Friday, June 16, 2017

Almost Summer

I have take a long break from the blog because things got a bit crazy around here (I feel like I say this all the time!) and it's nice to be back.

I can officially say that we are enjoying our summer vacation after a successful year of kindergarten homeschool! I am thrilled with how our year went overall! Our big first grader is reading at the Level 2 I Can Read books, and he continues to enjoy reading to himself or to his siblings. He has truly formed a love for reading and does not need to be reminded to practice his reading each day. We finished half of Math U See Alpha (which is technically the first grade math) after having finished the Primer, and he is a math-loving guy for sure. I never intended to focus much on math this year, but he begged and pleaded for it constantly, so I went along with it.

We have been enjoying being "summer lazy" here for a week or so and have been taking it easy. Soon the kids and I are going to visit my family in New York for a few weeks and I can hardly wait! I have been busy planning out some free activities I can keep us busy with during the day while my mom is at work.

We are back at fasting again, with the Apostles' Fast going on currently (until July 12th). I have been thoroughly enjoying some summer salads with a small piece of baked salmon on top, as well as bruschetta on bread and grilled veggies (like zucchini or bell peppers). Yum! My husband has also planted this year's garden, with the help of the kids, and we are anxiously awaiting the results of their hard work!

Just a few more days until the official first day of summer, and the weather is definitely getting the hint as well!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Lenten Knit-A-Long

A friend of mine who is a very talented knitter (among other things!) started a fun Lenten knit-a-long this year and all the women who are taking part in it are keeping each other posted through the hashtag #lentenKAL on Instagram. It's just fun to see how everyone else is doing on their project. I think I may be the slowest knitter in the group! Everyone has chosen a project that fits their own level best and I am excited to be knitting a summer shawl in cotton/linen blend yarn from KnitPicks (the yarn is called CotLin). It is going to have 3 buttons and one button-hole so you can go with a different look each time you wear it. Here is my progress so far! Join us if you care to!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The first weekend of Great Lent...

On Friday, as per tradition in the Orthodox Church, we blessed wheat after the presanctified liturgy, in memory of St. Theodore Tyro.

 The little ones gathered behind their father to watch the blessing.

Yesterday morning we attended liturgy for a second day in a row and afterwards, indulged in these delicious cinnamon rolls from Trader Joe's...which are completely Lenten! Go try them, you will not regret it! They bake in 20 minutes, which makes for a perfect post-liturgy, no-effort light breakfast as you sip your tea or coffee and prepare for the rest of the day.

Happy Sunday of Orthodoxy to you all! We have officially made it through week 1 of Great Lent - 6 weeks until Pascha! It's going to fly by...

Tonight, my husband is attending Sunday of Orthodoxy vespers, but the little ones and I are going to enjoy our first lenten pizza for dinner - Yum! (I even bought pre-made dough at the supermarket to make things easier for myself).

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Great Lent: What We Are Eating - February and March (Great Lent Meal Plan, Part 1)

One of the hardest parts about Great Lent for many, many housewives is preparing Lenten meals. Often times not everyone in the family is fasting to the same degree (like in our house!) for various reasons (children of various ages, priest husbands, nursing or pregnant mamas...). I have personally had a battle every year of "WHAT am I going to feed everyone today?" during each fasting period. Meeting everyone's meal needs can be so taxing and leave us weary. This is especially a problem when it leaves us no time for reading, preparing for confession, reading those extra prayers we want to read during the fast.

This year I am fasting and so is my husband (I say "this year" because last year I was a nursing Mama so I was fasting from meat only, as per my personal blessing from my father confessor). Our oldest son who is 6 is fasting from meat only, and only on Wednesdays and Fridays. And then we have the 3 little ones who do not fast at all yet. So I tried to think ahead of time this year and decide on ways I can make my life a little bit easier during this special time of year? What I did was take a calendar page online at this website and filled in lunch and dinner for every day of February and March. I will work on April closer towards its arrival. This is a task that is really tedious for me, but it has had a lot of benefits so far and caused me far fewer headaches than I usually have for meal prep time during Great Lent. You can see my meal plan for our family here: (Feel free to edit this as you'd like for your family's needs - you can type right in each box)

March 2017 Printable Calendar

I figured I'd make it easy and share the recipes that go along with the calendar as well, otherwise, how helpful can it be to you? :-)

By the way - Great Lent only lasted for 2 days of February, and on those days we ate the same thing for both meals (sounds boring but makes my life easy!)

Lunch: Normandy Vegetable Soup; Guacamole on Bread (see my previous post for this recipe)
Dinner: Lentil Chili - this was SO delish!!! Especially topped with guacamole! (I left the cilantro out b/c we are not huge fans of it. I even made this without oil and it was still so good!)

If you look at my March calendar, you will see that I repeat a soup for lunch for 3 days in a row. The rest? We freeze it for later on in Great Lent. I am not a fan of eating the same thing every day all week because it just gets really dull. But, to each his own.

OK, so here are the recipes (and the sources behind them). Also, I realize that on Friday of this week I put that we are eating just bread with guacamole. That's a mistake and it happened because I was out of oil-free ideas for Friday. ;-) My husband will not be home for dinner though, so it's just me and I'll eat something frozen from the freezer.

The recipes in order of their appearance on the calendar:

No Oil Bean Soup (taken from the Lenten Cookbook by the Ladies' Aux. of St. Nicholas SOC in Indianapolis):

1 large onion, chopped
1 T. paprika
1 T. salt
1 16 oz. can navy beans
2 T. chopped parsley
1 to 2 cans water

Chop onion; place in soup pan. Cover with water and boil about 10 minutes. Add seasonings. Stir well. Add beans (do NOT drain!), 1 to 2 cans of water and the diced parsley. Bring to a boil again and cook 45 to 50 minutes, or until beans are done. If desired, you may add 1 can diced tomatoes to the onions and/or 1 cup dried pasta in the last 20 minutes of cooking time.

Vegan Corn Muffins (this is a recipe I have adapted throughout the years)

1 c. flour
1 c. cornmeal (yellow or white)
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2/3 c. sugar (do 1/3 if you don't like them as sweet)
1/2 c. corn or veg. oil
3/4 cup soy milk or any other kind of non-dairy milk
2 T. apple sauce (if I have none on hand I just leave it out)
A hint of lemon juice
Yield: 1 dozen muffins

Preheat oven to 400 deg. Lightly grease a 12-muffin tin. In a large bowl, sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar. In seperate bowl, whisk together oil, apple sauce, and lemon juice. White a wooden spoon, fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full. Bake for 22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Zucchini-Potato Bisque from the NY Times
-Just use a milk substitute here - I tend to stick to rice milk because almond and soy give it a little too much of their flavor for my liking. (Btw, keep this for when it isn't lent - it is sooo delicious with regular milk!)

Quinoa and Shrimp Salad
Boil some quinoa (I usually stick to about a half cup to one cup max). Add in some already cooked shrimp, chopped red pepper, chopped cucumber, chopped tomatoes and a good amount of dill. Sprinkle some lemon juice and olive oil and combine. Best served chilled. Delicious. If you don't like dill, use parsley instead. Note: I personally prefer less quinoa and more of everything else, but you have to just find your personal preference when making this!

Maryland-Style Crab Cakes
Here is the original recipe. My friend who gave me this recipe tweaked it to her liking, and I prefer her way personally, so here is her way.

1 cup oyster crackers
2/3 c. vegan mayonnaise (I use vegenaise)
1 t. mustard
1 t. Old Bay seasoning
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced red pepper
1 c. lump crab meat (I've used non-lump before too, but lump is way tastier)

1/4 cup olive oil (if frying)
plain bread crumbs

Sautee the onion with the red pepper. Combine all the ingredients except for the crab meat in a large bowl (and except for the oil) and mix until just combined. Add the crabmeat to the bowl, breaking up the extra large pieces. Fold the crabmeat into the cracker mixture just until combined, allowing some larger pieces of crab to stay in tact. Scoop out 1/4 c. portions of the mixture, tightly compress and form into a small, rounded patty. Coat the patties with bread crumbs on both sides.

To pan fry:
Heat the olive oil over med. high heat. Add crab cakes to the pan and cook for 2-3 mins on each side or until golden brown, turning once. Remove the cakes to a plate lined with paper towels and let them set.

To bake:
Preheat the oven to 350 deg. Place crab cakes on a greased baking sheet. Baked for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown, flipping once halfway through.

These can be frozen before cooking. Defrost prior to cooking.

Loaded Guacamole Vegetarian Tacos

Lenten Pizza:

Easy peasy and our favorite!!! Either use store-bought dough or your favorite homemade pizza dough. We use simply a marinara sauce on ours, and for the cheese, Daiya Brand Mozzarella Style Shreds. Um, it is SO good!!!! A recent favorite of mine came from my niece - she made us pizza with caramelized onions and roasted red peppers. So yummy! BTW - Daiya Cheese can be found at Whole Foods or many other health food stores. Some local supermarkets carry it, too. I don't know anyone who has not loved this "cheese"! It's soy-free, too.

Quinoa Avocado Salad (Got this recipe on Facebook from a Lenten Recipes group)

1 pckg. (7 oz) red quinoa, cooked per directions and chilled
1 pkg. (12 oz) frozen super-sweet corn, thawed
1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup green onions, thinly sliced (red onion works too)
2 plum tomatoes, 1/4 inch died
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and cubed small
1/2 cup lemon vinaigrette (see below)
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

Dawn's Lemon Vinaigrette
Whisk together:
 juice of one large lemon
1/2 c. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t. salt
1 T. maple syrup

Add cooked quinoa, corn, cilantro, green onions, and tomatoes to a mixing bowl. Fold in avocados and dressing. Mix until well-combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Spinach Linguine with Clams and Tomatoes (recipe from my mom)

8 oz. frozen whole clam meat (3 to 4 cups)
12 oz. spinach linguine
3 T. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz. vegetable broth
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
2 large tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

Cook spinach linguine in a large pot of salted water. Drain and return to pot with about 1/4 c. of the cooking water. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a saucepan on med/ high heat. Add onions and garlic, cook, stirring constantly for 5 to 6 minutes until softened. Add veggie broth, salt and pepper. Increase heat to high, bring mixture to a boil and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, until liquid has been reduced by half. Stir in clams, tomatoes and basil and stir until heated thoroughly. Add clam mixture to cooked linguine and reserved cooking water. Stir to combine thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with chopped fresh basil.

Vegan Potato Leek Soup - this is definitely a favorite around here!

Garlic Shrimp (Recipe from All You magazine) - These are delicious!!! Such a yummy sauce, too!

1/2 c. olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 lbs. peeled, deveine medium shrimp, rinsed, drained and patted dry

Warm oil, garlic, parsley in a large skillet over med/high heat for 1 1/2 minutes. Carefully add shrimp, season with salt and cook, stirring, until pink, about 3 minutes. Serve hot.

Shrimp Scampi - another of my favorites - Note: Just sub in Earth Balance margarine for the butter!

Taste of Home Cream of Vegetable Soup - This is out of this world delicious! I made it for our slava and EVERYONE wanted to have a copy of the recipe! Just use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth here, and a non-dairy creamer/milk for the half and half.

Zucchini-Potato Fritters

Grechka with Onions and Mushrooms - This is a Russian specialty. You take buckwheat kasha, boil it according to the directions. In the meantime, chop a generous amount of onion, and mushrooms. Sautee them together and mix it all up with the kasha. UM, I LOVE THIS!

Ina May Garten's Roasted Shrimp Salad - Use vegenaise instead of the mayonnaise. This is really yummy as a wrap, too.

Bruschetta a la Katya - This is my own recipe. It's not rocket science ;-).
Chop up some tomatoes, and try to seed them as best as possible, too. If you leave the seeds it's ok. My husband hates when I waste any part of the tomato, so I usually use them. Chop up some basil as well (to taste). I use a good amount of it. Sprinkle in salt and pepper, and drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar. DO NOT use too much vinegar, a little goes a long way! Otherwise it'll be really sour. Refrigerate.
Next, take a baguette or any kind of long bread and slice it up. Make a paste out of margarine, garlic powder and dried parsley. Smear a good amount onto each piece of bread. Lay bread slices on a pan and broil them for a few minutes. BE CAREFUL. Don't walk away too long because they'll burn quickly. Remove them just when the edges are beginning to brown. Place a good spoonful of the tomato mixture on each slice - but DRAIN the tomatoes off (just let the juices drip back into the bowl) before you place them on, otherwise you'll have some really soggy bruschetta.
Note: Onion lovers can throw some onion in there. I don't because I try to save time, plus I don't like having onion breath. :)

Zucchini-Lemon Couscous (from the book The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen)
1 1/2 T. olive oil
1 bunch scallions, white parts chopped, 1/2 cup thinly sliced green tops reserved
1/2 lb. zucchini, finely diced
2 c. vegetable broth
Juice of 1/2 large lemon (about 2 T.)
1/4 t. chopped dried lemon peel
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 c. instant couscous

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the white part of the scallions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the broth, lemon juice, lemon peel, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the couscous; cover and remove from the heat. Let stand until all the liquids are absorbed, 7 minutes.
Uncover and fluff the couscous with a fork. Add the reserved scallion greens and toss well with fork to combine. Serve warm or at room temp.

Parker's Split Pea Soup - Just use vegetable broth instead of chicken

Shrimp Pasta with Tomatoes, Lemon and Spinach

Poor Man's Pesto Sauce (from the Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen) - (it is so good!!) - we eat this with any kind of pasta

3 c. loosely packed fresh basil leaves
6 T. pine nuts (you can use walnuts too)
2-4 large cloves garlic
3/4 t. coarse salt
6 T. olive oil

Combine basil, pine nuts, garlic, and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal blade or in a blender. Process of blend until the ingredients are finely chopped, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as necessary. Add the oil and process until smooth and creamy. If not using immediately, store tightly covered in refrigerator for up to 2 days, or place in ice cube trays, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and store in the freezer no longer than 1 month for the best flavor.

Potato Kotleti (patties)

Boil a few potatoes til soft. Mash them up well. Add in a fried onion and lots of garlic powder and dill. Mix it all up with your hands really well.  Form into patties and roll in bread crumbs. Fry.

Top with Mushroom Gravy (I could eat this EVERY DAY!) - this recipe from a friend

2 T. olive oil
1 c. chopped mushrooms
1 pinch salt
1 t. white wine vinegar
3 T. Earth Balance margarine
3 T. flour
1 c. vegetable broth
non-dairy milk

Heat oil in large skillet and add mushrooms and salt. Cook for 5 minutes or until softened and add vinegar. Stir. Add some pepper and remove mushrooms from pan. Don't clean out the pan. Turn the heat to low. Add margarine and flour and whisk until a paste forms. Slowly add veg. broth, whisking until mixture is smooth. Turn the heat up and whisk until the mixture thickens into a gravy. Add soymilk in small splashes if gravy becomes too thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Pirozhki - a Russian specialty - I will post the recipe for these later on. There are many options for fillings.

Monday, February 27, 2017

On the First Day of Great Lent

Here we are, the first day of Great Lent! No joke, it feels like just yesterday I was baking kulichi and now we are on the path to Pascha once more in what feels like no time at all.

I love Great Lent more and more each year.

This year I decided to meal plan for Great Lent in a new way. I took a calendar for each month of Great Lent, beginning with the end of February and into April, and tried to roughly plan out lunch and dinner for each day. Before you think that this sounds totally crazy, I will explain - I have kept things very simple. I decided to make lunch a soup each day. My husband tends to get very bored eating the same soup too often in a row, so I maxed it out at 3 days in a row for one soup. I am freezing whatever leftovers there are so that we can repeat them a little bit later in Great Lent without having to make a new batch of soup.

This week, my husband is not eating oil products, so that simplified our menu a great deal. I made my grandmother's Normandy Vegetable Soup and am sharing the recipe below. To go along with our soup I made an Artisan loaf of bread this morning which is already half gone. If needed I will make a new loaf tomorrow (I'll probably have to do that).

Later this week, I'll be making an oil-free bean soup which is a first time recipe for me. If it is any good, I'll share it later on. Tomorrow I also plan to make lentil chili, a new-to-me recipe as well. Will share if it is worth it or not.

In the meantime, here is the Normandy Vegetable Soup recipe.

Normandy Vegetable Soup

2 lb. bag of frozen Normandy vegetable blend
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced

Pour all the vegetables together into a large soup pot. Cover with JUST ENOUGH water to cover. (I almost always pour more water than necessary and end up annoyed with myself later). Boil. Let this boil until all the vegetables are soft. Add in spices as you wish. Usually I add in paprika, garlic powder, and enough salt - can always add more later. Once the vegetables are soft, take a hand/immersion blender and puree the entire soup. It should be pretty thick still. Add in any creamer of your choice - almond, rice, soy milk, or non-dairy coffee creamer. Just enough to make it to the consistency of your desire. Serve with croutons if desired.

Note: You can also use vegetable broth if you'd like for the veggies. I tend to always use water because I make it on the days my husband is not eating oil products. You can make this non-fasting easily as well and use half and half to thicken the soup instead, and use chicken broth of course!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Great Lent Reading

Here we are... Just around the corner from another Great Lent. I feel so blessed every year at this time when I think, how lucky I am that God has allowed me to reach this period yet again. I always think that this could be my last Great Lent, ever since my mom's cousin died at a young age, and that really puts things into perspective and makes me realize how seriously I should take this period of repentance and preparation for the Feast of Feasts.

Tonight we had Blini for dinner and it was absolutely crazy. It was not a beautiful meal that one can often imagine in their heads. It was filled with whining children who were complaining that they didn't like any of the fixings and ask for syrup instead, it was filled with lots of noise as well. And it was filled with one tired mama in the kitchen who kept frying just one more blin and kept waiting to sit down and eat. But moments like these are great reminders of why we need periods like great Lent. It's so refreshing to have a set period every year for reflection and looking deep into one's soul and wondering how we can become better. Going back to my meal tonight, I did manage to lay out a beautiful Russian tablecloth, wear my favorite Russian apron, and play beautiful balalaika music in the background. And those things made the meal sweeter and the stress less stressful. I will look back on it as a dinner where everything did not go smoothly and that that was ok. The kids are peacefully sleeping in bed, tummies full, and tomorrow is a new day.

Tonight I am sharing my Great Lenten reading. I am working slowly through the Optina Elder books. One is better than the next. I love these. I have been working on Elder Ambrose for several weeks now and will continue,  along with these sermons on Great Lent by St. John of Krondstadt. If I finish Elder Ambrose I'll go right into the next book. Somewhere I'd also love to throw in a reread of Wounded by Love because I love that book so much.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Meeting of the Lord...

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of the Meeting of the Lord. It is such a dear holiday to me... When I was 13, our bishop (Bishop Mitrophan of Boston) passed away on this beautiful holiday. This year marked 15 years since his repose. He was like a grandparent to me and a relative through marriage, and I miss him dearly every day. The most special part though, is that he was very old when he died, and he died as his two daughters read the prayer of St. Simeon over him. I was blessed enough to be there for that very moment and it is something I will never forget in my life. Since his repose, I have gotten married and had 4 children, and as all Orthodox mothers know, a mama brings her baby to church on or after the 40th day for the first time and has special prayers read over them prior to entering the church together. It is such a joy to bring your newborn baby to church for the first time, and it is for this reason that this feast day really touches my heart. To imagine the Theotokos bringing her newborn Christ-child into the temple really makes me get the chills.

Since the feast day was on a fasting day this year, I decided that salmon was in order for lunch. My husband and I enjoyed our lunch SO much! We ate while the kids had their quiet time.

By the way, I find it necessary to note that my favorite way of cooking salmon is to bake it on 400 degrees for 20 minutes... Prior to baking it, lay it on a baking sheet, sprinkle with olive oil and rub it in nicely (I do this with a basting brush). Then, sprinkle on some salt, pepper, garlic powder, and finish off with a generous drizzle of lemon juice (fresh if possible). So simple, so healthy and so delicious! As an extra special treat, I love to fry up some onions and peppers and put them on top of our fish. It really was like a restaurant meal!