June 9, 2017

Ready, Set, Weekend with Simply Beautiful Eating

Guess what?

I HAVE OVENS!

Not one but two. Yep. That’s what I wanted in the new kitchen, because God only knows what the future will bring. I figured that it was a practical move since entertaining for a crowd will be inevitable. My mom always loved  her double ovens. When she hosted  large family gatherings twice a year, there was always enough room to place extra dishes in both to keep all the food nice and toasty.

Last night I made my first pizza in the lower oven. Why the lower one? It’s much easier to reach into. Despite the fact that there is still no running water on the main floor, I am absolutely thrilled to be able to bake, broil and roast again.

As an added bonus, Steve has planted all our fresh herbs in the garden and you know what that means? I’m out there snipping and clipping. Now, I’m not a big chive lover but to be honest, they were unbelievably good on this pizza. Along with the fresh herbs, I used sliced zucchini and farmers cottage cheese for my toppings. This was one fancy dancy pizza, don’t ya think?

Oh, and I also have counter space to work on now. OODLES of counter space, which I’m going to tell you about.

I’m in the midst of writing a detailed renovation blog, but I wanted to share this one piece of information with you today. If you have been following along in this adventure, you will remember that I have ISSUES in making up my mind. It’s not that I’m indecisive. Well, maybe a little. Okay, maybe A LOT.

I just want things to be RIGHT. I figured that I have to be in love with the choices I make for this kitchen, otherwise I will be waiting for the opportunity to change things in the future. Deciding on a counter top was one of the toughest decisions for me to make.

You see, being a food blogger means that you are going to beat the crap out of your work space. It means drips, spills, scratches and work space abominable messes. What does all that mean? It points towards choosing a durable surface that can withstand ME.

I searched and searched through every possible man made quartz counter top sample and finally decided on one.

THEN.

I changed my mind. (insert Steve’s eye roll thingie here) Let me tell you what happened.

I walked into a showroom to choose my quartz slab and the salesperson said “don’t look to the right”. When I asked her what she meant by “don’t look to the right”, she informed me that all the marble slabs were to the right and all the quartz slabs were to the LEFT.

So naturally I went to the right.

That was my first mistake, because I fell hopelessly IN LOVE. All the slabs I saw were exactly what I have dreamt of having in my kitchen. There wasn’t one person who didn’t try to talk me out of getting marble. I was basically told “it would be the worst decision ever”.

So what did I do?

I chose marble.

Am I insane for doing so? Probably. Is it beautiful? YES. Is it perfect? No. With every natural stone there are flaws, but I guarantee that there will be more once I start my usual kitchen antics.

I was super careful last night with this pizza. I used every trivet I had in the house to make sure that the pan didn’t come in contact with the counter. Worth it? Uh huh.

Making my own pizza dough is something that I love to do, but for a quick version and since I’m still running up and down the stairs for water, I used a store bought whole grain shell for this pizza. Easy peasy.

The whole shebang took me less than ten minutes to throw together and look how pretty it is!

I’m starting to see a light at the end of the kitchen tunnel. For instance, I have a couch now which has nothing to do with the kitchen, but it’s somewhere that we can sit now. Or should I say, the cat can sit. She was ecstatic that we gave her back some furniture to park her butt on. Why is it that she thinks she owns everything? Most likely because she DOES.

ZUCCHINI & FARMERS CHEESE PIZZA WITH FRESH CHIVES

– 1 store bought pizza shell
– flavored olive oil, I used garlic& herb
– 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
– ½ cup fresh baby spinach leaves
– 1 teaspoon dried oregano
– 2 zucchinis, thinly sliced, steamed and blanched
– 6 tablespoons farmers cottage cheese or goat cheese
– kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
– fresh basil leaves, for garnish
– 2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives for garnish

1) Preheat oven to 450F. Grease a 14-inch round pizza pan. Place your pizza shell on the pan and brush with flavoured oil.
2) Evenly sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the crust. Top with spinach leaves. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and sprinkle the dried oregano evenly over the top.
3) Bake in the lower third of the oven until the crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly and browning on top, 8 -10 minutes. Meanwhile, steam zucchini slices for 3 minutes in the microwave with 2 tablespoons of cold water. Drain and blanch in ice cold water.
4) Remove pizza from oven and top with zucchini, dollop farmers cottage cheese over it and sprinkle with chives. Place back into the oven for two to three minutes just to warm through. Slice and serve immediately.

See you next week!

debi @simplybeautifuleating

xx, Debi
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May 12, 2017

Ready, Set, Weekend with Simply Beautiful Eating

Well, guess what?

I still don’t have a kitchen.

So what if it’s been almost 4 months? So what if I haven’t picked up my camera? So what if I forgot how to think, write or edit? So what if there are swatches of paint, slabs of stone, and visions of couches dancing through my head. SO WHAT!!

I apologize if I sound cranky today. That’s because I AM. Forgive me.

DEEEEEEEEEEEP BREATH.

Okay, so there is a space where the kitchen is going to be but I don’t have any cupboards, sink or a place where I can actually COOK and BAKE. What this means is this, I have to come up with ways to prepare meals that are effortless and don’t require a stove or oven.

You wanna know something? I think I can relate to the pioneers. They leaned towards making dishes using their survival skills and cooking over wood fire burning stoves. Tempted to do so in my living room because, frankly, it’s been too cold outside to cook on the barbecue.

It’s May for Godsakes. Come on.

Even though it’s been months of prepping food in my bathroom, I haven’t succumbed to grabbing a rifle and hunting squirrel (but I’ve been tempted to).

I’ve rarely read that pioneers included kale in their recipes, most likely because KALE is the new possum in present day culinary terms. Pioneers were basically good at foraging through the forest gathering herbs, roots and berries. The rest of  their food came from their fields, gardens and farmyards.

Last weekend, I looked outside my window and saw mushrooms growing out of the grass. They looked scrumptious, and the thought of stir frying those in a skillet on my hotplate swirled through my head. Before I attempted to forage, sauté and most likely die from mushroom poisoning, I decided to leave them for the dang “raccoon pioneers” who seem to be destroying my lawn lately. Besides, I need to be around to see the new kitchen if it ever happens.

Since the start of this renovation, I have considered Steve and I to be very imaginative with our meals. Not exactly pioneers, but close enough.

For instance, we had our new staircase installed last week. When I came home from work, the installer told he required us to stay upstairs for at least 2 hours so that the varnish had a chance to dry. That meant that the three of us were sequestered to the upper level (I’m including Tiffany the kitty in this head count, because in my opinion, she is human).

So?

What do you do when you have time on your hands, hungry for dinner and trapped upstairs?

Chop chop.

Not only did I end up with a beautiful salad here, I also added another recipe to my ever growing list of things I can make without major appliances.

One more thing before I go (which is useless information), but important to know about my past. When I was 16, I was hired part-time in a store downtown, situated in a very large shopping mall. If you are from Toronto, I’m talking about the Eaton Centre. The store sold dresses that were very reminiscent of the ones that pioneer women used to wear. When I went for the first interview, I was told that all sales staff were required to purchase and wear these dresses during work hours (in order to give the customers a visual on how pretty these garments were) or how idiotic we looked in them – clearly there was a market for these fugly frocks.

On day ONE I quit.

Reason why?

Do I look like the pioneer type to you?

RAINBOW CRUNCH SUPER SALAD WITH TANGERINE DRESSING

– 1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves torn into bite-size pieces
– 4 cups shredded red cabbage
– 6 tangerines, peel, segment and dice 3 and juice the remaining 3 for the dressing
– 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
– 2 medium bell peppers, cored, seeded and diced (I used orange and yellow)
– 2 medium carrots, julienned
– 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
– ⅓ cup sunflower seeds
– ⅓ cup pepitas
– ⅓ cup sliced skinless almonds
– ⅓ cup fresh blueberries
– 1 avocado, sliced
– ⅓ cup crumble feta cheese, optional for garnish

1) Place the kale, cabbage, tangerines, onion, bell peppers and carrots in a large salad bowl. Mix well with salad tongs. Top with the chickpeas, sunflower seeds, pepitas, almonds, blueberries and slice avocado. Sprinkle with feta, if desired.
2) Make your dressing (see recipe below).
3) Pour the dressing over the salad. Mix with tongs until well combined. Serve.
4) Good news is, you can keep this refrigerated, covered, for 2-3 days.

TANGERINE DRESSING

– ¼ cup freshly squeezed tangerine juice
– ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
– ¼ cup olive oil
– 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
– 2 tablespoons honey, maple syrup or agave
– ½ teaspoon kosher salt
– ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1) Make the dressing. In a small bowl, combine the tangerine juice, vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey salt, and pepper. Mix with a whisk until well combined or you can whip this up in a blender.

See you next week!

debi @simplybeautifuleating

xx, Debi
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May 11, 2017

Abby’s Italian Adventure

If any of you guys follow my personal Instagram account, @abbycopleston, you may have noticed that I was in Italy last week… I KNOW.

It was a week full of wine, pasta, walking, sightseeing, cheese, bread, pizza… and more wine. Aka, my dream world.  Seriously, everybody needs to book a trip (or several) to Italy in their life… there’s a reason why it has such an incredible reputation.

This trip came about when my good friend, Jules, found a deal on flights to Europe through Delta last November. We had always talked about booking a trip together, and she studied abroad in Florence and has been DYING to return.  So, when she found an unbelievably cheap roundtrip flight from JFK to Rome, she texted me and asked if I’d be down. I had been on Long Island running errands for LMP and driving between Target and Ikea and Seri’s house, and at each stop I would jump on my phone to answer Jules’ very persuasive texts.  I’m normally a stickler for planning (hence the job of party PLANNER), but the decision to go to Italy felt like exactly what I needed at the time, and the price was so right that I pulled into a Panera, whipped out my computer, hopped on their wifi and BOOKED IT.

Panic & excitement soon set in, but not one ounce of regret. After a few months of planning, we came up with an itinerary, and decided to hit 3 places – Florence, Cinque Terre and Rome! We flew into and out of Rome, and took trains between each destination.  The trains in Italy are very easy, clean and affordable… but I learned my lesson about packing too much! When you’re changing trains with only 5 minutes until your next departure, you definitely regret bringing those extra shoes.

STOP 1: FLORENCE, Wednesday – Saturday

We decided on Florence as our first stop, since Jules studied there and I had already been there twice, once with friends and once with my parents when I was studying abroad. We thought it would be a nice place to recover from our jet lag, eat, relax, and gear up for the more fast-paced last few days of our trip. I recommend all of the staples on the standard Florence itinerary – climbing to the top of the Duomo, walking along the Ponte Vecchio, visiting the Uffizi Gallery, strolling though the Boboli Gardens, but here’s some suggestions for some other special spots…

SIGHTS:
Piazzale Michelangelo: This Piazza overlooks the river and all of the city of Florence.  It is a bit of an uphill hike, but the view is beyond incredible, and a great way to justify drinking an entire bottle of wine at the top! I’d recommend heading up a half an hour before sunset, bringing wine and snacks, and staying up there until after dark when you can enjoy the view of the city lights.

Strolling along the Arno at night: The Arno is the river in Florence, and it is a beautiful place to walk along, especially at night!

EATS:
La Giostra: This place was recommended to me by our former LMP intern, the lovely Juliana, and it was my favorite meal of the whole trip! It was a touch fancier than my usual meal out, but so worth it.  The atmosphere and food were both incredible – I got a seafood risotto that I will dream about for the rest of my life.

Caffé degli ArtigianiJules and I stumbled upon this little bar while wandering on the South side of the river, and ordered wine and apertivi, and sat outside overlooking the Piazza della Passera. We loved that spot so much, we came back 2 more times. It’s quiet and removed from the touristy areas of Florence, but not to far off the beaten track.

Acqua al DueI ate here when in Florence with my parents, and it was worth the trip back.  They make some killer marinated steaks, and are most famous for their blueberry variation.  Jules and I got the tasting menu to share, and tried and sampling of 5 different house special pastas and 3 steaks.  To die for.

Gustapanino: This was definitely the most popular picture I posted during my trip, and for good reason.  Gustapanino (attached to Gusta Pizza) was a spot I went on one of my previous trips to Florence, and was recommended to me by almost every person who has been there (lookin’ at you, Kim, Kathleen and Juliana).  Its cheap, and their paninis are fresh and delicious. I mean – just look!

SHOPPING:

Leather Market: I’m a sucker for a good leather jacket, so this trip brought on the purchase of a SECOND black leather jacket.  I have no regrets. I also got some gifts for friends and family – purses, a wallet, bracelets.  My advice? Get there early, so avoid crowds, and haggle. I got my beautiful jacket for a €100 less than list price, quite easily!

Kiko Milano: I have a bit of an obsession with makeup, which Jules noted, so she insisted on taking me to Kiko Milano in Florence. And OHMYGOD i’m glad she did.  I got a ton of fun makeup, including pink, teal and purple eyeliner, AND glitter mascara, which will be popping up in future LMP photoshoots!

STOP 2: CINQUE TERRE, Saturday – Monday

I was most excited for Cinque Terre, since I had never been to the Italian Coast before, and it did not disappoint.  The whole time we were there, I felt like I was in a movie.  We stayed in Monterosso al Mare, the largest and northernmost of the 5 towns, in a beautiful Airbnb that used to be a wine cellar.

SIGHTS:

Hiking:  This is a no-brainer, and the reason that people flock to Cinque Terre.  There are trails connecting all 5 towns, and people can choose the red (hard) or blue (easy) trail to hike between them.  The idea is to hike between all 5 cities in one day, which is totally doable. We had planned on hiking the blue trail and heading south from Monterosso to Vernazza, then Corniglia, then Manarola, and ending in Riomaggiore, and then taking a boat back up to the Monterosso al Mare to drink wine and collapse.

Unfortunately, most of the blue trails were closed, so we had to do the red trail first thing, from Monterosso to Vernazza, which was almost entirely uphill on stone steps for 2 hours straight.  It was beautiful, and so worth it, but my legs have never hurt so bad in my life.  We ended up making it to 4 of the 5 cities, skipping only Riomaggiore. Each city was extremely beautiful, but Jules and I both agreed that our favorite was Manarola – it was quaint, quiet and beyond beautiful!

Chilling on the beach in Monterosso al Mare: The first day we got to Cinque Terre, we were exhausted from the train ride, and decided to grab a blanket, a bottle of sparkling rosé, and chill on the beautiful beach, which was a 5 minute walk from our Airbnb.  It was the perfect spot to read and enjoy the incredibly blue ocean. We didn’t go in the water, but plenty of people were swimming, so definitely bring your bathing suit!

EATS:

Trattoria da OscarThis place was recommended to us by our Airbnb host, and it was a very small, cute little spot around the corner from home.  I recommend the linguini with clam sauce.

Enoteca InternazionaleThis was a little store/ restaurant where we picked up the keys to our Airbnb, and it was so cute that we wen’t back as soon as we were settled for wine, prosciutto and bufala mozzarella. They had an excellent selection of white wine, which is typically my go-to, and I had been craving it after all of the red wine we were having.

Pizzeria La Smorfia: Delicious, cheap, straightforward pizza place.  With wine, of course!

Bar Enrica: This was a little wine bar at the base of the trail in Manarola, at the top of the city. It was so picturesque and an excellent place to people watch and enjoy a hard earned glass of wine.

STOP 3: ROME, Monday – Wednesday

SIGHTS:
I’ll state the obvious first… the Coliseum, Vatican City, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi fountain, the Sistine Chapel, the Pantheon… all worth seeing! I didn’t pay to go inside and tour any of them, because our time in Rome was so short and the lines were always long, but if you have time you definitely should!

Trevi fountain

Vatican City


The Spanish Steps

Since Jules had already been to Rome, we also made it a priority to explore some less-touristy areas, based on recommendations from random travel blogs. They turned out to be our favorite stops along the way!

Quartiere Coppedé: This is a very small group of buildings, called “The Fantasy District”, entirely designed by architect Gino Coppedé with influences of Art Nouveau, Baroque and medieval architecture. It was a little bit of a trek, but beyond worth it.  Jules and I spent some time there taking pictures and picking which building we’d be living in when we can have our second homes in Rome (HA!)

Street Art in OstienseI’m a sucker for cool street art, so we trekked out to where the locals live to visit the Ostiense District and their extensive collection. The neighborhood that these murals were in is mostly an area that locals live in, and was full of cool bars and restaurants

Trastavere DistrictWe walked through this neighborhood across the river on our way to Vatican City, and upon some research found out that this is where a lot of young locals and college kids live.  It was chock full of cafés, bars and restaurants.. and incredible gelato spots! When I come back to Rome, I will for sure be staying here.

EATS:
Locanda del ProsciuttoThis place makes the top 3 list for meals in Italy.  We came here because of the fact that it had “prosciutto” in the name… can’t go wrong with that! We each got wine and shared this incredible charcuterie platter.

Arco di San CalistoJules and I had walked through this beautiful Piazza in Trastavere on our way to Vatican City, and made a note to come back to it for dinner.  When we did, this beautiful little archway on a side street was all lit up with bulb lights, and we snagged a table outside at this cute little place.

My advice? Book a trip to Italy. Now. It lives up to the hype.  Most of the time, I felt like I was in a dream.  That might have been aided by all of the wine drinking, but still! Thanks to Jules for being an excellent travel buddy, and for teaching me to ALWAYS order a bottle of the vino rosso della casa, or house red wine.  Not one time did I regret that!

Feel free to reach out for any more suggestions or if you’d like more info on any other the places I suggested! Make sure you eat gelato every day, drink all of the wine, eat plenty of prosciutto and mozzarella, and never turn down the bread. EVER. Happy traveling, eating, drinking… etc.

Ciao!

xx, Abby
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April 28, 2017

Ready, Set, Weekend With Simply Beautiful Eating

As we go into week 8 of our kitchen renovation, I am experiencing deep baking withdrawal. Although I have to admit, being ovenless has been an acceptable excuse for not cooking and baking.

I thought it would be relaxing and a well deserved break, but to be honest, it’s been hard…..like really hard.

So instead of banging out creations week after week, I’ve succumbed to pouring over pictures of wall colours, countertops, taps, lighting and other various kitchen paraphernalia that has landed me into more trouble than you want to know about with my husband (and the contractor).

Just when they thought it was safe ……….I come up with another “brilliant” idea”.

What was it this week?

A pot filler.

Yes.

A pot filler. You’ve seen them. They are stuck on the wall over the cooktop and conveniently dispense hot and cold water directly into your pot on the stove. GENIUS.

When we first started to design our kitchen, the contractor asked me if I wanted one. Then, two of my friends who are interior designers said, “you’re getting a pot filler, right?” Of course I said YES and my husband said NO.

Steve’s justification for his answer was as follows:

“What do you need it for? Can’t you just walk over to the sink and fill the pot? We only have pasta once a month, so it’s a big waste of money.”

Not to mention he would have to do extra plumbing work for this little kitchen thingy.

To which I answered, “BUT IT’S SO PRETTY!”

Then I stopped to think about the fact that I do have two sinks in the kitchen – one on the island and a main one just a few steps from the cooktop. So I eliminated the pot filler option from my mind UNTIL……..last night.

I’m going to blame Pinterest again, because if you key word search “Beautiful Kitchens”, the majority have these damn pot fillers sticking out of the wall.

As you know, Steve needed to change all the lighting in the house. Since he was already in a lousy mood from that task even though he admits he was W.R.O.N.G. , I figured it was an opportune time to ask for another item we clearly DO NOT NEED for the kitchen. Guess what?

HE SAID FINE JUST DO IT.

He said what?

I had to confirm his answer again, because I thought I heard him say something like “YOU WILL BE FINE WITHOUT IT.” But no, in his current state of exasperation, he said YES!

This brings me to today, and as I write this blog I’m thinking about how to rationalize having that thing on the wall. For instance, this recipe has nothing to do with a pot filler except for the fact that it is also really pretty. Oh and it’s easy. Oh oh…….and it’s a great side dish for pasta which means only one thing……….

I need the pot filler. Right Steve?

Black Sesame & Herb Double Cheese Twists

– 2 sheets frozen puff pastry
– 1 extra large egg
– 1 tablespoon water
– ½ cup shredded jalapeno jack cheese
– ½ cup shredded OKA cheese or Jarlsberg
– 1 teaspoon minced fresh herbs, I used thyme & parsley
– ½ teaspoon kosher salt
– 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
– Freshly ground black pepper

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2) Roll out each sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured board until it is approximately 10 X 12-inches. Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the surface of the pastry. Sprinkle each sheet evenly with both cheeses, fresh herbs, salt, pepper and the sesame seeds. With the rolling pin or your hands, lightly press the flavourings into the puff pastry. Cut each sheet crosswise with a floured knife or pizza wheel into 11 or 12 strips. Twist each strip and lay on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Brush with additional egg wash.
3) Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and puffed. Turn each straw and bake for another 2 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

See you next week!

debi @simplybeautifuleating

xx, Debi
Party conversation
  1. Abby

    This is so simple yet looks very fancy!
    Thanks for sharing the recipe 💖

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April 7, 2017

Ready, Set, Weekend With Simply Beautiful Eating

I just wanted to share a little secret with you. I completely forgot about this recipe and the accompanying photos. Most likely because I’m living in renovation (hell) disarray and it’s been a messy, long and arduous process. As most of you know, I’m “kitchenless”, which means I have no stove, oven or full size sink.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. She’s suffering  from the dreaded “Woe Is Me Effect”. Well, you’re right. Working from an upstairs bathroom isn’t my idea of fun. Every time I look to my left while preparing our salad, I see a TOILET. I can’t seem to justify preparing a meal in a room with a commode. I just can’t.

Anyhoo. You need a stovetop and an oven to make this recipe. Don’t even try to make this on a hot plate because it will end up being an omelette and not a frittata.

What’s the difference? I’ll tell you.

Frittatas are cooked in a cast iron pan or oven-safe skillet because they are started on the stovetop and then finished in the oven. And, unlike omelets, frittata fillings are mixed in with the eggs in the pan rather than folded in the center.

Why is this great? Because I seriously SUCK at making omelettes. No matter how slippery slidey the pan is, mine always seem to fall apart and break upon flipping or folding. Yes, I know there are tricks of the trade, but being an “omelette chef” is not in the cards for me. It’s just NOT.

These tomatoes were actually from our summer crop in the garden. That’s the clue on how old these photos are because right now our garden is in spring thaw mode. Nonetheless,  tomatoes are readily available at the market year round, so you needn’t worry about growing your own, unless you happen to have a hothouse in your backyard.

The other thing I love about this recipe is that it reminds me of a party. Here’s what you need to do right now. Grab your friends, partner, husband or wife and dance around the room saying FRITTATA several times. I’m going to do that later tonight. Perhaps it will put me in a better mood when I’m slinging salad in the washroom. Cha cha cha.

GREEK ROASTED TOMATO FRITTATA

– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– ½ cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
– 1 cup baby spinach
– 3 – 4 large eggs
– ½ teaspoon kosher salt
– ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
– 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled
– ½ cup chopped red or yellow peppers
– 2 tablespoons chopped chives
– 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
– 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

1) Preheat the oven to 350F.
2) Add the olive oil to the tomatoes and place on a cookie sheet to roast for 10 -15 minutes, or until tomatoes burst open and are nicely caramelized.
3) In the meantime, whisk the eggs in a bowl with a fork. Add the feta, spinach, red pepper, chives and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4) Heat an 8 or 9 inch cast iron pan on your stovetop and place the roasted tomatoes in, then pour the egg mixture on top of the tomatoes and give everything a good stir, don’t overcook – the frittata will set in the oven.
5) Place the pan in the oven for 15-20 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of your frittata. Simply stick a sharp knife into the middle to test if it has cooked through. Serve warm with a sprinkle of fresh parsley, dill and additional feta cheese.

xx, Debi
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