Monday, October 24, 2016

Home Cookin': Pistachio Baklava with Orange Blossom Syrup

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 9:21 PM

  • Astrid Lague
  • Baklava
In fifth grade, my class did a social studies unit on Greece, which culminated with a group meal. For dessert, we made baklava. Its rich and sweet layers of flaky phyllo dough, butter, honey, and nuts made an impact on me — and my taste buds.

I didn't make the decadent delicacy again until a couple of years ago, when my mother requested a Middle Eastern birthday dinner. My sister and I pored through our cookbooks, finding all sorts of delicious things to make. For dessert, I chose baklava.

For that meal, I put a few twists on the dish. My sister and mother are not overly fond of walnuts, the traditional nutty filling for baklava.  Pistachios, though?  That's another matter. And instead of honey syrup, I used a secret weapon — orange blossom syrup, made with sugar and orange blossom water, which you can find on Amazon or at a Middle Eastern market. The ingredient adds a floral sweetness that's really incredible.

For this recipe, I used chopped pistachios and pecans, as the mixture is more affordable than just pistachios. Really, you can try any combination of nuts — walnuts, of course, would be wonderful, and hazelnuts would work, too. Don't be scared to play around!

The real magic of baklava happens when you pour the warm syrup over the baked layers of phyllo and nuts. It sizzles in the most satisfactory way as the syrup works its way into all of the crevices of the phyllo. The end product is a sticky, sweet confection that is undeniably delicious. Kids love it, adults love it, and the whole process is a whole lot easier than you'd think. This is one to try at home, if for no other reason than that magic sizzle.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Home Cookin': Easy Spanikopita Rolls

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 11:17 AM

Finished spanikopita rolls - ASTRID LAGUE
  • Astrid Lague
  • Finished spanikopita rolls
Not everyone grows up around a wide array of international foods. My husband, Chris, was raised in a mainly meat-and-potatoes household. He barely ate vegetables when we started dating as teenagers.  

Consequently, he wasn't prepared for the onslaught of flavors he encountered at my family's dinner table. He was okay with peppers and onions — and, occasionally, carrots and peas — but, beyond that, he found eating at my house a bit daunting.

Luckily, he liked me, so he stuck around.

After we had been dating six months, I left to spend my junior year in Sweden, where I lived with a cousin. This was before the golden age of email and Skype but, amazingly, he still stuck around. The next year, we traveled to Sweden together so I could show him the country. 

And here begins the story of how my husband came to appreciate spinach. The family we were staying with in Stockholm served spinach.  So did the family we were staying with in another town. What did we eat on the airplane ride home?  You guessed it — spinach.

During our week in Sweden, I think we were served spinach at least five times.  By the end of the trip, Chris decided that he didn't mind the leafy green after all.

Years later, I found out that my mother had secretly told the Swedes to serve us as much spinach as possible, and that she then told Chris that it was very important to try everything he was offered, lest he be seen as incredibly impolite.

I don't think she had any sway with the airline, but I could be wrong.

Now, many years later, spinach is one of my husband's favorite vegetables, and spanikopita is one of his favorite ways to eat it.

In this Greek dish, flaky phyllo dough surrounds a savory filling of spinach and briny feta cheese. It's a perennial favorite in our household. Even better? Our kids love to help make it.

You can make spanikopita as a traditional pie, or in little triangle shapes, but my favorite preparation is spanikopita rolls, similar to egg rolls. Instead of using copious amounts of butter to crisp up each layer of phyllo, we use a butter-flavored cooking spray. (You can use butter if you like. It just takes a bit more time because you have to brush it on to each sheet of phyllo.)

Most markets stock frozen phyllo dough. If you have extra spanikopita rolls, just freeze them, then let them thaw a bit before baking (just add a couple of minutes to the cooking time). Or bake them all at once, and keep any extras in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Pro tip: They make a great addition to school lunches.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

No Charges in Waterbury Daycare Drowning

Posted By and on Tue, Oct 4, 2016 at 11:17 AM

  • Courtesy of Reava Burnor
  • Parker Berry
Criminal charges will not be filed in connection to the drowning death of a 3-year-old boy at a Waterbury daycare facility in February, Washington County State's Attorney Scott Williams announced Monday.

Parker Berry, of Hyde Park, wandered away from Elephant in the Field daycare center and was found unconscious in a nearby brook. The boy died two days later.

The Department of Children and Family Services revoked Elephant in the Field's daycare license after the incident.

Williams said that actions already taken against the daycare will "remove future risk to public safety."

"I have determined that none of the actions or inactions of adults involved with this terribly sad incident qualify as demonstrating a criminal mental state, including criminal recklessness or negligence," Williams said in a prepared statement.

Earlier this year, Williams said that criminal charges were not warranted against a para-educator tasked with caring for Parker.

Williams said that he told the boy's parents about his decision and "they have expressed their satisfaction with the process and decision making."

Kids VT wrote about the home-based daycare program, located on a 42-acre farm, in 2014. 

A version of this post originally appeared in Seven Days.

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