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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Menu Plan: March 27 - April 2

Our weekend was rather busy with a birthday sleepover for Elijah, loads of work in the garden and running errands. We were about a week late, but we have our peas, fava beans, lentils, and garbanzo beans planted. We'll be planting onions, radishes, cabbages, broccoli, kale, turnips, rutabagas, beets, chard, spinach, lettuces and other greens over the next couple weeks. So, my menu plan is being posted late.

We are creeping up on Laetare Sunday, the midpoint of Lent. It is the last brighter feast Sunday until Pascha. Laetare means to be glad, but its roots are in the word for milk. Milk happy, like a baby at his mother's breast. It is the Church's Mother's Day, for the Church who is our mother, for the Blessed Virgin, who is the Mother of God and all believers, for all mothers. We are finishing our Lenten lapbooks with the children and we've done a few things to mark their sacrifices and impress on them the meaning of Lent. I'll post pictures to our crown of thorns and cross and we have an alms box out for the children to collect their coins to offer to those in need.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.


Feta Cheese (marked to $0.99 per six ounce package, in brine)
Orange Juice (was marked down to half price for organic, refrigerated)
Bananas ($1.00 for three pounds)
Grapefruit (four for $1.00)

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Daring Bakers Challenge: Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

I was so excited to find out I hadn't been kicked out of the Daring Bakers, even though it has been so long since I last participated. And my last attempt was such a colossal failure (I pride myself on its being the only failure, at least). This month's challenge was something simple enough for me to dip my toes in the pool again. I love yeasted doughs and I saw the potential for flavor variations right away. Also, this wasn't too sweet and decadent, so it was still a good option for a Sunday dish during Lent.

Unfortunately, this post won't be as heavy on photos as others have been, but I hope you will get the idea anyway.

My first change was to use whole wheat pastry flour. We grind most of our flour, and we keep soft white wheat around for pastries and cakes and muffins and cookies. So, I I thought I'd see if I could make this treat with whole wheat, ground some up and added a little gluten to it to help it rise and remain a little more elastic while still being delicate enough in flavor and not making a heavy dough. I added the saffron, as Ria suggested. However, instead of turning toward India, I turned toward the Arabian peninsula.

I did not add the vanilla to the meringue, instead, I used a teaspoon of rosewater. For my filling, I used unsalted pistachios with a little more saffron, some cardamom and increased the sugar a little since I left out the chocolate. I did have a little trouble sealing the ring, but I noticed that other pictures strategically left that part of the coffee cake out of the shot, so I'm assuming others had that difficulty as well. It seemed to work its way out in the second rise and baking, though. I did forget to make the egg wash glaze, but the powdered sugar stuck to the warm bread and meringue quite easily without it. I added a tiny bit of cardamon to the powdered sugar as well.

Thank you Ria and Jamie for a great return to Daring Baker's this month!

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Weekly Recipe: March 26

Excuse the blurry picture, but I thought it was better than no picture

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

I modified this from the Farm House Cookbook some time back and we love them. The recipe says it makes a dozen, we make about three dozen standard sized muffins from this, so I don't know what they are talking about. We also double the recipe. These freeze beautifully, and are great to keep on hand for breakfasts or coffee with friends.

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or white, or AP)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup mild, light oil (like sunflower or safflower, even coconut oil)
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree (we like Winter Luxury or Small Sugar pumpkins the best - you can also use canned)
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 F. Heavily butter muffin tins.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, spices and sugars and set aside. I just use a whisk.

In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, pumpkin and milk until thoroughly combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix, just until they are moistened. Don't overmix, or muffins will be tough. Fold in the nuts and cranberries. Fill the prepared muffin tins two-thirds full with batter.

Bake in the center of the oven until the muffins are puffed and golden and spring back when touched, 20-25 minutes. Check at 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cool five minutes, remove from tins and serve or cool completely on racks.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Beduin's Gazelle by Frances Temple

I was hoping this book would be a good way to give my children an image of the world they are studying in history. The factual errors and random historical insertions were enough to turn me off, however.

One of the Arab Beduins, for example, has a Hebrew name, Miriam, when there is an equivalent, and different, Arabic name, Mariam. The single European character seems to be present only to explain that there were Christian missionaries, and only briefly and without any context. Since the story was somewhat engaging, I thought I could simply explain those to the children and let them read it anyway. I figured it was harmless, if not particularly accurate, historically. However, as the story began to develop and reach its climax, it was as if the author ran out of paper and simply stopped the story. Deus ex machina, everything turned out as it ought, with no explanation or logical reason. This wasn't simply a suspension of disbelief, it was out of left field. At that point, I just didn't want to subject them to the whole package of historical errors and mediocre writing.

I wish this story were better, as it had much promise, but I won't be passing it on to my children. I wish I had the two or three hours back that I spent reading it, too.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Menu Plan: March 20 - March 26

The home corned beef was a hit. I meant to use the leftovers to make Rose's double decker Reuben sandwiches, but there wasn't enough left over to do that. It was that good. My pictures of the corned beef were not very good, because the color wasn't good, as I didn't use the pink salt. I'm going to try again with celery powder to help with that. I'll post a (late) separate post about the corned beef. I don't think we'll go back to store bought now.

I learned that Mariam's little stomach can't quite handle my eating raw cabbage. That's part of why I was up between 1:30 and 4:51 this morning. So, I'll hold off on that tonight. Here is this week's menu, our second full week of Lent. I'm really proud of how seriously our children are taking the fast, some of them have fasted on days we didn't (like on the Ember days, I didn't fast at all, and Rich only reduced his meals, some of our children decided to observe the fast on their own, or at least try to do so). They have been conscientious about the things they have sacrificed for Lent and are making an effort in their prayers and alms giving. Even without us telling them, they have been saving money or toys to give to people and organizations to help the poor. It is encouraging to us.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 19, 2011

Weekly Recipes: March 19

Chocolate Cloud Cake

The only resemblance this flourless chocolate cake has to a cloud is in the frothy whipped cream on top. It is delicious and decadent. This small cake fed our entire family as well as another six people. With two pieces left over. This recipe is only slightly modified from Richard Sax' recipe in Classic Home Desserts. It is one of two or three I rotate through for my own birthday cakes. The thing about this cake is that it is dead simple and quick to make. It is so impressive, though, and people think you are some sort of superstar baker.

8 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 large eggs: 2 whole, 4 separated
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Chambord

2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons Chambord
Unsweetened cocoa powder, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line the bottom of a 12 inch springform pan with a round of wax paper; do not butter the pan. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in a bowl set over hot water. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until melted; set aside.

In a bowl, whisk the 2 whole eggs and the 4 egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar just until blended. Whisk in the warm chocolate mixture. Whisk in the Chambord.

In another bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the 4 egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until the whites form soft mounds. Stir about 1/2 of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining whites. Pour the batter into the pan, smooth the top.

Bake until the top of the cake is puffed and cracked and the center is no longer wobbly, 35 to 40 minutes. Do not overbake.

Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack; the cake will sink as it cools, forming a crater with high sides.

When serving, whip the cream with the confectioners’ sugar and Chambord until not quite stiff. With a spatula, carefully fill the crater of the cake with the whipped cream, pushing it gently to the edges. Dust the top lightly with cocoa powder. Run the tip of a knife around the edges of the cake. Carefully remove the sides of the pan and serve.

Olive-Herb Bread

This bread is based on this one from my friend Rebecca. I modified it and added a cheesy, herb-y, olive-y topping that is so delicious you could just eat a loaf of it yourself and keep it from your family. For a homemade bread, it is amazingly fast to put together. (And, yes, that slice is all that was left over, why do you ask?)

2 cups water
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes (or red pepper flakes)
1 teaspoon onion granules
1 teaspoon garlic granules
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded provolone
1/2 cup grated parmesan
5 cups bread flour

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup shredded provolone
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 pound kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1/4 pound Spanish olives, roughly chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
8 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme

Either mix all the ingredients for the bread in a big bowl or use your bread machine on the dough cycle to do it. Don't let the dough cycle run to completion. Place a baking stone (or other baking pan) in a cold oven in the middle.

On a lightly floured board, knead the dough slightly and cut into four equal parts. Make a slash down the center of each loaf, lengthwise and place on a peel that is dusted with semolina or cornmeal to transfer to the pan in the oven. Arrange all four loaves so they fit with room to rise and close the oven. Turn on the oven to 400˚ F. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Increase heat to 450˚ F.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together all the topping ingredients. Set aside. When bread is baked, remove to a rack to cool while the oven is increasing its temperature. After a few minutes, slice two of them in half, horizontally. Place four halves in a jelly roll pan, crust side down. Cover generously with the olive-herb-cheese mixture. Bake for about 5 - 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. While it is baking, you can devour the other loaves of bread with your husband or wife. Or, you can leave them alone and save both for meatball or Italian beef or almost any other kind of savory sandwiches.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Apple Set Complete

I finished the mitts this morning. If I were making the mitts for an older child, I'd make the leaves into thumbs. As they are here, I put a buttonhole in the middle of each to button the mitts to Mariam's coat.

Jerome thought I should make some brown pants and a brown and green top to turn this whole set into an apple tree outfit. I don't think that will happen anytime soon.

What I am working on is getting a multi-sized pattern [0-6 months, 6-12 months, 12-18 months and 18- 24 months, the last would have a thumb rather than the buttonhole leaf] written up for both the hat and the mitts/mittens. If I do so, would anyone buy it? I'm thinking of a pdf pattern that would be for sale for $7.00. Is that reasonable?

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Menu Plan: March 13 - March 19

This weekend, I sorted our two freezers with Alexander and Dominic. One is now dedicated to meat, poultry, seafood, stock/broth and things like that, while the other is for vegetables, fruit, coffee, dairy products, breads, nuts, flours and things like that. I don't have them inventoried yet, but we discovered some treats we didn't realize we still had, which was nice. We also rearranged the freezers on the refrigerators to reflect how we use them better. This is making cooking from our own stores much simpler.

It turns out that we still have a ton of beef and lamb left, too. We are lower on seafood and pork than I thought we were, so we know to buy more of that when we can. We were gone so much last year, with business trips and family things, that we didn't end up cooking as much at home as we normally do. Our steer from last spring is going to last us until probably June. Rich has been busy butchering turkeys, and we've put three in the freezer already with three to go. I'm so excited to have these for our family. We can't wait to cook up a turkey we raised and butchered ourselves. I'm thinking of using one for Laetare Sunday.

Today, we are having Amira's birthday party. We did a small family party on her actual birthday. I brought her flowers in the morning and she chose our breakfast and dinner that day. Today, we will get to feast and have a great cake and do presents with her friends.

This week is also the feast of St. Patrick, so we'll be feasting on corned beef. I actually corned our own brisket from our steer. This is the first time I've corned my own meat, and I'm pretty excited about it. I am doing this as part of Charcutepalooza. I'll be making the bacon and the duck breast soon as well, though most likely after Lent. 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 12, 2011

Weekly Recipes: March 12


This makes a lot. It was for eight feasting people. Reduce as you see fit.

1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 cup pastry or all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (depending on your taste)
1 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup cornstarch for dredging
24 hot dogs
Oil for frying
24 thick skewers

Preheat oil in a pan that will allow you to fry your hot dogs on sticks.

Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In another, wide, large bowl, whisk together 1 cup milk, eggs and honey. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Place corn starch in a pie pan or other shallow dish and roll hot dogs in it. Dip hot dogs in the batter. This is a little easier if you pour the batter into a tall cup, but that isn't necessary, if you aren't interested in dirtying up another dish.

When oil is hot enough to sizzle bread, start frying corndogs. They may need to be turned and the sticks can be used to do that. When they are golden and puffy, remove to a rack and fry remaining corndogs in batches, being careful not to crowd them.

Skewer hot dogs vertically. Serve with mustard and ketchup.

French Farmer's Soup

I love that our children choose dishes like this for their birthday dinners.

1 pound dry white beans cooked with:
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 bay leaves
(remove bay leaves and reserve 2 cups of bean broth)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound bacon, diced
2 large onions, diced
1 tablespoon dry thyme (or 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves)
4 large carrots, cut into 1/4" half moons
6 stalks celery, sliced
1 large or 2 small rutabagas, peeled and diced
10 cups chicken stock
4 teaspoons champagne vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
2/3 cup chopped parsley
2 cups homemade or good quality store bought croutons

Heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add bacon and cook, stirring, until it starts to brown and most of the fat is rendered. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add onions and thyme and cook until onions are just beginning to brown on the edges. Add carrots, celery and rutabaga and stir to coat with fat.

Add 4 cups of the chicken stock and simmer 10 - 20 minutes (until root veggies are almost cooked through). Add beans and and remaining stock and bean broth. Return bacon to the pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Add vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a sprinkling of parsley and croutons.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Seven Quick Takes: March 11

1. Jerome and Yasmina insisted on giving up something for Lent. All day Wednesday, Yasmina was telling us that her bunny is for Lent. For all we know, she thinks Lent is a person.

2. Aside from that bit of humor, our children really seem to be learning what Lent is about and how and why we observe the fasting/abstinence and penance. I'm so glad that Rich teaches them these things, too, he is so obedient to the Church's teachings, even though the fasting rules are hardest on him sometimes.

3. I finished what I'm calling my Grapes Scarf for a friend. It's a super secret surprise, though, so I won't say for whom it was made.

I'll get a picture up with it on someone soon.

4. We didn't go to the pancake supper at church this week, but, instead, had our own doughnut feast as we used to do. We thought it would be fun and important to keep some of those traditions, even though we don't have our church family with whom to share it here.

5. However, I tried a new yeast risen doughnut recipe that I found on the web. With pictures. I think she forgot to halve the ingredients. All but the flour. So, I added flour. And added flour. And added flour. Then Rich added some. We ended up with so much dough that I put our regular batch of doughnuts in the freezer without frying it. We'll save those for Bright Week. Instead of two kinds of potato doughnuts, we had one, plus the pear fritters. We have 39 left in the freezer. Yum!

6. We had quite the adventure trying to get to church for the Ash Wednesday service this week. Rich had a meeting that ran late, so I had to pack everyone up to go pick him up from work to go straight to church from there. About two minutes from his work, I realized I'd left the oven on and we'd have to go back. When we turned on our street, the van started to act like it was out of gas, even though it was nearly full, and stopped running. Needless to say, we missed the service.

7. We were thankful, though, that we did have to go back home to turn off that oven, because otherwise, the van might have stopped on the highway. Please be praying that the problems are fixed soon. Fortunately, we have a warranty that will pay for the repairs, we only pay a $60 diagnostic fee, and just this Sunday, we were given the name of a good and reliable repair shop near by our church. Thank God for allowing me to leave the oven on so we'd be home when the van died! I never leave ovens on when we leave. Ever. I also never thought I'd be thankful for that.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lenten Abstinent Dishes

If you are trying to keep the fast and are looking for ideas, you can read my post from last year or check out my ever growing
recipe index's meat abstinent section. I will be adding more as we go through Lent.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday

I am scheduling this post since I cannot participate in the Ash Wednesday fast. As I cannot do the fast, because of nursing a baby, I will be having a media fast.

If you are looking for a traditional Ash Wednesday menu, here it is: Water. It is a 24 hour strict fast. The rules have been relaxed in the west (to the point of absurdity), but it is still a strict fast. If you cannot fast, try to fast from one or two meals and eat less. If that is not possible for some reason, this should be a meat abstinence day. Read this for a pretty good summary of our feelings about the relaxation of the fasting requirements in the west. For more encouragement on the Lenten fast, please read this from an Orthodox perspective.

We were talking this week about how the entire Church year is tied together. What happens in one part is the beginning of another part, and that part is the fulfillment of another. The ashes tonight will come from the burning of the palms from last year's Palm Sunday services.

Lent is a penitential season. We make sacrifices in our diet, of our time and of our finances. Our dietary changes allow for more money to give to alms, one third of the trinity of the Christian fast. I say this each year: To fast as a Christian is to fast, pray and to give alms. This is the definition of a fast. We do not simply abstain from eating and hope that by doing so we receive grace or earn favor. The fast is a daily reminder of our obligation to pray and care for the poor as well as using physical discipline to lead us to spiritual discipline. I still remember the teaching that all sin is an appetite indulged, so the fast is a way to teach us not to indulge our appetites. Even during the abstinent days of Lent, rather than the full fasts, we are to eat less than we normally would. We are to leave the table a little hungry. I read this somewhere, and I can't remember the source to give credit:

"By abstaining from meat (and dairy), we allow both creation (the animals) to rest from milking or laying and allow nature to "rebuild". But more importantly, we embrace the simplicity of eating plainer foods so that we can focus more of our time on Christ. We also allow ourselves to be a little more hungry than normal in order to remember that God is the only one who can truly fill our deepest hunger!"

Although we are not Orthodox, I will borrow from their tradition for the eve of Clean Monday: Friends and family, I humbly ask your forgiveness if I have offended you in any way. I bow down to the ground in my heart before each one of you and ask for your forgiveness. I ask forgiveness for having offended, scandalized and sinned against anyone, whether by my words, actions, or thoughts. Forgive me, a sinner. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I wish you a holy Lent.

"Yet even now," says the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil. Who knows whether he will not turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind him, a cereal offering and a drink offering for the LORD, your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.

Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, "Spare thy people, O LORD, and make not thy heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, `Where is their God?'" Joel 2:12-17

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Menu Plan: March 6 - March 12 Ash Wednesday

Lent is upon us. We will be doing our own Shrove Tuesday at home with our family and, perhaps, a few friends. Because I am nursing a baby, I will not be observing the full fast on Wednesday. The older children are going to try to do it, but the younger children will be eating, some fasting from one meal, so I will be cooking meatless meals for those of us who are not keeping the fast. We are looking forward to 40 days of praying, fasting and giving alms, the trinity of fasting in the Church. This penitential season is a good time to do self-examination, and I know there is plenty to improve in my own heart and life. I wish you all a holy Lent.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.


Red Onions
Bay Leaves

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