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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Menu Plan: March 28 - April 3

This morning was the Palm Sunday service at church. We got to remember how to fold the palm fronds into crosses again. This is what we love about the liturgical year: There is something for each of the senses as well as the intellect and soul. We processed into the sanctuary singing and waving our palms, we see the different sights, such as the palm fronds, hear the sounds of the music, the words of the Scriptures and the Mass, we smell the incense, we touch the palms in our own hands, we taste the Eucharist. Palm Sunday is a hard day. We start with the celebration of the welcome Christ received entering Jerusalem and we end by remembering that it was for our sins that He sweat His blood in the garden of Gethsemane, was beaten and scourged and was nailed to the cross. It is our voices that cry out for Barabbas, it is our cry to crucify Him. Each sin we commit echos that cry. One of the things we love about the Church year is how each of these senses help us remember and help us teach our children about God, the Church and our own nature.

This upcoming week is a hard one spiritually. Holy Week is a journey into Christ's suffering, knowing that it was done for us, because we were helpless to save ourselves. We see Him serve His disciples as a slave. We see Him betrayed. We see Him tried unjustly, but go willingly, trusting. We see Him give Himself up so He can conquer death, crush the head of the serpent with the cross driven into the top of the Place of the Skull. We see Him die an undeserved death, so He can enter Hell and rise with those souls He came to save, to give us the hope of eternal life and salvation in the resurrection.

It is a hard week emotionally as well, for all of those reasons, but also because it is almost impossible to pray with the Church during these services, to do the daily readings and not see our sin and weakness. It is a week of conflicts for us at home, because we are walking the Via Dolorosa with Him, and preparing for the joy of the empty tomb as well.

It is a week of greater sacrifice. For our family, that means going meatless the entire week, since we have not abstained from meat the entirety of Lent. Maundy Thursday is a vigil of prayer with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, when we inevitably find how hard it is to watch just one hour with Him. Good Friday is a day of penitence and mourning. Holy Saturday starts with a hopeful expectation and ends with a vigil to the empty tomb.

Meanwhile, during the fast and vigil and mourning, I will be planning a feast and a celebration. During some of the more emotionally draining days, I will be cooking and cleaning and preparing for Pascha and the joyous resurrection. It is a week of contrasts.

For the first time in a long time, we won't be hosting a huge party. We don't even know if our Paschal feast will include more than our family. We are determined to continue in the liturgical pattern, showing our children how the Church the world over celebrates this highest holy day of the Christian year. However, because of our smaller group, I am having to cut down on the number of dishes and quantity I make, and I am finding that difficult. I'm not used to cooking for fewer than 40 on this feast. Preparing for eight to 14 seems so small in comparison.

So, this is our menu for the week. There are six days of meatless meals, one of them being shellfish, so not vegetarian. I will try to get our Pascha and Bright Week menu up Saturday, because I know I won't get a chance on Sunday. May you have a blessed Holy Week and experience the joy of the resurrection.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Weekly Recipes: March 27

Chocolate Cherry Cake

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup sour cream or yogurt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Kirsch or almond extract
2 cups pastry flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder (natural or dutch processed)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup strong coffee (or water, adding 1 teaspoon of espresso powder to the dry ingredients, or just water on its own, the coffee adds a depth of flavor, though)
1 cup dried sour cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two nine inch cake pans well.

Cream butter and sugar well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Add sour cream or yogurt, vanilla extract and Kirsch.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with the coffee, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Fold cherries into cake batter with a spatula.

Fill each cake pan to about 2/3 of the depth and smooth the tops. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean or cake springs back from your hand. Cool in pan for five minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool completely.

I usually just frost with chantilly cream (sweetened, vanilla flavored whipped cream), but Elijah asked for chocolate frosting, so I made ganache this time. You can decorate with fresh cherries, if you have them.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Eight Years of Elijah

Eight years ago, I was just getting wheeled into post-op to recover from my first ever surgery to wait until the spinal block and anesthesia wore off so I could go visit my newborn son in the NICU. He was a fighter and was stronger than any of our other children have been. A cradle gift from God to a child who would need it more than his siblings.

He was born on the feast of the Annunciation - the day when the angel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would give birth to Jesus, the Lord. We almost always get to all break the Lenten fast on his birthday and he, at least, has a chance of having it fall after Pascha. It is a fitting birthday for him; we named him for Elijah, who would never die and who announces the coming of the Messiah, and for Joseph (Yusef), who was the foster father of Jesus and the patron saint of all children, born and unborn.

Eight Exquisite Attributes of Elijah

1. He is always delighted at new experiences.

2. He is a gentle older brother.

3. He is kind to everyone.

4. He is the most affectionate child we have ever met.

5. He is a friend to each person he meets.

6. He loves helping where he can.

7. He wants to help others his entire life.

8. He loves God with all his heart.

Happy birthday Elijah!

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Menu Plan: March 21 - 27

We ended up with so many leftovers after St. Patrick's Day, that we ate them for dinner Thursday. So, we ate the picadillo tonight. Elijah celebrates his birthday this week and, as it falls on the feast of the Annunciation and it is not during Holy Week, we will celebrate completely on his birthday. He has requested a chocolate cake for us and a doughnut for himself.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Weekly Recipes: March 20

Tortilla Soup

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (or use leftover cooked chicken or turkey)
2 onions
5 cloves garlic
1 pound sliced peppers
1 cup chile sauce (like enchilada sauce, homemade or canned)
2 cups chili beans (pintos/pinquitos cooked in chile sauce however you like them, my barbecue beans are really good for this, I should post that recipe, too)
2 quarts chicken stock
1 pound corn kernels
1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
salt to taste

fried corn tortilla strips or crushed corn chips
sliced avocados
sour cream
chopped cilantro
lime wedges

Cook the chicken, seasoned with salt and pepper, in olive oil. Brown well and cut into bite sized pieces.

In a soup pot heat oil and cook onions, garlic and peppers until softened. Stir in chile sauce, chili beans and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, adding chicken, corn, ancho powder, cumin and oregano. Simmer, partially covered, until corn and chicken are heated through. Taste to season and add salt as necessary.

Serve with tortilla strips, sour cream, sliced or diced avocado, minced cilantro and a wedge of lime.

Mustard Glazed Corned Beef

4 pounds corned beef flat
1/3 cup grainy mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar

Cook corned beef on the stove or in a crock pot, with seasonings, simmering until cooked through. Remove meat from liquid and place in baking pan, removing any excess fat and placing fat side up. Mix mustard with brown sugar and coat the fatty side of the meat with the mixture. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 25-30 minutes, until browned and bubbly. Slice and serve.


6 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
1 stick butter
1 small cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced

Boil potatoes until soft enough to mash. While doing this, slowly cook cabbage and onions in butter, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and slightly browned. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mash potatoes and stir in cabbage and onion mixture. Serve.

You can also make this with kale, but it will need to be cut with the stems removed and parboiled before cooking it with the onion.

Roasted Carrots

10 carrots, scrubbed and cut into 2-3 inch pieces, then halved
olive oil

Place carrots in a baking pan, drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 40-45 minutes, until soft and browned at the edges.


My friend Nora, who fled Cuba because of the Communist revolution there, gave me this recipe. She said that in some parts of Cuba, people fried cubed potatoes with the sofrito as well. We did not do that this time, but likely will try it in the future.

olive oil
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 sweet peppers (red or green, or both), seeded and diced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup (8 ounces) crushed tomatoes
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup red wine
1 cup Spanish olives, sliced
1 cup raisins
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh pepper

Heat oil in a large frying pan, cook onions, garlic and peppers until soft and starting to brown, stir in vinegar and cook with vegetables as well. Add crushed tomatoes (or tomato sauce) and cook a minute or two to reduce the liquid. Add ground beef and brown well, crumbling the meat.

Pour in red wine, Spanish olives, raisins, salt and pepper. Combine well with meat mixture. Cook to combine flavors and achieve a nice texture to serve over rice with black beans, maybe five or 10 minutes longer.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Menu Plan: March 14 - March 20

We tried out a Chinese restaurant that came highly recommended to us for Amira's birthday party dinner. It was a fun time and we were able to get to know another homeschooling family we've met, whose daughter is in ballet with Amira. This week, we are breaking the fast on Wednesday, in honor of St. Patrick's Day.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Weekly Recipes: March 13

Claudia's Chicken

My friend Claudia, whose family comes from the Dominican Republic, made a huge pot of this chicken for my going away party last summer and I asked her how she made it, because it was so good. She made it with chicken wings, I've made it with chicken thighs, but drumsticks or chicken quarters or whatever you have will work.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound mixed peppers, seeded and sliced (frozen is fine)
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
3 pounds bone in, skin on chicken (dark meat tastes best in this, but white meat is fine)
1 large jar/can of roasted garlic tomato sauce (no basil!)

In a large, flat bottomed pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute onions, garlic, peppers. When the onions begin to turn translucent and the peppers soften, add the cilantro and stir to release fragrance.

Add chicken pieces and brown on all sides. Pour in tomato sauce along with a jar of water. Bring to a boil, cover and cook over medium-low heat about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and tender. Taste for salt.

Serve over rice.

Lamb Meatballs with Spinach, Feta, Olives and Pine Nuts

olive oil for pans
2 pounds ground lamb
1 large onion
6 cloves garlic
1 package frozen leaf spinach or 1 pound fresh spinach
1/2 cup parsley
1/4 cup (handful) fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon oregano (or use a handful of fresh leaves in with the other fresh herbs)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 ounces feta, crumbled
1/2 cup, toasted pine nuts

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly oil two baking sheets and set aside.

Put lamb in a medium bowl. Puree onion, garlic spinach, parsley and mint in a food processor or chop very finely by hand. Mix puree into meat along with coriander, oregano, salt, pepper, feta cheese and pine nuts.

Form into 1 1/2 inch diameter meatballs and place on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once, or not, I mostly just bake them in one spot until they are finished.

Salmon Cakes

3 6-ounce cans wild caught Alaskan salmon (boneless and skinless), drained
1 small onion, minced
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup minced cilantro (or all parsley)
4 eggs
2 cups panko or dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons Sri Racha
Juice of one lime
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 eggs, whisked

1 1/2 cups panko or dry bread crumbs

Olive oil, for frying

Mix salmon, onion, parsley, cilantro, eggs, panko, Sri Racha, lime juice, salt and pepper.

In another dish, mix together flour, salt and pepper, set aside.

Set aside dish with scrambled eggs.

In another dish, put panko and set aside.

Form patties out of salmon mixture, about two inches in diameter, and refrigerate for about half an hour.

Keeping one hand dry and one hand wet, dip patties in flour mixture, then egg, then panko. Pan fry over medium heat and serve immediately.

You can serve these as is or with an aoli type sauce, mix some Sri Racha into homemade mayonnaise to serve with them, a lime and cilantro mayonnaise, or one of the Thai sweet chili sauces that is available on the market.

I serve this with herbed cous cous, a mixed salad with vinaigrette or cole slaw and, usually, some fruit.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Six Stupendous Seasons

Amira is six years old today! When I find the usb cord for my camera, I will post a picture of her now. I will refrain from posting pictures of her birth, as I don't think you want to see surgical shots. Here is a picture of her after her first bath, the first night we had her.

She is quite the young lady now, smart and talented with a joy for life.

Six Special Things about Amira

1. She is one of the most beautiful girls in the world.

2. She loves to help around the house.

3. She is becoming a wonderful ballerina.

4. She has a vivid imagination.

5. She is hilarious. Sometimes on purpose.

6. She makes each day happier just by being in it.

Happy birthday Amira!

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Last Week's Weekly Recipes: French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
6 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
8 cups beef stock (those boxed broths will work as well)
2 cups red wine
1/2 cup dry sherry
salt & pepper, to taste

Shredded Swiss cheese (Gruyere is best, but whatever you like will do)
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Toasted slices of French bread

Heat olive oil and butter in a large soup pot. Add the onions and thyme and stir well. Cook over medium low heat, for at least 20 minutes (I paid more attention to how long I take, and it was more like 45 minutes), stirring regularly. When the onions are very caramelized, but not burned, add in the stock and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for another 25 to 30 minutes (again, paid more attention to time tonight). Taste for salt and pepper and to adjust seasoning. Stir in the sherry before serving.

Serve by putting a mix of the cheese in the bottom of the bowl, ladling in some soup, putting a slice of toasted bread and some more cheese sprinkled over that. If you wish to serve with the melty cheese, make sure you have oven proof soup bowls and cover the crouton and soup generously with the cheese and put under the broiler for five minutes.

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Menu Plan: March 7 - March 13

We discovered a local sausage company and were even fortunate enough to find them at a steep discount tonight, so that became our dinner. I still ended up with a repeat this week. I just never got to make the French Onion Soup, so it is on the docket for tomorrow. Since I also never got the recipe up, I will do that tomorrow.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Menu Plan: February 28 - March 6

As you can see, I'm a little late getting my menu plan up. I caught some sort of stomach bug this weekend and haven't been on my game. The idea of food hasn't been very appealing to me. Anyway, I have some repeats this week. Our schedule was a bit exhausting this past week and things were shifted around a lot.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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