Deconstructed Spanokopita Casserole Recipe


Connie’s Coronavirus Cooking Chronicles – Recipe 1 – Deconstructed Spanokopita Casserole

The COVID-19 lockdown in California has been going on for about a month and a half now and although many people are going stir-crazy, I’ve found this time to be quite productive. Creativity often thrives under limitation and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be stuck at home and able to focus on many of the projects I had placed on the backburner for far too long. One of these is working on my blog and uploading more recipes.

So without further ado, I bring you the Connie’s Coronavirus Cooking Chronicles series. This series will consist of the recipes that I make (or have made) during the coronavirus “shelter in place” mandate. Most of these recipes are my own (I will state otherwise if they were created by someone else) and are often inspired by foods I have had elsewhere. For any recipe I make, I like to find the sweet spot between maximum deliciousness (to motivate you to eat), ease of cooking (to motivate you to cook), and healthiness (to make you feel good about both cooking and eating it).

The first recipe I’d like to share is one of my favorites. I love a good crunchy spanokopita (a Greek spinach and feta pie often wrapped with phyllo into a triangular shape and baked) and have had spanokopita at various restaurants in Greece and also at numerous Greek/Mediterranean restaurants here in the United States. Every restaurant has its own recipe so they all taste slightly different. Here’s a picture of a spanokopita I had in Santorini:

santorini spanokopita 2_1600

Spanokopita is one of my favorite dishes so of course I had to make it at home. Although I greatly enjoy the crunchy triangular-shaped pies, I don’t have the time or patience to brush each sheet of phyllo dough with olive oil and then wrap each pie into a pretty little triangle, especially given how quickly my husband and I demolish them. Instead, I came up with a deconstructed version (inspired by my Greek mother-in-law, who bakes her Spanokopita in a casserole pan, as many Greek families do).

This spanokopita bake can be made with or without phyllo dough. I usually make it without the phyllo, because like I said, it is quite time-consuming to brush all that phyllo with olive oil and both my husband and I think it tastes just as good without the phyllo and it is SO MUCH FASTER (and cheaper) to make it this way. Really, this is one of my favorite ways to get my husband to eat his vegetables. He usually asks for seconds and thirds and I have to stop him from eating it all to prevent him from ODing on greens. Here is what the casserole looks like without phyllo:


However, if you want to make it with phyllo (which is more traditional but more time-consuming), you have two options:

Option 1 is brushing each sheet (or every other sheet) of phyllo with olive oil and layering the sheets on the bottom of the casserole pan and also on the very top after you’ve put the other ingredients in before baking. I never do it this way (even though it’s quite traditional) because the phyllo on the bottom gets soggy and I also like to make enough for a few days, so the phyllo on the top gets soft and squishy in the fridge. At that point, it is irrelevant to me if the phyllo is there or not, since I only like phyllo for the crunch that it provides.

That brings me to Option 2, which is to bake the phyllo separately. I always make it this way when I use phyllo, because it guarantees that every bite of of phyllo is supremely crunchy. I brush each sheet of phyllo with olive oil (sometimes I brush every other sheet) and lay them on top of each other. When the stack is about 6+ sheets thick, I cut them into small rectangles. Then I put most of these stacked rectangles into ziploc bags, press the air out, and stick them in the freezer. Anytime I want some crunchy phyllo to put on top of my spanokopita, I pull out some of these rectangular stacks from the freezer and bake them in the oven at 350 F for about 10 minutes, or until they start to turn golden-brown. Maximal crunch achieved.

As for the baked casserole itself, the recipe I came up with after several trial experiments is below. Some recipes call for a mixture of different cheeses (including feta), but I think it tastes best with feta only. Also, some spanokopita recipes are more “savory” and some are more “sweet.” The sweeter ones tend to use dill and no garlic, but I strongly prefer the savory flavor, so this one is on the savory side. Most spanokopita recipes use only spinach but I actually prefer the taste and health benefits of including a mixture of greens, so I recommend Costco’s Organic Power Greens, which is a mix of baby kale, chard, and spinach. But if you only have spinach or want more of a traditional flavor, spinach only is just fine. Lastly, chickpeas are usually not in spanokopitas but my favorite Mediterranean restaurant serves spanokopitas with chickpeas inside and I think they add great texture and flavor to a dish that would otherwise be just soft, especially without the phyllo. The almonds also add some nice texture as well. Here’s the recipe!

Deconstructed Spanokopita Casserole


  • 2.5-3 cups of feta cheese (I use 2 slabs of Dodoni Feta Cheese from Costco, chopped/crumbled)
  • 1.5 lbs of prewashed organic spinach or mixed greens (I prefer the Organic Power Greens from Costco, which is a mix of baby kale, chard, and spinach – I actually prefer the flavor of this over all spinach)
  • 1 onion (I prefer yellow)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (no need to add salt b/c feta cheese is salty)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 to 1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas/garbanzo beans (or ~0.5 cups dried) (see Notes 2 & 3 below on how to cook)
  • 1/2 cup (or more) of slivered almonds (optional)
  • 1/2 pack phyllo dough & extra olive oil for brushing (optional, see Note 1)
  • 1 to 2 tsp olive oil for sauteing


  1. See notes below on how to prepare the chickpeas.
  2. If adding slivered almonds, toast them for a few minutes in a frying pan on medium-low, stirring frequently until golden. Set aside.
  3. Dice garlic.
  4. Dice onions.
  5. Sautee the onions in some olive oil until cooked through.
  6. Add garlic to the onions and sautee another minute. Let this cool a bit so you don’t accidentally cook the eggs when mixed in.
  7. Whisk eggs into a very large bowl.
  8. Chop the feta cheese and put the feta into the large bowl with the eggs. Add pepper. Mix.
  9. Pour onion/garlic mixture into the bowl too. Mix.
  10. Add the cooked and drained chickpeas and mix. If including slivered almonds, put the toasted almonds into the bowl at this time as well and mix.
  11. Chop the pre-washed greens by grabbing a bunch at a time and chopping into 1/2 inch slivers. Chopping in one direction is fine, no need to chop in both directions. As you chop, put the chopped greens into the big bowl with the other ingredients.
  12. Use two spatulas to mix everything in the bowl until the greens are evenly coated with the mixture.
  13. Pour everything into a casserole pan (I use 10″ x 13″) and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or so, or until the center reaches 170 to 190 degrees. I usually don’t preheat my oven because I use a small countertop oven that doesn’t take very long to heat up.
  14. Cut finished casserole into rectangles and serve. Dig in!

  1. If you want to add phyllo, read the blog post above the recipe for Option 1 or Option 2 on how to prepare and bake the phyllo.
  2. If using canned chickpeas, boil them with water until they are as soft as you would like. Drain and set chickpeas aside to cool a bit so you don’t cook the eggs when mixed in.
  3. If using dry chickpeas, soak 1/2 cup (or more) chickpeas overnight in water in a container that allows the chickpeas to more than double in volume during the soak, then drain the next day and cover with fresh water in a pot (the water should cover the chickpeas by about 3 inches). Boil without a lid for about 60-90 minutes until they are to your desired softness (they will not soften more during the bake). Drain and set chickpeas aside to cool a bit so you don’t cook the eggs when mixed in.

Our Sunrise

Acrylic on canvas, 2010

This painting is about God’s love and grace extending across space and time.

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
– Luke 1:68-79 

Circle of the Earth

Acrylic on canvas, 2013
Do you not know? Do you not hear?
    Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
who brings princes to nothing,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
    scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
    and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
To whom then will you compare me,
    that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
    who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
    calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
    and because he is strong in power
    not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob,
    and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
    and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.

-Isaiah 40:21-31

He stretches out the north over the void
    and hangs the earth on nothing.
He binds up the waters in his thick clouds,
    and the cloud is not split open under them.
He covers the face of the full moon
    and spreads over it his cloud.
He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters
    at the boundary between light and darkness.
The pillars of heaven tremble
    and are astounded at his rebuke.
By his power he stilled the sea;
    by his understanding he shattered Rahab.
By his wind the heavens were made fair;
    his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.
Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways,
    and how small a whisper do we hear of him!
    But the thunder of his power who can understand?”

-Job 26:7-14

Blue Skies, Love, and the Sea

Water soluble oil pastel on paper,

My friend Sadie got engaged in August and I had the honor of surprising her moments after the cliff-side engagement with our friend Page and both of their families. It was a beautiful day to be at the beach – there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky, and the vivid blue waters swarmed with dolphins and seals. The day’s adventures involved a fun road trip with her family, army crawling to the cliff to catch the moment Dillon proposed, snapping photos through the weeds, and singing Sadie’s favorite song “500 Miles” while her brother played the guitar. Congratulations, Dillon and Sadie!

Far Side of the Sea

Acrylic on canvas, 2008

The size of our universe is beyond comprehension.  Yet there is an infinite God who is everywhere, one who created this vast universe and is also intimately close.  This all-powerful, all-knowing omnipresent God is always sustaining, always near, always holding all things together.

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,’

even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”

Psalm 139:7-12

Mountains and Valleys

Acrylic on canvas, 2011

“A voice cries:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’”

-Isaiah 40:3-5

How to Grow Ranunculus

Ranunculus from my garden

Ranunculus are one of my favorite flowers. They have gorgeous fluffy petals, come in an abundance of bright colors, and are so easy to grow! The best part of growing ranunculus for me is having fresh bouquets of these lovely flowers from the garden all spring.

Ranunculus Planting Guide:


Ranunculus are usually grown from corms, which are like little octopus-looking tubers that multiply into more little octopus-corms during the growing season. While ranunculus do produce seeds, the seeds may not grow into the same ranunculus as the mother plant, depending on pollination. Ranunculus corms are fairly inexpensive and also multiply a lot during the season so seeds are rarely needed. The larger the corm, the more flowers you are likely to get that season.


These plants grow best in temperatures between 35 and 75 degrees F, although they can endure temperatures down to 10 F. They go dormant in temperatures above 80 F, although they may last a little longer if they are grown in partial shade. I have found that when temperatures are high, even if they have not gone dormant yet, they tend to grow “leggy,” meaning the flowers get tall and topple over.

When to Plant:

Ranunculus love cool weather (but not blisteringly cold). I live in a region with mild winters, so I like to start pre-sprouting my corms indoors as early as possible in late summer or early fall, as soon as daytime temperatures start to drop below 80 degrees.

Soak Corms: 

You can soak the corms in cold water before planting to make sure they get enough moisture to begin the growing process, but if you do, DO NOT SOAK FOR TOO LONG. An hour or two should be sufficient. Four hours is pushing it. They will continue to draw moisture from the soil once you plant or pre-sprout them. I once soaked some of my corms for 5 hours and they rotted (the octopus legs fell off or got really wiggly when I touched them). The corms are supposed to be firm, and the legs should not wiggle.

Pre-Sprout Corms:

I prefer to pre-sprout my corms to make sure all the ones that I plant are going to grow (some corms never sprout, some may rot, and old corms especially do not sprout well). To pre-sprout corms, I use growing trays like these and put a light layer of moist soil on the bottom. Then I put the corms in, leaving a tiny bit of space between each corm, with the octopus legs pointing down. Finally, I cover them up with more moist soil (I like to add some pearlite to aerate the soil and prevent rotting), until all the corms are covered.

Make sure the soil is not too moist or the corms will rot. I like using moist soil that is on the “dry side” because I can always spray the soil with a spray bottle filled with water if the soil gets too dry. I leave the trays in a cool place (temperatures in the 70’s or below – the cooler the better) where pests can’t get to them and check on them every few days to make sure the soil is still slightly moist. The corms usually sprout within one to two weeks. You will know they have sprouted when they grow little white roots on the bottom and little white bumps on the top.

Depth and Spacing:

Once your corms have sprouted, it’s time to plant them outside (you can also plant the corms without soaking or pre-sprouting, just make sure the temperatures are right and the soil is well-watered). Plant them 2-3 inches deep, 4-6 inches apart, with the octopus tentacles pointing down. Cover with soil and water well.


Keep the soil moist but not wet. If the soil stays wet for too long, the corms will rot. Do not let the soil dry out completely or the plants will die. I like to use a moisture meter like this to check the moisture of the soil once in a while. You probably will not need to water until the plants start to sprout through the soil. I usually don’t water the soil much, if at all, until late winter or early spring, since the rain usually takes care of that for me.


Before planting the corms, I mix bulb food like this into the soil. Once the plants start to flower, I sprinkle more bulb food onto the soil at the base of the plants. I feed them with bulb food one or two more times during the flowering stage (around 2 months), and feed them one more time right when the plants have stopped growing flowers but the leaves are still green. For the amount of fertilizer to use, follow the instructions on the packaging.


Ranunculus flowers are ready to be cut when the petals are just barely starting to open. I’ve read that you should cut the flowers even before this stage, when the buds are colored but haven’t opened at all and feel squishy like a marshmallow. However, when I cut them that early, I’ve found that they don’t ever really open up as nice and fluffy as they ones that are cut when they just start to open. I also don’t like waiting too long to cut them and bring them inside because then little bugs start to make their home in the fully opened petals, and the fully opened flowers don’t last as long in bouquets.

Use garden shears like these to cut the flower stems as close to the base of the plant as possible. If you cut the flowers too high, more flowers may grow from the same stems, which you would think would be a great idea, except that the flowers will get too tall and fall over from their own weight. The more flowers you cut, the more flowers the plant will produce, so don’t be afraid to cut them!

Care of Cut Flowers:

Place the flowers in water as soon as you cut them. When putting them into vases and jars, add some flower food to the water. I use diluted sprite or a spoonful of sugar as flower food. Change the water every day or two to prevent bacterial growth if you want the flowers to last a while.

Grow More Corms:

If you want to enjoy ranunculus again next year, don’t uproot the plants as soon as they stop producing flowers. Continue to keep the soil moist until the green leaves turn yellow. Once the leaves have yellowed and your plants look pretty dead and shriveled, the corms are ready to be harvested. For how to do this, see my next post on harvesting ranunculus corms (coming soon).

More ranunculus from my garden

Seashell Necklace

A few years ago, while walking along a beach, I noticed some bright flecks of color in the sand. I bent over to take a closer look and discovered that the beach was strewn with tiny shells freshly washed up from the sea. Since they were so new, the colors hadn’t faded or chipped away yet. They reminded me of snowflakes – each one unique and beautiful, with its own intricate pattern. It made sense, since the same Artist made both these shells and snowflakes. I collected a few and after washing them, I strung them together in the necklace shown below.




Summer Excursions

Here are some sketches I made from the summer of 2010. I’m not the biggest fan of black and white photographs but I love black and white drawings.

Marker on paper, 2010. I can’t remember where this was or why I was there, but I had to wait for some people so I sketched this out while I was waiting and finished shading it later. Maybe this was at UCLA?
Marker on paper, 2010. Disneyland. I sketched this from a photo I took.
Marker on paper, 2010. I sketched this during my cousin’s graduation. A long time of sitting can be an opportunity for a long time of sketching.

From the Balcony

Charcoal on paper, 2008

This drawing was part of an experimental series in which I took something that was already there (in this case, a line that I randomly made) and built up a design starting from that original entity.  For this piece, I started by drawing a circular curve that eventually became the head of the girl in the center with her eye closed.  I really enjoyed the spontaneity and strangeness of the composition and the patterns and textures that resulted.


Marker on paper, 2009

Several years ago I sketched out different moments of my church’s winter retreat in chronological order on a long roll of paper to show the passage of time in one drawing. I really enjoyed blending places and activities together inconspicuously. I guess life is kind of life that – there are rarely rigid lines that separate one moment from another.

Close ups: