Open Faced Greek Salad Pockets

It is Monday. Shall we detox on something healthy?

This meal was all over the place. I was thinking of making a Greek dip-ish. Then I was thinking Greek pizza-ish. I ended up with a sort of open-faced Greek “un”Wrap.
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Ingredients:

2 thin chicken breasts, marinated
2 wheat pita pockets
1 cup ricotta
2 thin chicken breasts, marinated in Greek/Italian dressing
2 cups of mixed greens/spinach/romaine
1 tomato
¼ cup red onion
½ cucumber
2 -3 tbs Italian Dressing/Greek Dressing/Olive Oil & Vinegar
2 tbs Creamy Greek dressing (optional)
½ cup feta cheese

Directions:

Grill the chicken.
Assemble the salad by mixing the lettuce greens, chopping the tomato, chopping the onion, chopping the cucumber.
Mix in salad dressing and feta.
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Heat a skillet over medium heat. It should be sized to fit the pita pocket.
Once hot, add 2 tbs olive oil to the pan then add the pitas one at a time, flipping once.
Spread half the ricotta onto each pita pocket.
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Top with salad mix, then feta.
Slice and top with grilled chicken.
Drizzle some additional dressing over the whole thing or the creamy Greek dressing.
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I liked the crispness of the pita… toasting them up was in my best interest, since my pitas were not exactly fresh anymore. It was a great weird mix of not a salad, not a pizza. Not a pizza topped with salad. It was tricky to eat, but that’s a challenge I was happy to accept.

This is a refreshing summer meal. I love that is has some great flavors, freshness, and uses only a few ingredients. There is only a small amount of chicken in/on this. Once again, it was a good reminder that those super skinny breast pieces are useful when cut up or one normal size chicken breast would easily serve 2-3 people this way. I had some green onions hanging around so those went on top too.

I’ve proclaimed my love for ricotta, haven’t I? It is true. I love it. Ricotta on toast + avocado = delicious. I had leftover ricotta from making personalized Pizza Dip so I figured this was definitely a different use for it. Whipped feta would be great on this too.  These would be fun on little mini pitas for an appetizer. Pita bread is a great pizza crust. I need to do that again!

What I Ate: Baked Falafel

Falafel is one of those sneaky take out items that seems so healthy but…

they’re fried. Womp. Womp.

I make it at home somewhat regularly and bake them. It is so much easier, less messy, and healthier.
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I’ve made them from scratch and honestly don’t really think it is worth it. I use a mix, bake them on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 375 degree and flip once. Leave the frying to your fav Falafel King/Palace/House-Of…you won’t even miss the fried crunchy outside.

The mixes taste good and are simple. Simple as in just-add-water. In the time it takes to get these buggers toasty and cooked through your salad can be ready and waiting. Toss feta, cukes, tomatoes, and greens with some Italian/Caesar/Oil & Vinegar.
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I love this as a perfect meatless dinner or I’ve served it as an app with little pita pockets. It is an easy meal to bring somewhere since you’ll just need refrigeration and maybe the falafel can get nuked or popped in the toaster oven. This time I served it on wheat naan but tortilla wraps, pita pockets are great too.
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Try it and I won’t even have to say told-ya-so.

Greek Veggie Pizza

I always wonder if I’ll ever run out of pizza toppings ideas. So far so good! I came up with this Greek pizzas as a meatless dinner idea. It was a hit!
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Ingredients:

2 zucchini
1 cup artichokes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp dried oregano
pizza dough
⅓ cup pizza sauce
8 oz shredded mozzarella
1 tomato, sliced
¾ cup feta, crumbled
2 cups spinach, chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400-degrees (also preheat pizza stone if using one)
Saute zucchini, artichokes, and garlic over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until zucchini is softened, but not squishy.
Add salt, pepper, and oregano.
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Pre-bake the pizza dough for 5-10 minutes until it starts to puff, and begins to cook around the edges.
Top with pizza/marinara sauce and mozzarella
Spread tomato slices across the base.
Sprinkle the zucchini/artichoke mixture on the top.
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Finally top with feta before baking the pizza.
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Bake 10 minutes in the preheated 400-degree oven.
After baking for the first round, top with spinach to bake for another 10 minutes (or until golden brown).
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I loved the freshness of the veggies, and the textures of the 2 cheeses. The feta gives the perfect salty component.

There’s very little sauce on this pizza, but the tomatoes provide some moisture too. There are so many veggies on here but I think the quantities were just right. They make it feel filling. The spinach was gently wilted but still had life to it. I was afraid of being “too much” but Mr. J said he’d like even more artichokes.
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Greek Pastitsio

I love greek food and swooned when I saw Ina Garten make pastitsio. She served it with a feta and watermelon salad at her lovely house in the Hamptons. Greek dinner in a garden setting? I’d love that! It seemed so magical and inviting. A lantern lit pathway and fresh flowers never hurts, right?

I thought it might be a good wintery food. I made this a few weeks ago but it would be perfect right about now. The C family is enjoying comfort food and family during this difficult time.
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This seemed like a good post for a Friday because, this is a weekend meal if I ever saw one. Don’t go trying to whip up Pastitsio on a week night. Some folks joke that pastitsio translates to messy kitchen.

Read the whole thing so you can be ready for the next step. Pastitsio requires meat sauce, the pasta, and the cream sauce. You could break up the work by prepping the meat sauce the day before.

I love the cinnamon flavor for savory Greek dishes. I think the cream sauce on the top compliments the tomato and the red wine flavor.

Pastitsio

adapted from Amateur Cook Professional Eater

For the pasta and the meat sauce:

1 pound tubular pasta (I used plain ziti)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, finely minced (optional)
3 medium onions, grated
1 pound of ground pork (or ground lamb, veal, beef, etc)
1 cup red wine
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground oregano
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes
½ cup Greek Kefalotyri cheese, grated (or pecorino cheese)
salt
pepper

Directions for Meat Sauce:

In a large pan, saute onions in olive oil over medium heat, adding garlic just when the onions become translucent.
Add in ground pork, breaking it up with a spatula. Then add red wine, cinnamon, nutmeg, oregano. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
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Boil water for the pasta.
Add tomatoes, salt, pepper and simmer for 20 minutes so the liquids evaporate and the sauce/mixture gets thick.
Put the pasta in the boiling water and cook according to the box (undercook by 2-3 minutes as it will bake and continue cooking).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Ingredients for béchamel sauce:

¾ cup of Greek Kefalotyri cheese, grated (or pecorino cheese)
3 tbsp of butter
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 tsp of salt
pinch of ground nutmeg

Directions for béchamel sauce:

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat.
When butter is melted, add in flour and cook for 5 minutes, stirring.
pastitsio_bechemel_start_590_390Add in the milk, whisking until smooth.
Add salt and nutmeg and ½ cup of cheese.pastitsio_bechemel_590_390
Remove from heat.
Once it begins to cool slightly, add in 1 egg and whisk quickly so the egg doesn’t cook.

Directions for Assembly:

Mix pasta and meat sauce.
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Spread ¼ cup of the bechemel sauce onto the bottom of a non-stick-sprayed 13”x9” baking pan.
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Layer the pasta and meat mixture into the pan.
Spread bechemel sauce over the top of the pasta/meat mixture.
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Bake for 30 minutes covered.
Sprinkle the top with remaining cheese and bake for an additional 20 minutes uncovered.
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Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before cutting.

This takes awhile to get assembled but then it just cooks without you…leaving you plenty of time for all the many dishes accumulated throughout the process.

I loved this. I like the Greek use of cinnamon in savory dishes. This is rich and filling. We ate it for a few dinners & lunches. It reheated nicely.
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Greek Dip with Some Assembly Required

This is the easiest dip ever. There’s no cooking involved…some assembly required. Make this for your next BBQ or pool party and you’re guaranteed to wow people. I really enjoy the simplicity of this in relation to how much folks rave about this dip! Yesterday was Ms. L’s bday and she likes this one ;)
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Ingredients

8 oz hummus
2-4 oz feta
1 cucumber
2 tomatoes
3 tbs Italian salad dressing

Directions

Spread hummus onto a plate
Chop cucumbers and tomatoes and toss with feta and dressing
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Arrange on top of hummus
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Serve with pita chips, wheat thins, or your favorite crackers

That’s it!

It is a nice alternative to other dips served. It is lighter but really fresh tasting and goes with anything. I’ve made the topping and assembled on-site when it was time to eat so I can attest to how portable it is.

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged it before. It tends to be a crowd pleaser. Even when people tell me they won’t like it, they try it and are surprised. Happens. Every. Time.

It would be good as a crostini if it is easier for you not to serve a dip. If you do make it as a dip I assure you folks will be standing around devouring this one! (I love when that happens at a party but crostinis would help when serving a crowd.)

Cost Breakdown

Hummus: $3.50
Feta $1.99
Cucumber $0.75 (English cuke $2.00)
2 plum tomatoes $1.00
Wheat thins $3.00
Total = $11.49 (for the dip & dippers to serve 6-8 for <$2.00) That’s even using an English cuke which is totally worth it not to have to peel it!

Greek Meatball Wraps

On one of those beautiful pre-spring days I wanted to put something together for dinner that was filling but lighter. This hit the spot. These Greek meatball wraps were warm, cool, crispy, meaty, and crunchy. I was really happy with these and will definitely make these again.
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Ingredients:

16 oz ground chicken
1 tsp ground garlic
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp cinnamon
1 egg
½ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup oatmeal
1 shallot, chopped

Directions:

Mix meatball mix together and let sit for 5 minutes before baking.
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Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Roll into balls and bake for 30 minutes.
greek_meatball_formed_590_390I use a cooling rack ontop of a baking sheet. It helps keep the meatballs crispy and not soggy from the grease (there’s not much grease since I used ground chicken rather than beef).
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I served them on wheat naan wraps with tzatziki, veggies, hummus, and feta. Check out whose nose was a bit too close for comfort!
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These were really good. The meatballs were crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. I don’t fry my meatballs since a) I hate frying for the mess & the oil and b) it’s much easier and healthier in the oven.

I liked the wraps. The naan was perfect. Since it’s more pricy, leftovers were in wheat pitas. The pitas worked fine. I liked how doughy the naan was.
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Greek Stuffed Burgers

Way back when I made stuffed burgers. These were themed for Mr. J (blue cheese & bacon) but I had all sorts of plans for other fillings.
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It’s been quite awhile, but I made them again! This time I made a Greek inspired one and grilled it. Ohh my burger goodness. I filled them with feta and topped them with spinach, red onions, and cucumber. These burgers are delicious and great for something different.
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Hmmm. Sky’s the limit for burger toppings/stuffings. Maybe a cowboy caramelized onions/bbq sauce/cheddar stuffed burger will be next. Or maybe a Southwestern with Pepperjack cheese and salsa.

Easy-Peasy Pizza

This isn’t just any pizza…it is Greek pizza. I remember making this pizza back in my grocery shopping days at Trader Joe’s without a car. It wasn’t alllll that long ago, but it sure feels like a different life. My shopping modus operandi was: lightweight. Carrying bags on the subway is really not fun, especially when they are heavy. Trader Joe’s is great for random ingredients to put together. I came home with an artichoke tapande and wasn’t sure how I would use it. This time I used a sundried tomato spread that wouldn’t be great as a sauce otherwise.
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This pizza is super easy and thrown together. I whipped up these for a week of lunches while making dinner one night. My recipe makes 5 pizzas. Making little pizzas only took me about 20 minutes, including the baking time! So simple!
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Ingredients
wheat pita bread
1 cup tapenade or pesto (I used sundried tomato pesto)
1 cup shredded mozzarella
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried basil
3 cups baby spinach, chopped
1 cup fetaDirections
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Top pitas with pesto and dried herbs & salt/pepper.
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Layer mozzarella onto the pizza
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Add chopped spinach to each pizza and top with feta.

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Bake 10 minutes.I undercooked these somewhat so I could pop one in the toaster oven at work for lunch each day. It was good! The flavor comes from the pesto and the seasoning. Feta gets even better after being baked.

My fridge only had scant amounts of mozzarella and feta leftover so next time I might use more. I used full sandwich sized pitas but think the mini pitas would turn this into a fun appetizer.
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I like the freshness and ease of these.

Much Needed Scutra for Dinner

Before we return from our honeymoon, I needed to share a drool-worthy meal we had before the wedding.During major wedding planning crunch time we were lacking groceries, we were in need of a date night, and we definitely needed a fun distraction while racking our brains for creative table themes. The wedding wasn’t a DIY affair, but Mr. J designed everything and the table blurbs in frames was our only project. Luckily we had a gift certificate to Scutra in Arlington that was burning a hole in our pockets!
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It was such a blissful and relaxing evening. We got dressed up, kissed the pup goodbye, and headed to our reservation. Of course I scoured the website menu before going and honestly I’m sure I would have enjoyed everything on the menu. Love Mediterranean food!
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I started with the garlic baked muscles. Garlic butter and feta? YES PLEASE! They were beautiful and thought the feta was great for a touch of saltiness.
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Mr. J had the roasted tomato soup with Parmesan encrusted scallops. He just recently started to enjoy scallops and I think the Parmesan crunchy exterior was a perfect contrast in texture for him.
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These aps were awesome and got us really excited for the main dish. Each was a perfect size to leave us adequate room to keep eating!

I got seafood crusted salmon. Oh. My. Goodness. My perfectly pink salmon was topped with crab and lobster. It doesn’t get any better than that. It was served with an asparagus risotto and a pesto drizzle. This was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. It was hot and flavorful. Such a great combination of flavors that didn’t overpower one another.
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Mr. J got a special, and boy was it special. He had 14oz sirloin steak with a butter and raspberry beer sauce over mashed potatoes. Mr. J heard it listed with the specials and was hooked. He loved it and finished every bite.
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I had a crisp chardonnay knowing I’d have seafood for dinner and Mr. J had a final Sam Adam’s summer ale. I enjoyed every bite. This was such a wonderful dinner. Mr. J was happy with his choices and we definitely got dinners we couldn’t/wouldn’t make at home. There was no room for dessert.

The reviews seemed mixed regarding the service and atmosphere. We thought it had a really nice atmosphere, our server was friendly, and I’d be happy to go back anytime. I liked that it was classy and well decorated, allowing us to dress up a bit for a really special meal.

Have you had a meal recently that you just thoroughly enjoyed AND appreciated happening right when you needed it? This was one for me. I’ll be back next week with LOTS of tastes to relay from my trip to Spain & Italy! Stay tuned!

Lemon Pepper Kebabs Without So Much Pepper

Summer mugginess and I don’t mix so something cool, fresh, and Mediterranean sounded perfect. It was also a good use for some marinated chicken hanging around.
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The boneless skinless lemon pepper chicken came from our fav butcher. Mr. J thought it was too peppery so I thought re-marinating it in a basic Italian dressing would tone down the pepper a bit.

One of my favorite things about Greek and Mediterranean food is that the fresh ingredients get to be the focus. It screams summer to have so much crunch and individual flavor.

Ingredients

1 large boneless chicken breast, marinated, cut into chunks
1 yellow pepper, cut into chunks
1 tomato
1 English cucumber
1/2 cup feta
1/4 cup Italian or Greek dressing

Directions

Soak wooden kebab sticks in lukewarm water
Skewer chicken chunks alternating with pepper chunks and grill.
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Chop tomato and cucumber before mixing with feta and dressing.
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Serve kebabs with rice pilaf and cucumber tomato salad.

I couldn’t stop marveling over how perfectly cooked the chicken was. It was perfectly juicy. I think the size of each piece had a lot to do with that. The peppers got a nice char too without losing all the crunch.

The kebabs, plus buttery rice pilaf, plus salty feta in a crisp salad was awesome. I was really happy with it and thought this meal was nicely well rounded.

Have a good Labor Day Weekend everyone! Can you believe it is already September?!