Sunday, February 16, 2014


Traditional Greek spinach pie, spanakopita, is everybody's favorite. Well, almost everybody's... I used goat cheese feta, which made filling creamier than usually. Win-win combo of crispy filo dough and rich and creamy filling has stolen my heart :)

Blog's Category: DK Challenges, International, Vegetarian


The recipe idea has come from far, Australia, where DK cook Audax offered it to us as February's challenge. I was sold to the recipe as soon as I have learnt that recipe uses fresh spinach (not precooked, and not frozen!) and does not require spinach to be cooked first. Easy to follow, it's the best recipe of a spinach pie known to me for today.

My own twist on a recipe is using goat feta cheese instead of regular cow-milk feta. The difference is creamier than usual filling and slight tanginess that goat cheese imprints on a taste.

What is it?

- This is traditional Greek spinach pie where spinach-based filling is incased in a filo dough and baked in an oven. Filling consists of fresh chopped spinach, three sorts of onion, leek and dill which mixed very well until become moist, almost pasty. Addition of salt, pepper, feta and nutmeg makes this filling well balanced and very flavorful.

Taste Description

It's very delicious, what else to say? Smooth, with a strong and complex flavors, filling  contrasts with a crispy, butter flavored dough. It has just right amount of a heat from a black pepper.  Overall flavors are married happily influencing each other in the best possible way. I hesitated to add such a generous amount of nutmeg that recipe called for but, no regrets - I was surprised how muted (and just right!) its flavor emerged in this recipe.

How to Serve

After taking it from an oven, let it cool down half way and enjoy its warm and indulging goodness. Keep in a fridge for a several days - just warm it up a little bit in a microwave. It makes a great addition to your lunch or a nice option for a savory breakfast.

Spinach Pie with Goat Feta


For about 12 servings:
  • about 20 filo dough sheets (half a pack)
  • 2 large bags of fresh baby spinach (a lot!), roughly chopped
  • 1 leek (only white and pale part of), finely choped
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 3-5 shallots, finely chopped
  • 5 green onion plants, including white parts, chopped
  • 1 bunch if fresh dill, chopped
  • 4" x 4" x 2" piece of goat feta cheese (or regular cow-milk feta)
  • 1.5 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 c plain bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 nutmeg nut (whole), freshly grated
  • 3 tbs olive oil (preferably Extra Virgin)
  • 1 stick of butter
- In a large bowl, using your hands, mix (massage) spinach, leek, all onions, dill, feta (breaking it with fingers), nutmeg, salt, garlic and olive oil for about 5 minutes until mixture becomes somewhat pasty. It may even release some noticeable amount of water (my did not though).
- Add to the mix: bread crumbs, pepper, and eggs incorporating ingredients into the filling. Mix thoroughly. Set the filling aside.
- Prepare baking dish (about 15" x 12"). Place butter stick in a small bowl and microwave it for about 10-15 seconds until half-melted. Use not melted part of butter to grease a baking dish. Then start laying filo dough into the dish - place sheets of filo dough overlapping each other and having edges hanging around boards (refer to the pictures below). Do not forget to sprinkle a little bit melted butter between filo layers. Thus, lay about 16 sheets on a bottom and sides and leave about 4 sheets for a top. While working with filo dough, keep remaining sheets of filo covered with dry paper towel covered with a wet piece of cloth to prevent it from drying out.
- Pile filling into the dish with filo dough, fold hanging parts of dough up to cover the filling, sprinkling with melted butter between the layers. Place remaining 4 sheets of dough on top, again, sprinkling with melted butter. Tuck sides neatly around the pie, sprinkle melted butter on top.
- Using thin-bladed, long, sharp knife, cut pie into 12 pieces. Bake at 375F for about 60-70 minutes or until crust has a beautiful, deep-gold color.


From the beginning, volume of a filling will reduce in about tri-fold...

Don't panic if filo dough breaks, just keep going, layering whatever pieces you've got.

Even out the surface of filling and start folding dough up..

Carefully butter up the blade of your knife if you have trouble cutting the pie.

Keeping empty metal baking sheets inside my oven, while baking, is my little dirty (indeed) secret. It allows to distribute the heat inside my oven more even... I remember my mom was using bricks, laid on a bottom of an oven for the same purpose. I think pizza stone would work very well also ;). I think that bricks is a great idea but am hesitating using it - who knows what kind of toxic stuff nowadays they may expel while heated up...

I was really pleased with a color of a crust...

Level of moisture of a filling is just right!

Isn't it appetizing? Do it ;)
Blog-checking lines: The February Daring Cooks' Challenge was hosted by Audax of Audax Artifex. The challenge brought us to Greece with a delicious, flaky spanakopita - a spinach pie in a phyllo pastry shell.



Sunday, February 9, 2014

Almond and Flax Crusted Chicken Breast

It is just another great recipe for the most popular type of protein - chicken. Encrusted into mighty-nutritional almond and flaxseed meal, this chicken breast recipe may sound like a piece of work but in fact, it's easy to put together. Also it fits nicely as a make ahead dish for a party as well as a choice for a weekday family dinner.

Blog's Category: Awesome Findings


This recipe is from The Blood Sugar Solution book by Dr. Mark Hyman. Frankly, I do not have a problem with a blood sugar; it just happened that I've heard about wonderfully delicious recipes from this book for a while. I even made some Blood Sugar Solution’s recipes already like this one, awesome Nutty Kale Salad.)

Today's recipe, Almond and Flax Crusted Chicken Breast, has become a staple for my co-worker so I decided to give it a try. Results are here and I can't wait to share this with you. I have allowed myself minor changes to the recipe proceedings to convert it into convenient make-ahead recipe (I like this sort of recipes just because they are so useful for nowadays busy life :)

What is it?

- Essentially, it's marinated chicken breast, coated into mix of almond and flax seed meal and baked to a wonderfully crusted piece of meat. E-e-easy!

Taste Description

FYI: I'm vegetarian so totally rely on a evaluation of my carnivorous family members. Since we don't hold a word from each other for already so many years, then trust me, I can completely confide in their honest opinion ;) Oh well, quick disappearance of prepared dish (Almond and Flax Crusted Chicken Breast in this case) is even better indicator that the recipe is a success, isn't it?

As I was informed: "it's one of the best chicken breast I have eaten before"; "Hmmm yummmm"; "Oh! wow..", etc.

How to Serve

Serve right away. However, leftovers, if any, of course, will keep in a fridge not for a long time but just because they will disappear way before.. :))))

Almond and Flax Crusted Chicken Breast


For about 8 servings:
  • 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (optionally cut in half)
  • 4 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup almonds (or 2/3 cup almond meal)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juice only
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • Pinch or two of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dry thyme)

 - Process together marinade ingredients: olive oil, almond butter, onion, lemon, salt, pepper, paprika, parsley and thyme.
- Make almond meal by pulsing whole almonds until medium-fine crumbs or use store-bought almond meal. Mix almond meal and ground flax seed together and set aside.
- Place chicken breast between two layers of plastic wrap on a heavy wooden cutting board and using kitchen mallet, not textured (even) side of it, pound chicken breast into flat pieces, 1/2" thick.
- Spread marinade onto each chicken piece.
- If planning to do this in advance, transfer chicken into covered container and pop in a fridge.
- Everything up to this point can be done a day or two in advance.
- When ready to cook, sprinkle almond-flax mix on both sides of each chicken piece, slightly tapping it in. Transfer chicken on a baking sheet.
- Bake in a pre-heated to 380F oven for about 30 minutes and enjoy then!
I love my little handy-dandy immersion blender. It's so easy to use when you need to whip up some dressing, vinaigrette or sauce. I use it here to make marinade.

By consistency, marinade is a paste..

I didn't have almond meal, but I always have whole almonds in my freezer. A few seconds in a blender and whole almond becomes almond meal :)

Light one is a store-bought golden flax meal. I keep it in a freezer as well (as almond and all nuts) - oil-containing nuts or seeds can go rancid pretty quick if kept in a cupboard.

Piled on a plate, smudged in a marinade and covered with plastic wrap, my chicken breast is ready to go in a fridge. It happened in a morning and in an evening, it went to an oven to bake.

Almond and flax coating can be done ahead as well but I did it right before baking. Here is chicken before going to an oven.. 

..and here is after.

With a side of bulgur kasha, almond and flax crusted chicken breast makes a great meal.

The best first bite is that cut off from the tip of chicken breast - wonderfully crispy and juicy inside...yummmm.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Yogi Falafel

These three way yoga falafel from my "The Kundalini Yoga Cookbook" may seem like a bit of work but they look fantastic and taste even better. Should I even mention it's good for you?!

Blog's Category: Hors D'oeuvre, International, Vegetarian


My family fell in love with falafel a while ago. My basic, staple recipe for a falafel is here, but today I'd like to talk about Three Way Yogi Falafel recipe that comes from one of my favorite cookbook The Kundalini Yoga Cookbook by Jacqueline Koay and Ek Ong Kar Singh. BTW, this book deserves a dedicated post of its own. I've made several recipes from this book and every time was absolutely happy with a result. Three Way Falafel have not disappointed me as well.

FYI: dry chana dal, used in this recipe, also called chick peas or garbanzo beans, can be found in any health market store but I prefer to buy it in Indian groceries. In the recipe below I used dark chana dal although if you would like colors to be more prominent use a light garbanzo beans. Sometimes, I mix dark and light garbanzo beans.

What is it?

It is dry chana dal, soaked overnight, then ground into a paste. With a three colorful additions - sweet potato for orange, red bell pepper for red and fresh herbs for green - ground chick peas is shaped into cute little patties and shallow-fried until crispy and cooked through.

Taste Description

The base taste is dal's earthy, slightly nutty flavor. On a top of this, each of three types has its own character: orange falafel with a sweet potato is smooth, buttery and pleasantly gentle in its sweetness. Red one has a pungent accent of red bell pepper and extra juiciness acquired from a raw blended pepper. Green falafel comes with a fresh overwhelming aroma of herbs.
Orange and red falafel somewhat spicy as both include hot pepper for extra fun.

How to Serve

As usually with this kind of food, it's great right off the pan. Keep falafel in a fridge up to one week and enjoy warmed up in a toaster-oven as a side to your salad or soup, as a snack or on its own, dipped in your favorite sauce. Or impress your guests with this colorful choice of falafel[s] :) served with a two accompaniments: sour cream and raw tomato sauce as on the pictures below.


Three Way Yogi Falafel Recipe

For about 15 orange falafel:
  • 2 c soaked overnight garbanzo beans (also called chana dal, chick peas)
  • 1 large yam (sweet potato with orange flesh)
  • 1 tbs cumin powder
  • 1 tsp red hot pepper flakes (or other hot pepper to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
For about 15 red falafel:
  • 2 c soaked overnight garbanzo beans (also called chana dal, chick peas)
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs paprika
  • 1 tsp red hot pepper flakes (or other hot pepper to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For about 15 green falafel:

  • 2 c soaked overnight garbanzo beans (also called chana dal, chick peas)
  • 6 tbs finely chopped fresh herbs (any combination of parsley, cilantro or dill)
  • 1 tbs coriander powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 5 finely minced garlic cloves (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

 - Drain all 6 cups of soaked falafel (if making all three types) and process it in a food processor, in batches, until pasty. If you process too coarsely it won't hold its shape nicely so try to process it as much as your machine can do. I do not add additional liquid to facilitate processing because I like my falafel not too mushy but rather nicely textured.
- Divide processed chana dal between three bowls.
- For the red falafel, process fresh red bell pepper in a food processor until pureed nicely. Add pepper puree and remaining ingredients to the bowl with chana dal. Mix well with your hands.
- For the orange falafel, cook yam, unpeeled, in a microwave (add a couple of tablespoons of water) for about 6 minutes or until soft when pierced with a knife. Cool down a little bit, peel, and mash with a potato masher. Add mashed yam and remaining ingredients to the second bowl with chana dal. Mix well with your hands.
- For the green falafel, finely chop or process fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro, dill or any combination of them. Add herbs and remaining ingredients to the third bowl with chana dal. Mix well with your hands.
- Take small portions of falafel mix (I like to use cookie dough scoop). Pressing together with your hands, shape into small, slightly flattened patties and fry them on a preheated frying pan, on a both sides, in a generous amount of olive oil until golden. Keep skillet on a medium-low heat while doing this - this way they won't burn, will brown up evenly and cook through.
- To make fresh tomato sauce, process 1 large ripe tomato,1 red bell pepper and 4 garlic cloves to a fine puree. Then strain it through a fine sieve to get smooth sauce. Add some salt and pepper to a taste.
- Serve falafel with a tomato sauce and sour cream on a side. Enjoy!

Feel free to add minced garlic to the falafel mixes. Sometimes I do this but more often I want my falafel be flavorful but not assertive and prefer to use garlic in sauces on a side.

This is dark (brown) chana dal. I just happened to have this type at a time. For this recipe, it is better to use light colored chick peas. On a plus side - dark chana dal makes falafel where flesh is specked with a pretty dark texturizing flecks..

Soaked chana dal should be processed into coarse paste up until it starts to hold together. I do not like add water while processing, but if you feel that it doesn't hold shape, add a couple of spoons of water, it will help to process it better.

... yam for an orange falafel... bell pepper for a red falafel..

..and fresh herbs for a green falafel... falafel mix... falafel mix..
..cookie dough scoop does a great job for a measuring evenly sized falafel.. falafel mix..'s hard to make preference between all three types - all of them are great. So different but equally delicious..