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Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Seventh Day of Christmas: Hamburgers

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Not only is it the seventh day of Christmas, but this day also marks the end of another calendar year.  I have been reading peoples musings on the past year and their goals for the coming year.  I have no grand thoughts or life changing goals.  I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions.  I like to make small goals for myself throughout the year as needs arise instead of large goals once a year.

Our family is also the one that never makes it to midnight awake.  John’s schedule has us early to bed and early to rise.  We’ll be lucky to make it to 10pm.  So, Happy New Year, ya’ll!

Our day was filled with searching for banana leaves for meals these next few days.  We’re making tamales with friends tomorrow and trying pasteles on Thursday.  The meat is cooked and broth has been made from yesterday’s turkey.  With all those pots simmering together, I kept dinner simple. We ate hamburgers.

I rarely do buns with our hamburgers.  The kids disassemble them anyway when I try.  Tonight I tossed in some oven fries and cooked slider sized burgers in the cast iron skillet.  The burgers were served on a bed of lettuce with some honey mustard on the side.  I might normally add an additional vegetable side to this meal, but I didn’t buy anything this week since I thought I had more vegetables in the freezer.

My honey mustard is nothing fancy.  I simply whisk together Dijon and honey in eyeballed equal parts and adjust to taste.

I also planned to slice an avocado, but when the neighbor kid showed up for dinner I forgot that detail.  Pray for his family because tonight they were waiting for his grandfather to arrive for hospice care.


The Sixth Day of Christmas: Turkey with Trimmings

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I bought turkeys on sale in November, and they’ve been waiting in the freezer for the Christmas feast to come.  I defrosted one and roasted it for today’s meal.  I actually got everything ready for Monday’s lunch, which turned out to be a great impulse because my car’s battery died after an errand later in the day.  I’m so glad I had leftovers to feed everyone after we made it home.

Special thanks to my neighbors who helped John get my car running and back home again after work last night.  You really are the best neighbors ever!

Turkey with Trimmings

With the turkey I served:

mashed potatoes (mashed with broth)
sweet potatoes with marshmallows (I kept some plain for Little Man who can’t have the corn)
green beans
cranberry sauce (recipe on the bag)
gravy (turkey drippings, millet flour, broth, and salt… sorry I didn’t measure)

The Fifth Day of Christmas: Spiral Pasta with Ground Turkey and Butternut Sauce

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Tonight’s dinner was at Little Man’s Christmas meal request.  He loves pasta.  He would eat it at every meal if I would let him.  His request was actually only one word, “Pasta!”  He did not care what kind of sauce as long as there was pasta involved.

For tonight, I modified my Vegan Butternut Squash Sauce slightly.  The additions make the meal no longer vegan, but I can live with that.  I had the butternut squash cooked and pureed in the freezer, so the meal came together quickly.  The swiss chard was also already in my freezer from my garden this fall.  I didn’t have any fresh basil on hand, so I used dried instead.  It really does make a difference, but dried is better than nothing.

I really like this meal better with ground pork, but the grocery store was out when I was shopping.  Turkey is my second choice.  Just be sure to get the higher fat percentage turkey, or the meat will be too dry for my taste.

Butternut Pasta Sauce
Spiral Pasta with Ground Turkey and Butternut Sauce

One batch Butternut Sauce, prepared ahead of these instructions
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt, to taste
1 lb ground turkey (or pork)
Fresh or frozen swiss chard (or spinach), to taste
1.5 lbs gluten free spiral pasta, cooked

Start a pot to boil and cook the pasta according to package instructions.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic, onions, fennel, thyme, and salt.  Sautee about five minutes.

Add the ground meat and cook thoroughly.

Add the swiss chard.  Wilt if fresh, and warm if frozen.

Pour in the butternut sauce and warm throughout.

Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta and serve with a side salad if desired.

The Fourth Day of Christmas: Ham and Bean Soup

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Every year at Thanksgiving, my mother in law sends us home with the leftover ham and bone because she knows we like to make this soup.  This year we put the whole thing in the freezer to wait until the end of the fast.  Today was a busy day that needed a slow cooker meal, so out came the ham.  I saved some of the ham for sandwiches at lunch.  They were truly a treat with the gluten free bread my mother in law sent with us after our celebrations earlier this week.  Everything else went into the pot for dinner. 

Ham and Bean Soup

Honestly, you can use any combination of beans that you like in this soup.  The ones listed are simply the varieties I had on hand today.

Ham and Bean Soup

1 cup dry black beans
1 cup dry canary beans (or white beans)
1 cup dry red kidney beans
1 cup dry pinto beans
1 cup dry garbanzo beans

2 teaspoons dried savory
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves

Left over ham, diced with bone reserved
Salt to taste

Soak the beans overnight in a large bowl.

In the morning, rinse the beans and place in six-quart slow cooker with the ham bone, onion, garlic, and seasonings. Add water to cover everything by about one inch.

Turn on the slow cooker to low and allow to simmer all day.

Remove the bone about 20 minutes before dinner and stir in the diced ham.  Allow to cook an additional fifteen minutes or until the ham is warm.

Add salt to taste, discard bay leaves, and serve.

The Third Day of Christmas: Philly Steak Sandwiches

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Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

I haven’t posted in the last two weeks.  Life got busy, as I’m sure yours did too.  It was wonderfully busy and no time was left for blogging.  We even saved some of our giving for today, since last week didn’t include enough hours for everything.  I’m glad that John reminded me that we had twelve whole days of Christmas to finish everything; otherwise, I might not have made it through last week.  I do have a couple of meals from last week that I still want to share, but I’ll have to catch up another day.

Last week was packed with finishing Christmas presents and completing our last few bits of our homeschool year.  We stick to a different schedule than most, but it works for us.  Now we have three months break to have a change of pace.

The kids and my nephews helped make a Santa Hat Party Mix for gifts, but we didn’t get to try it because most of the ingredients are on our naughty food list.  Sometimes it’s nice to live vicariously through others.  We did try one batch of a homemade allergy friendly almond bark for my sister’s birthday.  It did taste good, but it was only solid in the refrigerator, so the recipe needs tweaking before we share it.

Santa Hat Mix
I also got to finish sewing three dolls.  One was for Snuggle Bunny.  Another was for our only niece, and the third was for my youngest cousin.  Making these dolls was very special for me, because my grandmother started them years ago, but never finished them.  The dolls were mostly done, but the dresses were only cut out and needed assembling.   One Christmas many years ago, Grandma made me one of these pillowcase dolls.  Mine has a lavender dress and is quite well loved.  She even traveled with me to Girl Scout Camp one summer and has my name in Sharpie marker on the back hem of her dress.  Now she spends most of her time in Snuggle Bunny’s doll carriage, just as Grandma would have liked.  Today she has a new sister to share the ride.   Hopefully one day these three dolls will show the wear of time and love.  It would be a shame if they weather the years with a layer of dust instead of experiencing the messy love of some sweet little girls.  Oh, and what of the one in the middle with the extra color in her dress?  That is the product of Little Man’s handy work.  He quietly got his hands on my sewing scissors and started the remodeling process.  After a little rummaging through my quilting scraps, I’m happy with the results.  Though if I ever make a modified skirt again, I’d rather it happen before I gather the skirt and attach it to the bodice.

Pillowcase Dolls
The weekend before the Feast of the Nativity is when we celebrated with our families.  Saturday was for my family, and Sunday after church was for John’s family.  It was great family time and my children were thoroughly spoiled by grandparents, aunts, and uncles.   Meals were provided by the hosts and they all did a wonderful job with our holiday fare.  My mother-in-law surprised us with a treat from a local gluten free bakery.  My mother and I made Better Balls with almond butter.  We omitted the rice puffs and rolled the balls in unsweetened coconut instead of dipping them in chocolate, but every last one was gone in no time.  I used to make a peanut and dairy laden version of these as a child, so it was a very nostalgic dessert and oh so easy to make.

Christmas Day found us at Church in the morning.  I think celebrating the feast at Church on Christmas is one of my favorite Orthodox Traditions.  It really is wonderful to focus on the true meaning of this holiday with our Church family before we break the fast and open our family presents.  After Church we completed our last Advent reading before we opened presents.

Christmas Day

This year I took meat laden meal requests from each family member for celebrating the feast.  I promised to make them all sometime during the twelve days of Christmas.  Snuggle Bunny’s request was California Rolls.  That meal was lunch on Christmas day for many reasons.  One being that we were headed out to a Christmas party in the afternoon, and it was a meal that could be prepared in the allotted time.  The second reason is because it was a meal that John is adept at preparing, so I got a day off from cooking.

John also made pancakes and bacon for yesterday’s breakfast.  I assembled them into the festive arrangement you see below.  The eyes are carob chips, the buttons are raisins, the mouth is banana, and the snow is coconut oil.

Buster’s meal request was Honey-Mustard Chicken Tenders which easily used the last of the bacon.  This time I served it with roasted broccoli, oven fries, and yellow squash.

Today’s lunch was John’s request.  He doesn’t often request dairy, so I was happy to buy him a few slices of provolone from the deli.  When I buy cheese, it is often by the slice–just enough for John.  This time we had some leftover soft goat cheese from John’s mom’s dinner, so those of us who can tolerate small doses of goats dairy indulged for this one meal.  I was planning to make cashew sauce, but opted out at the last minute when I remembered the goat cheese.

I discovered that the steak purchased this time was much thicker than I originally realized, so I chopped it rather than shaving it as I normally do.  The bun is an onion dinner roll from Local Oven.  They still have egg in them, so Little Man and I cheated a little bit.  It’s all for a good cause and we don’t do it often, so today I think it was worth the convenience and the flavor.  Tomorrow may be another story.

I also would have liked to add mushrooms to this sandwich, but I forgot until I was cooking.

Philly Steak Sandwiches
about 1.5 lb thin steak, lightly salted on both sides
1 large onion, thinly slice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
cheese or substitute (optional)
condiments of your choosing

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add the oil, onion, salt, and garlic to the pan.  Saute until the onions caramelize.  Reduce heat as necessary to keep the onions from burning.

Remove the onions from the pan and raise the heat back to medium.  Sear the steak on both sides until the steak is cooked to your liking.  Times will vary depending on the thickness of your steak.

Slice the steak thinly and toss in the pan with the onions to warm them and mix well with the meat.  Serve on buns with your choice of toppings.

Merry Christmas!

Sixth Sunday of the Nativity Fast: Cauliflower-Red Lentil Curry

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The sixth and last Sunday of the fast found us exchanging gifts at my in-law’s house after liturgy.  We didn’t manage to complete our Advent reading until the next day.  The theme of Communion for this week helps keep our focus on Christ, the true reason we celebrate this season.

The Fifth week of the fast I found myself with several small heads of cauliflower.  Rather than come up with several ways to use it up, I just made a double batch of this soup.    The soup lasted through several meals before Christmas as well as freezing enough for two extra meals in other weeks.

Cauliflower-Red Lentil Curry
It’s one of our favorite soup options, but I don’t think I’ve ever made it the same way twice.   I always start with the same base soup, but the additions may vary by ingredient availability and my preference on a given day.  The sweet potatoes may be my favorite addition.

Cauliflower-Red Lentil Curry

1/2 onion, diced
3 carrots, sliced
3 celery stalks with leaves, thinly sliced
1 cup red lentils
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
3 cups vegetable broth
3-4 cups water
1 Tbsp Ruth’s Curry Powder
salt to taste

Place everything but the cauliflower in the pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer for 15-20 minutes.  The onions and celery should be mostly tender.

Add the cauliflower, return the soup to a boil, and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes until the cauliflower is tender.  Adjust salt to taste.

For an additional twist, puree the end result for a creamy soup.

Optional Additions ( pick one or two, add with the cauliflower)
2-3 potatoes or sweet potatoes
Shredded cabbage
Swiss chard
1 can of coconut milk (add at the end)

Fifth Week of the Nativity Fast: Crunchy Chickpea Avocado Salad

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Fifth Week Advent Wreath
Not only was this week the fifth Sunday of our Advent season, but it also marked two Saint’s Days in our family, both Buster’s and mine.  We both celebrate on the Sunday the Church remembers the forefathers and foremothers of Christ.  We also share this day with many parishioners including the Godparents of Snuggle Bunny and Little Man.  Needless to say it is a busy day for our family.

We managed to squeeze our Advent readings and a nap between Liturgy and a fastworthy graduation party at a friend’s house that day.

The theme for that week was repentance.  It was fitting and timely for the week as we prepared for Confession leading up to the end of the fasting season.

Throw in last minute preparations for get togethers with each side of our extended family, and there wasn’t a spare moment for blogging in the whole week and a half leading up to the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord.

I planned simple meals for that week.  Many of them I’ve already shared.  I made Vegan Burritos using pink beans.  We tried baked potatoes and cashew sauce.  Only this time we used white potatoes and cranberry beans.  While it was filling and the kids had no complaints, I do prefer the recipe as originally posted.

Then there was this salad.  I found a great sale on Beanitos, so this meal was easy using cooked garbanzos straight out of our freezer.

Crunchy Chickpea Avocado Salad
I modified this from a recipe of Bobby Flay’s.  It’s become quite popular among the small people at our house simply because of the chips.

Crunchy Chickpea Avocado Salad

3 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
2 avocado, diced
1 small can sliced or minced black olives, drained
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3-4 Tbsp rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
Drizzle Olive oil (optional)
Salt to taste
1-2 Tbsp minced parsley or cilantro (optional)

Crumbled corn chips or Beanitos
lettuce for salad

Mix all but the chips and lettuce in a bowl. Let sit 20 minutes or so to marinate.

Put a bed of lettuce on a plate and crumble corn chips over salad.

Spoon chickpea mixture over salad.