Week of Greek: Halva (Semolina Sweet)

For our last course in our delicious Greek meal, I offer you these cute little halva cakes. Now, there can be some confusion as the name halva, or halawe, can also be used to describe an Arabic dessert made with tahini paste. It is altogether different! In this case, I’m talking about the Greek sweet made with fried semolina. There’s no baking for this dessert, it’s all done on the stovetop.

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I had a lot of fun with this one, not only making it, but serving it along side the bottle of ouzo my brother and I picked up in Greece – and those shot glasses are also from our trip! They gray ones are a beautiful reminder of our time on Tinos, a little island known for its marble resources (among other things).

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When the semolina mixture has cooled, you can press it into a fancy bundt pan, or cupcake tin, or pretty much anything it won’t stick to. I went with the cupcake tin because it makes the perfect individual serving size.

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The little cakes are soft, sticky and sweet, with plenty of cinnamon. The raw walnuts offset the sweetness just a little.

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Nearly every restaurant in Greece provided a drink and something sweet at the end of the meal, free of charge. Sometimes it was as simple as fruit and a shot of raki, other times a pastry or ice cream and maybe a glass of wine. I think those Greeks are on to something, it’s the perfect ending to a meal – although halva with coffee would also be a wonderful way to begin the day, if you ask me.

Halva
1 C oil or melted margarine
2 C semolina
1 tsp cinnamon (or to taste)
2 1/2 C sugar (or less, to taste)
4 C water
optional: raw walnuts*

Put water and sugar together in a pot and boil for 10 – 15 minutes. Meanwhile in a large pan, combine oil and semolina and cook at medium high heat stirring continuously until the semolina has browned. Stir in cinnamon. Now very carefully add syrup to semolina – it will really start to bubble and steam up! I added mine slowly, stirring it in a little at a time. Continue to stir, and cook at medium heat another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the semolina becomes very thick. Remove from heat. Once cooled, press the semolina into a bundt pan or cupcake tin. Unmold the halva and, if desired, top with finely chopped walnuts.

Makes 10 – 12 cupcake-sized servings

*I soaked my walnuts for a few hours, then drained them and sprinkled them with just a touch of sugar and a shake or two of cinnamon before garnishing the halva. You can also just use plain old chopped walnuts, or press one whole walnut or pecan into the top of the halva for a simple embellishment.

Although this is [probably] my last recipe for Greek Week, please stay tuned to my facebook page where I will share one more recipe from my co-hosts, 2 Broke Vegans. Tomorrow I will also provide you with a list of Greek brands to be on the look out for during your Greek cooking adventures! And please, if you are feeling charitable, consider giving a gift to the people of Greece through International Orthodox Christian Charities. Thanks to the Jaharis Family Foundation, each dollar you donate will be matched.

Taverna on the Water
Now sit back and enjoy the view, sip your ouzo and savor the halva. I’m going to take a stroll along the beach. See you tomorrow!

2015 Lenten Potluck #5: Artoklasia Cake for Annunciation

Yesterday the fast was relaxed for the feast of Annunciation, the day we commemorate “the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would become incarnate and enter into this world through her womb.” Even better, the feast fell on a Wednesday this year, so it’s one of the rare times wine and oil are permitted not only on a weekday during Lent, but on a Wednesday in general. I wanted to take full advantage of that!

A couple years ago I shared the recipe Fr. R and I used for Artoklasia bread, a sweet bread that is blessed and served on certain feast days. But what if…

Artoklasia Cake
3 C flour
1 1/2 C sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp anise seed
3 Tbsp vinegar
3 Tbsp gin*
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 C cold water
1 1/4 C orange juice
1 C margarine, melted or extremely soft

For the soak:
1 1/2 C sweet red wine
1/2 C orange juice
olive oil
confectioners sugar

*I couldn’t find masticha like we used in our bread, so I used gin for the pine taste. By the way, this is actually just another variation on my Lenten Cake recipe, it’s so versatile!

WARNING: This is not to actually be used for an Artoklasia service! Not that your priest would let you get away with that πŸ™‚

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Add first four ingredients to a large bowl and mix with a fork. Make a well in the center, and pour in all wet ingredients. Mix just to combine. This recipe will make one 9×13″ cake or two 8″ round cakes. A large cake takes approximately 45 minutes to bake, smaller cakes about 25 (keep an eye on them and check the center with a toothpick when in doubt). Make sure you grease or line the cake pans.

Allow cake(s) to cool.
Combine 1 1/2 C red wine with 1/2 C orange juice.

Poke holes in the cake – I used a fork. Slowly pour the orange wine mixture all over the cake, giving it time to soak in, and making sure to distribute the liquid evenly between cakes if you made more than one. Chill cake in the fridge for at least half an hour.

When ready to serve, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with confectioners sugar. Serve immediately as the sugar will quickly begin to dissolve.


I meant to bring my little fine mesh strainer to help evenly and beautifully distribute the confectioners sugar over the top of the cake. I forgot it and had to use a wire colander with bigger holes…the confectioners sugar just kind of poured right through it!

The cake will be very soft, you can use an ice cream scoop to serve it.


I’ll tell you a story. I still remember the first time Fr. R made Artoklasia bread for us, it was for the vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil on Holy Saturday morning about six or seven years ago [actually it was EIGHT years ago, I can’t believe it]. There is a bottle of wine and a bottle of olive oil on the analogion with the bread while it’s being blessed (and wheat, in some traditions). In some places they give you a piece of the bread and little cup of wine, we just pour the wine over the bread and sometimes sprinkle it with confectioners sugar. Holy Saturday is a rare oil-free Saturday because we are keeping vigil, awaiting the Resurrection, so we just have a little bread and wine to hold us over. But that first Year of the Artoklasia someone made a mistake and drizzled the bread with olive oil before completely drenching it in wine and then covering it with sugar. The oil free business didn’t even cross my mind at the time – maybe I didn’t know about that then – and I just LOVED that bread.


The next year I was talking to an inquirer at coffee hour. I told her she had to go to the service on Holy Saturday morning because THE BREAD IS SO GOOD. When she walked away my sister wanted to know why, of all things, that was the one thing I thought to tell her about Holy Saturday. It does seem a little silly now, but that bread was good…and it is the inspiration for this cake.

P.S. The inquirer has now been a member of our parish for many years πŸ™‚

Spoonlickers

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A person reading this blog for the first time will probably wonder, “Does she ever actually cook?” I do, I really do!! But just not recently. The past two weeks have been a blur and left me with not much time or energy for cooking, but I still did a TON of eating! So at least if you’re in Grand Rapids you’ll know where to find the good stuff if you’re just not in the mood to cook for yourself.

After making three visits to Furniture City Creamery in one week, the other night Mumra and I decided to stop at Spoonlickers. We were at the Eastown location at 1551 Wealthy Street, but you can find the other locations HERE.

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Like Furniture City Creamery, the flavors at Spoonlickers change every so often.

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They always have at least two vegan flavors. Hooray!

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There are a few places around town with this setup (Pump House and Bloop being the other two I’m aware of). You grab a bowl and fill it with as much ice cream/sorbet/frozen yogurt your little heart desires,

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choose from an assortment of toppings, and then put it on the dreaded scale to find out how much damage you’ve done…

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I went with the Pistachio and Chocolate flavors, with a short squeeze of Pistachio hidden under a big ol’ pile of Chocolate.

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I was happily surprised to see warm vegan chocolate sauce.

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Mine is topped with crushed bits of Nutter Butter cookies, a homemade strawberry sauce, and the warm chocolate sauce. Like a PB&J on steroids, ya know, in a good way.

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Mumra got the same ice cream flavors, simply drizzled with chocolate sauce and sprinkled with pecans. She did say the pecans seemed a little stale – oops!

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It’s kind of a neat place – but it is not goth if that’s what you were thinking, just decorated for Halloween πŸ™‚

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Aaaaaaaand if you wanna take some ice cream home, you can buy it by the pint. And there are vegan flavors available in the pints, too! I didn’t buy any this time, but I hope I’ll get a chance to try the Vegan Blueberry Frozen Yogurt.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I found this recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies and veganized it, and I’ve been told they’re the best cookies I’ve ever made. So I figured I should share the recipe.

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This is my version of the recipe.

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup margarine
Ener-G Egg Replacer or chia egg equivalent to 1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vegan milk sub
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
1/2 cup oat flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
dash of ginger
dash of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 – 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Combine first five ingredients. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk sub and stir in.
In a separate bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, spices & salt. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.
Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop by the spoonful onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for approximately 10 minutes, or until lightly brown and firm.

*Or use 2 C all purpose flour. The second time I made these I used 1 C all-purpose flour and 1 C oat flour, but it changed the texture and, although they still tasted great, they didn’t look as pretty (the ones shown are from the less pretty batch).
Also, these are really great if you let them cool on a rack and then chill them in the fridge. It’s suggested in the original recipe, and it’s a great idea! Also wonderful with a scoop of dairy-free vanilla ice cream on top!

P.S. In the reviews, some people complained the pumpkin cookies weren’t orange enough, so they added food coloring. At first I thought that was a weird problem, but…I do love making my food bright and beautiful. Instead of food coloring, though, I recommend adding a dash or two of turmeric with the dry ingredients.

Gluten Free Vegan Paleo Halawe (Halva) Brownies

Another day using someone else’s recipe. When I saw Flourless Peanut Butter Brownies from MyThinEats.com pop up in my feed, I had to try it. Who doesn’t like chocolate and peanut butter together?!?!! Well, people who are allergic to peanuts, for one. And people on a paleo diet, for another. Luckily I’m not either of those, but for the sake of others I decided to experiment. Preheat your oven to 325.

If you’ve been around this blog very long, you know how much I love tahini – I have a whole page dedicated to tahini in my recipe index.

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So I substituted 2 C tahini for the peanut butter.

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Sweeten with 3/4 C honey, agave or maple syrup (or to taste). Mix thoroughly.

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I also replaced the chocolate with 1/2 C raisins, roughly chopped.

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To bind the brownies, the original recipe says you can use 2 tbsp. ground chia or flax + 6 Tbsp water. I went with the chia seeds. Make sure you let it set at least 10 minutes.

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Then add it to your tahini along with 2 Tbsp cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. I think I ended up adding closer to 1 or 2 tsp because I just really like vanilla. Hm, I hope vanilla extract is paleo…

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Mix it up. With the chia seed “jelly” mixed in, the batter seems somewhat gelatinous. Well I guess that makes sense.

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Spread the batter out in a 9×13 pan that’s either been greased or lined with parchment. I’m actually not sure it’s necessary when using tahini because of the natural oils, but I did it anyway just to be safe. Next time I’ll be more daring and see what happens.

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Bake at 325 for 25 minutes, or until the brownies brown around the edges.

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I was so nervous about these little guys. I made them for a Lenten bake sale at church yesterday, and I was afraid people would bite into them expecting a regular ol’ chocolate brownie. I decided to call them halva brownies because most people in my parish would understand this means there’s a sesame flavor. I’m so glad at least the few people I got feedback from seemed to really like them! One day I’ll try them with peanut butter for myself (and even add some chocolate chips), but I’m glad I had a reason to try these with tahini.

Do you have a favorite vegan brownie recipe? Feel free to share!

By the way, these are oil free and perfect for a strict fasting day.

Lenten oil free chocolate chip cookies

Srsly guys. If you have tahini, you can do pretty much anything. I realized the last time I made tahini chocolate chip cookies, I only took a picture of the final product. This is a variation on the original recipe, complete with pictures. Enjoy.

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This is another one where I halved the recipe and had weird measurements.

For this version, I used 3/4 C all purpose flour, 1/4 C teff flour, scant 1/8 C brown sugar, 1/2 C coconut sugar, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt.

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In a separate bowl, 1/4 C + 2 Tbsp tahini, 1/3 C milk substitute (can use water) – you might need a little extra to thin it down. And 1 tsp vanilla. Mix it up. If it’s very thick, add more liquid a little at a time until it’s *just* thin enough to drip off the spoon.

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Add to your dry ingredients.

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Mix. Add vegan chocolate chips (Ghirardelli semi-sweet, for instance). I just threw in a couple handfuls, put whatever you like. You could also add chopped nuts and raisins.

Drop by the spoonful onto a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes. In the original recipe I said to grease the cookie sheet, but I didn’t grease mine and they came off just fine (get ’em off while they’re hot). I also didn’t bother sticking these ones under the broiler since they’re already brown from the teff flour. If you’re using all white flour instead of part teff, you could add a little cocoa powder. Otherwise, you should still place them under the broiler for a minute or two as in the original recipe, to give them a little color.

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I can’t believe how well these turned out, flavor-wise. BUT…even though I cut down on the sugar, they still seemed too sweet. I’ll just have to keep trying (and eating) until I get it right.

injera #7: cinnamon & sugar chips

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For my 2nd quick post of the day, yet another use for leftover injera bread. I just snapped one picture before it went in the oven, but you can look at my other recipe for injera chips if you want to see the process.

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For this sweet version, I simply melted margarine, brushed it on the hole-y side of the bread, sprinkled the bread with cinnamon and sugar and popped it in the oven at 275 for close to an hour. You may want to flip it halfway through to get it crisp on both sides.

Wondering what else I can do with this delicious bread….

Here’s what else I’ve done with injera so far:

Firfir Salad
Injera Chips
Stuffed Mushroom Caps
DELICIOUS Injera Porridge
Injera Bread Pudding
Za’atar & Tahini Sandwich Roll