Hye Thyme Cafe: November 2010

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Egg Rolls

I have to thank Aaron McCargo, Jr. for this idea. It's been rolling around in my head ever since I saw his recipe a few years back. I just never had enough leftovers to try it! This year, we cooked two turkeys, just to make sure everyone had their fill of the Fully Loaded Thanksgiving Sandwiches the next day. Even after all the sandwiches, we had more leftovers, so I just had to jump in and try these!

I think Aaron's were strictly turkey and dressing, with a gravy dipping sauce. I threw in a few extras. We were thinking that everything was a similar texture, so I minced a stalk of celery and about half of a carrot and mixed that up with some chopped/shredded turkey, stuffing, pilaf, and a few spoonfuls of homemade whole-berry cranberry sauce. Then I sprinkled and mixed in a little poultry seasoning, thyme, salt, and pepper.

To roll them, place a wonton skin on your work surface, with a corner facing you. Put a blob of filling on the bottom third, roll that corner up over it, pulling back to kind of tuck it under a little if you can, then fold in the sides and continue rolling to the outside corner, wetting the corner first to seal it closed.

I baked them on a lightly sprayed tray at 350 until golden, but I was reminded why I haven't baked egg rolls for several years...I don't like them that way!! I will definitely be making these again, but I'll deep fry them next time. I was thinking I'd give the kitchen a break after all the abuse it took leading up to and through the holiday and bake them tonight, but I much prefer the texture of egg rolls fried. I served them up with the leftover homemade cranberry sauce, but if you've got any gravy left, have at it! Just a warning, these babies retained their heat for a while when they came out of the oven, so be careful!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Nutmeg Cake with Eggnog "Sauce"

I honestly didn't have a whole lot to do with Turkey Day this year. We keep trying to cut back on the normal mass quantities of food we prepare, and this time around, I was asked to make just one new side and one new dessert. It didn't occur to me until Thursday morning that this was the first holiday since I was probably 12 that I haven't made any of the usual Armenian goodies - there were no stuffed grape leaves, no paklava, kadayif, simit, tabouli, etc. We did, of course, have pilaf, and there was Jajig (a cheese dip) and pita chips, but that's as far as it went. I didn't even make one cookie or pie! It's not that we didn't have enough food, so it wasn't missed in that way. It just seemed to me like something was missing. Anyhow, when trying to think of a new dessert, eggnog automatically came to mind because of the season. What goes in eggnog? Nutmeg -- so I got it in my head to make a Nutmeg Cake with Eggnog Frosting. I looked online for Nutmeg cakes to find a starting point and had to laugh when I was faced with page after page of ARMENIAN Nutmeg Cake. Who knew?!? 

I looked at a few, then modified a bit. In looking at the pictures, I had expected this cake to be along the texture of a banana bread, but it was really more on the drier end of the spectrum, like a tea cake. As for the frosting, that was an epic fail! The only recipes I saw involved eggs and flour, etc., so that didn't appeal to me in any way, shape, or form. I decided to wing it and start with a stick of cream cheese, a stick of butter, and some eggnog and see where it went. Does "From Bad To Worse" sound familiar to anyone???

I beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy, then mixed in a half cup of eggnog and a tablespoon of brandy. It soaked it right up, and I hadn't even added any sugar yet, so I thought OK, great - I can use a whole cup. WRONG!!! I added another half cup, then started adding powdered sugar. I added, and added, and added. It just wouldn't come together. I stopped when it got to the point where you were about to no longer taste the eggnog and just taste sugar. I was contemplating scrapping the whole thing and trying again, but then I said the heck with it. It tasted good. I just couldn't torte and frost the cake like I had planned. Instead, I sliced it, spooned on some "sauce," and sprinkled nutmeg and cinnamon on top.

This will now torture me until I make it right. Hopefully, I can forget about it for now and try it again next year, but knowing me, it will nag at me and not let me go until I do it again - soon. Regardless of the frosting aspect, I think when I do the cake again, I'll try adding a tablespoon or two of either yogurt or apple sauce. 

2 c flour
2 t freshly grated nutmeg
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground clove
1 1/2 c light brown sugar
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
10 T (1 stick + 2T) unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 c milk
1 t vanilla
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat your oven to 350 and spray loaf pan with cooking spray (baking version with flour).

In a large bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients, then cut in the butter, using a fork or pastry cutter.

Measure out 3/4 c milk in a measuring cup, then beat your egg right in the cup with the milk, stir in the vanilla, then blend into the dry ingredients.

Pour into your prepared loaf pan and bake for about an hour, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 5-10", then remove to rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Banana/Orange Strawberries on the Half Shell

This is the last of my Pampered Chef party bites from the weekend. We wanted to offer a dessert or two, so I made these and the Chocolate Dipped Phyllo Straws. I think the ladies were trying to be good before the holidays because more of these went than the chocolates. Imagine that?!?!  

Had the berries been smaller, I would have "stuffed" them, but since they were so big, I didn't think anyone would really want to pop a whole one, so I opted to fill them half-shell style. I'm posting the recipe as I did it, but I would have preferred the filling to be a firmer texture. You might want to either cut back on the yogurt or pour it into a strainer lined with cheesecloth or paper towels to drain off some of the liquid. I had thought it would firm up more when chilled.

5 T softened cream cheese
1c + 1 t sugar
6 oz vanilla yogurt
2-3 oranges
2 bananas
1/4 t orange extract
Sanding sugar (optional)

Wash and core your strawberries. Whether you are filling them upright or on the half-shell, take a tiny sliver off the bottom to level them so they don't tip over on your serving platter.

Beat together the cream cheese and 1t sugar until light and fluffy, then stir in the yogurt. Mash your bananas with a fork or pastry cutter and  add to the cream cheese mixture. A little texture is nice, so don't completely pulverize them.  

Zest one of your oranges and stir that in, along with a drop or two of orange extract if you've got it. I say extract rather than the juice from the orange because it's more concentrated, and the juice would just make the filling even looser. If you've got a third orange on hand, you might want to add more zest instead. When that's all mixed, go ahead and fill your berries and let them chill for a while.  

I would NOT recommend doing these the day before your event, because you don't want the berries to start shriveling, but you can certainly prepare the filling ahead of time. I did it the night before and just refrigerated it, then washed and stuffed the berries on the morning of the party.

For the garnish, use a vegetable peeler to strip the zest away from your other orange. If there is any pith left on the strips, try using a paring knife to remove it. In a small saucepan, cover the peels with water and boil for about 5".  


Drain the water, then add a fresh 1/2 c of water and 1c sugar to the pot. Bring to a boil, stirring so they don't stick together, and let cook for about 2".  

Place a cooling rack over a piece of waxed paper and transfer the peels to the rack to dry. If you want, you can sprinkle the tops with sanding or regular sugar. Allow to air dry 4-5 hrs or overnight. When you are ready to use them, you can cut them into strips, pulse them in the food processor or do what I did and just run a knife over them to chop them. If you want to get fancy, before you first boil them, you can slice the peels into 1/4" wide long strips, then when they come out of the syrup, you can twist them into spirals and let them dry that way.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chocolate Dipped Phyllo Straws


I realize that being Armenian, I'm pre-programmed to eat pretty much anything wrapped in phyllo, but these things are addictive!! I figured we needed a few sweet treats for the Pampered Chef party the other day, but since the holidays are coming up, I didn't want to make something over the top, figuring people were saving up their calories. I had seen a version of these in A Taste of Home and thought I would give them a try, along with a stuffed strawberry I'll post tomorrow. For whatever reason, this was the one thing that nobody really went after. Thankfully (sniffle) a friend took most of them home for her kids so I wouldn't eat them all!!

melted butter
whatever goodies you want to dunk them in
cooking spray

If you look at the Taste of Home version, they buttered each layer and rolled the phyllo, then sprinkled the cinnamon sugar, dunked in dark chocolate, then drizzled with white. I did it a little differently.

First, you will want to mix up some cinnamon and sugar in whatever ratio you like. I did it right in a  small paper cup so I could just shake it over the phyllo. Then melt some butter. I think I nuked about 1/3 of a stick in a glass measuring cup. I usually clarify my butter when making Paklava or Spinach Pie, etc., but I didn't bother for these. You certainly can if you want to take that extra step, but you will need to start with more butter.

Remove the phyllo from the box, and slice right through the plastic sleeve, about four inches down the roll, wrapping the excess in foil and freezing it for another use.

Open up the roll, peel off two sheets of phyllo and place them on your work surface with the short end toward you. Brush with butter, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. I started off a little light, as pictured, then got more generous with the filling as I went on. I'd go a little thicker than pictured, but not too much more. You want to be able to taste the filling through the chocolate.

Start rolling until you get to the thickness of a straw or thin breadstick, then slice it off and start again. Layer the rolls, seam side down, on a lightly sprayed baking sheet. Phyllo size varies greatly by brand, but I was able to get 3-4 straws out of each strip.

Either brush the tops with butter or give them a shot of cooking spray, then bake at 425 for 3-5" until golden.

While they're cooling, you can rummage through your pantry and find things you might want to dip them in - sanding sugars, coconut, chopped nuts, etc. I settled on some white sanding sugar, chopped pistachios, and candied orange peel I had made to go with my stuffed strawberries.

If you are going to use chocolate chips for your dip, you might want to add a teaspoon or so of Crisco. Because I like their creamy texture, I opted to use some milk chocolate Dove candies. If you use that type of chocolate, you do not need to add the Crisco. I have gotten into the habit of melting my chocolate in the microwave. Because it was the shortest, narrowest, microwave-safe vessel I had, I melted the chocolate in a glass one-cup measuring cup. It was the perfect height to let me dunk the straws. I hovered over the cup for a few seconds to drain off the excess, then sprinkled the nuts, etc., and placed the straws on waxed paper to set.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Spinach and Artichoke Potato Bites

Here's another app I threw together for our Pampered Chef party yesterday. The good thing is that if you're gearing up for a party or holiday, you can put these together the day before and just bake them off on the day of the event. That's one less thing you have to deal with on your big day.

I just happened to luck out and found these multi-colored baby potatoes, but you can use any small potatoes. Here they sell bags of "salt potatoes." That's a really weird concept to me...bags of potatoes that come packaged WITH salt?!? I guess the assumption is that most people have table salt at home and what comes with the potatoes is a coarser. When I first saw them, I thought it was a "type" of potato, but they're just small white potatoes. Anyhow, before I saw these, I was thinking the salt potatoes were a little too big and had almost settled on fingerlings. I wasn't thrilled with the idea, but it would have been doable in a pinch - I could have carved them out lengthwise and made "boats" instead. 

About 30 small potatoes
2t minced garlic
  (I used the jarred with hot peppers)
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper
1 can artichoke hearts, diced
1 med onion, diced
10 oz chopped spinach
1 T cream cheese
pinch of cayenne pepper
grated Parmesan or Romano
2T chopped fresh parsley

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil with a little salt and pepper until the onions are translucent. Add in the artichokes and spinach until the spinach is cooked through - as you can see in the pic above, mine was still a little on the frosty side. Stir in the cream cheese and a little grated Parm or Romano. I had pulled out the Kraft shaker (pic above), but I actually ended up using fresh grated Romano IN the potatoes and sprinkled the Parm on top when they were on their way into the oven. Add the cayenne pepper and adjust your salt and pepper to taste. Set filling aside to cool.

Now back to your potatoes ...

Aren't they cute? I've seen them full sized before, but I've never seen baby purple potatoes. Go ahead and give them a little bath, and while they're air drying a bit, you can go figure out what you want to bake/serve them in. Make sure whatever you use is oven-safe at 450 degrees. Give it a shot of cooking spray or brush it with olive oil.

Scoop out the middles, making a thin shell. Leave enough on the bottom so you can remove a thin slice to level them - you don't want them tipping over. I used the small end of a melon baller, but  if you don't have one, whatever you're comfortable with is fine - maybe a grapefruit spoon or a strawberry huller.

 When all of your potatoes are lined up in your baking dish, give them a quick spray or drizzle of olive oil, then fill them with the spinach/artichoke mixture. If you will not be baking them now, this is where I would stop. Cover them loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Just make sure to take them out early enough to come to room temp. You definitely don't want your baking dish exploding in the oven because it's cold when it goes in!

Sprinkle the tops with grated Parm or Romano and bake at 450 for 20-25" until tender. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley before serving hot or at room temp.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Antipasto Sticks

Talk about easy! We had a Pampered Chef party today, and rather than the average chips and dips, crudites, etc., we wanted to set up a few new apps for the occasion. The hostess was preparing a pasta dish to showcase one of her items, so this came to mind as an obvious accompaniment. Besides, I've had this Nabisco/Kraft recipe stuck in my head since Feb 2009, and needed to free up some space in there for some new stuff! ;) This is a little different than theirs, but it was more of a visual than a recipe. I needed a picture as a reminder. You can use whatever you want really - maybe some roasted red pepper, a mushroom (ewww), etc.

I was very surprised to see that once everyone started eating, this was the first thing to go. Just goes to show - not everything needs to be complicated to be good! 

pint grape tomatoes
1 can quartered artichoke hearts
container of bocconchini or cubes of your favorite cheese
pepperoni or salami (I used thick-sliced pepperoni)
your favorite olives (I used green today - some spicy garlic and some plain)
Italian dressing (I used a packet of Good Seasons Zesty Italian prepared with an aged Balsamic Vinegar)
Long cocktail toothpicks or fresh rosemary spears with most leaves removed

Because we were making a bunch of different things and throwing the party as a brunch, we wanted to get as much as possible done yesterday so we wouldn't have to get up too early. We live like vampires in this house - we're definitely night people! The original recipe calls for marinating the cheese and artichokes for a half hour, but I wanted to set everything up last night and didn't want the cheese to break down - also, it's a lot less messy to spear things that aren't lubed up with dressing!  

I speared all of my goodies last night and stored them upright (loosely covered) so nothing would get smushed ...

Then this morning, I threw together my dressing, poured it into a plastic cup that was about the same height as the toothpicks, dunked each spear, let the excess drip off and plated ... 

See how there's not a big pool of dressing on the plate? You want them seasoned, but not drowned - especially if you're using a soft cheese. You don't want people picking up the sticks and having the cheese fall off cuz it got too soggy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

IRON FOODIE 2010 - Update

OK, I'm not gonna spill be beans (no, that's not a hint) on what they are, but I'm excited to report that I received my eight (no longer a) mystery ingredients from Marx Foods today, so I'll need to put my thinking cap on over the weekend to come up with my dish! I'm VERY pleased to report that proteins were not involved, so there was nothing looking out at me when I opened the box! ;)

On a completely unrelated note, I just got home from a Straight No Chaser concert.  If you aren't familiar with them, be sure to check them out on You Tube.  They are a fabulous a cappella group, and very funny too.  They do a great mix of genres and even did a tribute to Lady Gaga.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010



If you're looking to add a new cookie to your holiday repertoire, this should be it!! A year or so ago, I was looking for uses for a seasoning we use in Choreg (Armenian Sweet Rolls). It's called Mahlab, and is really the inside of cherry pits. How people come up with these things is beyond me! So I Googled Mahlab and found this recipe on Cave Cibum. It seems that Pam and I have a few things in common - some recipes, our nationality, and we even grew up in the same general area. I had never heard of this cookie though. According to Pam, it was a Lebanese recipe in one of her Armenian cookbooks. Wherever it originated, I'm sure glad she found it and blogged about it.  We're addicted to these things now!! 

If you don't have an Armenian bakery in your area or some other Middle Eastern type place to find the Mahlab in, you can order it online from spice shops like Penzey's. If you don't have a coffee grinder at home, make sure you get it already ground. If you do have one, I recommend grinding it yourself. That way, it will be fresh, and any extra you have will keep longer than the ground. I usually store the ground Mahlab in the fridge or freezer, depending on how long it will be between uses. 

3 c flour
1 c sugar
1 T+ Mahlab
2 T baking powder
2 sticks butter, melted
1/4 c warm water
4 T honey
2 T warm water
sesame seeds (about 3/4 c)
pistachios, finely chopped (about 1/2 c)


Preheat oven to 350.  Combine the flour, sugar, mahlab, baking powder, butter, and water. Mix until firm, and refrigerate for 15 -20".

In a small bowl, combine honey and water, stirring to dissolve the honey. On a small plate, combine the sesame seeds and pistachio pieces.

Pam rolled her dough into walnut-sized balls and them flattened them into circles. For some reason, I got it in my head to make them stick shaped.  Maybe the sesame seeds made me think of those stubby bread sticks. Either way is fine, but it's actually probably easier with the sticks. Rather than brushing them with the honey mixture and dipping them in the seeds, I just dunked them in the honey and moved right over to the seeds.

Set up on trays lined with parchment or sprayed (I prefer the PAM for Baking when I'm not using parchment). Give them about an inch of elbow room - as you will notice from my pics, they may have gone in somewhat stick shaped but they spread into ovals in the oven.

Bake for 10-15" until they just start to brown. They have a slightly chewy texture, and the Mahlab gives them great flavor!

Thanks Pam - love these!!!  :) 

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