It’s All Greek To Me


I’ve mentioned before that I have a crappy appetite.  It’s hard for me to find foods that I really like but when I do I rarely venture far from them *Cough Twinkies and Cheetos Cough* (and yes, they ARE foods. Kind of.) Like a medium rare ribeye, potato wedges and roasted brussel sprouts will always, always always be my all time favorite dinner. Nothing, not even Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food will replace it.

You may have noticed that I have not been posting as much of my normal “OMG, if I eat this my arteries will harden and fall out of my body” type of recipes. That has been a symptom of the above issue. No, I’m not pregnant before anyone guesses that lol. But there HAS been something going on. If you “like” my facebook page, you may have seen an update here and there about exercise and calories (frightening from me I know, but you can take the mental blow. I have faith in you.). Well, about 7 or so weeks ago, I began a pretty frightening undertaking. And part of that included much less of those delicious artery hardening foods. You see, I finally got fed up with my weight. And as of today, I am now 30 pounds lighter than I was about 7 weeks ago with about another 30 to go. It hasn’t been easy because I stopped making (to avoid eating them) all the baked goods I love. Thus why all of you haven’t been getting posts filled with those foods. *Sobs in abject shame* I’M SORRY!!! I’ll try to post more of them!! Seriously, I will. I am now able to have some  faith in my own abilities to stay away from the foods I need to avoid. I also have enough faith now, since I have been doing this for almost 2 months and am 30 pounds lighter, to know that when I DO make the fattening foods, that I can eat a piece and not feel like a failure. It’s hard to explain the way my mind works and the mindset I had. With me, I have always been all or nothing. If I wanted to lose weight and ate something bad for me, that’s it… I was a total failure and I gave up. Not this time though. I have my cheat days (today is one) and I eat what I want then I get back on the proverbial diet bandwagon. And please don’t tell me to not call it a diet but a “lifestyle change”. I’m not that modern lol. It’s a diet. I’m fine with that. It’s just a word used to describe the changes I’ve made.

So today, for said cheat day, I made something that can be either quite good for you or somewhat not, depending on what you do to it before eating it. I absolutely love Greek food and one of the things I get at the fair every Summer is a Gyro. But a good Gyro, made with beef and/or lamb, is hard to do right in a home setting. I don’t like the ground meat ones so there’s where that all or nothing mentality came in. I couldn’t have a huge chunk of meat turning on a spit in my kitchen and one of those cool knives they use to cut the meat, I wasn’t going the beef/lamb route. So I used chicken.

Now is this authentic? Is the Greek government going to call me and give me an award for the best Chicken Gyro ever made? Nope. But is this based on “real” Greek food and does it have a flavor that won’t disappoint? Oh. My. Yes. It does. It is tangy from lemon juice, redolent of oregano, mint, dill and covered in Tzatziki Sauce and Feta cheese. Then, to kill that “good for you” idea, I shoved them in pitas. I mean, really… Gyros with no pita? I’m pretty sure that’s against the law. But it was a honey wheat one in my defense!!! Like one extra gram of fiber and I’m sure the word “grain” was on the package somewhere! *grins*

So c’mon. Get to cooking. Your family will love you and quite possibly erect a statue in your honor. Just make sure they wash their hands first. That sauce drips everywhere.

Don’t be put off by the long ingredient list. Most of it is for either the marinade or the Tzatziki, both of which go together very quickly.

Chicken Gyros With Tzatziki

  • 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • Marinade-
  • 2/3 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • zest from 2 lemons
  • 5 (yes, you read that right) minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons Oregano (this is one recipe where I will recommend dried herbs, not fresh. The flavor is stronger generally speaking)
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1.5 tablespoons kosher salt (or to taste. I usually end up having to sprinkle more on the cooked chicken)
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • zest from one orange
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • Tzatziki Sauce-
  • 1 1/2 cups good quality Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (please don’t use fat free in this; it makes it watery)
  • 2 large cucumbers, grated (food processor works well) and then excess liquid squeezed out
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill (I have used both dried and fresh in Tzatziki. In my opinion, the dried works better because the fresh leaves an unpleasant “leafy” texture)
  • To Serve-
  • Pita bread or flatbread
  • Sliced red onions
  • sliced tomato
  • feta cheese
  1. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large non metal bowl. Stir well to combine. Add in the chicken thighs and stir well to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
  2. Meanwhile, while chicken marinates, make your Tzatziki.
  3. Combine the yogurt and sour cream. Add in the lemon juice, garlic, dill salt and pepper. Stir. Gently fold in the grated cucumber, then the olive oil. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 4. If marinating the chicken overnight, wait until about 2 to 3 hours before serving to make the sauce.
  4. Heat charcoal grill to a medium high heat. If using gas grill, I’m not an expert there but I would guess medium high there too.
  5. Remove chicken from marinade and grill over medium high heat (this could easily be done on an indoor grill pan too) until the chicken has reached an internal temp of about 155, about 4 minutes on each side.
  6. Let the chicken rest for about ten minutes, then serve in/with pita bread, onions and tomatoes and Tzatziki. Sprinkle feta on it. Eat, drip sauce. Enjoy. Write me fan mail.

Girl Scouts, Schmirl Scouts! Who Needs ‘Em?!

Coconut Caramel Cookie Bars AKA Samoa Wanna Be Cookie Bars

I have mentioned before that I’m not too fond of coconut in baked goods. Yet I have noticed a fair amount of coconut recipes here in my blog. I’m not counting the coconut milk ones however because I adore coconut milk and would happily eat it straight form the can day in and day out if it wouldn’t leave me weighing as much as a semi. Yet I said something about not caring for coconut in this post for Chewy Coconut Lime Cookies and I used coconut here in these Oatmeal Coconut Raspberry Bars . I sure whine a lot about not liking it and then use it anyway. In my defense though, the ones with real coconut in them have it on top, not IN it. Coconut inside a baked good, I have said before, has, to me, the same appeal as finding a hair in my food.

Moving on… remember this Caramel Sauce that we made a few weeks ago? What do you mean, you never got around to making it!? Sigh. What am I going to do with you people? Now before you can get to making these amazing cookie bars, you have to make the caramel. If you had listened to me weeks ago, you would be all set for baking. But noooo…. nobody listens to Zathras! Bonus points if you know (without googling) where that line came from.

Well, that caramel sauce you forgot to make is being put to use today. A very very good, very rich very “omg, I want 16 of these right now” sort of use. My step daughter, who is visiting, said they exert a gravitational pull on her and she can’t stay away from the pan. I found the basic recipe for these on about.com. I really didn’t change much though any of you who have read this for a while know I can’t not change SOMETHING, usually something that makes recipes more caloric, higher in fat and working towards getting voted “Most Likely To Clog Your Arteries In One Bite”. So what did I change? I used home made caramel sauce… you know, the one you forgot to make *sticks my nose in the air and looks snotty* instead of jarred, I doubled the amount of coconut flavoring because the original amount was chintzy, I kinda, maybe, could have, might of, quadrupled (or more) the amount of chocolate chips, double the amount of the caramel sauce and used about an extra half cup of shredded coconut. WHAT!? Don’t judge me. It had to be done. It was a moral imperative!

These are like Girl Scout Samoa Cookies (or whatever they are called now) on steroids. They are way more…well…everything, including tasty. My husband is a major fan of Samoa cookies and I think this means I will be making these often. I have to admit it, I loved them too. They are rich and gooey…boy, are they gooey. Plus they have one heck of a dose of chocolate and the home made caramel sauce is awesome in these.

So git to cooking… though now you have to make the caramel sauce first, you doofus. Then come back and tell me how wonderful I am to have shared this recipe with you. I can take the heavy praise if you need to give it out. Don’t overcook these or the crust will get too crispy.

Coconut Caramel Cookie Bars AKA Samoa Wanna Be Cookie Bars

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut flavoring (in the same aisle as the vanilla extract)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups quick cooking oats (not instant)
  • 2 cups chocolate chips plus another 1/2 cup for the top of the bars
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
  •  1 cup caramel sauce (preferably home made)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13×9 inch pan with foil and butter well or spray with cooking spray.
  2. Spread the coconut on a cookie sheet and toast until lightly browned, stirring every few minutes. Watch carefully; coconut can go from pale to burnt  very quickly. When it’s done, set aside.
  3. Place the softened butter and the brown sugar in a large bowl and beat well, until relatively light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla, coconut flavoring and egg. beat well.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the flour, oats, 2 cups chocolate chips, baking soda and salt. Stir to combine then add into the wet ingredients. Stir well to combine.
  5. Press the mixture into the bottom of the foil lined pan. Top with the extreme abundance of caramel sauce, then the shredded coconut. Top this with the extra 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.
  6. Bake at 350 until the bars are just barely set. The middle shouldn’t wiggle but should just feel barely firm when pressed. Don’t press too hard because molten caramel on your fingertip hurts. Don’t ask how I know this please.
  7. Let cool for about 15 minutes in the pan, then use the foil to lift the bars out of the pan to finish cooling on a rack. If they start to collapse onto themselves when you lift, let cool for a while longer.

Coconut Caramel Bar Cookies AKA Samoa Wanna Be Cookies

 

It’s Berry… Berry…Berry… Good


This time of year you can find all sorts of yummy stuff in the store if you look. Mind you, this year I’m not sure what the selection will be like in say, a month or so thanks to the extremely dry weather. Where I live (Kentucky), they are saying that crops are in pretty poor shape. I know that for our garden, did we not water it every day, we’d have brown stumps. Our berry bushes and vines (not anywhere near where we can water at) are shriveled pieces of firewood now. So what do I do? I buy them… same as everyone else who isn’t fortunate enough to have (living) berries at home. And boy, do I ever buy them hehe. I am a sad portrait of a berry addict. When I eat raspberries, they are my favorite. Blackberries? Favorite. Blueberries? Favorite. Snozzberries? Favorite. Sorry. Willy Wonka moment there. Snozzberries really are delicious though. You should try them. Along with Twinkleberries. Ok, ok, I made that one up, but it would be a cool name for a berry wouldn’t it? I can see them now. They would be a vivid purple..and red..and blue…with pink stripes… and they would glow like stars during the night time. And they would taste like a mix of chocolate covered raspberries and marshmallow cream.

Erhmmmm, I’m done now. Obviously, I did NOT have enough fairy tales read to me as a child since I’m still making them up at 47 years old. Though, I gotta admit, a Twinkleberry sounds darned awesome.

Point of this dissertation? Heck if I know. Other than I like berries. Lots and lots of berries. I also like cooking with berries. Lots and lots of berries. So that’s what I did. I had recently seen a pin on Pinterest for a bread chock full of berries. I pinned it and will probably try it as written at some point, but yesterday I wanted to try something a little different than that. Practically everyone like chocolate and berries so that’s the route I took. If you don’t like chocolate and berries btw, please seek immediate help. You are far too troubled to be allowed to be unsupervised. I went to the queen of calories, Paula Deen, and she didn’t disappoint. I was surprised though. No butter in this recipe 😛 . But what I did was use her recipe for chocolate bread, simply using mini chips instead of regular (they don’t sink as much in bread batter), adding a gazillion tons of berries and upping the vanilla extract big time. Vanilla and I are bff’s from way back.

When you make this, we have already found that it is better the next day. It’s wonderful when first made, but the flavors blend overnight and the moistness increases. All in all though, I have to say that this is pretty darn good. The rich chocolate flavor and the pockets of tart berries combine into a heavenly treat. So, I say, as usual, c’mon. Get to cooking!

Triple Berry Chocolate Bread

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (NOT hot chocolate mix… real cocoa powder)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups mini semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour or spray with cooking spray 2 9 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, combine your dry ingredients (not the berries or chips).
  3. Whisk in the wet ingredients (not the chips or berries yet…I’m making you wait *starts humming the song “Anticipation” 😛 ) Do NOT overmix or kittens will cry pitifully. Plus, your bread will be tough. But it’s the kitten part that makes me sad.
  4. Gently fold in the berries and chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter evenly into the prepared pans.
  6. Cook at 325 for 60 to 75 minutes or until a skewer comes out with no loose crumbs on it. Let cool in pan for ten minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling. You can serve warm, serve that day, but like I mentioned above, it is better the next day if you can wait that long. if you can’t, I won’t judge. Much.

Is It Live Or Is It Memorex?


Who else remembers that commercial? The line of course pertaining to the idea that you couldn’t tell (I am assuming everyone was dumb and had their eyes closed) whether or not something you were listening to was live or done on a Memorex cassette tape (those funny looking things that predate CD’s). Even then, I have to admit that I thought the premise was rather lame. Helloooooo. If there is not a sweaty “hair band” in front of me shaking their locks and belting it out (as they drink heavily, hit on all the women and quite possibly smoke pot onstage) as the walls and floors shake and everyone holds up Bic lighters, then it AIN’T live. I was poor so it probably wasn’t Memorex either but some crap quality store brand of cassette. Just sayin’
Point is, usually, it is pretty easy to tell the difference between the real thing and a heavily doctored up imposter. Hostess Ho-Ho’s? Yum. Little Debbies Swiss Rolls? Imposter. Coke? Real thing. Pepsi? Imposter (giggles as I imagine the Pepsi drinking crowd getting angry) Cartier Jewelry? Real. Anything worn (or body parts of) by Paris Hilton? Fake. You get the idea.
But sometimes… just sometimes… a fake can be almost as good as the real thing, just in a different way. Like this recipe here- Extra Crispy Oven Fried Chicken. It’s crunchy and crispity (yes, that is now a word because I said so), tender and juicy (that was already a word. Damn, that means I can’t make it into one) with all the flavor you expect from a good piece of fried chicken. What DON’T you get? A large portion of the fat grams and calories.  Mind you, I won’t say to you “Hey! You can eat this 3 times a day and lose weight! It’s better for you than celery!” but I will tell you that it cuts down on the fat appreciably, especially if you use boneless, skinless breasts. It also definitely tastes far better than celery. Then again, maybe you love celery. In which case, you’re probably reading the wrong blog. Chocolate? Real thing. Celery? IMPOSTER!!
This is extremely easy. Just get out the chicken (any part of the bird will do… except maybe the lips and testicles), and go cook.

Extra Crispy Oven Fried Chicken

  • 6 bone in, skin on chicken breasts (again, that’s what I used because it’s what we had. Use your favorite part. Just adjust cooking time for smaller pieces or dark meat)
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1 11/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 2 teaspoons good quality paprika
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons seasoned salt. (I use Janes Krazy Mixed Up Salt which is my go to seasoned salt. Has been for ages.) The range is broad because seasoned salts vary in saltiness. I use about 2 with the janes but with some that would be far too much.
  1. Combine the butter and the oil together in a large foil lined baking pan. Trust me on the foil part. tilt the pan back and forth to mix them together. Preheat your oven to 350.
  2. Mix the panko, flour and seasonings in a large bowl or gallon size ziploc bag.
  3. Wet each piece of chicken and dredge it in the flour mixture, pressing it into the chicken if needed (which it will be)
  4. Lay each piece as you dredge them, skin side down, into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake at 350 for approximately 25 minutes (again, adjust your cooking time depending on what part of the chicken you’re using. Boneless breasts will cook much quicker as will wings. Large pieces of dark meat will take longer. This is based on bone in, skin on breasts.
  6. Flip each piece of chicken over and continue cooking  about another 20 minutes or until the chicken has reached an internal temp of 165.
  7. Let rest in pan for about five minutes. Before serving, feel free to lay these on a paper towel lined plate to absorb some of the excess oil if you feel the need.