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Crunchy Banyama Muffins

When Dorset Cereals offered to send out a box of samples to 15 members of the Food Bloggers of Canada I was all over that like a plump pug on poutine. It was an easy choice because I already know that I really like Dorset granola and, to be honest, I don't really want to be taking free stuff from companies that I don't already like because I hate having to say bad stuff about people's products. It's so much easier to just accept things that I like because I prefer to keep things positive as much as I can. Also, I am afraid that if I diss somebody's Cheesits they are going to send their Cheesit hit men out in the night to whack me. Easier to just accept good stuff and keep it real, right?

Panzanella Salad

I made these incredible toasts from Not Without Salt last night and I ended up with half a baguette's worth of toasted bread left since The Kid didn't come home for dinner. I kept staring at them all day, wondering what to do with them when I thought "fattoush!"
I just got myself the cookbook, Jerusalem, and after reading it cover to cover I am mildly obsessed with all things middle eastern right now. I often find myself walking down the street and "fattoush!" will just pop into my head and I have to run home and open Jerusalem and read it a bit to calm myself down.

Black Bean Soup with Avocado Crema

We celebrated Easter a while ago and for us that means that there was a ham bone hanging around the house the next day. For a really long time I always made split pea soup but for the last few years I have been making black bean soup instead. I love split pea soup but the boys seem to prefer black bean so that is the route I have taking. I recently started adding the chipotle because my kid was a wimp before but now that he likes a bit of kick to his food, AT LAST, I can spice things up around here. I usually do a chipotle crema but this time the chipotle could go in the actual soup and since that makes it a bit hot, I needed something creamy and cool but that wasn't just a drizzle of plain yogurt or sour cream. While looking at some other black bean soups to get inspired, I found one with an avocado cream on Eats Well With Others and loved the sound of that.

Korean Oven Fried Chicken Drumsticks With My Handy Dandy NordicWare Chicken Leg Griller

If you read my blog, you already know that I am absolutely crazy about gochujang, the korean fermented hot pepper paste. As a wise old lady I know through the tv says, I put that shit in everything.

Brussels Sprout Salad

Have you ever eaten something that haunts you long after the fact? About a year ago I had a raw brussels sprout salad in a restaurant. I am pretty sure it was Pizzeria Libretto but If it was there it doesn't seem to be on the menu anymore. It was kind of rich and cheesy but with a really light, bright vinaigrette and it happened to be the first time I had eaten raw brussels sprouts. We eat roasted brussels sprouts so often that I wouldn't be shocked if I woke up to find that I had started sprouting little leaves on all of my limbs like the kid in The Odd Life Of Timothy Green.

Anyway, since eating that salad, I haven't been able to stop thinking of it. Of course, I have also never tried to make it at home either, but that doesn't change the fact that despite my pining for it, clearly I was waiting for someone else to make it for me again and that didn't appear to be working out for me. I found myself with a handful of sprouts left in the fridge - not enough to cook them as a side dish but too many to toss. Hey, I thought, why not try to replicate that salad? I had a look around the internet and decided that this recipe from Shutter Bean, sounded like the closest to what I had eaten. I changed the nuts to almonds because I prefer them, used walnut oil because I am loving walnut oil right now and although I liked the idea of Shutter Bean's walnuts, I didn't want the actual nut so the oil seemed to be a good compromise. I also used a different vinegar and a different mustard. Basically it's the same but much different. I think that the next time I make it I might throw in a handful of crispy, fried cubes of pancetta, because bacon is always a great idea, right?

Bottom line is that it is absolutely delicious and I predict that we will be eating this often in the coming months. I served it over lightly dressed mixed greens but it's just fine on it's own. Actually, I would like to run naked through a bowl of this salad but that require leaving leftovers so, fortunately for everyone, this will not likely happen.

Brussels Sprout Salad

adapted from Shutter Bean
serves 4

12 brussels sprouts, washed
1/2 cup toasted almond slices
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
3 1/2 tbls canola oil
1 tbls walnut oil
1 1/2 tbls white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey dijon mustard
pinch salt

The sprouts need to be shredded and the best way to do that is on a mandoline set to a really thin setting. If that freaks you out, you can slice them with a knife.Put the shredded brussels sprouts, cheese and almonds in a big bowl.Mix the oils, the white balsamic, honey dijon and salt - I do it like she does and throw it all in a small glass jar and give it a good shake.Pour the vinaigrette over the sprouts/almonds/cheese and toss well. It was delicious right away and just as great the next day when I ate the leftovers for lunch.

Greek Zucchini Fritters (Kolokithokeftedes)

I have spent quite a bit of time in Greece. I lived and worked there in my late twenties and, oddly enough, I don't have a ton of great food memories. When I think of my time in Italy or in Spain, I can almost taste all of the delectable delights that I enjoyed on a daily basis but when I think of Greece, there are only a handful of food memories that I can still conjure up. While there, I would tell people I was from Toronto and they would often say "Oh, my brother/cousin/uncle has a restaurant on the Danforth. Toronto has the best Greek food in the world!" and I would always laugh but I kind of got what they were saying. In my head, I think that I don't care for Greek food but if you go through both of my food blogs, you will find that I actually cook Greek all the time. I never said I was a reasonable person.

I find that I often turn to Greek food when I have to feed a crowd in an informal setting. It just makes so much sense to put out a spread of mezes and let everyone serve themselves. For The Kid's birthday, we did just that and I made tzatziki, hummus, babaganoush and garides me feta. Of course, we don't stick to only traditional greek dishes so there was also grilled sausage, steak and kale salad but the style of eating is definitely inspired by my time in Greece.

delicious birthday spread

garides me feta (shrimp baked with white wine and feta)

You know, if you really want to eat a great meal in Greece, try to get invited to someone's house for a family dinner. You will eat delicious things, freshly prepared with love and care by an army of grandmothers, mothers and aunts. It was at one of these family dinners that I first tasted a freshly fried zucchini fritter or kolokithokeftedes. It was so flavourful, full of salty feta and fresh mint. They are crispy on the outside but creamy and rich on the inside and they immediately became one of my favourite new things to eat there. I used to make them all the time back at home but I recently realized that I haven't tried these things in almost 20 years because Shack and The Kid think that they don't like zucchini. We were doing a Greek spread for The Kid's birthday dinner and it seemed like the perfect time to bust out the kolokithodkeftedes.  These little babies were the biggest hit of the whole meal and Shack, who claims to hate zucchini, scarfed down two and would have taken a few more but there were no more left to take.

If you don't care about authenticity, you could substitute the herbs and feta for any other herb and creamy, crumbly cheese. It would be great with, say, fresh basil and ricotta salata or goat's cheese and fresh thyme. Oh, and if you like dill, please add a tbls of fresh, chopped dill because most kolokithokeftedes will have dill in them but I just really don't do dill myself.

Greek Zucchini Fritters

 adapted frrom Michael Symon     serves 6 to 8

1 lb zucchini (somewhere between 2 huge and 4 small)
1 tsp coarse salt
2 scallions, sliced thinly
2 tbls fresh mint, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
zest of one lemon
100 g feta, crumbled
a few grinds of black pepper or to taste
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tbls flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

canola oil for fryingserve with tzatziki  , homemade or a good store bought

Grate the zucchini on a coarse grater. You can either lay it on some cheesescloth or a clean dish towel. Toss it with the salt and let it sit while you get the rest of your ingredients ready or for about 20 minutes.Put the scallions, mint, garlic, zest, a few grinds of black pepper and feta in a large bowl and toss lightly.  Squeeze all of the liquid out of your zucchini by twisting the top of the gathered up tea towel or cheese cloth. Keep tightening and twisting and squeezing the zucchini until most of the liquid has been released - it's actually kind of amazing to see just how much liquid comes out. When you are satisfied that most of the water has been squeezed out of your zucchini, add it to the bowl and mix it thoroughly.Heat a heavy skillet or frying pan over med heat (you have to know your own stove and cookware - if I use cast iron or enamelled cast iron, I have to be slightly under medium heat and if I use my non stick frying pan, I am just above medium) and add about 1 tbls of oil and swirl it around the pan to cover the bottom. Drop blobs of the mixture into the hot pan and use a spatula to flatten them down a bit - the thinner they are the crispier they will be. I like them a bit chewy in the middle so I don't go too thin but it's up to you how you like them. Fry them for about 4 minutes until they are nice and brown and then flip them and cook them for another 3 minutes on the other side.

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