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!