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.

Alternatively, I like to serve this as a wrap - the Beans, Rice, some Slaw and something sour - like Green Olives or Pickles - rolled in a Tortilla. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Whatever Happened to St. Lazarus?

St. Lazarus Church, Larnaca, Cyprus
Like most American Christian children, I grew up reading the Bible. I learned the stories well, and loved them. I knew the characters by name, and new each of their stories, the same way secular children can name and tell you all about their favorite movie characters, or their favorite sports characters.

That is, I thought I knew them well . . . .

Then, I became an Orthodox Christian, and began learning additional historical bits and pieces of the stories of well known Biblical persons.

Then, I went to Cyprus, and began to learn how very much I didn't know! The people of Cyprus seem to talk of St. Lazarus as if he was there just a few decades ago, and everyone's parents remember him. This is a level of intimacy with the Saints that seemed foreign to me.

Let me share with you what I learned about St. Lazarus in Cyprus:

If you know the Bible Story, you know that St. Lazarus had two sisters, Martha and Mary. You know they were from Bethany. You know Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. And, you know that, after Lazarus had been dead for four days, Jesus raised him from the dead!

An Icon telling the story of the life of St. Lazarus

Lazarus, Come Forth!

But, if you only know the Bible Story, you're missing some important details. Not details that would contradict or disprove the story you know - quite the contrary - details that would enrich and reinforce your relationship with the story & with the Saint - and, most importantly - with God.

You see, after St. Lazarus was raised from the dead, his story didn't stop. If someone is raised from the dead - they keep living! It is strange that before this visit to Cyprus, I had never even given a second thought to what  happened next

When Jesus raises a person from the dead, what does that person do next? How does he do honor to the great miracle he has experienced, and more importantly to the Great God who raised him?

In the case of St. Lazarus, he became one of the first Bishops of Cyprus. He took the Gospel he had experienced first hand, and shared it with those who didn't know it. He lived in and served the city-kingdom of Kition (now known as Larnaca), on the southeastern coast of the Island of Cyprus. He served as a Bishop there for 30 years. 

The Iconostasis at the Church of St. Lazarus

It is said that after he was raised from the dead, St. Lazarus never smiled or joked. He realized the very great importance of this life and of eternity and didn't deal with them lightly. Only one time did he break this practice: when he witnessed a thief stealing a piece of pottery, he made an ironic comment about (a person who, after all is descended from Adam who was made of) clay stealing clay.

Inside the Church of St. Lazarus

To this day, there is a Church dedicated to St. Lazarus in the City of Larnaca, where he served the people of Cyprus. It is built over his second tomb (imagine, having two tombs!). His relics were taken from the tomb at some point in history, but some of them were restored to the Church and can be venerated upstairs in the Nave. Despite its great historical and artistic treasures, this is not a museum, it is a Church in the middle of town, with parishioners and regular services.

The Reliquary of St. Lazarus. His bones are inside the box under glass.

The Bones of St. Lazarus

St. Lazarus' second tomb has one word carved on the side in Greek: Friend. What an awe inspiring title!

The Second Tomb of St. Lazarus

Here you can see the inscription more clearly - the word "friend" in Greek.

Here are some references if you'd like more information
Greek Orthodox Church information about the Saturday of Lazarus
Orthodoxwiki on St. Lazarus
Information for Tourists about St. Lazarus Church

The day before Palm Sunday is called "The Saturday of Lazarus." It is a special day to honor St. Lazarus, and the holy life he lived in service to God, and it is the beginning of Holy Week.

For us who are Orthodox Christians - the Saturday of Lazarus is today - April 4 - this year.

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