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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Menu Plan: Christmas Week

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

We went to midnight mass for Christmas, and the prayers for the departed were both hard to hear and a comfort. Our priest reminded us that those who have passed before us are up with God rejoicing and that their celebration is more than we can imagine. They are also perfectly able to pray for us there. It was both good and difficult to have a finite end to our intense mourning. Rich stopped wearing mourning and I wore colors for the first time. We prepared our hearts to be joyful. The good thing about joy is that it doesn't preclude other emotions. So, we could be sad and joyful at the same time.

We are looking forward to our 12 days of feasting. Our Christmas dinner is not as elaborate as it usually is, but is still festive. We spent this past week making eleven kinds of candy and Chex mix. I'm planning on making one more kind of candy this week and some cookies. Rich and I have our 15th anniversary this week, too. So, this is a week of great celebration for us. Merry Christmas to you all!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, December 19, 2011

Menu Plan: Fourth Week of Advent

We are in our last week of Advent. Our waiting will be coming to an end soon. We wait with hope both for the Nativity of the Lord and for His return and the resurrection of the body. I have never waited with such expectation and eagerness for the resurrection. I know that my Redeemer lives and that not only will I see Him in the last day, but that like the Maccabbean mother, I will receive my dead. Rich plans to remove his mourning for the Christmas Eve mass. I am trying to work myself up to wearing colors again myself. I'm fortunate in that white is an appropriate color for feasts of the Incarnation.

One of the things I am finding more difficult to do lately is plan interesting meals or find the motivation to cook or eat. We're still hanging in there, and I'm still doing it, but it's hard. It has been kind of fortunate for me that we're in a fasting time. It allows me to grieve even in my eating and not to feel that I must be celebrating all the time.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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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Menu Plan: Third Week of Advent

We are at the third Sunday in Advent, Gaudete Sunday, Joy Sunday. We lit the rose colored candle tonight. Usually, this is the night we put the lights on our Christmas tree, but this year we don't have ours yet. We usually try to get ours on this weekend. This is a little high note of joy, a break, in the fast. Often churches have a lessons and carols service on this night.

As I have been promising Rich an apple pie for months, I put one together for him tonight. It's been a pretty good, restful day for us, for which we are very thankful.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, December 10, 2011

Weekly Recipes: December 10


Qamhiyeh (Sweet Wheat Dish for the Feast of St. Barbara)

This is a traditional dish in Syria and Lebanon served in honor of St. Barbara. We double this for the family. (This year's didn't have the pine nuts in it, because we were out of it).

2 cups wheat berries (I use Kamut, as its origins are in Egypt), soaked overnight, and then drained
3/4 teaspoon salt
8 cups water
1 cup honey
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds + 2 tablespoons to garnish
1/4 cup pine nuts + 2 tablespoons to garnish
1/4 cup unsalted, raw pistachios + 2 tablespoons to garnish
3/4 cup sultanas (golden raisins)
12 dried apricots, finely chopped
2 teaspoons rose water
2 teaspoons orange flower water
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I use Ceylon cinnamon)
pomegranate pips to garnish
silver, gold and colored dragees to garnish (optional)

Boil wheat, salt and water in a large pot, partially covered and at a low boil for an hour, or until the wheat is soft and most of the water has been absorbed. You may need to add more water or stir occasionally. Add honey, nuts, dried fruit, rose water, orange flower water and cinnamon and stir to combine. Allow to simmer a few minutes more.

Serve in small glass dishes and garnish with pomegranate pips, the extra nuts and the dragees.


These are fun, and relatively quick to make for shaped cookies.

Initial Cookies for the Feast of St. Nicholas

1 2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 cup of unsalted butter, two sticks, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup ice water

1/2 cup almond or hazelnut meal
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 teaspoons milk

Mix the flour and powdered sugar in a medium bowl, cut the butter into the mixture as you would to make pie crusts or biscuits, and quickly stir in the ice water to form a ball of dough. If the dough is too dry, add more ice water one teaspoon at a time. Flatten into a disc and wrap well. Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

While the dough is chilling, mix the almond meal, powdered sugar, almond extract and milk with a fork.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough out on a very lightly floured board to 1/4" inch thick. Cut into 2 1/2" X 4" rectangles. Make little rolls out of the almond paste to lay along the long side of the rectangle, leaving a little edge of the dough uncovered on both ends. Roll up the rectangle around the filling and seal the dough well. Shape into your letters of choice. You may need to roll (and fill) some of the smaller scraps to form additional parts of the letters. Join the dough where necessary in the same manner as attaching clay to clay.

Place each letter, seam down, on an ungreased and unlined baking sheet. Bake them for about 15-25 minutes.

Here is Yasmina, eating her Y two years ago:


This year, I wanted to make an additional R for our little, lost Rayan. I just couldn't think of what to do with it after that. It has been bittersweet, celebrating such events that we help create for our children and feeling the lack of one of our children. Even though this year there would have been no little stocking put out for Rayan and that child would not have been at our table, it was still a loss I felt.

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Sunday, December 04, 2011

Menu Plan: Second Week of Advent

I did pretty well at keeping up the menu last week. I'm going to try it again this week. We have a couple celebrations this week, and I am still trying to keep that up for our family.

We celebrated the feast of St. Barbara today. We were not able to finagle a bonfire, as Rich is feeling poorly and I'm not doing much better. However, I made saffron buns and a boiled wheat dish called qamhiyeh (or sneniyeh - because it is often the first dish served to a child who has cut his first tooth) for tonight. Other traditional dishes include gatayif, which I love, but was not up to making today, maybe next year I can make it for our breakfast, and a kind of syrup soaked doughnut called qawamaat. We thought it would freak our neighbors out too much if we dressed our children up and sent them door to door while we called out "Run Barbara, Run!" last night, and they wouldn't have any sweets for them anyway, so we didn't do that. Traditionally, on the Eve of St. Barbara's feast, Arab Christian children dress up to disguise themselves in rags or scary costumes and go door to door "begging" as they try to escape, like St. Barbara did to try to escape her imprisonment. People give coins and sweets to the children, while their parents egg them on by calling after them "Run, Barbara, Run!" We also have St. Nicholas this week, so we'll be putting out our stockings tomorrow night and awaiting our treats the following morning. The rest of our menus are fairly simple.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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Weekly Recipe: December 3 + 1

Tuna Noodle Casserole

1 pound penne or other shorter pasta that can hold a creamy sauce

coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

3 cans solid white tuna, drained

1 pound peas, frozen is fine

1 stick unsalted butter + 1/4 cup for topping

6 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 pint sour cream

juice and zest of 2 lemons

2 cups panko or dry bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until just before being al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, flake or chunk the tuna and set aside. Melt the stick of butter over low heat in a medium skillet. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for about a minute. Stir in the sour cream until it starts to melt a little, then add the strained lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta, and put in a large baking pan, stir in the tuna and the peas. Cover with the butter and sour cream mixture and stir to thoroughly combine.

Melt the additional 1/4 cup of butter, combine with panko or bread crumbs, and lemon zest, and cover the pasta with this mixture.

Bake the casserole, uncovered, in the center of the oven until bubbling hot and topping is beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.

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