Georgette's delights inspired by Greek heritage
Monday, April 11, 2011
The biggest part of Greek cooking is the tradition behind it. It is customary to hand down recipes from generation to generation. Georgette Longnecker, the wife of Carroll native Ted Longnecker, has enjoyed sharing this custom with their daughter, Alena, a third grader. Alena was named after Georgette’s grandma, Eleni, as well as Georgette’s sister whose middle name is Elena.
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When Carroll native Ted Longnecker met his wife-to-be, Georgette, in 1996, while working together at Principal Financial Group in Des Moines, he didn’t know his future wedding would be reminiscent of the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Marrying into a Greek family has many perks, one of them being the food.
Ted, a 1987 Kuemper Catholic graduate and son of Jack and the late Mary Ann Longnecker, of Carroll, and Georgette, were married in April of 1998 in a very traditional Greek Orthodox wedding in Davenport. Their ceremony also included a Catholic priest’s blessing and prayer. This addition made for a nice mix of both bride and groom’s religions.
At their reception, Ted and Georgette toasted their marriage with a small shot of Mastika, a Mediterranean liquor. Each wedding guest also had their own shot of Mastika to drink after the first toast. (Daily Times Herald writer/columnist Douglas Burns was the best man in the Longneckers wedding.)
Georgette grew up in a half-Greek home, as her late father, Pete Mathews, was 100 percent Greek. Both of her father’s parents emigrated from Greece. Her grandfather was from the island of Crete and her grandmother hailed from Kalamata, the land of Kalamata olives.
Her grandfather, Michael Mathews, emigrated on his own to the United States as a teenager at the age of 16. The original family name was Mathethikis, but he was told at Ellis Island his surname needed to be shortened. He ended up joining the United States Army and fought in World War I. Many years later, he returned to Greece and met Eleni, Georgette’s grandmother. He asked her to be his bride and brought her back to the United States, as he was now a U.S. citizen.
Although Georgette’s grandmother passed away 15 years ago, her cooking is still influential today. Georgette’s grandmother never learned to read or write in English, so her measuring utensils were things like coffee cups.
Georgette recalls watching her “Yai-yai,” the Greek word for “grandmother,” cook all the time, especially during the holidays. Amazingly, about 30 family members would squeeze into Yai-yai’s basement to feast at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The family would sit at long tables that had been pushed together and listen to 8-track tapes of Greek music. Georgette still has those 8-track tapes packed away for sentimental value.
Georgette’s Yai-yai would cook for days to serve the holiday meal. Some of her specialties included homemade bread, lamb, Greek spaghetti, domathes (a Greek dish of rice, peppers, tomatoes, and sometimes meat wrapped up in a grape leaf), and Greek salad. Of course, homemade wine was always on the table too. Georgette enjoys cooking for her family, just like her Yai-yai did, especially when she can incorporate a bit of her heritage into the meal.
Greek cuisine is fairly healthy, with a focus on natural foods and less processed foods. Greek dishes contain a lot of vegetables, olive oil, freshly caught fish, and grains. Both of Georgette’s Greek grandparents lived to be 94 years old. Georgette thinks their healthy Mediterranean diet contributed to their long life together. Her grandparents had been married for 56 years when her grandfather passed away in the late 1980s.
The biggest part of Greek cooking is the tradition behind it. It is customary to hand down recipes from generation to generation. Georgette has enjoyed sharing this custom with their daughter, Alena, a third grader. Alena was named after Georgette’s grandma, Eleni, as well as Georgette’s sister whose middle name is Elena.
Daughter Alena enjoys art, playing piano and soccer, and helping her mom in the kitchen, although she is anxiously awaiting the day when Georgette allows her to use the stove. Georgette has a feeling Alena will be a “little gourmet” someday.
Ted and Georgette run their own Financial Services firm in West Des Moines. Ted has been a Financial Advisor for ten years and Georgette joined the practice six years ago. Together, they assist businesses and individuals with many aspects of financial planning, including 401k plans, investments, insurance, planning for retirement, etc. The family lives in Johnston and loves to bike ride, travel, watch movies, cook dinner together, and just hang out on their three-season porch.
Greek Spaghetti & Chicken
Georgette learned to make this traditional Greek dish from her Yai-yai (grandmother in Greek). This was a staple on the Thanksgiving table, along with many other Greek dishes. Georgette describes this as “the perfect comfort food,” especially for a cozy Sunday dinner on a cold day. Georgette also says this dish makes great leftovers.
1 whole chicken
2 T minced onion
2 tsp leaf oregano
2 tsp dried basil
pepper, to taste
15 oz can tomato sauce
3 tsp chicken bouillon
Put whole chicken in roasting pan. Rub olive oil generously over entire chicken. Sprinkle chicken with seasonings – minced onion, leaf oregano, dried basil, and pepper. Pour entire can of tomato sauce over top.
Mix 3 tsp of chicken bouillon with ½ cup of water and stir to dissolve. Pour bouillon and water into bottom of pan around chicken. Cover chicken with foil or roasting pan lid (lid works better) and cook at 350 degrees until chicken is done — approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
While chicken is cooking, cook 1 lb of spaghetti until al dente (still a bit firm, but not hard), do not overcook.
When chicken is cooked through, spoon off any seasoning and sauce from chicken so it remains in roasting pan. Take chicken out of pan and cover with foil to keep warm. Add al dente cooked pasta to roasting pan and mix with sauce created by chicken. Add an additional 1/3 cup water mixed with 1 tsp of chicken bouillon.
Place pasta back in oven and cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir pasta once halfway through to keep from drying out.
Serve pasta with chicken and parmesan cheese.
Ted loves to man the grill in the warmer months and the Longnecker family especially enjoys this fish in the summertime. The marinade is perfect for salmon and even 3rd grader, Alena, loves this recipe. Georgette says this is a great way to get a child to eat fish. She suggests serving the salmon with rice and grilled vegetables.
3 Tbsp teriyaki sauce
2 Tbsp orange juice
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
¼ tsp salt
salmon filets, leave skin on
Whisk all ingredients together. Pour over salmon and let marinade for a couple hours, but not more than 4 hrs.
Take salmon out of marinade and grill skin side down. Keep grill lid closed while cooking. With the lid down, you should not need to flip the salmon, it will steam. Once salmon is cooked (about 8-10 minutes), take off the grill then remove skin.
Salmon is done when you can pull it apart slightly and it is a paler pink, but not dark pink or raw-looking. After it is removed from the grill, it will continue to cook a bit longer. Do not overcook or the fish will taste rubbery.
Chicken Enchilada Bake
Georgette’s mother, Nancy Mathews, of Davenport, shared this recipe with Georgette and it’s a definite family favorite. It is also the meal Ted and Georgette’s daughter, Alena, requests the most.
1 c chopped onion
¼ c butter
2 ½ c water
1 T chicken bouillon
4 oz can green chiles, chopped
½ tsp chili powder
8 oz sour cream
3 cups finely chopped, cooked chicken
2 c Cheddar cheese - divided
10 8-inch tortillas
To make sauce:
In a medium saucepan, cook onion in butter until tender. Stir in flour then water and chicken bouillon. Cook and stir until thickened and bouillon dissolves. Remove from heat. Stir in sour cream.
In large bowl combine 1 cup sauce, chicken, 1 cup Cheddar cheese, chiles, and chili powder. Mix well. Dip each tortilla into remaining sauce (sauce should still be warm) to soften tortillas. Fill each tortilla with equal amounts of chicken mixture and roll up into enchilada. Arrange in lightly greased baking dish.
Once all chicken mixture has been used, pour remaining sauce over top of enchiladas and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly, approximately 30 minutes.
Oh Henry! Bars
Ted and Georgette had been dating for about six months when Ted’s late mother, Mary Ann Longnecker, shared this recipe with Georgette. She told Georgette it was “one of Ted’s favorites.” Georgette still has the original recipe card written by her mother-in-law. Every time Georgette makes these bars, she and Ted smile thinking about how his mom made sure Ted would always have someone to make his favorite treat.
1 ½ sticks butter
4 c quick-cooking oatmeal
½ c Karo corn syrup
1 c brown sugar
3 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt
1 c chocolate chips
1 c chunky peanut butter
In large saucepan melt butter. Add all ingredients except chocolate chips and peanut butter. Mix well. Pat flat into greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 20 minutes at 325 degrees.
Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter in pan on stove. Spread over baked bars while still warm. Cut into squares and put on tray.