Monday, October 13, 2008

Spinach Phyllo Triangles or Spanakopita

This is unbelievably easy recipe that I haven't made in a long time!
Today I had some fresh spinach and I decided to make "banitsa" for dinner but I wanted it to be different than the usual one I make. So I chose the triangular shape and made a filling from eggs, feta cheese, spinach and butter. I hope you like the pictures, I am trying to learn how to do it properly, not much of a success but a lot better than it was :-)

1 package phyllo dough
6 eggs
2 cups grated feta cheese( you can also mash it with a fork if you want)
8 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 package of baby spinach

1. Preheat the oven at 350 F degrees.Rinse really well the spinach, then cut it in small pieces. In a preheated pan saute the baby spinach with the vegetable oil.

2. Add the eggs and feta cheese and stir for a couple of minutes ( until all the water is gone and the eggs are getting stiff enough to serve with a spoon).

3. Cut each phyllo sheets into two long pieces. Brush the long pieces with butter, then at one end  of each piece add a 1 tablespoon full of spinach mixture. Start folding in triangular shape ( every time you have to have a right triangle that helps keep the mixture inside)

4. Place the triangles on a greased cookie sheet or pan and bake on 350F until golden in color( around 15-20 minutes).

5. Serve warm with a piece of cheese, yogurt or milk.

P.S By the way I am starting to prepare the cake for the October cake challenge, wish me luck!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The fringe benefits of yogurt

You all know that I am originally from Bulgaria.
Well, the one thing you probably don't know or haven't payed attention to is that one of the bacterias used for making yogurt is named Lactobacillus Bulgaricus.
First identified in 1905 by the Bulgarian doctor Stamen Grigorov, it is named after Bulgaria. This bacterium is also regarded as aciduric or acidophilic, due to the fact that it requires a relatively low pH (around 5.4-4.6) in order to grow effectively.
The bacterium feeds on milk and produces lactic acid which also helps to preserve the milk. It breaks down lactose and is often helpful to sufferers of lactose intolerance, whose digestive systems lack the enzymes to break down lactose to simpler sugars. While fermenting milk, Lactobacillus bulgaricus produces acetaldehyde, which perfumes yogurt.

Not until I came to the US I started making my own yogurt. I was intimidated by the legends how difficult it is to make nutritious ( and delicious) yogurt at home.
Would you get the right temperature, would you have the right milk, the right all seemed too much and too time consuming.
Well, believe me, this is indeed an urban legend!
First I started looking for a yogurt maker but this wasn't easy task to accomplish since we consume 8 to 10 gallons a month and the yogurt makers they sell can contain no more than 1.5 quarts at a time, which meant I have to make EVERY SINGLE DAY yogurt in order to have it on the table. Thanks, but no thanks I said, if it's going to be like that I'll better buy it! But then, thanks to a friend of mine I found the right yogurt maker for our needs! It has a bigger lid which makes it easy to fit 1 gallon jar , similar to this one ( I bought it from Walmart for $8) and can make 1 gallon of milk at a time!
What a treat!!!
So I started making yogurt all right, but it didn't turn out as I expected, it wasn't the right consistency.
And I started looking for the reason.
After a lot of reading and deliberation and not without the help of this wonderful lady's blog
( check out the recipe, she has a lot of amazing stuff on making cheese etc.) I found out that nothing was wrong with the way I was making the yogurt, but rather the milk I am using.
It turns out that companies that are selling milk are diluting it with water( or something), so no matter how you make your yogurt...if the milk is not good, there is no way in hell you are going to have a nice thick yogurt at the end!
My grandmother used to say, that whenever you make yogurt you have to check if it turned out OK by turning over the open jar- if the yogurt is so thick it doesn't fall, you've made it right!
I've tried no less than 12 different kinds of yogurt until I found the right one, produced by a local farm. So now, my yogurt is exactly that way-thick and rich, with the specific sour flavour that we adore!
If you haven't ever considered making yogurt, you don't know what you are missing! The one in the store is nothing compared to the one made at home and I mean it!
If nothing else, it is a lot cheaper when you prepare it yourself! The one at the store I buy for $2.75 per quart, and when I make it costs me around 1.25-1.50 per quart. This is no less than $50 per month cheaper, it is healthier and the taste is incomparably better( check the picture of my yogurt!)!
How to resist it? :-)

Divine Chocolate Espersso pudding with Raw chocolate chips

I know, I know! I haven't posted anything in a while, but it really has been crazy around here!
We are getting a dog ( on top of everything), so beware :-) I'll post a lot of pictures of the little rascal when we bring him home on Nov, 8th :-)
I am desperate to start working on my project for the October Cake Challenge, because it is a very demanding and difficult structure ( why would I do something easy, right :-( ) and it will take a lot of time, but I still haven't received the tools I ordered, so I have no idea when I am going to be ready with it! People started already sending pictures, and I have just a drawing on a napkin and a fair idea what it would look like.
Now, in order for you to forgive me, here is a recipe I am in love with! :-)

Now, I am not " Bon Appetit"( the magazine) kind of person, but I've won a subscription for it a while ago. So here is a recipe that I took from the magazine. I've made a couple of changes that make it different enough( and better) from the original.
First of all I didn't have enough chocolate (shame on me) at home, something that almost never happens to me, second of all I've been experimenting with raw chocolate chips for some time, and in my opinion, this one just hit the jackpot!

1/2 cups +4 tbsp white sugar
4 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
2 tbsp dark cocoa powder
4 cups whole milk
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips( you can use semi-sweet chocolate, just cut on the sugar!)
1 cup raw chocolate chips
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tsp vanilla extract

Strawberries, nuts, whatever you would like to add as a garnish. You can use whipping cream as well, I just didn't have any at the time.
Makes 8-10 ramekins

Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, espresso powder and cocoa in a heavy saucepan to blend. Add gradually the milk and stir well until the espresso is dissolved. Add the bittersweet chocolate chips and stir over medium heat until the chocolate chips melts.

In a cup place the raw chocolate chips and water then heat in a microwave for 1-2 minutes or until the water changes color to dark brown.
Add to the cornstarch mixture and stir well. Have in mind, that raw chips will stay in whole pieces, although it will soften. It develops quite pleasant texture in my opinion.

Add the butter and vanilla extract and stir until the blend thickens.

Divide mixture in serving glasses or ramekins, cover up and chill until cold ( about 2-3 hours).
Garnish to taste, serve cold.

I would add it goes amazingly with a glass of brandy ;-)

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