Vegan chocolate and strawberry cookies

Vegan chocolate and strawberry cookies

Chocolate and strawberry bites, which could easily be called brownies

Vegan chocolate and strawberry cookies

 

Don’t you just love it when you can convince yourself that dessert is healthy…or at least, not horribly bad for you?!  We do! and that is exactly what we do with these chocolate and strawberry cookies.  Not only are these two-bite cookies, which could just as easily be called brownies, vegan (automatically healthy right??!!) but they are also incredibly easy to whip together and contain a secret ingredient which makes them that much more lovely.  Who doesn’t love a recipe with a secret ingredient?

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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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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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Vegan banana bread (Νηστίσιμο κέικ με μπανάνες)

Vegan banana bread (Νηστίσιμο κέικ με μπανάνες)

Vegan banana bread (Νηστίσιμο κέικ με μπανάνες)

So many incredible things happen in the world, by accident.  Fortuitous accidents in medicine have led to the discovery of quinine, the small pox vaccination and x-rays.  Artists like Da Vinci and Cozens searched for inspiration in the dirt on walls and streaks on stones; deliberate use of accidental imperfections which helped shape an entire art movement and created masterpieces.  In fashion, Calvin Klein got his start because a coat buyer got off the elevator on the wrong floor and stepped into Klein’s workroom.  He then proceeded to place a $50,000 order for coats.  Seriously!

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Stuffed zucchini flowers ( Λουλουδάκια γεμιστά)

Greek stuffed zucchini flowers

Greek stuffed zucchini flowers

Our gardens grow an abundance of zucchini.  This is not necessarily the result of amazing gardening skills (although our parents can grow pretty much anything that can be planted), but is simply a testament to the un-finickiness of zucchini plants.  And so, around this time of year, zucchini takes over our fridges and counters.  Thankfully, we have many delicious ways of using them up, like making zucchini chips, or cooking them on the grill.

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Grilled zucchini (Κολοκυθάκια στη σχάρα)

Grilled zucchini

Like many Greeks, we are a gardening family.  In our experience, it is rare to find a Greek who has access to even a little bit of land, who doesn’t then use it to plant some sort of vegetable or herb.  Even when all that is available is a balcony, eggplants and tomatoes find themselves growing in pots, next to the basil. Gardening is a lovely heritage, and although our parents are the master green thumbs, we do pretty well ourselves; we had wonderful mentors after all.

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Green beans with potatoes (Φασολάκια λαδερά με πατάτες)

Green Beans with Potatoes

Green beans with Potatoes

Some meal preparations lend themselves to teamwork.  Our mother would make this simple, wholesome and economical dish of green beans and potatoes about once every couple of weeks, and each time she would invite us to join her, as she prepared the beans for cooking.  We would sit with her at the kitchen table (which was, of course, covered in plastic) faced with a bowl full of green beans.  One by one, we would take the beans, and carefully snip off each end.  The trimmed ends would collect in a pile on the table, and the beans would be placed in a colander, to later be washed.

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Vegan pastichio (Νηστίσιμο παστίτσιο)

Vegan pastichio (Νηστίσιμο παστίτσιο)

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Welcome to More Kouppes, and to our first guest (meaning, not our parents’) Greek recipe! When we decided to share favourite meals from families which were not our own, we knew that we would focus on recipes we had either heard people raving about (Oh man, my mom’s spanakopita is like, The Best!), or food that we had been lucky enough to eat, and love.  Immediately we knew that this vegan pastichio would top the list.  A few times a year, during periods of lent, this dairy, egg and meat-free pastichio unexpectedly appears and replaces the brown bagged lunch of peanut butter or hummus. What a delicious surprise!  The sad sandwich gets tossed, and the day is immediately better.  The woman behind this delicious, and unexpected real meal, is Κυρία Αργυρώ (Mrs. Argyro), and her lenten pastichio is so, so, SO good!

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Fasting and Fava

Greek Fava dip or spread

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Today is Clean Monday (Καθαρά Δευτέρα), the first day of great lent in East Orthodoxy. The date, like the date of Easter Sunday, varies from year to year and is the Monday seven weeks prior to Easter Sunday.  It is described as “clean” because today is the day we are meant to leave behind sins, sinful attitudes, and non-fasting foods.  In actual fact, lent began yesterday evening with the service of Forgiveness Vespers and the Ceremony of Mutual Forgiveness.  Forgiveness is a major part of lent, and the faithful are meant to embrace this period with clean consciousness (making confession an integral part of this week), clean hearts and even clean homes, as it is customary to clean the house thoroughly during this week.

The decision to fast, and the degree to which one undertakes the fast is, in our opinion, a deeply personal one.  It hinges upon many factors, including one’s health, life circumstances, and previous experience with fasting.  People may choose to limit only meat, to cut out all animal products, to allow olive oil or not, or to fast only the week before Easter Sunday.  We would never presume to tell you the right way to fast, but would instead suggest that you speak to your priest if you have any questions or concerns about your particular situation and the path you would like to follow.  Regardless of your decision, one of the best pieces of advice that our parents gave us growing up in relation to fasting was the following: When you fast, you don’t look at anyone else’s plate (they said this in Greek of course).  By this they meant that you should never look beyond your own self when fasting, and you should never judge another based upon what they put into their mouths.  They also always maintained that fasting should go hand in hand with prayer, confession and goodness towards your fellow man (and of course, woman).

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Stewed green peas (Αρακάς λαδερός με ντομάτα)

Stewed green peas

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Poor peas. We don’t think there has ever been a more maligned vegetable.  Word on the street is that toddlers hate them, teenagers refuse them and grown men weep when they are added to an otherwise perfect dinner of meat and potatoes.   As far as we know, peas are the only vegetable that kids would rather shove up their noses instead of into their mouths.  And it doesn’t end there. If you want to insult someone’s intelligence, call them a pea-brain.  Facebook has a page devoted to hating peas, creatively called,  “I hate PEAS!!!”.  (Incidentally, this page has more followers than our Mia Kouppa Facebook page.  Friends, can we please fix that?)  Then there was that time when the New York Times published a recipe suggesting that peas be added to guacamole. Hysteria ensued.  Peagate was such a big deal that even President Obama weighed in…against the pea!  We don’t get it. Perfectly round, vibrantly green, and subtly sweet, we think peas are fantastic. Doubt us?  Keep reading.

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