Our family has been homeschooling for over 16 years now and one of our favorite activities has been hosting an annual International Night. Each year our family chooses a different country to focus on. At the end of the year families would sign up to participate. One year our family chose Greece. Our dentist’s wife and his mother came to our home and taught us some of their beloved family recipes, loaned us slides of their trips to Greece and Grecian dolls, prayer beads and other family items.What a wonderful time it was and how much we appreciated their time and effort! If you’re unable to host an International Night on such a scale as this, simply invite another family over, choose a country to research and make food to share. Each family can even prepare a short presentation. Just have food!

To learn about my Kid’s Summer Culinary Adventure Camp, contact me by email at cookingwithelise@gmail.com

Greek Salad

Combination of Romaine, Green, Red and Bibb lettuce
2 cucumbers, seeded and sliced in ribbons
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup pitted Kalamata or black olives
3 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced
Pepperoncini peppers, optional

In a large salad bowl, layer torn lettuces, ribbons of cucumber, feta cheese, olives, tomatoes and red onion. Chill until ready to serve. Dress salad with Greek Dressing and toss when ready to eat.

Greek Salad Dressing

1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Juice of one lemon
Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

In a very large container, mix together the olive oil, garlic powder, oregano, basil, pepper, salt, onion powder, and Dijon-style mustard. Pour in the vinegar and lemon juice, and mix vigorously until well blended. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

Chicken and Spinach Spanakopita

4-6 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ c. unsalted butter
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (10 oz) pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (You can also use chopped fresh baby spinach).
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill (I used a little less)
3/4 c. dry white wine
½ lb. Crumbled feta cheese
4 Eggs, beaten
12 sheets Phyllo dough
1 stick of butter or butter spray

In a sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken, onion and garlic cook about 5 minutes until golden. Add the spinach and dill. Cook stirring almost constantly until all the moisture evaporates, about 2 minutes. Add ¾ c. white wine. Cook down a bit. Transfer to a bowl and let cool slightly. Now you can add the feta cheese and eggs, one at a time, stirring in between each addition. Add a little more salt and pepper if necessary.

Preheat your oven to 350* degrees. Stack phyllo dough on your surface, covering with a towel to keep from drying out, because they can really dry out quickly.

Brush a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with melted butter or spray. Place one sheet of phyllo in pan and brush again. Repeat with 4 more sheets of Phyllo dough. Spread 1/3 of the chicken and spinach filling on top. Place five more sheets of Phyllo dough, brushing each with melted butter. Repeat until all of the mixture is used and top with five more layers of Phyllo, again brushing with butter in between. Top with final phyllo sheet, tucking the top phyllo layers into the dish and under bottom layers. Spray the top of phyllo sheet.

Bake until golden brown, 50-60 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting into.

Elise’s Baklava

1 (16 ounce) pkg. phyllo dough
1 pound chopped nuts
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a glass 9×13 inch pan.

Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll Phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover Phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 – 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 – 8 sheets deep.

Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.

Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.

Kourabiethes: Greek Celebration Cookies

Mrs. Poulos, our dentist’s mother, taught us a recipe similar to this one in our kitchen in Asheville. The boys and I were studying Greece and preparing food to be shared at an International Night with other local homeschooling families.

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons brandy
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped blanched almonds, optional
Confectioners’ sugar for decoration

Sift flour with baking powder. Set aside.

Cream butter and gradually add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg yolk, brandy and vanilla. Beat again until very light. Stir in almonds, optional.

Blend in flour, mix to form a soft, smooth dough. Chill 30 minutes or until it can be handled easily.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Shape level tablespoonfuls of dough and roll into balls. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until light…do not brown. Cool on rack. Dust generously with confectioners’ sugar.