Passport to Fun - Greece

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You'll remember that I came up with a pretty awesome idea for G's Christmas gift this year.

If you're new here and don't know what I'm talking about, then feel free to wander on over to this post to read all about it.

I'll wait.

For our next "trip," we visited someplace G has been, but I haven't.

I have, however, consumed plenty of its food - it's one of my absolute favorite ethnic foods to eat!

I figured since we were having so much fun watching the Summer Olympics this month, it was the perfect time to visit the place where The Games were birthed.

Plus, I was really craving some of those delicious Mediterranean vittles!

August - Greece

Set the Stage

I added the next stamp to G's passport so he'd see where we were going, then left it out where he'd find it the next morning before he went to work:

What to Decorate With

The flag thing seems to be working out pretty well for us.  It's something fairly simple for Gv and I to do together, uses supplies we already have, and still lends an air of the locale.


I also stuck the passport in this urn - I'd planned to arrange some vines and grape bunches around it, but couldn't find any.

Gv hung up her own flag as well as some signs I was fiddling around with for possible decoration ideas that had made their way into the recycle bin already...

What to Dress Like

I was thinking of turning us all into gods and goddesses, but then I just decided to simplify the idea and do a toga party!

What to Listen to

I had to get G to hunt up his collection of music that he brought back from Greece - Antzy Samiou is our favorite:

What to Eat

It was so easy for me to brainstorm ideas for this month's menu since I love Greek food so much.  I've also pretty much made all the popular dishes plenty of times before, so I just chose a few that I was in the mood for.

I baked up a loaf of Greek bread - I don't think it's necessarily authentic, but it's really delicious and we were out of bread anyway.

Then we ate some yummy rice ball appetizers with a little tzatziki sauce to dip them in.

Next up was one of my favorite soups (avgolemono) followed by the main dish of moussaka (in the crock-pot - you know I'm all about the lazy!) with flaky-crusted spanakopita on the side.

A Greek meal isn't complete without some baklava for dessert, but several years ago I turned that classic into a scrumptious cheesecake, so we finished our feast up with a big slice of that decadent dish. 

Other ideas I'd considered, but didn't make, included a lamb dish, dolmades, courgette balls, this fun Lazarus bread, flaming saganaki (Opa!), and a giant Greek salad.  

G wanted to run out and get some retsina for us to drink with our meal, but it was approximately $983 for a bottle at the nearest shop, so we nixed that idea pretty quick.

Whether you make some of these dishes yourself or just pick up gyros from your local pita place, make sure to have plenty of feta cheese and olives on hand while you enjoy a refreshing meal this summer trip!

Greek Loaf (in the bread machine!)

What You Need

1 cup whey (or milk, if you don't have it handy)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup crumbled feta (shredded mozzarella will work, too)

1 Tablespoon honey

3 cups whole wheat flour

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

1/4 cup sliced olives

What You Do

1.  Dump everything except the olives into your bread maker in the usual order (wet ingredients, dry, then yeast last on top).

2.  Select the basic bread setting, push start, then walk away - but keep an ear open for the "beep" before the final knead, because that's when you'll want to add the olives.

3.  Serve this bread in all the usual ways, but definitely dip at least some of it in some olive oil.

Greek Rice Balls

What You Need

6 chopped scallions

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cups cooked rice (I used brown)

20 ounces frozen spinach, cooked & squeezed dry

4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or 1 Tablespoon dried)

1 1/2 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 lightly beaten egg

1/3 cup breadcrumbs (I often use wheat germ or flax meal instead)

olive oil in a spray bottle

What You Do

1.  Saute the scallions in the 2 teaspoons of olive oil until softened and slight browned.

2.  Combine the scallions, rice, spinach, cheese, dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a large bowl.

3.  Form the mixture into small balls.  Dip in egg, then roll in breadcrumbs and place on cookie sheet (grease it if you don't use one of these mats).

4.  Once all the balls are arranged on the baking sheet, spray them lightly with a bit of olive oil and then bake them at 450 degrees for anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on how crispy you want them. (I actually kept them in there 45 minutes, because we really like them crunchy.)

Tzatziki Sauce

What You Need

1 cup Greek yogurt (make your own!)

1 cucumber, chunked and seeds removed

4 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

2 Tablespoons fresh dill (or 1 Tablespoon dried)

salt and pepper

What You Do

1.  Throw the cucumber chunks and garlic into something like this to get them ground up really well.

2.  Dump the cucumber-garlic mixture into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.  Stir it all up really well and then stick it into the refrigerator for an hour or two to get the flavors to meld.

3.  Besides using this sauce for a dip or on the typical gyro, it's delicious to spread onto bread along with some fresh veggies for a quick sandwich!

Avgolemono Soup

What You Need

8 cups chicken broth

1 cup orzo (regular rice will work, too)

8 egg yolks

1/4 cup lemon juice

salt and pepper

What You Do

1.  Bring the broth to a boil, add the orzo and let it cook about eight minutes.

2.  Beat the egg yolks and lemon juice in a bowl.  Ladle about half of the broth into the egg bowl to temper the eggs.

3.  Add the egg mixture to the broth and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until it's as thick as you'd like.

4.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  We usually also add in a bit more lemon juice, just to give it an extra twang.


What You Need

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 chopped onion

6 cloves minced garlic

1 pound frozen chopped spinach (cooked & squeezed dry)

1 egg

2 Tablespoons chopped parsley (1 Tablespoon dry)

2 Tablespoons chopped dill (1 Tablespoon dry)

6 ounces crumbled feta cheese

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

10-20 sheets filo, depending on how thick you want the crust

1/2 cup melted butter

What You Do

1.  Cook the onion in the oil until soft, then add the garlic and cook for another minute. 

2.  Combine the onion/garlic mixture with the rest of the ingredients (except for the filo and butter) in a large bowl.

3.  Divide the filo sheets in half and carefully lay out one sheet out onto your work surface, then brush with the melted butter.

4.  Repeat this process, layering each sheet on top of the last, until you've used half your filo.

5.  Transfer your filo stack to a baking sheet lined with one of these mats (or grease the pan) and spread the spinach mixture all over the top.

6.  Take the other half of your filo sheets and layer and butter those like you did before.  Then set this entire stack on top of the spinach on your baking sheet.

7.  Brush the top of the entire thing with more melted butter.

8.  At this point, I take a pizza wheel and score the whole thing into whatever portion sizes I'm looking for.  This time, I made eight.

9.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until as brown and crisp as you'd like.

10.  Sink back into your chair and coo with delight as this flaky treat transports you to Mykonos or Santorini.

Moussaka (in the crock-pot!)

What You Need

1 sliced eggplant

1 pound ground beef (I actually used tempeh)

1 can diced tomatoes

1 sliced onion

10 cloves chopped garlic

1 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 diced bell pepper (red, orange, green, whatever)

3 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 ounces feta cheese

What You Do

1.  Brown the meat (this keeps the grease out of the dish - if you use tempeh like I did, then you don't have to do this step (yay, lazy me!)).

2.  Layer the eggplant slices on the bottom of the slow cooker, then dump in all the other ingredients, except the feta.  Cook this on low 6-8 hours.

3.  Give the whole thing a good stir every couple of hours.

4.  After you've dished this deliciousness out, sprinkle some feta on top - and try not to devour the whole batch in one sitting!

Baklava Cheesecake

This cheesecake was so delicious - and looked so fancy - that it's got its very own post, right here!

What to Do

We actually live less than 30 minutes from the town boasting the highest population of Greek Americans in the U.S.  We considered hanging out there for the evening, but instead, we just stepped out to our backyard for some fun games in the late afternoon sun.

First, we played a game of statues, then held our own backyard Olympics.

Jump rope balance beam event

You could go wild with this idea, but we kept things simple with just three events: pentathlon (backyard dash, long jump, Frisbee discus throw, stick javelin throw & Bocce ball shot put), jump rope balance beam, and bed wrestling (not as dirty as it sounds, the bed's just the squishiest place to land).

Backyard dash
Frisbee discus throw

I grabbed one of my old skating medals and then we made this paper plate laurel wreath for the winner to wear.

Of course we let her win, I mean, she's obviously the gold medalist in cute!

We also headed back inside to do two crafts.

First, we made comedy/tragedy masks and then acted out an impromptu play.

For once, my craft actually turned out pretty well (bottom left 2).  Gv got into her mask-making so much, G wound up with only one mask to make (lower right) & Gv still had to help him decorate it.  What's in the center? I'm not quite sure, but Gv insisted that it be included with the other masks!

Then, we designed our own Greek urns (black marker on orange construction paper), since those things seem to make up approximately 79.2% of all Greek museum collections.

Gv got very creative with her urn, cutting and gluing additions on (left). She again helped G decorate his (center) and I adorned mine with our family.

What to Read

I was only aware of one book that would be good for Gv at the age she is now, Sasek's This is Greece:

We love all his books, so I knew this one would be a hit.  I also managed to dig up The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece at our library.

When Gv gets a little older, I'll be able to share some of my favorite books from my classroom with her:

I don't think I've read any books set in Greece, but I found this list of titles which sounds like an intriguing place to start for grown-up selections.

What to Watch

I came up with a pretty decent list of movie ideas for this trip.  The choice for Gv was easy, but G and I had a hard time narrowing down our selection for after she went to bed.

Some for you to explore: Before Midnight, My Big Fat Greek Wedding & My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, Zorba the Greek, Never on Sunday, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Shirley Valentine, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Opa!, Summer Lovers (be aware that this deals with a mature topic), Mamma Mia!, High Season, For Your Eyes Only, Bourne Identity and Boy on a Dolphin.

Gv watched Hercules and G and I went with My Life in Ruins, pretty much because he had tons of grading to do and we figured this would be a silly chick flick that he wouldn't need to pay attention to very closely.  We're pretty sure we'll be watching some of the others later on.

And that wrapped up our eighth "trip" together for the year.  It was another huge success and we can't wait to jet off to someplace new next month!

Travel all over the world, without leaving your living room!  Come back each month to see where we head next.  Can you think of any other ideas to add for a trip to Greece?  I'd love to hear!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

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Want more?  Check out some of our other trips:

Love this idea, but want the easy, made-for-you-and-all-you-do-is-print-it version?  Click here to get your own pack and see what inspired me to create this series!

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