At Kids Love Greece we have a great network of food bloggers, family travel experts, chefs and other passionate professionals. Each month, we will be featuring an interview with one of these people, under the section “Meet our Bloggers”. Through these experts, you will get exclusive tips on food and travel in Greece, learn more about Greek culture and get to know passionate locals.
Get ready to “e-meet” this month’s Food Blogger! We proudly present to you Lauren from Laurenaki Food Blog!
Interview With A Food Blogger: Meet Lauren From Laurenaki Food Blog
Welcome to the first edition of Interview with a food blogger! Today we’re chatting with Lauren Wadowsky behind the blog Laurenaki Food Blog. We love Lauren’s blog because she shares easy and healthy Greek family recipes and home-cooked family food. Her beautifully designed blog is a great place to find delicious meal ideas that you and your kids will love. Let’s get to know her better through 10 Kids Love Greece questions!
1. What is the story behind your blog’s name?
I named my blog Laurenaki Food Blog because my husband, who is Greek, nicknamed me Laurenaki when we first started dating in the US. I found it very sweet that he tried to make my name a little Greek. When I started blogging, I thought Laurenaki would work well as the name of a blog about food written by an American with a strong Greek influence.
2. What is your favourite Greek family dish?
Gigantes plaki. It’s a tasty vegan dish that tastes like summer with its roasted tomatoes and fresh parsley. It feeds a crowd at very little expense and is a great dish to serve guests who want to try a traditional Greek meal. I usually make a double recipe and freeze half. It’s a healthy, meatless option to have during the week.
3. What are your cooking inspirations? A famous chef, your mom, a cookbook, a blog etc?
There are so many! Mostly my influences are family. My paternal grandmother was a wonderful home cook who often let me help in her kitchen. She taught me how to bake and I always aspired to be a great all-around cook like her.
My mom is an interior designer who brings her creative talent to the food she prepares. When I was young she often cooked with interesting spices and unique ingredients. She and my dad tried to expose my sister and me to a variety of ingredients and cuisines. They encouraged us to be adventurous eaters which, I suppose, landed me where I am today.
Then of course there is my mother-in-law, Christina Panteleimonitis, who founded Ta Mylelia Watermill, one of the first all-natural pasta companies in Greece. Her recipes are always delicious, healthy and easy to prepare.
In terms of food bloggers, Molly Wizenberg’s blog, Orangette, inspired me to begin blogging myself. I loved how she wrote about life through food. Other blogs I admire include Smitten Kitchen, David Lebovitz, Food Wishes, Cookie and Kate and Oh She Glows. Mostly, I gravitate to bloggers who are also good writers and whose food philosophy is similar to mine.
4. You are based in Athens and you have travelled around Greece. What’s the best food you tried here?
The food in Greece is amazing everywhere but I find the cuisine on Lesvos particularly special since it features both amazing agricultural products and seafood. Some famous foods from Lesvos include olive oil, ouzo and ladotyri (a cheese that’s cured in olive oil). I also love how Lesvos’ cuisine changes depending on the season. In the summer, the traditionally cured sardines are typical fare and in the spring, a lovely, sweet baby cabbage is really not to be missed. In the fall and winter, visitors to Lesvos should try the revithada, chickpea soup, with hunks of crusty bread.
5. What should every foodie try in Greece?
Something seasonal that they wouldn’t find at home. So in the summer, this might be an octopus with pureed fava. In the fall, the moustokouloura (spice cookies flavoured with grape molasses) is a special treat. In the winter there’s soothing goat or chickpea soup. And in the spring, the vegan Lenten dishes like hortopita (greens pie), prasorizo (leek pilaf) and fasolada (bean soup) are healthy as well as delicious.
Finally, food lovers shouldn’t leave Greece without sampling its excellent wines, especially those from Nemea, Naoussa and Santorini.
6. What is your dream destination regarding food in Greece?
I still haven’t visited Crete and have heard wonderful things about its food, history and culture. I love dakos, the traditional Cretan salad of tomatoes and barley rusks and would love to try one in its proper location.
7. You have two beautiful girls. What’s your go-to kid-friendly recipe and do you have any advice/ tip for parents on weaning?
I mostly cook Greek food at home because it includes a lot of vegetables and flavours that are pleasing to all ages. A recipe I keep going back to when I’m cooking for kids is kimadopita or ground beef pie. The recipe I use features a cheesy, meat mixture enclosed in a wheat dough that few adults and kids can resist. In terms of weaning tips, something that worked well for me was introducing vegetables early on and sticking with it. So even if my oldest didn’t like peas, I’d keep serving them to her, maybe trying some different preparations, until she learned to like them. Now she gladly eats many types of vegetables.
8. If you had to share one kid’s favourite Greek recipe with us, what would you choose?
I love the kimadopita recipe on my blog. Click here for the link: https://www.laurenaki.com/kreatopita-meat-pie-recipe/
9. According to you, which place is Greece has the best food?
Again I’m going to say Lesvos for its agricultural products and seafood. The island also has a sizable year-round population that is rather discerning. For restaurants to be successful, they must please the local clientele. This usually works out well for visitors, too.
10. Being an American mom of two young kids in Greece, could you share any tips for people visiting Greece in relation to food restrictions or allergies?
I don’t have much personal experience with food restrictions but I believe food businesses in Greece do a good job of catering to special dietary concerns. I would encourage families on restricted diets to ask for what they need at restaurants and other eateries around Greece. Greek food services take great pride in being able to provide delicious food for all of their guests. So most should be able to cook to your needs.
A specific establishment that I can recommend is Slim Bites, a Greek pastry shop franchise that prepares a range of gluten-free, egg-free, and vegan sweets. They also sell regular sweets that are a bit lighter than what you might find at the typical Greek pâtisserie. They have a branch in Kolonaki in Downtown Athens that is a lovely place for parents to stop and enjoy a dessert or ice cream with kids.
For the phyllo dough:
1 2 lb. package of frozen phyllo dough, thawed or
250 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour
250 grams (2 cups) whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1 cup warm water
For the beef filling:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
800 grams (1.7 lbs.) ground beef
salt and pepper, to taste
5 crushed garlic cloves
1 cup beef stock or broth
1 cup chopped parsley
4 large eggs
½ cup heavy cream or evaporated milk
1 cup grated kefalotyri (provolone, white cheddar, parmesan or a combination could also work)
For the phyllo dough:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt. Create a well in the centre of the mixture with the back of a wooden spoon and pour the vinegar, olive oil and warm water. Combine the ingredients in your electric mixer, preferably using a dough hook attachment. As you can see in my photos, I forgot to do this. It’s not a big deal, but the dough hook combines the ingredients more thoroughly. Mix until everything is well combined.
Turn the dough out onto a wooden cutting board and knead a few times. Then divide the dough into four portions. Place in a bowl and cover with a towel until needed.
For the beef filling:
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the ground meat and cook until browned, breaking up any large pieces. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant then pour in the beef broth. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parsley; set aside to cool a little. Meanwhile, lightly beat the eggs, heavy cream, and cheese; stir into the meat mixture.
Lightly oil a 9x 13-inch glass baking dish.
Roll each piece of phyllo dough into a thin rectangle, thin enough to cover the bottom of your pan and to slightly come up the sides. Line your baking dish with half of your rolled homemade phyllo dough (or with half of your thawed packaged phyllo dough, covering the dough with a moist towel when you aren’t using it as commercial phyllo dries out very quickly); brush with olive oil between layers. Then spread the meat mixture on top. Cover with the rest of the phyllo dough, again, brushing with olive oil between layers. Crimp the phyllo overhang then brush the top liberally with olive oil.
With a sharp knife, score the pie into eight large pieces. Bake in a preheated 200oC (390oF) oven for about 30 minutes. Serve warm.