Friday, May 22, 2015

Easy No Knead, Vegan Crescent Rolls

Easy No Knead, Vegan Crescent Rolls
I love Crescent Rolls, but don't want the hassle of making them the old fashioned way. I also don't like the guilt of feeding my family food that comes out of a just-pop-to-bake can that probably has a lot of chemicals in it, and really doesn't taste homemade. And, I like my baking to be Vegan.

This recipe is the answer to my dilemma - super easy to make, and super tasty - and Vegan! : ) They're tender, moist, and pull apart in layers.

I always make bread by the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method  (and, I think EVERYONE should own their book!). But, they didn't have a Vegan Brioche-type dough, so I created my own recipe using their method : )

The use of Tapioca Starch, Potato, and Sugar tenderizes & moisturizes the dough, and make a moist, tender, fluffy loaf without the use of oil or eggs. 

It is SOOO easy to make - and produces such spectacular results! This recipe produces about 3 dozen Crescent Rolls (if you'd like a smaller batch, scroll down)

This is the same dough I will be using for several other breads on this site, so you can make a big batch and use half for, say Challah, and the other half for Crescent Rolls, if you like (other recipes still to come in future months! : )

Easy, No Knead, Vegan Crescent Roll Dough **** (Scroll Down for Smaller Batch)
This recipe makes about 3 dozen rolls, or 18 rolls & 1 large Challah.
Measure into a 6 quart container*, in this order
3 Cups Warm Water (baby bath water temperature. If in doubt, make it too cool rather than too warm)
5 1/4 Cups Unbleached, All Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Tapioca Starch
1 Cup Potato Flakes (yes, that's right, the stuff people use to make Instant Mashed Potatoes)
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Yeast
1 Tablespoon Salt
Stir well with a spoon till no patches of dry Flour remain.

The dough should look like this right after you stir it.

Cover loosely with lid (don't fasten so securely that it cannot "breathe")
Leave it on the counter for 2 to 5 hours.
Now, put it in the fridge till you're ready to use it **

The dough should look like this after it has sat out on the counter for 2 to 5 hours.

Note - do not "Punch Down" this kind of dough. 

When you're ready to bake the bread, remove it from the refrigerator and dust it VERY WELL with Flour. This is a moist, sticky dough, so don't be afraid to use lots of Flour!

Oil your pan (I use a Perforated, Non-stick Pizza Pan, like this one for baking)

Take one pound of dough (1/4 of the large batch or 1/2 of the small batch) and roll out in a rectangle that is approximately 8"x12".

Roll Dough out into Rectangle.

Cut in long, thin triangles. A pizza cutter works great for this job, or just a large Chef's knife that you can press down and cut the dough without pulling.

Cut Dough in long, thin triangles.

Roll each triangle up and place it on the pan.

Roll up triangles.

Leave to rise for 30 to 60 minutes (the last time I made these, I only let them rise about 15 minutes - they were still great : )

Allow Rolls to rise for 30-60 minutes before baking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake in the middle of the oven, without steam for 35-40 minutes.

Upon removing from the oven, you may brush with a buttery spread, if you desire. 

For best results, cool before serving.

Easy, No Knead Vegan Crescent Rolls

Small Batch Easy, No Knead Vegan Crescent Rolls
 (Makes about 18 rolls)
Follow above directions, but use these amounts
I prepare a batch this size in an 8 Cup Container - the one in the above pictures.
Be sure to add in this order:

1 1/2 Cups Warm Water
2 1/2 Cups + 2 Tablespoons Unbleached, All Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons Tapioca Starch
1/2 Cup Potato Flakes
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Tablespoon Yeast
1/2 Tablespoon Salt

Stir well, then follow above directions - the same as for a large batch.

* For my 6 Quart Container, I use a new plastic shoe box from the Dollar Store.
** This dough CAN be used the day it is made - but it is a tad easier to shape after it is refrigerated. It is lightest and fluffiest when used within a day or two of when you make it, but I have used it several days later  - a week or more - and still had very good results.
*** If you bake two large pans of rolls at the same time, put one loaf on the middle rack, and one on the bottom rack. Then, set a timer to switch their positions half-way through baking, so that they brown evenly both on the top and on the bottom.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

3 Minute Asian Peanut Sauce & 3 FAST Meals ( Vegan, with Omnivore & Gluten Free Options)

3 Minute Peanut Sauce & 3 FAST Meals!
Asian Peanut Sauce is delicious - and SOOO easy to make - and SO much cheaper than the store bought bottles.

You can whip it up in three minutes flat with ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen. And, I made this recipe versatile - so that you're less likely to have to go out to the store to buy a special ingredient. You can mix & match what you have to make it work : )

Best of all, this sauce can be used to make a salad and three meals & that are nearly instant. Just use Pre-chopped veggies from the Produce Section or Supermarket Salad Bar, or even leftover salad veggies from the fridge, and a base starch like Pasta, Rice or Tortilla. (Many Grocery stores actually sell pre-cooked, frozen rice in the freezer section if that is your preference) These are the perfect meals for busy nights - whether you're a college student, a Parent with an evening meeting, or just someone who just doesn't like to cook.

Heat (whether Sriracha or other Hot Sauce) is completely optional - you can just use the Garlic & omit heat if that is your family's preference.

If you wish these recipes to be Gluten Free, it is easy to do. Check ingredients like Soy Sauce (Kikkoman now makes a "Blue Label" Gluten Free Variety), Vinegar, Tortillas & Pasta and make sure they're Gluten Free, and you're good to go! 

If you keep cooked leftover Pasta or Rice in your freezer, this meal is already almost done!
3 Minute Peanut Sauce & 3 FAST Meals!

3 Minute Asian Peanut Sauce for One (scroll down for bigger batch)
2 Tablespoons Peanut Butter *
2 teaspoons Lime Juice (or Lemon Juice, OR Rice Vinegar**)
2 teaspoons Soy Sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons Sugar (to YOUR taste - add 1 tsp & taste before adding more)
Sriracha to taste (I use about 1/4 teaspoon) (OR 1/4 tsp Garlic, and an optional dash of your favorite hot sauce)
Water to desired consistency - about 1 - 2 Tablespoons
Gradually add liquids to Peanut Butter, stirring constantly till smooth.
 - If you like, you can add a pinch of Basil or Mint for a more complex flavor
This can be made with a fork and a small bowl,
or you can make a larger batch in a food processor if you really hate to stir : )

OR A Big Batch
1/2 Cup Peanut Butter *
2 1/2 Scant Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 1/2 Scant Tablespoon Lime Juice or Lemon Juice or 2 Tablespoons Vinegar **
4 teaspoons Sugar (more to taste)
Sriracha Sauce, or 1 teaspoon Garlic with a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce.

3 Minute Asian Peanut Sauce

OR Customize Your Own Batch of Asian Peanut Sauce
3 Parts Peanut Butter*
1 Part Lime Juice (or Lemon Juice, or 3/4 Part Vinegar**)
1 Part Soy Sauce
1/2 Part Sugar
Sriracha to taste (or Garlic & Optional Hot Sauce)
Water as needed

* I use Krema Smooth Natural Peanut Butter, but any kind will work. If you use a commercial brand like Jif or Skippy that is pre-sweetened & has added fat, you may find that you prefer to decrease the sugar ever so slightly, and increase the Soy Sauce & Citrus Juice just a tad to compensate, but if you make it just as the recipe is written, it will still be very nice - I tested it : )

**If you prefer to use a stronger vinegar - such as White or Apple Cider Vinegar, you may want to just use a little less, 1/2 to 3/4 the amount the recipe calls for

Asian Peanut Noodles
Toss above sauce with prepared Spaghetti or other noodles (cold, hot, or leftover - your choice) & Fresh veggies from the list below. Devour

FAST Asian Peanut Noodles!

Asian Peanut Rice Bowl
Fill a bowl half way with rice (leftover or fresh -your choice) and top with  Veggies of your choice from the list below. Make sure there's a little something crunchy like shredded cabbage or carrots. Top with Peanut Sauce. Devour.

FAST Asian Peanut Rice Bowl!

Asian Peanut Wrap
Fill a Tortilla with some Rice & Crunchy veggies. If you like, you can add cubed, sauteed or marinated tofu. Top with Peanut Sauce. Wrap up & Devour.

FAST Asian Peanut Wrap!

Asian Peanut Slaw
If you want a Super-Quick Slaw, just toss this sauce with a couple of handfuls of Bagged Coleslaw Mix from the Grocery.

American Supermarket Veggies that go well with Peanut Sauce:
You can chop these yourself, or get them from the supermarket salad bar or Produce Section.
Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Celery, Cucumbers, Snow Peas, Shredded Cabbage, Broccoli, Bagged Coleslaw Mix, Fresh "Stir Fry Vegetables." You can also choose to add cooked veggies such as corn, peas, or crisp-tender Broccoli or Bok Choy.

Tip for Dining with Omnivores:
If you have an Omnivore at your table, Cubed Chicken would make a welcome addition to any of these meals.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Home School for Cheap or Free - Coversational Greek

There are two basic ways to study Greek, the first involves memorizing charts with conjugations & declensions, and writing scholarly papers about the use of the aorist tense.

The second method is much more user friendly. It involves learning to say things like, "I'd like some chocolate, please." and "Where are my keys?" People who use this method DO learn to do conjugations and declensions - but naturally - as a native speaker would.

I tried the first method first. I found myself trying to recite several charts in my head to compose a single sentence - while the conversation passed me by. Some say that when learning a "dead language" you really only need to learn the first method - that actually being able to form a sentence is unimportant. It seems to me, that a person who can only recite conjugations & declensions, and translate with the help of a dictionary, but cannot construct sentences and read fluently is simply deluding themselves about their level of mastery. I believe that whether you're learning Modern or Koine (Biblical) Greek, you simply MUST have a goal of being able to read, understand, and express yourself fluently - not simply recite charts and discuss what tense the verb is.

Needless to say, I like the second method better ; )  So, I'll be sharing the second type of resources here.

My young daughter and I study Greek together. Every day we do our lesson together, and we're making progress. AND we still have a long way to go! To homeschool Greek, you do NOT have to be a native speaker, or even fluent yourself. There are great, FREE, online resources that will help you and your child or children learn together.

The first resource that I really love is from Mango Languages (Ironic since I'm allergic to the fruit known as mangoes!) . Mango Languages are free through many American Public Libraries, but not all. You can check the Mango Languages website to be sure. This course is my daughter's favorite, and the one with which we are meeting with the most success. The lessons are short (perhaps 20 minutes each) and are presented in a way that makes the material seem pretty easy (usually we do each lesson only twice). They include speaking by a native speaker, and the text of the words being spoken on the screen. It is in a sort of a modified flash card style in which you can choose how quickly the lesson moves, and we like that we can "add more time" if needed for a particular answer - then we can check to make sure we said it right. Mango puts the printed text on the screen (with pronunciation help), so that your reading, spoken comprehension, and speaking progress together. The audio track is done by a native speaker so that you can learn proper pronunciation & accents. 

I love that this company offers both Modern and Koine - and they use the Modern pronunciation for the Koine and really teach you to UNDERSTAND the text (I just tried the first few Koine lessons, after having studied it at University many years ago- and I'm SOLD! My little daughter is picking it up MUCH more quickly with this method than I would have expected. It's pretty amazing to hear my little girl reading and speaking whole Bible verses in Koine Greek, after just a few lessons!) You can check this site to see if your library has it for free - if not, the subscription price is still pretty reasonable.

(Note, I do not use Mango's Homeschool edition - just their regular one that is FREE through my public library.)

Mango's Tech support is also amazingly wonderful! : )

Mango Greek - both Modern and Koine (Biblical)! 

The big drawback here is that there are not as many lessons as Learn Greek by Radio, and the lessons are much shorter - which means the lessons will run out before we get to a level of fluency. But, then, of course, we can continue with Learn Greek by Radio.

The second resource is Learn Greek by Radio (which is actually by computer, nowadays). It is a GREAT, online, FREE course with over 100 lessons. The lessons are about 15 minutes each, but they will probably take longer than that as you stop the audio to practice. There is an audio track with an accompanying print resource. It's a great way to practice both reading and speaking since you can hear the native speakers while you read the dialogue. It is a course that was created for the radio in the 1960's - so a few terms and the accent might be a tiny bit old fashioned. You'll also find the occasional politically incorrect bit- like counting how many cigarettes are in a box. The first resource listed below has a good quality of audio only. The second resource listed below has the same audio but in a poorer quality (which is to say, you may not be able to get the volume loud enough to hear it well), BUT it also has the print resources for the course. Learn Greek by Radio requires a little more initiative by the student than Mango Greek. You will need to to practice outside the lesson time, and study a bit and decide when mastery is reached, rather than just knowing (as with Mango) "I can get all the cards right, I'm ready to move on!"

Learn Greek by Radio Audio

Learn Greek by Radio Print Resources

Here is a very nice, FREE online dictionary. Of course, remember that with a Greek dictionary, you'll have to be able to figure out the "Lexical form" of the word to look it up - which can be a little tricky when you're a beginner.

Greek-English, English-Greek Dictionary

I also sometimes use the Greekpod Vocabulary videos on Youtube. Like this one:

Greek Vocabulary - in the Home

For young children, we have really enjoyed "Greek 4 Kids" videos. They're not free, but they have a nice kid-friendly multimedia presentation. The first teaches things like counting & colors, the second teaches a few Greek Vocabulary words for each letter of the Greek alphabet, the third (our favorite) follows a little boy, Alex, through his day and teaches simple sentences, and the fourth simply conjugates 18 verbs. (If you're only going to buy one of them, buy #3 : )

Greek 4 Kids Videos

If you prefer formal lessons, it is also worth noting that many (if not most) Greek Orthodox Parishes offer Greek School for both Children and Adults. It is worth a call to your local Greek Orthodox Church if you'd like to inquire about formal lessons. Generally there IS a fee for these classes, but not always. Either way, it's worth asking. Most worship services are also partly in Greek and partly in English, often including reading from the Gospels in the original language.

Find your local Greek Orthodox Church

Many, if not most, American Greek Schools buy their resources from the following site - so if you're looking for proven books and resources, you may want to check out their site (these are not free, and I have not personally used them)

Greek 123

I would be remiss if I did not mention that I, personally, have found Pimsleur Greek Lessons VERY helpful. They are expensive, but I have been very happy with them. It would be worth checking to see if they're available at your local library. Pimsleur Language lessons are ideal if you want to learn conversation without worrying about reading first. They're also perfect if your best time for study is while driving in the car. I did the entire first course during my commute to work back when I was single. At the current time, Pimsleur offers Greek One and Two, but has no plans for offering Greek Three.

Pimsleur Greek

Finally, a note about what type of Greek to learn:

When I first began studying Greek, I focused on Koine (aka New Testament Greek) because I wanted to be able to read the New Testament in its original language. Later, I became Greek Orthodox, and married a Greek Husband. At that point, I began studying Modern Greek so that I could speak to my dear, sweet Mother-in-Law (not to mention being able to order a coffee or find the restroom when we travel to visit her!). You know what I found? No matter which type of Greek you study, it will help your understanding of the other one. If you know Modern Greek well, Koine Greek will begin to come alive (As with Modern English & Shakespearean English, Koine Greek and Modern Greek are different - but, there's a LOT of overlap!). Having sufficient proficiency in Modern Greek to actually hold a conversation will have tremendous application when studying Koine Greek - and that level of proficiency is next to impossible to attain while studying Koine alone. And, as you add bits and pieces of Koine Greek understanding (as a dead language, it is very hard to actually master "speaking" Koine) it will add to your understanding of Modern. (Other forms, like Attic, I would only recommend for those who are seeking to major in Classical Languages - but they, too, have a lot of overlap with Modern & Koine) Because of that, I would encourage anyone who wants to understand the language of the Bible not to shy away from Modern Greek - in fact to pursue it - it will be a real asset! 

 If this interests you, check out other posts in this series:

Homeschool for Cheap or Free: Reading Greek 


Homeschool for Cheap or Free: Why Greek is Better than Latin!

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Home School for Cheap or Free - Reading Greek

There are some EXCELLENT options out there for learning Greek (both printed and spoken) which are FREE - and others that are Cheap. My daughter and I study Greek together with many of these materials (I will also suggest some that I do not personally use), and we can attest that they DO work, and they do not require an expert in Greek for tutoring every day.

Although experts differ on whether it is better to learn to read or to speak first, I will put reading first because that is what we did. But, you don't need to master reading in order to learn conversational Greek - in fact, as many Greek Toddlers can readily demonstrate, you don't need to be able to read at all to hold a conversation in Greek! So, don't get bogged  down in reading - do a little each day along with Conversation and Vocabulary, and the skills will grow together. As you work on Conversational Greek (with audio AND a text) you'll get confirmation that you're sounding out the words correctly.

The good news - it is very easy to learn the basic reading of Greek!  The alphabet does look a little daunting at first - probably because we're accustomed to seeing Greek letters in academic places, like Math class and University clubs. But unlike English (and more like Spanish), Greek pronunciation is quite consistent. If you learn the basic sound of each letter, and then a handful of diphthongs and digraphs (letter combinations) and you can easily figure out how to read any Greek word you encounter. You will have to practice to become a smooth reader, as in any language, but starting basic reading doesn't have to scare you!

First, you can go to the following site, and find a few FREE charts that have the sounds for each letter and combination of letters. (note, I have not used the paid lessons on this site - I only found the free ones to recommend)

How to Sound Out Greek 

You might also like to check out the Greekpod videos on YouTube that are titled "Learn to Read and Write Greek" Like this one:

Then, you need to find some easy text to practice reading. Of course, you COULD start with a page from on Online Greek Bible - but that is going to be waaayyyy too scary for most students.

Instead, I recommend using one of the same basic reading texts used in Greek Elementary Schools for children who are just learning to read. The link is below. Use the navigation buttons at the top to get from page to page. If you find something that is too hard, flip past it (each lesson is structured by letter from easy to hard - all you need to do is learn to read that letter, then skip to the next letter : )

Greek First Grade Reading Book

(This site has ALL the Greek Textbooks for Greek Public schools - but you have to know how to navigate it in Greek. I found it thanks to this blog )

I did not use the exact book linked with my daughter, but used a very similar hard copy of the classic Greek Primer that was a gift to us, and another I bought while traveling. I later found the above linked one for FREE! : )

As your child's reading progresses, if you are an Orthodox Christian, you might also enjoy these resources which provide a simple lesson in Greek and a very similar (but NOT identical) lesson in English on a variety of religious topics. These are good reading practice, and also a good Christian education:

Pantanassa Monastery Lessons

That's it! With these few resources, you're ready to start!

BUT - a side note: 

Before you teach reading, you will have to decide WHICH pronunciation method to teach.

 There are two choices, "Modern Greek," or "Erasmian Greek."

I strongly favor Modern, and here's why:

Modern Greek pronunciation is used by Native Speakers of Greek. It is the pronunciation style used when the New Testament is read in the Original in Greek Orthodox Churches. We can assume it has changed some from the pronunciation of the time of Christ (as any language might), but it is the most authentic and consistent pronunciation method available.

Erasmian Greek was a pronunciation invented in the 1500's by a Dutch Catholic Priest who had never been to Greece (as far as is recorded of him), and did not speak Greek, but studied it academically. He attempted to re-create how Greek might have been spoken one and a half millennia previously by looking at scholarly documents and looking at such clues as animal sounds or translation into other (also ancient) languages to discern how those languages might have been spoken, and what sound each letter might have made. Needless to say, it was not a precise science, and there were no recordings available to help him. Erasmus himself admitted that his pronunciation system was imperfect. To make matters worse, there is now more than one variety of Erasmian pronuciation! BUT Erasmian pronunciation is the method used in many American and British Universities to study Attic & Koine (Biblical) Greek, so it does has some value in academic circles. It cannot be used in real life conversation anywhere in the world - it is strictly an academic interpretation of the archaic form of the language. If you get confused when you first start studying Greek because there is no letter pronounced "Pie," "Beta," "Delta," "Moo" or "Chai" (as you may have learned to pronounce them Math class or from Fraternity Row)- blame Erasmus!

Personally, I strongly favor Modern Pronunciation. It allows me to move from Church -which uses Biblical or "Koine" Greek - to ordering Coffee in Modern Greek at a local Cafe fairly easily. It is the pronunciation that allows me to understand the reading of the Bible at Church, and continue to improve in my understanding week by week as I hear more. It's the pronunciation that Native Greek Speakers use.

When I first studied Greek, I was unaware of these two Pronunciation methods, and made the mistake of learning Erasmian. Then, I had to unlearn it. Not a fun experience.

One thing you do NOT need to decide before learning to read Greek is whether you will study Biblical (Koine) or Modern Greek. They're both read the same if you use Modern Greek Pronunciation.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series, Greek Conversation!

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Home School for Cheap or Free - Why Greek is Better than Latin!

Greek is the ideal foreign language to study from a variety of standpoints - Latin can't hold a candle!

If you're a homeschooler, and trying to decide what language to teach your child, let me share a few reasons why I think Greek is best. 

1. Greek the language of the Original New Testament, and the language still used for Worship by the Greek Orthodox Church.

Greek is the language in which the New Testament was written. Want to read the words of Jesus EXACTLY as the Gospel writers recorded them? Want to pray the same way the Christians did in the earliest centuries of Christianity? Greek's your language.

(Just a side note, if you do not speak Greek & wish to visit a Greek Orthodox Church - do not despair - there's usually plenty of English, too - and Greeks are known for their hospitality : )

Personally, point one is enough to convince me that Greek is the ideal language to study. To me, this is FAR more important than a hoped-for college admission test score. But, if you want further support, Greek has a lot MORE going for it!

2. Greek the source of many Medical and other academic terms - it will help your child ace that University Qualifying exam!

It is often said that many Medical terms come from Latin. Which is kinda true. But, anyone who knows Greek well will notice that English Medical terms are generally a breeze for them! Why is that? Well, who were the doctors in Ancient Rome, who CREATED the Latin Medical Terms? They were Greeks, of course! Little known historical fact, most of the occupations that we think of in modern times as being prestigious were occupied by slaves in Ancient Rome - including that of Doctor! When a Greek doctor was taken captive by the Roman Army, he was made a slave - but a slave who was still a doctor. (Source: Private Lives of the Romans by Harold Whetstone Johnstone, p.340) Many, if not most, medical terms are Greek root words with a Latinized ending. And one doesn't have to think long to think of other academic disciplines (like, say, Mathematics or Logic) that were strongly influenced by the Greeks and have lots of Greek terms. Latin can claim marginally more technical terms than Greek - but once you remove the words with clear Greek origins from the Latin count, Greek claims a huge percentage of the terms! (I know, I know, I'm sounding like the Dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding - but facts are facts! ; )

3. Greek has a very similar complex logical structure to Latin, if you're looking for brain-building.

Greek has a complex structure with Declensions and Noun Genders just as Latin does - so IF study of such a classical language does, in fact, mature a child's logic (which is debatable, but is a popular theory amongst Classical Homeschoolers) - then Greek and Latin are interchangeable for this task. 

4. Greek study has built in accountability.

It is easy to impress acquaintances by saying "I'm in my third year of Latin" or "I can conjugate 15 Latin verbs!" or "I took Latin at University." This is an easy way to impress others even if you aren't a good Latin student. In fact, it's easy to impress others this way even if your Latin is so bad that you couldn't say "Where is the bathroom?" in Latin if your life depended upon it. And that ability to to impress without accountability can be bad for your character.

Not so with Greek. Invariably you will encounter a native-speaker toddler or an illiterate Yiayia (Grandmother) whose grasp of Greek puts you to shame. That's something that will never happen with Latin.

And that's good for your Character : )

5. Greek is the best language for ordering a Frappe on a beautiful Mediterranean Beach. It's also the best language for conversing with my little girl's dear, sweet Yiayia (and my dear sweet Mother-in-Law).

Can't say that about Latin, now can  ya? ; )

If you're convinced, stay tuned for two companion posts that will list lots of great cheap & free resources!
Homeschooling for Cheap or for Free - Reading Greek
Homeschooling for Cheap or for Free - Conversational Greek
(look for new posts on Monday Mornings!)

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Mexican for a Week - Freezer Cooking Plan

Here's a freezer plan for a week of Mexican dinners. Of course, you probably don't want to eat Mexican every day for a whole week - you might prefer Vertical Meal Planning instead - this way, you can have Mexican once a week for more than a month! I recommend this plan to stock your freezer for several weeks' worth of "Taco Tuesdays."  That way, each week on your busy night (be it Tuesday or not), a Mexican meal is ready to heat & eat!

These meals are all Vegan, but if your crowd is not all Vegan, scroll down for Omnivore additions.

Besides being tasty & healthy, these meals are all super-frugal! : )

And, if you need these meals to be Gluten-Free, use some Gluten-Free Tortillas, (and spices, etc) and you're all set!

Although there is a lot of detail here which may make this plan LOOK complicated, it is really quite easy - I found that it worked very well on a day when I had many other tasks to see to. I was able to work these cooking tasks around a full day of teaching, errand running, cooking a different dinner for my family, laundry & other obligations. 

The overview is this:
Make an easy spice mix
Start 2 kinds of beans in the slow cooker.
Saute pre-cut frozen veggies.
Simmer a pot of Salsa.
Optional - put meat in a simple marinade & freeze (scroll all the way down for this one)
Combine & package most ingredients without further handling/cooking.
Mix together veggie burger ingredients, and cook them for 10 minutes while you tidy the kitchen. 

See? It's really easy : )

After this Freezer Cooking Day, You'll be ready to enjoy these meals!

Veggie Fajitas
On serving day, set out Veggie Fajita Mix, Salsa, Optional Omnivore Fajita strips, Lettuce, Tomato, Tortillas, Refried Beans, optional Fresh Guacamole (made with the Taco Seasoning you made today) & Chips. 

Black Bean Enchiladas 
On serving day, roll Enchilada filling in tortillas, top with Purchased Enchilada Sauce & Bake. Top with Lettuce & Tomato & optional fresh Guacamole (made with the Taco Seasoning you made today) or diced Avocado.

Mexican Haystacks
On Serving day, Set out Corn Chips, Simple Black Beans (or, you may prefer Refried Beans here - your choice) Lettuce, Tomato, Salsa, optional fresh Guacamole (made with the Taco Seasoning you made today), Optional Rice.

Fill Your Own Tortillas
On Serving Day, Set out Tortillas, Rice, Simple Black Beans (or Refried Beans - your choice) Lettuce, Tomato & Salsa. You might also choose to set out Taco Meat, Shredded Cheese & Sour Cream for Omnivores.

Lunch Bean Burritos for Freezer (or Bean Tacos)

For Burritos, roll Refried Beans, Rice & a spoon of Salsa in a Tortilla, roll up, & freeze.
For Soft Tacos, Fold Refried Beans with Lettuce & Tomato in Soft or Crunchy Taco Shell - top with Salsa if desired. (I usually make these from leftovers after a meal, rather than on freezer cooking day)

Southwest Black Bean Burgers
On Serving Day, serve these in Burger Buns with Lettuce & Tomato or with Tortillas as a wrap. Oven Fries go nicely, if you desire, or you could serve chips & salsa. 

Black Bean and Corn Salad 
On Serving day, Add to cooked Black Beans: Thawed Frozen Corn, Diced Tomato, Diced Avocado, Lime Juice & Taco Seasoning.  Stir & Serve.

I really enjoy this salad wrapped in a Tortilla with a little Shredded Lettuce. 

Super Simple Guacamole

Here's Your Shopping List:

Ingredients to purchase for cooking day:

2 pound Pinto Beans (Dry)
2 pounds Black Beans (Dry)
3 Bags of 3 Pepper & Onion Mix (or 2 1/2# fresh Multi-colored Peppers & Onions, cut in Crescents)
4 cans Mushrooms (4 oz per can, or equivalent fresh)
2 pounds Rice
1 bag Frozen Corn
1 Bunch Cilantro
1 cup Carrots
Oats (you'll need 2 1/2 cups)
5 cans Chopped Tomatoes
2 Fresh Onions
Jarred Minced Garlic
Lime Juice (you'll need 1/4 cup)
Purchased Ready-Made Pantry Additions (of course, you can make your own if you prefer):
Corn Chips such as Baked Tostitos
1 can Enchilada Sauce of your choice 
(If you are also cooking for an Omnivore, scroll down to the bottom of this post for additional shopping items)

Some of the Basic Ingredients for a Mexican Freezer Cooking Session

Spices & Staples

Check your Spice cabinet for these spices in the proper quantity
so you know if you need to re-stock at the grocery before starting

1 1/2 T Coriander
Cumin (about 2 Tablespoons)
1/2 cup Chili powder (The American Spice Blend, NOT ground chilies)
Oregano (about 2 Tablespoons)
Sriracha OR 4 small pickled peppers (Thai), very finely minced
1/2 cup Onion Powder
4 teaspoons Garlic Powder
2 1/2 Tablespoons Paprika

Fresh Ingredients for Serving:

Guacamole (make at serving time, using the Taco Seasoning you made) or Avocado (Optional)
Burger Buns or Bread (Optional)

On cooking day, you will Make:

Taco Seasoning

"Refried" Beans (Fajita Side Dish, Bean Tacos or Freezer Bean Burritos, Haystacks)

Black Beans (Enchilada Filling, Fill your own Tortilla, Haystacks, Burgers, Bean & Corn Salad)

Sauteed Veggies

Rice (you can opt to cook this ahead, or at serving time)

This is the Work Plan:

1. Make Taco Seasoning (This is a simple matter of measuring spices into a jar & shaking)

2. Start Pinto Beans cooking in Slow Cooker, and Black Beans in a second Slow Cooker If you only have one Slow Cooker, these steps can, of course, be done sequentially. (When I make two pounds of beans, I only increase the water to a total of 12 cups)

3. Saute 3 Bags of Pepper & Onion mix in large skillet (oil is optional here - I just cook them till they're done with nothing added). You will divide this mixture into 3rds later.

4. Prepare Salsa in a Stock Pot or Dutch Oven.

5. Optional: Prepare Rice

6. Take  a Break till Slow Cookers are done : ) (or do optional step 10 here)

7. When Pinto Beans are Tender, Drain extra liquid, add spices & mix for  "Refried" Beans according to directions. Package, label, & freeze. (I divide it into 4 freezer containers - about 2 1/2 to 3 cups per container)

8. When Black Beans are done, reserve 1/2 cup liquid and drain remaining liquid. Cool a little (to make your work easier) and package as follows:

For Simple Black Beans (to use for Fill Your Own Tortillas and Mexican Haystacks)
1/3 of Pepper & Onion Mixture, above
1 Tablespoon Minced, Jarred Garlic
4 1/2 cups Black Beans (drained)
1 Can Diced Tomatoes, with liquid
1 Tablespoon Taco Seasoning.
1/2 Cup reserved Black Bean cooking Liquid
Divide into 2 Containers, label & Freeze.

For Black Bean Enchiladas Filling:
Combine, package, label & Freeze
1/3 Pepper & Onion Mixture, above
2 (4oz) cans Mushrooms, Drained
3 Cups Black Beans (drained)
2 Tablespoons Taco Seasoning
(when you prepare this, warm the filling and roll in tortillas - 1/3 cup per tortilla- top with Enchilada filling & bake according to directions.

For Veggie Fajitas
Combine, package, label & freeze
1/3 of Pepper & Onion Mix
1 1/2 Tablespoons Taco Seasoning
2 (4oz) cans Mushrooms, drained

Make Southwest Black Bean Burgers
Pulse ingredients in food processor, stir together, shape patties, and bake if desired. This is a 10- minute bake time - I tidy the kitchen while these bake.
Cool Slightly, Package for individual meals, label & Freeze. Our family eats about 6 patties at a meal, so for us this is a 2-meal recipe : )
These can be served on traditional burger buns or wrapped in a tortilla for a wrap-style sandwich, as you prefer. 

Package remaining Black Beans (you should have about 2 cups) for Black Bean and Corn Salad 

9. Finish Salsa Preparation (add Garlic, Lime Juice & Cilantro, puree slightly, package, label & freeze)

10. If you are cooking for Omnivores, prepare Fajita marinade, and place raw strips of beef or chicken in Zippered freezer bag with marinade. Label & Freeze. When the time comes to cook, thaw and discard marinade. Saute meat in skillet. Alternately, make Taco Meat by sauteeing Onion & Ground Beef - add Taco Seasoning to Taste. Cool & Freeze.

11. If you chose the optional freezer burritos, roll some Refried Beans, Rice & Salsa in Tortillas for the Freezer.  Put a small amount of Salsa between the Refried Beans & Rice (rather than next to the tortilla), so that they will be less inclined to leak or become soggy. (When I make these, it is usually from leftovers AFTER a meal is served rather than on freezer cooking day)

12. Tidy Kitchen & relax - you have several Mexican Meals ready to go!

If you like this Freezer plan, you might also enjoy these:

Greek for a Week   

Indian for a Week

Make Sauce Tonight, Have Easy Meals for a Week

World Tour One

World Tour Two

Or, if this plan has really inspired you, you might want to check out these:
How to Design Your Own Freezer Cooking Plan

Why Do Freezer Cooking? 

Possible Omnivore Additions:

Fajita Chicken Strips or Flank Steak Strips (I buy the beef pre-cut at the grocery)
Taco Meat
Shredded Cheddar
Sour Cream

I use this marinade for Chicken or Steak Fajita Strips
It is very slightly adapated from a George Foreman recipe

Fajita Marinade
1 cup lime juice
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 T oil
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp crushed garlic
Thinly slice flank steak or boneless, skinless Chicken Breast
Place in gallon Ziploc or other large bag with marinade
Marinate 4 hours to overnight, or freeze. 
Meat will marinate while becoming frozen and while thawing.
To use:
Thaw, Drain, discard liquid, saute or grill meat.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Claire's Southern Delight

Claire's Southern Delight
This recipe is a regular family feature. An easy-and-quick-to-fix tasty, nutritious & satisfying meal that's easy to whip up at the end of a long day. I love this recipe because I can put on rice to cook, and have an entire meal ready when the rice finishes.

I'm indebted to our dear family friend, Claire, for this recipe. Claire truly has the gift of hospitality. She's an excellent cook - the kind of person who can cook for 40 people for a "little" lunch at her house after Church without thinking twice, or turn out a feast for 200 at the Church with an amount of expertise that makes it look as easy as cooking for six. It is truly a rare occasion that she serves a sit down dinner to her family without having at least one guest - whether that person is a long-time family friend, a new acquaintance, or a person in need. I stand in awe of her talent & her kindness! But, far more importantly, she has been a wonderful & faithful family friend for many years.

This is her recipe.

Claire’s Southern Delight
In a saucepan, add
2 Cans Light Red Kidney Beans, drained (Dark Red are also okay - or a mix of Light & Dark)
1 (8 oz) Can Tomato Sauce

Add Ample
Celery Salt
Onion powder

Add a Touch

Then add
1 ½ Tablespoon Vegan Bacon Flavored Bits*
¼ cup water

Simmer 20 minutes
Serve over Rice

*I find that it is easier to find Vegan Bacon Flavored Bits if I just look for the Kosher Certification.
After all, there's no such thing as Kosher Bacon.

I like to serve this with Better than Coleslaw & maybe some Corn Muffins

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