Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vasilopita 2009

My first attempt at making Vasilopita

Al's Reduced Sugar Vasilopita

Jan 1, 2009

Just tasted it! Not bad for my first attempt. One would think that using only half the amount of sugar (regular recipes use about 2 cups sugar, whereas i used half cup brown sugar and half cup fructose sugar) would make quite a bland cake. But that was not the case, the aroma from the cake was really strong and it had a rich blend of flavors from the nuts, cinnamon, clove, cognac... and with the orange juice and zest, the cake was really 'festive' a nice change from the usual fruit cake and such. It was light without being boring. Not overly sweet, and the amount of butter was just right. I hope someone else would give it a try and let me know if you like it too!! Wikipedia description:Vasilopita is a traditional New Year's Day bread or cake in Greece and many other areas in eastern Europe and the Balkans which contains a hidden coin or trinket which gives good luck to the receiver. It is made of a variety of doughs, depending on regional and family tradition, including tsoureki.

SERVES 14 , 1 12 inch pan (change servings and units)


* 175 g butter, softened
* 1 cup brown sugar
* 4 eggs
* 400 g cake flour
* vanilla essence
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1.5 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1/2 cup orange juice ( i guess you could just juice the orange that you zested, if you dont get half a glass of orange juice from one orange then just add a little more milk to make up for it)
* 1/2 cup cognac
* 1 tablespoon orange zest / from 1 orange
* 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
* 1 clean washed coin wrapped tightly in aluminum foil
* 2 tablespoons icing sugar, topping

Instructions: ( i guess just use your usual method of baking a cake, i couldnt really read the instructions in greek so i didnt bother to follow the steps).

1. Just note that if you have a mixer - good for you, i did mine by hand, woe is me. And when i say 'cup' in measurement, i mean a regular coffee mug not dainty teacup.
2. Mix the sugar and butter till combined well, or sugar is melted.
3. add egg yolks, mix.
4. add sifted flour mixed with the baking powder and baking soda into mixture.
5. add milk, mix.
6. add orange juice, mix.
7. add cinnamon, vanilla, clove, salt, mix well.
8. fold in beaten stiff egg whites, cognac, orange zest, just just enough to combine.
9. add walnuts, mix.
10. line pan with baking paper - i didnt have to grease mine, but whatever floats your boat.
11. pour half the mixture in pan, drop the foil wrapped coin somewhere off-center and cover with remaining mixture.
12. bake in center of preheated oven - 175C for about 1 hour ( if it is browning too soon, move the tray to lower position).
13. Remove from pan to cool on rack.
14. Dust with icing sugar or glaze or ice as preferred.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 1 (139g)
Recipe makes 14 servings

Saturday, December 27, 2008

101 Appetizers

Have never thrown a party serving just appetizers... maybe. 1 day.
This might come in handy... i bet i could find 8 good ones out of 101, right?
The Minimalist
101 Simple Appetizers in 20 Minutes or Less

Here are some that sound simple enough. Yeah i know, you're probably saying,.. eh, i had that one in the bag.. or eww.. thats so early 80s. Well, STFU! make your own list then darnnit.
On crackers - Red pepper and anchovies, mayo with garlic pepper prawn (ok that one was not on the list, just made that up), Sauteed Chopped mushroom parleys garlic in olive oil with bread on side,
Bruschetta with fresh mozzerella (ok that one was not on the list as well, oh crap!)
On toothpicks - Village/ herbed sausage with pickled green chilly, meatballs
Wonton/ samosas/ curry puffs
Steamed asparagus wrapped in prosciutto
Cold sliced cucumber with sour cream/ yogurt and caviar
Cheese platter and spreads and rustic bread or crackers


Thank you NY Times. You go on my link list now.

Friday, December 26, 2008



Playing with Colors

I have never ever painted my walls. Not in this house... and not in any other house...ok i think i have a memory of a bad paint job, something in Blue.... bad bad bad,,, *poof*

Anyway, now that we are older and wiser (i hope), lets see whats in store for future walls.
Messed around with this website True Value Paint Where you can select a photo and then choose colors for the walls to see how they would really look. Anyway these were my choices, what do you think? Not sure how they would all go into one house though... Plus my home is tiny, so not really sure if dark colors would go well. Maybe next time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I used to hate shopping ....

.. but i got over

Pressie List - no really i'm not asking Santa (or you) for gifts.. just thought i'd list out some nice gift ideas that interest me. Hopefully they can give you some ideas on what to get for your loved ones. Or let me know some of the stuff you wouldnt mind getting for Christmas... or your birthday.. or valentines.. or mothers day.. or labour day!

*Earthenware- bowls, rustic, old fashioned
*Dressy Tablecloth
*Cushion covers
*Funky Belts, earrings, quirky accessories
*Unique stationary
*Handmade or at least unique/ natural/ scented candles
*Wine - something unique or local if you are in wine country
*Art/ photo Frames ( the bigger the better, even junk store types )
*Hardcover Books, Interior/ Art/ Cooking/ Craft / Photography/ Travel / Bios
*Unique christmas tree ornament
*Cute Piggie Bank/ coin box
*Environment-friendly reusable grocery shopping bag
*Quality organic food products, or uniquely local (from one country to another) - herbs, preserves, sauces
*Pot pourri sachets
*Metal/ glass lanterns for deco
*Indoor mini grill, juicer, crock pot, slow cooker, steamer.... if you know the person doesnt have it and it will be a health benefit
*Indoor plant, bonsai for example
*Gift Voucher - traditional voucher or online store voucher - bookstore, restaurant dinner, spa, massage, photo portrait, make-up makeover, hotel stay, dance/ cooking/ fitness/ craft classes
*Home-made hamper of thing personally selected items. such as wine, caviar, cheeses, chocs, pate, fancy crackers, nutcracker, bottle opener, nuts, fruit
*Wine/ liquer bottle stand/ display
*For those of us who are so left behind by tech, simple digital camera or polaroid, mp3 player, scanner ( these things were expensive but now can cost less than a dinner for 2)
*Matching aprons - father/son, couple, mother/daughter
*Large serving platters
*Good quality board game set, chess set, backgammon
*Gourmet coffee
*Pretty umbrella (only for non supersticious folk)
*Funky beach flip flops/ slippers
*Cool Fridge magnets - perhaps those with personalized photos
*Cool t-shirt with funky message/ graphic/ fan club theme
*Crazy hats - beach hat, sombrero, fedora, beret, top hat, chef hat
*CD of fav artists
*Craft/ Scrapbook making supplies

What do you think? Which pressie would you like to receive? Would love to know...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Spinach Pasta Casserole

Initially i wanted to make a simple spinach rice - common greek dish. But as usual i got carried away .. and totally made something way different - cept for,.. spinach.

I've created a recipezaar account since i use it as a resource for almost anything i'm planning to cook or bake. Usually i read at least 3-4 recipes of a dish before i decide how 'I' want to make it.

And this recipe is my first post there. I need to improve my photo taking though.
Creamy Spinach Pasta Casserole

I had a bag of frozen spinach thawed and wanted to make regular greek spinach rice, but then my brain got toggled with cream and cheese and mushrooms and pasta for some reason, one thing led to another and the creation of this recipe happened. It was enjoyed, so if it sounds like something you would like, go along and play around with my recipe and tell me about it. Verdict: Not bad. It was a tad undersalted for my taste but i think in general its better than over salted. And you cant tell how salty the cheeses would be. So i would stick to the amounts of salt and just add salt while you are eating if needed. Optional in section B: you could add some chopped whole canned tomatoes - 1 cup. Also for those who prefer some meat in this dish, in section B you could add some cooked ham or turkey. Serve with a nice vinegrette salad of cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, lettuce..

SERVES 8 , 1 casserole dish (change servings and units)


* 400 g pasta, 400gm cooked with seasonings and oil, al dente, drained


* 400 g frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
* 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 spring onions, chopped
* 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/3 teaspoon nutmeg
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 150 g feta, cut into small cubes


* 80 g butter
* 3 tablespoons flour
* 700 ml milk
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/3 teaspoon nutmeg
* 1/3 teaspoon black pepper
* 2/3 cup cheese, grated


1. put a pan of water to boil, when boiled add salt or seasoning and about 2 tbsp oil then pasta. dont over cook. AL DENTE!
2. At the same time (1) is on the fire. Put a saucepan on the fire, add about 3 tbsp olive oil, saute onions, garlic for 1 minute, do not brown! Add the dill, spinach, seasoning and mushrooms. Saute for about 4-5 minutes on medium heat. Just enough to cook through and evaporate any excess liquid from the spinach or mushrooms. Make sure it does not 'fry', just lightly cook/saute. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
3. Drain pasta and pour into casserole dish, spread out at bottom of dish. The pasta should be about the height of half the dish.
4. Top the pasta with the feta, evenly ditribute to make sure that each serving has some cheese. Then top with spinach mixture. Evenly distribute.
5. Microwave the milk on the lowest heat for 2 minutes Check to see if its warm. The temperature we want the milk to be is heated but not Boiling.
6. Preheat the oven to 165C/ 320°F.
7. In a pot, melt the butter, do not burn, on low heat. Add the flour. Stir well, about 1 minute (during this time make sure the milk is heated enough or else blast it on high for 20 seconds). Add the heated milk to the pot, a quarter at a time. Each time mix well till it is as smooth as you can manage before adding more milk. About 30 seconds for each addition of milk - yes that quick. Add the nutmeg, salt, pepper and let it simmer on medium heat for another 2 minute while still stirring. This should leave you with quite a light, slightly watery white sauce (BECHAMEL) - which is what we want.
8. Pour the white sauce evenly over the spinach. Use a chopstick or butterknife and just lightly poke through the dish and wiggle about to allow some of the white sauce to get to the bottom layer. About 12 spots around the dish if you need to know. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the top.
9. Put the casserole dish into the preheated oven. Middle of the oven or so, not to high, dont want the cheese to start to brown before the time is up. If your oven tends to burn the top move the dish lower. Anyway as each oven is different the top of the dish should start to puff up at about 40 mins into cook time. If its not starting to brown at all at this time just increase temp to 175C/350F for the last 15-20mins. Top should be slightly browned all over.
10. Remove and leave to cool. Never serve immediately. Best served about 30-45 mins after removing from oven. Believe me, it will still be more than warm.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Shortbread cookies - take 1

My first attempt at baking shortbread cookies are safely in the oven right this minute! Seemed simple enough.. although everytime i bake i realise how fattening the stuff we eat on a daily basis is. I mean for this albeit simple recipe.. i used almost an entire block of butter. And i only made 26 cookies... i mean admit it, its not that hard to eat 13 cookies! Thats half a block of butter! and about 10 tsp of sugar!!
Ok so this is not rage against shortbread cookies... just calories in general! Sigh!

Basic Short bread ingredients:
225gm of butter room temp (20Cish! not 32C!)
1/2 - 2/3 cups of icing sugar (if you are using any toppings on the cookie then use the lesser amount)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 and half cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
vanilla/ almond flavouring
for topping - cherries, jam, sprinkles...
*read update at bottom*

Instructions: mix the sugar and butter till its well combined. Then add the rest of the ingredients and mix till well combined. Roll into a ball and put it in the fridge, makes it more managable.
Remove and form into whatever shape or just flatten onto your baking tin abt half inch in height (cut into squares after baking and slightly cooled). You may use toppings such as cherrys, jam, colored icing sugar... etc. My batch made 26 medium sized cookies... next time i'll make em smaller. Bake at about 175C for about 15-20 mins.

ok time to check the oven! And remember!! Limit yourself to 5 cookies per day!
looks like they were a success.... but i think the next time i will use less butter (200gms) and replace the moisture by adding 1 egg yolk. And making them a tad smaller to get at least 32 cookies :) Also seemed like they were a little too plain. Well perhaps they need some filling of jam or dipped in chocolate. Anyway its hard to tell, since i am rarely if ever happy with any creation of mine :)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas mood

I've always wanted to make homemade christmas cards but i always fail... can never make those pretty cutesy cards... sigh.
Painted some simple portraits.. ala old masters like davinci... painted on postard back.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

I have a week off work!

wow! was kinds nervous taking the week off! I know that sounds strange but yeah! its kind of weird having nothing to do but relax.. i was afraid i would drive myself nuts! But bottom line is that i need a break... and on the upside i can take time off to send xmas cards and do a little cookie baking!
Todays menu was Baked fish and potatoes and side salad. My own take on the greek recipe. Usually the fish is grilled but i didnt want to end up with a stinky house and have to wash the grill esp after FISH!
So first i boiled the potatoes so they didnt need long in the oven. The i prepped the fish. Stuffed them with some fresh dill, parsley and garlic. Salt and pepper. Surrounded them with the boiled potato. Sprinkled some dried oregano. Poured the juice of 2 lemons over everything and then the same with half a cup of olive oil. Added 4 tbsp of water to the pan so it won't dry out. Swirled the mixture around and a little extra dash of salt on the spuds for good measure, along with some chopped fresh garlic if you like!. Heated the oven to 220C. Baken uncovered for about 20 mins each side. (yeah the greeks do not like anything undercooked!)
For the salad - Lettuce, cucumber, peppers, spring onion, tomato, kalamata olives. Dressing - some store bought mediteranean dressing and diluted it with more olive oil and lemon and salt.
All in all ... things turned out wonderful, if i do say so myself! :)
.. now waiting for the bread to rise and in a coupla hours... i'll have simple fresh baked bread with sesame on top :)
* the photo attached is of a previous loaf i made.

Monday, December 1, 2008

More furniture that i cant have..

tip off from one of the house tours on apartment therapy.
Jayson home & garden
some gorgeous stuff