Monday, December 22, 2014

The Most Un-Christian Word in the English Language

At His Birth, Christ Included an entire Spectrum of Guests
In a lifetime of hearing sermons, it is very hard to remember very many individual sermons. Most
sermons work together like bricks in a wall. They edify us (or build us up), but we don't notice the individual bricks much. Once in a while, there is a sermon that we hear and we remember many, many years later. This Christmas, I'd like to reflect on one such sermon.

One Sunday morning more than two decades ago, the Pastor* asked the Congregation, "What do you suppose is the most Un-Christian word in the English language?" Many, many words popped to mind, but I was surprised at the answer the Pastor supplied.

He said the most Un-Christian word in English is:

Are you ready?

The Most Un-Christian word in the English Language is . . .


"Exclusive"

That's right.

"Exclusive"


Think about it. We have "Exclusive" parties where only the creme de la creme are invited. We go to "Exclusive" sales at posh stores. We join "Exclusive" social organizations (and even social media, nowadays!) that are "Invitation Only!" We attend "Exclusive" schools and universities - and even preschools!

What do all of these things have in common?

They appeal to our pride by excluding those who we see as "less than" we are.

But, when we look at the beauty of Christmas, what do we see?

We see the God of the Universe - who truly was the Best of the Best - who gave up all the "perks" of Power, Privilege and Position and instead - out of sheer LOVE - came and chose to spend time with us! We, who along with St. Paul, are the worst of sinners!

Even the Wise Men, Kings and Angels who attended His Birth were far below Him!

But, He didn't just invite them! He also invited the poor, and those with no status in society - like the Shepherds. Even His own earthly Parents, though Holy, were poor.

He commended the virtues of the poor throughout His life. (see  The Widow's Mite and the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus for example)

More importantly, He commanded us to include the poor and underprivileged.

When I go to Church at Christmas, of all the Mysteries I ponder, the one that always amazes me most is that such a Perfect God wanted to come to earth to be with me!

This Christmas season, let's imitate Christ's Love and include those who aren't eligible for "Exclusive" offers in the circle of our Love & relationships.



*This is my recollection of a sermon given by the Rev. Karl Suhr of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in Atlanta Georgia. Pastor Suhr made a very positive impression on me with his kindness, humility and compassion, as well as with this memorable sermon, despite the fact that I only lived in Atlanta briefly. As with any memories of this duration, I cannot guarantee that my recollection is an accurate portrayal of what he actually said, but I do want to give him credit for what I took away from the sermon.  

Monday, December 15, 2014

My Mom's Chocolate Icing

Mom's Chocolate Icing
Mom's Chocolate Icing was a childhood highlight. Mom rarely cooked. It was even more rare that she made dessert -usually only for occasional Birthdays or for Covered Dish Dinners - and we kids really looked forward to the Chocolate Icing. The cake was optional in our minds - just the Icing, please!

Now I use the same recipe, Veganized, to make birthday treats for my daughter. 

Her original recipe was like this:

Mom's Original Chocolate Icing
Melt together in Saucepan:
3 Squares unsweetened Baker's Chocolate
3 Tablespoons Butter

Mix Separately:
3 Cups Powdered Sugar
1/8 teaspoon Salt
7 Tablespoons Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Blend in melted Chocolate mixture, mixing well with an electric mixer. Add milk or powdered sugar, as needed to thin or thicken.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Mom's Chocolate Frosting
Over the years, I discovered that it was more economical to use Cocoa instead of Baker's Chocolate - and nobody could tell the difference. Then I Veganized it. I served my recipe to Mom, and she couldn't tell mine from hers - neither could anyone else!

 Mom's Chocolate Icing, Veganized
Melt in Microwave or saucepan
1/3 cup Earth Balance or similar Vegan Buttery Spread
Mix in
1/3 cup Cocoa
Dash Salt
Teaspoon Vanilla
Stir in
4 Tablespoons Nondairy Milk (I use Soy)
Then, gradually add, while mixing with an electric mixer
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
(add more Powdered Sugar or more Nondairy Milk to achieve desired spreading texture)

This Frosting Freezes well - you can decorate Cupcakes and wrap them airtight to freeze (in such a way that the frosting isn't damaged)  Thaw at room temperature, without unwrapping.

This is being shared at:
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Monday, December 8, 2014

A Vegan Month of Winter Meals

my new method for planning a month of meals in 10 minutes
Using my new method for planning a month of meals in 10 minutes, I put this menu together for the next month of meals.

Having a month of meals all planned makes planning a grocery trip a breeze, and bulk cooking is much easier, too. In fact, the day after I made this plan, I put together a few meals for the coming week in about an hour : )

This is a month of all-Vegan meals, for a Lenten or Fasting season for Orthodox Christians, or for a family that is always Vegan. It is easy to supplement with some fish or meat if you have an Omnivore family member.

Whenever I serve these meals, I routinely add things like Salad, Bread, Veggies & Dips, and Olives & Pickles, and Fruit for Dessert to the menu - so I don't usually write those things down.  Whenever I grocery shop, I automatically add the produce necessary to my grocery list.

This menu has lots of warming Soups & Casseroles, and lots of meals that can be prepared from the pantry & mostly from vegetables that are readily available in Winter. 

All the links are "clickable" for the menu. And, I'm adding a few pictures to pique your interest. Scroll past the pictures for the entire month's menu.

Pad Thai, Simple Vegan








Bulgur Pilaf ( Pourgouri )

Fill Your Own Tortilla Night




Stuffed Manicotti

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Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Greek Bean Soup
 ( Fasolia Yachni )
Black Bean Soup (Slow Cooker)
Bulgur Pilaf ( Pourgouri ) Pad Thai, Simple Vegan
Greek Giant Beans
 ( Gigantes )
Potatoes
Potatoes
Peas
Red Beans over Rice

Monday, December 1, 2014

Vegan Christmas Dinner Menu Ideas

Orthodox Nativity Icon from Kykkos Monastery, Cyprus
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

The Christmas Feast is a huge event in a Christian household. After Advent, it is quite a Celebration!

Even as a child, long before I was Vegetarian, it was never the main dish that interested me, but rather the side dishes, appetizers and desserts. For that reason, my Christmas Dinner ideas don't focus much on "Mains" but on all the many dishes that make a wonderful feast.

For practical reasons - it's good to have a mix of simple & complicated, make-ahead, and fix-right-before, and slow-cooker, oven, stove-top and no-cook sort of dishes. I've endeavored to provide that sort of blend here.

Here are some ideas to get YOUR creative ideas flowing: 


Dips Buffet for a Party
Despite the picture - this link has SEVERAL different Vegan dip recipes : )





Red Pepper & Walnut Dip or Spread



Vegan Holiday Appetizers



Vegan Mock Crab Cakes 



Lentil Shepherd's Pie



Marinated, Grilled Tofu



Greek Stuffed Veggies ( Gemista )
This is also a slow cooker recipe, if you need it to be! : )



Baked Potatoes in the Slow Cooker



Bulgur Pilaf ( Pourgouri ) 
This is also a great starchy side dish for Omnivores!



Brussels Sprouts with Pecans



Cauliflower & Capers



Green Beans Almondine



Rosemary Roast Potatoes in the Slow Cooker



Simply Zucchini Saute




Stuffing, Low fat & Vegan



Sweet Potato Fries



Sweet & Sour Sweet Potatoes



Veggies Vinaigrette



Carrot Raisin Salad without Mayonnaise



Farro Salad, Mediterranean 



Fruited Black-Eyed Pea Salad




Lentil & Rice Salad



Mediterranean Two Bean Salad 



Mix & Match Italian Rice Salad



Quinoa and Lime Salad





Birthday Treat, Easy Vegan
(You can see how this would work for Christmas, too, right? ; )

 

Crispy Rice Cupcakes 
These can accommodate multiple allergies - although they DO have Peanut Butter in them.
They're great for the Gluten-Free folks if they're made with GF Crispy Rice.


 
Fruit Salad





Gingerbread Crunch Cookies
(hope you're more artistic than I am! : )



Make One Mix, Make Ten Different Cookies



Pineapple Upside Down Cake



Raw (ish) Cookie Assortment



Raw (ish) Maple Walnut Squares



Samali (Greek Semolina Dessert)



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Monday, November 24, 2014

Twelve Vegan Mixes for Toy Ovens

Decorating a Children's Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Frosting
Do you know a little kid who has a toy oven, or is getting one for Christmas this year? This is a great gift that can be made by a parent, friend, older sibling, aunt, or grandparent. I think the best way to present the gift is in a gift-box or basket with a few "extras" like little bowls to mix in, measuring spoons, and colored sugar for decorating.  Useful ingredients, such as a little squeeze bottle of oil, and 1/2 cup lunchbox-type packages of Applesauce would also be great additions to the gift basket.

There are 12 (Twelve!) recipes below : )

The Original Easy-Bake Brand Oven was created by an inventor here in Cincinnati! 

I grew up playing with an Easy-Bake Brand oven - I loved it! But, Mom was too smart to buy the replacement mixes, instead she'd mix up a big batch of commercial mix and let us bake till we dropped. But, a lot of it was wasted that way, because little kids don't have a long attention span. And, it lacked some of the charm of mixing up our own tiny mixes. Oh, and it had raw egg in it.

My Daughter's Easy-Bake Brand Oven
As I got older, I discovered the Children's Mixes in the Make-A-Mix Cookbook. I remember making a huge box of them for my Niece for a present when she was little - many years later, she later told me that she never did manage to use all of them! But, they weren't Vegan, and they did have Shortening in them.

This year, for my daughter's birthday I got her an Easy-Bake Brand Oven from the thrift store. They're phasing out the model that uses light-bulbs, and the brand new model is about $50! I got the slightly older model with a light bulb - in pristine condition with all the pans and accessories - for .29 cents!

All I had to do was make the mixes. Of course, I didn't want to buy them at the store - where an assortment of 2 minuscule cake mixes and 2 microscopic frosting mixes costs about $5! Two tiny cakes for $5! And, they're not Vegan, and they probably have who-knows-what kind of preservatives & chemicals. Many internet reviews say that they don't even taste good.

I was in for a bit of a shock when I found out that the pans that came with my daughter's model were significantly smaller than those that I grew up with and that my Niece used.  So even if I wanted to use my old recipes with their shortening, they were too big for my pans.

So, I devised my own new recipes. Super-Easy. Vegan. Allergy-friendly. You control the ingredients.

These are designed to work with my daughter's Easy Bake Brand model, but they should be adaptable to other brands of toy ovens with the same size pans. 

If you want to make these as gifts, I recommend individually packaging each mix in a separate Zippered Plastic Snack Bag, or in its own little lidded cup from the Dollar Store (the little cups come in multi packs in the baby section) for a cute, gift-y presentation. Put the instructions for each mix on its own little package.

Mixes:


The Cakes & Cookies All Use 3 Tablespoons per mix of 
 stuffedveggies Vegan Cake & Cookie Mix

The Frosting & Fudge Mix recipe is below

Cakes:


My daughter and I did several experiments to get these right - I discovered that if the cakes are made without oil, they "work" but are a little less-tender than you might prefer. My daughter didn't notice the difference. With oil and water together (as in the recipes below), they're more tender & more like a traditional cake. So, you make the call.

For the cakes, oil the pans before filling them. Bake according to oven directions with proper adult supervision and/or assistance For our model we preheat the oven for 15 minutes. I bake these for 15 minutes each. 

For Each cake you will need a total of 3 Tablespoons Dry Ingredients and 1 1/2 Tablespoons Liquid. If you choose to omit oil, simply use 1 1/2 Tablespoons water for each mix.

Children's Vanilla Cake Mix
Chocolate & Vanilla Cakes before Frosting

Stir Together, fill Pan & Bake:
3 Tablespoons stuffedveggies Vegan Cake & Cookie Mix
To Make
1/2 Tablespoon Light Flavored Oil (I use Sunflower)
1 Tablespoon Water with a dash Vanilla added.*

*experiment with other flavoring extracts besides vanilla, if you like.


Children's Chocolate Cake Mix
Stir Together, fill Pan & Bake:
2 1/2 Tablespoons stuffedveggies Vegan Cake & Cookie Mix
1/2 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder
To Make:
1/2 Tablespoon Light Flavored Oil (I use Sunflower)
1 Tablespoon Water.



Children's Lemon (or other flavor) Cake Mix

Stir Together, fill Pan & Bake:
3 Tablespoons stuffedveggies Vegan Cake & Cookie Mix
To Make:
1/2 Tablespoon Light Flavored Oil (I use Sunflower)
1/2 Tablespoon Water
1/2 Tablespoon Lemon Juice*

*If you desire, you can use a pinch of a dry drink mix, like unsweetened Kool-Aid, to the dry mix, then use water in place of the Lemon Juice. This allows you to make other flavors, like Strawberry, easily. But, if you're a no-chemical sort of household, the Lemon juice works quite well.

Cookies:

For each cookie, you will need 3 Tablespoons Mix & add-ins for the dry ingredients.
Wet ingredients for each cookie will be 1/2 Tablespoon Oil & 1/2 Tablespoon Applesauce.

Oven Should be preheated for 15 minutes before baking. Each cookie bakes 15 minutes.
I like to line the pan with a circle of parchment paper for easy removal (make sure it only covers the bottom of the pan, and does not extend over the edges for safety sake), but if you have no parchment paper, you can oil the pan instead, and that will work.
To make each cookie, mix the ingredients together well (hands work best) and roll into a ball. Flatten the ball slightly in the pan (so that it is no higher than the top of the pan) to bake.

Just for the record - for any college kids out there without a toy oven, but with a sweet tooth - you can pop these unbaked "cookies" in the microwave for 1 minute or less on a microwave-safe plate (any longer & they'll burn), and have a quick, microwave treat. No, they're not quite as perfect as baked, but they're pretty good! : )

Sugar Cookies:
Sugar Cookie made in Toy Oven by my Daughter
3 Tablespoons  stuffedveggies Vegan Cake & Cookie Mix
To make:
Mix in
1/2 Tablespoon light flavored Oil (I use Sunflower)
1/2 Tablespoon Applesauce
Form in ball & flatten into pan
Sprinkle with Colored Sugar before baking. (or, cool & frost after baking)









Chocolate Chip Cookie Made in Toy Oven by my Daughter
Chocolate Chip Cookies
3 Tablespoons stuffedveggies Vegan Cake & Cookie Mix
6 to 8 chocolate chips
To make
Mix in
1/2 Tablespoon light flavored Oil (I use Sunflower)
1/2 Tablespoon Applesauce






Snickerdoodle made in Toy Oven by my Daughter
Snickerdoodles
3 Tablespoons  stuffedveggies Vegan Cake & Cookie Mix
To make:
Mix in
1/2 Tablespoon light flavored Oil (I use Sunflower)
1/2 Tablespoon Applesauce
Roll dough in Cinnamon-Sugar before baking.








Frostings & Fudges:

Children's Frosting & Fudge Mix
Mix with Electric Mixer
Children's Frosting (no heating required)
1 1/2 Cups Confectioner's Sugar (Also known as Powdered Sugar or XXXX Sugar)
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance
Dash Salt
Store in airtight container in refrigerator
Since ingredients are not measured by weight, you might find occasionally that you need to add a few more drops of liquid than the recipe says when mixing.
As with the fudge, microwaving the frosting briefly will make it creamier & more spreadable, but is not strictly necessary. You can judge whether your little one is ready to handle a potentially hot frosting or not.

The electric mixer I use to make mixes like these
 Vanilla Frosting 
1/4 Cup Children's Frosting & Fudge Mix (above)
1/2 teaspoon liquid (a combination of a little vanilla extract & non-dairy milk)
Mix well with fork.

Chocolate Frosting
3 1/2 Tablespoons Children's Frosting & Fudge Mix (above)
1/2 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder
1/2 teaspoon Non-dairy Milk
Mix well with fork

Peanut Butter Frosting



1/4 Cup Children's Frosting & Fudge Mix (above)
1/2 teaspoon liquid (a combination of a little vanilla extract & non-dairy milk)
1/2 Tablespoon Peanut Butter
Tiny Pinch Salt. Mix well with fork.

When I was a kid, I was always greatly disappointed that our Easy-Bake box said there was a fudge mix, but that it had long since been used by the older kids in the house. My Mom reassured me that the stuff hadn't tasted that good, anyway. This is for some little kid out there in the same boat. This one DOES taste good!

 Chocolate Fudge

Make Chocolate Frosting

Microwave Chocolate Frosting for 10 seconds, until easy to stir, with adult supervision. Stir, Allow to cool before eating.
Children's Fudge

Vanilla Fudge
Make Vanilla Frosting
Microwave Vanilla Frosting for 10 seconds, until easy to stir, with adult supervision. Stir. Allow to cool before eating.

Peanut Butter Fudge
1/4 Cup Children's Frosting & Fudge Mix (above)
1/2 teaspoon liquid (a combination of a little vanilla extract & non-dairy milk)
1/2 Tablespoon Peanut Butter
Tiny Pinch Salt. Mix well with fork.
Microwave for 10-15 seconds, until easy to stir, with adult supervision. Stir. Allow to cool before eating.


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