topical shmopical

I’m going to write about Christmas now, because I didn’t get around to it at Christmastime and it’s fun to reminisce about Christmas in May.

First highlight of being home was obviously quality time with the cat. Who appropriated my bed, giving me no choice but to not make it. Gee, bummer.


Cooking with my mama was another highlight. This was a collaborative meal.


She, as is her style, researched and discovered an awesome mahi-mahi recipe that involved sauteeing squash and onion to sweet tenderness, then dressing them and the steamed mahi mahi with a flavorful whole-grain mustard dressing.

I, as is my style, went through the refrigerator and used what needed using in a stack of tortillas, vegetables, cheese, and sauce. I tend to not worry if one set of vegetables is stir fried with Chinese seasoning and another is mushed into Mexican bean dip: it all kind of melds when you make a giant pot of something, I’ve learned.

As is both of our style, we then ate leftovers of those two creations for several delicious days.

As every year, we hosted a post-Christmas open house for work friends, church friends, old friends, family, neighbors, boyfriends, etc. My mom ALWAYS buys extra phyllo for baklava making and ALWAYS ends up having a ton leftover, so I ALWAYS come up with fun things to do with it.

This year it was phyllo triangles with onion jam. Helpful hint: pizza cutters also do great cutting phyllo into strips. Also, I used vegetable broth in lieu of chicken (what’s the point of putting chicken stuff into an otherwise vegetarian dish?)



It was fun to make and quite yummy. Served alongside other nibbleys, like cornichon and olives.


Also had our usual standards- turkey, made with an apple cider brine from Cooking light; bone-in ham with a mustard-brown sugar-cider vinegar glaze.


All The Cheese


Myriad dips, including the “Secret Family Recipe” for artichoke dip (canned artichoke hearts+ mayo+ cheddar cheese+ garlic. That’s it), taramosalata from a jar; a fun creamy red pepper dip. Little dippers to dip in them.


Malindi also made some inventive, fun creations. She’s been body building a lot, and it’s really paying off.


(I jest. This is the souvenir a young Malindi chose to bring our mother back from Italy. I love it so much).

Malindi made smashing deviled eggs, classily topped with caviar.


Annnnnd a totally bossy flatbread topped with pesto, caramelized onion, and prosciutto. I mean really.


As in all previous years, dessert was highly represented.


Lemon squares, made from a mix my godmother sent me. She volunteers with a nonprofit in my hometown that trains women to work in the culinary field. They make these yummy mixes and you can buy them and support a good cause! Anyway, I followed the directions for these except doubling the lemon juice and zest. Because I am a fiend for tart lemon squares. What is the point of making a lemon dessert if it is not tart?! This is a real peeve of mine.


For the vegan and/or gluten free folks at the party, I made these thumbprint cookies from Oh She Glows. They were aaaaaaaaaaaawesome. I used peanut butter instead of almond butter.


My cousin and uncle both had big birthdays last winter (hint: they were both multiples of 30) so I made them a nice cake! This Coconut Cake from Cooking Light was PERFECT! PERFECT! Definitely the most successful cake I’ve ever made. My sister has already demanded it for her birthday this summer.


Of course my mom made baklava.


In the periphery of the photos above and below you can see the super fancy shmancy black and white striped cookies I made. They were from a Washington Post recipe and were REAL time consuming. However, I’m happy to say that they both looked and tasted fabulous- as my best friend put it, they tasted fancy! Not too sweet, wonderfully buttery. I also melted some random leftover chocolate with some… stuff and poured it over graham crackers. For some reason. Variety?


My wonderful family and friends clearly know about my love for food. Lookit all my foodie gifts!


In no particular order:
– A fun, modern looking tea strainer (thanks Andrew ‘n Nan!)
– Classy tomato-black pepper peppardelle pasta (thanks Dena ‘n Louie!)
– SilPat baking mat (thanks Michele!)
– Electric kettle (thanks Jeanie!)
– Fancy wine stopper (from my sister, who’d better come down and visit me so we can enjoy some nice wine together!)
– Adorable purple Le Creuset baking dishes (thanks Kathy ‘n Tom!)
– A pan made of DIAMONDS from Steve! It conducts heat beautifully.
– Vegetable Literacy, a cookbook that is teaching me more about plants (not to mention cooking) than I ever could’ve guessed I’d ever know
– A fancy beautiful cutting board
– So convenient and eco-friendly reusable produce bags

Not pictured (they were likely in use at the time):
– a total food porn (like all their cookbooks) Williams Sonoma pasta cookbook
– a painfully cute tote bag with fun piglets and farm animals on it

Hi, I’m Ileana, and I’m spoiled!

Perhaps as atonement for all the good cooking stuff I got at Christmas, I got strep throat (for the second time in three months, eesh!) in early February and my throat didn’t want anything but ice cream for several days.

Here’s a nice recovery breakfast I pulled together for me (and Steve, who hopefully used these nutrients to prevent him getting sick).


Toasty homemade bread with melted cheese atop, All The Oranges, leftover roasted veggies that took on the home fries role.


More therapy:

– Greek penicillin, aka avolegmono soup (homemade chicken broth+ eggs+ lemon+ lotsa black peper+ a small amount of the starch of your choice- rice or orzo is traditional but I used couscous this time and it wasn’t half bad)
– Toasty!


Annnnnnnnnd egg and tomato and phyllo pie.


For maximum throat soothage, I soaked my toasty bread crusts in the soup. This was a good life decision.


Then to get back into fightin’ form (and recolonize my gut) I ate cream of mushroom soup (from Whole Foods- on sale and amazing with a little balsamic) and kombucha. Didn’t save me from a killer yeast infection arrrrrrrgh.


Then I waited out a storm.



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