Greek Fest 2019

Sunday Dinner – 24 March 2019

Yes, we do an annual Greek Fest in our house. No, we are not Greek. It’s usually in the winter to early spring as it’s a hearty, comforting meal. It only happens annually because it took me a solid 5 hours in the kitchen this year, and that’s with assistance from Brian, Mom and Aunt Pat. It takes me that long to recover!!!

When we went to Steubenville OH several years ago for the annual Dean Martin Festival held on Father’s Day weekend, we stumbled on the Greek Orthodox Church’s annual festival on the Friday and I think it’s fair to say that it changed my life. I went back to work and explained to my coworkers this amazing food I’d eaten, and that’s how I got the moussaka and spanakopita recipes – a photocopy of a newspaper article from 1983 that had the recipes that I still use today.

Lots of chopping and multiple steps to this meal. Nothing inherently tricky from a cooking or baking perspective. But it is worth every minute!

To start we had a Greek salad with romaine hearts, thin sliced red onions, cucumbers, tomato, oregano, kalamata olives and feta tossed with a homemade balsamic vinegarette (olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper, sugar & oregano).

The spanakopita was served with the salad while the moussaka finished baking. I will say that to have another set of hands to deal with the phyllo is critical (at least for me). That and keeping the dough in a dampened cloth so it doesn’t dry out too much. (scroll down to the end for the recipe)

The moussaka was beautiful. If you’re unfamliar with this dish, it’s Greek lasagna, but using sliced eggplant instead of pasta, and bechamel instead of a heavy amount of cheese. I used three eggplants, which my husband pre cooked on the grill to save me some time, but I could’ve used four. I also use 1 lb of lamb and 1 lb of ground beef to add another dimension to the flavor. And as typical of my style, I used more cinnamon that the recipe called for, as well as additional tomato paste and wine (1 C instead of 1/4). The bechamel was easy peasy, but I had to use ground nutmeg instead of fresh (since I dropped my last nut in the bread pudding from Mardi Gras weekend). Normally I just buy shredded parmesan but this time I bought a wedge and grated it for each of the layers. (keep scrolling for the recipe)

So I have a confession. I’m afraid of frying anything using more than just a scant coating of oil in a pan, so my usual dessert for this dinner is cream puffs. But that didn’t feel authentic enough for me. Boy do the Greek people like their deep fried dough or what??? I didn’t want to overload on phyllo, either, so baklava was out. A search for Greek desserts resulted in this Revani cake. It wasn’t too intimidating as I’d made a Basbousa cake when we fixed Palestinian food. The beating of the meringue separately was new, and the orange flavor was different. But it was very good, especially with the cinnamon/brandy syrup. Whipped up some homemade whipped cream and it was DELICIOUS. I would definitely make this again.



We started with a Greek Retsina wine from Tsantali, which was supposed to have hints of pine. Totally tasted like cheese that just started to mold to me. That didn’t stop me from finishing my glass though. The ladies around the table agreed it was not a favorite, so we switched to a bottle of F. Stephen Millier’s Lodi Shuraz instead. MUCH better pairing for me.

Aside from the leftovers in the fridge, it’ll be 2020 before I eat this meal again. Although I do have a roll of phyllo dough left to do something with…more spanakopita it is!


Here are the recipes, as printed in the Mattoon Journal-Gazette on 23 June 1983.


  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 3 med. eggplants
  • Butter for frying
  • 4T.butter
  • 3 Ig. onions, chopped fine
  • 3 T. tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 3 T. chopped parsley
  • 14 tsp. cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 slightly beaten eggs
  • 1 C. freshly grated Parmesan cheese Breadcrumbs

White Sauce:

  • 4 T. butter
  • 6 level T. flour
  • 2 cups hot rich milk
  • 12 tsp. salt
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 2 egg yolks, well-beaten

Cut the eggplants (unpeeled) into thick slices and fry quickly in butter on each side until light brown. Heat 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet and saute the meat until brown. Add onions and cook for 10 minutes longer. Add tomato paste, diluted with wine, the parsley, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat, stirring often, until liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and when cool, mix in eggs. Meanwhile, combine ingredients for white sauce: Heat butter and blend in flour, stirring steadily; when bubbling slightly, add milk slowly, stirring constantly. Continue cooking over low heat until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat and add salt and nutmeg. Pour finished sauce over the beaten egg yolks. Grease a medium-sized, square or oblong roasting pan and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Arrange alternate layers of eggplant and meat with’ bottom and top layers of eggplant. Sprinkle each layer with cheese and bread crumbs. Cover with white sauce. (The sauce forms a thick . crust on top of the Moussaka.) Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bread crumbs. Bake, in a 375 degree oven for about 1 hour, or until top is golden. Remove from oven and allow to set for a few minutes before serving. Cut in squares.


  • 3 pkgs. frozen, chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1/2 lb. phyllo sheets
  • 1/2 lb. cottage cheese
  • 1/2 lb. butter, melted
  • 2 T. parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 2 small dry onions
  • 1/2T.salt
  • 1 T. dried mint leaves
  • 1/2 C. grated Greek Cheese, (feta)
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 bunch green onions
  • 1 T. dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 4T. flour

Chop onions and soften in 1 stick butter. Take thawed spinach and squeeze dry. Put in large bowl. After onions are softened, add parsley. Beat eggs. Cool onions. To the spinach add cheese, egsg, dill, mint, flourv cottage” cheese; ” and pepper: t Stir. Add onions after they have cooled. Oh bottom of 9-11 pan place ten buttered sheets of phyllo.

Put spinach mixture over phyllo in pan. Cover with 14 more buttered sheets of phyllo. Cool in refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Cut the top of the Spanakopeta (like a cake, 4 down and 6 across). Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool before serving.

St. Paddy’s Day 2019

Sunday Dinner – 17 March 2019

St. Paddy Snow

The scene out our back windows Sunday Morning showed no hint of green, as a late season snow had covered everything in downy white. Inside the mood was festive though, with St. Paddy’s Day Radio from Sirius XM streaming throughout the house. I began peeling carrots about 7:30, and had them sautéing with onions and shallots before eight. I’d picked up two nice flat cut corned beef briskets (Morton’s of Omaha) from Aldi. They went into the pot next, along with malt vinegar, pickling spices and a can of Guinness.

Corned Beef in the Pot

After that simmered for five hours, I added about three pounds of red potatoes and a couple small heads of cabbage cut into wedges.

This was the second year using this recipe from Sunset Magazine. It turned out perfect this time. Last year I’d used cheaper point cuts from Jewel or somewhere, and it was good, but this year’s meal was dramatically better.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Claudia made dark chocolate Guinness cupcakes with vanilla icing and caramel that were awesome.

Guinness Cupcakes

For the wine pairing, surely you jest.

Irish Libations

So fill to me the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all.

Mardi Gras

Sunday Dinner – 3 March 2019

Table Set for Mardi Gras

We have certain “go to” meals that we fix for specific annual events. For years now, I’ve fixed jambalaya and bread pudding with whiskey sauce on the last Sunday in ordinary time before Lent begins.

A friend and co-worker from my days in Mattoon brought Jambalaya to work for a potluck one time and it was soooo good I had to have the recipe. I can tell you that I’ve never made it with chicken. This recipe really is easy and I’m not really sure why I don’t make it more often!



  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 tsp white pepper (I cut it down to just 1)
  • 1/4 tsp sage
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper


  • 1 C chopped onion (I just chop up a whole onion…it’s probably more than a cup)
  • 1/2 C chopped celery (again, I probably double that)
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped (you can really use any color…I think I prefer the flavor of the green in this)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (or more to taste)


  • 1/2 lb smoked sausage (I just used a 12 oz package)
  • 1/2 lb shrimp or chicken (I always use shrimp, and always use then entire 1 lb bag)


  • 1/2 C tomato sauce (the cans I get are 8 oz so I just use the whole can)
  • 2 1/2 C vegetable broth (you could use chicken stock if you’re using chicken instead of shrimp)
  • 1 1/2 C uncooked long grain rice (I usually use a brown rice, but I had a lot of jasmine in the pantry)
  • 2 Tblsp olive oil


  1. Mix seasonings together in a small bowl and set aside
  2. Chop vegetables and set aside
  3. If making with chicken or raw smoked sausage, brown meat in 2 Tblsp olive oil
  4. Add chopped vegetables and cook about 5 minutes til soft (if not using raw meat, I just start at this step)
  5. Stir in tomato sauce, broth, rice and seasonings.
  6. Bring to a boil and simmer until liquid is absorbed (don’t lift the lid), about 45 minutes to an hour.
  7. I add the shrimp at the very end since I’m afraid of raw shrimp and buy the precooked

Alternatively, after bringing to a boil, pour the mixture into a greased 13 x 9, cover with foil, and back @ 350 degrees for about an hour, until liquid is absorbed.

In addition to the jambalaya Brian baked a  bread boule, and it wouldn’t be Sunday dinner at the Noe household without a green salad. This week I decided to make Penzey’s Green Goddess dressing to help balance out the seasonings from the main dish.

I stumbled on this recipe from Emeril Lagasse for bread pudding with whisky sauce and it is ah-maz-ing! I do alter it slightly, though. The first time I made it I read the the cinnamon as TABLESPOONS instead of TEASPOONS, only realizing it later when I decided to write it down on a recipe card. But you know what, it’s really, really good with that much cinnamon in it, so I make it that way all the time now. I also put in 1 cup of raisins…half a cup just doesn’t seem like enough.

New Orleans Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

The meal was paired with nice Eldorado County Cuvée from 2016, the Coloma Mother Lode (55% Syrah, 35% Grenache, 10% Zin). This wine was Rhonish and delicious.

We’ll see…maybe I’ll make the jambalaya again some weeknight, otherwise, we’ll see again next year before Lent!

Old School Supper Club Drinks

As long as I’ve known my father-in-law, he has occasionally asked “got anything for an after dinner drink?” I thought he meant Cognac, or something.

It turns out that there is an American Supper Club tradition of drinks made with sweet spirits and heavy cream, that people used to call “after dinner drinks.” They are sometimes made with ice cream as well. I learned about these, and the “before dinner” abomination known as the “Brandy Old Fashioned, Sweet” on a documentary called Old Fashioned: The Story of the Wisconsin Supper Club.

This sent me down a rabbit hole. This week I’ve been researching, buying odd ingredients, and mixing up something new every night.

So far, I still prefer my Old Fashioned with Rye, and neither Mrs. Noe nor I were fond of the Brandy Alexander. But she liked the Grasshopper, fondly calling to mind the Crème de Menthe and ice cream creations from her parents’ kitchen. And both of us liked the Pink Squirrel. Who’d have ever thunk it?

Here’s the final concoction we tried, the Golden Cadillac. Both of us liked it better than the Brandy Alexander, but not as well as the other two drinks.


For the Old Fashioned, just substitute Korbel brandy for the whiskey in your favorite Old Fashioned recipe, and top with 7 Up instead of soda water.

Here are the recipes for the creamy drinks. Use equal parts of the three ingredients for each of these, shake with ice and serve strained and up.

If making with ice cream instead of heavy cream, use 2 parts of ice cream to 1 part each of the two other ingredients and blend.


Green Crème de Menthe
White Crème de Cacao
Heavy Cream

Brandy Alexander

Korbel Brandy
Dark Crème de Cacao
Heavy Cream
Garnish: Grated Nutmeg

Pink Squirrel

Crème de Noyaux
White Crème de Cacao
Heavy Cream
Garnish: Maraschino Cherry

If you have trouble finding the Crème de Noyaux, substitute Amaretto and put in a little cherry juice.

Golden Cadillac

White Crème de Cacao
Heavy Cream
Garnish: Chocolate shavings


My Father Tending Grill in the Late 1950s

Roy Noe Tending Grill

My sister sent me several pictures after reading the earlier post about my father’s barbecue. Here’s a scanned detail from one of them, showing him actually working at the grill.

She remembered “many burger cookouts as well as sometimes fish” and noted that my mom was good about pulling a cookout together when company came.

Based on some of the other details in the full photo, I would suspect that this was taken in 1957 or 1958.

My Father’s Barbecue

Barbecue Ideas

In the backyard of the house my father built there was a brick barbecue grill. As I remember it, it sat on a concrete slab just back of the breezeway, and to my toddler eyes it looked like a huge red throne. There were concrete caps on each side of the hearth, with grill grates fashioned of rebar stretching between them. The grates were at eye level to me, and the chimney on the back was about as tall as my dad.

I’m certain that he built it with his own hands, perhaps with some help from one of his union brothers or a neighbor, but I don’t remember him ever cooking on it. After his passing, it was just another interesting thing for us to climb on, like the orchard trees he had planted, the tall iron swing set and the big metal septic tank.

Like so many other things about my father that I don’t remember and therefore had to conjure, the image of him tending the fire and food is all the more vivid to me.

That’s probably the main reason I so love to cook outdoors. Whether or not my father actually made much use of his fine brick barbecue grill, my ideal American backyard or patio wouldn’t be complete without a spot for flames, and a guy cooking there.

While I was growing up (after my father passed away), my family didn’t grill out much. I do remember occasional weenie roasts or cookouts at the homes of uncles and aunts, and my mother used a hibachi for cooking hamburgers once in awhile. My first recollection of truly awesome grilled or smoked food would be from the county fair, or the local apple and pork festival in a neighboring town.

My own outdoor cooking pursuits began in my early twenties with one of those cheap metal tripod grills you could buy at the hardware store for $3.99. It was essentially a round metal tray with legs and a small grill grate that fit on top. We would climb out the window of a friend’s apartment on to a flat section of roof with the grill, a bag of match light and some burgers or hot dogs, and half an hour later we’d be living the dream.

I soon graduated to a Weber Smokey Joe when the cheapo model fell apart, and I began to learn how to cook things other than burgers and dogs. My first full-sized Weber Kettle came not long after.

Thirty years later and my patio is still home to a vintage Weber Kettle, along with a Genesis gas grill we added this Summer and a portable fireplace for roasting marshmallows and such. Either a Komado style smoker or a Weber Smokey Mountain water smoker is yet to come, but every now and then I still dream of building my own custom brick grill and oven one of these days. My ideal would be something similar to the one pictured at the top of this post. The image was created for the cover of a book from Sunset titled Ideas for Building Barbecues which was first published in 1962. Yes, I do have a copy.

Or maybe my barbecue would be like the Chinese oven Trader Vic used to create all of those amazing Polynesian-inspired dishes for his restaurants. Or perhaps just a simple red brick and concrete hearth like my father’s.

I may never build it, but it’s nice to imagine.

For now, I’ll be tending my fires, be they fueled by gas, charcoal or wood. Each time I take tongs or spatula in hand, I’m a man from Kentucky with a toddler on his shoulders – in a backyard in Oreana, Illinois on a fine Summer day – a long, long time ago.