Showing posts with label Greek Easter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greek Easter. Show all posts

After Greek Easter holiday customs, traditions and celebrations



This year our Greek Easter was the same time as the Catholic. The holiday is already gone but we don’t stop wishing everyone Christos Anesti (Christ is Risen) and Hronia Polla (meaning = many years) till Holy Pentecost which occurs 50 days after Easter Sunday.

While it feels great when Greek Easter is the same time as the Catholic, it does have its ups and downs. The stores are busier, you can’t find everything you need, and the lines at the checkouts are atrocious. However, I can’t help but feel this exhilaration when our Easter is the same time as the Catholic. The Greek church is full of people during the Greek Holy Week, and especially on our Good Friday (we don’t call it Good Friday; in Greece, and in Greek our Good Friday is called Great and Holy Friday – but that’s for another post).

After we celebrate our Easter Sunday, by stuffing ourselves with lamb (a recipe post for another time), meatballs (link), tzatziki sauce (link), tsourekia and red colored egg, then we try to detox the following few days. In Greece, while life goes on the same way as before the holidays, the good wishes continue till Holy Pentecost. When you meet or call someone you know, or when you enter a store to buy something, you wish them Christos Anesti (Christ is Risen), and they respond with Alithos Anesti (He is truly Risen). Or with the most common wish Hronia Polla (many years).

There are a few holidays after Easter that people celebrate. The Sunday after Easter is the Sunday of Thomas which commemorates the appearance of Jesus to his disciples eight days after his resurrection. When Jesus first appeared to his disciples after His resurrection and said: “Peace be with you”, Thomas was not present and did not believe it. Eight days later, the Sunday after Easter, the disciples gathered again while Thomas was present. That’s when Jesus appeared once more and Thomas believed and said: “My Lord, my God”. Anyone who is named Thomas, or Tom, even the female version of Thomas which is Thomai (pronounced: Tho-ma-eé) celebrates his/her name day on this day. That’s when we wish them “Hronia Polla”.

The other holiday that is celebrated after Easter is St. George’s. It is on April 23rd but if it falls during our Greek Holy Week, the celebratory day is moved to Easter Monday. St. George was a Christian martyr, but he is also depicted in icons as the dragon slayer. Anyone named Georgios (the Greek name for George), George, Georgina, Georgia, will be celebrating their name day. Even though St. George’s day is not a public holiday in Greece, if it’s celebrated on Easter Monday, it’s considered a holiday. This year, St. George’s day falls on Sunday April 23rd, which is also the Sunday of Thomas. There will be many homes in Greece who will be celebrating.

Since my brother was named George, and later on my father in law, I always, in a way, felt St. George’s day as a holiday. I used to send them a card and in later years called them and wished them Hronia Polla.

While I was growing up, my mother made preparations for my brother’s name day. Relatives and friends would come and visit, to wish him Hronia Polla. On many occasions my mother ended up making tsourekia (link) and koulourakia (link) again, since we basically devoured them. Along with tsourekia and koulourakia she’d offer the chocolate sweets that you’d find at the local zaharoplasteio (za-ha-ro-pla-steéo)-sweet shops- that carry everything from chocolate sweets, to beautiful decorated cakes, ice cream, and anything you heart desires. I haven’t found a sweet shop here in the States that’s anything like the sweet shops in Greece.

The next big religious holiday is Holy Pentecost. This is a three day holiday in Greece. Holy Pentecost is celebrated each year on the 50th day after Easter Sunday. Pentecost comes from the Greek word Pentikosti (Pe-nti-ko-steé) which means 50. It’s the day the Holy Spirit appeared to the Apostles while they were gathered around in one room. After the appearance of the Holy Spirit, tongues of fire sat upon each of the Apostles thus giving them the ability to speak in different languages. There are many icons depicting this. And so it begins the teachings of the Gospel and Jesus work as we know it nowadays.

When Holy Pentecost is over, we stop wishing everyone Hronia Polla, or Christos Anesti. The Easter or Pascha (Pa-ska, as it is called in Greek) season is over.

Hronia Polla and Christos Anesti!

Enjoy!



Greek Easter Cookies-Koulourakia Me Lemoni-Butter Lemon Cookies

These are very traditional Greek Easter cookies. They are similar to the ones that I posted before, Koulourkakia Portokaliou-Greek Easter Cookies
but this time I didn't have oranges, since our Easter is in May, so I improvised and used lemon rind. They came out tasting delicious. They are great with coffee and also good after that big Easter meal of lamb and potatoes, and tzatziki, (you will find the post here Smyrneika Soutzoukakia in Domatosaltsa - Sausages from Smyrna in Tomato Sauce and as appetizers with Tzatziki sauce) and Spinach Cheese pie (Spanakotyropita).

Kalo Pascha!

Enjoy!

Ingredients (Makes 36 servings)

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) softened at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tbsp. grated lemon rind
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups white flour
1/4 cup white flour for kneading
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. milk
Sesame seeds (about 2 tbsp.)

Directions

Bring the butter to room temperature. Don’t melt it in the microwave or over the stove. For the butter cookies to come out well and be pliable the butter has to be room temperature.
Shift the flour with the baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.
In in mixer add the butter and the sugar and beat well together till light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Add the lemon rind and vanilla and beat well. Slowly add the flour, and beat well. The dough should be pliable in your hands. Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a clean surface. Sprinkle some of the ¼ cup flour on your hands and the kneading surface and knead the dough adding flour as needed till it doesn’t stick to your hands. Refrigerate for 30 minutes for the dough to rest. Cut a small piece of the dough and roll it out with your hands into a long rope. Twist the dough by bending it at the half point and bring the one end over the other until it forms a twist. Place them in a greased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Brush them with the beaten milk/egg yolk mixture and sprinkle them with sesame seeds.
Bake at 375 degree oven for 20 minutes till golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool. You can put them in an airtight container to keep them soft and crumbly. They can last up to 3 months.

Note: you can shape these cookies into any shape you like. Rounds, ovals or twists. Twists are very common shapes in Greek Cookies.

Nutrition FactsServing Size 1 serving (34.8 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 138
Calories from Fat 51
Total Fat 5.7g
Saturated Fat 3.4g
Cholesterol 33mg
Sodium 42mg
Potassium 66mg
Total Carbohydrates 19.9g
Dietary Fiber 0.4g
Sugars 8.4g
Protein 2.1g




Tsourekia-Greek Easter Bread


Happy Greek Easter - Kalo Pascha!

Easter in Greece is beautiful. There have been a few times that I was able to go back and celebrate Easter in Greece besides the times when I was growing up. The flowers are blooming, the weather is warm, and the trees have leaves on, unlike here in the the Midwest, in the middle of April. Greek Easter is one of the biggest holidays in Greece besides Christmas. The preparations start early, as soon as Lent begins. Homes are cleaned, they might even get a fresh coat of paint, the winter rugs are removed and replaced with spring/summer area rugs. Homes are decorated beautifully, not with Easter eggs and wreaths as they do here, but with embroidered doilies that depict spring and flowers.

During the beginning of the Greek Holy week the final touches of cleaning are put to the homes, and then the baking begins. We make koulourakia-Koulourkakia Portokaliou-Greek Easter Cookies to have and offer to visitors with coffee. Then there is the traditional Greek Easter bread. That can be made ahead of time as it takes a full day to make it (of course it all depends how many loaves you want to make). Or you can start making it on Holly Thursday so that you will be able to place a hard boiled red dyed egg on the bread before baking it.

Holly Thursday is the day that we color our eggs. The Greek traditional way of coloring eggs is with a dark red dye that it is quite difficult to find here. You will have to either find it at a Greek market that sells it or have someone from Greece to mail it to you. A few times that I went back to Greece I was able to purchase some and bring it back with me. But if you travel to Greece after Easter it will be very difficult to find it since it is sold out for Easter.

Over the years I tried different food dyes to color my eggs. I finally settled for the liquid red food coloring - the ones that are about 1fl oz each - and use about 4 of those bottles along with 5 cups of lukewarm water mixed with 1/2 cup of vinegar. I lay about 20 eggs inside a large dutch oven and pour the colored water over the eggs. I let them boil for about 10 minutes and remove the pot from the heat. Once they are a bit cool I remove them with a spatula and rub them with olive oil for shine.

The Greek Easter bread is sweet and delicious. This recipe is a combination of my mother's recipe with my own touches by adding cardamon, crushed anise seeds, vanilla, orange and lemon zest. This bread makes excellent toast spread with butter or jam, and even makes excellent french toast. But it tastes so good alone that there is not enough left for toast or even french toast. Enjoy! Happy Greek Easter or as we say in Greek Kalo Pascha.

Greek Easter Bread - Tsourekia (Tsoo-re-kia)

Calories C- 1165 for a 12 oz loaf; 95 calories for 1oz slice

Ingredients
Makes 8-12oz loaves

8 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup flour for kneading
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups skim milk
3 packages dry yeast
1 2/3 cups butter
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. Cardamon
1 tsp. crushed anise seeds
1 heaping tbsp. of orange zest (zest of one large orange)
1 heaping tbsp. of lemon zest (zest of one large lemon, like a Meijer lemon)
1 tsp. vanilla
5 eggs

Egg wash
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp. milk
½ cup sliced raw almonds

Directions

Sift the 8 cups flour with the salt and set aside. Grate the lemon and orange zest and set aside. In a mortar and pestle crush the anise seeds and set aside.

Warm the 1.5 cups skim milk in the microwave (do not boil it; just bring it to lukewarm temperature-about a minute in the microwave). In a large bowl, combine the 3 packages of dry yeast with the lukewarm milk, 1/2 cup of the flour/salt mixture and 1 tbsp. of sugar.  Mix well. Cover tightly with saran wrap and a thick towel and let it rise for about 1/2 hour in a warm place.

In the meantime, melt the butter in the microwave. In another bowl break the eggs and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter with the sugar, the orange, lemon zest, the cardamon, the crushed anise seeds and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well together. You can use a handheld mixer for this. Add the yeast mixture that has already risen and blend well together. Gradually add the flour as you mix. The mixture will begin to thicken. From the extra 1 cup of flour, flour a clean surface with a little bit of the flour and pour the dough on it. Start kneading adding the extra flour gradually, until the dough no longer sticks to your hands or the surface. Place the well-kneaded dough in a large bowl, cover tightly with saran wrap, and towels and place it in a warm place to rise for about 2-3 hours until double the size. The warmer the place the quicker the dough will rise.

When the dough has risen, cut it in 4 pieces.  Take one quarter of the dough while you keep the rest of the dough covered and cut it in half.  Take the half dough and cut it in 3 equal pieces.  Roll out each piece into a long strip and braid it together.  Place it in a well-buttered cookie sheet.  Continue with the rest of the dough until all dough is done. Place the braids about 4-5" apart (they will rise) and cover them tightly with saran wrap and towels. Let them rise for a couple of hours until about double the size. (They will also rise in the oven while baking).

When they are ready for the oven, beat the 2 egg yolks with the 3 tbsp. milk. Brush the braids with the egg wash and sprinkle with the sliced raw almonds. If desired place a hard boiled colored (preferably red) on the one end of the braid.

Bake at 350° F. for about 40 min until browned.  Remove from the oven and let them cool before cutting. Place them in plastic bags and refrigerate. They can also be frozen. They will last up to 6 months.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 serving (346.5g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 1162
Calories from Fat 422
Total Fat 46.9g
Saturated Fat 26.1g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 258mg
Sodium 492mg
Potassium 382mg
Total Carbohydrates 165.0g
Dietary Fiber 5.3g
Sugars 55.0g
Protein 23.1g


The dough

The braids before they go in the oven

The final product.  Enjoy!





Koulourkakia Portokaliou-Greek Easter Cookies


Koulourakia Portokaliou - Greek Easter cookies

These cookies are a very traditional treat for Greek Easter. But they are also good for any other occasion or even year round. In Greece while I was growing up, these cookies were only made during Easter to be eaten on Greek Easter Sunday and for the next 50 days until Holy Pentecost. Nowadays, the bakeries in Greece, sell these cookies year round and the locals buy them to offer them to company with an afternoon coffee.

I used to have these cookies for breakfast, dipping them in my milk, while I was growing up in Greece. They usually went quite fast. All of us in my family loved these cookies, and on occasion, my mother would have to bake another batch to offer to visitors while they came over for coffee.

I continue this tradition in my family as much as I can, making them during Greek Easter. They last for about 3 months, but in most cases, they are gone before the time is up. They are called Koulourakia portokaliou (pronounced = koo-loo-rάhk-yah por-toh-kahl-yoo) =  cookies with orange.

Enjoy!


Makes 82 servings (approximately 0.5oz each)

½ lbs. butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp. grated orange peel
¼.cup orange juice
1 tbsp. baking powder
4 ¼ cups flour (keep the ¼ cup for kneading)
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. water
¼ cup slivered, raw almonds chopped

Bring the butter at room temperature. Don't melt it in the microwave or over the stove. For the cookies to come out well and be pliable, the butter needs to be at room temperature.

Save ¼ cup of the flour for kneading the dough later. Sift the rest of the flour with the baking powder.

In a stand-alone mixer, beat together the butter with the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well together. Add the orange rind and the orange juice. Beat well together. Add the flour and beat well. The dough will be a bit sticky. Remove it from the bowl and flour a clean surface with a little bit of the ¼ cup flour. Knead the dough with the remaining flour until the dough doesn't stick to your hands. Place the dough in a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Butter the cookie sheets with the 2 tbsp. butter. When the dough is cool, take about 1 inch balls with your fingers, and roll it out into a strand, fold it in half and twist it. Continue until all the dough is done. Mix together the egg yolk and water and brush the cookies. Sprinkle with the chopped almonds. Bake at 375 degree oven for 20 minutes until lightly browned. Cool and store in an airtight container. They can last up to 3 months.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 serving (16.0 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 63
Calories from Fat 27
Total Fat 3.0g
Saturated Fat 1.7g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 15mg
Sodium 21mg
Potassium 32mg
Total Carbohydrates 8.3g
Dietary Fiber 0.2g
Sugars 3.2g
Protein 1.0g





Lentil Soup

While I was growing up in Greece, my mother prepared meatless dishes during the week and made dishes with chicken, pork or beef tenderloin on a Sunday. Sunday was a special meal. The whole family looked forward to it. We all gathered around the table, to enjoy any type of meat with some kind of vegetable or starch, that my mother had prepared (like the roasted chicken with potatoes - Roasted Chicken with Potatoes in the oven) one of my first posts. Living in the US, I’m trying to incorporate that same principle that my mother had, by trying to cook meatless dishes during the week, and enjoying meat on a Sunday. Sometimes I accomplish that, but other times it’s quite difficult.

Lentil soup is a common dish to prepare during Lent. This year, Greek Easter falls on May 5th thus our Lent period is still on. It began on March 18th and it will last till our Easter Sunday which is seven weeks from March 18th. Our Easter follows the Julian calendar and should not coincide with Easter of other faiths. During Lent, strict food restrictions apply. According to our Greek Orthodox customs, meat, fish or poultry is forbidden to eat (except crustaceans) even dairy and olive oil. The only two days that we are allowed to eat fish is March 25th (Fried Cod in Beer Batter) when we celebrate our Greek Independence Day and the Annunciation of Virgin Mary (or Evangelismos of Theotokos - pronounced: E-van-geh-lee-zmos of Thee-ott-oh-kos), and on Pam Sunday.

Living away from the Mother country is always difficult to establish these rules. As hard as I try, there are days that I will have to skip the tradition and end up cooking a dish with meat. Lentil soup is easy and fast to make, and since my family likes it, I cook it often during Lent.

Enjoy!!!

Makes 8 servings (approximately 15 oz each or 2 cups per serving)

½ cup olive oil
¾ cup chopped onion
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 ¼ cup sliced carrots
1 lbs lentils (16 oz)
8 cups water
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
15 oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cumin
2 tbsp chopped parsley
4 bay leaves

Wash the lentils and remove and foreign objects, like tiny rocks that might have escaped into the package. Set aside.

In a Dutch oven, over high heat, pour the ½ cup olive oil. Add the chopped onions and garlic. Sauté till transparent. Add the sliced carrots and the lentils. Add the tomato sauce, the diced tomatoes,salt, cumin, chopped parsley, bay leaves and the 8 cups of water. Let it come to a boil, lower the heat and let it simmer for one hour. Remove from heat. Before serving remove the bay leaves.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
15.613 oz (442.6g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 344
Calories from fat 122
Total Fat 13.5g
Saturated Fat 1.9g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 596mg
Total Carbohydrates 42.1g
Dietary Fiber 19.4g
Sugars 6.1g
Protein 16.2g