Melomakarona – Greek walnut cinnamon honey cookies

I remember my grandmother making these when I was young. I distinctly remember the occasion when she came over showing my mother how to flatten the cookies in your palm, add the filling and then shape them into ovals. I was very young around 5-6 years old. From then on my mother used to make these honey morsels every Christmas. When I started my own family, I too began the tradition of making these cookies.  

Melomakarona or Greek walnut-cinnamon-honey cookies are very traditional cookies during the Christmas holidays. They are also healthy since there is no butter in the recipe. You can substitute the vegetable oil with olive oil. I always used vegetable oil when I made these cookies. Now I make sure that the vegetable oil I use is free of soy, so I use canola oil. I am hesitant in using olive oil for desert type cooking, since olive oil can be a bit overwhelming. Even though the olive oil in the United States comes from some European countries, I find it a bit stronger than the Greek olive oil that’s produced in Greece.  

You can substitute 1 cup of vegetable oil with 1 cup melted butter. But even with the vegetable oil these cookies are delicious. Enjoy!

Melomakarona – Greek walnut cinnamon honey cookies                       

Makes 56 cookies (approximately 1.3oz each)

Filling and topping
15 tbsp ground or finely chopped walnuts
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar

Cookie batter
2 cups vegetable oil (like canola oil)
1 cup sugar
½ cup orange juice
½ cup brandy or cognac
1 tbsp orange zest (peel of 1 orange) 
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
6 cups flours
2 tbsp extra flour for kneading

Syrup
2 cups honey
2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick

Finely chop the walnuts. Add the ground cloves, cinnamon and sugar. Mix well and set aside.  

Beat together the vegetable oil with the sugar, orange juice, brandy, cinnamon and orange zest. Shift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Add to the wet ingredients. Blend. Knead with your hands and add flour, as needed (about 2 tbsps). Take portion of the dough about 2” ball and roll it between your hands. Flatten it in the hollow of your palm and add about ¼ tsp of the filling. Pinch the dough together to seal it and shape it into an oval shape. Place the cookies in a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350° oven for 25 minutes until coppery brown.  

Make the syrup
Bring honey and water to a boil – about 5 minutes. Skim off any foam. Lower the heat and drop the cookies one at a time in the honey. Do not overcrowd. Simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Place them in a platter. Continue simmering the cookies in honey until done. Sprinkle with the rest walnut-cinnamon mixture. Drizzle the cookies with any syrup that might be left over. 

Nutrition Facts 
Serving Size 1 serving (38.3 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 138
Calories from Fat 81
Total Fat 9.0g
Saturated Fat 1.6g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 45mg
Total Carbohydrates 14.5g
Dietary Fiber 0.3g
Sugars 14.0g
Protein 0.6g



Right out of the oven



Dipped and drizzled with the honey syrup and the nuts. 
Merry Christmas! Enjoy!

















Chocolate Rum Balls/Truffles

I’ve been making these chocolate rum balls for many years. Another Canadian recipe that I had to convert from the metric system to the American system. After many trials and tribulations and before the internet, I was able to convert this recipe to the American standard system of measurements. So for many years now I use the recipe measurements below.
 
These chocolate rum balls are quite unique. The rum gives them that extra punch. Even though it’s a ¼ cup you can taste it in them. It’s not enough though to get you drunk. So enjoy them…with the rum.   

Chocolate Rum Balls/Truffles

Makes 34-50 rum balls (approximately 1” in diameter; 0.7 oz each)

4 squares unsweetened chocolate -- 4 oz (like Baker’s cooking chocolate)
8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese at room temperature
1 ½ cups ground almonds
1 ½ cups icing sugar
¼ cup rum*
1 tsp instant coffee

Melt chocolate over a double boiler. Let it cool. In the meantime, blend together the cream cheese, the ground almonds, the icing sugar, the rum and the instant coffee. Add the melted chocolate and mix. Refrigerate for a couple hours so that you will be able to form the mixture into a ball.

Once cooled take a melon scooper, dip it in water and scoop a bit of the mixture. Shape it into 1” balls and set them aside. You can dip them in your favorite coatings like icing sugar, ground almonds, chopped walnuts, cocoa, green sugar, chocolate sprinkles. 

*Note: You can omit the rum altogether if you would like, and add 2 tsp. of vanilla

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 0.653 oz (18.5g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 76
Calories from Fat 45
Total Fat 5.0g
Saturated Fat 2.0g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 7mg
Sodium 19mg
Total Carbohydrates 6.5g
Dietary Fiber 0.7g
Sugars 5.1g
Protein 1.5g

Merry Christmas! Enjoy!

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Kourabiedes or Greek Almond Cookies in Icing sugar

During the Christmas holidays in Greece, my mother used to make these traditional Greek cookies called Kourabiedes drenched in icing sugar. I used to love these cookies growing up. The only problem was that you had to have a plate to eat them otherwise the icing sugar will be all over your clothes or on the floor. I used to sneak in the dining room where my mother kept the kourabiedes on a glass tray to just sample one, but I had to make sure that I didn’t drop any of the icing sugar on the floor or I’d be in trouble. Kourabiedes are very customary cookies to make during Christmas in Greece. Over the years I began making these icing sugar drenched delights for my own family traditions.  Enjoy!

Kourabiedes Greek Almond Cookies in Icing sugar      

Makes 64 cookies (approximately 1oz each)

1 lbs unsalted butter at room temperature
½ cup icing sugar
1 cup ground almonds, toasted
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
3.5 - 4 cups flours (keep the 1/4  -1/2 cups separate)
4 cups icing sugar or as much or less as it takes


In a nonstick frying pan toast the ground almonds with ¼ tsp. of the icing sugar. Toast it for about 5 minutes but do not let it brown. Remove from heat and let it cool.

With an electric mixer beat the butter till soft. Add the icing sugar while continue beating. Add the egg yolks, the vanilla, the baking powder, the whiskey and the cooled ground almonds, while beating continuously. Gradually add the flour and beat well. Turn the mixer off. With your hands knead the dough lightly. Pour a little bit of the 1/4 cup flour on your hands so the dough won’t stick to your hands. Keep kneading the dough by adding the 1/4 cup flour over your hands, till done. Add more flour as needed. When the dough pulls away from the bowl stop kneading.   The dough will be sticky.  If it's too sticky, place in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes so it will be easy to form the cookies.

Take about a spoonful of the dough and roll it between your hands into 1'' ball. Shape them into 1/2 moons or ovals or rounds. Place them in an ungreased cookie sheet and bake them in a preheated 350° oven for 18-20 minutes. The cookies shouldn't brown. They should be almost white on top. When the edges become lightly browned take them out of the oven. 

While still warm, place them in a bowl that’s filled with the icing sugar. Coat them well with the icing sugar and place them in a platter. Shift the remaining icing sugar on top. You will have extra icing sugar left over. You can use it as you serve the cookies to freshen them up.  You can drench them in icing sugar or dip them in melted chocolate. Either tastes equally good. The Greek way is with icing sugar.

Nutrition Facts 
Serving Size 0.878 oz (24.9g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 119
Calories from Fat 60
Total Fat 6.7g
 Saturated Fat 3.8g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 22mg
Sodium 41mg
Total Carbohydrates 13.7g
Dietary Fiber 0.4g
Sugars 8.4g
Protein 1.1g



Right out of the oven


 
Drenched in icing sugar


  
Or half dipped in chocolate!




Merry Christmas! Enjoy!


Cherry Cheesecake with Almond thin cookies for crust

I’ve been making this cheesecake for the past 35 years. It’s a Canadian recipe that I used to use. Both my daughters love this cheesecake. It’s light, easy to make and needs no baking. The original recipe asks for graham crackers crust. I found out though that graham crackers have soybean oil and since I am trying to stay away from any foods that contain soy, I experimented with a different crust. I found these almond thins at the European section of our local market. They are called Anna’s almond thins and they are Swedish.

 They contain no soy or any hydrogenated products (I used only one box).  This is a great desert to take to pot luck dinners or holiday parties. Enjoy!

 Cherry Cheesecake with Almond thin cookies for crust

Makes 35 pieces (approximately 2.4 oz each)

Crust:
1.5 cups crushed almond thin cookies
4 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp sugar


Filling:
1 – 8 oz pkg cream cheese at room temperature
1 – 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup Realemon Lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla


Topping:
1 – 21 oz can cherry pie filling

Preparation: 
For the crust, crush the cookies by placing them in a ziplog bag and crushing them with a rolling pin. In a 12x7.5 pyrex pan pour the crushed cookies, add the melted butter and the sugar. Mix well and pat it at the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate.

For the filling: in a bowl put the cream cheese and beat with an electric beater. Gradually add the sweetened condensed milk while beating. Add the lemon juice and the vanilla and continue beating till light and fluffy. Take the crust out of the refrigerator and pour the filling in. Smooth the top and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight. It chills quite fast, but overnight will chill it quite firmly.  

When chilled pour the cherry pie filling on top and serve. You can cut it into individual pieces and then top with the cherry pie filling. 

Note 1: The above ingredients will also accommodate a 9” pie plate
Note 2: You can substitute the almond thins with graham cracker crust or nila wafers crushed. They are both equally good.  
Note 3: For topping, you can substitute blueberry or strawberry pie filling. They both taste good.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 serving (66.6 g)
Amount Per Serving 
Calories 233
Calories from Fat 82
Total Fat 9.1g
Saturated Fat 5.4g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 30mg
Sodium 218mg
Total Carbohydrates 33.6g
Dietary Fiber 0.6g
Sugars 19.5g
Protein 4.5g


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Pork Tenderloin with Fennel and Peas in tomato sauce

Peas in tomato sauce with dill or with fennel is another common, vegetarian Greek dish. It’s mostly a summer dish, since the peas are available fresh in their pods. I remember when I was young, my mother showed me how to peel the pods remove the peas and then peel the skin off the pods so that they will cook along with the peas. It was a dish, even though I disliked vegetables, one that I loved. The fresh tomato sauce and the fresh dill made it even tastier. The fresh bread, that we used to pick up from the bakery, along with a slice of feta and a fresh tomato salad completed the summer meal.  

On other occasions, my mother cooked the peas with beef tenderloin. It was more of a Sunday meal, one she used to serve over hot rice.  

Here is my version of peas in tomato sauce with pork tenderloin instead of beef. I also experimented with fennel instead of dill. I’ve tried it both ways and both ways is equally tasteful. If you don’t like the taste of fennel you can omit it altogether and add fresh dill to the dish. The dill (or fennel) is what actually gives the dish that savory flavor.


Makes 14 servings (approximately 8 oz each serving)

2.5 lbs pork tenderloin cut into 2” chunk pieces
½ cup olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 tsp chopped garlic
15 oz can tomato sauce (1 can)
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (1 can)
2 cans water
1.5 cups sliced fennel (1 large fennel bulb)
2 12 oz bags of frozen peas
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped fennel leaves
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Wash and pat dry the pork tenderloin. Cut into 2” chunk pieces. Set aside. Peel, wash and chop the onion. Set aside. Peel and chop the garlic. Set aside. In a dutch oven, over high heat add the olive oil, the onions and garlic. Saute till transparent. Add the pork pieces. Saute a little longer. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce along with 2 cans of water. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for about 1 hour. Don’t add salt, since salt will toughen the meat and will need to cook longer.

When the meat is almost done, during the last 5 minutes add the sliced fennel, the fennel leaves, the peas, the parsley and salt and pepper. Cover and let it simmer for another 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Serve over rice or orzo. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese or romano cheese if desired.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 
1 serving (219.6 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 237
Calories from Fat 93
Total Fat 10.3g
Saturated Fat 2.0g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 59mg
Sodium 392mg
Total Carbohydrates 12.0g
Dietary Fiber 4.2g
Sugars 4.9g
Protein 24.7g


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Pasta with chicken sausage and butternut squash

This is a dish that I made recently with butternut squash.  I picked up the roasted red pepper and spinach chicken sausages from Costco.  But you can use any type of sausage for this dish.  You can also substitute the whole grain pasta with regular pasta.  It's a preference.  You can cut the recipe in half if you don't want to use the full ingredients.  We love pasta and we love it as leftovers too.  This dish also packs well for lunch.  Enjoy!

Makes 8 servings (approx. 8 oz each serving)

4 cups butternut squash diced into 2” cubes
1.5 cups diced red pepper
1 cup diced red onion
2 tbsp chopped garlic
1 lbs roasted red pepper and spinach chicken sausage (5 links) Casual Gourmet brand
1 box (13.25 oz) whole grain Barilla rotini pasta
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup chicken broth
¼ tsp paprika
¼  tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper

Clean, peel and seed the butternut squash. (I used about ½ of the butternut squash. It all depends on how big the butternut squash is; and this one was quite large). Dice it into 2” cubes. Put it in a microwavable bowl and cook on high heat for 8-10 minutes till soft. In the meantime, wash and dice the red pepper. Set aside. 
Peel, wash and dice the red onion. Set aside. Peel and chop the garlic. Set aside. Break the chicken sausage into coarse pieces with your hands. Set aside.
In a saucepan add the ¼ cup olive oil and sauté the onion, garlic, red pepper and the sausage. Add the ¼ cup of the chicken broth. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. In the meantime bring a pot of water to boil and cook the rotini pasta according to package directions.

When the squash is cooked add it to the sausage, red pepper mixture. Add the rest of the chicken broth, the salt, pepper and paprika, and let it simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn the heat off. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, add it to the saucepan and toss together. Serve with shredded Romano pecorino cheese. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts 
Serving Size 
1 serving (227.7 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 374
Calories from Fat 113
Total Fat 12.5g
Saturated Fat 2.3g
Cholesterol 34mg
Sodium 543mg
Total Carbohydrates 47.0g
Dietary Fiber 7.9g
Sugars 5.3g
Protein 20.7g


 
 
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Greek Pumpkin Pie - Kolokythopita

Here is a slight variation of the traditional pumpkin pie with a Greek twist. Instead of using pie dough I made it with phyllo dough. Just in time for Thanksgiving.  Enjoy!

Makes 32 pieces – approximately 2.5 oz each

Filling1 can (29 oz) pure puréed pumpkin (about 4 cups)
1.5 cups sugar
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
3 eggs
1 tbsp semolina
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsp nutmeg

Crust
¾ cup melted butter
8 oz of phyllo dough (about 30 sheets)
1 tsp sugar
Water

Beat together the pureed pumpkin, sugar, semolina, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, evaporated milk, till smooth. Set aside.
Melt the butter and keep it warm.
Butter a 13x9 baking dish. Open up the phyllo dough package, and use just the one out of the two separate packages inside. Cover the phyllo dough sheets with a towel. Layer the phytllo dough one by one, by buttering each layer. Like the Spinach Cheese pie (Spanakotyropita) . Use half the package of phyllo dough, about 12 sheets. Pour the filling and fold the edges of the phyllo dough inwards. Layer with the remaining phyllo dough, by buttering each layer. When done, wet your hand and sprinkle the top with water, then with the sugar. Bake at 350° oven for 1 hour or until golden brown.  

When done, remove from the oven and let it cool. When cooled cut it into triangles and sprinkle with some cinnamon and icing sugar. Serve.

Note: the semolina will slightly thicken the pumpkin mixture without it being too runny
Note: by sprinkling the top phyllo sheet with water, will bake it into a crisper crust.

Nutrition Facts  Serving Size 
1 serving (67.0 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 135
Calories from Fat 58
Total Fat 6.5g
Saturated Fat 3.7g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 32mg
Sodium 89mg
Total Carbohydrates 17.9g
Dietary Fiber 1.0g
Sugars 12.2g
Protein 2.3g
Right out of the oven
 
 Enjoy!
 
 
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Fall Roasted Vegetables

With the abundance of fall vegetables I decided to try something different this time. I never really knew what to do with acorn squash, other than cut it half, seed it and microwave it for 10 minutes (as you noticed in my Fall Squash Vegetable Soup post). I never came across a sweet potato squash, other than sweet potatoes. Or parsnips. I never liked parsnips when I was young. As with butternut squash or spaghetti squash, I never knew it existed. Not till I began experimenting, for quite some time now, with all the fall vegetables that are abundant this time of the year in the Northern part of the US. I usually roast sweet potatoes in the oven, so I thought that this time I will roast the fall vegetables. And for a change, I will throw in the mix the parsnips too. I had my real testers taste this recipe and came through with flying colors. My family is very picky when it comes to food. They will be more than happy to tell me if they don’t like something. And this is really what I’m looking for. I don’t want any compliments just truthful statements if they would make it themselves and if they will eat it if I make it again. And I have made this dish more than twice so far. So rest assured, it is tasty. Enjoy!

Makes 8 servings of approximately 7 oz each

4 cups butternut squash
4 cups sweet potato squash
3 cups parsnips
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp chili powder

Preheat oven to 425° F. Peel, seed and wash the squashes. Set aside. Peel and wash the parsnips. Chop the squashes and the parsnips into 1-2” pieces and place them in a bowl. Pour over the olive oil and toss to coat well. Add the parsley, chopped garlic, coarse salt, ground pepper, paprika and chili powder. Toss till all the vegetables are well coated with the seasoning. Spread them out in a cookie sheet and place them in the oven on the 2nd rack from the top, and roast for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.  

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
1 serving (186.0 g)
Amount Per Serving 
Calories 146
Calories from Fat 59
Total Fat 6.6g
Saturated Fat 0.9g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 249mg
Total Carbohydrates 22.5g
Dietary Fiber 4.8g
Sugars 6.0g
Protein 2.1g

 
The vegetables right out of the oven
 
 
Serve with roasted pork tenderloin or a turkey dinner just in time for Thanksgiving.  Enjoy!!!
 
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Phyllo Dough Spinach Roll

It is quite common in Greece to make just Spinach pie or just Cheese pie. And they are very delicious.  This recipe is a nice alternative to the Cheese-Spinach pie for people who don't want to have any dairy.  Enjoy!

12 servings (approximately 1.5-2 oz each serving).

The following ingredients will make 3 phyllo spinach rolls.

12 oz bag of frozen spinach (thawed and strained well to remove any excess water)
12 sheets of phyllo dough
¾ cup chopped green onion
3 tbs olive oil
1 tsp parsley (either fresh or dried)
1 tsp dill (either fresh or dried)
¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tbs olive oil for brushing between the phyllo dough sheets


Defrost the spinach and squeeze any excess water with your hands. Set aside.

In a saucepan heat the 3 tbs of olive oil. Saute the green onions and add the spinach. Heat through. Remove from heat. Add the parsley, dill, ground nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Mix well together. Set aside.

In the meantime, line a cookie sheet with wax paper that’s brushed with olive oil. Set aside. 

Separate 12 sheets of phyllo dough (you can re-freeze the leftover phyllo dough as long as you wrap it in saran wrap first, then in aluminum foil).

Take 1 sheet of phyllo at a time and brush it from the 4 tbs of olive oil that you have set aside for that purpose. Take another sheet of phyllo dough and place it on top of the other and brush with olive oil. Repeat with the 3rd and 4th sheets of phyllo dough, while brushing with olive oil in between sheets.
 



Take 1/3 of the mixture and place it alongside the prepared sheets of phyllo dough. 




Fold the sides to hold in the filling. 



Then start from the end towards you, and roll away from you. 


Once you complete the roll, brush with olive oil and place it in a cookie pan lined with wax paper, that’s also brushed with olive oil. 

Repeat the above steps for the other two rolls. 



Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven 30 minutes till golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool before cutting. 



Right out of the oven.
 Cut and serve.
Enjoy!



 
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 serving (50.9 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 97
Calories from Fat 67
Total Fat 7.4g
Saturated Fat 1.1g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 69mg
Total Carbohydrates 6.5g
Dietary Fiber 1.0g
Sugars 0.3g
Protein 1.6g

Fall Squash Vegetable Soup

I made this soup for dinner tonight, and it turned out so well, that I had to post it. It was a cold and rainy day so it was most appropriate for a nice hot bowl of soup. The chili powder and the freshly ground pepper gave the soup an extra kick which also contradicted with the sweetness of the squashes. It was a nice combination of spices and sweet and savory. Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich and you have yourself a meal. Enjoy!

Makes 12 cups

4 cups cooked butternut squash
3 cups cooked acorn squash
1.5 cups cooked sweet potato squash
1 cup cooked buttercup squash
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp chopped garlic
2 cups skim milk
6 cups chicken stock
2 tsp paprika
1.5 tsp chilli powder
1.5 tsp freshly ground pepper
1.5 tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup water (optional)

Preparation:
If you are making this soup from scratch here are the directions:

Butternut squash: wash, peel, seed it and cut into cubes. Microwave for 10 minutes till soft.
Acorn squash: wash, cut it half, seed it and place it in a microwavable dish and microwave for 10 minutes till soft. When cooked, scoop out the filling and discard the skin. 
Sweet potato squash: wash, peel, seed it and cut into cubes. Microwave for 10 minutes till soft
Buttercup squash: wash, cut in half, seed it and place it in a microwavable dish and microwave for 15 minutes till soft. When cooked scoop out the filling and discard the skin. 

Peel, wash and chop the onion. Set aside. Peel and chop the garlic. Set aside. In a Dutch oven, over high heat, pour the ¼ cup olive oil. Add the chopped onion, garlic and sweat it till the onion is transparent, but not burned.   Add the cooked squashes and the milk. Lower the heat. With a hand held food blender, smash the squashes into a creamy texture. Add the chicken stock, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper. Turn the heat up to medium high and heat through. If it becomes too thick add a cup of water. Heat through. Remove from heat. Add the chopped parsley, stir, and serve.  

Notes:
1) You can substitute any of the squashes with sweet potato, carrots, parsnips, or pumpkin.
2) If you don’t want to make the soup from scratch, you can buy canned/cooked squash.
3) It freezes wonderfully for any leftovers you might have. 
4) You can also cut the recipe in half. The above ingredients make 12 cups. 



Nutrition Facts  Serving Size 1 serving (254.3 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 105
Calories from Fat 37
Total Fat 4.1g
Saturated Fat 0.6g
Cholesterol 1mg
Sodium 604mg
Total Carbohydrates 16.4g
Dietary Fiber 2.5g
Sugars 5.1g
Protein 2.9g

Salmon with Lemon Artichoke and Capers Sauce

Salmon is such a great fish which is a shame to actually cover it with any type of sauces.  But I got tired of eating grilled salmon all the time so I thought I'd try it with this lemon caper sauce that I sort of came up with a few years ago.  Back then, I used flour.  More like a basic white sauce but with lemon juice.  Over the years, I experimented making it with cornstarch, which takes a lot less time for the sauce to thicken than making it with flour.  It's a great sauce to pour over grilled chicken or any other type of fish.  Another time I baked some tilapia fillets in the same sauce in the oven, but without the cornstarch.  That recipe  in another Greek Fusion Cuisine Blog post.  This is a quick and easy recipe to make if you are crunched for time, or to make on a weekday after work.  Within an hour I had dinner on the table. 


Makes approximately 6-8 servings depending on how big you want your serving. 6 servings are approximately 8 oz each. The Nutritional information below is for 6 servings at approximately 8oz each.

1.5 lbs salmon fillet
 2 tbsp olive oil
4-5 lemon slices

Preheat oven to 500° F. (Broil) Put a grill pan – big enough to fit the salmon fillet- in the oven to get hot. When hot remove from the oven and brush with the one-tablespoon olive oil. 



 In the meantime, wash and pat dry the salmon. Put the salmon, skin side down on the pan and brush with the remaining olive oil.  Top the salmon with the lemon slices. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the pan back in the oven and broil for 8-10 minutes.  

Lemon Caper sauce with Artichoke hearts
¾ cup chicken stock
¼ cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
2 cups artichoke hearts quartered (from a jar will do fine)
1 tbsp cornstarch
¼ cup water
1.5 tbsp butter
2 tsp capers
Salt and pepper to taste

In a sauce-pan add the chicken stock, lemon juice and artichoke hearts. Heat through. Dilute the cornstarch in the ¼ cup water and add to the sauce stirring till slightly thickened. Turn the heat off. Add the butter and stir till the butter is melted.  Add the capers.   Remove the salmon from the grill pan and place in a serving platter.  Pour the lemon-artichoke-caper sauce on top.  Serve over hot rice   


 Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
1 serving (255.1 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 345
Total Fat 21.8g
Saturated Fat 5.4g
Cholesterol 79mg
Sodium 285mg
Total Carbohydrates 10.6g
Dietary Fiber 4.3g
Sugars 1.2g
Protein 27.8g

Ground Turkey Meatballs


Fried meatballs, French fries, fried banana peppers and even fried zucchini and fried eggplant were typical Saturday dinner foods while I was growing up in Greece. Saturday was the day that my mother used to do all the groceries (which is still very common there; everything is closed on Sundays in Greece, even now). Her day was packed from early in the morning till around 2:00 in the afternoon. She had to go to the baker for fresh bread to last till Monday; the butcher for meat to have for the weekend, the grocer to get milk and condiments, and the market for veggies. By the time she was all done it was time for everyone to gather for the mid- afternoon meal which was around 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon.

I used to go to school on Saturdays too. School there was 6 days – not 5 as it is here. (I am not sure, but I think now it is only 5 days). So when I‘d come home from school, my task was to help my mother with the food preparation and cooking. I used to love Saturday afternoons. All of us gathered in the house, no matter what the weather. Since these types of foods were mostly cooked in the summer, I remember the hot summer days, with all the doors and windows open, listening to the cicadas while most people were taking their afternoon siesta. The quietness of the summer heat, that you did not only feel but could hear… and yet our house was lively with conversation and recapping the week’s events. I loved those Saturdays and still remember them and cherish them. 

As for the meatball recipe, it is my mother’s recipe. She never used a cookbook or followed a recipe. She would just whip them up, and voila, we had tasty meatballs, that were practically gone by the time we all sat down to eat. And then, she would make more. The only difference with this recipe is that I use ground turkey instead of ground beef. I find ground turkey healthier and lighter on the stomach than ground beef. 

Enjoy!


Ground Turkey meatballs
Makes about 29-30 meatballs (about 1.5 oz each)

½ cup grated onion

¼ tsp crushed garlic

1.5 lbs ground turkey

1 cup dried bread crumbs

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper
½ tsp dried oregano
 
½ cup of olive oil for frying

Peel and wash the onion. With a cheese grater, grate the onion and set aside. Crush the garlic in a garlic press. Set aside. In a bowl, mix together the ground turkey, the crushed garlic, grated onion, the bread crumbs, the salt, pepper and oregano. Mix well together till all the ingredients are completely incorporated. Shape into 2” meatballs. In a frying pan, heat the ½ cup of olive oil, but not burning hot. Add the meatballs one at a time and fry till golden brown. You can omit this step and instead, place the meatballs in a cookie sheet and bake them in a preheated oven at 400° F for about ½ hour. Remove from the oven. 

You can either have the meatballs as appetizers or you can incorporate them in the marinara sauce, on my previous post, and serve over hot spaghetti. Take about 4 cups of the marinara sauce, add the meatballs, bring to a slow simmer till heated through, and remove from heat.


Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1.129 oz (32g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 97
Calories from Fat 59
Total Fat 6.5g
Saturated Fat 1.3g
Cholesterol 23mg
Sodium 90mg
Total Carbohydrates 2.8g
Dietary Fiber 0.2g
Sugars 0.3g
Protein 6.7g

 






Marinara Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes

Makes 7 cups

3 cups diced cooking onions

16 cups crushed fresh tomatoes

3 cloves garlic (about 3 tsp) crushed

1 cup olive oil

2 tbsp fresh Greek oregano

2 tsp salt

2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Pinch of sugar

Wash and clean the tomatoes. Place them in a food processor and grind. In a large pot over high heat, add the olive oil, the crushed garlic and the diced onions.  Sauté till transparent.  Add the crushed tomatoes, the fresh Greek oregano (if you don’t have Greek oregano, any type of dried oregano will do), salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar. The sugar will take the acidity of the tomatoes away. Let it all come to a boil stirring constantly. Then lower the heat to simmer and let it cook till the sauce reduces to about half the size. That will take a couple of hours.

Since tomatoes retain a lot of water, I would suggest that you don’t cover the pot while simmering the sauce. Condensation will build up and the sauce will end up being watery instead of thick and creamy-like. It freezes well, and can also be used for homemade pizzas, or dip fresh bread in it.  Another note: if you don't have fresh tomatoes you can use can of crushed tomatoes.  It will work the same way, as the fresh ones.  I used to make this sauce with canned crushed tomatoes also.    

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 8.106 oz (229.8g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 176
Calories from Fat 92
Total Fat 10.2g
Saturated Fat 1.5g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 617mg
Total Carbohydrates 18.2g
Dietary Fiber 7.0g
Sugars 12.0g
Protein 5.1g


 
It has been a long time since I published anything on my Greek Fusion Cuisine blog.  But it’s been a busy and yet wonderful summer.  Not that I didn’t cook or barbeque.  I did plenty of those.  But we had such wonderful weather, that I didn’t want to be inside in front of a computer.  And, truly, I haven’t forgotten you, dear followers. 

Our summer this year was amazing.  I don’t ever remember a summer in Michigan this beautiful since I moved here many years ago.  This year I was not able to go to Greece and enjoy the beautiful weather there.  But I think the Greek summer came here to visit me.  The weather was warm, it reached to 104 degrees (F)on some days, and the sky was clear and blue.  The only thing that I was missing in my back yard was the Mediterranean  Sea. 
This year my husband decided to plant a garden in our back yard.  We had an abundance of zucchinis, squashes, banana peppers, grape tomatoes and tomatoes.  He also planted some jalapeno peppers, which I don’t eat.  I find them too hot for me.  I was going to try to make a jalapeno dip with Greek yogurt, but it didn’t happen (stay tuned for that recipe; I’m sure I’m going to try to make it one of these days).  As you can see from the pictures the zucchinis grew quite large which I ended up making zucchini moussaka with them (that recipe on one of my next posts).  And as for the banana peppers I washed them, pricked them with a fork and barbequed them.  Then drizzled some olive oil and red wine vinegar on them and ate them as a side dish.  This type of dish is very common in Greece in the summer.  My mother used to fry them all the time.  This type of food was a staple on our table every Saturday during the summer months. 

For fruits we ended up eating plenty of strawberries and blueberries with which I made a mixed berry sauce that I used on top of ice cream or some plain Greek yogurt (I prefer the Fage yogurt).  The berry sauce stays well in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.  But it didn’t last that long in my household. 
Here is a first tease with the mixed berry sauce recipe to entice your appetite.  Stay tuned for more recipes.    
Our garden crop
 
 
Some funny shaped strawberries that I bought.


 

Mixed Berry Sauce

5 cups mixed berries (I used strawberries and blueberries)
 7 tbsp sugar

 Wash and clean the berries. In a deep saucepan, add the berries and the sugar. Turn the heat on. With a potato masher, mash the berries. Let the berries and sugar cook while stirring constantly with a spoon. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer while stirring constantly. Let it cook for another 15 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. If it doesn’t look that thick in the beginning, don’t worry. As you let it sit, and it cools it will thicken.  

Once cooled pour into jars and refrigerate. It will last up to 3 months. Use to top ice cream or plain yogurt, or use it as spread for toast. It goes quite well on French toast or use as a topping for cheese cake.   

Makes about 20 servings of 2 tbsp per serving 




Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1.355 oz (38.4g)
 Amount Per Serving
 Calories 35
 Calories from Fat 1
 Total Fat 0.1g
 Saturated Fat 0.0g
 Trans Fat 0.0g
 Cholesterol 0mg
 Sodium 0mg
 Total Carbohydrates 8.7g
 Dietary Fiber 1.3g
 Sugars 6.9g
 Protein 0.2g
 Vitamin A 1%
 Vitamin C 13%
 Calcium 0%
Iron 1%




 

Orzo with arugula and dried cranberries


This is a nice summer dish that can accompany any meat.  You can substitute the arugula with spinach.  I tried it, and it tastes good both ways.  Before serving I sprinkled the salad with sliced roasted almonds that you can get at any grocery store.  You can even serve it warm in the winter time.  

Enjoy!!!


Makes 6 servings (The nutritional information below is for 2 oz of dry orzo. For some reason the website that I put in the ingredients it only takes the orzo as a dry ingredient. 2oz of dry orzo is about 6oz of boiled orzo).

1 cup dry orzo
1 cup chopped arugula
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 tbs diced shallot
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 oz Pecorino Romano shaved cheese
½ cup toasted walnuts or sliced almonds (optional)

Boil the orzo according to the package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside. Wash and pat dry and chop the arugula. Add to the orzo. Dice the shallot and the parsley and add to the orzo. Add the olive oil, the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, the dried cranberries and the shaved Pecorino Romano cheese. Toss together and refrigerate till it’s time to serve. You can add ½ cup toasted walnuts or sliced almonds.



Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 2.053 oz (58.2g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 210
Calories from Fat 97
Total Fat 10.8g
Saturated Fat 2.1g
Cholesterol 5mg
Sodium 253mg
Total Carbohydrates 22.9g
Dietary Fiber 1.5g
Sugars 1.9g
Protein 5.3g


Lamb and Chicken Kabobs

Last Sunday was Father's day and my daughter's birthday.  For the occasion I decided to make lamb and chicken kabobs.  Lamb and chicken kabobs are very traditional dishes in Greece.  Souvlatzidiko or shish kabob place, as they are called in Greece, are in almost every corner of the cities and towns over there.

Every year, when we'd go back to visit, the shish kabob place was the first place we'd visit as soon as we'd set our foot there.  I always told my mother not to bother to cook for us, the day we arrived, because we'd get shish kabob or gyro for dinner.  The shish kabobs and gyros in Greece are served on a hot pita bread, and smothered with onions, tomatoes, tzatziki sauce, a mixture of spices like thyme, oregano, salt and pepper, all rolled together and wrapped up half way in aluminum foil, so that you can eat it as a sandwich.  The shish kabobs and gyros are also served with french fries.  And their fries are to die for.  I haven't been able to recreate the flavor of the fries over here to taste the same as over there.  I'm trying though.  Yesterday, we attended our OPA Fest at our Greek Church, and this is what I have always forgotten to do: sprinkle the french fries with - a mixture of oregano, thyme, and salt and pepper.  I will have to remember that, the next time I make them.

In the meantime, I have mastered the taste of shish kabob.  Here are the recipes for both chicken and lamb kabobs. The ingredients are pretty much the same, depending on the amount of meat you use. The portions are quite large.  Don't let the calories scare you away from making it.  And besides, you are not eating chicken or lamb kabobs every day.  

Lamb Kabobs

Makes ten 12” skewers. Approximately 8 oz each

4.5 lbs boneless leg of lamb cut up into 2” cubes

¼ cup lemon juice

½ cup olive oil

2 tsp thyme

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp fresh crushed garlic

1 tsp ground pepper

½ tsp salt

Wash and pat dry the lamb. Remove any excess fat. Cut it up into 2” cubes and place in a large bowl or large pan. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, thyme, oregano, the crushed garlic and salt and pepper. Mix it all together till all the pieces are coated with the lemon/olive oil marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

With the marinade

When ready to grill, skewer them into 12” inch skewers.
Skewered - before they go on the grill 

Heat the BBQ grill to as hot as it will get. Place the skewered kabobs on the hot grill. Grill for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally so that they won’t burn. You don’t want to overcook them as the meat will continue cooking while resting. Serve. Enjoy.


Ready from the grill



Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 serving (222.3 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 479
Calories from Fat 232
Total Fat 25.8g
Saturated Fat 6.9g
Cholesterol 184mg
Sodium 272mg
Total Carbohydrates 1.1g
Dietary Fiber 0.3g
Sugars 0.2g
Protein 57.4g



Chicken Kabobs                              

Makes eight 12” skewers approximately 9 oz each

4 lbs chicken breasts cut into 2” cubes
¼ cup lemon juice or the juice of one lemon
½ cup olive oil
1 tsp fresh crushed garlic
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp fresh oregano*
½ tsp salt

Wash, clean, and pat dry the chicken breasts.  Cut them into 2” cubes and place them in a bowl or a large pan.  Add the lemon juice, olive oil, the crushed garlic, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper.  Mix them all together, till they are all coated with the marinade.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple or hours.
Marinaded chicken 

When ready to grill, skewer them on a 12” skewer. 
Skewered chicken

Heat the grill.  Place the skewered chicken kabobs on the hot grill and grill for 20 minutes turning occasionally so that they won’t burn.  When ready remove from heat and let them stand for a few minutes before serving.  The meat, as with any meat will continue cooking even when removed from heat.  Serve.  Enjoy.
 Hot off the grill


Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 8.805 oz (249.6g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories                                                           498
Calories from Fat                                            195
Total Fat                                                          21.7g
Saturated Fat                                                  4.2g
Cholesterol                                                      193mg
Sodium                                                            316mg
Total Carbohydrates                                       1.4g
Dietary Fiber                                                   0.4g
Sugars                                                             0.2g
Protein                                                             70.5g

* For the chicken kabobs I used fresh oregano right out of my husband's garden, chopped fine.  But you can use dry oregano.  It will work just fine.





Meatloaf stuffed with hard boiled eggs

This is another dish that my mother used to make as a Sunday meal.  It's a nice alternative to plain meatloaf.  You can serve it either with rice (my mother used to make rice with it, or french fries) or mashed potatoes.  I prefer it with mashed potatoes and a bit of gravy from the pan drippings on the side.  Enjoy!!!


Makes 8 servings (approximately 5oz each serving = 2” slice)

1.5lbs ground turkey

½ cup shredded onion

1 tsp shredded garlic (about 2 small cloves)

½ cup chopped parsley

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

¼ cup bread crumbs

4 hard-boiled eggs

Before baking:

¼ cup olive oil

Pinch of salt and pepper

Turn on the stove and boil 4 eggs in water for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat off. Leave the eggs in the hot water till you are ready to use them.

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees Farhenheit.

Peel and wash the onion. Shred it in a cheese grater. Set aside. Peel and shred the garlic or press through a garlic press. Set aside. Clean, wash and fine-chop the parsley. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the ground turkey, the shredded onion, the shredded garlic and chopped parsley. Add the breadcrumbs to hold everything together. Add the salt and pepper. Mix together till all the ingredients are well incorporated. 
  Meatloaf mixture

Cut a large piece of wax paper and set on the counter. This is where you are going to roll out the ground turkey mixture. Take the ground turkey mixture and flatten it with your hands in a rectangle, about ½ inch thick.
Meatloaf mixture flattened

 In the meantime clean the eggs. Take one egg at a time and lay in the middle of the ground turkey mixture. Take the edges of the wax paper and roll up till you have the eggs covered with the ground turkey mixture. 

Roll all the way till the eggs are completely covered and press together to seal the eggs inside the ground turkey mixture.  Tuck the ends under. Place in an oven proof pan. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and drizzle it with the olive oil.

Cover with aluminum foil. 

Bake at 350 degree oven for one and a half hour. Towards the end uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes, till golden brown. Serve with mashed potatoes and gravy from the pan drippings. 
Enjoy!!!

 

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 4.568oz(129.5g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 310
Calories from Fat 184
Total Fat 20.4g
Saturated Fat 4.5g
Cholesterol 180mg
Sodium 440mg
Total Carbohydrates 3.8g
Dietary Fiber 0.5g
Sugars 0.7g
Protein 26.7g

Traditional Greek dishes for March 25th Celebration



This past Sunday, March 25, Greece and Greeks all over the world celebrated Greek Independence Day. March 25th 1821 marks the day when Greeks declared their independence from the Ottoman Turks after being under their rule for 400 years. On this day, Greece and the Greek communities all over the world also celebrate the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. On March 25th, Greek students parade in their traditional Greek costumes (the boys dressed in the skirt outfits with the 400 pleats that symbolize the 400 years under the Ottoman rule, and the girls dressed in traditional folklore costumes). This is a big celebration in Greece and on this day every Greek is very proud to be called Greek.

This time of the year, in Greece, is also a very nice time. With the flowers and the almond trees blooming, everyone is in their celebratory spirit. As with any Greek holiday, Greeks are very much into good food and drink. On this day there are a couple of special dishes that Greeks prepare. As you will see on my post I, too, made the traditional dishes that are expected to be eaten on March 25th.

Greek Garlic and Bread Dip - Skordalia

Served with Fried Cod

On this dip I went a little bit too far with the garlic. I love garlic and the amount I put in the recipe, that’s what you should use. But I had an extra clove peeled and couldn’t resist but put it in there. When my husband walked in the house from outside, the smell of garlic overwhelmed him. But despite all that the dip came out to taste delicious.

Greek Fried Potato Salad


The Greek potato salad is always prepared with boiled potatoes that you let cool and then add the olive oil, lemon juice, chopped parsley and chopped green onions. I went a bit far this time and wanted to fry the potatoes after I boiled them. The crispness on the outside and the tender, mushiness of the boiled potato inside, gave it a bit of texture and more taste.

Fried Cod in Beer Batter

Batter for cod

Thanks to my sister in law, in Greece, who told me to put beer in the batter. She also suggested that I put a bit ouzo in there too, to give it an extra flavor. But I decided against it. I didn’t want to be drunk after dinner. It’s enough I had to finish the rest of the beer, that I didn’t use in the batter.

Cooking these dishes

These dishes make quite a mess in the kitchen. Be prepared to wash down your stove, back splash and maybe your floors. It’s much easier to go out and buy fish and chips or even go to a restaurant and enjoy them there. But where is the fun in dirting so many pots and pans and having to clean them up after? (I’m joking here). All joking aside, and besides all the mess I a made, and the fact that oil splattered on my clothes, my hands, and I needed to take a shower after, because I smelled like I came out of the kitchen of a greasy greek restaurant joint, where you hear the waiters shouting "cheeburger, cheeburger" (remember John Belushi on Saturday Night Live), these dishes came out delicious. My husband would have been happy with just spaghetti and plain marinara sauce from a jar. But I had to go all the way and make these dishes. After all they did turn out to be delicious tasting. And if you ask me if I would do it again, yes I would, next year this time or on Greek Palm Sunday when Greeks eat this type of meal again.

Enjoy!!!



Fried Cod in Beer Batter



Makes six servings (about 6 oz each)

1.3 lbs cod fillets

Beer Batter

¾ cup flour

¾ cup beer

2 tsp fresh dill finely chopped

2 tsp fresh parsley finely chopped

½ cup canola oil for frying

Salt and pepper to taste (you can add the salt and pepper in the batter. I don’t put much salt on this dish, since fish to begin with is salty).

Rinse the cod fillets and pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside.

In a bowl and with a whisk, mix together the flour, the beer, the fresh dill and the fresh parsley. Mix well, so there are no lumps.

In a non-stick frying pan, add the ½-cup canola oil. Let it heat through, but not too hot. Coat the cod fillets with the beer batter, and drop carefully in the hot oil. When the fillets crisp on the outside, lower the heat and let the fillets cook for a couple more minutes. Make sure that the oil is not too hot, as the batter will burn and the fish will not cook inside. If unsure, take a piece out of the frying pan and cut it with a fork. If it’s flaky, then the fish is cooked. If not, put it back in the frying pan and let it cook a little longer. The cooking time depends on how big the cod fillets are. If the fillets are small then the cooking will take less time, if big it will need more time to cook through.

When all the fillets are fried, place them in a platter lined with a paper towel to absorb the extra oil. When ready to serve, remove the paper towel or place them in another platter, drizzle some fresh squeezed lemon juice and serve with lemon wedges.



Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 5.732 oz (162.5g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 334
Calories from Fat 173
Total Fat 19.2g
Saturated Fat 1.5g
Trans Fat 0.1g
Cholesterol 54mg
Sodium 79mg
Total Carbohydrates 13.2g
Dietary Fiber 0.5g
Protein 24.3g

Greek Fried Potato Salad


Makes about six servings (about ½ cup each serving)

4 cups boiled potatoes cut in quarters

¼ cup canola oil for frying

2 tbs chopped parsley

¼ cup chopped green onions

3 tbs olive oil

2 tbs lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste (about ¼ tsp each – all according to taste)

Boil the potatoes in the microwave or over the stove. For this dish I used about six potatoes, mixed sizes. I peel them, wash them, quarter them, and boil them in the microwave for about 20-30 minutes. The potatoes should be firm to the touch, not mushy but also not undercooked.

When the potatoes are boiled, drain them in a strainer and let them cool, while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In a frying pan, add the ¼-cup canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the potatoes, piece by piece, but do not overcrowd the pan. Let them fry until they are golden brown on all sides. Remove from the frying pan and place them in a bowl lined with a paper towel to absorb the extra oil. When all the potatoes are fried, let them cool in the bowl.

When the potatoes are cool to the touch, transfer them in another bowl without the paper towel. Add the chopped parsley, green onions, the 3 tbs olive oil, and the lemon juice, along with salt and pepper. Toss and cover, or serve immediately.





Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 serving (121.9 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 173
Calories from Fat 103
Total Fat 11.5g
Saturated Fat 1.3g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 8mg
Total Carbohydrates 16.5g
Dietary Fiber 2.6g
Sugars 1.4g
Protein 1.8g