“Back To My Roots” a Greek cook book with a lot of heart and soul

“Back To My Roots” cook book has a permanent spot on my kitchen bench. It is my go to cook book because it has classic Greek recipes that are easy to follow. I have made so many meals from this cook book, my husband is loving all the food I’ve been making!

“Back To My Roots” is written by Krystina Kalapothakos from California, USA. Krystina is an author, chef and blogger of Kouzounas Kitchen. I have been following Krystina’s blog Kouzounas Kitchen for a few years. So when I saw that she had released a cook book, I had to purchase it from online.

[photo credit: Kouzounas Kitchen]

The traditional Greek recipes in “Back To My Roots” are inspired by Krystina’s grandparents village Mani, Greece. I think the reason why I love this cook book so much, is not only are the recipes delicious and easy to make, but as a reader you can feel the book has been made with a lot of heart and soul by Krystina. The cook book is filled with her family photos and her family background. You get to know who Krystina is and her special connection with her yiayia. Which is something I relate to, as I also have a strong connection with my yiayia.

Recently my mother in law and I cooked a feast for our Sunday family dinner. We used recipes from “Back To My Roots”. We made Mini Phyllo Cheese Bites, Baked Shrimp and Feta, Moussaka and Loukoumades. All the recipes were so full of flavour, easy to follow and didn’t take long to make either.

Mini Phyllo Cheese Bites were quickly eaten. I had to salvage what I could to take these photos! We all loved the combination of the creamy cheese filling with dill.


Baked Shrimp and Feta was eaten with bread that we dipped in the salsa.


Moussaka was the highlight of our dinner. We had never used cinnamon in a moussaka before and we all really loved the subtle sweetness it gave to the dish. I will definitely be making moussaka following Krystina’s recipe again.


Loukoumades (Greek doughnuts) was served with tea and coffee. It was the first time I made Loukoumades and the recipe was easy. However the technique I need to practice is how to make the doughnuts into a ball. As the shapes I was frying up were not circular!

Lastly a MUST try recipe from the cook book is a traditional Greek soup Youvarlakia with Turkey Meat (recipe is stated below). I had never made this soup before because my yiayia always makes it. However I tried Krystina’s recipe and it tasted very similar, if not the same as my yiayias recipe! The whole family loves this soup and I do recommend you to try it also. To me it doesn’t look appetising but it sure does taste delicious. Simply it is Turkey meat balls in a lemony soup broth. Trust me, it’s amazing!

I purchased my copy of “Back To My Roots” from Amazon.com. However Krystina has also released an e-book version. Which is great for international customers like me. An e-book is super affordable and you can print the whole book or just the recipes you want to make that day.

Below are the links I use to follow Krystina’s blog Kouzounas Kitchen. I love following Kouzounas Kitchen, Krystina is always sharing modern and traditional recipes that she has made. Kouzounas Kitchen can also be found on YouTube and Twitter.



Youvarlakia with Turkey Meat recipe from “Back To My Roots”
3 cups chicken broth
½ cup all purpose flour
1 pinch fresh oregano
1 pinch cumin
1 large egg
Ground pepper
Sea salt
1 TB fresh anise, finely chopped
2 TB fresh dill, finely chopped
2 TB fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 white onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup rice (uncooked)
1lb (500gr) ground turkey

4 lemons (juice)
3 large eggs

1. In a large bowl, combine: meat, rice, onion, garlic, cumin, dill, anise, parsley, salt, pepper and egg.
2. Place flour on a plate, form meatballs in your hand and gently roll into the flour.
3. Place the meatballs in a large pot and pour the chicken broth over them.
4. Bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes. In the meantime prepare the avgolemono.
5. In a large bowl add the eggs and whisk until nice and frothy. Add the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.
6. The meatballs should be ready by now, so prepare to combine the avgolemono with the meatballs.
7. Take two half cups of hot broth and quickly whisk the broth into the avgolemono sauce. Be sure to do this quickly as the eggs can curdle if you don’t. Add the avgolemono mixture to the meatballs and mix to combine.

Kali Orexi

The Meaning Of Stefana and How To Choose For Your Wedding

Stefana (Greek wedding crowns) symbolise the glory and honour that is being bestowed to the couple by God. The Bride and Groom are crowned as King and Queen of their home, which they will rule with wisdom, justice and integrity.

The ribbon joining the stefana symbolises unity. The ribbon that joins the two crowns should always remain intact for a lifetime. As it is the eternal bond between the Bride and Groom.

Traditionally the koumbaro/a (best man/maid of honour) provide the stefana to the marrying couple. I have noticed during my years of making stefana, that it is common for brides to choose their stefana but from time to time, many koumbari choose also.

In Ancient times, stefana were made from olive branches, vine leaves and lemon blossom. Today, Stefana are made from a variety of materials (i.e. sterling silver, gold, Swarovski crystals, pearls) and can be as simple or ornate as the couple prefer.

A particular stefana can be chosen for a variety of reasons;
Personal preference of the couple or koumbari
Match the wedding dress; many brides want pearls or crystals on the stefana to match the pearls or crystals sewn on their wedding dress. Also the stefana joining ribbon can be white or ivory to match the colour of the wedding dress.
Match the theme of the wedding;
Emotional connection; many couples have chosen a particular stefana because it reminded them of their parents or grandparents stefana.
Match the colour theme of their wedding

Below I have categorised Story of Stefania crowns into wedding styles;


White Berries Stefana
Ivory Berries Stefana
Antique Gold Berries Stefana

Stefana made with floral berries have a natural feel. This stefana range are very popular with rustic theme and winery Greek weddings.
My inspiration to create the floral berries stefana came from my grandparents stefana. It is so special when people tell me the berries stefana remind them of what their grandparents wore at their wedding ceremony (1950’s-60’s).



[stefana inspiration] photo of my Grandparents Pavlos and Evangelia at their Greek wedding ceremony.


Swarovski Crystal Stefana
White Opal Swarovski Crystal Stefana

I use Swarovski crystals as they are a high quality material. The sparkle of Swarovski crystals really do resemble the flash of diamonds.
A new Swarovski crystal I have been using is White Opal, it has a warm white glow.



Double Swarovski Pearl Stefana
Diamanté and Petite Pearl Stefana
Pearlescent White Pearls Stefana
Diamanté and Swarovski Pearl Stefana

Traditional pearl Stefana designs are a huge favourite with marrying couples. Swarovski pearls are classic and make the stefana designs timeless.
A new pearl in our range is the Pearlescent white (from Swarovski SS17 launch). It is a frosted mother of pearl shimmer, a contemporary twist on the classic pearl.



Rose Gold Swarovski Stefana
Swarovski Gold Stefana

Rose Gold has been an on-trend colour for weddings the past few years. Many brides have chosen the Rose Gold stefana to match their wedding colour theme. The Swarovski rose gold pearl has the elegant appearance like the classic white pearl.

The advice I always give to Story of Stefania couples trying to decide which stefana to choose from is, to pick a design you love and represent you as a couple. As your stefana is a visual reminder of the sacrament of your marriage.






[Real Wedding] Story of Steven and Jyana


Steven and Jyana married on the 12th March 2016

An intimate Greek wedding ceremony at the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Panagia Kamariani, Red Hill, followed by celebrations at Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove, Red Hill.

Steven and Jyana wore Story of Stefania crowns during their Greek wedding ceremony.

Why did your koumbara choose these stefana for your wedding?

Our koumbara Stephanie chose the ivory berries stefana because they suited our stylish winery theme. They are different and modern. We loved our stefana!


Did you have a theme that inspired your wedding?

We are very relaxed people and wanted to create a stylish yet relaxed atmosphere for our 80 guests. We didn’t really have a theme as such however we both love wineries and chose Montalto vineyard, as that is where we had our first date!

What are some special/unique details included in your wedding?

Jyana: My “something old” was Steven’s mother’s wedding band. Steven’s mum had passed away in November 2013 and I didn’t have the privilege to meet my mother in law. Everybody that knew her says what an amazing woman she was.

I didn’t throw my bouquet at the end of the night. I honoured my mother by saying a speech about how special she is and then handed her my bouquet!

A special moment from our wedding was my father daughter dance. We danced to a Greek song called “Pio Polli” by Mihalis Hatzigiannis.

Our koumbara Stephanie chose the bonbonniere which was a variety of loose tea in glass test tubes.

We made individual confetti cones for all the guests to throw as we walked out the church.

About the wedding day…

Steven and Jyana shared a perfect day together, with so many emotions and tears of joy!

Their church ceremony began at 4pm at the beautiful Monastery in Red Hill. Steven waited anxiously for Jyana’s arrival! As Jyana arrived at the church, wedding bells rang to announce her arrival. Jyana describes that moment as “I was overwhelmed with emotion, that tears of joy rolled down my face uncontrollably”. The wedding ceremony at the Monastery was traditional and beautiful.

Following on from the ceremony, the wedding celebrations took place at Montalto vineyard and it was one big party! The venue was elegantly styled with pastel flowers, greenery and many candles. It gave the venue a relaxed and romantic atmosphere that Steven and Jyana had wanted for their wedding. There was also lots of Greek dancing! Guests were weaving in and out of the winery venue doors and dancing out on the deck under the moonlight.

At the end of the night, Steven and Jyana said goodbye to all their guests. As they bid farewell, the song that was played in the background was Steven’s late mother’s favourite song; “All My Loving” by the Beatles.


________[thank you]________

Thank you Steven and Jyana for sharing your truly special wedding story with us. I feel so privileged to have made the stefana for such a lovely couple. I wish you all the best with a lifetime of love and happiness.

Lastly a big thank you to Stephanie (Steven and Jyana’s koumbara). You were such a great customer to work with. Jyana describes you as “one of the most loving, caring and funny people”! Steven and Jyana were so honoured to have you apart of their day in such a special way.



Wedding gown: Anna Campbell

Groom’s suit: Farage

Flowers and venue styling: Folly of the Wise (Jyana’s good friend of 17 years styled Montalto for their wedding)

Photography: Milk Photography

Music: Nick Missailidis

Make up: Lenada Makeup

Invitation and personalised menus: Lauren Skorsis

Let me introduce myself!

Hi, my name is Maria and I am a wife to Dimitri and mummy to Theodore. I am also the owner and creator of Story of Stefania. When I’m not doing my wifey/mummy duties, I am hand making personalised Greek wedding crowns.

Weddings and all things personalised are my passion! The romance and beauty of weddings inspire me every day! People often ask me, “So how did you get started with making stefana”? It all started because I wanted to add something personalised to the Greek wedding ceremony. The idea came to me that the stefana joining ribbon could be personalised with the bride and groom names and wedding date. It’s something that I had never seen before and I would want for my own wedding.

I believe personalised Greek wedding crowns are unique and are a new trend for our generation of Greek weddings.

Maria and Dimitri-358

I taught myself how to make stefana and before I knew it I began selling online to couples/koumbari (best man or maid of honour) from around the world! It is honestly so special getting to know the brides or koumbari purchasing Story of Stefania crowns. There are a lot of good people in this world and I am lucky to have such kind and appreciative customers! It is surreal when I see wedding photos of couples wearing the stefana I hand made.

Although I put so much effort and heart into each stefana order I make, my devotion is also to my family. My husband and son are my heart and soul, their love and support motivates me to make my dreams a reality and I can’t wait to share with you our exciting times ahead!

On my blog I will post about Story of Stefania [Real Weddings] and posts about events happening in my life as a Greek wife and mum.


Photo credit: Luke Greaves Photography