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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Menu Plan: Bright Week

Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

We are excited about celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord, even as we are recovering.

We may be traveling this week, so our menu plan will have to be a little flexible, but the beginning of it should hold true. For the first time in four years, though, we will be having our Paschal feast with just our family, and only the third time ever since we've been married.

You might notice that I call Easter Pascha or Fesah'. English and German are the only languages that use a Pagan name for this holiday. It is where much of the syncretism comes. We are not fond of that. Just about every other language in the world uses its word for Passover for this holiday. Pascha is the Greek, Fesah' is Arabic. You see Pascua, there is Pascal, Pasquale, and many other variations on this. Since we focus on the Lamb and not the bunny, since the only eggs we do are blood red from both the Jewish Passover and Christian doctrine and tradition, rather than the pastel "spring" eggs, we would also rather avoid the only linguistic connection to Paganism in our celebration. I'm not sure why, but it seems like the English had more trouble with this than other cultures.

My one disappointment this year is that I wasn't able to get good chocolate lambs for our Pascha basket. I tried to find them in a radius of about an hour and a half from our house and couldn't. I finally found a chocolatier online that made them with Callebaut chocolate, but by the time I did, it was too late to get them made. So, they were absent in our basket this year. We still have the chocolate eggs, strawberries, oranges, sausages, bacon, our red eggs and Pascha bread, Pascha cheese, ma'amoul and all the other goodies we normally have. The children will get to play a game with their red eggs before they eat them in the Scotchican eggs (our version of Scotch eggs, in which we use Mexican chorizo instead of regular breakfast sausage).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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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Crown of Thorns Ma'amoul

I've been meaning to post this step by step recipe for some time. I only make these once a year, so I'm always scrambling to find my scrap of paper with the recipe on it. These are the most complicated shaped cookies I make. I hate making shaped cookies, but these ones are so special that I do it anyway. The cookie itself is very simple, as is the filling, it is the shaping and decorating to make them look like a crown of thorns that takes so much time. I have a clean pair of surgical tweezers that I use to create the "thorns" on mine, though there is a specialized tool you can buy. These are traditional cookies in the Arab world. Among Arab Christians, this particular shape is traditional to the Paschal season. Ma'amoul are made in many different shapes, with molds, which are kind of a code as to what the filling inside consists of, and though I have those molds, I've yet to make them in any shape but these.

Makes approximately six dozen cookies


3 cups semolina flour
1 cup butter, melted
3 cups pastry flour
2/3 cup rosewater
2/3 cup orange flower water
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons yeast


12 ounces pitted baking date paste (can be found at Arabic/Middle Eastern markets, in 13 ounce packages, which I use), or date pieces (the date pieces are coated in sugar, so you may want to leave out the honey)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I use the true cinnamon rather than cassia: Ceylon cinnamon, which has a citrussy flavor to it, but you may use whatever you have)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon honey

This recipe must be started the night before you intend to make them. Mix semolina with melted butter. Cover and soak semolina mixture overnight.

The next day, add in the pastry flour, and mix well with the semolina mixture. Add rosewater, orange flower water, sugar and yeast and mix to make a cohesive dough. If the dough seems too dry, you can add a little more of any of the liquid (rosewater or orange flower water), as you prefer, a teaspoon at a time. Allow the dough to rest at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, grind up the dates with the cinnamon, melted butter and honey. I use my food processor for this.

Butter several cookie sheets and preheat oven to 375 F.

Pinch off small amounts of the dough to make one inch balls that you shape into a long roll. Pinch off a small amount of the date filling, to make a slightly shorter roll than the dough.

Flatten the dough with your fingers and place the date roll inside of it.

Seal up the dough.

Form it into a ring, with the seam side down, sealing the ends and blending them a little to hide the seam.

Place cookie on prepared pan, leaving about an inch of space between cookies.

Using CLEAN tweezers (we have sets dedicated to this task), make "thorns" around the sides of the ring.

Using the same tweezers, make more thorns around the top.

You don't want to pinch the dough too tightly, or you will squeeze out the filling, just try to grab the dough itself with the tweezers. This is how mine look when I have finished fiddling with them.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 - 20 minutes. You don't want these too dark, but they should start to brown a little at the edges.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Menu Plan: Holy Week

We are still struggling with illness here, though it looks like Rich has just turned the corner, so he sees some hope of recovery. He says the question now is whether he'll be well enough to fast for Good Friday. We aren't even planning on participating in any of the Holy Week services, we are hoping to rest and recover enough that we can make it to the Paschal Vigil on Saturday.

Menu planning has been hard lately, as neither Rich nor I feel much like eating at all. So, I finally finished off the plan for the week yesterday, but never had a chance to finish the post here. We do have one repetition, because we moved our meal schedule around a little bit last week.

Because of how sick we were and this being Lent and Holy Week, Elijah's birthday party has been postponed for a couple weeks, but we did get to celebrate a little for his birthday. Since the Annunciation fell in Holy Week this year, it was a little less prominent in our celebration.
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 recipe round up on Saturday.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Menu Plan: Fifth Week of Lent

We are emerging from what feels like the black death here. Rich and I were down for the count. The children went through it pretty quickly, but we had responsibilities that had to be taken care of and pushed through, much to our detriment. I could give an accounting on what we ate last week, but that seems pointless. We did eat.

We had a lovely birthday party for Amira, which kicked off the week, then kind of went down hill from there. Because of our deep sickness, there is a lot that has not been done and just does not look like it will be done. There is too much urgent to go back to make up for the lost time at this point. I'm sorry about that. In any case, I am just now emerging from the fog of illness, fever and pain, to rejoin the land of the living.

Alexander and Dominic did an admirable job of holding down the fort and taking care of simple meals and the bare minimum of running the house, including morning prayer and basic chores, so Rich and I could rest. It got so bad that I ended up calling the children with my cell phone, because I couldn't even make my voice loud enough to be heard through our bedroom door, and even if I could, the coughing spasms that would wrack my body when trying to do it wasn't worth it.

So, here is our menu for the week. Sunday was a rough day. We had brunch and dinner. I basically spent every last bit of energy I had on Sunday to make the St. Patrick's day meal, which was appreciated, but took a lot out of me. We didn't do much for the feast days this week. Amira pulled out the St. Joseph's staff they made last year for his feast. We have a great love for St. Joseph here, so I was a little sad we couldn't do more. I'm just glad that this didn't strike while we were in Holy Week.
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 recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, March 09, 2013

Another FO for the Year

Rich laughed when he saw this, because we are almost to warm weather now. But it is made of a cotton blend and will still fit next winter anyway. Also, if I wear it a lot now, maybe it will warm up sooner.

Finished March 8, 2013

I made this out of Rowan All Seasons Cotton, which I think is discontinued. I have a lot more of this yarn in a different color and planned to use it to make a sweater that uses this cable band, so I made the hat as a swatch to check gauge and st definition. I'm hoping to have it finished by the end of the year.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

2012 FOs

2012 Finished Objects

I hadn't done my round up of projects for the year yet, and I gave up trying to keep track of the books I read. Here is what I finished knitting in 2012.

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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Lots of Knitting

I'm kind of excited because I finally feel ready and interested to work on crafts here. I think it is a good sign that I'm starting to feel at least a little at home. Just in the past two months, I have finished almost the same number of knitting projects as I did all of last year. I'm almost finished with another project, and have a few more in progress.

Even though, technically, with all the travel, I had more time to knit last year, everything was so emotionally draining I couldn't even focus on creating something. That was a little too much to ask. The move and change in job and upheaval and chaos of a fixer upper home, the loss of a baby, the loss of my father in law, all have created stresses and hardships that we each are handling in our own ways, which makes things even more challenging. We are finally starting to see some light, I think.

I finished a total of seven things in 2012, two of which I never shared here.

A friend was due with a baby in January, so as part of the shower gift I put together, I made this hat:

Finished December 1, 2012

I was well on target to be finished ahead of time for Christmas for Elijah's socks. I knew it would mean something to him to have something hand made by me, even if it was a plain as socks. Unfortunately, I ran out of yarn and had to hustle to get more. I did, but just in time, so his socks were finished on Christmas day. He wears them all the time, and I have to remind him that they need to be washed.

Finished December 25, 2012

On to this year's FOs:

Finished January 26, 2013

This is actually for me. I like it and enjoy wearing it, but I think it is funny that the pattern called this a shawl. It's hardly a scarf. I've had this yarn in my stash for some time, waiting for the right project and I think this was it. I used the pattern wingspan and made some of the recommended modifications for using worsted weight yarn. I also added four more triangles and did an applied I-cord at the neck rather than the rows of garter st. In the unlikely event that I actually knit this again (I tend not to knit the same pattern multiple times), I would start with using the original CO number and interval between the triangles, rather than the modified one she suggested for the weight yarn I was using. I did make more triangles, for the length, but this would add some depth to it as well.

I love the colors of this yarn:

One of Rich's coworkers and his wife had their first child this January, so I made a coordinating set of baby things for them.

Finished January 27, 2013

I "designed" these. As in, I made up the CO count and length and decreases, etc. It didn't take much design work.

Finished January 29, 2013

I modified a pattern I found online to make it somewhat more pleasing to my eye.

Finished February 4, 2013

I'm not that happy with these, actually. The construction was clever, but fiddly, and I didn't like how they looked off a baby foot. I probably won't make this design ever again.

Finished March 1. 2013

This is part of Amira's birthday present this year. We got her a look alike doll from American Girl Dolls for Christmas, so I made a coordinating set of shrugs for her and her doll, Lucy. I used this pattern for a holiday shrug and made some of the recommended changes to size it for Amira. I also made the ribbing about 1/2 an inch shorter for her size around the neck and edge, and made it a small amount shorter on the cuffs. I did 2 1/2" for the main ribbing and 1 1/2" for the cuffs.

Finished March 3, 2013

I ran out of yarn while making the doll's shrug, so it doesn't have the cuffs, but I thought it was close enough.

I have a hat on needles right now. Mostly so I could work on a cable band that I will be using on a sweater for myself. The hat is about half way finished, and I hope to have it finished within the week. I've been working on a baby coat for a friend of mine, on commission/trade. She sews and is making a spencer for Amira while I make this for her new baby. I also cast on for an entrelac St. Nicholas stocking for Jerome. When I finish that, I hope to make the pattern available.

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Monday, March 04, 2013

Menu Plan: Third Week of Lent

We are actually a little overloaded on the vegetables this week, so we are only getting one box from the co-op this week. We did move some menu items around, so some things will be made over the next few weeks.

We tried the falafel loaf last week. It was a little faster to make, didn't require standing at the stove over a hot pan of oil, and it tasted fine, but there was something missing. We all agreed that we preferred having them fried.

I still have plans to post more knitting and recipes. You'll just have to wait a little longer, it seems. I have already finished six knit items this year, and am beginning a crochet project and in the middle of a sewing project.
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 recipe round up on Saturday.

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