Spanakopita (Greek appetizer)

If you enjoy entertaining as much as I do, you know that a hostess' best friend is her freezer.  Not only great for spur-of-the-moment entertaining, it's a great time-saver when you are planning a party in advance.  These Greek appetizers are one of my favorites.  I use them before dinner, for cocktail parties and, in a slightly larger size, for lunch or even a light dinner with a salad.
Just remember to plan in advance - phyllo must be defrosted overnight in the refrigerator.



1 medium onion, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1 package (10 to 12 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
½ pound feta cheese, crumbled
½ pound farmer cheese
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (2 slices bread)
1 box phyllo pastry sheets (contains 2 packages)
4 ounces melted butter

  1. Sauté onion in two tablespoons butter until golden. Add the spinach and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until most of moisture has evaporated. Stir in the feta cheese, farmer cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste, and add the bread crumbs.
  2. Cut one package of phyllo into four equal pieces.  Using one section at a time, and keeping the others well wrapped, brush one strip at a time with melted butter, cover with a second strip and brush that with melted butter.  Put one teaspoon of the spinach mixture at one end of the strip and fold over and over into a small triangle.
  3. Arrange the triangles on wax-paper covered cookie sheets and freeze.  
  4. Repeat with second package of phyllo.
  5. When frozen, transfer to containers.
When ready to bake, arrange triangles on parchment-lined cookie sheet, brush tops with melted butter and bake at 425° until golden.



Q. Hi Betty,  I just watched your video on spanakopita.  You make it look easy!  I  haven't made that in ages, but they are delicious. I recently bought fillo dough (Athens brand) to make strudel, and I am sure the sheets are smaller than they used to be. Is that so, or is it just me ??  Fran Boyer
A. Thanks so much Fran.  Yes, the sheets are smaller - like everything else!
Q.How about doing a video on cherry pie with Washington's Birthday coming up ?  I  plan to do it for a group in RI, and have a recipe, but haven't done one in a while.   Fran Boyer

A.   I'll be glad to do a cherry pie.  I was thinking about doing one on pie crust since my daughter Liz recently asked me to show her how to do that and a cherry filling sounds delicious.

    Spaghetti Carbonara

    Like many old recipes, this dish has a number of stories connected with it.  Some say it was a favorite of the charcoal makers and some give credit to coal miners.  Whoever invented it deserves a medal!  It is another one of these great pasta dishes that can be put together while the water comes to a boil.  If you plan ahead and keep some Parmegiano Reggiano cheese in the refrigerator, and pancetta in your freezer (I buy several ¼" thick slices at a time, usually each slice weighs about 2 oz., chop them and package them in 2 oz. quantities in plastic bags) you always have the ingredients for a delicious meal on hand.  Add a Caesar Salad and no one would guess you hadn't planned this for days!

    Spaghetti Carbonara

    4 oz. pancetta, chopped
    2 oz. pecorino (or locatelli) cheese, grated
    2 oz. parmesan, grated
    3 large eggs
    12 oz. spaghetti
    2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the back of a knife
    2 oz. unsalted butter
    Freshly ground black pepper
    1. Put a large saucepan of water on to boil.
    2. Fry the pancetta on low heat until starting to brown.  Add the garlic and cook until the garlic is browned and the pancetta is golden and crisp.  Remove the garlic and any excess fat and discard.  Add the butter and keep the heat on  low.
    3. Whisk the eggs and add most of the cheeses.
    4.  Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water, add the spaghetti and when the water comes back to the boil, cook at a constant simmer for 6 minutes, or until al dente.
    5. When the pasta is ready, lift it from the water with a pasta fork or tongs and put it in the frying pan with the pancetta.  Don’t worry if a little water drops in the pan and don’t throw the rest of the pasta water away yet!
    6. Mix most of the cheese in with the eggs, keeping a small handful back for sprinkling over later.  Take the pan of spaghetti and pancetta off the heat.  Now quickly pour in the eggs and cheese and, using tongs or a long fork, lift up the spaghetti so it mixes easily with the egg mixture, which thickens but doesn’t scramble, and everything is coated.  Add extra pasta cooking water to keep it saucy (several tablespoons should do it).  You don’t want it wet, just moist.
    7. Serve immediately with a little sprinkling of the remaining cheese and a grating of black pepper.  If the dish does get a little dry before serving, splash in some more hot pasta water and the glossy sauciness will be revived.


    On a snowy morning (or indeed any morning!) what could be better than a breakfast of orange juice, hot coffee and just-made blueberry pancakes.  I know it’s so easy to grab that box of mix off the grocery shelf and add water, but with the investment of just a few more minutes, you’ll have pancakes that are so much better. (Video demonstration below).

    Blueberry Pancakes

    4 tablespoons butter, melted
    1 cup flour
    2 teaspoons sugar
    ½ teaspoon baking powder (aluminum-free preferred)
    ¼ teaspoon baking soda
    ½ teaspoon salt
    1 large egg, slightly beaten
    ¾ cup buttermilk (see note)
    ¼ cup milk (1 cup milk if using buttermilk powder)
    1 cup blueberries
    1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. (Also add buttermilk powder, if using.) Add the beaten egg to the milk/buttermilk mixture and whisk. 
    2. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Add 2 tablespoons of the melted butter and stir.
    3. Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium-high heat and brush lightly with some of remaining melted butter.  Add pancake batter, I use ¼ cup of batter for each pancake, and sprinkle with blueberries. 
    4. Cook 3 or 4 minutes until small bubbles appear on the top, flip and cook for another minute or two until underside is browned. 
    5. Transfer to a warm plate and keep warm in a 150° oven while you cook remaining pancakes. 
    6. Serve with warm maple syrup.
            Makes 12-14 pancakes
    NOTE:  If you don’t keep buttermilk on hand, buy a box of buttermilk powder which keeps for ages in the refrigerator.

    Watch the video to see how easy and quick you can prepare great pancakes; 

    Lobster-How to remove the meat

    Q. Hi Betty, I'm enjoying your website and question after reading the Lobster Roll recipe. How do I prepare a lobster, especially separating the parts and removing the meat. Never sure I'm getting all the meat. Thank you.  Loretta D.

    A. The old saying "one picture is worth a thousand words" always works best- we've edited a short video to demonstrate the procedure. Happy eating.    Betty

    Arroz con Carne (Yellow Rice with Meat)

    Arroz con Carne - literally rice with meat.  This is a variation of a classical Spanish dish - Arroz con Pollo - Rice with Chicken.  Not to be confused with an Americanized dish called Spanish Rice.

    My father-in-law grew up in Ybor City in Tampa, Florida, a community comprised mainly of Spanish and Italian families so it was natural that each would adopt some of the dishes of the others.  This is a dish has been a family staple for many years.  It's simple, tasty, economical, relatively low calorie, and freezes well. 

    1 lb. ground beef, browned and reserved

    3-4 tablespoons olive oil
    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 red pepper cut in pieces - about 1" square
    1 green pepper cut in pieces - about 1" square
    1 plump clove garlic, grated, finely chopped or put through a garlic press
    1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
    1 1/2 cups Uncle Ben's rice (the original variety)
    large pinch of saffron or Sazon Goya or Vigo flavoring for Arroz con Pollo
    2 cups hot homemade chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
    1 cup hot water
    1 1/2 cups defrosted green peas
    salt and pepper

    1. Mix the saffron with the chicken stock.
    2. In a large saute pan with a tight fitting cover, saute the onion for 3 or 4 minutes until softened.
    3. Add the peppers and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.
    4. Add the garlic and stir thoroughly to combine.
    5. Add the tomatoes and stir again.
    6. Add the rice and stir to coat - if using Sazon Goya or Vigo seasoning, add at this point.
    7. Add the ground beef and mix well.
    8. Add the chicken stock and water and stir to combine.
    9. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
    10. Check to see if rice has absorbed all of the liquid and is tender.  If necessary, add up to an additional 1/2 cup water and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.
    11. Add the peas, stir and leave off the heat for a few minutes.
    Serve with a tomato and onion salad tossed with a little olive oil and red wine vinegar and some crusty bread.

    Please watch my video demonstration:


    Thanks, sounds like a great tasting dish. In Ybor City and especially Miami, we grew up eating something similar to this with more of a Cuban flavor to it called Arroz con Picadillo. Similar but different in that the heavily flavored ground beef is served on top of the arroz with onions, capers and peppers and other spices. Congrats to the chef.   Tom V.


    Superbowl is coming and if you are planning a party at your house, here's a great hearty dish that can be prepared partly in advance and needs just a few minutes to complete on the big day.  No Superbowl party?  Make it for the family - it's just the thing for these wintry days!



    For the Pork Mixture:               
    1 cup chopped onion               
    1 cup chopped green bell pepper           
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil          
    1 1/2 lbs. leftover cooked pork, or          
    1 1/2 lbs. lean ground pork          
    12 ounce can tomato sauce          
    2 tablespoons tomato paste           
    10 ounce package frozen corn, thawed       
    1 tablespoon ground cumin           
    1/2 teaspoon ground allspice           
    2 teaspoons chili powder
    1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    1 teaspoon Tabasco or to taste
    1 Tablespoon yellow cornmeal

    For the Topping:
    1 cup flour
    1 cup yellow cornmeal
    3 tablespoons sugar
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
    3/4 cup milk
    1 large egg, beaten lightly
    1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
    4 ounce can chopped green chili peppers, drained

    1. Make the pork mixture:  in a large skillet, cook the onion and pepper in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, add the ground pork if using, and cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring and breaking up any lumps, until the pork is no longer pink.  Otherwise, simply add the chopped cooked pork and mix.  Stir in the tomato sauce,  tomato paste,  corn, cumin, allspice, chili powder and Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon of the Tabasco, cornmeal, and salt and black pepper to taste, simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, and add  additional Tabasco, if desired.  Spoon the mixture into a shallow 2 1/2 quart casserole.  The mixture may be made 1 day in advance and kept, covered and chilled.

    2.  Make the topping:  Into a bowl sift together the flour, cornmeal, sugar and baking powder.  Add the butter, milk and egg and stir the batter until it is just combined.  Stir in the Monterey Jack and the chili pepper and drop the batter by large spoonfuls around the edge of the casserole.  Bake the potpie in the middle of a preheated 400º oven for 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 350º and bake 30 minutes more.

    Serves 6.

    Macaroni & Cheese (with a twist)

    Mac & Cheese with Ham and Peas
    Q. Betty, my family loves good old macaroni and cheese, but it's time to spice up the recipe. Any suggestions?

    A. One of the cooking magazines I subscribe to is Fine Cooking.  Unlike some of the other magazines, this one is devoted entirely to cooking and frequently sends me right to the kitchen to try one of their recipes.  The latest issue featured an article on Macaroni and Cheese with charts that offered  a dizzying number of ways to combine ingredients to vary this usually plain dish.  The one I chose to try was perked up with some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, some diced ham, peas and a delicious crunchy topping made with fresh breadcrumbs, a little Parmigiano-Reggiano, garlic and melted butter.  (Watch my video demonstration)

    A key to making the sauce is to cook the flour and butter in the beginning for 3 or 4 minutes to make sure there is no “floury” taste so don’t skimp on this step.

    For the topping:

    1 small clove garlic, grated
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    2 cups coarse, fresh breadcrumbs, lightly toasted (process 4 or 5 slices good quality bread until coarse crumbs form)
    2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

    Stir the garlic into the melted butter. Drizzle the melted butter over the crumbs.  Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Toss well with a spoon or your hands.  Set aside.

    For the cheese sauce:

    4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    ¼ cup flour
    3½ cups whole milk
    8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
    2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
    1 cup diced ham
    1½ cups peas, thawed if using frozen
    1 pound cooked macaroni

    Put a large pot of water on to boil and preheat your oven to 350°.
    Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 3-to-4 quart saucepan.  Whisk in the flour and continue to whisk over low heat for 3 or 4 minutes.    Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly.

    Whisk until the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened.  Raise the heat to medium and bring the sauce to a simmer, whisking constantly.  Lower the heat to maintain a gently simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, for 10 minutes. 
    Elbow Pasta

    In the meantime, salt the boiling water for the pasta and add the pasta.  Cook for 7 minutes.  Drain well, return to the cooking pot or a large bowl and toss with a tablespoon of butter to prevent sticking.

    Remove from the sauce from the heat and gently whisk in the cheeses.  Add the sauce to the cooked pasta and toss well.  Gently fold in the ham and peas to combine.
    Transfer the mixture to a 9-x-13 baking dish, top with the crumb mixture and bake for 15 minutes.

    If you don’t want to cook the entire mixture at once, divide as you wish into smaller portions and freeze for future use. The video demonstration is below, please watch.

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    Eliza’s Banana Bread

    I don't know about you but, every so often I end up with a few overripe bananas and this bread, a favorite of our granddaughter Eliza (photo), is a great way to use them up.  In fact, it's worth buying a few extra bananas just for this purpose!


    1 ½ cups all purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    ¼ teaspoon salt
    ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
    ¾ cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
    ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    1 cup sugar
    2 large eggs
    1 cup mashed ripe bananas
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
    1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
    2. Butter and flour 9x5x2 ½ -inch metal loaf pan. 
    3. Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. 
    4. Combine chocolate chips and walnuts in small bowl; add 1 tablespoon flour mixture and toss to coat. 
    5. Beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended. 
    6. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. 
    7. Beat in mashed bananas, lemon juice and vanilla extract. 
    8. Beat in flour mixture. 
    9. Spoon ⅓ of batter into prepared pan. 
    10. Sprinkle with half of nut mixture. 
    11. Spoon ⅓ of batter over. Sprinkle with remaining nut mixture. 
    12. Cover with remaining batter. 
    13. Run knife through batter in zigzag pattern.

    Bake bread until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool.

    Home Made Onion Dip

    If you are having friends in to watch the football playoffs, here's a great dip to have on hand.  You can make it a day or two ahead, but let it come to room temperature before serving it with potato chips.  I strongly suggest you double the recipe!

    Home Made Onion Dip

    2 large yellow onions (I use Vidalias in season)
    1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    4 ounces low-fat cream cheese, room temperature
    ½ cup light sour cream
    ½ cup light mayonnaise

    Slice onions thinly then roughly chop.

    Heat the butter and oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat.  Add the onions, cayenne, salt, and pepper and sauté for 10 minutes.  reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes, until the onions are browned and caramelized.  Allow the onions to cool.

    Place the cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth.  Fold in the onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings. Top with a bit of parsley.

    Lobster Roll

    A trip to Maine would not be complete without a lobster roll, that incredibly simple treat which demonstrates that the total is greater than the sum of its parts!

    I'm a great fan and promoter of British cooking, but I was appalled to read one chef's (who will not be named - but he is noted for his "colorful" vocabulary) recipe for a lobster roll.  It had just about everything in it but the kitchen sink.  He totally missed the point of a lobster roll - lobster!
    All you need is the meat from a cooked 1 1/4 - 1 1/2lb. lobster, 1/4 cup of finely diced celery and a scant 1/4 cup of mayonnaise.  Mix these ingredients gently and place in two top-split hot dog rolls which you have buttered and toasted.  You could stretch it to three rolls if you wish.

    A simple dish which is one of my favorites - I hope you will enjoy it too.

    P.S. For directions on how to remove the lobster meat from a whole lobster watch the first part of my video "Lobster Pasta Sauce."



    Betty, your series on cooking is very informative.  Cooking is one of my hobbies.  Because of this, I find myself reading a lot of recipes or seeing someone on TV cooking.  You've hit on one of my pet peeves (in particular when you were discussing "Lobster Rolls") which is that some chefs make dishes that are overly complex resulting in masking the subtle flavor of say lobster.  

    I could well sympathize with you about how "appalled" you were to read that a certain chef advocated putting a lot of ingredients in his/her rolls which, obviously, compete with the lobster flavor.  

    Of late, the use of gorgonzola has been dangerously recommended (my opinion - even though our favorite cheese is Stilton), I would almost never include it as an ingredient [it's also very expensive]).  Another culprit is Garlic.  Many people erroneously think that one could never put in too much garlic. There is a common misconception that Italians use a ton of garlic in everything.  Perhaps poor, peasant Italians might but, as you know, many more sophisticated Italian recipes might call for a hint of garlic if at all.
    Then your Lobster Sauce used a Maine Lobster.  I've found a ton of people who are unaware that frozen lobster tails come from a different fish.  I buy live lobsters at the super market when they go on sale.   However, thus far your programs illustrate a simple way of cooking.  As the old expression states, "one has to learn to crawl before they can walk". What I mean to say is rather than to recommend a recipe that contains many chances to "screw up"(which isn't a problem with an experienced cook like you), you give them something that a novice could handle.  Good thinking on your part. Joel M. 

    Lobster Sauce with Pasta


    Bob and Ruth

    This is a dish I served to my sister and brother-in-law a couple of weeks ago.  My sister told a friend about it and her friend requested I post the recipe (with a video!) So here it is.  It is a relatively economical way to enjoy lobster since one 1½ pound lobster serves two.


    1½  lobster, cooked (ask your fish man to do this for you )

    1 shallot, finely diced
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 cup diced tomatoes (canned are fine)
    ½ cup white wine (See Q&A below)
    ¼ heavy cream
    6 - 8 ounces of pasta of your choice
    1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. 
    2. In a large baking dish, break apart the lobster and remove the meat, reserving all the juices and the liver and tomalley (the green parts - the tomalley may be pink depending on how long your lobster was cooked).  I know this doesn’t look very appetizing but, trust me, it adds immeasurably to the flavor of the dish.
    3. Remove the meat and cut into bite size pieces.
    4. In a large skillet, melt the butter,  add the shallot and cook over medium heat until softened.
    5. Add the tomatoes and reserved juices from the lobster and cook for 5 minutes until they start to break down.
    6. Salt the water for the pasta and cook the pasta one minute less than the directions state.
    7. Add the white wine and cook for a further 5 minutes.
    8. Add the cream and cook until the pasta is almost ready.
    9. Add the lobster and cook for just a minute or two.
    10. Transfer the pasta to the skillet using tongs - don’t be concerned with the water clinging to the pasta - you want this.
    Cook the pasta in the sauce for about a minute -  mixing well.
    Transfer to serving bowls and enjoy!

    If you wish, you may add crushed red pepper to this dish - do so when you add the tomatoes.
    You may also garnish the finished dish with some freshly shredded basil leaves.

    Add my favorite Caesar Salad (See video) and you have a great meal.

    Watch the Lobster Pasta Sauce video:



    Q. Hi Betty, What kind of white wine did you use for the lobster sauce.  Linda M.

    A. Any non-sweet white wine will do.  I used Pinot Grigio, but I always have a small bottle of white vermouth, which basically lasts forever, on hand if I don't want to open a bottle.  Whatever you do, don't use that ghastly stuff labeled "cooking wine".