Monday, November 26, 2018

Two Week Advent Menu

Here's my menu for the first two weeks of Advent this year. For us Greek Orthodox Christians, most days of Advent (also known as the Christmas Fast) are days when meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy are forbidden, but fish is allowed. It begins on November 15th, and ends - of course- on Christmas. For us Greek Orthodox Christians, Christmas is December 25th. Russian Orthodox Christians follow a different calendar, so their Fast starts later, and their Christmas lands on January 7 by our calendar. Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians are the same religiously - we are in full communion with each other. But we have some cultural differences - language, music, and calendar dates, for example.

Since I'm vegetarian, I plan a menu with very little fish, but keep a little fish in the freezer - and tuna in the cupboard - to add as an impromptu "side dish" with any meal for the family, as desired.

The vast majority of these meals have a Slow Cooker option - making for an easy cooking schedule.

Here's the plan:

Greek Okra & Tomato Stew

Fasolia Vrasta (served with Tuna for Omnivores)

Indian Chickpeas in Ginger Sauce over Rice

Stir Fry Veggies over Rice

Chili & Rice

Split Pea Soup

Calzone Casserole

Tabouli and Lentil Rice Salad  with Fish

Fasolia Yachni

Black Tie Moujendra

Greek Style Black-Eyed Peas

Boca Burgers (purchased) and Oven Fries

Peas & Artichokes Yachni

Fill Your Own Tortilla

Red Lentil & Squash Curry (Recipe still to come!)

Cyprus Bulgur Pilaf

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Easiest Ever Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Easiest Ever Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
This bread is Whole Wheat, No Knead, Refrigerator Rise, Vegan, and Oil Free. And, best of all, Tasty!

Just measure, stir, wait, form, pop in fridge, wait and bake! It takes about 10 minutes hands-on time - if you're a slow worker : )

And, an added bonus, this same dough can be used to make a variety of other Whole Wheat Breads on this site, like:

Cinnamon Rolls, Easy, No Knead, Vegan, No Oil 

Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Walnut Bread 

Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls, Easy, Soft, No Knead, Oil Free 

Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls, Slow Cooker

This is my own recipe, but I got the method from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day - whose work I highly recommend!

Easy Soft, No Knead Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
 (Makes 2 batches - for a one batch recipe, see my Whole Wheat Rolls post)

I prepare a double batch of dough in a plastic shoe box from the dollar store
Be sure to add ingredients in this order:

3 Cups Warm Water
5 Cups White Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 Cup Tapioca Starch (you can substitute Cornstarch, if you like)
1 Cup Potato Flakes (yes, the kind people make instant Mashed Potatoes with)
1/2 Cup Sugar*
1 Tablespoon Yeast
1 Tablespoon Salt

Stir well with a spoon till well combined and no floury patches remain. If it is VERY hard to stir, and doesn't look like the picture below, you can add a couple more Tablespoons of Warm Water.

Dough Right after Stirring

Cover loosely (I put the shoe box lid on, but don't snap it down on one corner) and allow to rise for 2-5 hours on counter.

Dough after initial rise - ready to place in fridge or use.

Place in Fridge till needed, or use right away (ideally, use this within a week)

When you're ready to use it, oil a loaf pan. (You may line the loaf pan with parchment paper if you absolutely cannot have any oil.  "Cut" it in half with your hand, then gently form into a ball. This will be approximately a 2# ball of dough. Elongate the ball slightly, and place it in the loaf pan. Allow the dough to rise for 2 hours on the counter, or loosely cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge overnight.

"Cut" Dough with your hand

Gently Shape into a ball and place in oiled loaf pan.

At baking time, preheat the oven to 350, and bake loaf on lower shelf of oven  (place shelf so that the MIDDLE of the loaf is in the MIDDLE of your oven - a middle shelf tends to place the top of a loaf too high, and it darkens too quickly) for about 45 to 50 minutes.

Allow to cool briefly on the counter, then carefully remove from pan and cool thoroughly on a wire rack. This bread will slice best if it is cool, but if you can't wait to enjoy it warm . . . .; )

Add caption

When I make this, I thoroughly cool it, then immediately slice it and wrap it and put it in the freezer (any that we didn't eat right away). Then, when you're ready to use it, just warm it up in the microwave, and toast lightly in the toaster oven to give that fresh-from-the-oven taste : )

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Monday, November 12, 2018

Dijon Pork Chops

Dijon Pork Chops
Dijon Pork Chops are perfect to serve for "Meat and Potatoes" sorts of meals. Tasty & simple : )

Here's the Recipe

Dijon Pork Chops
Place 4 Pork Chops in a labeled, Zippered Freezer bag
1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Oregano
1/4 teaspoon Basil
1/2 teaspoon Minced Garlic
1 to 2 Tablespoons oil may be stirred in, but is not necessary
Squish Bag to mix Marinade ingredients and coat Pork chops
Toss in Freezer (or, if serving the same day, toss in Fridge for 4-24 hours to marinate)

If frozen, the day before serving, move from Freezer to refrigerator to thaw.

To Cook, Use tongs to remove Pork Chops from bag and place in Heated Skillet or Electric Grill.
Cook till done (usually this takes 15-20 minutes on my stove)


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Monday, November 5, 2018

Homeschooling a 12-Year-Old PhD

Karl Witte, Youngest PhD in History

Every now and then, there's a story on the news of a teenager who finishes college or gets a graduate degree before his or her peers have finished high school. I always find these stories most intriguing, and am not at all surprised to find that many of these children were homeschooled.

One day, as we were reading such a story, my daughter commented, "Wow! I'll bet that's the youngest kid to ever finish college!" Of course that made me curious, and I looked up the actual list of record-holders. It happens that the youngest PhD ever was Karl Witte, a German boy who was (depending which report you read) 12 or 13 at the time he received his degree. He started college at 9!

And, of course, I wasn't surprised to find that young Karl was homeschooled.

His father, also named Karl Witte, was a clergyman, and wrote a book about how he educated the boy, and which assumptions of his time he did and did not subscribe to.

It was a most fascinating book, providing glimpses of a unique homeschooling method in a different time and place.

The Rev. Karl Witte was not fond or the early study of Latin for his son. He knew that many Latin academic texts are not wholesome, and felt they would be spiritually harmful to the child. As we pursue academic excellence, it is important to remember, as this clergyman-father did, that our first goal for our children must be the well-being of their soul, not impressive academic achievement or accolades.

He was certainly not fond of waiting to educate the child until age of 7 or so - but not for the reasons you might imagine. He saw that the children whose education was delayed became dangerously self-willed and hard to manage by the time they entered school. He felt that molding a child's character was an important task to take on early, rather than leaving the child to his own devices. (Which of course, is Biblical.)

He realized that although his child was academically advanced, he was still a child psychologically and needed help with tasks like organizing papers, and controlling his own behavior. Even in modern times, many adults make the mistake of thinking that academically advanced children should be treated as grown ups.

It fascinated me to read that the king gave a scholarship to the son, and another one to the father - so that the father could accompany his son to university and perform tasks like keeping papers organized and helping him behave during classes. Children are children, no matter what their cognitive abilities!

He believed that a child's academic ability should be trained rigorously - not matter what "gifts" the child appeared to have or not have - in fact, he firmly held that his son was not gifted, just an ordinary boy with a good education.  Ironically, this notion is just now taking off in educational circles, and being called "Growth Mindset" or "Brain Based Learning" - but it is nothing new!

Of course, a few of his practices wouldn't fit in the modern world - like rewarding his son for studying hard by celebrating with Waffles and Warm Beer. It's COLD beer in the modern world!😉😉 ; )

As 21st Century homeschoolers, it is easy to get caught up in the fads of the current homeschooling moment. We have certain popular notions that we assume are the ONLY right way to look at home education. Of course, which of these notions we subscribe to are influenced by our own social circles and era.

We might subscribe to any or all of the following assumptions:

  • School should be fun. 

  • Our kids should LIKE their curriculum.

  • School should be relaxed. 

  • It is best to have short lessons. 

  • Better late than early. 

  • Latin study is noble and lofty.

  • Rushing children to learn robs them of their childhood - and a storybook childhood is magically important. 

  • Socialization during school years is profoundly important to a happy adult life. 

But, it is easy to forget that, just as people of past centuries were a "product of their era" - so are we!

For a reality check, it is very helpful to read the home educators of the past. Viewing education through their eyes can offer a fresh perspective, and allow us to examine our own assumptions. Besides which, it's just fun!

For a fun and fascinating read, check out (free online):

The Education of Karl Witte

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