Monday, March 30, 2015

Learn about Jesus - in any Language

Icon of the Crucifixion from Kykkos Monastery, Cyprus
 Would you like to learn about Jesus, but have trouble with English?

Watch this movie about the life of Jesus - simply choose your language at the top of the screen:

The Jesus Film - in Any Language.

 Or perhaps you speak English well - but you have a neighbor or friend who has English as a second language, but is curious about Christianity this Easter season?

The film is also available in English at this same site (link above), for those who would like to learn or remember this story during Holy Week : )

Here's a trailer for the movie - in English

If you want to share this story with English speaking children, I found this GREAT video on Youtube

Whether you celebrate the Resurrection of Christ this Sunday or Next - and whether you call it Easter or Pascha, have a Blessed Feast of the Resurrection!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Easy Veggie Spring Rolls (Vegan)

Veggie Spring Rolls (Easy, Freezer-Friendly)
I love Spring Rolls, but I have trouble finding any that  meet my requirements:
1) Reasonably priced,
2) Tasty,
3) Vegan, and
4) Not deep fried.

I love the convenience of the ones in the freezer section at the grocery, but unfortunately, although they're Vegan, they often don't meet ANY of my other requirements. The flavor of commercially produced Spring Rolls has really gone downhill in recent years (perhaps living in Asia spoiled me?) and I often find them a disappointment, and use the dip to cover up the flavor rather than enhance it!

I found a great recipe on Mom on a Mission, (I LOVE her blog!) but I tweaked it a little to meet my preferences. When I made the original recipe, I felt that the moisture in the veggies made the wrapper become soggy too quickly when serving, so I cooked the veggies before filling the wrappers to cook away the extra moisture. I also added mushrooms to give a nice savory flavor and chewier bite, and adjusted the seasonings a bit to my taste. But, I KEPT her great concept of quick and easy Spring Rolls that are Freezer-Friendly and can be made in bulk for when you need them : )

I found Vegan Spring Roll wrappers at more than one Asian or Specialty Grocery Store. This is the brand I used for this recipe:

For the filling, I shredded the carrots in a machine (yes, I actually HAVE a Salad Shooter - no Chia Pet yet, tho ; ). In contrast, I found that machine- slicing the cabbage made it too fine for my taste - I prefer the slightly coarser texture that comes from hand-chopping. I chopped the canned (tinned) mushrooms, and just added everything else into my huge skillet (actually a 14" Paella Pan) added the seasonings, and cooked it till the veggies were done and the moisture was gone.

Then, I rolled it up in the Spring Roll wrappers.

Wrap 'Em Up!

At that point, I baked some and froze the rest.  If you wish to use them later the same day, you can also keep them in the fridge at this point - before baking.

These are going in the Fridge. For the Freezer, I would put waxed paper between the layers.

This recipe makes about a dozen Spring Rolls. For efficiency sake, I recommend doubling it for your freezer, but you will probably have to cook the filling in two batches to fit in your pan - unless you have industrial-sized cookware to work with. I even made it in two batches with my extra large pan.

If you use frozen commercial wrappers, you will want to thaw them for 1/2 hour before using. Then, make sure that they're not drying out while you're wrapping up! Either keep them covered in plastic or in a damp towel. (or work really fast ; )

Here's the recipe

Veggie Spring Rolls
Cook in large non-stick pan till vegetables are done and liquid has all evaporated
1 cup Carrots, Shredded
1 small Head Cabbage (or 1/2 of a very large head) very coarsely shredded
1 Tablespoon Toasted (or "Dark") Sesame Oil
1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder
1/4 teaspoon Ginger Powder
1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
Allow filling to cool (so that you can easily handle it) then wrap it in Spring Roll wrappers as described on the package - burrito style. I use about 1/3 cup filling per wrapper.

At this point, they can be frozen, with layers of waxed paper between layers of Spring Rolls, or they can be baked.

To Bake, Place rolls on baking pan (preferably a pan that will crisp the bottoms*), Brush lightly with Oil, and Bake in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes.

I use a silicone pastry brush for brushing on oil. If you do not have such a brush, you can simply dip a little corner of paper towel in oil and rub the oil on the Spring Rolls.  If you do not use oil, these can be made with no oil at all - they don't brown quite as nicely, but they still turn out pretty tasty.

*I bake these on my perforated, non-stick Pizza pan so that they will not get soggy on the bottom.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Real Raspberry Frosting

Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting
This Frosting is so easy to make, and so vividly colored, and delicious. It can be made thick enough to pipe through a pastry tube, if you want a nice swirl - or you can spread it with a knife.

Whether you want to use it for a Valentine's Day treat, or for a Birthday - it's delightful!

Vegan Raspberry Frosting
Mix with Electric mixer, adding Powdered Sugar Gradually until desired thickness is reached
1/4 Cup Frozen Red Raspberries, thawed and mashed with a fork
1/4 Cup Earth Balance or other Vegan Buttery Spread
About 3 Cups Powdered Sugar (Also known as Confectioner's Sugar or XXXX Sugar)

My experience is that when I think it is thick enough, I should continue adding sugar for a bit longer to really get a piping consistency.

Decorate Cupcakes (or cake). If you want sprinkles or other decorations, add them while Frosting is wet. Allow to set/dry.

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.

A Note about Confectioner's Sugar Frostings - often the Frosting might seem to have a gritty texture when freshly made, before the Frosting sets. It is my experience that this is fine, and the texture turns out perfect when the Frosting has set.

Need a cupcake to put this lovely frosting on?
Chocolate & Vanilla Cupcakes - Vegan

This is being shared at
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Monday, March 9, 2015

Why I (Finally) Bought a Canister Vacuum

Our new-to-us Canister Vac - with the thrift price still on - ready to work!
When I was a kid, Mom had two vacuums - a canister vacuum and an upright vacuum. She was a
very wise and sensible woman, which meant that chores like vacuuming generally belonged to us kids.

As a kid, I took a liking to the upright vacuum - it was an all-in-one contraption. It had a fancy headlight which made it even more kid-friendly. I didn't have to "drag that thing around the house" (which was how I perceived using the canister vacuum. It was an opinion that stayed with me for decades.)

Fast forward to a couple of months ago, when I decided to rethink my long-held opinion. I have a severe back problem, and carrying a "light" (only 15 pounds!) upright vacuum around the house, and propelling it across the room was quickly proving to be a formula for infirmity. I could pretty much guarantee that if I vacuumed one day, I'd be in pain with limited movement the next. The upright vacuum was awfully big to keep on our ground floor, but at the same time, was heavy to carry up and down stairs. It was going to be needing new bags soon, and none of the local stores carried them.

I decided I was in the market for a new vacuum.

Our little "stick" vacuum was a dream - light - easy to use - but didn't have the suction power of a full sized machine. It was good for touch ups, but not for deep cleaning.(It's an apparently discontinued Eureka Multi Vac 166A)

I looked for a full power upright with a similar weight and design to the stick vacuum, and started reading reviews. The reviews were beyond bad. I really don't need a vacuum that is going to catch on fire when I use it (and LOTS of purchasers were reporting this little glitch). I also don't need one that will need an expensive new belt every couple of months - another common problem.

Then, I looked at the more expensive "light" uprights. Most of them were the same weight as the one I already had! I might be able to get one that weighed only 10 pounds - if I was willing to pay several hundred dollars for it, and gamble on whether it would still hurt my back! (those who know me well know  how laughably unlikely that is!). Manufacturers warned that these were carpet-only vacuums that might malfunction on hardwood floors.

Or, I could get one of the fancy robot vacuums. There seemed to be two categories of those in the reviews: the $400. model that didn't work, and the $600. model that might work. For that amount of money, I could HIRE someone to vacuum my floors!

Then I started thinking: virtually every professional cleaning person I have ever seen at work had a canister vacuum! Why would they use such an ungainly apparatus? Had I missed something?

I started reading reviews, and found lots of promising information about the newer canister vacuums. They have little wheels now, so the canister follows you around the house like a puppy - and the part you lift and propel is exceptionally light! At the touch of a button, many models retract their own cords - unlike most upright vacs. They easily go under furniture. They go from hardwood to carpet with absolutely no effort. Many models are comparatively inexpensive, and quite light - and, most importantly - they're strong and effective!

So, I started mulling over whether I should buy a new canister vacuum to replace my upright. The deal clincher came when I was at my favorite thrift store, and spotted  one like this  on sale for $8.99!   I plugged it in, only to discover that it ran, but had no suction. Bummer. Then, I opened the bin - and discovered that apparently the previous owner hadn't known that there were TWO compartments to empty. I emptied it properly - and voila! -it suddenly worked great! (Now that I have it, I consider it well worth the retail price : )

After I got it home, I discovered that it had several advantages that made it even better than I had expected. I can empty the bin easily every time I use it - rather than waiting for a bag to fill up - there is no bag. I never did like the idea of storing my old dirt in the vacuum (not to mention the possibility of old dust getting blown into the air when the thing was turned on). Emptying it every time means that I can see how incredibly effective it is - this thing picks up a LOT of dirt. Perhaps best of all, it doesn't have a moving brush with a belt - this means that when my daughter's Rapunzel-length hair is picked up (and it picks up hair very well) , it doesn't get wrapped around a brush and break a belt or burn out a motor.

And, as I hoped, my back likes it a lot!  : )

If you're in the market for a new vacuum - I'd encourage you to check out a canister vac!

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Month of Lenten Menus with Links (17 GF Ideas)

The Icon of the Rich Man and Lazarus from Kykkos Monastery, Cyprus
The Biblical Story of the Rich Man and Lazarus tells the story of a rich man who fared sumptuously (which is to say, ate like most of us Americans eat!) every day while neglecting to share with the poor man, Lazarus, who was just outside his gate. During Lent, we are supposed to focus on prayer and alms giving, while reducing our self-indulgence - not any easy task for any of us.

For Orthodox Christians, during Lent we are encouraged to do our best to keep our food mostly Vegan. Here's a month of menus for this Lenten Season.

I prepared this month of menus with my 10 Minute Monthly Menu Planning System.

Scroll down for the entire month's calendar, or enjoy scrolling by a few pictures first : )

Note: Seveteen of these menus are naturally Gluten-free - the Gluten-free ones are fairly obvious - dishes served over rice or made from beans, for example. Nearly all of them CAN be made gluten-free if you make simple substitutions - a Gluten-Free Corn Tortilla for a Flour Tortilla, or a Gluten-Free pasta for traditional - and, don't forget to use all Gluten-Free ingredients- like Soy Sauce, for example. 

If you're interested in other Lenten Menu plans, check out these past posts:

Lenten Potluck Ideas
Menu for the First Week of Orthodox Christian Lent
Lenten Menu -A Meal for Every Day of Great Lent 
A Month of Gluten Free Vegan Meals with Recipe Links 

For other websites with great Lenten Plans (and many Greek Recipes) check out these - a few that are favorites of mine this time of year:

Kopiaste - Great Greek & Cypriot cooking blog, with many vegan recipes

Great Lent Gourmet

The Greek Vegan

Teriyaki Veggies over Rice
Greek Peas & Artichokes Yachni

Indian Lemon Rice with Peas

Pad Thai

Lentil Salad

Black Bean Soup

Tabouli & Lentil Salads, Dolmades
Red Beans & Rice, Slaw
(scroll down)
Veggie Burgers, Potatoes

This is being shared on
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Monday, February 23, 2015

Spinach & Mushroom Calzone

Vegan Spinach & Mushroom Calzone
These Calzones were greeted with great enthusiasm by my daughter (and by us grownups!) - they're delicious, and add a nice variety to a Vegan menu.

I always love to find an easier way to make something, and these were much easier than you might expect. I made a few fresh for today, and several more to go in the freezer for future meals.

For the outside, I used the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day dough that I always keep on hand in the refrigerator. It really does take 5 minutes to whip up a batch! Of course, you could always use purchased dough from the store if you prefer.

Then, I made a double batch of my easy Manicotti filling, and made a tray of Manicotti for the freezer for a future meal along with these Calzones (A single Batch of Manicotti filling makes either one pan of Manicotti or a Dozen Calzones with a little filling to spare - so doubling the batch allows me to have both!)  You don't have to double the filling & make both recipes, it's just a nice option to have : )

For this recipe, you'll need:
Bread Dough (Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day or store bought)
Manicotti Filling (below)
Pizza Sauce (store bought or home made)
Buttery Spread - like Earth Balance
Garlic Salt

Manicotti or Calzone Filling (this is a single batch)
1 diced Onion (or 1/2 of a 12oz bag of Frozen Chopped Onion OR 3/4 tsp Onion Powder)
1 to 2 teaspoons Minced Garlic
1 (10 to 12 ounce) package frozen, chopped spinach (thawed and drained and squeezed dry)
1 (14 to 16 ounce) package firm tofu, mashed with fork (I prefer the refrigerated kind in plastic tubs to the aseptically packaged varieties)
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
½ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Pepper
1 (4oz) can Mushrooms, drained
Mix together thoroughly

Then, I pulled off plum-sized pieces of dough, rolled them into circles (about 6 to 8" in diameter) and spread them with some Pizza Sauce in the middle. (I make 3 calzones with a pound of dough. My 4-pound, Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day batch of dough, makes a Dozen Calzones)

**If you use onion powder instead of fresh or frozen onion, the sauteing step may be skipped - just stir & stuff - but note, volume of filling will be decreased slightly
I rolled out the dough

I spread on Pizza Sauce, being careful to leave a wide edge margin for sealing

I added a rounded 1/3 cup of filling

Then I folded it over, and firmly pinched the edges, and perforated the top

I put in a rounded 1/3 cup of Manicotti or Calzone Filling in the middle, and stretched the dough over the top, being careful not to get sauce on the edges of the dough (sauce on the edges prevents a seal - you can see a couple of leaks on the pictures below where I had sauce across the seal). Then, I pinched the edges of the dough shut. I patted them down a bit, and put them on the pizza baking tray. Then I slashed the top to vent steam (I made the mistake with the first batch of pricking with a fork rather than slashing - the holes resealed & the steam did not vent well). Right before baking, I splashed them with a bit of water to make a nice crust.
Calzones Coming out of the oven on the Perforated, nonstick Pizza Pan

I baked them in a preheated oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 to 30 minutes, till golden brown. Then, I brushed with a tiny bit of Buttery Spread, and sprinkled with Garlic Salt.

Serve - be cautious - centers will be steamy-hot!

Calzones after baking, with buttery spread & garlic salt
If you want a restaurant-style presentation, you might want to serve some extra warm Pizza sauce for dipping. 

The ones we were not eating today were put in a single layer on a parchment-lined pan in the freezer to flash freeze. When they're frozen, they'll be transferred to an airtight freezer container.
Calzones ready for flash freezing

These Freeze well, but they are best when freshly made. I thawed them before baking. In the future I hope to try baking them straight from the freezer and see how that works.

Tip for dining with Omnivores: If you have a traditional Calzone recipe to serve your Omnivores along side these, that would be perfect. Also, when the Omnivores in the family order out for Calzones or Pizza from the local pizzeria, it's nice to be able to toss one of these in the oven for the Vegans : )

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Monday, February 16, 2015

The Story of Mrs. Good and Mrs. Bad (with 4 Lenten Menu Plans)

The Ladder of Divine Ascent, as depicted at Kykkos Monastery, Cyprus
There is an old traditional Greek Orthodox story that I recently read in a book. It's a very short story,
but the kind of thing that really sticks with you. It's a story that Yiayia (Grandmother) might tell to her Grandchild.

Once upon a time, there was a lady named Mrs. Good. Every day, when she left her home to go to the market, she would encounter on the road her neighbor, Mrs. Bad. Every day Mrs. Good and Mrs. Bad visited with each other and discussed the events of the day - their children, their husbands, and the news of the country.

At the end of each day, Mrs. Good went home to Mr. Good and told him how wonderful Mrs. Bad was - what a delightful neighbor she was - how wonderful she was to chat with - and all her virtues.

And, every day, Mrs. Bad went home to Mr. Bad, and vented to him about how horrible Mrs. Good was. What a horrible neighbor she was - and how horrible to chat with - and all of her vices.

That's the whole story, as it is traditionally told.

But, I'd like to encourage you to fast-forward this story to the 21st Century. Imagine Mrs. Good and Mrs. Bad each have a Facebook Account, a Twitter Account and a Blog.

What do you think Mrs Good posts about Mrs Bad? What do you think she posts about her her own Husband, her Children, her Parents and her Friends - and even Politicians?

How about Mrs. Bad? What does she post about Mrs. Good? What do you think she posts about her own Husband, her Children, her Parents and her Friends?

Where would you see the rants? Where would you see the venting? The "Open Letters?"

This from Matthew 12: 34b-37

. . . for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.  A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.  But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.  For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Or, in the words of St. John Chryosostom:

“Let the mouth also fast from disgraceful speeches and railings. For what does it profit if we abstain from fish and fowl and yet bite and devour our brothers and sisters? The evil speaker eats the flesh of his brother and bites the body of his neighbor. ” 

AS we enter the Lenten Season, whether on Ash Wednesday or on Clean Monday, let us consider not only the food we eat, but the words we speak & write.  

And, if you're looking for what to cook and eat this Lenten Season, you might enjoy these posts:

Lenten Potluck Ideas

Menu for the First Week of Orthodox Christian Lent

Lenten Menu -A Meal for Every Day of Great Lent 

A Month of Gluten Free Vegan Meals with Recipe Links

This post was featured on:

Recipes and Ramblins with the Tumbleweed Contessa

This is being shared on:
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