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Monthly Archives: February 2014

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).

Napa Cabbage Stir Fry

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Tonight’s dinner was easy to make, and it was a hit all around.  As much as I love sesame oil and ginger, every once in a while I need a change from those flavors in a stir fry.  This was even more true today when lunch was Sweet and Sour Pork leftovers.  I even had plenty of cooked brown jasmine rice leftover from lunch, so there was no need to cook more.  Without having to cook  the rice, this meal took less than thirty minutes to prepare.

Napa Cabbage Stir Fry
While you could use white button or crimini mushrooms in this dish, I like to splurge on the shitake variety every once in a while.

Napa Cabbage Stir Fry

3 Tbsp safflower oil
1 white onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground turkey
1 pkg sliced shitake mushrooms
1 medium head of Napa cabbage, sliced in ribbons
3-4 Tbsp coconut aminos, to taste
salt to taste

Heat the oil a wok heated over medium-high.  Add the onions and garlic with a generous pinch of salt.  Stir fry until the onions become translucent.  If they get a little caramelized around the edges, it’s even better.  Turn the heat down to medium if the onions seem to brown too quickly.

Add the ground turkey and continue to stir fry for another 2-3 minutes until about half of the meat is cooked.  Then add the mushrooms.  If the heat hasn’t been reduced to medium yet, do so now.

Once the meat is cooked through, toss the cabbage into the mix.  When well combined, put the lid on the wok and allow to steam for 3-5 minutes.  Stir every two minutes or so to ensure the even cooking of the cabbage.  Steaming the cabbage this way will create a lovely broth at the bottom of the pan that is wonderful drizzled over the rice.

Once the cabbage is cooked to your desired texture, add in the coconut aminos.  We like ours soft, but stop cooking a bit earlier if you prefer yours with a little crunch.  Adjust salt to taste and serve over warm rice.

February 16 – Weekly Menu

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Last weekend and this week have run away with me.  We’ve had outings with family, fence repairs, doctors visits, and cooking for this week’s pastoral conference hosted at our church.  To simplify things, I made extra hummus and acorn squash soup to feed my family with the same dishes I’m sending to the conference this week.

I also got an Asian produce pack add on with my Bountiful Basket this week, so I have even more produce options than usual.  I still had some pears, garlic, onions, and carrots from last week, but we needed a few extra things from the store than in previous weeks to make enough food to share and eat this week.  We traded most of our tomatoes for avocados with a family who had a severe allergy to the avocado.  We saved a couple of tomatoes for John, though.

Then I found some clearance roses at Kroger for two dollars a dozen, so I made a little impulse purchase.  I picked pink for Snuggle Bunny.

Roses

Fruit for snacks: apples, bananas, and tangerines with some pears left over from last week’s shopping trip

Meals ideas from this week’s basket:
Avocado, red potatoes, and spinach – Burgers and fries with green beans one day and sauteed spinach with the leftovers
Lettuce, avocado, and tomato – Chef salad with shredded chicken and plenty of veggies
Acorn squash with celery and basil from the Asian pack – Acorn squash-White Bean soup with some onions, garlic, carrots, and the last of the frozen swiss chard from last year’s garden
Avocado (I had lots of them this week) – Tamales from the freezer

Meal ideas from the Asian produce pack:
Celery – White Bean-Olive Hummus with plenty of veggies
Snow peas, ginger, celery, and a pineapple from the regular basket – Sweet and Sour Pork
Napa cabbage, green onion, and ginger – Stir fry with ground turkey and shitake mushrooms
Bok Choy – I don’t know yet.  I’ve got plenty of food for the week and this is the odd vegetable out.  Sunday is Meatfare, so I don’t want to make something that won’t be fast worthy for next week if there are too many leftovers.  I’ll wait until later in the week to decide.  It may just turn up in something for Sunday’s potluck lunch after church.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Meatfare Sunday, you can read about it here.  It is the last day we will eat meat before Pascha.  This year Pascha falls on April 20th which is the same as Western Easter.  Last year the two were over a month apart, but occasionally they fall on the same date.

Carnitas

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Carnitas are the pulled pork of Latin food.  They are very easy to make.  You can dress them like your favorite tacos or burritos.  They’re perfect for a Sunday dinner or a busy day.

Carnitas
Most of the members of our family can’t eat tomatoes with pleasant results, so we like avocado, cilantro, lettuce, and refried beans on our carnitas.  You’re also welcome to add a little chile or cayenne to your spices if your family prefers, but we like ours just fine this way.

I doubled the recipe today so I would have enough meat and broth for a soup later this week.  The roast I used is from tamale meat I found on sale near Christmas.

This time I also tossed in three cubes of frozen recaito from when I made pasteles.  It added nice flavors to the meat, but the recipe below is how I’ve been making carnitas for years.  It will be great with or without recaito.

Carnitas

Brown Rice Tortillas
lettuce, avocado, cilantro, tomato, and/or salsa
Refried Beans (I made ours today with pink beans.  You can most likely find them in the Latin food section of your grocery store either canned or dry, but a Latin grocery store would be an even better source.)

2-pounds pork roast (Bones are okay; they are easy to remove after cooking.)
3-4 tsp salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
3 bay leaves or 1/4 cup recaito
3 cups chicken broth (I used leftover frozen broth from making tamales and pasteles)

Trim fat from meat. Cut meat into 2” pieces. Sprinkle meat generously with salt. Place meat in a slow cooker.

Add herbs and spices to the slow cooker and pour broth over mixture.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8-10 hours.

Using a slotted spoon, remove meat from slow cooker. Save broth for soup later this week. When cool enough to handle, coarsely shred meat by pulling two forks through it in opposite directions; discard any fat.

Serve with tortillas and top with your choice of vegetables and salsa.

February 9 – Weekly Menu

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I realized this weekend that Meatfare Sunday is only two weeks away.  That means Lent is coming soon.  I don’t know if I’m ready for it yet, but it’s almost here nonetheless. I’ve been having lots of conversations about Lenten meal planning strategies, but I’ll share my plan another week.

This whole week is a fast free week, so there don’t have to be any vegan meals in the plan unless I just decide I want them.  However, I managed to come up with plenty of meaty meals very easily.

At the end of last week I had celery, onions, cabbage, avocados, and potatoes left in the fridge, so they are the first to be planned into meals this week.  Then there was the new basket of produce from our co-op yesterday.

This week most of the fruit will be for snacks.  We got a bag of granny smith apples, oranges, bananas, blackberries, and strawberries.  I think the strawberries may get added into this tried and true muffin recipe for a Valentine’s treat.  I’ve subbed pear sauce for the applesauce and coconut flour for the almond flour with good results.

As for the vegetables, the ones in bold are from the new produce basket.

Romaine lettuce – Carnitas and side salads throughout the week
Leeks, onion, and celery – Cock-a-Leekie Soup – only this time with chicken and omitting the potatoes.
Zucchini, potatoes, cabbage, and onions – Caldo de Puerco using the broth and leftover meat from cooking the Carnitas
Broccoli and onion – Brown rice penne with garlic olive oil and cooked turkey from the freezer
Cucumber and avocado – California Rolls
Asparagus, cabbage, and potatoes – Steak and potatoes with roasted asparagus, sauteed cabbage, and mashed potatoes

This week’s grocery store run necessitated about thirteen items and none of which were clothing this time.  That was more of an average week for me.  I did buy a five pound bag of carrots, so hopefully I’ll make it to Lent before I need more of those.  I almost regret not getting the twenty pound bag of carrots offered through our co-op, but I think twenty pounds might still be pushing it for my family’s Bugs Bunny like habits.

Spaghetti Squash with Pesto

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My neighbor and I occasionally swap produce from our Bountiful Baskets.  She mostly gets peppers and other members of the nightshade family that we won’t use.  We get wonderful things in return.  Most recently we received some spaghetti squash.  Have I mentioned how we love winter squashes?  With the seeds inside you get dinner and a snack.

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I wish I’d remembered to take a picture when I first cooked this meal.  It got a little mushy after being in the slow cooker during church on Sunday.  Then most of the texture was gone when we reheated the leftovers.   That and it normally has a bit more bright green from the pesto, but I put the mushrooms in at the wrong spot and the color faded with the extended cooking.  Despite that, it tasted great, and several people at church asked for the recipe.  So here you go…

Oh, you can substitute cooked cannellini or cranberry beans in the place of the meat to make this vegan.  That is if you leave the cheese out of your pesto sauce like I do.

Spaghetti Squash with Pesto

1 large spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground pork
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 cup vegan pesto sauce
salt to taste

Brush the cut side of the squash with olive oil.  Place the squash cut side down on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes (varies by size).  You should be able to pierce the flesh with a fork easily without the spaghetti-like texture of the squash becoming mushy.  It should be easy to scoop from the skin.  Remove the squash from the oven and cool for ten minutes (or grab it with a pot holder like I do).  Scoop the insides into a large bowl.

In a skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt.  Saute until the onions are translucent.

Brown the ground pork with the onions.  When it is almost cooked through, add in the mushrooms.  Saute until everything is completely cooked.  Stir in the pesto sauce and warm it slightly.

Toss the meat sauce with the cooked spaghetti squash.  Serve with a side salad.