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fruit and cheese blintzes

Over the past weekend, it was Forgiveness Sunday in the Orthodox church. It was also the week of Valentine’s Day and our first one as newlyweds.

It ended up being quite romantic. After a few days of unseasonably warm weather, they started to call for a snowstorm. I knew it began to feel legit when even my clients started talking about it at work.

I was also tired of hearing of more snow. When I used to go skiing, the Winters excited me but now after so long, it’s like meh to snow after so long! It was also the weekend of the Cheesefare potluck at church and I was excited to make blintzes.

My husband treated me to a float therapy center! Unfortunately, they were all booked with float therapy appointments for that day, but I did experience a mind and body altering massage. And I will still float next month!

But then the snow arrived.

Usually, we don’t go out in storms but there was something about this weekend that proved a little different. Afterwards, I made it just in time and safely to meet him at my favorite old world local Italian restaurant.

At this point, the roads were covered and messy. It was a wet, heavy snow and most of the reservations for that night cleared out. It was seriously romantic regardless if he could have planned this all to work out exactly as it did, but he didn’t plan all of it. As Billie Holiday would say, ain’t life funny like that?

For our safety, we ended up staying overnight and going to a closer parish in the area for liturgy – and Forgiveness Vespers as this Sunday was Forgiveness Sunday. So, my blintzes didn’t quite make it but what did happen was we had my parents over that next day to share in soup and blintzes after liturgy.

It was our first time cooking together in a little while. My husband never made blintzes in his life, but I kept commending him how perfectly thin he made the batter and the ideal golden brown he fried the crepes to be.

I worked on the filling which is a mix of dried curd or farmer’s cheese, cream cheese and an egg among sugar and salt though I used sea salt and stevia. It’s also recommended to try making your own curd, but most of the time, I’m realistic and run on store bought or farm market goods.

I like to though. Maybe someday.

My parents enjoyed the end result. Quality and cutting as few corners as possible makes family recipes as memorable as they always been. Perfect option for Cheesefare Sunday.

And then we have Forgiveness Sunday which starts Lent with a solemn but refreshing tone. By acknowledging Forgiveness Sunday, we acknowledge our own faults with each other and we “clear the air” before we face our own struggles during the season. We also don’t view the concept of forgiveness as a once annual thing to do, but as a reflection for eventual action throughout the year.

In our relationships, if we would truly listen hard enough, we probably offended someone many times over. People seem easily forgiving, you think. “Oh, it’s no big deal!” “You’re a good person” or “meh, whatever!” you may hear and not think much of it but be careful how words and reactions are minced.

It’s never easy to silence our egos or admit we were wrong when we try to aim to be “good people” who don’t try to create any harm. And that’s great! True forgiveness is the ability to silence our egos and speak from the heart. It’s not a forced thing, but our full participation in the day gets us thinking.

“I release you from all the responsibilities I have assigned you; responsibility for my anger, my joy, my pain, my identity. I am not the victim of your actions, or of this world; I am free. I am willing to recognize that anything missing from this relationship, is what I didn’t bring.

I forgive you. I see the love that you are. I see the love that I am. Thank you for your gift.”

For our days leading up to Lent, I will go back to sharing more yummy whole foods, soy free vegan options. The blintz recipe is an exception for a later time. It can also be found in the archives.

Fruit and Cheese Blintzes

Making your own dry curd and fruit topping raises the volume in this recipe though to save time, I used local store bought marmalade and farmers cheese.

For the batter –

1/2 glass of local milk

Pinch Stevia

Pinch sea salt

1 grass fed egg

1/2 glass of flour

Blend in blender to a thin, watery consistency. Fry in olive oil. Lay crepes flat on a paper towel lined plate so the oil can drain from them.

For the filling

2 cups of farmers cheese

3 ounces of cream cheese

1/2 cup of melted butter

pinch sea salt and Stevia

1 large egg yolk

Puree in a food processor.

Put a few scoops of filling in the middle of each crepe and roll up into a burrito tightly. Spoon on fruit marmalade and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve preferably warm.

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tips to look after your husband… the revised version.

It’s 2018 and I’m probably going to get a lot of snark for this…but I don’t care.

As Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I noticed how many women think about themselves. Why should attention just be on me, why not we?

There’s a certain page out of the 1950’s handbook on how to treat our husband’s that makes the rounds around social media. It doesn’t get received very well even in vintage enthusiast or conservative groups.

I can be sympathetic because what if you don’t have the easiest or most loving relationship? While that’s one thing, that’s an exception to the rule and the trouble with society is that they focus excessively on the exception treating the smallest percentage as the overwhelming majority.

We live in a time where we aren’t as scrutinized as women were back in the 1950’s. While it might be unrealistic to follow this page down to the letter, it’s not unrealistic to lose the main idea. Think about it. We relaxed and sometimes by a lot, but not to the point where we shouldn’t not have standards over our relationships and family life.

I mean, are we really reaching for the stars?

Here it is:

Let’s get over this point by point with my input:

  1. Have dinner ready – As many women work and spouses find themselves working odd hours, this gets complex but it isn’t impossible. It just means you have to get creative! Grocery shop and plan your meals in advance and have one meal prep day. I grocery shop and plan my meals in advance, but I also buy frozen dinners or make enough of one meal to help out the other if one of us is working late or sick. Food has always served as the cornerstone that brought families together. It can sometimes be the only quiet time you have so that’s why it’s important to plan wisely.
  2. Prepare yourself- Think about this one. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Who usually gets home first? Okay. Now would you want to walk in the door after a long day of work and what else be to hear a laundry list of errands and problems from your spouse? Don’t make your problems the highlight of the evening or even the highlight, just something that gets handled and it will. It it’s truly bothersome, I like what my mother-in-law says about problems…”give it to God. He’ll be up all night, anyway.”
  3. Clear away the Clutter: Same as number two. I’m not referring to cleaning marathons every day, but tidy. Tuck everything in its home at night and create order.
  4. Prepare the children – Remember the old expression, “get washed up before supper?” Children are mirror images of us. After all, the apple rarely falls far from the tree.
  5. Minimize all noise – If you have to run a vacuum or the washing machine, that’s one thing. But try to turn off the television and put down your phone at least for an hour or two and at dinner to give your family real attention.
  6. Make him comfortable – Men work hard and they often do it for their families. It’s very tempting to feel jealous of where your friends are going for anniversaries and birthdays, but if you can think of all of the times your spouse has been there for you….I don’t think it’s asking too much of you to respect him in some of his wishes.
  7. Listen to him – There’s no “me” in relationship or marriage. It should go both ways but it only can be like that if there’s mutual respect.
  8. Make the evening his – This doesn’t mean it’s going to be all about him, but think about how hard he works. Men are always thinking far more than we realize. We can learn a lot more when we start listening and learn to respect each other.

Bottom Line…

Family is one of the most important social circles in your life. By gaining each other’s respect, a home becomes a place of peace and solitude even with children. There’s a reason why marriage is considered martyrdom because the ego dies as you put your life into another’s hands.

Many couples aren’t truly ready despite mincing words and beautiful vows. It’s a process… but a beautiful one.

If you’re offended, you may not be ready for marriage or you may want to consider counseling.

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italian wedding soup. (vegetarian and vegan.)

Italian Wedding Soup seems like such an antiquated dish but I love it! You probably don’t see it served at very many weddings. And I think that person that I heard crave it was my great uncle.

As it turns out, wedding soup has very little to do with the catering at a wedding reception. Wedding Soup or minestra maritata in Italian means “married” soup as it simply refers to the flavor combination of greens and meat combined in the soup.

Regardless of whether you still want to add this classic to your catering menu at your wedding is up to you, but it’s a very hearty, immunity boosting dish nonetheless with the addition of carrots, collard greens and onions. To make it vegetarian or vegan, you can easily pick up some vegetable meatballs. Lightlife is a good brand. But if you prefer to avoid soy as well, do include my recipe for these easy white bean balls!

You can use that on its own, but because I have been working in Lancaster County right in the heart of Amish country lately, I stopped off at an Amish farm market to pick up some of their dried egg noodles. Technically not fast friendly as you may want to adjust, but I have such fond memories of my mother adding egg noodles to her Winter soup recipes. I am not sure how to explain it, but it’s like adding a touch of love to the recipe.

Wedding Soup with Bean Balls

FOR THE BALLS:

  • 1-14 ounce dried white beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill and parsley
  • 1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin organic coconut oil

FOR THE SOUP:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin organic oil
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 cups of collard greens
  • 3 cloves of garlic, pressed or crushed or finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/4 cup prosecco (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill
  • 8 cups vegetable stock, unsalted
  • 2 cups Amish medium thick egg noodles (I used lemon pepper)

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine ingredients for balls in food processor, blender or a mixer and spatula. Roll out into balls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake until balls are just golden brown.

Heat dutch oven with oil. Add in onion and saute before adding your carrots and everything else. Spices last. Cook to boil and simmer for 35 minutes. Drop in your bean balls and serve piling plates with noodles first then broth.

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simple stir fry

What was the first meal you ever cooked or baked for your current significant other?

Or maybe it was a cocktail.

Regardless, the memory still probably carries strong.

Mine would have been a stir fry similar to this recipe below, only mine was a lot simpler. I was even embarrassed to serve it. Our first dinner in wasn’t planned, but as my budget was very tight as a home health aide and entry level massage therapist, I had carrots, mushrooms and ramen noodles only throw away the packet because yuck. Oh, and maybe I had soy sauce… I used to hoard those little packets from our Chinese restaurant. Maybe not the healthiest but hello, money savor!

But here was my future husband coming over with good wine in a snowstorm and I was about to serve him ramen. Great. Mind you, this was before the ramen bowl became a popular craze among not just hipsters.

It clearly worked out on all ends. From that night forward, I was intrigued how the simplest concoctions can lead to delicious recipes. Delicious doesn’t have to be indulgent. Or expensive. And healthy doesn’t have to cost a whole paycheck. No offense, Whole Foods, we love you so.

Stir fries give the illusion of that craving for lo mein without the MSG. You’re still getting a lot of oil but this is an indulgent version. You can experiment with steaming your vegetables and adding them to your boiled and drained noodles with a few tablespoons of oil if not water.

But for the like Chinese takeaway version, here you go. It’s ready in 30 minutes.

I made it again tonight. It was just as cold and snowy, but I have an allover tingly good vibration being sent allover my body. I think I’m falling in love with my husband allover again .

Vegetable Stir Fry

Ingredients

2-3 tbsp ghee (sub olive or coconut oil)

1 package of Chinese noodles (or ramen noodles even, they make a good base and heck, I won’t judge you.)

1 package of bell peppers

20 baby carrots cut and sliced

1/2 cup of mushrooms

1/2 cup of grape tomatoes

Soy sauce

San-j orange sauce (find it in an ethnic aisle or organic aisle)

Method

Melt ghee or olive oil to a wok or deep pan. Add in mushrooms and cook for three minutes. Add in soy sauce to coat. Cook for six minutes before adding in tomatoes, carrots and peppers, stirring well.

Boil noodles and drain.

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Mushroom Barley Soup

Holy Supper is a generation to generation tradition passed down in the Eastern Orthodox and Ukrainian culture. It’s traditionally a twelve course meal of cultural dishes that are shared and consumed family style on the first star of Christmas Eve. The man of the household leads in prayer. Verses 2:1-12 in the Gospel of Matthew are read usually by a child. And an extra place setting is set – for Christ, to commemorate a loved one or for a passing stranger because all are remembered and no one is turned away on this evening. 

As my husband and I are Julian Orthodox, we have celebrated our Christmas this past weekend. On the Julian calendar, feast days are thirteen days later than they appear on the Gregorian calendar. 

As I grew older, I began to anticipate and lool forward to the Holy Supper tradition as one of my favorite aspects of the season. I always held a fascination and an interest with food and what and why other cultures eat like that. My favorite dish from Holy Supper in particular was the mushroom barley soup. This was my father’s contribution. My father is not Orthodox and no longer attends church but has always respected my mother’s traditions. That’s one of the reasons I had a soft spot for his mushroom barley soup. My family would put out several soups that night every year, but the cream of mushroom soup was my favorite out of all them.

For awhile, I didn’t want to know he did it because that I feel that would have had spoil things for me, I don’t know.  As I  got into a serious relationship, I would have had to know so I could make it for my own family. 

It was really a cream of mushroom soup from Campbell’s soup cans along with quality fresh mushrooms and butter. Even without the barley, the soup was still good. 

As I adopted a plant based diet in recent years, my recipe would be different but I was still positive. Mushrooms have a meat like texture and combined with a little coconut oil and vegan butter, can be quite savory too. Add in barley for texture. I also added sliced carrots and celery for a more hearty soup. I usually like to make a big pot of it so it lasts and lasts into the week, a cozy comfort for snow days and Jack Frost’s wind chills which is why you don’t want to miss the rosemary to stave away the sniffles!

Mushroom Barley Soup

Barley contains a high source of fiber and antioxidants. It also is helpful at reducing cholesterol. It is not gluten free.  

Rosemary is an herb that can be potted and grown. It’s consumed for antibacterial and antifungal benefits. 


Ingredients

  • 3 qts (12 cups) low sodium vegetable stock 
  • 3 cups cooked barley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 dried shitake mushrooms
  • 1 package of cremini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup organic, extra virgin coconut oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery, including leaves
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped carrots
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • sea salt and pepper 
  • Rosemary garnish 


Method

1. Pour stock into a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Stir in the barley, add the bay leaves, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered. Set your timer for 2:15 (2 hours 15 minutes) starting now.

2. While the soup simmers, place dried mushrooms in a separate small saucepan. Add 3 cups of water to the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water boils, remove saucepan from heat and let the mushrooms soak for 20 mins.

3. Drain the mushroom water by straining it through a coffee filter (use a mesh strainer or colander to hold the filter). Reserve the mushroom water.

4. Chop the soaked, softened mushrooms into small pieces and reserve. 

5. Heat 2 tbsp coconut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion to the skillet and sauté for 5 minutes or until softened. 

6. Add the celery and carrots and day he for 5 minutes until they begin to carmelize or turn brown.

7. Add the soaked chopped dried mushroom pieces and crushed garlic, sauté for 2 minutes.

8. Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Pour the strained mushroom broth into the skillet, bring to a boil, stir. Cook for 2 more minutes till mixture is hot and bubbly. Add the contents of the skillet to the simmering stockpot with the broth and barley.

Garnish or add in rosemary. 

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Resolutions and Regimens. 

It snowed again here in Pennsylvania. Here in Pennsylvania, we don’t have to get much snow to shut down roads. Everyone is cautious for themselves and others and a certain peace resumes in the air like the kind you almost feel in the air on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Vespers is even cancelled for a Saturday. It’s the kind of day I was hoping for, actually…minus Vespers being cancelled, obviously but I am grateful Father had everyone’s safety in mind.

 A lovely English Christmas celebration has ended up in a busy week which gave way to wishes on catching up on my cleaning regimen, the laundry, reorganizing my prayer lists, and reading. I ordered two books for my Kindle app, yes I said app, still adoring print books. Soon, I will need to shovel us out as well as our elderly neighbor. 

But before I let any of that get the best of me, I put a kettle of lavender earl grey tea on and sat in meditation gearing up to set my intentions, prayers and hopes for the New Year. The best time to sit in meditation or prayer is the time you think you don’t have. And it’s another year, the same as the old one, church feasts are the same, what is there to look forward to? 

The feast days and traditions in the church remain the same. Current affairs and policies, fortunately and unfortunately, remain the same.

But we change. And sometimes by a lot. Really examine the year. How have major events shaped you? Where did you personally grow – mentally, spiritually, emotionally? Where would you like to improve?  If you are still drawing a blank, you let the year pass you by or you’re either missing the point entirely. 

“Life is long if you give it away 

So stay don’t go – Because I’m fading away

Soul to soul between you and me

Chain me down but I am still free.” – David Byrne and Brian Eno


But what if you don’t want to change and you are quite content with where you are now? That’s not the point. The point is, a year can go by quickly if you remain stagnant. I apologize for not posting more recipes frequently. I fell off the wagon with posting recipes but want to get back into it again. Another part of it is I struggled too between my diets going from veganism in the first six months of the year to just plant based. But I found my mood and demeanor has changed since going plant based and my stomach feels a lot better too. I may have even found a local plant based MD and hope to see them next year. My husband and I shared delicious and hearty meals together. And I found I crave sugar less…that’s one reason I don’t keep sugar or flour canisters in our house.  A goal of mine is to become more disciplined on my regimen and to keep cranking out more recipes. And as far as getting back into veganism, it’s a different journey for everyone.

I started journaling again which has led to me writing again. I started this journal at the end of the summer. I actually get annoyed by the word blessed in that context or used in this context (#blessed), but it was a gift. You might say I’m overthinking what I’m about to say (as I tend to overthink). At it’s most practical sense, it’s simply an expression of gratitude. …But to whom, you know? God? Or to just have it advertised as a box sign in your dining room? I always envisioned that to be the cheesy hallmark flag of an American millenial couple: marriage, mortgage in the suburbs, two or three kids, dogs and an oversized box sign saying Blessed scrawled somewhere in the house. There might not be a cross in sight nor may they be religious, but there it is again standing back at you again, “blessed.” Because sooner or later, everyone and their friends try to design their lives around like that. 

But have you ever wondered what they’re really saying and is that the only way to define blessed?

I think couples and families define their blessings in many ways. Some people get a comfortable ease displaying it in photo frames and box signs, but I try to take mine before God in church. God has given to me a marriage and love, a nice starter home to share as our first place that’s close to our families, a refrigerator and cabinets full of good food despite long work hours, heat on the cold days and a car. But I know God gives and takes away with a purpose. And by displaying them, that’s showing pride in something that isn’t guaranteed tomorrow.  Plus, I also take into consideration how it might make my friends feel who have less. I know they say they don’t care, but deep down, I think they do. 

I am grateful I remained close and let God in and that closeness has resulted me in wanting to spend Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings in church. I am grateful. I hope. I pray. I look forward to it every week.

We rescued a cat! He might make a few appearances in upcoming entries. Babies and puppies and kitties seem to marry well with food posts. 

Okay, maybe not that much….but a few, okay?

I also hope to keep writing and possibly finish writing my first manuscript. Creating goals and having a regimen even if it’s just meditation or cleaning keeps me going. Regimens drive change and growth. It helps me become a better person for God, myself and others around me. That’s what I live for. 

May peace, health and joy encompass you in the New Year! 

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Lentil Quinoa Salad 

Why bother procrastinating? For as short as life can be, some of us spend an ungodly amount on procrastination and overthinking every last detail. I’m in that camp with you. 

We set goals… or we reach for the stars. 

One could be a goal to cook consistently healthy meals like those raw vegan food blogger mom’s who manage to crank out multiple posts a week despite claiming to work full-time, be the mother of three children, two dogs and teach a fitness class. 

Two could be a goal of making Vespers every Saturday…but then realizing you forgot about that one event on your calendar that overlaps the time for Vespers and what if that’s the only parish in the area? 

Three could be losing weight or toning your midsection at the gym. Old school Britney come through your headphones and all you’re thinking about is those abs…until you realize how hungry you’ve become from working out so intensely! If only there was a gourmet healthy drive thru around because you simply don’t have the patience for these multiple step meals. 

Four could be the overwhelming sensation that clouds the judgment of the best and worst of us procrastinators: the Christmas season. As Orthodox, we are called to be humble about our fasts but it’s hard not to feel slighted or jealous by what others are doing. Are my decorations too dull or not enough? I didn’t do a Jesse Tree or an Advent Tree with my children, I’m not the model parent. I can’t afford the four present rule, I’m not the model parent. My kids are wearing hand me downs, I’m not the model parent. I don’t get along with my family, the list goes on and on of absurdities that our minds trick us into doubt and soon belief.

We set goals, but there’s so many impediments that hinder our personal definitions of success and happiness. And depending on who we follow and friend on social media, the ranks of jealousy, envy and lust can make us feel rather inferior even if we don’t usually struggle with insecurities. 

Everything seems harder in the beginning, but the journey is usually worthwhile in the end. That’s why the goal for my  recipes are usually easy, quick, healthy and reasonably priced to make. Just like this lentil quinoa salad with lemon dressing that gets absorbed by the beans and grains that you can’t tell it’s there, but it’s there, like the mystery of who was giving children gold coins in the days of St. Nicholas. I really don’t think that’s reaching for the stars, do You?

Lentil Quinoa Salad with Lemon Dressing 

1 bag of green lentils, soaked overnight 

1 pouch of Mediterranean quinoa blend (It’s quinoa! Just faster to make and preseasoned. Check labels for sodium content or buy and soak ahead grains if this is an issue.)

2 cups of chopped organic kale 

1 tbsp lemon zest 

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp Dijon mustard 

1 tsp agave nectar or maple syrup 

Sea salt and pepper 

Method

Cook quinoa as per package directions. Soak lentils overnight and steam in steamer. Get a bowl and add other ingredients and mix to make your dressing. Add in softened lentils and fluffy quinoa. Mix well. 

Great in addition as a side dish to baked fish, baked chicken or vegetable patties.