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Monday, May 16, 2011

Makes me Smile...

This is a giftie that Kim made for me a couple of years ago, and it continues to be one of my most favourite all time gifts!  It's hanging over my antique stove on a wall that I pass by all day long.  It always makes me smile....

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Marinade for Chicken Souvlaki


This is just a basic marinade for Chicken Souvlaki that I use.  It doesn't need to be followed to the exact, but the flavours are great together. This is basically the recipe I followed for the Passover meal.

2 tsp minced garlic (I do 2 cloves)
tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil (I use extra virgin)
1/2 tsp dried oregano 
1/2 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp pepper
1 lb chicken breast (About 3- 4 boneless breasts)  You can choose whether you want to cut the chicken into pieces for skewers, or leave them whole.

Mix first 6 ingredients in a ziploc bag.  Add chicken.  Let marinade for desired amount of time (at least one hour, if not 3-4).  I flip bag over a couple of times to mix the marinade up.

If using skewers, pre soak skewers in water, then thread meat and veggies on, or leave chicken breasts whole (that's what we do) and throw  on the BBQ and enjoy!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Easy Greek Salad


Really, the key to any good greek salad is the dressing, right?  That's where I cheat.  I run to the local Greek Restaurant down the street and pick up a bottle of their specialty dressing.  I know I'm not the only one girls!!!  Here's the recipe we used for Greek salad at the Passover meal.  We did all the veggie prep the night before.  I have NEVER cut up that many veggies in my entire life!!!  My whole house and car reeked like red onion for days...and oh did we all cry when we were prepping them.  Didn't we Rich?  Again, this is another recipe from allrecipes.com

Recipe for 4 servings:

3/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup cucumber - chopped (option: peeled & seeded )
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup diced red onion
4 large black olives, quartered
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Throw it together and douse it with your favourite dressing!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Greek Potatoes


I've tried a few different recipes for Greek style potatoes.  I alternate between this one (from Menno Girls Can Cook) and this new one that my good friend Shelley gave me.  The recipe below is the one we served at the Passover meal and it is our new favourite!  It comes from the allrecipes.com site.

1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups water
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I crush in my garlic crusher)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 cubes chicken bouillon
ground black pepper to taste
6 potatoes, peeled and quartered

Preheat oven to 350*
Mix all ingredients, except for potatoes, in a medium bowl.
Arrange potatoes in bottom of a 9x13" pan
Pour mixture over potatoes
Cover and bake for 1.5 - 2 hours.  Turn occasionally.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lemon Dill Rice


This is the recipe I use at home when I cook Greek Food.  It differs a little from the one we used for the Passover meal.  It is also a nice rice to cook if you're serving fish.

1 tbsp Olive oil
1 cup long grain rice
1 cup finely diced celery
1 med sized onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (I use 2)
1 3/4 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp butter
Scant 1 tbsp dried dill weed (fresh is great too)
2 tsp sugar
pinch salt
4 lemon slices

Combine olive oil and rice in a saucepan and cook over medium heat.  Stir often, cooking until rice is a nice golden brown. (4-5 min).  Add celery, onions & garlic.  Stir until softened.  Add stock, lemon juice, butter, dill, sugar and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Float lemon slices on top.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer until tender and liquid has absorbed.  Once cooked, allow to stand for 10 minutes.  Garnish with dill.  Serves 6

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Going Greek...

Well, it all started with the Pastor asking me if I would be willing to head up the meal for our Passover Celebration.  I asked how many people...he said, "oh, well, I don't know.  We've never done something like this before. I don't think it would be more than 50, maybe 100 people interested".  Hmmm, I thought.  Well, I've cooked for Alpha before and that was for 60ish people.  I could probably do this.  We talked about menu.  He was open to anything, but after discussing the theme of the celebration and the meaning of it we thought it may be fun to do a Mediterranean flavoured meal.  I love, love, love Greek food and I've been cooking it more confidently in the past few months.  I figured, if I could cook it for our family then I could expand it for 50ish people.  Guess what?  I didn't cook for 50ish people.  I cooked for 250ish people.  Yeah...I reacted the same way.  Here's the part where I need to define 'I cooked'.  I didn't really cook for that many people.  I organized the cooking for that many people. 

Here's how 'I' did it:
First, I phoned all the 'pros' in our church that I could find and asked them how the heck you cook for that many people.  I took notes.  Lots of notes.
Second, I planned the menu.  Lots of research, lots of math.  Two things I least enjoy.
Thirdly, I took the advice of those pro's and delegated each aspect of the meal to different people.  Those people were responsible for finding all the people they needed.  I provided them with their recipes, and offered to do their shopping for them if they didn't want to do that part.
Fourthly, I panicked.  A lot.  What if this?  What if that?  What if I failed hugely?
Fifth, I gave it to God.  If you're taking notes, I would suggest placing this first, third, fifth and so on....I prayed that God would provide me with the knowledge, the peace, the ability, the help and the opportunity to honour Him.
Rob had his hand injury in the middle of all of this and the Pastor graciously offered me an out on all of this.  He was so great about it.  He said it would be fine to order KFC.  Um, no, it's not fine.  I'll still do it!  Then I went back to step number 5, again and again.
God provided above and beyond.  He gave us peace in a crazy, overwhelming time, He gave us helpers with great attitudes and abilities, and He used it for His glory. 
I am a person who thrives on challenges and tends to take them on to deal with stress.  Backwards, I know, but it makes me who I am.
We served:
BBQ'd souvlaki chicken - we bbq'd 270 pieces and had 6 leftover!
Greek Potatoes - everyone got one portion, and about 10 lucky people got seconds!
Lemon/Dill Rice - lots of rice, and one pan leftover
Greek Salad - oh was it good! Just enough left over for a few lunches for the help!
Unleavened bread (in keeping with Passover tradition) with tzaziki dip
Dessert - this was not my dept but it was good!  I think there was a chocolate or orange type cake of some sort...I didn't have much time to enjoy;)
The teams had to be scheduled around the space and equipment available in the kitchen. 
Everything had to be labelled with instructions for the prep team and table setting crew.
I was on my feet for 13 hours solid and my notes looked like shredded paper by the time I was done, but we did it!
Some of the many challenges presented:
Addition of people right up to the event!  Seriously people, buy your tickets on time!
Shopping for that many ingredients and fitting them all in my car!
Not having access to the kitchen until 11pm the night before the event (there was a wedding in the day before the event)
Preparing all the food in a foodsafe manner and having the right people on hand to help with that!
Clean up for that many dishes! (surprisingly it only took 3 hours to clean over 1000 dishes!)
Coming in on budget when the meal was only $5 per person ( I think I came in UNDER budget!!!)
Naysayers in the ranks...
I have to share how disappointed I was to hear of a couple of people who talked negatively about this event before it even happened!  There was one particular 'party' who verbalized to a few people their displeasure at the choice of menu.  Really?  REALLY?  I get it if you don't like Greek, not everyone does.  The ironic reality is that it's chicken, potatoes, rice and veggies people...but instead of soaking them in sweet and sour, we're using savoury spices. I chose not to be discouraged for long.  Some people will ALWAYS find something to complain about!
Our Pastors wife was so encouraging.  We talked about how this celebration was about SO MUCH MORE than Greek food.  This celebration was about the importance and meaning of Jesus' last supper with His disciples.  This celebration was about the significance of His death on the cross.  This supper was about our heritage.  This supper was about gathering with friends and families and teaching our children more about their heavenly Father.  This celebration was meant to honour God.  It was a wonderful evening.  I didn't get to partake in the readings and such, but I did grab a quick plate of food and visit with friends.  I am forever in debt to our dear friends Rich and Shell for their joy and willingness in helping us with so much prep work.  We are definitely treating you to dinner one of these days...and it won't be Greek food!
I'll post a few of the recipes I chose for this meal in the next week and you can give them a try if you like. 
Everything was made from scratch with the exception of the tzaziki dip (mine never tastes as good as the store stuff) and the greek salad dressing (which is so perfectly made by our local Greek restaurant)  Kudos to the bbq team, the rice team, the potato peeling & prep crew, the chicken prep crew, the dessert prep team, the Greek salad gurus and the set up and clean up crews.  Your help and experience was a huge asset!  I have heard wonderfully positive things about the whole experience and that's all the thanks I need.  Would I do it again....NO!  Well, maybe.  Ask me later.  Most likely.
Oh...and did I mention that I'm a details person?  I am. To add some colour to the tables I went to one of our local daffodil farmers and bought bulk.  I love our Bradner farmers, they're so helpful and generous.  We got a steal of a deal on a large amount of flowers and he mixed several varieties up in the order just for kicks!  I love community.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Easter...

Easter Season was a busy one around here!  I think, perhaps, more busy than Christmas was...and that's sayin' something!  It was a very fun and meaningful Easter. 
The week prior to Easter was a crazy one.  Our schedule was packed, work was crazy, and we heard of 6 people who had passed away. It was a hard week, but we were blessed despite of it. Our Pastor put a lot of planning and prayer into how to make the Easter season a memorable and meaningful one.  I think it was particularly a special Easter for the kids.  I think they are really starting to grasp the meaning of their Heavenly Father and how His death (and resurrection!)was so necessary for mankind. 
We started off the celebrations on Passover Sunday with a traditional Passover meal at our church. Pastor Tim did a full Passover ceremony with a traditional Seder plate and readings followed by a meal.  It was a unique evening and I was honoured to be a part of the meal prep team. (I'll do a post on that one soon;) 
Then, Good Friday, our church hosted it's annual breakfast and 'Art Walk' where an intimate and meaningful atmosphere is created to help us all interpret what the cross means to us.  The Art Walk was beautiful, with so many expressions of love for Christ. The men prepared the breakfast and it was wonderful!  Both of our brothers came out to join in the festivities.  There was a short service after the Art Walk and then communion.  On Friday evening we headed over to hubby's Moms house for a family get together.  The kids had a great time hanging out with their cousins. 
On Easter Weekend Saturday, it was warm and gorgeous here so we did yard work all day!  My brother came over and lent a much needed hand and we got huge amounts of work done!  Saturday evening Rob and I took the kids to my parents and headed out on a double date with some friends. 
Sunday morning we headed over to a neighboring church to see our nephew be baptised.  It was so special to see him make this decision to publicly declare his love and obedience to God.  It was especially meaningful to me as I was baptised on an Easter Sunday when I was younger.  Sunday afternoon we headed over to my parents for an Easter celebration!  We were originally going to be joined by several family members, but in the end it was just our family.  Mom prepared a lovely meal, we pigged out on strawberry shortcake and paska, the kids did their Easter egg hunt, and, AND....we watched the hockey game!  It's play off season here folks and hockey is the name of the game! 
Easter Monday the kids were off, but Rob had to work, we just had a relaxed day here and, as per usual, Uncle Ken joined us for supper.
'Oooohhhh....the good ol' hockey game...'
Paska, sans icing & sprinkles....good thing I only make this stuff once a year!  I have such a weakness for paska....

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Baking for Teacher Appreciation...

Like many schools, our school picks one week each Spring to honour our teachers and the amazing jobs they do!  I am so grateful for teachers!  As a 'class mom' it is my job to make sure that these teachers feel special this week!  I ask parents to sign up for one day during the week where they will commit to doing something for the teacher...maybe a hot coffee/tea, flowers, a treat, or even a card or time in the classroom.  In the past 4 years I've always made a full, hot meal for Olivia's teacher so that they get one night off when they don't have to cook!  This year I was too 'chicken' to do a meal for Olivia's teacher because he's a vegan!   I respect it, but can't relate to it hunnny!  So...this year it was fresh, hot from the oven, pans of blueberry cinnamon buns for Livi and Abby's teachers.  Hope they enjoyed them!  It's a pretty easy recipe, and if you have a large mixer then it'll do the work for you! 
Here's my recipe:
-- Mix 2 tsp granulated sugar into 1 cup of warm water. Sprinkle scant 2 tbsp of dry yeast on top and let sit for 10 minutes. (I do this in my kitchen aid bowl so it's ready to have ingredients added)
-- Once proofed (poofed) stir yeast mixture to mix. Add:
2 large eggs
1/3 cup cooking oil
1/2 sugar
1 cup warm milk 2 cups all purpose flour
Beat together well.

Now work in 4 - 4.5 cups of flour (I switch to the dough hook for this one)
Work it in until dough pulls away from sides of bowl.  You can let it knead in your machine for a good 5 minutes once it's all blended, or, turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes.  Should be smooth and elastic.  I love working with the dough so I always opt for a few less minutes in the mixer and do some kneading by hand...work out those frustrations girls!
Place dough in greased bowl, turn once to grease top.  Cover with tea towel and place in oven with light on and door closed.  Let rise for approx 1 hour until doubled in size.
Filling:
1/2 cup butter softened
3/4 cup brown sugar mixed with 2.5 tsp ground cinnamon
4 cups blueberries. (I use frozen)


Now, divide dough into 3 equal parts.  Roll each into 9x12" rectangles. ( I do one at a time)
Spread 1/3 of butter on each piece
Sprinkle 1/3 sugar/cinnamon mixture on each
Scatter 1/3 berries on each piece


Starting on the long side of the rectangle, tightly roll up each piece into a log.  Cut each log into 9 even pieces and place in greased  8x8 pans.  (I always use pie plates)
Cover with tea towels and let stand in oven with light on and door closed for another hour.

Bake at 375* for 20 minutes...watch, they burn easy. 

Glaze:
Blend 1.5 cups icing sugar with:
1/2 cup softened butter, 2-3 tbsp milk or water
1/2 tsp vanilla
Drizzle over buns once they've cooled a little.