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March 23 – Weekly Menu

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This week’s Bountiful Basket was full of great options.  However, I don’t have much use for red bell peppers, so someone traded with me.  I got extra fruit that they wouldn’t use and gave away the beautiful red bell peppers from my basket.  Then someone else didn’t want their lettuce, but was very happy to take my extra tomatoes in exchange.   I kept two for John’s salad and sandwich, but left with plenty for side salads for our week.  I also still had plenty of onions from last week’s sale finds and one more meal’s worth of Brussels sprouts from that case from two weeks ago.

This week also includes the Feast of Annunciation.  That means a fish day.  So since I can’t have fin-fish, we went with a shellfish dinner.  Fast-worthy seafood paella with no nightshades.  It’s a recipe we worked out when we studied Spain last school year.  Simple to make, but very nice for a feast day dinner.

Meals for the rest of the week (the bold items are from the this week’s basket):

Soup – baby bok choy and mushroomsMiso with adzuki beans
Pasta – Penne with Garlic and Olive Oil – this time with zucchini
Salad – lettuce, mushrooms, and roma tomatoes for John – with white beans
Stirfry – brussels sprouts with pecans
Sandwiches – dulse, lettuce, and avocado (or tomato for John) sandwiches.
Hummus night – Bessara
Beans and Rice – Falafels with vegan tzatziki sauce.

I also got a bag of potatoes in the basket that will last until next week’s meal planning since I didn’t find use for them this week.

Snacks from this week’s basket:
celery  – ants on a log
pineapple – homemade popsicles
strawberries, bananas, apples, and pears

March 16 – Weekly Menu

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This week I had enough produce in the house that I didn’t order from my produce co-op.  I’ve still got plenty of potatoes, carrots, and Brussels sprouts from my add on packs from the last few weeks, so it’s time to use them.  Among other things, I still have some jicama and spaghetti squash from last week.

I ran into a great sale on onions yesterday.  They were about 23 cents per pound, so I stocked up since onions have a pretty long shelf life.  I also found crimini mushrooms for 69 cents a package at the same store.  I love mushrooms, especially when they’re on sale.

“Soup” for St. Patrick’s Day- Colcannon (my last variation here) – this time with Brussels sprouts instead of the savoy cabbage.
Pasta – Garlic Sage Spaghetti Squash
Salad – Skipping this week unless we really need another meal.  I’ve got plenty of leftovers from last week still.
Stirfry – With chickpeas and brussels sprouts
Wraps – Portabella and Crimini Fajitas (Sprouts sells portabellas in bulk at almost half the price as the packaged ones)
Hummus night – Olive Hummus with jicama sticks.
Beans and Rice – Red Beans and Rice

Peach Kuchen

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I once got to spend a summer in Moscow…  Russia, not Idaho.  It was a great summer.  I learned a lot that year.  I was eighteen, just out of high school.  I learned this pie recipe from the family who housed me during my stay.  Kuchen is actually the German word for “cake,” but the usage covers this kind of pie.  It has been through many variations since I made it the first time.  This is the variety that I use today.  It was the pie I served for John’s birthday and concluded our Pi Day festivities.

I actually made two of these pies since the coconut yogurt came in exactly the amount needed for a double recipe.  It must also be noted that I am not above feeding the leftovers to my children for breakfast.

Peach Kuchen

Peach Kuchen

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine in a 9″ pie pan:
1 1/3 cup sifted gluten free flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Cut in with a fork until well blended:
1/3 cup palm oil shortening

Pat mixture over bottom and sides the pie pan.

Arrange in pastry (Don’t overfill or the juices will overflow and burn in the bottom of your oven, trust me):
4-6 sliced peaches, canned (about 2 cans, drained), frozen, or fresh (peel if desired)

Blend in a bowl and sprinkle over the peaches:
¼ cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Bake 15 minutes.

Combine well (reuse the sugar bowl to save on dishes):
1 egg replacer egg
1 cup plain coconut yogurt

Pour yogurt mixture over peaches and bake 30 minutes longer.

Serve warm or cold as desired.

Pierogi Pizza

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Yesterday was John’s birthday.  It happens to fall on National Pi Day, and it makes this former math teacher giggle every year.  For several years I’ve made him pie for dessert instead of cake at his request.  His favorite meal is pizza.  If you haven’t noticed, we don’t have pizza often.  It’s hard enough when you’re gluten free, but toss in dairy and tomatoes and it all gets more complicated.  Now, John can still eat pizza, he’s not allergic, but the date falling during Lent puts a hitch in the situation.  This issue was discussed last week in a Facebook group I follow.  One suggestion was to try a pierogi flavored pizza.  Thanks for the idea, Elizabeth; it was great!

We tried to make real gluten free pierogis when we were studying Poland last school year.  It was pretty much a flop.  They all fell apart in the boiling water.  It was so bad that I finally baked the rest.  The baked ones were great, but I pretty much gave up trying to make gluten free-egg free pierogis ever again.  Pierogi Pizza was a much better idea.

Pierogi Pizza
I started with this pizza crust recipe.  As always I was missing a few ingredients, so I improvised a little.

I started by mixing this gluten free flour blend:

2 cups sorghum flour
2 cups tapioca starch
1 cup potato starch
1 cup teff flour

I doubled this pizza crust for my family, but next time I might triple it.  It worked out this time because I had extra mashed potatoes and dessert coming.  Don’t worry I plan to share the dessert recipe in the next post.

Pizza Crust
1 3/4 cups gluten free flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon guar gum
1 teaspoon ground flax seed
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup almond milk
2 Tablespoons safflower oil
1/2 teaspoon vinegar, optional

In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients and blend thoroughly.

Add the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Add a tablespoon or two of additional liquid at a time, until dough comes together easily. Cover and let sit at room temp for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With lightly oiled hands, press dough into a 10″ circle on a lightly floured pan, building up edge slightly.  Bake for 13-15 minutes.

Remove crusts from oven, top with sauce, etc. and return to oven. Heat until toppings are bubbly, about 8-10 minutes. Parbaked crusts can be stored frozen to use as needed.

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This is the part where we diverged from traditional pizza recipes.

Earlier in the week I started fermenting sauerkraut using cabbage from my St. Patrick’s Day produce pack using mason jars and this method.  The finished product was waiting in the refrigerator.

Once I had my pizza dough mixed and resting, I started boiling 2.5 -3 lbs of potatoes for our mashed potato “sauce”.  These I mashed with almond milk and some nutritional yeast.  Sorry I didn’t measure that part.  Then I mixed in about two cups of sauerkraut.  Taste and add salt if needed.   The adults in the house thought that it needed more kraut, but the kids thought it was just right.

While the potatoes were boiling, I started browning one very large thinly sliced onion in a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Stir regularly.  Once the onions were pretty brown 10-15 minutes, I drizzled them with a couple of tablespoons of safflower oil, sprinkled them with salt, and reduced the heat to medium-low for another ten minutes or so.

Then I sliced mushrooms and tossed them in to saute with the onions.  I had a few sprigs of fresh thyme from my St. Patty’s pack, so that went in too.  At this point I felt that it needed some color.  Once the mushrooms were cooked I added some spinach I had in the fridge leftover from our spring rolls the day before.

Somewhere towards the end of mashing the potatoes and cooking the mushrooms, I patted the dough out on the floured pizza pans and parbaked them according to the directions above.

I spread the mashed potato “sauce” on the cooked crust and topped it with the onion and mushroom mixture.  Discard the thyme stems as needed.   Bake for another 8 minutes and serve with oven roasted asparagus.

March 2 and March 9 – Two Weekly Menus

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Lent arrived this week with an ice storm.  Friends of ours let us sleep in their den so that we could attend Forgiveness Vespers and not have to brave the icy roads back to our house.  The children loved this little adventure and would love for it to become an annual tradition.  However I will advise that Forgiveness Vespers prostrations followed by an air mattresses will not be my preferred combination when the roads are safely passable.   The best part of the stay was joining together with friends for the first morning prayers of the Lenten season, especially when another of the stranded is a practiced Reader.

Now onto Lenten meals.  Last year I was given the advice to plan a week’s worth of meals that I know my family will eat and then repeat until Pascha.  It was sound and simple advice, and great for those new to fasting meals or less adventurous palates.

I took a slightly different approach.  I’m part of a produce co-op in my area and every week I get different fruits and vegetables.  That means the same-thing-every-week-plan won’t exactly work for me.  So once I’ve got my produce, I make a plan on how to use it in the next week.  I’ve got categories that I use each week.  I try keep the oily ones for the weekends and the others for the weekdays.  Then I always make enough for lunch the next day so I don’t have to cook any more than is necessary during the week.

These categories aren’t set in stone, but they do help me keep from making soup every night.

Pasta
Salad
Soup
Stirfry
Wraps/sandwiches
Hummus night (A different flavor every week)
Beans and Rice (or other grains)

So here are two different week’s meal plans using my categories.  Remember the items in bold are the new produce from my weekly basket, the others are ones left in the fridge from prior weeks.  Other ingredients needed to round out the meals I purchase at the grocery store and may not list below.

I use the fruit mostly for snacks for the kids.  The last few weeks have been heavy in apples and citrus.  This week we got some pears, but I’ve been having to purchase extra pears to tide over the boys who are allergic to the apples and oranges.

Week of March 2
Pasta – Asparagus with a garlic olive oil sauce and cannellini beans
Soup – onions, carrots, celery, fresh turmeric (from that Asian pack several weeks ago) – Curried Lentil Soup (no lemongrass this time)
Salad – Cucumber, jicama, lettuce, carrots, celery – with cranberry beans
Stirfry – Broccoli, onion, and carrot – Broccoli Cashew Stirfry
Wraps – Avocado, lettuce, cilantro – Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos
HummusCucumber, jicama, carrots, and celery with crisp toasted rice tortillas
Beans and Rice – onion, celery, carrots – Red Beans and Rice
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Week of March 9
This week is one that will break the category “rules” a bit.  I am splitting a case of Brussels sprouts with my mom, and I got a St. Patrick’s Day Produce pack in addition to my weekly basket.  Toss in John’s birthday on Friday and it’s a week ripe for deviation from the pattern.  I think we’ll skip hummus night this week.

I also believe that our contribution to this week’s Sunday potluck will be a batch of mixed root vegetables roasted with Brussels sprouts and onions.

Pasta – Brussels Sprouts – Olive oil garlic sauce with penne
Salad – Celery, jicama, carrots – with red beans
Soup – Cauliflower, potatoes, onion – Cauliflower Curry
Stirfry – Brussels sprouts, onion, and carrots with pecans
Wraps/sandwiches – Asian pears with cashews – Vegan Spring rolls
Beans and Rice – Black beans with roasted acorn squash (I’ve still had two acorn squashes on the counter from several weeks ago)
John’s birthday dinner (Thanks for the idea, Elizabeth!) – Cabbage, potato, onions, mushrooms – Vegan Pirogi “Pizza”

This still leaves me with several unused items from the basket.  I’ve got asparagus, which I will likely freeze for another day or serve up with John’s birthday dinner for a little something extra.  Then there is spaghetti squash.  It’ll keep until next week, so no worries.

February 23 – Weekly Menu

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This weekly menu is mostly a look back at the week.  My week got away from me.  I’m the volunteer coordinator for my local Azure Standard co-op.  This Monday was our scheduled drop, but due to weather along the route everything was rescheduled for Tuesday.  That means lots of busy phone calls and emails for me.  The rest of the week was full of illness in the house and doctor related incidents, but no time on the computer.  Now finally, I’m here typing.  Whew!  Now they’re predicting freezing rain for Forgiveness Sunday.  I can feel the coming of Lent in all the little things trying to distract from the prayerful silence that is our goal.

This week has been a week of limited fasting.  Meatfare was on Sunday; the last day of eating meat before Pascha.  On that day I fixed a pot of salted ground beef sauteed with garlic, onion, and ginger.  Then I added about a quart of chicken broth and a California blend (cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots) of fresh vegetables.  (This week I split a California Blend pack of produce from Bountiful Baskets with my mom and sister.)  Then I added softened rice noodles and coconut aminos.  It has no written recipe.  This meal is reminiscent of one my mom used to fix when I was growing up.  She made it with frozen vegetables and mushroom flavored ramen noodles.  Back then we served it with cheese over the top, but my children have never known it that way.  It’s fast and easy, but filled with nostalgic goodness.  I took the pot to church for our potluck, but we had enough left for dinner.  Normally we don’t eat the same thing for lunch and dinner, but we didn’t want to leave any meat leftovers for the week.

The rest of our week was a wholehearted attempt to make the meals not seem fully lenten during what other bloggers have termed “cheese week” or “pizza week.”  Traditionally dairy and fish are allowed this week, and our full Lenten journey starts next week.  This is to ease us into the fasting mindset with babysteps.  Our family however, is always fish and dairy free.  So how do we approach cheese week with no cheese?  We decided to have several shrimp meals this week amidst our Lenten fare.  The children also decided to take their chore money to the grocery store this week for a few extra snacks before Lent.  Snuggle Bunny left proclaiming she needed to find raisins and came home with tortilla chips.  Buster left hoping to buy nails for a woodworking project but rather came home with potato chips so that Little Man wouldn’t be left out of the snacking.  Such sweetness in the simple things.

Bountiful Basket fruits for snacks this week: pears, apples, oranges, and bananas.

The rest of the week I planned using my Bountiful Basket vegetables.  I still had snow peas, lemongrass, and bok choy from my Asian pack the week before, so they were the first to be planned.  I’ll put the new items from my basket in bold.

Bok choy – stir fry with mushrooms and shrimp
Snow peas and lemon grass – Tom Kha soup with shrimp
Lettuce, English cucumber, grape tomatoes (for John), and carrots (California pack) – Dinner salad with lima beans and other veggies
Acorn squash, spinach, and pears – Vegan stuffed acorn squash with walnuts (kind of like this one)
AsparagusAsparagus Miso Soup
Broccoli – Pasta with Cashew Sauce and shrimp

And the only meal left to cook for the week:
Cucumber and carrotsMy Kind of California Rolls  – This one will probably be our easy meal to pack along to feed the kids before Sunday’s Forgiveness Vespers.

My fridge is looking pretty bare now.  I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s new basket of produce and planning our first week of Lenten meals.  Blessed Fast!

Geography Studies: Iceland

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Iceland was the last European country that we studied before our school year ended right before Christmas.  It is also a regularly forgotten member of the continent.  Sometimes it isn’t even included on maps of Europe while you’re looking for one to print for school.  Even better is the fact that my mother lived there for a while because my grandfather’s job moved them there.

While we did listen to the national anthem online and read books from the library, this study ended a bit differently than our others.  Grandpa lent us his slide projector and boxes of slides from their road trips through Iceland.  We set up a screen made from a white blanket for our slide show.  It was lots of fun to watch the kids try to guess which family member was which, not to mention the great pictures of the Icelandic countryside.

My aunts and uncle insisted that we must try to find pylsurs, Icelandic hot dogs made of pork, beef, and lamb.  However, I never found a place to buy them in the States, and I imagine they’d be expensive anyway.  Another option mentioned in our books was hamburgers, but though it may be a regular option in Iceland, it didn’t seem to be a memorable option for our schooling.  So with that in mind and other unique options such as puffin, walrus, and whale equally unattainable, we decided to go with lamb.

We seared lamb chops in my cast iron skillet with salt and garlic.  Then I served it with salad, rhubarb compote, and Icelandic potato salad.  Rhubarb apparently grows very well in Iceland.

Rhubarb Compote

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup frozen chopped rhubarb (fresh would work)

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Add the rhubarb and simmer until reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes.  Serve warm or chilled.  It also makes a good jam for toast, or warmed as a thick syrup on pancakes.

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I used the last of out Hungarian Dill Pickles for the potato salad.  Click on the links below for the recipes for the mayonnaise and sour cream that I use.  I simply substitute vinegar for the lemon juice in all the recipes.  Not everyone in the house can have eggs.  Instead of mixing them in, I sliced them to top the potato salad of a select few in the house.

Icelandic potato salad and Lamb chops with rhubarb compote

Kartoflusalat (Potato Salad)

1 3/4 lbs red potatoes
3 eggs, hard-boiled and sliced
2 pears, cored and chopped
1/4 cup chopped pickles
1/4 onion, small diced
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup soy-free, vegan sour cream (scroll to the last recipe in the post)
1/2 teaspoon Ruth’s Special Blend Curry Powder
salt, to taste

Boil the potatoes until tender.  Cool and cube the potatoes.  Chop the rest of the ingredients as noted above.

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl and chill for at least six hours before serving (At least the original instructions said to chill the dish.  I didn’t plan that far ahead, but our slightly warm potato salad was good!  The leftovers were even better).

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