Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Good Questions...good answers

By Fr. Stephen Ziton 
Let’s begin by taking a look at what happens when we do not keep the fast. In Genesis 3 we learn of the fall of Adam and Eve, and how their failure to keep the fast when they ate the forbidden fruit was a sin (i.e., love of their own will more than the will of God) which caused mankind to be expelled from paradise and perfect union with the Creator. Why would we want to mimic the original sin?

Our bodies and our souls are connected in such a way that the actions of our bodies articulate the attitudes of our souls. Prayer is not just a function of the soul alone. We see this phenomenon often in the Scriptures. In Luke, when the Samaritan leper gave thanks for his healing, he did more than just say words, he “fell down on his face at [Jesus’] feet” (9:16). Later, in chapter 18, the Publican praying in the temple was so full of sorrow, he would not even look in the direction of the heavens, but cast his eyes down and smote his breast while praying for mercy. And it is more than mere coincidence that we prostrate when we say the prayer of St. Ephraim during Great Lent, “O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk. . . .”

All of the Holy Fathers of the Church, as well as many of the saints from both the Old and New Testament, practiced fasting, including Christ Himself. In fact, Jesus also taught that certain forms of evil could not be conquered without it (Matt 17:21).

Father Thomas Hopko reminds us that man does not fast because it pleases God if His servants do not eat, for, as the Lenten hymns of the Church tell us, “the devil also never eats.” Neither do we fast in order to afflict ourselves with suffering and pain, for God takes no pleasure in the discomfort of His people. But we fast only to gain mastery over ourselves and to conquer the passions of the flesh.

If I may insert a personal note here, fasting helps me on several levels. First, when I cannot have any amount of meat or dairy, my body reminds me. My lack of contentment with what I eat is something of which I am continually aware. But this helps me become more focused in prayer because my sensitivities have not been dulled by foods that satisfy. Also, it gives my spirituality a realistic barometer that lets me know where I am with my faith. It’s easy to use the verbiage of an addict (“I can begin the fast anytime I want to”) because we are all addicted to food to various degrees. But it is a very practical dilemma with which we have to come to grips meal after meal. For example, do I love the Big Mac more than I love the Lord and doing his will? Is there any real harm to that cup of cappuccino? After all, God is going to have to forgive me of much bigger sins than eating a cheese sandwich. Excuses are never very far away.

It can be easy to justify not participating in the fast to your greatest ability if that is your desire. If you’ve never done it, it’s hard to describe what you’re missing. But it’s a great first step to growing as a Christian. Fasting can be a lot easier when it is viewed not as an end in itself, but as something which aids in our repentance. So, ask your Spiritual Father to give guidance if you’ve never fasted before. Avoiding the foods from which the Church asks us to abstain is easier if you replace them by increasing worthy activities like self-examination, works of love, giving to the poor, prayer, reading the Scriptures and the Fathers, and refraining from gossip. If you are only avoiding certain foods and aren’t doing those things which edify, then you are not really fasting; you’re just on some kind of weird diet. The bottom line is Christ fasted (Matt 4) and taught His disciples to fast (Matt 6, Mk 2). Are you participating as best as you can ...? Are you one of His disciples?

Fr. Stephen is pastor of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church, Wichita, KS. 
Word Magazine  March 2000 Page 14 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cheese and Onion Enchiladas

We have been purchasing enchiladas from a lady at Brenda's work. They are spectacular.

You know me? I can't leave this alone. I had to make my own after tasting her Cheese and Onion Enchiladas. The first task is to make enchilada sauce. No, you can't buy it, you must make it there is no comparison.
For the Sauce:

Dried Chili's, stems removed.   I used New Mexico and Guajillo Chili's, about 20 or so total.
water, a quart
salt to taste
1/2 t Oregano
Beef bullion or beef stock

Place the chili's on a baking sheet and roast (toast) at 400 degrees till fragrant. It does not take long, don't burn them.
Meanwhile boil the water. After the chili's come out of the oven, throw them in the boiling water and simmer for 20 minutes or so till they are soft.  Process them in a food processor or blender till smooth adding the 'tea' from the boil to thin them out. It took about 2 cups.

Once well pureed, strain the mix over a bowl and press to remove the liquid and have nothing but pulp left. Discard the pulp.

To this puree, thin if necessary and add the bullion (if using),  oregano and salt. (I did not use salt as the bullion is salty enough. ) Taste and correct the seasoning. It should taste pretty good by now. The consistency I had was like thin cream.Yields about 2 cups.

For the Enchiladas:

1 large onion, chopped medium fine
2 T olive oil
8-10 flour tortillas (I used low carb)
8 ounces total (maybe more) of fresh grated Cheddar and Monterrey Jack. 

 Saute the onions till they pick up some color. Set aside.  Spread some of the sauce out into a shallow pan. Coat both sides of the tortilla with sauce (it will be thin) and then 1/4 to 1/2 c of cheese mix and top with a heaping tablespoon of the onions.  Roll them up tight.  I placed these in a greased rectangular casserole. Topped with a bit of cheese.  Reserve the left over sauce for your next adventure.

Bake at 350 for 10 or 15 minutes till the cheese melts and is bubbly.

The redder the dried chili, the redder the sauce. I used very dark red chili's so the sauce is browner. Notice there is not tomato or anything else in the sauce, its pretty basic and very tasty.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

H1N1 and the Human Condition...a sad conclusion

We went to see Greg last night, to look at him, touch him and be with the continuing vigil of support that surrounds him like a favorite worn blanket after the massive stroke that took him away. Brenda had been up the night before and met most of the Omaha Police Department that Greg worked with who have a brotherhood not unlike the military, leaving no man behind.

We did not see Vanessa last night as she probably hunkered down with the kids who are the worst collateral damage to what has happened. Imagine trying to explain the unimaginable to some children when you can't believe it yourself. Heartbreaking.

A lot of the gals have already made plans to be there for Vanessa over the next few weeks and months to help her through the worst of it but does it ever get better?  Especially after seeing him last night. I have smoked a few cigars with Greg in the past and listened to some of his stories (and there were many) and I saw no difference in the ICU bed. Here lies a guy, large in stature, healthy looking despite the medical hardware, warm and robust. No wonder this is hard to explain, he literally looks asleep. They will harvest his graciously donated organs today and the lucky recipients will have a part of this genuine fellow to carry on but leaves the rest of us wondering....what just happened here?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Great Lent...the beginning

We are close to starting Great Lent as we do every year. Not something we look forward to but once into it it seems to be a natural cycle and we don't ever mind participating. For us that means no meat for the next 4-6 weeks as well as a break from dairy and eggs if we can manage.

An increase in services and attendance to the church, Friday night Fish Fry's (even though, technically, fish is not on the menu during most of lent), scouring the ads for sales on shrimp and seafood and creative vegetarian dishes or adjustments to our regular fair to make dishes vegetarian.  We have been collecting recipes for the last few weeks since it is always nice to have something different for the Potlucks.

This year, I'm a bit anxious as we have a new priest and I am hoping we use the same books. I like those services but if history is any indication, it will be nothing like our past Wednesdays.  So a new year, a new Lent and a season of repentance and fasting in the near future but we have our parish friends and family to get us along.

Eating Omaha....The Fangman's

We had a invite on Valentine's Day from some very special friends, the Fangman's. Over the last few year's we have cooked for each other. My efforts not quite so formal but tiers is always a spectacular event.

Friday we dine on Filet of beef perfectly cooked (pan seared with a pat of butter, finished in the oven), Lori's recipe for Party Potatoes and a delicious salad of mixed greens and vinaigrette. Dessert was a layered Red Velvet Cake that I was able to snatch a sample from Brenda's plate. We had wine and drinks and conversation and laughter, especially laughter. I think that's the best part of getting together with these folks is that we always seem to be laughing. This time the added bonus of a fabulous meal was just the icing on the cake. Thanks guys.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

H1N1 and the Human Condition

Our weekend started as usual with breakfast and a early movie at discounted rates. Just about the halfway mark, my wife was so distracted by a flurry of group texts, we left. A co worker's husband had been hospitalized with the flu. In the ICU, ventilated and in multi organ failure. From the flu.

Life is tough but life is surprising frail. We spent the afternoon in the ICU waiting room at a local hospital with a interesting mix of people that had rallied in support of the wife and ailing husband offering prayers and comfort filing in and out, gathering in unlikely groups. His side was heavily muscled,tattooed bearded men in watch caps, hers were nurses, lots of nurses who like her, have done this before and will do this again for sure. This group of gals has an incredible record of sticking it out and being there for each other, no matter what.

This is a big man with even bigger friends and coworkers. I think its why we marvel (not in a good way) at such a small organism being able to humble the strongest of us and imperil our existence. The true amazement here is that most of the comforters in the room were co workers. His and hers. I mean family is one thing but if you think that I see my co workers more than my family, daily and many more hours at a time, it's very impressive.

So today we will stop again after church, offer help and support, ask God for mercy, cry and laugh with the assembly of folks who have gathered in honor of this man and his wife. He is still in critical condition hanging on minute to minute trying to fight something so tiny and hold on to life so precious but so very frail.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Weddings and Anniversaries

We had a great weekend planned with a huge wedding and our annual celebration of our engagement.

The wedding pretty much killed the whole Saturday. It started at 2 and the church was packed and it was followed but the best darn party we had the pleasure to attend. Our very good, old friends Bob and Kim's only daughter was to be wed and they were kind enough to include us in the festivities. It was a great party and we stayed late and had a great time. The food was exceptional as was the entertainment.

Sunday was a lazy day for us and Nick and Jill stopped by the help us celebrate our usual fare for this occasion, Veal Saltimbucco with Fettuccine Alfredo.  A nice bottle of wine and some pleasant conversation, the Olympics to watch and a funny show we found on HBO.  I also made some Lamb Burgers due to a mix up in menus so Nick took one home, I brought one for Ben and the other I may just eat tonight.

Eating Omaha... Over Easy

Several weeks ago there was a article in the Omaha World Herald about this new breakfast place. We had noticed a sign on the corner regarding homemade Poptarts so we were intrigued and happened to have an opportunity to stop by Sunday morning.

One of the things the paper touted was the Poptart so we started there and made our way through the menu. It came hot with an obscene amount of melted butter on top. We order the Clementine and the filling was delicious but the tart itself left something to be desired. I found it under cooked with some the layers kind of doughy. It looked nothing like the flakey attractive photo printed in the OWH.

article photo
The OWH version crisp, flaky, strudel like
Our Version not at all the same.Doughy and heavy.

Our service was awful by the way and the place was not all that busy. We asked for water and coffee refills. Brenda drinks decaf and a pot was brewing the whole time we were there. Not sure she got a refill after the first one.

Brenda ordered a Baked Egg Boat (eggs baked in a french bread boat) but it was dry and miserable looking. The eggs were scrambled and not all what she expected. I had envisioned a baked egg nestled in some cheese with a runny yolk to spill over the toasted loaf. Nothing like that came to us.

I ordered the Biscuits and Gravy with eggs over medium (it comes over easy but I like my whites cooked). The gravy was tasty but looked old, the eggs were perfect but the biscuits were dense and  not as light and flaky as they could have been. I added sausage to the order.  All told it was an expensive breakfast ($27 plus tip) and a disappointment especially for the price.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Signs of the Times

Signs and more signs
I have become a sign painter of sorts....for friends.

We have old friends who have a charming daughter that is getting married this weekend and they asked me to work with their wedding planner to make some banners and signs for the big event.  This turned into quite a job as the banners were 10 feet long and I worked too quickly not anticipating some revisions so I have to re do a lot of the work.  I learned a lot about fonts and brush work and had a self discovery of sorts. I really enjoy sign painting, I have no software to easily do layout so I did most of the work by eyeballing it and there are all sorts of tricks and tips that can help get er done.
the original Bar Menus had to be redone. The guest book sign
My forte so far has been the trendy Chalkboard signs which, if well done, are rarely chalk but chalk markers. But like I said this is trendy and trends have a habit of changing on a dime so little of the wedding work was on chalk board.  Brenda and I do, however, pick up chalkboards of varying sizes and we have been using monograms on them as hostess gifts (sorry if you really prefer a bottle of wine)
Late addition
Couple's monogram
The only chalkboard needed
Just for grins I had a Brenda project to do also


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