A special note about Callie’s “Quarantine” Kitchen:
As of March 25th, 2020, the time of this writing, all of us are still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of that, many of us are cooking much more than we used to, trying to save money, and trying to deal with shortages of food at the grocery store.
In a recent video I posted to my Facebook author page, I mentioned that I would list three recipes from my books that will help you use those pantry staples and common food items during this difficult time.
Two of these recipes can be found only in my cookbook and mystery novels; one is a family favorite that I’ve not shared anywhere else.
I’ve made some notes below about things you can leave out if you’re short of ingredients. Of course, please use the ingredients if you have them and can spare them. For now, though, we are making do with what we have, and the recipes will still be good if we have to make a couple of changes. 🙂
I hope you enjoy these recipes, and all my best to you! Take care of yourselves.
Spring Spanakorizo (Greek Spinach Rice) – From THE CALLIE’S KITCHEN MYSTERIES COOKBOOK
The ingredients below are pretty basic, so hopefully you have them at home already or can find them in the stores. Where I live, the grocery stores have been hit pretty hard, but we can still find produce, which is great. This side dish for 4 or vegetarian main dish for 2 is healthy and doesn’t cost much to make. If you have the ingredients, this recipe can easily be doubled.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, minced (Or equivalent garlic powder).
1/2 cup rice
1 cup water
1/3 cup lemon juice (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. spinach, cut in 1-inch lengths or 1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/4 cup parsley; fresh chopped dill and/or mint. (Dried is fine if that’s all you have. If you don’t have any of these, it’s OK. It will still taste good.
In a saucepan, sauté onion and celery in oil. Add rice and sauté a few minutes. Add water, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spinach and parsley.
Cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until rice is cooked. Add a little hot water during the last 10 minutes of cooking if needed.
Add more herbs and taste for seasoning.
Serves 4 as a side; two as a light vegetarian main dish.
Avgolemono (Greek Chicken and Lemon Soup) – first appeared in SECRETS AND PIES and is included in THE CALLIE’S KITCHEN MYSTERIES COOKBOOK.
This delicious soup is a Greek restaurant classic.
8 cups chicken broth or stock
1 cup to 1-1/2 cups cooked white rice
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded or in bite-sized pieces (If you don’t have chicken, skip this ingredient.)
3 large eggs (If you’re low on eggs, two eggs is OK.)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (It’s good for you!)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
Salt and white pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (No parsley, no problem.)
In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil over medium heat. Place the eggs in a mixing bowl and whisk until blended, then add lemon juice and zest. Whisk until well-combined. Reduce the heat of the chicken stock to very low.
While whisking the soup in the pan, slowly pour the egg-lemon mixture into the broth, whisking all the time to prevent curdling. The soup should thicken slightly.
Alternatively, use the following method, credited to my husband’s YiaYia (grandmother):
Add the eggs, lemon juice and zest to a blender and blitz until well combined. Take one cup of the hot stock and gradually add to the mixture in the blender. Cover the blender and zap it again. Then, slowly and carefully pour this mixture back into the broth and gently stir in, whisking all the while. This will help “temper” the broth so that it won’t curdle.
Add cooked chicken and rice and gently cook for several more minutes at low heat until flavors blend. Don’t set the heat too high, or you will curdle the soup (like Josh did in SECRETS AND PIES)! Have patience and you will have a delicious soup.
If there’s any left over and you want to reheat it, put it in a saucepan on top of the stove over very low heat and stir frequently, to prevent curdling.
Sprinkle with parsley. Serves 6-8.
YiaYia’s Envelope Soup (Easy Avgolemono)
If you’ve got Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup in your pantry, and a couple other basic items, you’ve got avgolemono courtesy of my husband’s grandmother’s lightning quick recipe.
2 envelopes Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup
Juice from 1 or more lemons or to taste
1 or 2 eggs
Prepare the soup according to package directions and remove from heat.
In blender, mix lemon juice and egg and whip until frothy. With blender running, add about ½ to 1 cup hot broth a little bit at a time, very gradually, so as not to curdle the eggs. (You don’t want scrambled egg.)
Return pan of soup to low heat. Slowly add broth, egg, and lemon mixture from blender to the pan, stirring constantly, until the soup has slightly thickened.
Serves as soon as possible to maintain texture and avoid curdling.
That’s it for this installment of Callie’s Quarantine Kitchen. The recipes listed below are the ones originally on this site!
Use a blender or immersion blender for best results/most blended drink. In Greece, the drink is usually shaken in a jar or drink mixer.
3 -4 teaspoons instant coffee (preferably Nescafe Classic or Clásico (above))
2 -4 teaspoons sugar (or to taste)
2 -6 ounces water
2 -6 ounces milk
Ice, crushed or in cubes
I medium cucumber (or half of one of those giant-sized “English” seedless cucumbers)
2 cups plain Greek yogurt (I use Fage brand)
4 cloves garlic, minced (more or less garlic, to taste. The more garlic you use, the more tangy this is.)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 – 2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp fresh dill
1 tsp chopped fresh mint (optional)
Peel cucumber and grate it. (If it has seeds, quarter it lengthwise and remove seeds, then grate). Place grated cucumber in a strainer over a bowl and press down with a spoon to remove excess water from cucumber. Let drain for a few minutes.
Combine cucumber with remaining ingredients. You can serve immediately but I prefer to cover and chill for about an hour — it improves the flavor.
George’s Spanakopita (Greek Spinach-Cheese Pie)
(George is Callie’s father and this is one of his signature dishes.)
This recipe is is from On the Chopping Block. It was featured on Lisa K’s Book Reviews, along with a 5-star review! Click this link if you’d like to read the complete article on Lisa K’s website.
Six 10 oz. packages of chopped frozen spinach thawed and drained of excess liquid (but not too dry)
1 bunch scallions (green onions), chopped, white and pale green parts only
Dash of garlic powder
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups of feta cheese, crumbled
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and mixed with ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil + more olive oil if needed
1 regular-sized package of phyllo dough sheets, sometimes called “pastry sheets.”
(Phyllo dough sheets are found in the frozen foods section of most supermarkets, near frozen pie pastry and the like. ATHENS brand is one of the most common. NOTE: When you get home from the store, be sure to place phyllo pastry in the refrigerator, NOT the freezer so that it can thaw before you begin baking. If you don’t plan to bake right away, keep it frozen.)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
1 tablespoon fresh dill chopped or 1 tsp. of dried dill (George prefers fresh – he says it tastes better.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare the phyllo: Phyllo pastry bakes up delightfully light and flaky, but the sheets are very thin and can dry out quickly. So here’s how to keep the phyllo nice and fresh: Take a clean tea towel and wet it, then wring out most of the water. Place your phyllo sheets on a cookie sheet with a rim and place waxed paper directly over the spanakopita, followed by the damp tea towel over the waxed paper. Lift up these protective coverings only when you are ready to take the next sheet. Quickly re-cover the phyllo.
In a large mixing bowl, toss together the spinach, onions, dill and garlic powder. Add the feta cheese and eggs, mixing lightly but thoroughly until well combined. Pour half of the melted butter over the top, season with salt and pepper, and mix again. It should not look too “liquidy.”
Brush a 10 x 15 inch pan with butter. Place about half of the phyllo sheets (usually about 10) into the pan, brushing each thoroughly with melted butter (don’t forget the corners) before adding the next one. Each sheet needs to be thoroughly coated with a thin layer of melted butter.
Add spinach-cheese mixture and spread evenly in the pan. Repeat phyllo sheet process until you have used them all.
Trim any overhanging phyllo dough from pan using kitchen shears, then score the pie into squares (about halfway down, for easier cutting later) with a sharp knife. Bake at 350 degrees F for about one hour, until the top is golden brown. Let cool slightly, then finish cutting and serve.
Yield: About 15 generous squares of spanakopita.
Baked Oatmeal in a Mug
½ cup oats, quick-cooking or old-fashioned
½ cup milk – can be dairy milk or soy, etc.
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ of an apple or ¼ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen, raisins, Craisins or whatever you want. I wouldn’t say no to chocolate chips.
2 tsp honey or brown sugar
Add oats, egg and milk in a mug. Stir well with a fork. Add cinnamon, your fruit of choice and honey or brown sugar. Stir again until fully combined. Cook in microwave on high for 2-3 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Stir in a little extra milk, if the oatmeal looks too dry and/or top with cold vanilla Greek yogurt. If you really want to have it “Greek style,” use plain Greek yogurt and drizzle with honey to taste. Let the oatmeal “set” a little bit before eating.
Chocolate Pumpkin Cake
2 c. all-purpose flour, ¾ c. unsweetened cocoa, 1½ tsp. baking soda, ¼ tsp. salt
1 c. lowfat buttermilk, ¾ c. canned pure pumpkin, 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup unsalted butter, softened, 2 c. granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 batch Brown Butter Frosting (see below) or Simple Glaze
For cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray either a 9-inch square pan or a Bundt pan with Pam spray with flour. Set aside.
In large bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In medium bowl, whisk buttermilk, pumpkin, and vanilla.
In large bowl, with mixer on low speed, beat butter and sugar until blended. Increase speed to high; beat until pale and fluffy, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.
Reduce speed to medium-low. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat just until batter is smooth, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.
Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake 38 – 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Don’t over bake. A few crumbs clinging to the toothpick is OK. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. With small knife, loosen cake from sides of pan; invert onto wire rack. Cool completely before using icing or glaze.
Brown Butter Frosting
½ c. unsalted butter
2 c. confectioners’ sugar
1 pinch salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
To make the frosting: In a small saucepan, cook butter on medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until dark golden and very fragrant, swirling frequently. Transfer to small bowl and refrigerate until just starting to set, about 30 minutes.
In medium bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat brown butter, confectioners’ sugar, and pinch salt until smooth.
Spread on top and sides of cake.
2 cups confectioners sugar
A few tbsp milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Stir all ingredients together, adding milk gradually, just until you have a pourable icing. Drizzle evenly over cake once completely cool (I put waxed paper under the wire rack to catch the overflow).
Callie’s Lemon Loaf Cake
For the cake:
2 – 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 tsp freshly grated lemon peel
2 large eggs
1 container sour cream (8 oz)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray Pam baking spray with flour into a 9 x 5 metal loaf pan (or use butter and flour — make sure it’s well greased).
In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and lemon peel and beat until fluffy.
Reduce speed to low and add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bowl occasionally with rubber spatula. Add flour mixture alternatively with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add vanilla and beat just until smooth.
Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour or so. Cool pan for 10 minutes and remove from pan; place on wire rack.
While the cake is still hot, poke holes in the top of the cake with a toothpick, then make a “syrup” of the juice of one lemon and 2 tablespoons of sugar, stirred until sugar dissolves. Brush this mixture over the top of the hot cake.
Let cool and sprinkle with a little more granulated sugar on top, if desired. Makes about 16 thin slices.