Eating & Cooking

Vasilopita – A Greek Tradition

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We all know the way too celebrate the New Year, between the fireworks and the champagne, but as Greeks, we have a special and unique tradition: that of the VASILOPITA.

A Vasilopita is a traditional Greek cake or bread served at midnight on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the life of Saint Basil. Vasilopita is made of a variety of doughs, depending on the region and almost every family has it’s own recipe. The Vasilopita is also decorated with almonds, which create the year number. When decorating with the almond, each one is ‘wished upon’, thus the almonds become wishes for the new year: prosperity, health and luck.
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 IT’S ALL ABOUT THAT LUCKY COIN
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Each family will cut the vasilopita with two slices, making a cross. After baking the vasilopita cake, a coin is inserted through the base and when cut the person who finds the coin is said to be granted luck for the rest of the year. The pieces are cut in a particular order:  The first piece is for Christ, the next piece is cut for the needy and then a piece for the house. The rest of the pieces are now cut for members of the family, starting with the head of the household, then each member of the family in
order from eldest to youngest, including those that are absent.
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No one is allowed to look at their piece until everyone is given theirs. Then, once the server or the head of the household gives his or her okay, everyone checks to see if they found the coin – the lucky one with the coin in his or her piece is the one who is going to have a fortuitous year!
In older times, the coin was often a valuable one, such as a gold sovereign. Nowadays there is often a gift that corresponds to the coin, usually a charm that is given to the coin recipient.
History of Vasilopita

The history of vasilopita can be traced back to the ancient festivals of Kronia and Saturnalia and is connected to a legend of Saint Basil. In honor of Saint Basil, or Agios Vasilios, people bake this bread every year. The tradition has evolved from the original story and now whoever finds the coin is said to have good luck for the rest of the year. However, the bread itself does serve as a reminder for all that Agios Vasilios did for people of Greece.

Recipe

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We woul love to share this recipe with you, from one of the best Greek Pastry chefs Stelios Parliaros, who happens to be a good friend, which you can find here.
Ingredients
  • 250 g butter
  • 250 g icing sugar
  • 125 g ground almonds
  • 125 g ground pistachios
  • 6 eggs
  • 250 g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 300 g dried fruit, finely chopped
  • 200 ml Amaretto
Method
Soak the dried fruit in the Amaretto. Beat the butter, sugar and ground nuts until they are fluffy. Blend the dried fruit together with the Amaretto and add to the mixture continuing beating for a while longer. Add the eggs gradually. Add the flour and the baking powder, beating continually. Butter a baking pan and dust it with flour, place the mixture in it and bake at 180°C for one hour.
Καλή Χρονιά, sending you sweet and lucky wishes!
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Thanksgiving 2017

The meaning of Thanksgiving

For many of us, the meaning of Thanksgiving usually involves feasting, four-day weekends, football games, floats, family reunions, or simply being a forerunner to Christmas. The “first Thanksgiving,” however, was neither a feast nor a holiday, but a simple gathering. Following the Mayflower’s arrival at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620, the Pilgrims suffered the loss of 46 of their original 102 colonists. With the help of 91 Indians, the remaining Pilgrims survived the bitter winter and yielded a bountiful harvest in 1621. In celebration, a traditional English harvest festival, lasting three days brought the Pilgrims and natives to unite in a “thanksgiving” observance.

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The meaning of Thanksgiving has undergone numerous transitions, but its main pillars are To gather in Unity, to teach the young and to humbly reflect on all the gifts that saturate our lives. By “giving-thanks” we choose to extend ourselves and give to others less fortunate.

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Personal memories

Each Thanksgiving is my favourite Thanksgiving!

I was introduced to Thanksgiving many many years ago, when I first moved to New York and as it happens that it has became my favourite holiday. To this day, it remains my favourite holiday because we all gather around the table – friends and family and people we love and are grateful and thankful of being surrounded by one another.

Thanksgiving Wisdom

Later on, I discovered the Macy’s Day thanksgiving parade and especially enjoyed taking my children, nieces and nephews to the preparation the night before. Having had the blessing of living on Central Park West, it became a tradition of watching the parade from our window.

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My most recent thanksgiving: gathering family and friends in New York. A group of us, cooking and sharing the joy of the day. My best friend is an not only an expert on setting the perfect table, but preparing the traditional Pilgrim’s menu, making the holiday even more special.

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My suggestions

  • Create a family guestlist
  • If you know people people that don’t have family in town or a place to go, make sure to invite them ahead of time so their Thanksgiving plan is secureIMG_3440
  • Plan your table settings and don’t be afraid of having fun! Art de la table in a very festive fun manner is always my choiceIMG_3444
  • Also make sure to have non alcoholic beverages for people that are staying healthy, like this great non alcoholic apple martini. I would also suggest a beautifuly curated cheese platter for your guests to enjoy until everyone arrives.IMG_3445
  • Great display of roasted nuts and turkey feathers IMG_3485
  • Special children’s table with supplies! Crayons and drawing materials are always a huge hit! Children can colour a huge turkey or pumpkin – whoever wins, wins a chocolate turkeyIMG_3442IMG_3438
  • Make sure to have takeaway containers so everybody can go home with the best part of thanksgiving: “leftovers” – they always taste best the next day!IMG_3443

Day of

Any excuse to celebrate!

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Thanksgiving in New York

Thanksgiving in New York –like coming home for Christmas…

I’m laden with memories of my children when they were small, sharing love and warmth, preparing excitedly to go to the parade in Central Park West, see the million balloons at Macy’s, and absorb the spices and flavors filling the air. I long for these feelings of homeliness, tender closeness and being grateful for all the blessings we’ve received.

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I remember the days of getting together with people close and beloved that we might have seen each other only a while before or not for quite sometime and that making no difference… I remember friends, sharing moments difficult and beautiful, and owing them for being there for me in those young days of motherhood.

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This year, I was drawn again. The irresistible friends, my daughter Vivia and this home that always welcomes me and wraps me in its love and warmth. The pumpkin the turkey the hugs and the shops are all there and I am enchanted. Living my memories and living today. So thankful.

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After all, life is the family, the friends and the memories we make. And I am blessed with all three and giving thanks that I’ve been here yet again.

Home. For Thanksgiving.

 

Matrona’s festival, Santorini

The place, mesmerizing Santorini. The setting, delightful Village of Foinikia. The occasion, unique Matrona Festival. The people, new and old wonderful friends. The food, local mouth watering specialties, feasting on bakaliaros xelouristos (specially made bass) and fava beans. In magical October coloured by Santorini’s own, romantic and enchanting sunsets.

I was fortunate to be met with a great and delightful surprise while visiting the alluring Santorini when I coincided with the original Panigiri (Festival) dedicated to the Panagia Matrona celebrated in the island every October in the village of Foinikia.

It was everywhere. The streets, the squares, the cafes, the welcoming smiles and eyes of the locals opening homes and hearts in joy and pleasure to serve and include their guests in their preparation meals and the bustling atmosphere of their panigiri.

Authentic and joyous, an experience to be kept in the heart. Enjoy!!

 

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Fava beans, the other thing that Santorini is famous for! After 3600 years of cultivation in the volcanic soil of the island, fava beans from Santorini have recently been added to the EU’s list of Protected Designation of Origin products!

Taste and find out why Santorini fava beans are the best!

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HIT LIST 2015 – APRIL

The girls decided, that location scouting for “Love Floris” at the Cycladic islands during Greek Easter season, was ideal and they were right!

The trip started with Santorini, a beautiful island with impressive folk traditions, as well as recipes to die for!!

 

Holy Week in Orthodox Christianity is the week immediately before Easter. It is the last week of the 40 day Lent that leads to Easter Sunday, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Here are some highlights of our great trip and some of our traditions:

Eggs are dyed red in a big pot and then shined with olive oil, on Good Thursday, symbolizing the blood of Christ.

On Holy Saturday after the celebration of the resurrection at midnight, people “use” the red eggs by trying to smash the “opponent’s” one, before peeling them off to eat them, the breaking of the egg symbolizes the breaking of Jesus’s tomb stone!

Easter sweet cookies /(kulurakia), another culinary tradition, are offered in every house, accompanying Greek coffee or sweetening breakfast time!

Spending “Good Friday” at Pirgos in Santorini was an unforgettable experience.

The mourning day of Jesus’s crucifixion, was commemorated with fires lit in metal baskets decorating the ledges of every house, offering a magnificent view in the evening.

The ‘Love Floris’ ladies pay their respect to the icon of the crucified Jesus, the smell of the Epitaph lilacs in the church was surrounding them.

Last but not least the experience of tasting a unique traditional pastry, “melitini”, in a cozy ( reminding the old times) local café at Kasteli, with the personal touch of Ms. Nafsika Lagada.

 

Ios was next, were we visited Vaso and her dynamic group of people.

They took us to all the beautiful sights, including Agalia (Hug) and Pathos (Passion), loving every moment of it!!

 

Our final location was Sifnos, were the weather was not that friendly but the people made up for it!

Marina Vernicos, a dear friend, of whom we have seen great work through her photographic lenses, graciously welcomed us in her home for a wonderful dinner.

That night was full of surprises with the epitome Takis Zacharatos, an old friend that I hadn’t seen for a very long time!!

We enjoyed every moment of our time there, what a beautiful island with my favorite spot being, a small church called Panagia Poulati.

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