Monday, December 26, 2016

THE ONE Resolution That is The BEST

Every year, as soon as Christmas is over, people start thinking about what their New Year's Resolution should be. They usually follow a few patterns.

Many are self-centered:
"I'll get into a size 6 jeans again!"
"I'll lose 20 pounds!"
"I'll get my cholesterol below 150!"
"I'll pay off one of my credit cards!"
"I'll quit smoking!"

Or, they're impossible to quantify:
"I'll be nicer to people!"
"I'll quit yelling at my family!"
"I'll be a better person!"

It's unlikely or impossible to obtain:
"I'll quit sinning!"
"I'll loose 75 pounds!"
"I'll get rid of $100k of debt in 6 months!"
"I'll win the lottery!"
"I'll max out the college entrance exams!"

All of the above are admirable goals in their own ways. Nearly all of them would serve to make your lives, or the lives of those around you better.

And, let's be honest. Many of them will disappear even before the Christmas leftovers are all gone from the freezer and the Christmas decorations are all down.

But those that DO last for a year? What do we gain from them? All too often, we receive flattery or approval from others to feed our pride. Or, maybe our health is better and we could even gain a brief extension on our longevity.

But, sooner or later, most of these lofty goals will be in the dust. Useless to ourselves. Useless to others. As my Mother used to often ask me about things I thought of as oh-so-important as a child, "How much will this thing matter in 100 years?"

For most of our resolutions - the unfortunate answer is "Not at all!"

I'd like to challenge you to make a New Year's Resolution THIS YEAR that you will still be happy that you made 100 years from now.

This is an amazing 3 minute video that EVERYONE should watch, especially when making plans for their next year:

I challenge you to read your entire Bible through this year. Or listen to your entire Bible in an audio format. Or, if that seems insurmountable to you, to read the New Testament all the way through this year, and gradually build up over a few years' time to reading the entire Bible. (I leave the One Year Bible icon and link in my sidebar all year for your convenience). If you prefer a plan that includes the Deuterocanonical books (or Apocryphal books) - which is to say the entire Bible for Orthodox or Catholic Christians, there's a plan here. 
For a distinctly Orthodox Plan, Here ya go!

It's a resolution you'll never regret.

I know what you might be thinking, "Shouldn't I be feeding the poor instead?" "Shouldn't I go as a missionary instead?" "What good will it do me to read some book that was written a couple of Millennia ago? What does that have to do with life?"

Well, the Bible is God's written instruction to us. It tells us how to lead our lives to please Him. It tells us how best to love & serve others. How can we go DO that, if we haven't found out how? It teaches us how to live our lives in the way that is the most beneficial to US, too!  It tells us how to prepare to stand before His Throne on Judgment Day. What could be more important than that? What could apply to our lives MORE than this time-tested, proven Book that so many have been willing to die rather than lose? If you read it, and hide it in your heart, God will give you the absolute BEST guidance on how to serve Him in this life.

Remember, Adam and Eve were held responsible for the academic sloppiness of deciding to believe the Serpent instead of God. Yet, we modern Christians with every advantage and every resource, readily believe so many lies the World tells us, without even bothering to brush the dust off of our Bibles and see if we are believing correctly.

Very little makes me more sad than discovering that a literate Christian who is Blessed to own a Bible doesn't value his or her Christian Faith enough to read the Bible on a regular basis. What a GREAT, TRAGIC loss!

Remember, that ALL of the Saints of the Church speak of the reading of the Scriptures in the highest terms.

And, the Bible itself proclaims, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right." (2 Tim 3:16, NLT)

No matter where you are in life, or in your relationship with God, the Prayerful reading of the Bible will help you. 

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Another Weekly Advent Menu (Vegan)

Advent is a "Lenten" Season for Orthodox Christians - a time during which we are encouraged to abstain from meat, poultry, dairy and eggs.

Here is a menu for the last week of the Pre-Christmas season.

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Sunday: Simple Spaghetti, Salad, Garlic Toast

Monday: Gigantes (Greek Giant Beans) Salad, Bread

Tuesday: Spinach & Mushroom Calzones, Salad

Wednesday: Claire's Southern Delight over Rice, Better than Coleslaw
(We also love this meal as a Wrap the next day for lunch - fill Flour Tortillas with the Rice, Bean mixture, a spoonful of Slaw for crunch, and a few Green Olives for zip. It's really tasty!)

Thursday: Bamies Yachni (Greek Okra & Tomato Stew), Crudites, Salad

Friday: Pad Thai with Cucumbers

Saturday: Red Lentil & Artichoke Stew (oil may be omitted for the Christmas Eve Fast) Salad, Easy Yeast Bread in the Slow Cooker

Monday, December 12, 2016

Easy, No Knead, Vegan Brioche

Brioche is traditionally an Eggy, Tender, Moist, Mildly Sweet Bread. Oh, and it's a little labor-
intensive. It is amazing that this Easy, No Knead, Vegan dough can produce such great results that friends who KNOW I bake Vegan look at me and say, "You mean THIS doesn't have any eggs in it?"

It is SOOO easy to make - and produces such spectacular results! This Recipe Produces One 2-Pound Brioche.

For this recipe, I took inspiration from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and adapted it to my Vegan ingredients.

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.     

Easy, No Knead, Vegan Brioche
 (Makes 2 pounds of dough)

I prepare a batch this size in an 8 Cup Container - the one in the 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 (you can substitute Cornstarch, if you like)
1/2 Cup Potato Flakes
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Tablespoon Yeast
1/2 Tablespoon Salt

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.

This dough CAN be kept in the fridge for a week or more and still be quite good to use, but with this particular dough, you'll find the fluffiest, sweetest results if you bake it within a day or two of mixing. 

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 Brioche Pan.

Pull off a small Ball for the "tete" then shape the remaining dough into a large ball. Place it in the prepared Brioche Pan, and place the "tete" on top : )

Leave to rise for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for 1 hour.
(I use a  shiny Brioche Pan - if you use a dark one, you may have to adjust the shelf a little higher to prevent the bottom over-browning)

If you like a very tender crust, when it comes out of the oven, have ready a Tapioca Wash:
Tapioca Wash for Soft Bread Crusts

First, make Tapioca Wash:
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon Tapioca Starch
1/2 teaspoon Salt Bring to a boil in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds
OR bring to a boil on stovetop, stirring constantly.

As SOON as the bread comes out of the oven, Brush it lightly with the wash, using a Pastry Brush. Of course, if you prefer, you can spread it with a Buttery Spread like Earth Balance.

For best results, cool before serving.

Nutritional Information
This is the nutritional info I calculated on Sparkpeople
Nutrition Facts per pound- with 1 batch making 2 pounds
Amount Per Serving
  • Calories 706.1
  • Total Fat 2.5 g
  • Saturated Fat 0.6 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 0.7 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 1.0 g
  • Cholesterol 1.1 mg
  • Sodium 1,834.1 mg
  • Potassium 291.4 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 155.4 g
  • Dietary Fiber 5.9 g
  • Sugars 25.9 g
  • Protein 16.9 g
 23 WW Smart Points per Pound calculated on EasyCalculation

* 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.
*** If you bake two loaves 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, December 5, 2016

Vegan Christmas Treat Assortment

Vegan Christmas Goodies Assortment
Need some Vegan ideas for Christmas Treats - whether for gift giving, to take to a party or to
celebrate at home?

Here is an entire list of different ideas - nearly all of them simple enough that a school aged child can do them with a tiny bit of help.

They're all Advent-Friendly. 


Have a Wonderful Christmas!

Easy Vegan Cut-Out Cookies for the Kids' Party

Make One Mix - Make 10 Different Cookies!

Make One Mix, Make 5 Kinds of Fudge!

For your Friend Who is Gluten Free or a Raw Foodist, Here's a Nice Rawish Goodie Assortment

Need the perfect Brownies to go with Ice Cream? 

A wonderful Greek Samali for the Potluck

And, for St. Basil's Day (New Year's Day) Easy, No Knead Vegan Vasilopita!

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