Easy Spanakopita Pockets

Easy Spanakopita Pockets

Once again, my friend Linda from Sound Harvest Delivery shared a winning recipe with me.  I am always delighted to learn a new recipe!

Spanakopita has never been a favorite recipe for me because of the fussy Phyllo dough.  I love the flavor, but making them can be tedious, especially if the dough is a bit dry.  This recipe makes it extra easy by using crescent roll dough but keeps the wonderful flavors of the traditional Greek appetizer.

Spanakopita Pockets

  • 10 oz. fresh spinach or 2 10 oz. packages frozen spinach
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 oz. Appel Farms Feta of your choice
  • 4 oz. Mozzarella
  • 4 tablespoons Appel Farms Parmesan, divided
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dill (or 1 tablespoon fresh dill)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 2 cans crescent rolls

Steam and drain spinach. Chop coarsely. Sauté garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Combine garlic, spinach, Feta, Mozzarella, 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan, dill, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Making Spanakopita

Lay foil onto cookie sheet and spray with non-stick spray. Roll crescent roll flat onto cookie sheet. Separate each roll into four rectangles. Divide the filling evenly between each of the rectangles.  Place the filling on half of the rectangle. Fold together to make a pocket and pinch the edges together.

Making Spanakopita

Lightly brush with milk and sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan.  Bake 18-20 minutes until golden.

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Chocolate Fondue

I have never considered myself to be a particularly romantic person.  I don’t care if I get flowers, and candlelight dinners are not my thing.  I don’t leave love notes in John’s truck, or whisper sweet nothings in his ear.  If I did, he would probably wonder what I was up to and start checking his pockets for something slimy.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, I guess I am romantic.

chocolatefondue2

 

Romantic \rō-ˈman-tik, rə-\
1650-60; < French romantique, derivative of romant romaunt; see -ic

  1. of, relating to, or involving love between two people.
  2. Making someone think of love.
  3. Thinking about love and doing and saying things to show that you love someone.

The longer we’ve been married, the more I know what I can do that makes John feel loved.  Some gestures are subtle, like cleaning up after him without complaining (that one is hard).  Some gestures are not so subtle, like baking cupcakes for the crew but leaving a few without frosting, because that’s how John likes them (that one is easy).  Gestures don’t have to be big, they just have to be unselfish.  And it has this lovely boomerang effect. The more I try to make John happy, the happier I am.  The more I try to put myself first and pursue my own happiness, the more dissatisfied I become.  Funny how it works that way.

Of course, he may occasionally reach in his pocket and pull out a handful of jello.

chocolatefondue5

In case you don’t want to try the jello idea on your honey, here is a “romantic” Valentine’s Day dessert.

Chocolate Fondue

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 4 to 5 tablespoon evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 4 oz Quark

Bring butter, sugar, cocoa and milk to a boil, stirring constantly over medium high heat. Boil about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla and marshmallows. Stir until melted. Add 4 oz of Quark and stir into melted mixture. Serve in a small fondue pot over low heat to just keep warm.

chocolatefondue4

Serve suggestions:

  • Fruit
  • Pretzels
  • Homemade Coffee Marshmallow (Find the homemade marshmallow recipe here.)  Substitute strong coffee for the water.
  • Lemon Pound Cake (find the recipe here)  I made the pound cake in a 9×13 pan and cut out heart shapes.  I didn’t think if it when I took the pictures, but they would have been wonderful toasted.

Cheese Fondue Pot of Love

John and I found ourselves in Seattle on Valentine’s Day a few years ago and thought we would try The Melting Pot for dinner.  If you have ever been to the Melting Pot you would immediately recognize our mistake.  Valentine’s Day is booked months in advance.  They allowed us to have an appetizer in the bar, which was very nice of them considering how full it was and considering that everyone else was sipping champagne while we ordered Diet Pepsi.  They seated us near the fireplace and it was a lovely evening.  The restaurant was beautiful and the service was marvelous.  The servers treated us like their best customers even though they made almost nothing on us that evening.  I was very impressed.  If you get a chance to go there, I highly recommend it.

This year I decided to make up my own Melting Pot dinner so I picked up a nice little fondue pot for $7 at a second hand store.  According to the website the “Romance Package” at the Melting Pot is $199.  My version costs around $25 including the second hand fondue pot.

candles
I picked these cute candles up at the second hand store for $1

Here is the “Romance Package” description from the Melting Pot website:

  1. “A secluded table in Lover’s Lane.”  No problem, our dining room is always secluded.
  2. “Surprise your sweetheart with roses waiting at your table.”  I am skipping the roses, John wouldn’t even notice them.
  3. “Toast to true love with champagne.”  aka Diet Pepsi
  4. “Relax and indulge in fondue courses at a leisurely pace.”  I don’t think John could handle an entire meal of fondue.  My plan is a cheese fondue appetizer, steak for dinner, and follow up with a chocolate fondue dessert.  I will fill you in on dessert next week.
  5. “Bask in the intimate atmosphere.”  I can’t say that the atmosphere will be particularly intimate, but we will be basking in something.
  6. “Discover how a fondue fork can give Cupid’s arrow a run for its money.”  We will probably end up using our fondue forks for sword fighting over the last tortellini.  It happens every time we have fondue…or long forks.
  7. “Gaze longingly into each other’s eyes over a steaming pot of cheese fondue.”  Okay, I might have a fit of giggling over that one.  The cheese fondue recipe is below.
  8. “Learn the recipe for true romance as you cook your entrees together in a fondue pot of love.”  I’m trying to figure out how my $7 fondue pot could be a “fondue pot of love.”
  9. “Feed each other chocolate fondue-covered strawberries.”  That will lead to more sword fighting, I’m sure if it.
  10. “Ignite the flame of romance as you watch your server flambé your chocolate fondue tableside.”  We will skip that one too, John doesn’t trust me with fire.

cheese-fondue-(115-of-118)

 

Cheese Fondue Pot of Love

  • 1/2 pound Maasdammer, grated
  • 1/2 pound Sweet Red Pepper Gouda, grated
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 cup chicken broth (or substitute dry white wine)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • Assorted dippers

Place the cheeses in a small bowl and toss with cornstarch, set aside.

In a medium pan over medium heat, bring the broth and lemon juice to a gentle simmer.  Add the cheese to the broth a little at a time, allowing it to melt between each addition.  Once completely melted, add the mustard and nutmeg.

Transfer to a fondue pot and serve with dippers.  Some of our favorites are toasted baguette slices, fried kielbasa slices, fresh tortellini (cooked according to the package directions), broccoli, mushrooms, etc.

cheesefondue4

cheesefondue3

Cheese Soufflé

Cheese Souffle

There are a couple of things that my employees do for me that may not have been listed in the employee manual.  One is that they have to be able to read my mind.  I have a bad habit of not finishing my sentences, or starting in the middle of a thought.  Thankfully, I have a wonderful crew who just go with the flow and figure out what it is that I really mean, not necessarily what I say.

Another job skill not listed in the manual is posing for my photo manipulation hobby.  When the store is slow, you might find someone pretending to lean on a giant muffin or perched on a ladder.  I wonder if OSHA has any regulations against balancing my employees on a ladder.  I should probably look that up.

floating in the kitchen
Mars and Lindsey are flying

These people are also very tolerant of me saying, “here, grate some cheese for me!” then I snap a bunch of pictures while they smile and grate…and grate…and grate.  This week’s recipe is soufflé so we needed plenty of grated cheese.

We love the light airiness of the soufflé with it’s rich cheese flavor.  I started out using a wonderful recipe from my hero, Alton Brown, but over time I adapted it.  I especially wanted cheesier flavor, so I bumped up the cheese from one kind to three.  If you like a subtle cheese flavor, then you can cut it back to 6 ounces, but with cheese, more is definitely better.

Please note: My oven at the store is a professional convection oven.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t achieve the same lift on my soufflé that my oven at home does.  Your soufflé will look a lot nicer than mine!

Lots of cheese!
There is never too much cheese!

Cheese Soufflé

1/3 cup butter, cubed
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
a pinch of salt
Dash of hot pepper sauce
4 ounces (1 cup) shredded Maasdammer (or substitute Swiss cheese)
4 ounces (1 cup) shredded Cheddar
1 ounce (1/4 cup) shredded Aged Gouda
5 room temperature eggs, separated
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1-2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs

Brush butter in ramekins or soufflé mold (I use 4 ounce ramekins for single serve dishes or 16 ounce soufflé molds for family style meals).  Add the bread crumbs to the ramekins and roll around so the butter and crumbs go up the sides.  Place in the refrigerator.

ramekins

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in the flour until smooth; cook one minute.  Gradually whisk in the milk, dry mustard, hot sauce, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir until thickened.  Reduce heat to medium-low; stir in cheeses until melted.  Transfer to a large bowl.

Preheat oven to 350.  In a small bowl, beat egg yolks until light colored and a creamy consistency.  Temper the yolks into the milk mixture, constantly whisking.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites with cream of tartar on high speed until stiff but not dry.  Using 1/3 of the egg whites at a time, very gently fold the egg whites into the milk mixture.

filling

Remove the ramekins from the refrigerator and fill to ½ inch of the top.  Place ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until tops are golden brown.  Serve immediately.

Cheese Souffle

Pumpkin Chili

Pumpkin Chili

Being married to the cheesemaker means that I never know when John will be home for dinner.  Sometimes he gets home first, sometimes he doesn’t come in until late.  When the kids were young, we tried to eat together but by the time they were in high school, we gave up trying.  With all of their activities and John’s crazy schedule, dinner became buffet style with eating in shifts.  The slow cooker was and is a life saver.  I love coming home from work to the smell of dinner bubbling softly in the slow cooker.

Pumpkin Chili

Chili is one of my favorite recipes for the slow cooker, the longer it simmers, the better it gets.  Grate some Cumin Gouda over the chili and it’s a total winner!  Cumin Gouda was one of the first Gouda flavors that Jack Appel made for friends and family at Christmas.  Komijnekaas is a traditional cheese very popular in the Netherlands that is flavored with Cumin seeds.  The pungent, peppery flavor of cumin is popular also in Mexican dishes.  Although Cumin Gouda is not in this recipe, it is a quintessential topping ingredient.

Pumpkin Chili

Pumpkin Chili

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 9 ounces ground pork sausage
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15.5 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15.5 ounce can kidney beans
  • 1 29 ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 28 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Saute onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot until translucent.  Add the garlic and bell peppers, saute for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the pot and set aside.
  2. In the same pot, brown the beef and pork sausage in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. Once the meat is browned, add back the onions and peppers, then add the diced tomatoes, pumpkin, chicken broth, beans and spices.
  4. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve with Cumin Gouda, sliced green onions and sour cream.

Adapted from The Autumn Chili recipe from Taste of Home

Pumpkins

Why you should get your local strawberries right now!

The beginning of summer for me is heralded by Boxx Berry Farm opening their doors.  When I was growing up, the only time I ever set foot on a farm was our annual trip to Yelm to pick strawberries for mom’s freezer jam.  I have fond memories of grimy knees, stained fingers, and the heady smell of berries warm from the summer sun.  I may have met the farmer that owned those fields, but I don’t remember him/her. I did hear stories of farmers: their hardworking life, patience, and general steady character.  Being constantly around farmers now, I have come to take these traits for granted, but it was brought home to me again as I visited Boxx Berry Farm the other day.  I parked out front and wandered through the patchwork quilt of fruit and vegetable fields, with dust from the road swirling around my ankles.

Alyssa working at the upick stand
The yield this year is small, but the berries are large, juicy, and sweet.

The u-pick stand was manned by Alyssa, the daughter of Roger and Vonda Boxx.  It’s been a delight to see her grow from the skinny little thing running around the farm to the beautiful woman she is now.  Roger paused in his own labors to greet me and we gazed down the rows of strawberry plants.  I asked him how it was going and he confessed that it’s a disappointing year.  They are expecting less than half their usual yield of strawberries.  The winter, though mild, was harsh on the strawberry plants.  But farmers are a stoic breed, he brushed the worry aside like brushing the dust from his shoes and shrugged, “there’s always next year.”

Because the harvest will be small this year, I am relishing each and every berry.  There’s nothing like the imminent danger of paucity to make you cherish what you can get, don’t you think?  I made freezer jam on Monday, just like mom’s, and today we are having Panna Cotta.  My son describes Panna Cotta as offspring from the marriage of gelatin dessert and ice cream.  Panna Cotta is light, creamy, and easy to make but looks absolutely elegant.

Panna Cotta

Strawberry Quark Panna Cotta

  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup lowfat quark
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Place half and half into a medium pan.  Stir gelatin in gently and set aside.

Blend quark, strawberries, seeds from the vanilla bean, and sugar in a food processor until smooth.

Heat half and half and gelatin stirring constantly until almost simmering, do not overheat or the gelatin will not set.  Remove from heat.

Fold 1/3 of the hot half and half into the strawberry/quark mixture, then gradually add in the remainder.

Divide into serving glasses, the number of glasses depends on their size and if you are doing layers or all one flavor.  For two layers, I like to tilt the glasses in a muffin tin (use crumpled paper towel to keep the glasses from sliding around) for the first layer then set the glasses straight for the second layer.  Allow to set for 4-6 hours before adding second layer.

Elizabeth cutting strawberries

Vanilla Quark Panna Cotta

  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup lowfat quark
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Place half and half into a medium pan.  Stir gelatin in gently and set aside.

Stir together the quark and seeds from the vanilla bean, set aside.

Heat half and half and gelatin stirring constantly until almost simmering, do not overheat or the gelatin will not set.  Remove from heat.

Fold 1/3 of the hot half and half into the vanilla/quark mixture, then gradually add in the remainder.

Divide into serving glasses or carefully pour on top of the first layer.  Chill 4-6 hours before serving.

Yogurt Gravy

One thing that is tricky when cooking with yogurt is sauces.  Yogurt adds a rich, luscious tang but can be frustrating if not added properly.  Yogurt will separate if heated too quickly or at too high a temperature so proper tempering is essential.  My favorite sauce is a yogurt gravy that I serve with roast chicken and mashed potatoes.

Creamy Yogurt Gravy

  • 2 tablespoons pan drippings
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 cup Appel Farms yogurt at room temperature (or substitute plain greek yogurt)

Put 2 tablespoons drippings in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour. cook, stirring until golden.  Add water and bouillon cube.  Cook until thickened.  Remove from heat.  Spoon 1/3 of the roux into the yogurt and whisk.  Pour the mixture into the pan and heat to serving temperature.

Lemon Roast Chicken

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 roasting chicken
  • 1 stalk celery, cut in 2 inch pieces
  • 1 small lemon wedge
  • 1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a small bowl, beat oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and oregano.  Brush entire chicken including cavety with the lemon marinade.  Place celery and lemon wedge in cavity.  Place chicken in a shallow baking pan.  Pour water into pan.  Roast for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, baste chicken occasionally with pan drippings.  Chicken will be done when the internal temperature reaches a minimum of 165 degrees F.  Serve with Creamy Gravy.
Recipe from Yogurt Cookery (another favorite book) published 1978 by Sophie Kay

Easy Feta Dip

Easy Feta Dip

One of my Cheese Shop customers gave me this recipe a few years ago.  It’s a quick and simple recipe that is always a hit at parties.

Easy Feta Dip

Ingredients
(The amounts vary depending on the size of your serving plate)

olive oil
approximately 1 pound of Appel Farms Feta
2-3 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 bunch of green onions, sliced thin
Cavender’s Greek Seasoning*

Cover the serving platter with a thin layer of olive oil.  Spread the tomatoes, onions, and feta over the oil and sprinkle the Greek seasoning on top (I used about 2 teaspoons).  Gently mix and serve with crackers or sliced baguette.

*or substitute your favorite blend of herbs

Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust.

Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust

Fruit and cheese are a perfect pairing.  This is a tried and true recipe to bring those lovely flavors together.  This pie is wonderful served at holidays or for a family treat, they will be begging for more!

Cheddar Cheese Crust

12 ounces (approximately 2 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoon sugar
4 ounces Appel Farms sharp cheddar, grated
4 ounces shortening (frozen in one ounce pieces)
4 ounces butter (frozen in one ounce pieces)
4 ounces cold water

Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, cheddar, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the frozen shortening and toss them with the flour mixture.  Use your fingers to rub the shortening into the flour mixture.  Cut in the butter until you have created a mixture of almond and pea size pieces.  Drizzle the water over the flour mixture.  Mix with a fork.

Dump the mixture on the counter. Gather the crumbs into a mass of dough.  If the mixture is still dry, add more water a tablespoonful at a time, sprinkling it over the dough.

Gently knead the dough two or three times, just to combine.

Gather the dough into a circle and cut in half with a bench scraper. Form each half into a disk.  Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Filling

6 medium apples* peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/3 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons orange juice
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon coarse sugar crystals **optional**

Mix the sugars, flour, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg in a small bowl.

Place the apples in a large bowl with the sugar mixture and orange juice and toss gently.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Assembly

Preheat oven to 450.  Roll out one of the dough disks to make a bottom crust and place it in a 9 inch pie pan.  Pile the filling into the crust and arrange the apple slices so there are no large gaps.  Roll out the second disk for the top crust.  Lay it over the filling and cut off the excess crust around the edges.  Fold the crust over and crimp the edges.  Cut vent holes in the top crust to allow steam to escape.  Brush the crust with cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired.

Place the pie pan on a foil lined baking sheet.  Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes then lower the temperature to 350 and bake for approximately 45 minutes.  Tent the pie with foil to prevent the crust from overbrowning and bake until the filling is bubbly, about 45 more minutes.  Allow to cool for 1 to 2 hours before serving.

*I like to change up the filling with different local varieties.  Apples are not in season right now so we used 3 Golden Delicious and 3 Braeburn.