Mediterranean recipes time travel through 6 generations

Gianna Ianos spiral-bound her recipe books so cooks can easily flip the pages. They’re small enough to take to the supermarket.

Chef Gianna Ianos promises answers to what she calls the biggest question asked every day: “What's for dinner?”

Those answers, says the White Bear Township food lover, are found in her set of two self-published recipe books. Book No. 1 is “Mediterranean Diet,” a compilation of Greek and Italian family recipes going back six generations. The second book, “What's My Dinner?” is where she makes that promise.

Ianos wants to bring family members back to the dinner table and she's hoping her recipes, “described as simple and delicious,” will help.

“These books are so much more than family recipes,” Ianos pointed out. “I want to make people aware that cooking can be easy and rewarding. Eating can be a family affair filled with fun and conversation. We need to reconnect around our tables and bring the word family back to where it all began — America's dinner table.”

Born in Jersey City, Ianos moved to Minnesota as a teen but still boasts an Eastern accent. Both her parents were chefs and she learned to cook from them, as well as from grandparents, and eventually started her own catering business.

The recipes in her books were never written down, nor were ingredients measured out. It has taken Ianos 15 years to compile the books, carefully preparing every dish and tweaking amounts until she felt they tasted like the cooks before her meant them to taste.

“I am the last living family member who can offer these delicious and healthy recipes,” Ianos said. “I was worried they would be lost.”

Each recipe is planned around good and nutritious foods, she added. “They are easy to make and follow using everyday ingredients.”

Good food is timeless maintained the chef and caterer, who uses Diva Dish Kitchens as her company label.

“The recipes are uncomplicated and have stood the test of time,” Ianos emphasized. “Those who love food like I do can either make these meals a big production or not; they can go either way. We should enjoy the simple joys of eating a good meal each and every day.”

When asked to share a favorite recipe, Ianos chose her Blue Cheese Spread & Dip, “a comfort food to my family. This recipe was my mother's, which she learned from other cooks. She was just beginning married life and her own cooking career. It is not only good on artisan breads, but as a dip for apples, meats and other combination plates or as a dressing when thinned with half and half.”

The books are $25 each and available by searching Divadish on Instagram. They are also for sale at two area meat markets: Grundhofer's in Hugo and Flicker's in White Bear Lake, and she is working with several vineyards to market the books.

For every book sold, Ianos is donating $1 to the White Bear Area Emergency Food Shelf.  

“So andiamo a cucinare,” Ianos said, which translates to “Let's get cooking.”

Blue Cheese Spread & Dip

Ingredients:

• 1/2-1 lb. good quality blue cheese crumbles or chunks, depending on serving size

• 8 oz. cream cheese, softened

• 1 stick butter, softened

• 1/4-1/3 c. half & half

Directions:

Mix all the above until texture is creamy. Chunks of blue in the mixture is normal.

Use on toast, apples, meat, sandwiches or anything.

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