One of my goals for the year was to get out of my comfort zone and try recipes and things I haven’t really tried before but so far this is not really working out.
I haven’t baked anything for 20+ days now and my recent failures make me feel a bit weird. I guess that’s ok. I’ll get over it.
So, although I had planned something completely different, today I will freshen up my old post for Basic White Bread recipe. It was one of my first posts and the photos are not what you would call appealing. Plus over the years I made some adjustments to water quantities.

Simple White Bread - tkd #breadThis recipe is actually one of the recipes with the least clicks on the blog. I don’t know why. This may happen because people often find baking bread intimidating or because they find this recipe very simplistic. It may be simplistic but it is the base. We start with the basics before moving on to baking more complicated stuff.Simple White Bread - tkd #bread Now it’s a good time to remember this recipe because I think it’s time that we start talking a bit more about bread. Although baking bread is probably one of my favorite activities and I also think it’s a basic baking skill I don’t blog about it often. I think this happens because bread needs time and usually by the time I am done with baking I have no natural light in order to take good/appealing photos. So I am setting this whole photography thing aside because I really want us to start baking our own bread. It’s worth it.

Hello everyone! 

I have news. Great news!

As all of you know theoDORA’s kitchen diaries was a nominee at the 2015 Food Blog Awards by VimaGourmet magazine (I do not want to bore you with repeating stuff you already know so I won’t say more about the nominees, the challenges and the posts; you can read all about these stuff here and here).
On Saturday the magazine hosted and amazing party where the winners of the awards were announced and guess what:

We won, I mean the blog and I won, the committee award of the Best Baking competing category!

Best Baking Blog 2015

Isn’t that amazing? The prize was a Kitchen Aid Artisan mixer. A mixer I knew I wanted but I couldn’t afford and guys now it’s standing on my kitchen counter! Oh, I can’t wait to start baking with this yellow baby.

Kitchen Aid Artisan yellow

I actually won much more than just a mixer. I think the most important is that I met people that share the same interests with me; so many warm and kind people that I already feel I’ve known for so long. Secondly, participating in this competition pushed me to improve myself as a blogger.

I do not have any photos from the party because honestly I just wanted to enjoy and have good time with my friends. Usually when you get into the “take photo’s” mood you just wander around trying to catch a good photo and you actually miss everything. So my camera was left home. There were photographers that took many photos of us so if I happen to have access to any of these photos I will share them with you.

I want to say a big thank you to the magazine for giving amateur bloggers, like me, the opportunity to participate an event as big as the Food Blog Awards. I also want to thank the great sponsor Vitam for a great cooperation and the BEST GIFT EVER! Vitam is the margarine brand that has been in almost every Greek house for years now helping mothers bake delicious cakes, cookies and pies.

I also want to congratulate all winners for their accomplishments and the rest of the participants for doing such a great job with their blogs. Oh, and thank you all for being so kind and warm with me, for talking to me, congratulating me… It means the world!

I’ll be back with a new recipe (the first recipe for 2016) by the end of the week.

Xo, Theodora.

Hello and happy 2016 everyone!

I hope every single one of you is healthy and happy!

In my last post I wrote I would take two weeks off, well…I meant off from posting recipes because actually I haven’t stopped working for the blog.

A while back I posted an article about choosing a blogging platform. Today we are going to talk about the 4 Major Blog Choises that come before and after finding a blogging platform. These choises lead in 4 Major Changes for this blog and I want to tell you all about it in detail so sit back, grab something to drink and relax. This post will be a bit long.

1 . CHOOSE A SUITABLE BLOG NAME 

Well, a blog name should be short and memorable. That’s obvious one might say, but from what I’ve experienced finding a good name for your blog is not so easy.

Firstly, finding a name goes together with finding a free domain which can be challenging. There are millions of websites and blogs and as the number grows finding an available domain becomes difficult.

Secondly, blogs have a personal character. It’s often hard to separate yourself from your blog. Many people start blogging in difficult life periods (I am one of those people). Health problems, major life changes or the need to share a learning journey are some of the reasons that make people wanting to start a blog. Therefore the name is not just a well-designed brand. It’s something that means something to the owner. That sentimental connection sometimes prevents bloggers from making wise strategic decisions right from the start.

I had a big list of names when I decided to create this blog. I could not find a free domain for any of them. Theodora’s Kitchen Diaries won. But this name is definitely not short and memorable. As time passed by I became aware of some technical issues that go along with long names: a) Post titles exceed Google title limitations, b) When used in social media you get really long addresses hard to copy (url shortener necessary for tweets), c) Not looking good typed in professional cards, etc. This name has to go. That’s the first major change that will happen sometime in the future.

2 . DECIDE ON BLOGGING LANGUAGE

When I first started Theodora’s Kitchen Diaries I took the decision to use English as the basic language. I wanted to share Greek recipes for baked goods with people from around the world. I also found this was a great opportunity to practice my English.

Participating in the 2015 Food Blog Awards competition gave me the chance to meet very talented Greek bloggers and food lovers. All the social media competition shares brought several Greek readers to my blog. Plus, recipes posts for some competing categories had to be shared in Greek as well as in English so I wrote some posts in both languages.

Now some posts are written in both Greek and English whereas others only in English. Some other posts have a link to a wordpress.com site that was supposed to be a Greek recipe Index for tkd. Now I feel like my online house is messy. And I am not at all ok with messy. Messy and I do not get along. Therefore it’s time to deal with this mess and to go bilingual all the way.

There are actually 4 ways to do that:

a) Create posts that contain recipe translation in both languages .
In my opinion this is quite confusing. I tried it in a few posts but I did not like the result.
b) Create separate categories and tags within the same blog for each language.
That actually makes it harder to keep the blog simple, clean and organized.
c) Create another blog for the second language and link back and forward between the two sites.
This could actually be a great option but in my head it sounds like: Two sites to handle and maintain. Want to make the sites look the same? You have to pay to self-host a second site (since I self-host the main blog already). Want to keep the second blog free? Then the two sites will look different. So…no. (I actually did that for a while but it did not work at all, no one visited the tkd recipes in Greek blog.)
d) Use a special plugin to make your blog bilingual. That’s what I actually decided to do.

3 . CHOOSE A THEME

Unless you are a site developer, or have someone to help you with your blog, the best thing to do is to take some time to test various themes before going public. You should be really happy with the layout, typography, colour, sidebar and plugin options the theme you chose offers.

If you are on wordpress.org and you are considering uploading and using a free theme you should check that the theme is updated from time to time. WordPress platform updates quite often and you don’t want to end up using a theme that was last updated 2 years ago and is no longer compatible with the new wordpress version.

If you want to make small changes to the theme you are currently using (a small change would be to override theme’s code to remove a fixed separator line between posts for instance or change the alignment on titles and texts) then the best way to do so is by adding custom css instead of making changes directly to the theme’s html code.

As a novice I did the second of course. It just seemed so much easier to access the html code, search for the word align and change left to center or justify. I did many many changes that way. That is a huge mistake because the changes I made directly to the code will disappear whenever I decide to update the theme. Custom css would override basic html coding and would’t be affected by updates.

Text align, font size and colour, text transformation, separator lines, header size and layout, footer style are some of the changes that I made. Now I don’t even want to think what would happen if I’d ever update the theme and I don’t want to think what would happen if this old version of the theme were no longer compatible with wordpress.

The theme has to change and everything has to be done right this time around.

4 . DESIDE ON SOCIAL MEDIA SHARING

Starting a blog you actually want people to read, goes hand in hand with social media sharing. What I would recommend first to determine which platforms you really like and use in a daily basis. The chances are that your content will show up in suggestions more often if you have a daily active online presence and by that I mean sharing, pinning, liking and all that jazz.

I did not use social media much before creating my blog. I only had a Facebook account that I didn’t bother to visit often. When I started the blog I created accounts on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ (that was obligatory since at first the blog was on Blogger) and lately I discovered Bloglovin, StumbleUpon and Yummly. Some I love and visit every day, some I never grew to like and sharing looks like a boring obligation.

Without further ado I am announcing that I am ditching Twitter and StumbleUpon. I will also try to find a way to ditch Google+. Can I do that or is my google account, e-mail and youtube, connected with it? I have to do some research. (Yes, I was able to do that. Read how here). I just don’t use these platforms very often. Twitter moves way too fast in my opinion. You should be online 24-7 to have the chance to actually see the content of the blogs you decided to follow; not at all my cup of tea. I don’t have that much time available for social media. I prefer not having the account at all than having unanswered comments and dissatisfied followers. Guys, if you ever tried to contact me on Twitter and I never got back to you I am really sorry! It’s really hard for me to keep up.

WHERE DO I STAND NOW:

At first, making all these changes by myself felt like a nightmare, so I thought about asking professional help but to be honest I have been trying to save the money needed for these upgrades and I do not seem to be making any progress so I am back to zero. Something more important and urgent always comes up and I am not able to cover the theme+plugin+professional fee expenses all at once. I am making the theme change alone and I’ll try to do the same with the bilingual set up. These are the most important changes in order to fix the mess I created.

I found the way to set up a testing environment for the new theme, as I did not want to experiment with coding and new plugins directly on the blog in fear it could crash (read instructions on instaling and running test environment here). That went well and I am ready to apply the changes to the blog now and probably by mid-February I will be able to run the blog in both languages. I don’t want to turn off the site though so I will start with the new theme tomorrow, somewhere around noon, and build some details as I go. I wanted to wait for this change until 16/01/2015, when the final Food Blog Awards event will take place, but by then everyday routine will be back and it will be hard for me to dedicate enough time. Plus everyone is still in a holiday mood and there is little trafic so not many will be disturbed by real time happening changes :-).

The name change, as I mentioned above, will happen at some point in the future. I have already decided on the new name and registered the domain but it’s not the right time to do this yet. I will tell you more when the time comes.

Thank you all for being so patient and reading this post all the way to the end. Feel free to ask questions if you like (I am not a pro nor an html epxert but since I’ve been running this blog alone I learned some basic stuff). I would also love to hear your experience on blogging. Did you ever face any problems with the theme you chose? Do you find yourself liking some social media platforms more than others? Why?

Update:

All changes mentioned above were done. After installing a new theme I created a child theme and also used custom css for some extra changes. I have succesfully updated the theme twice and the blog was not at all affected. That’s what I call success! 

 

Here we are for the last post of the year. The post for the cake we are going to slice today, New Year’s Eve. For a delicious Vasilopita – Greek St. Basil’s cake.Vasilopita | Greek Saint Basil's New Year's Sponge Cake

It’s tradition that we slice a St. Basil’s-pie (Vasilopita) this time of year. St. Basil’s-pie can either be a sponge cake or a tsoureki (a sweet brioche-like bread) baked in a round pan. There is always a coin hidden inside the pie that it’s supposed to bring good luck to the receiver. Family members and guests gather around the table to see the master of the house slice the pie. While cutting the pieces the host calls the name of the person whose piece is sliced at the time. The person that finds the coin is said to be lucky for the rest of the year.Vasilopita | Greek Saint Basil's Cake for New Year's

Usually people like one type of pie more than the other. I am a cake type. So this year I baked once again my favorite sponge St. Basil’s Pie, hiding a coin inside. Full of flavors and aromas this cake is addictive. It has flavors from orange, clementine, vanilla, cognac and an interesting crunchy texture from roughly chopped hazelnuts and dark chocolate. The very first pieces of the pie are always dedicated to Christ, to the house and to St. Basil. These pieces are almost always left for me to eat as breakfast the days that follow New Year’s. Although I really like the taste of this cake I do not bake it during the year. This recipe is for this specific day and it holds a special place in my heart.Vasilopita | Greek Saint Basil's New Year's Sponge Cake

While at houses St. Basil’s pie is usually sliced at New Year’s Eve, or at New Year’s Day, some companies and institutions organize a special event for employees which is called the slicing of the pie. This event usually takes place some day in January. If there are too many people attending the event instead of an actual pie slicing a lottery takes place. The winner of the lottery is given a gift.  

Vasilopita | Greek Saint Basil's Cake for New Year's
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Ingredients
  1. for a 25cm / 10in round pan
  2. 200g / 7oz butter, at room temperature
  3. 130g / 4.6oz white sugar
  4. 130g / 4.6oz brown sugar
  5. 3 eggs, at room temperature
  6. ½ an orange zest + half a clementine zest
  7. 1 tbsp cognac
  8. Seeds from ½ a vanilla bean
  9. 100g / 3.5oz condensed milk lightly thinned with water (that translates approx. to 70g condensed milk and 30g water)
  10. 90g / 3.2oz mixed orange and clementine juice
  11. 375g / 13oz all-purpose flour
  12. 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  13. 75g / 2.7oz dark chocolate, 55% cocoa solids, chopped
  14. 90g / 3.20oz hazelnuts chopped
Plus
  1. A coin wrapped in aluminum foil
  2. Confectioner’s/icing sugar for dusting
Instructions
  1. Lightly grease cake pan with butter and dust with flour. Turn pan over and shake to remove excess flour. Set aside.
  2. On a piece of parchment paper sift all-purpose flour and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. Cream butter using a mixer (either a stand mixer or a hand mixer will do).
  4. Add white and brown sugar and mix until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, vanilla and zest.
  5. Lower mixer speed and add thinned milk, orange juice and cognac.
  6. Finally add sifted flour mixture, little at a time, and mix until fully incorporated.
  7. Fold in chopped chocolate and hazelnuts.
  8. Transfer cake batter in baking tin.
  9. Place cake tin on lower oven rack.
  10. Bake in a preheated oven at 180oC / 350oF for approximately 50 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Do not open the oven the first 40 minutes of baking to avoid cake deflation.
  11. Remove cake from oven and let cool in tin for 10-15 minutes and ran a butter knife around the edges, to loosen. Place coin somewhere inside the cake.
  12. Then, turn cake tin over onto a cooling rack or a platter, remove tin.
  13. Allow to cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.
Notes
  1. - You can stubstitute chocolate and hazelnuts with raisins and walnuts or almonds and dried cranberries. You can also add some mastic crystals in the mixture.
  2. - This cake is denser than usual sponge cakes. To achieve the right crumb consistency: a) I use less baking powder than I use in my regular cakes (see marble cake recipe), b) I make the cake batter a bit thicker, by using less liquids (milk and juice).
Sweet Applepie http://www.sweetapplepie.eu/

Vasilopita | Greek Saint Basil's New Year's Sponge CakeAnd with this post I am wishing you all Happy New Year!

I will take some days off blogging because after the Food Blog Awards challenges I did not have enough time to relax, plan recipes, baking, blog posts ahead and study for my French lessons (a definite goal for 2016 is to get my B2 French certificate). Plus I have to remove Christmas decorations and that actually translates to plenty of housework.

May you all have a wonderful time with your loved ones; friends and family!

Happy baking!

UntitledChristmas is gone and I am a bit depressed that days are passing by and we are approaching end of holidays. Tomorrow a new, really busy, week starts. Chances are that holiday cookies and desserts were all eaten up on Christmas day. That means that we have to bake again for New Year’s. Let’s bake some traditional Greek cookies this time and let’s do it fast and easy with Easy Bake flour mixtures for melomakarona and kourabiedes from Loulis Mills.
A few weeks back I got an invitation to visit the facilities of Loulis Mills in Piraeus for the presentation of the new company’s product line; Easy Bake Products.

I was really excited for the event because I happen to use company’s flours for years. I actually think that my mom’s marble cake is a recipe adapted by the company’s self-rising flour packaging.  Anyways. I went to the event, of course!
A very warm welcome by the representatives of the company made us feel like home. We were introduced to the company’s history through a short video. I was impressed by business ethics and operations.

Then the famous chef Dimitris Skarmoutsos and the known blogger Madame Ginger presented the products to us and they invited 6 volunteers to actually bake using the Easy Bake product line. They baked pizzas, muffins and traditional Greek holiday cookies. Everything was delicious and was done very fast and easy.

Easy Bake Event

A rich buffet with Easy Bake goodies baked by Dimitris Skarmoutsos was waiting for us next.

Easy Bake Event

Finally, we visited the factory and the Loulis museum. I think pictures worth a thousand words but if I had to use 3 words to describe the facilities I would say: Modern, Clean, Impressive.

 

Easy bake line includes pizza mix, muffin mix, multigrain bread and special holiday mixtures; melomakarona and kourabiedes.

It’s super easy to make. You are only a few minutes and 3 steps away from homemade delicious treats. You just can’t do it wrong. So get your aprons on and start baking alone, with your partner, with your children. Create your own special memories and bring the smell of holidays in your kitchen.

XO

Speculaas - tkd #cookies #holidays #marzipanOnly two days left till Christmas everyone! We have to get ready like right now.

Last few days have been crazy. I would really like to take some days off of work just to have time to clean the house, prepare for Christmas cooking and do some baking, of course, but that’s not possible. The very last days of the year are actually when we have the most work that needs to be done Asap.Speculaas - tkd #cookies #holidays #marzipan
But I couldn’t just leave the blog and you guys without at least one holiday recipe so I made Speculaas. Speculaas are Dutch cookies traditionally baked for consumption on St Nicolas Feast. The Speculaas recipe I will be sharing with you today is made from spiced cookie dough wrapped around a soft marzipan filling. I also have a small surprise for you… I made a video which is actually the first video that I show myself and talk directly to the camera.Speculaas - tkd #cookies #holidays #marzipan
Please be gentle. It took me 3 hours in total to make the video. There is no one else helping me. It’s just me, the camera on a tripod and Mr. fluffy ears who is secretly trying to steal my slippers from my feet while I am talking to you about mixing and rolling out the dough.Speculaas - tkd #cookies #holidays #marzipan
Watching the video; I noticed numerous mistakes but I promise I will improve my English skills with some practice.

Speculaas - tkd #cookies #holidays #marzipan

Speculaas with Marzipan Filling
Delicious cookies made from spiced dough wrapped around a soft marzipan filling.
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INGREDIENTS
For the cookie dough
  1. 280g / 9.90oz all-purpose flour
  2. 1 tsp baking powder
  3. 113g / 4oz butter, at room temperature
  4. 80g / 2.80oz brown sugar
  5. 1 medium sized egg, at room temperature
  6. 1 tsp speculaas spice mixture*
*Speculaas spice mixture
  1. 1 tsp cinnamon
  2. ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  3. ¼ tsp ground cloves
  4. ¼ tsp ground ginger
  5. 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
  6. 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
For the marzipan filling
  1. 160g / 5.60oz ground almonds
  2. 60g / 2.11oz confectioner’s sugar
  3. 80g / 2.80oz white sugar
  4. 1 egg white, at room temperature
  5. 2 tsp lemon juice
For the egg wash
  1. 1 egg yolk, beaten
  2. 1 tbsp milk
INSTRUCTIONS
Make the dough
  1. Mix together flour and baking powder and then sift on a piece of parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Place butter in a large bowl. Add sugar and cream using a hand mixer. Add egg and spices and mix. Then add sifted flour little at a time and mix gently with your hands until the dough is formed.
  3. Form dough into disc, wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Prepare the filling
  1. Place almonds in a non-stick frying pan or a skillet. Place skillet over medium heat and stir using a silicone (or wooden) spatula until almonds are slightly toasted. Remove pan from heat and allow almonds to cool completely before continuing with the filling.
  2. Place cooled almonds in a food processor and grind. Add confectioner’s sugar, white sugar, egg white and lemon juice and pulse until you have a soft marzipan paste. Set aside.
Shape and bake
  1. Remove dough from the fridge and roll it out to a rectangular on a slightly floured surface.
  2. a) Use cookie cutters to cut Christmas cookies. Take two pieces of the same shape and brush inner side with egg wash. Place some filling in the center of one piece. Cover with the second piece of dough. Press lightly with your hands to stick the edges together. That way you will create cookies in various shapes filled with marzipan.
  3. b) Cut the dough to create rectangular strips (2 or 3 strips). Place, or spread, filling in the center of each strip. Then take the longest side of the dough and start rolling it to create a roll. Cut the roll vertically using a knife. That way you will create round cookies with marzipan filling in the center, swirled if you choose to spread the filling evenly.
  4. Place cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with brown sugar (optional). Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180oC / 350oF using the fan/convection program for 10-15 minutes or until golden.
  5. Remove pan from the oven and transfer cookies on a rack to cool completely.
  6. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. - Filling quantities are enough to make rolls of the dough and cut round cookies. If you use cookie cutters to shape cookies you will probably use less of the filling mixture. Wrap leftover marzipan with plastic and place in the fridge for future use.
  2. - If you make really large cookies they may take a bit longer to bake, like 20-25 minutes.
  3. - If you do not have a food processor then use almond powder to make the filling. Just mix all filling ingredients with your hands until you have a soft paste. (In that case avoid toasting because almond powder burns easily.)
Adapted from by the book Cookies Galore
Sweet Applepie http://www.sweetapplepie.eu/

Wishing you all Merry Christmas! I’ll be back next week with the last recipe post of the year; our New Year’s Eve Cake.

Happy baking!

From the moment I took down the road of tidying I never looked back.

Marie Kondo is clear: You have to start by discarding items all at once, intensely and completely.

Some may choose to tidy during the weekends or once a week so it may take months to finally complete the whole project. I decided to do it in a month. As I mentioned in a previous post I had already begun discarding things so my house had already been in a relatively good state. That’s actually why I was able to complete the project so soon. While it took me one day per category (five days) to discard and decide which items to keep it took me two more days to organize and put things away in closets, drawers, bookcases and cupboards. So it’s 7 days of tidying in total.

The past five years we have been trying to live through the economic crisis so the items purchased are mostly food related. Not many new things coming into the house. The problem was with old things that I kept either because they had some sentimental value or because I was thinking that due to the economic crisis I would not be able to buy new and therefore I had to keep them as safety (an old pair of jeans or a pair of high heels that are no longer in fashion for instance).

Completing this project was life changing because it actually helped me face and overcome some of my fears.

Day one | Clothes & Accessories

I took all my clothes (both summer and winter) out of the closet and placed them on the floor. A medium sized pile formed. I started touching each item asking my self “does it spark joy?”. Two hours later five large bags with clothes were standing by the door (my high school pair of jeans was in one of these bags). These items were re-homed. The rest were folded or hanged and placed back in the closet.

Sorting through accessories was a lot faster; three handbags and three pair of shoes were given away.

The verdict: Four empty drawers. Winter coats and summer dresses hanged in the same closet. No need for winter, summer clothing sorting any more. Yeah!

Day two | Books & Papers

Both done the same day.

Sorting out books was harder than expected actually. Some books do not spark joy but are necessary to have. I managed to discard five bags of books. No empty selves but a much lighter bookcase. I managed to make some space for my paper section also.

Papers: Necessary documents kept only. Why it took me so long to realize I do not actually need to keep my second grade school report?

Day three | Miscellaneous

Linens

I used to fold and stack towels and sheets but that turned out to be the wrong thing to do. It was nearly impossible to take something out of the bottom of a pile without messing everything up.  My linen closet was messy at all times. So once again I took everything out. Did not throw out any of my linen because I actually use all of my sheets and towels (not so many) but I managed to find a more convenient storing method. Check out the photos.

Toiletries & Makeup

The main disposal reason for makeup was the expiration date. Miserable eyebrow pencils, shimmering eye shadows bought 6 years ago, shampoo and day cream samples resting in the drawer for more than 6 months: All gone.

CD’s – DVD’s, electrical items and cables.

That was a difficult category. These items are hidden in funny places all over the house. I found old cables, broken remote controls and dead batteries. Really useless stuff I never knew where and how to store properly. Yes, I decided to recycle that old phone kept just in case. I can and will live without it.

Day four | Miscellaneous

House hold equipment

Soaps, sponges, empty plastic bottles, unused or half-used cleaning products standing at the back of the cupboard for years: Gone.

Kitchen

Oh, my. What a struggle. It took several hours to empty all kitchen cabinets and do all the sorting.
Although I kept many kitchen items that a) spark joy (I must admit that a wooden spoon sparks more joy than a t-shirt), b) work as props for my blog photos, c) are necessary for preparing food, I also managed to create a discard pile which included: The microwave oven (I can also melt chocolate in a double boiler), plastic spoons, miserable saucepans, unused pans, a cake-pop maker (I also have a cake pop pan. What was I thinking?) and a few more items.

Day five | Sentimental

I kept my mementos in a red box that was forgotten in the back of the loft for years. I sat on the sofa and opened it. An old clock my mother had bought me, a tie that was a part of the uniform I was obliged to wear at my first job, a plastic frame with an old photo. “Look”, I said to Mr. Man, “A photo of me and D”.

-“Oh, you look so young. How old are you in that photo?”. I managed to overcome the comment (like what do you mean Mr.? I look old in my thirties???).

-“Yeah, I think I am twenty something.”, I replied.

I took the photo out of the frame. Placed the frame into the recycling bin and teared up the photo.

Mr. Man erupted like a volcano.

-“What are you doing? Are you crazy? Why did you tear up that photo? Look I know you are doing this Konmari thing but this has gone way too far. It’s you in that photo and you are so young”.

The rest of the conversation is not important. What is important is that I had, and still have, no regrets for discarding old mementos and tearing up old photos. I have plenty of photos in my twenties; this photo did not remind me of anything good; Quite the opposite actually. I feel betrayed by the person that appeared next to me in that photo. We are no longer friends.

Photos, mementos and stuff like that were kept for the very last day. It took some time but I discarded many items from that category too. I realized I did not only keep items that reminded me of good/happy times but also items that reminded me of difficult times, broken friendships and failures. Those had to go. Why did I keep things that made me sad just by looking at them? Question not answered but problem solved. Items that spark sadness: GONE.

The changes this process brought to my life

It relieved stress. I feel calmer in the house now and I can focus on everything I do. Being surrounded by less stuff actually makes me happier.

No more fighting with Mr. Man. Many of the fights held in our house were about accumulated stuff (shoes lying on the floor and trousers hanging on chairs). I read something in the book that made sense. Some times people tend to be messy because they have no specific place for putting things. As it turned out making more space for Mr. Man’s shoes in the cabinet was indeed the solution to the lying around shoe problem.

Cleaning the house is a lot easier now. Dusting is a piece of cake. Plus I spend no time tidying messy towel cabinets and clothe drawers.

 

Finally, some words about the book.

This book is a lot more than a set of organizing tips and tricks. What really had an impact on me was the fact that Kondo lays out a set of examples to support her method. That way, things really start making sense. I often felt I was the person behind each story. As a person wanting to know “why” things happen or “why” someone suggests something I was amazed that all my “why’s” were answered while reading, before I even thought of asking.  I know I understood myself better by reading this book. I also understood why people I consider messy act that way.

Definitely a book that sparks joy and I will be happy to keep in my house for years to come.

XO

IKEA Holiday Dinner Table - tkd

With this post the curtain falls for the Food Blog Awards Competition. No recipe today, just some inspiration on setting the festive dinner table IKEA style.IKEA Holiday Dinner Table - tkd

IKEA was the great sponsor for the Best Design and Site Architecture Category. I’ve talked about how much I love some IKEA products in the past. I like visiting the store. I love the fact that I can wander around the corridors, stare at the products undisturbed and always but always find something I really want to purchase.

IKEA Holiday Dinner Table - tkd

So, I either leave the store with new items in hand or with a list of stuff I want to buy. I always check my list with caution when I get back home though after the recent tidying event (which is completed successfully; there is a detailed post coming soon).

IKEA Holiday Dinner Table - tkd

IKEA Holiday Dinner Table - tkd

IKEA Holiday Dinner Table - tkd

 I want to thank you all for the support during the competition period. The voting process will stop soon. I am impatiently waiting for the results now. I also want to wish every single contestant good luck.

Orange Jam-swirled mastic mahlep bread (yeast free) - tkd #bread #vgfoodblogawards #sweet #mahlep #masticOrange Jam-Swirled Mastic and Mahlep Bread is today’s recipe.
Many people feel intimidated by the thought of making bread at home. Some think it’s difficult while others just don’t have the time to wait for the yeasted bread dough to rise. Making bread is not really difficult but it sure needs time and commitment. You can’t start making bread and then decide to leave because your friends invited you to the movies. The dough will feel your absence. No good bread will come out of this. If you make yeast bread that is.

A while back I showed you how to make Olive Oil Soda Bread. Today I will share with you my Mom’s Orange Jam-Swirled Mastic and Mahlep Bread. A really luxurious Sweet Bread, yeast free, recipe.Orange Jam-swirled mastic mahlep bread (yeast free) - tkd #bread #vgfoodblogawards #sweet #mahlep #mastic

These small round loaves are probably the best reason to open your eyes on a cold winter morning. They totally deserve the walk to the kitchen, trust me. Although, now that I think about it, I did the baking so I think I deserve a tray of these served in bed along with a hot cup of tea. Does anybody hear me? I guess not. 

Orange Jam-swirled mastic mahlep bread (yeast free) - tkd #bread #vgfoodblogawards #sweet #mahlep #mastic

Orange Jam-Swirled Mastic and Mahlep Bread
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Ingredients
  1. 150g / 5.30oz margarine VITAM classic, at room temperature
  2. 110g / 3.90oz sugar
  3. 140g / 4.90oz milk
  4. 1 tsp ground mahlep
  5. 1/2 tsp mastic crystals
  6. 1 tbsp sugar
  7. 3 tsp baking powder
  8. 460g / 16.20oz all-purpose flour
  9. 8 tsp orange jam
  10. 1 egg, lightly beaten
  11. 4 tbsp roughly chopped almonds
Instructions
  1. Place mastic crystals and 1 tbsp of sugar in a pestle and mortar and grind. Set aside.
  2. Place margarine and sugar in mixer bowl and cream using the paddle attachment*.
  3. Add mahlep, baking powder, mastic powder and milk and mix in low speed.
  4. Then add flower, a cup at a time. Mix until dough is formed.
  5. Remove dough from mixer. Place on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 4 pieces.
  6. Roll out each piece to a rectangular. Spread 2 tsp of jam in the center of the rolled out dough. Then carefully lift the long edge of the dough and roll again to form a tube in which the jam will be closed in.
  7. Then catch one end and twist it to create a snail shaped pie. Continue until you have 4 snail shaped loaves.
  8. Place breads on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg and sprinkle with chopped almonds.
  9. Bake in a pre-heated conventional oven at 200oC / 400oF for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Lower at 180oC / 350oF if you use convection/fan.
Notes
  1. *If you do not own a stand mixer then mix margarine with sugar using a hand mixer (as you would mix cake ingredients). Add mahlep, mastic powder, baking powder and milk. Then, when time comes to add flour, use your hands to mix gently until you have a smooth dough.
  2. The dough is soft but not sticky. So dust surface with very little flour (it's more like a precaution).
Sweet Applepie http://www.sweetapplepie.eu/
Sweet bread

Orange Jam-swirled mastic mahlep bread (yeast free) - tkd #bread #vgfoodblogawards #sweet #mahlep #mastic

Orange Jam-swirled mastic mahlep bread (yeast free) - tkd #bread #vgfoodblogawards #sweet #mahlep #mastic

Orange Jam-swirled mastic mahlep bread (yeast free) - tkd #bread #vgfoodblogawards #sweet #mahlep #mastic

Orange Jam-swirled mastic mahlep bread (yeast free) - tkd #bread #vgfoodblogawards #sweet #mahlep #mastic

I hope you try this. Let me know what you think.

Happy Baking!

Hand feta pies - tkd #pies #savory #feta #vgfoodblogawardsHello friends!

How are you all doing? Only a few days left until the Food Blog Awards Competition comes to an end.

I’ve been a last minute person my whole life. I was studying the night before an exam; I was preparing my bag pack the moment before leaving the house. Over the years I realized that this was actually a big source of my anxiety and tried to change my habits but sometimes the good old me resurfaces. I am still trying to decide what to wear in the morning, looking blindly through the closet. Last week I ended up wearing a blue shirt that looked pretty much black to me in the dark bedroom.Hand feta pies - tkd #pies #savory #feta #vgfoodblogawards

When the competition started I made a really strict baking/posting program which was actually impossible to keep. That program changed many many times over the last two months, of course. So, here I am, at the very last week, doing what I know best; working hard just before the deadline.

Today I will share with you a very much loved savory recipe; my mom’s feta hand pies; A great snack that you can even carry with you in your bag. The dough, which is called Kourou, is made from scratch but it is very easy. It’s thicker than phyllo dough. It contains Greek yogurt, margarine, baking powder and flour. Let’s see the recipe!Hand feta pies - tkd #pies #savory #feta #vgfoodblogawards

Feta Hand Pies
Yields 25
Made from scratch delicious feta hand pies. Really easy to make. Great snack.
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Ingredients
  1. For 25 hand pies
For the Kourou dough
  1. 200g / 7oz strained Greek yogurt
  2. 150g / 5.30oz margarine VITAM melted and cooled
  3. A pinch of salt
  4. 2 tsp baking powder
  5. 300g / 10.60oz all purpose flour
For the filling
  1. 200g / 7oz feta cheese
  2. 1 medium sized egg
  3. Pepper to taste
Plus
  1. 1 egg slightly beaten for brushing the pies
Instructions
For the dough
  1. Place yogurt, margarine, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Mix until fully incorporated. Add flour and mix gently until dough is formed. Wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
For the filling
  1. Mix feta, egg and pepper in a bowl. Use your hands to break feta into crumbles. Set aside.
  2. Take dough out of the fridge and roll it out in a thin layer. The dough will rise slightly due to baking powder so make sure it’s rolled out thin (0.50cm thick).
  3. Use a cup or a round cutter to cut round disks of dough. Place a tsp of filling in the center of each disk. Fold dough in half. Press the edges with your finger or a fork to stick together.
  4. Continue rolling the dough until you finish with all the filling. These dough and filling quantities will give you approximately 25 hand pies. It will take 3-4 dough rolling outs.
  5. Place hand pies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. Brush surface with beaten egg. Bake in a preheated oven using conventional oven, at 200oC / 400oF for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown (lower temperature at 180oC / 350oF if you use a convection (fan) oven).
  7. After cooling store in an aitight container. Better kept in the fridge during hot days.
Notes
  1. Brushing pies with egg helps browning and makes pies shine. You can brush with milk instead.
Sweet Applepie http://www.sweetapplepie.eu/
Hand feta pies - tkd #pies #savory #feta #vgfoodblogawardsHand feta pies - tkd #pies #savory #feta #vgfoodblogawardsHand feta pies - tkd #pies #savory #feta #vgfoodblogawardsHand feta pies - tkd #pies #savory #feta #vgfoodblogawardsHand feta pies - tkd #pies #savory #feta #vgfoodblogawardsHand feta pies - tkd #pies #savory #feta #vgfoodblogawards

Happy Baking!