Valley Greek Festival

I recently attended the Valley Greek Festival which took place at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church located within the San Fernando Valley. This event invites the public to be immersed within a Greek cultural experience with live music, dancing, a Greek market, cooking demonstrations, and of course the centerpiece..eating various types of authentic Greek cuisine.

The Valley Greek Festival does well to create an authentic Greek experience, where the guests literally feel like that are at some far away festival in Greece. The music enhances the atmosphere and gets the crowd into a festive mood, while dancers dressed in their traditional outfits perform to enthused crowds. The Greek Market is also a crowd-pleaser where guests can leisurely shop around for Greek items and relate with venders. The festival also has cooking demonstrations where they can fully immerse guests within the Greek culture and show them how to cook authentic Greek cuisine.

Speaking of Greek Cuisine, food is by far the centerpiece of the festival. Like one would see children line up for rides at the amusement park, guests wait in long lines just to taste the incredible flavor of various authentic Greek cuisine. While most of the names of the foods could not be pronounced, the flavors were fantastic. While some dishes needed to be approached with an open mind, guests are surely wowed by the Greek cuisine.

So lets talk food! There was a wide variety of authentic Greek dishes at the event which could almost be slightly overwhelming, so I decided to start with the comfortable calamari. Deep-fried to perfection, the calamari had wonderful flavor with added spices and of course lemon-juice.

I then worked up some courage to try the Pork Souvlaki, which is just marinated beef that is skewered and barbecued, as well as barbecued lamb chops. Both were mouth-watering and full of incredible flavor, as we watched them being grilled to perfection. While there were many of dishes that I cannot not pronounce, I became too full to try all of them.

I quickly moved to desert when I spied a delightful dish called Loukoumathes, also known as “Greek Donuts” that are deep-fried and then covered in honey and cinnamon. I can honestly say that out of all the food at the festival, these were my favorite. My mouth was drooling as I watch the cooks take the small donuts fresh out of the deep-fryer and on to my plate.

Since we are talking about desert, I cannot forget the mention the various traditional Greek pastries sold around the festival. Once again, the names can be tongue-twisters and the look can be a little frightening, but when in Greece you have to keep an open mind. We decided to try three different types of pastries: Baklava, Kourambiethes, and Kataifi. The Baklava was my favorite and featured very rich and nutty flavors.

While the food was all fantastic, the festival also provided tours of the nearby church. The church I found was absolutely breath-taking with the various portraits, stain-class artwork, murals, and statues. It also provided a welcoming peace and calm from the fast-pace festival outside.

Overall, the Valley Greek Festival was an exciting and memorable event; I felt as if I was in the middle of a Greek festival in Athens. Not only were the dishes delightfully delicious, but the venders were very welcoming and did well to immerse the guests in a traditional Greek cultural experience.

Photos by: Christopher James Sigman

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Lemon Zucchini Bread with Lemon Glaze

I’ve been on this obsession to cook bread lately. When I moved into our new place a little over a month ago, the previous tenants had left a bread dish in the cupboard. Being still a young college student without many cooking utensils and baking equipment in the kitchen, I’ve never owned a “fancy” bread dish. Well I took advantage of someone’s trash and made it my treasure. Yes, if you’re wondering, I washed it first! 😛

I’ve utilized the bread dish by making several loaves of the best banana bread ever, and by request from a room-mate zucchini bread came to life. To be honest, I had never had zucchini bread. Do not ask me why, but zucchini + bread just did not seem like a compatible match to me. But, my room-mate insisted so of course, I gave in.

So, I browsed through a couple of recipes online until I stumbled upon a Lemon – Zucchini Bread. YEah, that sounds amazing doesn’t it? I was like…fresh? YEAH! Lemons = Fresh. The perfect way to spice up a traditional Zucchini bread. This also gave me the opportunity to let me rely on natural ingredients for fantastic flavor. There is so much flavor in lemons. The juice..and the ZEST! Zesting a lemon can be a wonderful experience. Not only does it bring beautiful bright color to your dish but it also brings a pleasant lemony aroma to your kitchen that is beyond refreshing.

Overall, this is a recipe I am so glad that I stumbled upon and will definitely be making it in the future. Oh, did I fail to mention it comes with a lemon glaze that is the perfect icing on the cake to this wonderful dish? 😉 Enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups – Flour
  • 2 Tsp – Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp – Salt
  • 2 – Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup – Vegetable Oil
  • 2/3 Cup – Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup – Buttermilk
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • 1 Cup – Grated Zucchini
  • For the Glaze: Juice of 1 Lemon/ 1 Cup – Powdered Sugar

Instructions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 Degrees & Grease your bread pan.
  • In a large bowl, mix your flour, salt, and baking powder.
  • In a medium bowl, beat 2 eggs then add in oil and sugar. Blend well.
  • Add in your buttermilk, lemon juice, lemon zest. Blend well.
  • Then fold in your grated zucchini!
  • Add this mixture to your dry ingredients and mix well, but don’t over-mix!

  • Pour your batter into the bread pan and bake for 45 minutes.
  • Cool in pan for 10 minutes.
  • While the bread is cooling, make your glaze.
  • In a small bowl, mix the juice of 1 lemon with a cup of powdered sugar.
  • Let the glaze set and then serve.

The Best Banana Bread Recipe

Now, I am not lying when I say it is the best. It really is! There are several…more like hundreds, of different variations when it comes to making banana bread. Being a lover of bread in general, I have used several different banana bread recipes.

Now, I know everyone believes that their recipe for banana bread is the best, but let me tell you.. I think I’ve got you beat! There is one special ingredient that goes into this recipe for fantastic banana bread..sour cream. This special and surprising ingredient brings this moist flavor and texture to the bread that makes it truly delicious!  With just one special added ingredient..it makes this recipe for banana bread by far, the best!

Whether you serve it as a dessert, for breakfast with a little melted butter (I also add cinnamon & sugar), or just as a snack..this delicious loaf of banana bread is great to have on your counter. I also love this recipe because all of the ingredients are usually what you already have within your pantry, then just add some sour cream!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup – Butter (Melted)
  • 1 Cup – Sugar
  • 2 – Large Eggs
  • 1 Tsp – Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/2 Cup – Flour
  • 1 Tsp – Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Tsp – Salt
  • 1/2 Cup – Sour Cream
  • 2 Medium Bananas – (Mashed!)

Instructions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 Degrees.
  • In a large bowl, mix together your melted butter and sugar.
  • Mix in your eggs and vanilla.
  • Combine flour, baking soda, and salt (in separate bowl), then add into wet mixture.
  • Mix until smooth, then add in your sour cream and bananas.

  • Put batter into a 9 by 5 bread dish that has been greased.
  • Bake for 60 Minutes.
  • Let cool for about 10 minutes before cutting into it.

Spread with a little butter and cinnamon & sugar! Yum!

Apple Gorgonzola Salad

Apple Gorgonzola Salad, easily one of the best dishes I have ever eaten. I recently ordered this dish at Italian restaurant Buca Di Beppo in Los Angeles.. oh! Was I pleasantly surprised by this delicious creation! There is an explosion of flavors with every bite ranging from apples, berries, cheese, nuts, and zesty dressing.
As soon as I experienced this wonderful salad I knew I wanted to cook it up at home and add my own little twists to it. Which is exactly what I did! I made several variations to the original recipe to simplify it. For example, I substituted Granny Smith for Fuji Apples (I feel they have much sweeter notes and have a more exotic taste). I also simplified the somewhat complicated dressing included with the dish for a simple Italian Dressing straight off the shelf from the supermarket (this dish might also be good with a Raspberry Vinaigrette!). The other alteration I made was with the nuts, which I quickly roasted and candied instead of using their somewhat complicating spicing recipe.
I guess you can say that I somewhat simplified Buca Di Beppo’s recipe for Apple Gorgonzola Salad, but included the same, if not better, great taste! Let me tell you, the substitution of Fuji Apples and candied walnuts really added something to the taste of the salad.  I strongly recommend anyone to skip out on Buca Di Beppo and make this delicious dish in the comfort of your own home with this simplified recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 1 – Fuji Apple (Or apple of your choice)
  • 3/4 cup – Walnuts (candied..we will get to this process in a bit)
  • 3 Tbs – Gorgonzola Cheese
  • 3 Tbs – Dried Cranberries
  • Romaine Lettuce (amount desired)
  • Italian Dressing (amount desired)

Instructions:

First, you need to candy your walnuts! Now..I may sound a little lame here but I’ve never candied nuts before. I also didn’t know how easy the process was! Come on..it’s not like I’m Paula Deen!?

But seriously, all you need is the nuts of your choice and sugar. Yep, that’s it.

Here is the simple process to Candy Walnuts (which I’m sure many of you already know, this is just for my fellow blondes out there ;):

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Throw about 1-1/2 cups of nuts onto a baking sheet and cook for about 5 minutes (do not let them burn).
  • Let them cool for a bit.
  • Heat about 1/3 cup sugar over medium heat until melted and golden brown.
  • Throw your nuts into the melted sugar and cover all of the walnuts.
  • Remove from heat and back onto baking sheet then begin breaking apart nuts with a spoon.

That's it!

Now let’s get back to the salad!

  • Chop your lettuce, apple, and crumble your cheese (if needed).
  • Throw all ingredients into a large bowl.
  • Toss with dressing.
  • Garnish with remaining apples, cranberries, cheese, and walnuts.

So so good! Btw, doesn't this picture remind you of Twilight? Hehe..

My Week as a Vegetarian

Delightful Discoveries is Vegetarian Friendly!

A class project led to something I once believed would be the ultimate challenge – a vegetarian diet; let’s just say, it didn’t turn out to be much of a challenge at all. Coming from a former lover of meat – that juicy flavorful porterhouse or a zesty lemon pepper chicken – as I’ve grown, my desire of meat has depleted somewhat. As I grow older I notice my strong desire for fresh. I’m quite sure how to explain it; I desire fresh foods from fresh ingredients. Meat lately just seems to be lacking the ability to pack that special punch to my taste buds. Who knows, maybe I’m turned off by the unhealthy facts surfacing and surrounding red meat?

A vegetarian diet was never something I really considered. A past fear of mine always would resurface. . .could I really live without meat? As I’ve grown, of course my fear has decreased.

A class project led to the challenge of a vegetarian diet. I was assigned to either stop, start, or change something within my life for the course of 7 days. Food seems to be a primary factor within my life, why not try a vegetarian diet?? I did allow myself the exception of dairy because I cannot live without cheese and it as my main source of calcium.

Well I went forward with my challenge and guess what?! I was successful! I breezed through my week as a vegetarian, dodging any bothersome obstacles. I was able to really reflect on my diet and eating habits – some of my findings were pretty surprising! I really had no strong desire to consume meat products and I feel great!

While reflecting on my diet and eating habits over my week as a vegetarian, I was able to learn some fascinating facts about myself. Most significantly, the fact that I do not really consume that many meat products. The only meat I really consume is chicken breast; white meat is always better than red meat! For the most part, I was basically already living a semi-vegetarian lifestyle!

The question is now that I’ve experienced a vegetarian lifestyle, should I stick with it? Could I give up meat forever? This is a question that I do not yet have an answer for. When you’re a cooker and an eater like myself, giving up meat may end up with a lack of experiences. So, maybe I am not ready yet? After my week of change, I know that I no longer have a fear of lack of meat, and could possibly consider a vegetarian diet in the future!

Some Helpful Tips:

Either way, my week as a vegetarian was very beneficial. From someone who has experienced this type of diet to someone who may be considering it, here are a few tips I learned while eating a vegetarian diet, as well as some healthy alternatives to your everyday diet:

  • The importance of protein – The only issue I felt during my week as a vegetarian was my small problem of feeling full. Be sure to stock up on your beans and nuts. Protein is your friend. Trade in those burgers & try my delicious Veggie Black Bean Burgers. Also if you are looking for a fun chili, trade in the traditional for my delightful Veggie Black Bean Chili. Whatever it may be, remember to eat your beans!! Also, go to your local market and buy yourself a good large can of mixed nuts.
  • Overload on your Greens – Veggies, Veggies, Veggies! If you’re looking for that fresh that I love, go to your produce section at the market and load up on those greens! Pick yourself up a head of broccoli, bag of carrots, several green bell peppers, cucumbers, etc. A great tip is to substitute your chips for chopped cucumber with a side of ranch.
  • Trade your sweets for fruit – Fruit is your friend kids. It truly is. Nature’s candy is truly much better than mans. Try cutting up your apples and sprinkling them with a dash of brown sugar and cinnamon. Whenever you feel your sweet tooth going nuts, go cut yourself up some fruit. My best tip here is to go to your local market and buy whatever is in season. If you absolutely cannot live without the sweets, add a few semi-sweet chocolate chips to your bowl of apples or other cut of fruit.
  • A Vegetarian Diet can be inexpensive – Coming from a college student on a budget – this diet can be done without breaking the bank! Many people shy away from healthy foods because of high prices, they do not realize that some healthy foods are really cheap! Like I said before, buy your produce that is on sale! Also, many name brand products are available generic for much cheaper with the same great taste.

I had a great experience eating a vegetarian diet and applaud anyone who lives this lifestyle. I have posted several tasty vegetarian recipes on Delightful Discoveries and trust me, you can expect to see many more! I also plan to add a vegetarian category to my recipe selection so those dishes can be easily accessible.

If you are looking for some tasty Vegetarian dishes check out these recipes on my page:

  • Broccoli & Cheddar Soup with Macaroni
  • Vegetarian Black Bean Chili
  • Black Bean Veggie Burgers
  • Randy’s Veggie Pizza
  • Black Bean Soup
  • & Many many more 🙂

Broccoli & Cheddar Soup with Macaroni

A recipe inspired by rainy days while wandering the market – Broccoli & Cheddar Soup with Macaroni will be the perfect remedy to your rainy day. While this has always been my favorite soup, the added ingredient of macaroni really does something wonderful to this dish. The cheesy goodness mixed with the flavorful broccoli & other ingredients will not only satisfy your taste buds, but warm you up on those cold & rainy days. Also, an added bonus of this recipe is the health benefits; it is very low in fat and calories and is also vegetarian friendly!

Broccoli & Cheddar Soup with Macaroni:

Ingredients:

  • 8 Oz – Dry Elbow Macaroni
  • 1 1/2 Cups – Onion (Chopped)
  • 2 – Carrots (Chopped)
  • 1 – Celery Stalk (Chopped)
  • 3 Cloves – Garlic (Chopped)
  • 1 Tbs – Butter (Melted)
  • 2 Tbs – Flour
  • 3 Cups – Vegetable Broth (You can also use Chicken Broth)
  • 1 Cup – Milk
  • 2 1/2 Cups – Broccoli Florets (Chopped)
  • 2 Cups – Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 2 Tbs – Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste

Instructions:

  • In a large pot, begin melting your butter.
  • Begin chopping up your celery, carrots, onion, & garlic.
  • Begin sauteing in pot over medium low heat for 5 minutes or until soft.
  • Boil your macaroni in salted water until tender; Drain, set aside.

  • Add in flour & pepper and stir until smooth.
  • Slowly add in your broth & milk while whisking constantly.
  • Set to medium-high heat until it comes to a boil then cover and cook on low for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Add in broccoli and parmesan cheese; stir well. Cook uncovered until broccoli is cooked & soft.

  • Add Cheddar mixing well until cheese melts, then immediately remove from heat.
  • Add in cooked macaroni and add salt & pepper.

Garnish with cheese & a side of cheese bread! Enjoy!