are well known (think kalitsounia from Crete or lalagia from Messinia), others are so local that they are known only to isolated villages.  The recipe which we are sharing here is one such example.

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Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)

Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)

Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)

 

There are some pretty hefty debates which exist in the culinary world.  Should peanut butter be creamy, or chunky?  Is it best to eat your macaroni and cheese with a fork, or a spoon?  Is a hot dog a sandwich? And, is bougatsa just galaktoboureko, minus the syrup?  We’ll get to that last one in a minute, but first: peanut butter should be creamy, mac and cheese tastes best with a spoon, and a hot dog is barely food…let alone a sandwich (having said that…we love hot dogs).

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Black-eyed pea soup with kale (Σούπα με μαυρομάτικα φασόλια και κατσαρό λάχανο)

Black-eyed pea soup with kale (Σούπα με μαυρομάτικα φασόλια και κατσαρό λάχανο)

This nutritional powerhouse of a soup will have you feeling great, and full!

Black-eyed pea soup with kale (Σούπα με μαυρομάτικα φασόλια και κατσαρό λάχανο)

 

If you are a regular reader of Mia Kouppa, you may already be aware that we have a love affair with black-eyed peas.  We are actually fond of all things bean and legume, but the darling black-eyed pea holds a special place in our hearts…because it is so darn cute.  Take a good look at these beans, with their perfect small shape and perfectly situated black “eye” and we’re pretty sure you will agree, they are adorable!  Still, if you’re more mature than us and not that interested in appearances, we think we can convince you to love black-eyed peas anyways, because they are delicious, versatile and so, so good for you.

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