Friday, July 3, 2020

Why You Should Read the Apocrypha

Are the Apocryphal books worthwhile reading for modern Christians? What faith issues do they
Why You Should Read the Apocrypha
Why You Should Read the Apocrypha
address that might apply to us today?

I grew up Protestant. I was taught that there were 66 Books in the Bible - 39 Books in the Old Testament, and 27 Books in the New Testament. I was raised to read the Bible often, and be very familiar with its contents.

When I became a Greek Orthodox Christian, my Bible suddenly had a few more books than it used to have. Over the years, I have learned about these books, and why they're in Orthodox and Catholic Bibles. 

But, more than just learning facts about them, I have come to appreciate why they're really valuable reading for all Christians, right now.

These books have always been important, but at this current moment of history, they're vitally important.

First, a quick overview, then on to the reason you should read these books NOW.

There is a 400 year gap between the books of the Protestant Old Testament, and the Protestant New Testament. The books of the Apocrypha were written during the captivity of the Children of Israel - when they were in exile away from the Holy Land. Most of them were written either at the same time as the last books of the Old Testament (by date of writing), or between the end of the Protestant Old Testament, and the Beginning of the Protestant New Testament.

There is a variety of terms for this part of the Bible - Intertestamental Books, Deuterocanonicals, or Apocrypha. The first two terms are more accurate, but I chose the last for this article, because more people understand it.

But, some people misunderstand it. They think "Apocrypha" refers to spurious (false) books like the so called "Gospel of Judas." Those aren't the books I'm talking about here!

First, did you know that Jesus and the New Testament authors frequently quoted the Apocrphya?

If Jesus gave them honor, why would we discard them?

The New Testament clearly states that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah - a feast that we only learn about in the Apocrypha.

Some teach that the Apocrypha was added to the Bible by Catholics - but this is simply not true. The Bible contained the Apocrypha from Pre-Christian times, and it has always been in the Orthodox and Catholic Bibles (there are a few more books and chapters in the Orthodox Apocrypha than in the Catholic one). St. Jerome. who translated the Bible into the Latin Vulgate in the 4th century, noticed that the books were not part of the Jewish Bible (they were written in Greek, not in Hebrew), so he put them in their own section.

Some modern Protestants argue that the Apocrypha should not be part of the Bible because it has points they disagree with - but shouldn't we conform our lives and thoughts to the Holy Scriptures, not remove things from the Bible that don't conform to our own ideas about God?

Of course, next comes the modern question - "That history stuff is all very interesting - but what does it have to do with ME?"

Or, "But I'm Protestant - these books aren't in MY Bible. And that's a lot of reading! Why should I spend time reading those books?"

Every Christian should read these books, because these are the books that can speak to us in our current situation in a way that other books cannot.  And, if Jesus considered them worth quoting from, that should say something to us about their value.

Also, it is important to realize that while many Protestant denominations do not consider the Apocrypha to be part of the official Bible (Canonical), most DO recommend them as beneficial spiritual reading. These books were in the original King James Version, too! So, even if you're King James Only - they're a good read! : )

Now, on to the point of this post - Why is NOW a great time to read the Apocrphya?

The Apocrypha was written at a time when it was a CRIME to behave as a Believer! These books are from the time of the Prophet Daniel, and Queen Esther, and later - when to be caught praying, or refusing to eat Pork, or simply being a Believer was a criminal offense, punishable by death.

We are now entering a time of very mild persecution - by comparison. But, already Christians have lost businesses, a lost jobs, lost professional licensing, been threatened with the confiscation of a home home, or have even gone to jail for practicing their faith.

People like:

And many others.

But, in the West -so far, no actual torture or physical martyrdom.

While we're told we can "believe" anything we want, we are increasingly punished for acting in accordance with our beliefs. And, let's be honest, if you say you believe something, but your actions don't show it, you're a hypocrite, not a believer. After all, if you believed your house was on fire, you'd leave right now- not say, "I believe it, but I'd like to keep surfing the net, so I'll stay here."

In the Apocrypha, we read stories of those heroes and heroines who lived their Faith - courageously -  even in the face of brutal torture and death.

They can inspire us with courage in these challenging times - just like they did the Martyrs of the first centuries.

When we visited this ancient Catacomb in Cyprus, where early Christians hid from persecution, who did we find was painted on the walls?

St. Solomone, the Mother of the Seven Maccabean Martyrs, who steadfastly encouraged each of her precious, beloved Seven Sons as they were tortured to death for their love of God.

This was a story that the brave early Christians took courage from. And, it can be a story that gives us courage today, as we face persecution of much less magnitude.

This story is found in the Apocrypha - in the Books of Maccabees.

Or, we can read of Tobit, who performed the righteous deed of burying those Martyred by their oppressor - even at risk of his own life. That story is in the book of Tobit.

Knowing how to live well, courageously, and righteously under a system infected with sin is a difficult challenge. But the books of the Apocrypha can help us.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12, KJV)

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Thursday, April 9, 2020

Vegan Spinach Artichoke Stromboli

Vegan Spinach Artichoke Stromboli
This dish is a huge hit at our house. It's one of those things that looks tricky to make, but really is
super easy. And it seems unhealthy, but really it's filled with healthy ingredients.

If, like me, you usually keep no-knead refrigerator bread dough in the refrigerator, then it can be prepared pretty quickly - but looks like it took hours.

If you don't keep your own dough on hand, you can whip one up in about 5 minutes, using a recipe below. Or you can use a pound of dough from the grocery store.

I use one of these two no knead doughs - either one can be made in about 5 minutes. You can stir the dough ingredients together 2 hours before making the rest of the recipe. Or, you can prepare the dough the night before, or even days in advance, and pull it from the fridge when you need it.

My Vegan Brioche Dough

Artisan Bread in Five Basic Dough

I've tried this with both doughs, and they're both delicious. My family has a slight preference for my dough recipe in this dish. (They prefer the other one for some other dishes I serve, so they're not just biased : )

I got the idea for this filling from this Spinach and Artichoke Rolls recipe at Rabbits and Wolves and adapted it slightly. I love their blog, and recommend checking it out for this and other great recipes!
Preparing the filling is easy. These instructions make enough for 2 - 3 Strombolis, made with 1 pound dough per Stromboli. 

These are the ingredients you'll need:
Firm or Extra Firm Tofu (not silken)
Apple Cider Vinegar
White Miso
Fresh Spinach (Frozen can sub, if that's all you have, but it's not quite as wonderful)
Marinated Artichoke Hearts
Spaghetti Sauce (from a jar)

And this is what you do:

In a Colander, place

1 Block Firm or Extra Firm Tofu

Squeeze it firmly with your hands to extract all the liquid you can.
It will fall apart - that's okay.
Place in a food processor:

Tofu (above)
2 Tablespoons Oil
2 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar
1 teaspoon Salt
Pepper to taste
2 teaspoons White Miso

Whir till smooth, scoop into mixing bowl, set aside

Now, in a Saute Pan, heat
Oil (you decide how much )
1 teaspoon Fresh Garlic (I use the kind from a jar)
Then add
1 Quart (2-3 handfuls) Fresh Baby Spinach, Rinsed (not dried) & chopped
Salt & pepper
Saute till just wilted, but still bright green.

Add to mixing bowl with tofu mixture (above)

Finally, Drain & coarsely chop
1 jar Marinated Artichoke Hearts

Add to mixing bowl with Tofu & Spinach mixture (above) and stir

Now, take 1 pound of dough (enough for a loaf of bread) flour it well, and roll it into a large rectangle  on a floured cutting board.

Move Dough Rectangle onto a parchment - lined pan

Dough Rolled into large rectangle, and placed on parchment, next to a roll of Baguette Dough

As you can see, I put a cylinder of dough next to the Stromboli, so we could have a Baguette, too! 

Down the middle of the dough, lenthwise, Drizzle

Pizza Sauce

Drizzle Pizza Sauce Down Middle of Rectangle

Then, down the middle, again lengthwise, Spoon
1/3 to 1/2 of Filling mixture

Spoon Filling on top of Pizza Sauce
Then, with a Pizza Cutter, cut several parallel lines (creating dough strips that are attached to the center dough), perpendicular to filling, down each length of rectangle - like this.

Cut Parallel lines, perpendicular to filling. Use a Pizza Cutter.

Then, cut the lines the same way down the other side of the rectangle.

Now, alternating from one side to the other, fold the strips of dough over the filling. This makes a beautiful braided look, and is very easy to do!

Fold Dough Strips over Center Filling

Alternate Sides, each time pulling over center Filling.

Keep going, folding in from alternate sides the whole way down.

Keep going. Don't worry if it doesn't look perfect!

Keep alternating sides, and folding over the center. See the Braid Developing?

Keep going all the way to the end, folding final strips under the end of the Stromboli.

Now, allow to rest, while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Finally, slide the pan with the Stromboli into the oven, and bake for 30 minutes.

(BTW, this recipe will also work at 350 degrees for 40 minutes : )

Remove from oven. Allow to cool JUST long enough to avoid burnt mouths. Although if you can wait long enough, it's also good warm. We've never had enough left over for me to know how it tastes cold ; )

Vegan Spinach Artichoke Stromboli, Fresh out of the Oven.

Vegan Spinach Artichoke Stromboli

Cut (I use Kitchen Shears) and Serve!

Vegan Spinach Artichoke Stromboli, Ready to Serve.


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Saturday, April 4, 2020

Easy Baked Goods Without Dairy or Eggs

Recipes for Baking with No Milk, No Butter, No Eggs
Right now, because of the Coronavirus, it's a little hard to get everything we need from the store.

I normally do all my baking without milk or eggs, so I thought I'd offer a few ideas that might be helpful to those who don't usually bake that way.  

I've also heard that yeast is unavailable in some stores, so I've divided these recipes into quick breads (no yeast) and yeast breads, so you can see at a glance which ones you'll be able to make with what you can get.

And, of course desserts. All of my desserts are yeast-free : ) And desserts can really help morale at a time like this!

Here is a very good look at why we're having so much trouble getting dairy. It's more complicated than you may have thought. 

If you have no flour, but have a cake mix or some cereal, I even have a couple of ideas for you!

If you need to bake, but don't have milk, butter or eggs available, here are some easy ideas:

Quick Breads:

Banana Bars (no flour needed!)

Apple Cinnamon Muffins
Apple Cinnamon Pancakes
Banana Bread Waffles
Banana Bars (no flour needed!)
Blueberry Muffins, Quick, Easy, Healthy  
Blueberry Pancakes
Five Muffins from Your Own Mix   

French Toast (without eggs or milk!)

French Toast
Strawberry Pancakes
Cornbread or Corn Muffins
Cornbread, Ten Minute Summer (no oven required!)

Cornbread, Ten Minute Summer (no oven required!) No Dairy, No Eggs

Vegan Banana Muffins
Vegan Cranberry Streusel Muffins
Vegan Pumpkin Mini Muffins
Waffles, Toaster 
Waffles - without Eggs or Milk!
Zucchini Bread Waffles
Zucchini Mini Muffins

Oatmeal Muffins Mix, MYO, 5 Ways

Oatmeal Muffins Mix, MYO, 5 Ways (no Dairy, No Eggs)

Yeast Breads:

Breadsticks, Stove top

Breadsticks, Stove top (no oven required)

Challah, Easy, No Knead Vegan
Cinnamon Roll Crescents, Easy, No Knead 
Cinnamon Rolls, Easy, No Knead, Vegan, No Oil 
Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Walnut Bread 
Crescent Rolls, Easy, No Knead, Vegan

Crescent Rolls, Easy, No Knead, Vegan

Dinner Rolls, Vegan, Soft & Fluffy, No Knead, Refrigerator 
Easter Bread, Greek (Tsoureki) No Knead, Vegan 

Easter Bread, Greek (Tsoureki) No Knead, Vegan 
Easy Yeast Bread in the Slow Cooker 

Easy Yeast Bread in the Slow Cooker 

Homemade Yeast Bread

Homemade Yeast Bread (no knead, no machine, no dairy, no eggs)

Pita Bread, Stove Top (no oven required!) 

Pita Bread, Stove Top (no oven required!)

Easy, No Knead, Greek Olive Crescents (Eliopites) \ 
Stir & Pour Garlic Bread Sticks 
Stir & Pour Cinnamon Sugar Bread Sticks 

A variety of Stir & Pour Breads - no dairy, no eggs.

Stir & Pour Dinner Rolls 
Stir & Pour Toasting & Sandwich Loaf 

Stir & Pour Focaccia

Stir & Pour Focaccia 
Stir & Pour Calzone Casserole 
Stir & Pour Thin Sandwich Buns
Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls, Easy, Soft, No Knead, Oil Free 
Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls, Slow Cooker
Whole Wheat Naan (no oven required)
Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread, Easiest Ever


Brownie Snowball Cookes

Brownie Snowball Cookies (no dairy, no eggs)
Brownies, Delightful Vegan
Cashew Cardamom Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cookies, Vegan Cookies from a Regular Cake Mix  

Cookies, Vegan Cookies from a Regular Cake Mix 
Crispy Rice Treats
Cupcakes, Chocolate & Vanilla

Cupcakes, Chocolate & Vanilla (no dairy, no eggs)
Cutout Cookies  
Gingerbread Crunch Cookies
Make One Mix, Make Ten Different Cookies

Make One Mix, Make Ten Different Cookies

Lemon Snack Cake
Peanut Butter Cookies
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Russian Teacakes ( Vegan Mexican Wedding Cakes )
Slice and Bake Sugar Cookies

Slice and Bake Sugar Cookies (no eggs, no dairy)
Samali (Greek Semolina Dessert)

Samali (Greek Semolina Dessert)

Strawberry Celebration Cupcakes
Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies 
Three Minute, Three Bite Brownie for One
Thumbprint Cookies
White Cake, Easy Vegan
12 Children's Vegan Mixes for Toy Ovens  
3 Minute, 3 Bite Brownie for 1   

No Flour in the house? Try these "cupcakes" 
Crispy Rice Cupcakes

Crispy Rice Cupcakes

We all need to keep praying for God's Mercy in these difficult times. I hope these recipes help you.

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