Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cauliflower Crust pizza....

NO! please God,  stop letting people think this is OK.

It was terrible and took a while to get the taste out of my mouth. I like cauliflower but  I should have known better, forgive me.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Back to the fast....

It was a nice week of of feasting on whatever came to mind but now it's time get back to the calendar which says to fast every Wednesday for the betrayal and Friday for His crucifixion until the next Great fasting period, the Dormition Fast August 2-15th.

From the OCA website I pass on the following information:

This form of fasting was passed on in the early Church from Jewish practice. In Matthew, Christ says, “When you fast do not be like the hypocrites,” which indicates that the Jews fasted—it also indicates that Christ assumes that one fasts, for He says “when you fast” not “if you fast.” Fasting is not something that only developed alongside Christianity; rather, it is a practice that had been followed by the Jews, and even Scripture mentions that Christ fasted.

The purpose of fasting is not to “give up” things, nor to do something “sacrificial.” The purpose of fasting is to learn discipline, to gain control of those things that are indeed within our control but that we so often allow to control us. In our culture especially, food dominates the lives of many people. We collect cookbooks. We have an entire TV network devoted to food [the “Food Channel”]. We have eating disorders, diets galore, weight loss pills, liposuction treatments, stomach stapling—all sorts of things that proceed out of the fact that we often allow food, which in an of itself cannot possible control us, to control us. We fast in order to gain control, to discipline ourselves, to gain control of those things that we have allowed to get out of control. Giving up candy—unless one is controlled by candy—is not fasting. It is giving up candy, or it is done with the idea that we fast in order to suffer. But we do not fast in order to suffer. We fast in order to get a grip on our lives and to regain control of those things that have gotten out of control. Further, as we sing during the first week of Great Lent, “while fasting from food, let us also fast from our passions.”

We always struggle with our fasting because to us,  it has become routine and we need to intensify our participation. Few people are aware we fast but it does niggle the back our minds of why we participate and  I suppose in that way is successful in keeping us focused during the week on God as well as just on Sunday.

We do things a bit different as we fast Tuesday evening, Wednesday lunch, Thursday evening and Friday Lunch. To the Orthodox, each day begins at sundown so choose to fast this way starting at sundown Tuesday. This pattern also allows us to extend our thought/prayer process to all the days of the week.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Chicken for dinner....again?

We are trying our best to make me thinner but that is really hard to do. My lovely bride seems to keep her svelte figure no matter what but me...nope. Despite my caloric restrictions I can't seem to hit my target weight especially with my restrictions exercising due to a bad knee. I am trapped on a 1200 calorie diet (with cheating) but that last 6 pounds remains elusive (depending on whose scale you believe).

Lately, its been chicken. It seems I can eat a pretty good sized serving (4 ounces) with little effect and it just an easy thing to do. I have been brining 5 or 6 chicken breasts at a time and grilling them or this past weekend I made this:
Spice Rubbed Chicken
Photo is from Not Quite Nigella's blog.

This Spicy Chicken was posted my one of the bloggers I follow. It used spices I have in the cupboard and while the recipe used whole chicken pieces intact with skin and bone, I just had boneless. I brined the chicken as usual (1/4 c salt in 4 c water)  then coated the chicken with the spice mixture and baked along with a few onions. Since I did not have nearly the juices with no skin I have to improvise a bit. I sliced the cooked chicken and then coated it with a mix of lemon juice and olive oil. That seemed to do the trick and it is quite tasty and lifted me out of the grilled rut.

  • 1 large chicken (mine was 1.6 kgs/3.5lbs), butterflied and cut into pieces
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons sumac
  • 2 tablespoons za'atar
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 2 onions, quartered
Combine the spices and oil,  coat the chicken in spice/oil mix and place in pan. Squeeze the lemon over all and add a few quartered onions. Bake till juices run clear, about 40 minutes at 350. Link to the actual blog below. Thanks Mrs NQN!

And we bid adieu...

Benny left today (Sunday) for Kansas City and his new job he starts on Monday. If he was nervous it didn't show. He seemed happy and excited to begin anew. No real plan or hesitation on his part,  although I am sure there is some order to things. I wonder if he'll get homesick. Brenda's friend offered her aunt and uncle to put him up for a few days till his apartment is ready so he is staying with strangers of sorts and it was okay with him.  He seems to be the most easy going of us in that respect, just takes what comes and deals with it.  He and Nick spent the better part of the weekend sorting and packing with Mom then moving their stuff to temporary quarters.

We had a nice dinner on Friday with family including our extended family,  Matt and Lori.  Saturday,  he spent the evening with dear old dad, smoking a cigar and sharing a few beers. He went to church with us and said goodbye to a few favorites and then we lunched at one his favorite haunts before packing his car and watching him drive off. Not sure when it will hit us that he is really gone and I think we are trying not to dwell on it but so far we looking forward to KC road trips and helping him settle into his new place. Nick will join him in a few weeks or so and we will scout out some local spots to stay for the future.

Night at the Copacabana
Birthday boy with Mom and Dad

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?


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