Monday, April 21, 2014

Lamb and chicken


Great success with our Paschal Lamb dinner on Sunday. I used Ina Garten's recipe for 4 hour Lamb but it could have cooked a bit longer as it was carve-able rather than fall off the bone. I think next time I will use the crock pot and set it for 8 hours since the crock cooks at a lower temp. 

The wine really cooked down and I made a gravy of it with a touch of cream after straining it and skimming the fat. The gravy was very good. Definitely a recipe we will use again.I posted the recipe earlier. Between the wings, hot dogs, Greek style grilled chicken with Tzatziki and the sides we had a rich feast of foods.

A week or so ago we made a nice Salmon supper for the Fangman's and the dessert was a big hit. I thought I had posted it on the blog but here it is:

Panne Cotta

2 1/2 cups cream
1/4 c milk
1 pkg unflavored gelatin
1/2 c sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Soak the gelatin in the milk till softened.
Bring the cream to a simmer and add the sugar, vanilla and gelatin mix.

Stir and cook till the gelatin is dissolved completely. Pour into individual ramekins and allow to cool in the fridge.

I served this with a berry coulis topping. Like a rich cream pudding. so tasty.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Post Paschal Letdown

We are hurtling towards the culmination of our Paschal journey and are planning our usual "feast" on Sunday but as Brenda and I spoke on the way to Wednesday's service we realized we really have few to  celebrate with. Our circle of folks that have shared the experience with us in the past has dwindled to zero for the most part.  Its really not about fasting as much as sharing the common experience. Its a lot more fun to have a meat festival with folks who can appreciate not having meat for the forty plus days. That and the intensity of participation abruptly ends and leaves you wanting.

We used to have a Big Fat Greek Pascha Party but few of our guests were Orthodox so they really didn't 'get' our excitement for that first taste of grilled chicken and lamb. We eventually stopped having the party.  Our parish is, for the most part, multi-generational families that have their own traditions to uphold.

 I think our best years were at another church where hamburgers were grilled at someone's house and all the unattached folks gathered into a large group of fellowship. Just a bunch of strangers with nowhere else to go. My kind of gathering. It was odd though to have so many converts our age and a lot of those converts are no longer with the church.

I guess in the next few years we will join the church picnic instead of cooking for ourselves but even that is bittersweet for you see, to me, cooking is an addiction. I just love to cook and have folks over. I just got an All Clad fry pan for Pete's sake (on clearance at TJ Maxx for a steal).  Maybe its time to open a restaurant.

Monday, April 14, 2014

What are you willing to sacrifice?

A thought provoking question posed to us yesterday after the Homily as part of the announcements at church. Standing before us, Father Alex outlined  Holy Week and his expectations for us with some pretty thought provoking insights as well as some very direct instructions. I was impressed coming from the history we have had with previous pastors, this guy is serious and seriously knows his stuff. There has been nothing nonchalant about our Pascha journey this year. We are hitting it hard and head on and Father is pulling no punches.

Holy Week has started. It began last night with the first Bridegroom service which we missed but that should be the only service we can't make. Tonight, another Bridegroom and so forth for the rest of the week. On Friday, we are having a soup supper after the Hours service which he is holding at 5 instead of three so more us can make the service until the Lamentations at 7.

So what was so thought provoking on Sunday? No TV on Saturday, a quiet day when the Lord is working on His Resurrection. And here is what really hit home, no sports/activities for the kids on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Really, no sports, I love it. Holy Week is important, so why not make it important?  What a sacrifice. Something so simple, a no brainer really but how many are willing to give it up?  I have never heard a pastor stand before us and say this to us. I love this guy. How many Sundays were missed because Jr. had a basketball game? Or baseball game or hockey? How many of us are too complacent to stand before another man and say, "Church comes first?" Can we expect our children to attend if you constantly subjugate Church to a secondary, unimportant event that can be missed when something better comes along? The matter of children staying in the church after graduation is much more complicated than this as we can well attest in our family but this casual attitude has to break some of the bonds for sure.

How many are really ready to acknowledge their Christian faith and comply by understanding what this week really represents? How many of us are willing to stand at the foot of His cross with Mary and John (the only two left after the Crucifixion). How many of us are willing to really offer up any kind of sacrifice for this short period of time?  Darn few I would guess but we'll see. Meanwhile,  bravo Father Alex, bravo.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Prepping for the Big Day

Normally I buy a New Zealand Leg of Lamb and butterfly it open, marinate it in Moroccan spice and grill it. This year I am up to something new. I bought a semi boneless American leg and I plan to slow roast (braise) it in white wine and garlic ala Ina Garten from her recent show. 


1 (6 to 7-pound) leg of lamb (see note)
Good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 (750-ml) bottle dry white wine
2 heads of garlic, broken apart but not peeled
15 large sprigs fresh rosemary
15 large sprigs fresh thyme
6 bay leaves


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Rub the lamb all over with olive oil and season all over with salt and pepper. Heat a very large Dutch oven such as Le Creuset over medium-high heat until its hot. Add the lamb and sear on all sides for about 12 minutes, until its browned all over. Remove the lamb to a plate.

Add the wine and 2 cups of water to the pan and cook for a minute or two, scraping up all the brown bits in the bottom. Add the garlic, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves and the lamb on top. Place the lid on the pot and bake in the oven for 4 hours, basting occasionally. (If you dont have a lid, you can cover it tightly with 2 layers of aluminum foil.)

After 4 hours, the lamb should be incredibly tender and falling off the bone. Remove the lamb to a plate, cover it tightly with foil and allow it to rest. Strain the sauce into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes to reduce. The lamb will be too tender to slice; serve it warm with spoons and the sauce.

Read more at:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

And so it begins....The start of Holy Week

Saturday begins the long cycle of services that culminates in Pascha for the Greek Orthodox Church. Lots of tradition and prayer goes along with the marathon of services that we gird ourselves for. This year a decision was made to hold most our beloved Pre Sanctified services as Pan Orthodox. We were unable to attend them as they went very long and we rise early in our house to make it to work. The absence of the services in our lives really deflated the rest of the season for us. I am sure the clergy thought it was in our best interest but frankly the most beautiful service happened to be our first of the season attended by an amazing number of people and our own little choir. After that, they moved all over town and the length became unwieldy and just silly especially after most had fasted all day to take communion.

This Saturday is Lazarus Saturday, a foretelling of the future Resurrection service. That marks the beginning of Palm Sunday, Bridegroom Matins and then a litany of evening prayers and day services that culminates on Sunday morning about 1 a.m.  It's a long haul and we are usually spent at the end of it sometimes even taking Monday off to recover depending on our chosen level of participation.

The icon  above plays predominately in the first few days of Holy Week. It is called The Nymphios or Bridegroom and shows the bound Lord before the Crucifixion. In Orthodox icons, the dramatic flair is downplayed as the icon represents the transfigured character so no blood or agony just a reassuring calmness. This particular icon will be decorated with a floral frame and venerated many, many times before the end of next week. I painted it specifically for the church at this time of the year.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Plaki for 100, Dinner for 2

Yesterday was a busy day with church and a benefit and I had to make the Plaki sauce for Palm Sunday as I would not have much time the rest of the week. So 15 pounds of peeled onions and lots of tears later, I made 5 gallons of sauce in my large pot and packaged it for the church. Meanwhile I have a gallon left over or so so dinner was set and a container or two set aside for friends and Mackenzie.

Psari Plaki  is a traditional Greek way of cooking fish in a tomato based sauce heavy on the onions, celery and garlic, seasoned with Oregano and Basil. Basically I used some great cod we had in the freezer and roasted the fish in the fresh sauce base for about 30 minutes. It is traditionally served over pasta at our church with a sprinkling of Parmesan which always confused me a bit since my more traditional Slav background forbade cheese during Lent (of course, we only fasted for a week, not all of Lent) but when in Greece....

The recipes vary but remains about the same. Onions, lots of onions, celery, tomatoes, garlic and seasonings. I use a bit of lemon also. A firm white fish  (Red Snapper is more traditional) we use Cod.
Elsewhere on the blog you will find the recipe for 100 and a recipe for 8 as Mackenzie occasionally craves the sauce just for fun. I have used the leftover sauce (buzzed it with my hand held blender) for pizza too.

Kali Orexi!

Friday, April 4, 2014

And now....Everything changes

Like every other family we are facing great change. Yesterday,  Ben got great news that he was offered a position at KU as an ICU nurse. He has always wanted the opportunity and now his wish has come true. Nice, but that means in just a few short weeks he will move to Kansas City along with Nicholas, who work on his DNP in Anesthesia at KU and we will no longer have access to them easily.

The kids have been out of the house for several years now and we always dreamed of having those Norman Rockwell Sunday Suppers. It happened on rare occasion but in reality, with work schedules and night hours, it never became a regular event. As a matter of fact, all holidays became logistics nightmares as we tried to accommodate schedules around meal planning and it did not always end up in a great place for any of us.

This will be a major change. I am sure big sister Mackenzie will realize the implications very soon also as the boys will no longer be around for that bail out help they were always grudgingly good for. Especially Ben.  And we are getting older. I feel it everyday, especially the last few months. We will have to hire help for the heavy lifting and the rest of it.  Our dynamic has indeed changed. So we face an uncertain future as most parents and kids do full of fear and trepidation, excitement and exhilaration, pride and prejudice. Our friends, Matt and Lori, faced this when their kids took off to Chicago just as they made the move to Omaha. While they seemed to take it in stride I am sure there were some emotions we were never privy to similar to what we are going though now.

We are actually excited to have an excuse to visit Kansas City once in a while. The boys will do fine regardless. Nicholas is a great student and fantastic guy and will succeed beyond his imagination. Ben needs a change of venue and some time away from the familiar. The change of pace will do him good.  So all in all, its a good thing, but....why do we feel so sad?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bloody Mary Shrimps

Finding exciting ways to prepare shrimps as we wind down
our Lenten journey has been a challenge. Pinterest has an amazing variety of tastes and levels of skill for cooking. Yesterday I stumbled across this recipe for a spicy version of shrimp that made some sense.

They look tasty don't they? 

Bloody Mary Shrimps:

Marinate a pound of large shrimps in
1tbl chili powder
1t garlic powder
1t salt
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/2 t chipotle powder
Pinch of pepper
3 tbl honey
2 tbl vodka
1 tbl ketchup
1 tbl Worcestershire
1/2 tbl Tabasco
2 tbl olive oil
Juice of 1 lime or lemon

Marinate for a few hours. Grill on a hot grill pan till just pink then turn and finish. Remove from pan as not to overcook. Spicy, tangy and delicious. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Still plugging along....Lenten wise

Not too much to post about with the simple meals we have been eating for Lent lately. Our usual Wednesday Potlucks have been hijacked by the Pan Orthodox celebrations which makes it tough to even post about the Potluck foods. we have not been able to attend most of the Pan Orthodox stuff due to work schedules and I hate to go alone. I rarely know many folks there anymore.

So our diet lately consists of, besides buckets of boiled shrimp, mostly odds and ends. We are odds and ends eaters due to random leftovers and scarcity of foods. Last night I wasn't all that hungry and very tired for some reason, I napped hard. Bread, left over pasta, edamame and a glass of milk was all about I could muster (the milk is not even Lenten). Brenda ate the pasta, I ate the rest. we are at the halfway point though and that makes it easier to see the finish line so sorry about the lack of blog interest but as our diet improves so will the posts....

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Boons and Busts

We have been eating a lot of seafood and we are looking for ways to change it up a bit. Last night our usual Salmon was kicked up a notch with the addition of some Dill Sauce. Brenda likes Dill but I am not a huge fan. This recipe brought us together though.

1/2 c mayo (we used light version)
1/2 sour cream (we used light version)
1 Tbl dill weed chopped fine
1 Tbl onion chopped fine
1/4 t garlic salt
1 tsp Horse radish
1 Tbl Lemon juice 

Mix all and allow to sit in the fridge for a bit. Mighty tasty on fresh grill salmon.

For the shrimp I wanted a better cocktail sauce. I watched Heartland Table and found this.

1/2 large sweet onion minced
2 tablespoons of coriander seeds toasted and ground
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 t dry

2 cups whole canned Plum tomatoes pulsed in a processor
1 bay leaf
zest of 1/2 lemon and juice
3-4 tablespoons of horseradish
4 shakes of cayenne
4 teaspoons of sugar

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and saute the onions until coppery brown. Add the ground coriander and thyme and stir. Add the tomatoes and cook uncovered till the tomatoes thicken and darken. Add the lemon juice, zest and horseradish, sugar and cayenne.  Cool to room temperature.

I found this a little blah so we added about 1/4 c Sriacha and some salt. That really brought it.


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