KirIan Greek Oregano – Wow!



True Greek oregano should have a strong bold taste – with warmth of the essential oils lingering on the tongue. It should also have a deep aroma.

True pure Greek oregano is difficult to find in North America, but KirIan has it!

This product is as pure as it gets and has that amazing deep and bold taste. If you miss the taste of Greece, you will definitely want to get some. Presently, they have it in two sizes – a 20 gram package and 80 grams. If you use a lot of oregano, you’ll need the 80 gram which is actually much more economical as well.



Food In Greece Is Wonderful!

greek seafood sampler platter

The best oregano. Garlic. Amazing olive oil. Olives. Olive paste. Garlic sauces. Feta cheese.

And seafood, fresh vegetables, meats…. Greece is certainly a food lover’s paradise. People who had been to Greece before told me, “You will find that the food just tastes better there. Even Greek recipes we use here just don’t taste the same… ”

They are correct, and I think I know why – it’s possible that it’s due to the high-quality amazing oregano and olive oil that is used in so many dishes. In addition, food is considered a “delight of life” in Greece, and everything is prepared to bring out all the taste that is possible.

I did not take enough photos of the amazing platters of food I ate while in and around Athens for two weeks – I was too busy enjoying the food and looking forward to tasting something new, that I usually forgot to bring out the camera. Next time, I’ll know better. But the above photo was of a seafood sampler platter, one of many platters of food that was brought to our table at a “tavern” with a view of the sea near Mikrolimano, or perhaps closer to Skalakia. To be fair, I sometimes had difficulty with place-names in Greece, and found it hard at times to orient myself as to where I was in relation to other places.

But did I mention the food? Everywhere we went, the food beckoned me – even street side food vendors selling their souvlakia – it was all so good.

My awesome hostess also cooked for me many times, introducing me to homemade traditional Greek dinners, and I would eat until I was stuffed. And all the sauces I enjoyed – of course, I’m already familiar with and make my own tzatziki – but now I have more to try, like “skordalia,” another sauce with garlic but with a base of moistened slices of bread. I’m also on a quest for olive paste, something I first enjoyed while sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Athens.

Moussaka and pasticcio are on my list of things to try here after returning to North America but I doubt I’ll be able to get that exact same taste that I enjoyed while in Greece.

You don’t really know a “Greek salad” until you’ve had one in Greece. The big hunks of feta cheese, olive oil drizzled all over and plenty of the best oregano sprinkled on top.

Speaking of the oregano, I learned a lot about it. I wanted to know why the stuff we buy here is so utterly lame in comparison. I discovered that Greek oregano is of much higher quality and while in the same family as some of the oreganos we get here, is not the exact same plant. Much of the oregano we get in North America is actually “common marjoram,” and even the brands that have imported theirs from Turkey are not using Greek oregano. In addition, much of what we get here is mixed with bulking agents such as olive and sumac leaf.

So it has made me very happy to know that a serious quest is on to bring high quality certified oregano from Greece and make it available! I also learned that you had to be careful of some Greek oregano that is available here; it’s labeled “wild mountain grown” or similar, there is probably a good chance it was harvested illegally. Oregano cultivated for commercial purposes must be done by a certified grower in Greece in order to protect the wild plants from over-harvesting.

You can get a free E-Book with some Greek recipes by visiting and letting them know you are interested in when their Greek Oregano will be ready: Kirian Goods.

I will write more about my Greek culinary experiences over the next little while, but first – a photo of our view from the tavern we ate at, and a second photo of a big slouvaki – a “big one for a big boy,” the owner said. And was it ever good, and such a great deal at only 2.50 Euros!

Food in Greece really does taste better.



The Oven Mitts Saga

Many years ago, I purchased a pair of oven mitts that seemed to last me almost forever. Well, not quite forever, but a good long time – as in many years. But with much use, the did eventually get worn out and I had to purchase new ones.

In four years, I am now on my fourth pair… which seems a bit ridiculous to me, knowing that I got very good use out of a pair that were purchased many years ago.

When they did finally wear out, I went to a local kitchen supply shop and was sold on silicone oven mitts. They were pricey, but I was told that they were the “new thing” and could handle the heat. I was a bit surprised at how thin they were, but decided to try them out.

They could handle the heat – and quite a bit of my baking is done at temperatures of 450 and 500F. I could feel some warmth when removing the cast iron dutch oven after it had bread baking in it at 500F, but nothing that was bothersome.

Until one day… I reached into the oven to pull out the dutch oven and felt searing heat against bare skin! Of course, I immediately lurched my hand out of the oven and upon inspection, discovered that the stitching along the side of the silicone oven mitt had broken.

This exposed part of my hand! Not a very good design for an oven mitt at all.

After the silicone mitts, I went back to the more traditional style. I have no idea what the brand was, but sadly it had no where near the quality of the original pair that I owned, had. They lasted perhaps 6 months before they became worn. Mind you, I do quite a bit of baking – but not really anymore than I did previously.

It was a bit of a pain to sort of adjust my grip when using them, until I could get out and get a new pair. This time, I decided to settle on a recognized and trusted brand and purchased a set of Cuisinart Oven Mitts, with a silicone grip.

The mitt is not 100% silicone, rather just in the grip area, while the rest of the mitt is of a different material. Inside the mitt, there is some lining with an insulating material.

At first, I was quite happy with these. They fit nicely and even my son could wear them on his much smaller hands and still be able to grip things while adding or removing from the oven.

But how long did they last? All of two months! After about two months of use, the lining inside had torn apart with the insulation being worn away. Another “Ouch!” moment when removing anything hot from the oven.

To say I was disappointed in these Cuisinart Oven mitts would be an understatement. You would think that a product with their name on it would be a high quality product, but these are definitely not of high quality. In fact, I’d say they are very poor.

Some time ago, I needed to order some office supplies and generally use Curious, as I knew they sold some baking supplies online, I checked for oven mitts and discovered they carried a number of different styles of heat resistant gloves – not only for baking, but also for other uses where protection from high temperatures is required.

The brand they sold were “Superior Glove” (website here). I had never heard of them, and decided to order a pair.

The model I ordered from Staples was the TBMOB 17″ Terry Oven Mitt with Oilbloc.

When they arrived, I was a bit puzzled as it seemed I had received two left-handed mitts. I inquired of Superior Glove’s customer service and received a reply: “The TBM is an ambidextrous mitt and can be worn on either hand.

Well.. they can be worn on either hand, but are most comfortable on the left.. they don’t really seem to be totally “ambidextrous,” – but that is my only minor complaint with the mitts so far.

They are actually a really high quality product and have been well used since I received them.

I’d like to help you get a pair, but unfortunately they seem to be only available in Canada at this time.

Here is the link to the actual product I purchased on

If you do a lot of baking and have a favourite oven mitt brand, let me know!


A Summer Salad Dressing – Mediterranean Style

I love salads in the summer, and often will make them so large that they are a meal onto themselves.  Often, I won’t follow a particular recipe, but certainly enjoy a “Greek” type of salad with lots of feta cheese crumbled over lettuce, cucumber, tomato, onion… and anything else I might have.

I like to whip up my own salad dressing as well – and a dear friend of mine from Greece says it’s pretty similar to what she would do for a salad dressing. Often, I don’t measure the ingredients very precisely but after enjoying salad with the dressing, my son asked me for the recipe so he could duplicate it. So… the next time I made it, I decided to precisely measure the ingredients.

This is an oil and vinegar dressing – there is supposed to be a precise ratio of oil to vinegar but I can’t recall what that is.  Of course, vinegar and oil don’t mix well together unless you add an emulsifier, which helps to bind the oil and vinegar droplets together. The molecules are still not really “mixed” together, but instead the emulsifier works as a surfectant. And emulsifier for oil and vinegar (or water) have opposite sides, one of which is attracted to water and the other is attracted to the oil droplets.

For an emulsifier, I like to use mustard powder because it works well and also provides a taste I enjoy.

So, here’s the ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, Minced (Yes, We love garlic!)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Himalayan Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 Teaspoon White Sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Basil
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1/8 Teaspoon White Pepper
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Mustard Powder

I combine all the ingredients and then use an immersible blender to mix it all up together.

Drizzle over your salad. Enjoy!

Blueberry & Kale Smoothy

blueberriesBlueberries! Ever since I was little, I’ve loved blueberries and try to find ways to incorporate them into our regular eating. My son absolutely adores blueberries and I can remember times when he was little, after a big bowl of blueberries sat down in front of him, his lips and fingers would be stained blue.

The blue colour, according to the Ontario Blueberry Grower’s Association is due to the “high levels of anthocyanin” in the berries. Anthocyanins have a known high anti-oxidant value, but it is debatable whether they provide much value to humans after digestion. But regardless, blueberries are a healthy snack and we find them delicious!

Combined with kale, we’ve been enjoying a smoothy including the main ingredients of blueberries and kale. I don’t particularly like raw kale, but I know it has many health benefits.  And at this time of year, kale is in abundance at the local Farmer’s Market, and quite inexpensive.

Some of these listed benefits include:

  • Enormous amounts of Vitamin K
  • Rich in important minerals
  • Lots of fibre (helps to reduce bad cholesterol)
  • May be a cancer preventative food

So, we try to get good amounts of kale into our diet on a regular basis. And I’m pretty lucky a my 13 year old son doesn’t mind trying new things and enjoys a wide variety of vegetables – but raw kale does have a taste that is not pleasant for everyone. The answer to that is to mix in a good handful of blueberries into the smoothy, which takes the edge of the raw kale taste. It actually tastes great when served very chilled on a hot summer day!

We’ve been using the recipe (more or less) found over on the HHB website. It’s one of my favourite websites as they investigate claims about health foods and supplements, and look for the science, if it exists, to determine whether or not there is any basis for any number of health benefit claims.

Some suggest that fresh blueberries are the best, and while that may be true if you are able to actually go out and pick them and then consume them within a day, you may want to consider the idea of purchasing frozen ones from the grocery store, instead of the ones in the fresh produce section.

The reason for this is that when commercial growers pick their blueberries, they are frozen immediately, thereby ensuring the quality. On the other hand, blueberries found in the fresh produce section may have been picked several days before they arrive at the grocery store or supermarket, and have lost some of their quality in the days between being picked and when available for sale.

But fresh picked are definitely wonderful, if you can get your hands on them!

If you’ve had problems with the taste of raw kale, but know you should be adding more of it to your diet, consider the kale blueberry smoothy. Perhaps add a few drops of stevia as well, to sweeten it up.

Here’s the recipe from HHB.

Chocolate Babka

chocolate babka“Mmmm! Dad, this is probably the best thing we’ve ever made!”

Those were David’s words as he took a bite of the chocolate babka loaf that we’d left cooling for awhile after taking it out of the oven. And sure enough, it was quite amazing to taste – so good that it was not long after that the entire loaf had been devoured.

I had tried making it a couple of weeks earlier, and while it was good, it was not as good as I had hoped it would be. I know why it did not turn out as good as the second time: I did not let the dough warm up to room temperature long enough before putting it in the oven.  When I baked it a second time with my son, I did not make that mistake and the bread came out amazing!

I learned about this bread and how easy it is to make from Peter Reinhart’s video series on Artisan Bread Making. A fantastic course, by the way. I would never have thought to try this if I had not watched Mr. Reinhart make it. Some of my friends, family and acquaintances have seen photos of the finished baked chocolate loaf, and have asked for the recipe, so here goes:

One thing to be noted is that Peter Reinhart’s recipe calls for dark chocolate chips. I did not have those, but we had milk chocolate chips.  Even though we had to substitute the milk chocolate, it still came out very good. As well, you will need to start the dough the night before you want to bake the bread. Be sure to note that there is a recipe for the dough, and a separate recipe for the filling, which you can make just before you want to bake the bread.

Dough Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons Instant Yeast
  • 6 Tablespoons (3 oz) Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  • 6 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 4 Egg Yolks
  • 3 1/3 Cups All-purpose flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt

Method for Dough (1st Day):

Heat the milk in a small pot to around 97F. Add the butter, stirring until thoroughly melted. Stir in the oil.

Whisk in the yeast, sugar, vanilla and egg yolks.

In a mixing bowl, add the flour and salt and then stir in the milk mixture. Continue to stir until thoroughly mixed and you should end up with a smooth, soft and sticky dough.

Transfer the dough to a floured or oiled surface where you can stretch and fold it several times. The dough should firm up, when you should then transfer it to a an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When you are ready to make the loaf the next day, remove it from the refrigerator, and roll out the dough into a 15″ X 15″ square, with the dough about 1/4″ thick.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Chocolate Chips (we used milk chocolate, Mr. Reinhart used dark chocolate)
  • 8 Tablespoons (4 oz) Butter

With the chocolate chips in a mixing bowl, melt the butter and then pour over the chocolate chips. Mix thoroughly, coating all of the chips with melted butter. Some of the chocolate will melt a bit; you do not however need to try to melt them all.

Method To Finish Loaf (2nd Day):

Preheat oven to 325F.

After you have rolled out the dough, pour the chocolate/butter mixture onto the centre of the dough. Spread out leaving about a half inch border on all sides.  After you have evenly spread the filling, begin rolling the dough up, being sure to pinch the ends as you do to prevent the filling from leaking or squeezing out. You’re likely to get some filling on your fingers, and some will possibly squeeze out. Just rub it back into the dough.

After you have completely rolled the dough, cut it in half lengthwise, and then spiral the two parts together.

This will leave you with one very large loaf, or you can divide the dough into two, and bake two loaves in loaf pans.

babka loaf in loaf pan

Loaf resting in loaf pan before putting in oven.

Alternately, you could also bake one full loaf on parchment paper place on a baking sheet.  We decided to do two loaves, each in a loaf pan. If using loaf pans, make sure they are well greased.

Put the loaves in the loaf pans (or on the parchment paper lined sheet) and cover with plastic wrap for an hour before baking.

Peter Reinhart says that if you bake one full size loaf with this recipe (instead of dividing the dough into two), it will take 50 to 60 minutes to bake completely. We found that 35 minutes was perfect with the dough made into two separate loaves.

After baking, allow to cool for half an hour before removing from the loaf pan. It will still be quite warm and will need more time to cool before slicing and eating. You could also glaze the loaves as we did, using a mixture of 2 cups icing sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 cup of milk.

Enjoy. You will be wanting to make this again, soon!

babka slice