Yiayia’s Spanakopita

It’s been a few days since I received “the phone call” from my dad. In tears, he told me it wouldn’t be long before my Yiayia passed. After several health complications, she became unresponsive and was nearing the end of her life. Even though the words came out of my dad’s mouth, I still didn’t think it was going to happen. I thought, there must be something the doctors can do. She is so strong (one of the strongest women I know), so she’s going to get better. She’ll surprise us all.

Sadly, I was wrong, and not to sound too dramatic, but my life was turned around at 8 p.m. that night when I got a second call from my dad.

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I was lucky enough to be able to say my goodbyes to her over the phone that day before she died. My mom held the phone up to her ear and even though she couldn’t respond, they told me later she could hear everything. Sobbing, I told her how much she meant to me, my husband and my daughter, how she was such a big part of who I am as a person and how I couldn’t  have prayed or wished for a better grandmother.

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A few weeks ago when she started having complications, we were Face Timing when she started to tell me how much she loved me and how proud she was of me. Her thoughtful words that so easily strolled out of her mouth meant the world to me and their beautiful melody is what I’m holding onto as I grieve. So many people don’t get the opportunity to say goodbye like that and I thank God I was able to do so.

I love my Yiayia so much. She was a loving and generous mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, a caring and thoughtful person, a woman of God and the perfect example to all of us. She worked so hard all of her life to provide for her family and create a beautiful life for us, and I’ll forever be grateful for her sacrifice and the tears and sweat she put into everything she touched.

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She was joyful, sassy, opinionated, emotional and even though she constantly showed her true colors and spoke her mind, everyone she came in contact with loved her. She was the best. There was never anyone like her, nor will there ever be.

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She took so much pride in her family and is the reason we’re all so close. Life will never be the same without her, but I find comfort knowing that we all got to spend many years with her. I know we’ll all hold her close to our hearts until we see her again.

I’ll be posting some Greek dishes this week in honor of my beautiful Yiayia. The first being her spanakopita recipe. I still remember her teaching me how to make it a few years ago. We were in her kitchen with my Thea Voula and they both taught me step-by-step. Of course, Yiayia bossed both of us around, telling us her way, and that’s what made it special. A memory I’ll never forget.

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If you end up making this recipe, don’t forget to tag #marinamakeseats. Thank you to all of my family and friends for being here for me during this time. A special thanks to my husband (my rock through all of this) for crying and laughing with me, and listening to all of the memories that continue to pop in my head.  I love you so much.

Yiayia’s Spanakopita

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • 4 10 oz boxes of chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 2 bunches of green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of basil, chopped
  • 8oz container of ricotta
  • 4oz of cream cheese
  • 1 pound of feta, crumbled
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 pound of phyllo (thawed)
  • 1 cup of olive oil (more if needed)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Clean and chop the green onions.  Place them in boiling water for a couple minutes. Boiling the onions settles the strong taste.

In a bowl, mix crumbled feta, thawed spinach, basil, parsley, green onions, ricotta and cream cheese. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the salt and pepper. Add to the spinach mixture. Mix to combine.

Unroll the phyllo dough and separate into two halves. One half will go on the bottom of the spinach mixture and the other on the top. Brush olive oil on the bottom of a 9X13 pan. Place one sheet of phyllo dough at a time and brush generously with olive oil. If the dough falls off the edges, that’s okay because you’ll fold it over after. Repeat one sheet at a time until you use half of the phyllo dough.

Add the spinach mixture to the pan and fold the edges over and brush generously with olive oil. Add the remaining sheets of phyllo dough one at a time, brushing each sheet with olive oil. Fold and tuck edges as you move along. Cut the spanakopita into small squares, but don’t cut all the way through to the bottom. This will allow the heat from the oven to transfer inside the dish.

Bake uncovered for 45-55 minutes, or until golden brown.

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