Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Current Project

I currently have several icons on the table one that is due in September so I am painting a bit most nights trying to get done. I stopped by the local Military supply store and picked up 100 feet of parachute cord. I wanted to use it to make a prayer rope and I have been tying knots but they are large and probably too big for a standard rope. I may just make 10 knots and call it good. The material ties well though and perhaps I will use it next time I teach.

Besides the September icon of the Elevation of the Cross I am doing the Synaxis of the Apostles and St. Dorotheus. I also have Brenda's icon drawn and ready to start, the patron of Nurses, St. Alexandra. Plenty to keep me occupied for a bit at least.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday Dinner

Not sure who is going to show up today for dinner. Hopefully everyone but not to worry, I made plenty. Today is a ribs day and wings of course. I picked up a package of baby zucchini to add to the ones we did not eat up the other day. I also had some fresh corn in the fridge and we always have lettuce and stuff if anyones wants a salad. I am thinking about cornbread today, not sure why but I have a jar of jalapeno's calling to me and a bit of sharp cheddar.

So I am using the last of my homemade rib rub. I have to make more but I have been buying the packaged stuff on sale. It's pretty good but I was really just trying it to see if I should scrap my recipe and use store bought. The jury is still out.

Rubs are complex concoctions of spices that take a while to assemble. Most contain sugars and salts and peppers. I have a collection of different ingredients that I come across as needed. The recipe follows:

2 1/2 T Brown Sugar
2 T Paprika
2 T Dry Mustard
2 t Garlic Powder
2 t Onion Powder
1 1/2 t basil
1 t ground bay leaf
3/4 t coriander
3/4 t Ground Savory
3/4 t Thyme
3/4 t black Pepper
3/4 t White Pepper
1/8 t Cumin
1/4 Salt (I use smoked salt)

Use your coffee grinder if needed to break things up a bit. Mix it all and store in air tight container. Sprinkle liberally over ribs and chicken.

While we were at Trader Joe's I picked up some leeks for the Shrimp Bisque I want to make for Wednesday Night supper. I have a nice package of medium raw shrimp in the freezer and everything else is on hand. Easy!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Shrimp Bisque

We love shrimp and eat plenty of it during Lent but we still have Wednesdays and Fridays to contend with as fasting days. I saw Ina Garten making this super simple recipe the other day and posted it here for myself to remember to make it. I love the fact it has leeks in it and its wasy less fussy than my usual recipe.


  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
  • 4 cups seafood stock
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (3 leeks)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (3 cloves)
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Place the shrimp shells and seafood stock in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and reserve the stock. Add enough water to make 3 3/4 cups.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the leeks and cook them for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, or until the leeks are tender but not browned. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the cayenne pepper and shrimp and cook over medium to low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Cognac and cook for 1 minute, then the sherry and cook for 3 minutes longer. Transfer the shrimp and leeks to a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until coarsely pureed.
In the same pot, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium-low heat for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the half-and-half and cook, stirring with a whisk, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pureed shrimp, the stock, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and

P.S. A few notes after making this tonight. I do not have nor do I have access to fish or seafood stock. I did this instead:
 Bring a quart of water, a whole unpeeled onion halved, 2 cloves of garlic crushed (papers and all)  3 stalks of celery and the shells from the shrimps. Salt and pepper. Simmer till the onion is tender then strain the broth. It should have a nice pinkish color and taste like heaven. Viola! Seafood broth. I buzzed the remaining stuff before adding the half and half. I did not like the stringy quality of the leeks but it buzzed into liquid velvet.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Plaki for 8

So after all my talk of new pots and cooking for the church, Mackenzie 'needed' a batch of Plaki (just the sauce) for sustenance. I surprised her yesterday with a pot of saucy goodness after I pared the recipe down form 100 to about 8 or so. I used he Internet apps to adjust the recipe and then re calculated the ingredients. It came out to this:

5 medium onions sliced
3 large celery stalks chopped
2 T garlic
1 28 oz can of pureed tomatoes
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 14 oz jar of Ragu (don't ask)
1 c red wine
1 T Basil
1 T Oregano
2-3 Bay Leaves
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Saute the veggies in olive oil till soft, add the garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and spices. Simmer for 20 minutes covered to protect your stove. Uncover and adjust the seasoning. Simmer another 20 minutes with lid set ajar to thicken a bit. Stir occasionally. Remove Bay Leaves before serving.

Now, usually you would layer this with some fish (cod especially) and bake till the fish is cooked then serve over pasta. Mackenzie and friends simply serve it over pasta minus the fish. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pot Love

Is it wrong to love a pot? At TJMaxx today I discovered a set of cookware that had my heart racing. Especially this smallest one (8 Gallons!)  This heavy bottomed baby is about 24 inches tall and holds about 8 gallons.

Wow. Are you thinking Plaki sauce?  I am. Cooking that sauce in the spring for 100 makes me crazy cause I have nothing big enough to hold it all in one place.  The price was $100 so that put me off a bit and I am sure it won't be there long but I have lust for this pot. I know it's wrong.

PS...I thought about it and considered it a donation to the church and bought it. Its very cool, I am very weak. I am postive I can use it for other things...turkey brining? Yes. It will be very useful.

Eating Omaha...Mojo's

A sultry summers evening in the big O and it was Matt's turn to pick. He picked this place based on a very recent review in the paper and Matt loves smoked meats. He smokes them very well himself. This place was lauded for it's smoked fare and emphasis on that rather than sauces. 

The place is great in a fantastic location, Aksarben Village. For those of you uninitiated, "Aksarben" is Nebraska spelled backwards. There was a Saturday night concert on the green, the whole place buzzing with activities. Mojo's was steadily busy but not overly so that we got a table quickly. A very nice young man waited on us and beers were procured all around as the menu was perused. They have a full range of tasty treats including the standards burgers and wings but they also had a smoked NY Strip. I passed for tonight and I ordered a 3 meat plate to try a few things. Matt did also. The ladies had sandwiches. My wife had a Cuban Pork and Lori had brisket.

Everything was OK. Just OK. I had smoked brisket, chicken and ribs. There were 4 baby back ribs that were a little tough and the brisket was a bit chewy also. The chicken had great smokey flavor reminding me of my Grandpa Sam's smoked chicken in the backyard at 19th and N Street. The sides I choose, beans and potato salad were...OK. I would not seek this place out for food but would stop there again. My platter was $20. Brenda enjoyed her Cuban Pork sandwich for $9. It was a pleasant experience but not sure that I crave it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Perhaps "no faith" is the reason.....

Elder Porphyrios and the Scantily Clothed Women

Two incidents from the life of the holy Elder Porphyrios demonstrate the discernment we must have regarding our neighbor.

The Girl With the "Super Mini Skirt" Has a Wonderful Soul!

Years ago, when the Elder served at the Polyclinic of Athens, while walking in the area of Omonoia one day with two girls who were his spiritual children, he saw from across the street a young woman coming with a sexy appearance. She was wearing the familiar "super mini skirt" which was fashionable. When they saw her, the Elder said:

"What do you have to say? What are you thinking? Are you judging that woman?"

"No, Elder", they responded, understanding their position.

"You do well to not judge her", said the Elder. "Do not judge people from their outward appearance. That girl you see has a wonderful soul! She has a dynamic soul. That which she is doing now, that is provoking, is due to the strength of her soul. Imagine what would happen if that girl came to know Christ, and knew everything that you knew. Then she will certainly reach a high place."

This was the way Fr. Porphyrios counseled and taught. He guided through life and experience.

They Came to the Elder With Indecent Clothing

One day, when I went to the Elder, he met with some girls who had come to see him. However, they were dressed indecently. Elder Porphyrios chatted with them on various spiritual topics, but he made no comment regarding their appearance. I, admittedly, was internally indignant with these girls, who went to such a holy Elder dressed in this way, and I was scandalized by the fact that Elder Porphyrios did not make any observations.

When the girls left, he said to me, smiling:

"Mr. (so and so), I am not as strict as you are."

Of course, I knew immediately that he had captured my thoughts and scandalization. But I asked him:

"Why do you say that, Elder?"

He said then:

"Those girls came here with that appearance and I did not make a comment. I have another tactic. Because, even if I did talk about their appearance, since they have no faith in Christ, they would not comply. I first attempted to bring them to faith in Christ, and then, by themselves, they will understand their error and correct it."

Source: Ἀνθολόγιο Συμβουλῶν Γέροντος Πορφυρίου, σελ. 168, 169. Translation by John Sanidopoulos.
I struggle with this very problem nearly every Sunday myself. I am not proud of myself and I cannot understand my attitude. I am sure I am being tested and failing miserably.
We are frequently confronted with a myriad of outfits that have no place in church whether that is a skirt far to short or men in  short pants, shower shoes  and sloppy tees. This snippet of an interview, it finally makes some sense. These people are just "playing" at church. They have no real understanding, no real care. For them it's social, a lark, something to make the best of but no real meaning for them. They come and go regardless of the gravity of the service and have no comprehension of it's importance. It's no use to comment or correct. They are raised by parents who have barely taken the time to have a rudimentary understanding themselves. Our only hope is that one day "they understand their error and correct it". For some reason that puts me to rest and clears my head.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


By America's Test Kitchen | March 14, 2012


    These nut-flavored meringue cookies are best made with almond flour (sold in natural foods stores and specialty stores). If you can’t find almond flour substitute 15 ounces of slivered almonds, processed to a fine flour in a food processor. Be sure to grease the parchment paper or these cookies will stick. For best results, bake the cookies one sheet at a time. For the buttercream frosting, make sure that the sugar mixture is poured into the egg yolks while still hot. For fun, consider adding some color to the frosting by stirring in small drops of food coloring; this buttercream has a natural pale yellow color that might slightly affect the hue of the frosting when adding food coloring.
    3¾ cups (15 ounces) almond flour (see note above)
    3⅓ cups (13⅓ ounces) confectioners’ sugar
    5 large egg whites
    Pinch cream of tartar
    5 teaspoons granulated sugar
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract

    3 large egg yolks
    ½ cup sugar
    ⅓ cup light corn syrup
    1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
    Pinch of salt
    2½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened

    1. FOR THE BUTTERCREAM: Whip the egg yolks in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until slightly thickened and pale yellow, 4 to 6 minutes.
    2. Meanwhile, bring the sugar and corn syrup to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, about 3 minutes.
    3. Without letting the hot sugar mixture cool off, turn the mixer to low and slowly pour the warm sugar syrup into the whipped egg yolks without hitting the side of the bowl or the beaters. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip the mixture until it is light and fluffy and the bowl is no longer warm, 5 to 10 minutes.
    4. Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and add the vanilla and salt. Gradually add the butter, one piece at a time, until completely incorporated, about 2 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip the buttercream until smooth and silky, about 2 minutes. (If the mixture looks curdled, wrap a hot, wet towel around the bowl and continue to whip until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.)
    5. FOR THE COOKIES: Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and grease the paper. Fit a pastry bag with a ½-inch plain tip.
    6. Pulse half of the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar together in a food processor until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a medium bowl and repeat with the remaining almond flour and confectioners’ sugar.
    7. In a large bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar together with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until they are foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip the whites to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. Gradually whip in the granulated sugar, about 1 minute. Continue to whip the whites until they are glossy and form stiff peaks, 1 to 3 minutes.
    8. Gently fold one-quarter of the almond flour mixture into the whites, followed by the vanilla. Gradually fold in the remaining almond mixture until a thick, gloppy batter forms. Fill the pastry bag with the mixture.
    9. Pipe the batter into 2-inch mounds on the prepared baking sheets, spaced about 1 inch apart. Gently tap the baking sheets to level the mounds. Use the back of a spoon or your finger dipped in water to smooth the tops of the cookies. Let the macarons rest at room temperature until the tops are dry and a smooth skin has formed, 1 to 2 hours.
    10. Half an hour before baking, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until lightly browned, about 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Carefully transfer the hot cookies from the parchment paper onto a wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.
    11. TO FILL THE COOKIES: Before serving, spread a generous tablespoon of the buttercream over the bottom of a cookie, then make a sandwich by pressing the bottom of another cookie onto the buttercream; repeat with the remaining cookies and buttercream.

    Monday, July 16, 2012

    80th Birthday Celebration

    My Mom turned 80 this past week so we took her out to dinner, kicking it old school and visiting a great place we ate at earlier in "Eating Omaha", Piccolo Pete's.  Mom had not been here in years and we had a great steak dinner (and I mean great!) and assorted cakes from Nothing Bundt Cakes. Trying to corral the kids for a quick snapshot is like herding cats. Everyone has a place to be or something better to do. Nick had to work so that put us on a  bit of a rush . I will be enjoying the rest of my steak for lunch today. The portions are quite generous.

    Saturday, July 14, 2012

    Leaving Church Early?

    On Leaving Church Early

    By St. John the Prophet

    Question 736: If one enters the church during the time of liturgy and leaves before the end, is this a sin?

    Response: What is perfect and pleasing to God is for the person entering the church to hear the Scriptures and remain in the liturgy until the very end. For unless there is good reason, one should not leave before the end; for this is scornful. If some need presents itself, then that person has permission to leave early. However, even then, such a person should not justify oneself, but ask forgiveness from God, saying: "Master, forgive me; for, I was not able to stay."

    From The Letters of Saints Barsanuphios and John; translated by John Chryssavgis.

    Monday, July 9, 2012

    French Baguettes...an experiment in the Baker's Arts

    French Baguette
    Julia Child

    1 package dry active yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
    3 1/2 cups unbleached flour (bread flour) (NOTE: I use 4 cups)
    2 1/4 tsp salt
    1 1/3 cups cold water plus 1/3 or so additional water

    Place the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of the food process. Pulse to mix. Add 1 1/3 cups of water and process until the dough comes together. If the dough doesn't form a ball, add a little of the extra water. Process for about 60 seconds, turn off machine and let dough rest for 5 minutes.

    Turn on the machine again and rotate the dough about 30 times under the cover, and then remove it to a lightly floured work surface. it should be fairly smooth and quite firm.

    Let the dough rest for 2 minutes and then knead roughly and vigorously. The final dough should not stick to your hands as you knead (although it will stick if you pinch and hold a piece); it should be smooth and elastic and, when you hold it up between your hands and stretch it down, it should hold together smoothly.

    Preliminary rise - 40 to 60 minutes at around 75°F. Place the dough into a clean dry bowl, (do not grease the bowl), cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place free from drafts. (note the French do not grease the bowl because they believe the dough needs a seat to push up from). This first rise is sufficient when the dough has definitely started to rise and is about 1 1/2 times its original volume.


    Turn the dough onto your lightly floured work surface roughly and firmly pat and push it out into a 14 inch rectangle. Fold one of the long sides over toward the middle, and the other long side over to cover it, making a 3 layer cushion. Repeat the operation. This important step redistributes the yeast throughout the dough, for a strong second rise. Return the dough smooth side up the bowl; cover with plastic wrap and again set to rise.

    Final rise in the bowl - about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or longer. The bread should be 2 1/2 to 3 times its original bulk. It is the amount of rise that is important here, not the timing.

    To Shape,

    Cut the dough in half. Set one piece aside and cover with a towel.

    On a lightly floured work surface pat the dough into a 14 inch rectangle, squaring it up as evenly as you can.

    Fold the rectangle of dough in half lengthwise and using the heel of your hand, firmly press the edges together whether they meet. Seat well. Pound the dough flat. Now repeat - patting the dough out again and folding it over and sealing the edges. Pinch the edges well and Rotate the dough so that the sealed edge in on the bottom.

    Repeat with second piece of dough.

    Cover with plastic wrap or loosely with a towel and let rise to more than double again at about 75°f.

    Place stone in oven and Preheat oven to 450°F. Slash three long cuts into the loaves and place on the hot stone. Immediately toss a number of ice cubes on to the bottom on the oven to create steam. Bake until bread is golden and has an interior temp of 200°F. Takes about 30 minutes.

    Making Dough in a Mixer or by Hand

    When you are making dough in an electric mixer with a dough hook, proceed in the same general way with the rests indicated, and finish by hand. or mix the dough by hand in a bowl, turn out on a work surface, and start the kneading by lifting it up with a scraper and slapping it down roughly for several minutes until it has body. Let it rest several minutes and then proceed to knead.
    These are NOT mine. I wish! I 'borrowed' this photo from Thibeault's Table. She makes some really great looking bread.
    I've decided to start messing with Baker's Percentages and calculating my doughs based on a professional formula rather than the cups and measurments most of us home baker's use. Let's see how it goes.

    Here is the basic formula:

    French Bread
    Ingredient           Percent           Weight
    Bread Flour             100            600g
    Water                        70             420g
    Salt                              2             12g
    Yeast                        0.5               3g
    Total                    172.5

    Using this method I will have to weigh 4 cups of flour in grams and use that to start calculating my complete recipe. 1 cup of flour weighs in at 150g (x 4 = 600g)

    Birthday Dinner for the Birthday Boy!

    Oops! I embarassed Mackenzie, sorry.
     Yesterday was the only day we could probably all get together for Nick's birthday so we invited the kids and some friends and celebrated in style...my style. First we had to have steak, according the the Mrs. but I had none, just a whole NY Strip roast. I thawed it and cut it into 12 pretty thick steaks. About 1 1/2 inch a piece.
    cut and ready to be seasoned and grilled.
    We wanted to keep it pretty simple so we made the Roasted Parmesan Onions again, a nice green salad, some steamed broccoli and I made an attempt at a Strawberry Wedding Cake. A nice Red was served and that was a pretty tasty meal. I had about 6 or 7 steaks left over so it will be steak salad the rest of the week as well as some for a pizza, yum!.  We had a great time, lots of laughs and Nick had bought Man Bot shirts for the three of them. They all looked so cute.

    Thursday, July 5, 2012

    Fried Corn

    Ok I know what you're thinking but really it's not deep fried, just pan fried or sauted if you prefer. Years ago, a gal told me about her family Southern tradition of a side dish of fried corn and okra. Now, I am a fan of okra but only pickled and in Gumbo, but feel free to add it if thats your thing.

    I use fresh corn cut from the ear. Saute in a fry pan in  a tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and maybe a pat of butter. The corn will release some liquid and eventually carmelize a bit. The finished texture will be a little chewy, incedibly sweet and savory. Simply cook this way for about 8-10 minutes. Yum.

    Wednesday, July 4, 2012

    4th of July Dinner

    Today is a lazy day. I got up early and mowed the lawn. All the neighbors are gone it looks like and I grilled on Sunday so today is all about fried chicken. The kids are gone or working so it's just us.
    how is that for a well balanced plate?

    The chicken has been soaking in buttermilk for 24 hours using Alton Brown's method. Today I will fry it after draining the buttermilk  then seasoning with 1T salt, 2 T paprika, 2t garlic powder and 1t cayenne pepper. Dredge the seasoned chicken in flour the fry in shortening at 325F for 15-20 mins per side. Now I haven't fried chicken in ages but here goes. To accompany this rare feast, I am cooking collard greens and Roasted Creamed Parmesan Onions (recipe under 'Vegetables'). There may be some sweet corn too if I am lucky.

    PS: I got lucky! The stand still had some corn.   The chicken was great and crisp but a dark mahogany color, moist and tender inside. The onions are crazy good and the collards are fantastic with a bit of vegetable seasoning and salt. This was an A+ meal. Yum.

    TIP:  I don't usually find such useful information online but this really works. I cooked the corn by popping it in the microwave for 8-10 minutes, husks and all. When it was done, I cut the bottoms off, held it by the silky tops and shook out the cooked cobs, virtually silk free! Yay it works!


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