Lemon-Maple Icebox Cake

Easy, quick and low-calorie weeknight dessert.   At 115 calories a slice and with all the nutritious value of Greek yogurt, enjoy guilt-free.

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LEMON-MAPLE ICEBOX CAKE adapted from Good Housekeeping Magazine

2 1/4 c nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1 T maple syrup

1/2 t lemon zest, more for garnish

1/2 t vanilla extract

1/8 t no-calorie sweetener

6 sheets of low fat Graham crackers

1-  Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap leaving an overhang on the 2 long sides

2-  Combine yogurt, maple syrup, lemon zest, vanilla and sweetener to blend.

3-  Place 3 cracker halves in the bottom of the pan.  Spread 1/3 of the mixture over the  crackers.  Repeat twice.

4-  Using the plastic overhangs, wrap the cake.  Refrigerate at least 2 hrs.  Using the plastic, lift the cake out of the pan.  Cut 6 slices and top with more lemon zest.  Serve with raspberries.  I found this had to be eaten right away as it got soggy if it sat too long.  It was tangy and delicious.

image image image image imageEnjoy!

 

Creating an Outdoor Room on the Front Porch

Front porches conjure romantic images of relaxing while watching the world go by in the neighborhood.  Our front porch,with a couple of lonely chairs, held untapped potential I seized to create an outdoor room for reading, relaxing and entertaining.  It is one of my favorite decorating projects of all time!Porch living at its best Continue reading

An Armenian Feast, To Remember

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There are those people one encounters in life where an emotional  connection is instant and a bond for life is made.  For 17 years, I have been blessed with the steadfast, loving and enriching friendship of my neighbors and dear friends, Laurie and Karl.  We raised our children together, trusted each other with the care of our homes and pets during vacations and shared many meals and laughs over the years.  I often joke that if they ever moved, I’d have to follow.  As an immigrant to the US living far from my family, Laurie and Karl always included me in their wonderful Armenian family celebrations.

When Laurie recommended Dr. Peter Balakian’s memoir Black Dog of Fate to our book club, members quickly agreed as we knew very little of the Armenian Genocide.imageNew York Times best selling author, Dr. Peter Balakian  Dr. Balakian was also coming to speak in Philadelphia and many of us would attend his lecture.  Laurie offered to cook us a traditional Armenian feast which I will showcase in this post.

The day before the dinner I arrived for my introduction to Armenian cuisine and instructions as sous chef.  Armenian food belongs to the Middle Eastern family of cuisine with Persian, Arabic and Turkish roots as well as Greek influences.  It is highlighted by the freshness of the ingredients rather than heavy seasonings.  Fresh herbs, legumes, nuts and vegetables figure predominantly.  The meats are lamb, chicken and beef.

For this feast Laurie had purchased an assortment of delectable meats, cheeses, olives, and breads from the fabulous Armenian Delight grocery store for appetizers.

imageThe appetizers ready to sample

For the main course we got to work making dolma- a cabbage leaf stuffed with a mixture of ground beef and rice.  This dish was not unlike cabbage rolls familiar to me but these were made with loads of garlic, lemon juice, little tomato, and served with a fresh yogurt- garlic sauce that was a spectacular pairing.  Click here to view the recipe she used or go to:

http://howtoexpo.com/recipes/stuffed-cabbage-rolls-dolma.  The only modification was we used a small can of tomato paste instead of the canned tomatoes.

Blanching the cabbage to separate and soften the leavesThe cabbage leaves ready to stuuf, the tough spine removed to ease the rollingThe seasoned meat and rice ready to stuffTrick: line the pot with the tough leaves of cabbage to prevent stickingLining the pot with tougher leaves to prevent sticking.

Covering the rolled dolma with a cabbage leaf bebore cooking and then topping with a dinner plate to prevent them from coming apart during cooking

Covering the rolled dolma with a cabbage leaf bebore cooking and then topping with a dinner plate to prevent them from coming apart during cooking

My favorite trick: weighing down the dolma with a dinner plate during cooking so don't come apartThe beautiful and delectable final creation topped with the garlic-yogurt sauce

The finished dolma, topped with a perfectly paired sauce of fresh yogurt-garlic.

After an engaging, animated and very emotional discussion of Dr. Balakian’s important book, we were ready to sample the delectable traditional Armenian dessert, paklava, also known as baklava, that pillowy, layered phyllo pastry filled with crushed walnuts and honey.  Marie made us her family recipe which was flaky, oozing with honey and simply irrisistible.

PAKLAVA

1 box of phyllo pastry

6 sticks of unsalted butter, clarified

1 lb walnuts, finely chopped

Syrup:  3 c sugar, 1 1/2 c water, 1 t lemon juice, 2 T honey.  Mix together, bring to a boil and cool for a minute before using.

Bring the phyllo to room temperature and divide box in half

Bring the phyllo to room temperature and divide box in half

Using the clarified butter brush a layer on the bottom of a lasagna sized pan

Using the clarified butter brush a layer on the bottom of a lasagna sized pan

When you have layered half the phyllo, spread the chopped walnuts.

When you have layered half the phyllo, spread the chopped walnuts.

Continue layering with the rest of the phyllo and continue applying the butter between layers. Reserve the remaining butter.

Continue layering with the rest of the phyllo and continue applying the butter between layers. Reserve the remaining butter.

Before baking, cut the pastry in a diamond pattern, as shown.

Before baking, cut the pastry in a diamond pattern, as shown.

Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. At this point pour remaining clarified butter over the top of the pastry and return to oven to bake 15-25 minutes more, until golden. Cool to room temperature in the pan. Pour syrup evenly over the pastry to saturate.

Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. At this point pour remaining clarified butter over the top of the pastry and return to oven to bake 15-25 minutes more, until golden. Cool to room temperature in the pan. Pour syrup evenly over the pastry to saturate.

To serve, place each piece in a liner. Gorgeous and irresitable!

To serve, place each piece in a liner. Gorgeous and irresitable!

Today, on the 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, we honor the 1.5 million men, women and children who perished so tragically in the final days of the Ottoman Empire.  I chose to commemorate this important historical event by celebrating the rich cultural heritage of the Armenian people with my readers.

This one is dedicated to you, Laurie, my bright, beautiful, vivacious friend.

Indoor Kitchen Herb Garden in DIY Chalkboard Wine Crate

For gardeners, this is a fickle time of year.    Daytime temperatures on some days soar and flowering trees are bursting into bloom.  But night time temperatures are still plummeting and the impatient gardener has to keep the trowel in the shed for a little while longer.  In the case of my Northern friends and family, spring is in the distant future and they are desperate to get playing in the dirt!    I thought this little project would bring fresh herbs into your kitchen to liven up the spring cooking we all crave while also getting us gardening without the fear of frost killing our plants.Pesto recipe now becomes a French gardening quote! Continue reading

Celebrating the End of Lent Italian Style: Glorious Pizza Chiena

Holidays are about families and traditions.  While telling my dear friend Julie recently that I would occasionally feature globally-inspired foods in guest posts on my blog, she immediately invited me into her Italian mother’s  kitchen on Good Friday to share in the making of Pizza Chiena, a dish I was unfamiliar with.  Pizza Chiena is a traditional Easter dish of Southern Italian families.  It is essentially a deep dish savory pie chockfull of cured meats, cheeses and eggs. There are as many recipes for it as there are Italian families.   This recipe has been in the Sasso-Bravacos family for 4 generations and was brought over by great grandmother Sasso when she immigrated to America in 1910 from Frigento Avellino, in the Campania region of Italy.

Pizza Chiena(Chena), often pronounced “Pizza Gaina”, is a dialect for Pizza Piena or “a very full pie”.  And full it is:  4 lbs of ricotta, 14 eggs and 3 lbs of cured meats!!!  It is a splurge for having gone without meat during Lent.  Because the dish is time-consuming to prepare  it is made on Good Friday and served cold for the Easter feast.  Julie’s family waits all year for the making of this signature family favorite.  Witnessing the joyful collaborative effort of 3 generations of family members  exchanging stories while they worked was a sight to behold. Continue reading

Asparagus and Roses DIY Centerpiece: From Supermarket to Wow!

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“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses.”
– Alphonse Karr, 1808-1890

Taking inspiration from the produce section, here is an easy spring centerpiece for your table which will give asparagus a starring role.  image Continue reading

Easter Welcome on the Front Porch

Last month I shared ideas for an early spring welcome at the front entrance (https://frenchgardenerdishes.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/early-spring-f…orch-). With Easter around the corner, I have introduced some seasonal accents to modify the early spring décor, and introduce an Easter theme. Take a look:

imageMarble eggs in pastel colors(JoAnn’s) were nestled in the various planters for a nod to Easter that is subtle yet sophisticated.  Pastel ribbon was added to each planter while the wreath was kept without ribbon adornment. Continue reading