Desserts

Whole Wheat Cheese Filled Cretan Pita – Sfakiani Pita

sfakiani pita

I have to say these little pies or pites are delicious. They are one of the most popular dishes in Crete. Sfakia is a remote and mountainous area in Crete where this dish originates from. Basically they are pieces of dough that have cheese in them, but the cheese is not a filling, but rather integrated in the dough through kneading.

The cheese used is a fresh cheese, some recipes suggest anthotiro others fresh mitzithra (which is what I used here) and others a local Cretan cheese known as pihtogalo.  A substitute would be ricotta cheese, if you are not able to find the above cheeses. In Peloponissos we have a different type “pita” that has feta cheese instead of a soft sweet cheese. Read more »

Fluffy Lemon Greek New Year’s Cake Made with Olive Oil -Vasilopita-

Vasilopita

I usually make my mom’s recipe for Vasilopita New Year’s Day (or Eve). In case you are not familiar with this tradition, Greeks make a cake with a coin hidden in it, that is cut on New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve. Each person present is provided a piece, and he or she that has the coin in their piece is promised good luck for the rest of the year. You can check this post for another Vasilopita recipe and a little bit more about the tradition.

This year I wanted to make a lemon flavored Vasilopita (instead of orange) with olive oil instead of butter. Read more »

Apple-Raisin Phyllo Strudel

phyllo apple strudel

I’ve mentioned this before, but phyllo is so versatile and you should always have some in your kitchen. Here in Greece we actually have fresh phyllo (not frozen) available at the super market which makes it even easier to make your own Greek pies such as spanakopita. I do like to use it for sweets as well, in the place of a regular crust. It has no fat (although I noticed that in the US many brands have added fat in them) and only contain flour and cornstarch, providing a lighter version. Even when you brush your oil in between layers, you have control of how much you use and what kind of fat you add. Read more »

Sweet Potato Pistachio Olive Oil Biscotti

sweet potato biscotti

The season for sweet potatoes is finally here! We usually just prepare them roasted in the oven, but I had a bit left and wanted to make some sort of easy sweet thing, to enjoy over the weekend. Well I found this interesting recipe on the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission website. It is biscotti made with sweet potatoes. I thought this is a nice way to use sweet potato and it really transforms the starchy biscotti into something a bit more nutritious. With a few changes this recipe became a bit more Mediterranean. The Greek version of biscotti are called paximadakia (small paximadia), sometimes they are sweet and sometimes not, and many times they are made with olive oil, which is what I used here instead of butter. Read more »

Light Peach Tart with Whole Wheat Olive Oil Crust

Peach pie with olive oil crust

I really like fruit tarts even though they are not common in Greek cuisine. In the traditional Greek diet, fruit is usually consumed fresh, dried or sweetened (served in small amounts) and sometimes in a cake. But once in a while I want something with a crust. The problem is that with the typical fruit pie or tart, there is so much butter and sugar and even cream that any benefits of the fruit are cancelled out. So, for this recipe, I wanted to combine the goodness of fruit with tastiness of a crust but in a form that is fairly healthy. Read more »

Strawberry Greek Yogurt Balsamic Muffins

Strawberry Greek Yogurt Balsamic Muffins

These are not your typical morning muffins. Yes, you would think that these ingredients do not really go together, but they do! Balsamic vinegar highlights the flavor of strawberries. Some chefs actually say that strawberries are interchangeable with tomatoes because they share many flavor components. No wonder strawberries work great in salads. And what about all those strawberry vinaigrettes? Now I originally had made the strawberries with the balsamic and sugar to be consumed as is, but my kids were not that interested and I was worried that all these nice strawberries would go to waste. So I made these cupcakes. Read more »

Greek Yogurt Cheesecake Mousse with Pistachio-Fig Crust

Greek cheescake

I love cheesecake especially the no-bake type. But sometimes all that butter from the crust and the fat from the condensed milk can be too much, so here is a lighter, “greeker” version that is also super easy to make. Since this is more of a mousse, it is also much easier to assemble, plus the single servings help you keep count of how much you eat.

This is a Greek style cheesecake because the main ingredients are Greek. I used the Greek cheese anthotyro which is a soft fresh cheese similar to ricotta (which you can also use) which is made from sheep milk. I also used lowfat Greek yogurt and the famous pistachio nuts from the island of Aegina. Since the cheese and yogurt are lowfat and not much sugar is used, it has fewer calories, with the fat being much lower than your average cheesecake. But don’t be fooled, this dessert may have less calories, but it tastes just like regular cheesecake. Read more »

Baking with Olive Oil, Tradition or Trend?

chocolate cake with EVOO

Lately I’ve been coming across all these articles about desserts made with olive oil or using olive oil in baking as if it is this new trend. Well in a way it is a trend, outside the Mediterranean that is. Many bakers are just discovering the beauty and merits of baking with olive oil. But here in Greece it is a common ingredient for baking.

This is probably due to two factors: First, olive oil was abundant and much cheaper then butter, which was considered a luxury item. Secondly, Greeks had all those fasting days where they were not allowed to consume animal products, so they had plenty of dessert recipes made with olive oil. And many recipes that require butter also have an olive oil version. Read more »

Almond-Dark Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Made With Olive Oil

Almond-Chocolate Banana Cake

I often make banana bread when I want to have something at home that is sweet, but not a full-blown dessert with hundreds of calories. Now this bread is pretty much vegan as there are are no animal products in it, so it is suitable for those of you who are following the Greek fast (yes it is nistisimo).

But even if you are not a vegetarian or fasting, this bread/cake is delicious with very little saturated fat and no cholesterol. I used olive oil in the place of butter, no eggs, and I also added some slithered almonds which go nicely with the banana rather then the commonly used walnut. I also used a bit of whole wheat flour, just to add a bit more fiber to it. And yes, I added a few mini dark chocolate chips, just enough to give a hint of chocolate. Read more »

Greek Style Sweet Beet Preserves

Beet Preserves

Gliko koutaliou, which translates into spoon sweet, is basically a sweet made from sugar and fruit and sometimes vegetables. Popular spoon sweets include sour cherry (vissino), grape, bitter orange (nerantzi), but you also find eggplant and tomato spoon sweets. These sweets are made by boiling the fruit whole or in large pieces with sugar making a syrupy fruit preserve.

This type of sweet is traditionally served plain on a tiny dish with a spoon along with a cold glass of water. It is also served with yogurt or on top of ice cream. Since it is only fruit and sugar it is low in fat but also nistisimo, in other words it contains no animal products so it can be consumed during fasting periods.

This time I wanted to make beet preserves, I figured they are already quite sweet and so I wouldn’t need too much sugar to make them into a preserve. Read more »