Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Easiest Sourdough EVER! (No discards, no weighing, no kneading)

Easiest Sourdough Ever - Fresh from the Oven
How I do Sourdough

When you read about the process of making Sourdough, it sound very intimidating and wasteful. It sounds like you need to use fancy scales, expensive equipment, and constantly throw away food (or constantly bake enough with your "discards" to feed a small army).

My method avoids all those unattractive and complicated bits. I figured that everyone's grandmother back in the Old Country made Sourdough, when they lived lives close to the land. Packaged dry yeast is a fairly modern invention. And most of them were poor and didn't have scales that weighed in grams. They weren't constantly throwing food away because that is just not done if you're poor. And, as people who worked the land, they didn't have a lot of extra time on their hands. 

So, I decided there must be an easier, less wasteful, less expensive way. And . . . . there was!
I don't use any expensive equipment, I don't weigh, I don't discard. And I get great bread!

I owe much to the fine folks at Artisan Bread in Five - for helping me figure out how to make the starter, and also for their no knead technique. If you don't have their books - get yourself a copy - and buy them for gifts, too! They're truly great! (not a paid endorsement - I just love them!). 
But, the fine tuning in this process is my own - after working on it a couple of years.

Here's what I do:

To make Starter:

When making or feeding starter, leave covered with something very breathable – like mesh or cheesecloth – just to keep bugs out but let air in. I use one of those mesh tents that you put over food at picnics - like you can get from the dollar store or walmart. 

Make in large container, to allow bubbling/rising. I usually use an old plastic one-quart tub from yogurt.

When you stir it, stir well with a fork – incorporating air is a good thing. And you want to stir it enough to get out the lumps each time you stir.

Again - I owe a debt of gratitude to Artisan Bread in Five for this concept.

This starter is liquid - like a melted milkshake, more or less, in texture. 

I use regular All-Purpose Flour. You can probably use Bread Flour, instead. 

If you use Whole Wheat, Rye, or Gluten-Free, I would expect very different results, and it may not work at all. I've never tried it with any of those.

Prepare Starter:
Day 0, in a good sized container - Mix & Stir: ½ Cup water & ½ Cup Flour, stir
Day 1 - Stir
Day 2 – Stir
Day 3 – Feed with ½ Cup water & ½ Cup Flour, stir
Day 4 – Feed with ½ Cup water & ½ Cup Flour, stir
Day 5 – Feed with ½ Cup water & ½ Cup Flour, stir
Day 6 – Feed with ½ Cup water & ½ Cup Flour, stir
Day 7 – Feed with ½ Cup water & ½ Cup Flour, stir

Now you’re ready to make dough to bake.

Do NOT make your first batch before day 7 - it may seem ready, but it's not truly ready till at least the 7th day. 

Sourdough Starter - Ready to Use

Sourdough is an art – expect to need to troubleshoot and improve subsequent batches. This is my method, and it turns out reliably well for me for years now. But if you measure slightly differently, or live at a different altitude or whatever -you might have to fine tune a little.

Never use ALL the starter - always be sure you start with enough to leave about 1/2 cup behind to continue feeding for subsequent batches. A good starter can last for years this way.

After the first batch, you'll probably find that have enough starter to feed for a day or two more and make a second batch very soon - which you'll probably enjoy doing, as it gives you more chance to experiment with your process. If you cannot eat it all and don't want to take up the freezer space with a few extra initial loaves, gift it to friends and neighbors.

To make Sourdough Bread Dough:

Ideally, dough should be made about one hour after the starter is fed.

In a Clean Plastic shoe box or other very large, sturdy container with a lid (at least 6 quarts) , combine:
3 Cups Starter, what you prepared above
1 Cup Warm Water
1 Tablespoon Salt
5 Cups Flour

Stir well 'til no white patches of flour can be seen. It shouldn’t look like a kneaded dough –it’s not –it should look a bit wet for bread dough, and choppy in texture – more like a good, very thick brownie batter, or biscuit dough - bordering on play dough for thick texture. It should be hard to stir.

Sourdough that has been stirred, but has not started rising


Cover with lid – allow to stand in a warm place for 5 or so hours, til risen significantly you (perhaps double – perhaps just close to that). Dough will get significantly softer and fluffier during this time. Temperatures and altitude, etc – affect rising time. Don’t freak out if my times are different from yours.

Dough after rising about 5 hours - if you touch it, it feels soft, and the volume is about double.

At this point, if it’s still early in the day, you can shape it on a pan for baking.

If not, put it in the fridge overnight, to continue the next day, if that’s easier for you. Sometimes that works with my schedule better. 

If you do refrigerate it,  before let it warm up to about room temperature before shaping loaves - about 1/2 hour to 1 hour.

To Shape Loaves and Bake:

Flour top of dough, to reduce stickyness, and shape Four loaves – I make a Boule shape – and place them on a flat, parchment lined pan. To shape loaves, cut a Cross shape in the top of your dough with your hand, to divide it into four equal portions. 


Cut Dough in 1/4 in the Shape of a Cross with the Side of your Hand



Lift Out 1/4 of Dough to Shape Loaf

Gently get your hand under each portion and lift it out, trying to preserve all the bubbles inside, and not crush them (you will unintentionally crush some- just don't crush any on purpose). Then, smooth the top of the loaf, turning as you go - for what is known as "Gluten Cloaking" See Short Video Demonstration here (this is for whole wheat, but the shaping process is the same)..

Shaping Loaves

I try to make my loaves a little on the tall and narrow side, since sourdough boules spread sideways a little while rising.

I bake four loaves at a time on a large, parchment covered, perforated pizza pan - or two loaves on each of two parchment covered cookie pans (dark pans help crisp the bottom, if you prefer that). 

Preheat oven before baking.

Allow to rise about ½ hour more (if they start going flat and wide – they are passing the point of readiness – BAKE THEM NOW!) But, normally, let them rise ½ hour to an hour – then slash them diagonally with a serrated knife. 

Dough Shaped and Rising on Parchment Covered Pizza Pan

Splash them with a little water for a crispy crust (you can spray, brush, or splash the water on - your choice). 

Loaves Slashed with a Serrated Knife, and Splashed with Water


Bake for 30 to 35 Minutes, at 450 degrees Fahrenheit, 'til golden or deep brown.

Remove from oven, cool as long as you can bear, slice, eat.


The Obligatory "Crumb Picture" - Sourdough Bread Sliced & Ready to Eat

To Store:

We don't usually eat four loaves at a sitting, so once it is completely cool, I slice the extra, and put it in Zippered Freezer bags. I put a paper towel in each bag to prevent condensation inside and sogginess or freezer burn. 

It freezes VERY well, and I can thaw just a few slices in the microwave when desired.

To Maintain and Continue Using Starter:

You have two choices:

Constant Use - Counter method:
Leave it out on the counter, covered with mesh, and continue feeding twice every day, and bake again in a few days when you have enough. Each time you use 3 cups, and leave 1/2 cup, start feeding that 1/2 cup until you have enough to bake again. After the original 7 day process to create a starter, I feed mine twice a day, morning and evening to keep it strong and healthy. 

To Feed - add 1/2 cup Flour, 1/2 cup Water, Stir well, re-cover.


Occasional Use - Refrigerator Method:
Put a lid on the container, and put it in the fridge 'til a few days before your next desired baking – then start feeding it again til you have enough plus a little. When you pull it out of the fridge, remove the lid and cover with a mesh of some sort (keep out bugs, let in air) and continue feeding twice every day, and bake again in a few days when you have enough. Each time you use 3 cups, and leave 1/2 cup, start feeding that 1/2 cup until you have enough to bake again. After the original 7 day process to create a starter, I feed mine twice a day, morning and evening to keep it strong and healthy.  

To Feed - add 1/2 cup Flour, 1/2 cup Water, Stir well, re-cover.

Note: For a long time, I was a slave to feeding the starter every day. Then a friend told me she just covers & refrigerates her when she’s not using it for a while, then takes it out & feeds it for a few days when she wants to make a batch. Works great. I just left my starter in the fridge all summer (our summers here are quite long and hot, and I try to avoid baking in the oven in the summer. Then I took it out and fed it in the fall, and it worked GREAT! 

There is a TINY possibility of pressure building up and bursting a container of starter - so I don't use glass. This is highly unlikely with a liquid starter like this one - but I err on the side of caution.

 *If refrigerating, Do NOT continue feeding it until you get enough plus a little and put it in the fridge then – only put it in the fridge in its pre-fed condition/quantity. It needs a few days to wake up : )


Moving to a fresh container for your starter now and then can be helpful. I do this each time I put starter in the fridge, at least.

Using boiled water at room temp or bottled water can be helpful (chlorine in some tap waters can harm starter)

If a dark liquid rises to the top of starter – stir it in – it’s okay as long as it smells yeasty. Actually, that’s even good.

If it turns a funky color (pink/orange/green) discard and re-start – it’s been contaminated.

Be aware that salt affects more than just the flavor of bread - it also interacts with the other ingredients chemically. This means that changing the salt measurement may have results you don't intend, and should be done with care. 

Starter improves and develops with age – at least allegedly. You might find out that the longer you make it, the more delightfully complex the flavor becomes. Mine is a few years old now : )

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Monday, October 24, 2022

No Knead, Easy Cinnamon Twists

Cinnamon Twists, Easy, No Knead & Vegan
These Cinnamon Twists are both delicious and pretty - and they're quick and easy to make. They're
great for a special breakfast, snack, or holiday meal.

They're also vegan and very low in fat for those on special diets, or observing the Orthodox fasting seasons.

But, people who are NOT on special diets won't think they're eating diet food!

They start with an easy, no knead dough. If you can make brownies from a box, you can make this bread! This is a dough that can be made a day or two ahead, so that when you want to bake it it, all you have to do is shape and bake.

Then, when you're ready to enjoy your Cinnamon Twists, simply roll out the dough, top, fold, cut, twist, and bake. 

Here's how you make the dough:

Easy, No Knead, Vegan Soft & Fluffy Dough **** (Scroll Down for Smaller Batch)
This recipe makes about 4 pounds of dough
Measure into a 6 quart container*, in this order
3 Cups Warm Water (baby bath water temperature. If in doubt, make it too cool rather than too warm)
5 1/4 Cups Unbleached, All Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Tapioca Starch (you can substitute more flour, if you cannot find tapioca starch)
1 Cup Potato Flakes (yes, that's right, the stuff people use to make Instant Mashed Potatoes)
1/2 Cup Sugar (or your favorite sweetener that measures like sugar)
1 Tablespoon Yeast
1 Tablespoon Salt
Stir well with a spoon till no patches of dry Flour remain.

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 - or use it right away

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. 

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!

Line your pan(s) with parchment paper, or oil them.

Take one pound of dough (1/4 of the large batch or 1/2 of the small batch) 

(NOTE: if you want larger twists, this exact method can be used with a 2# ball of dough - half a large batch. I've made them both ways, and both sizes turn out very well)

First, Flour the work surface


I simply "cut" the dough in fourths with the side of my hand,

and gently lift out one portion

I gently shape the dough into a smooth ball (watch here for more details Gluten Cloaking)

 And roll out in a rectangle that is approximately 11"x15". I prefer to use a perfectly cylindrical empty olive jar for a rolling pin. If you prefer a rolling pin, that's fine, too!

If the dough is too springy to roll out, let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes

Flip it over and flour it now and then, so it doesn't stick to surfaces

The target size matches my glass cutting board

I simply roll the dough to the same size as my glass cutting board that I roll it out on. While I'm rolling it out, I flip it over and dust it with flour any time I suspect its getting sticky.

Spread the Dough with Apple Sauce and sprinkle VERY generously with a mixture of Cinnamon & Sugar ***** (I use 1 Part Cinnamon to 4 Parts Sugar - you can use artificial sweetener for part of the sugar if you like). I have also tried both Buttery Spread instead of Apple Sauce - that works too, if you prefer, but I like to avoid the excess oil.

 Fold the dough in half, cut in strips, and twist to shape, like so:

I use about 1/4 c applesauce - half a little lunch container

Drop the applesauce on the dough

Spread it out like Pizza Sauce - but all the way to the edges

Sprinkle VERY generously with Cinnamon-Sugar -till it looks dry on top. If your family likes nuts, raisins, or chocolate chips - now is the time to add those things, too!

After topping, fold dough in half - just like it was a piece of paper!

Cut dough in strips approx 1" wide - a pizza cutter makes this job easy

Pick up each strip, and twist it. Stretch it out a little as you twist, to make it the length you want.

Place the twists on a parchment paper lined pan to rise and bake

Don't worry if each twist doesn't look perfect! I find that beginning bakers are often intimidated by a desire to shape items perfectly. When diners are presented with an entire tray of baked goods, they seldom critique the shapes, they just enjoy them : )

Leave to rise for 10 to 60 minutes. If you're in a hurry, you can bake them as soon as the oven preheats and get a quite tasty Twist! But if you wait a little longer, you'll be rewarded with a little more fluffy goodness : )

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake in the middle of the oven, without steam for 35-40 minutes. I've also baked these at 400, and removed them when golden brown - about 22 to 30 minutes. It's nice to be able to choose your temperature, according to what else is baking that day.

Upon removing from the oven, you may brush with a buttery spread and sprinkle with additional cinnamon sugar, if you desire.

Easy Cinnamon Twist


Enjoy! They probably won't last long . . . .

Easy, No Knead, Vegan Cinnamon Twists

But they freeze well in a zippered freezer bag, if you'd like to keep them on hand for breakfasts. I add a paper towel to the freezer bag when freezing, to prevent condensation/sogginess.

Here's the same recipe for a 1/2 batch of dough, if you to make a smaller quantity:

Small Batch Easy, No Knead Vegan Crescent Rolls
 (Makes about 18 rolls)
Follow above directions, but use these amounts
I prepare a batch this size in an 8 Cup Container - the one in the above 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

Stir well, then follow above directions - the same as for a large batch.

* 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. It is lightest and fluffiest when used within a day or two of when you make it, but I have used it several days later  - a week or more - and still had very good results.
*** If you bake two large pans of rolls 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.
***** I have tested this recipe with a Sucralose Measures-like-Sugar (Splenda or Apriva) and it works well. So if you watch your sugars, feel free to substitute. It works best if you mix it 1/2 & 1/2 with real sugar (provides a better texture) but if you need to use 100% artificial sweetener for health reasons, it can be done with pretty good results.


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Monday, April 11, 2022

Cook a Holiday Feast without Missing Church

Holiday Feast without Missing Church ( Source)
It's a common scenario: Christian families go to Church to celebrate a Feast Day like Christmas or Pascha, then right after Church, the whole family sits down to enjoy a bountiful feast of holiday delights. 

Celebrating a major feast is a central joy of the Christian life, and for Orthodox Christians, it's an especially important joy - but our services are also quite long. 

So, how does a family both feast AND worship on a Feast Day?

All too often, it has meant one family member - usually Mom, but occasionally Dad - staying home and cooking while everyone else goes to Church.

But, what makes a Feast Day a Feast Day is NOT the food - it's Worship! And a family member staying home to cook is making a huge sacrifice of Spiritual nourishment for the physical enjoyment of others - not a great trade.

With modern conveniences, though, there is no need for anyone to miss Church to cook. I use two Crock Pots/Slow Cookers - one large oval, and one regular size, to make this plan work.

The overview is this: I make the meat in one Crock Pot, the Potatoes in another - both cook during Church. An appetizer tray, like a meat and cheese tray with some dips - is made and put in the fridge to serve as soon as guests arrive. The salads, dips and spreads are made a day or two ahead (Salads are dressed just before serving), Breads are made in the week previous, and frozen. Desserts are made in advance. Simple sides (steamed veggies, simple pasta or rice) are made as guests are enjoying appetizers and drinks. 

Making one make-ahead dish per day in the week before the feast is an easy way to make this come off without a hitch.

If guests are coming who wish to bring a side or dessert - even better : )

 Here's how to make an abundant meal for a Holiday Feast - and still not miss a minute of services!

 With some advance planning, it's really easy. Here's what I do to have dinner ready after Church on a major Feast. It includes several links so you can choose the dishes you like best.


Dump Dinner Leg of Lamb in the Crock Pot
Marinate a day or two in advance, begin cooking 7 hours before serving time. Or, it may be marinated and put in the freezer weeks before the feast day, then thawed the night before, and begin cooking 7 - 8 hours before serving. 

(Pot Roast and Turkey Breast are both easy to make in the Slow Cooker, too, if you'd like an additional, or alternative meat dish)

Potatoes or Starchy Sides

         Start cooking these 3-4 hours before serving time.

Rosemary Potatoes in the Crock Pot

Stuffing, Low fat & Vegan (check out the directions here for prep ahead, and baking after guests arrive, or making in the slow cooker starting 1 1/2 hours before serving)

Sweet & Sour Sweet Potatoes (starts 2 hours before serving, or has microwave option)


Baked Potatoes in the Slow Cooker

Dinner Rolls or Bread
These can be baked and frozen in advance, and then just microwave to barely thaw, then crisp in the oven just before serving. OR  Shape rolls and place on baking pan, and put baking pan in the refrigerator during Church - when you arrive home, bake the rolls while guests are enjoying appetizers and drinks. Choose one of these recipes. They're all no-knead, and easy to prepare

     Crescent Rolls, Easy, No Knead, Vegan  
     Dinner Rolls, Vegan, Soft & Fluffy, No Knead, Refrigerator 
     Vasilopita, Easy, No Knead, Vegan (for a Christmas or New Year Feast)
     No Knead, Vegan, Greek Easter Bread (Tsoureki)  (For an Easter/Pascha Feast)
     Easy, No Knead, Greek Olive Crescents (Eliopites)

Salads can usually be made a day ahead. If it's a green salad - made with lettuce, cucumber, or cabbage, just add the dressing right before serving, to prevent wilting.  


Better than Coleslaw
Carrot Raisin Salad without Mayonnaise
Farro Salad, Mediterranean
Fruit Salad
Mediterranean Green Bean & Potato Salad
Orange Beet Salad
Purslane Salad
Refreshing Diced Salad
Super Simple Salad

Veggie Sides
Some veggie sides are best made just before serving - but they usually take less than 10 minutes to microwave or make on stovetop. Just make these as guests are enjoying appetizers and drinks. (any sauces can be made in advance, ready to add when the recipe calls for them)

Brussels Sprouts with Pecans
Cauliflower & Capers
Corn on the Cob, Three Minute
Green Beans Almondine
Sesame Broccoli
Simply Asparagus
Simply Eggplant
Simply Zucchini Saute
Spectacular Brussels Sprouts
Veggies Vinaigrette

Nearly all desserts can be made ahead of time - easy peasy. This is also a course that guests sometimes enjoy bringing with them. Ice Cream or a purchased Pie or Cake can also be a great option.

Brownie Snowball Cookes
Caramel Corn, Mom's 
Cashew Cardamom Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Icing, My Mom's
Cookies, Vegan Cookies from a Regular Cake Mix 
Crispy Rice Cupcakes
Cupcakes, Chocolate & Vanilla
Cutout Cookies  
Fruit Salad
Easy Vanilla Fudge
Easy Cherry Almond Fudge 
Easy Chocolate Fudge
Easy Peanut Butter Fudge
Easy Chocolate Mint Fudge
Easy Maple Walnut Fudge
Gingerbread Crunch Cookies
Make One Mix, Make Ten Different Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookies
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Raw (ish) Cookie Assortment
Raspberry Frosting
Russian Teacakes ( Vegan Mexican Wedding Cakes )
Slice and Bake Sugar Cookies
Samali (Greek Semolina Dessert)
Strawberry Celebration Cupcakes
Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies 
Three Minute, Three Bite Brownie for One
Thumbprint Cookies
White Cake, Easy Vegan

Have a great Pascha! Hope this post helps make it possible for you to enjoy BOTH Church AND your Celebratory Feast!

Monday, March 28, 2022

My Favorite Homeschool Materials for High School

High School Must-Haves: Cat & Computer (Source)
It's a well known fact that I'm frugal. I've long been a huge proponent of cheap and free homeschool materials. You really DON'T need to have your family's homeschool spending compete with the budget of the federal government in order to provide your kids with a great home education.

But, there are some materials that are well worth the money. There IS  a place for purchased homeschool materials. As the Bible says, "a laborer is worthy of his hire." When someone creates great teaching materials, it is good to reward them for that.

These are some of our favorites that have been tested and proven. I highly recommend them, and have been thrilled with purchasing them.

These materials are still at the more frugal end of the spectrum, as materials go - mostly in the $10 - $20 per month range (or less!), per subject at the time of this writing.

Although I'm calling this "High School" I don't really use materials that are grade specific, nor do I wait for a certain age to learn certain subjects. I also don't hesitate to use materials that are "too young"if they are beneficial. When your kids are ready to learn these things, it's the "right" time to sign up. 



One Year Adventure Novel 


The One Year Adventure Novel  is a phenomenal package. As the title suggests, it teaches students to write a BOOK in one year - and enjoy doing it. I just can't say enough good things about it. It comes with a textbook, workbook, reading book and parent guide, access to 78 online video lessons that are EXCEPTIONALLY well done and easy to watch. The one BIG thing that persuaded me to get the package was the very active, supervised Forum (ages 13 and up only), on which all of the participants can "hang out" and talk writing. The kids are so nice to each other, and provide amazingly positive peer examples - in contrast to some social media platforms. In these pandemic times, that wholesome social interaction has been priceless. And, they also have an annual workshop each year. Since we started using OYAN, my daughter has begun telling people that writing is one of her favorite subjects (the other being art). Which, as one TV commercial used to say, is "Priceless!"



Olsen's 101 Series includes Chemistry 101, Physics 101, and Biology 101


Wes Olsen's 101 Series includes Chemistry 101, Physics 101, and Biology 101.  These DVD sets are a brilliant, non-intimidating introduction into the Hard Sciences, without the math. They're fun to watch, entertaining, and well-made. My daughter and I looked forward to watching these videos each day, and I have really appreciated how they took these tough subjects and made them approachable and likeable. They give an outstanding foundational understanding of the concepts, allowing the student to later put the mathematics of the sciences into a proper mental context. I especially appreciated the Christian worldview woven throughout, with biographical sketches of many of history's great scientists, including their religious motivation for their work. The videos come with PDF manuals, tests, etc - but we only used the videos (Not because I disliked the PDFs - I never looked at them. I just loved the DVDs!) I learned so much more from the Chemistry videos than I ever did in high school (and I was a good chemistry student). Just a note, the Biology course is much shorter and less comprehensive than the Chemistry and Physics courses by this company.





IXL I started using IXL to provide practice questions for math in early grade school - or maybe even kindergarten. They offered free questions every day, and I would hop to their site, use the free questions, and leave. This year, I finally signed up for IXL's very reasonably priced monthly math plan. And I really regret not doing it earlier! They offer a curated learning path for each child, and the computer checks answers and offer feedback and explanations for every question missed. As my daughter does diagnostic questions, the program offers her work that is EXACTLY at her level - not too easy, or too hard. And it moves her gently through the various levels and types of math. I love not having to grade math, and not having to teach it if I don't want to! Although this is perhaps embarrassing to admit, the fact is that my daughter is now better at math than I am! In the unusual situation in which she does not understand their explanations, she can simply copy and paste the name of the section she's working on into the YouTube search bar, and find a teacher there who explains it brilliantly. But that is seldom necessary. My husband sometimes teaches her math if a lesson is particularly challenging, but most days she is able to proceed alone using these materials. All I do is provide encouragement.




CodeCombat teaches coding by teaching kids to code games. There is a reasonable monthly or annual fee. It's an enjoyable way to learn, and very well presented. I've been very pleased with their tech support, too. This is a secular program, and sometimes has "magical" concepts or terms I'd prefer to be without, but all-in-all it's an excellent platform.

Educational Christian Entertainment


Jonathan Park


Jonathan Park is a SPECTACULAR dramatized audio adventure series. We used the monthly "Unlimited" subscription. It teaches Creation Science and the very good reasons behind it, as well as teaching Christian Worldview, and how to deal with challenges to one's Faith and moral issues.  We've loved this series for years now, and my daughter just finished listening to all 150 episodes. It's made more attractive by the fact that she can listen and do her art at the same time. Occasionally, there's a very minor discrepancy with our Orthodox Christian Faith - but that's almost never a concern. I love this series, and I love the values and life choices it teaches. 

Personal Finance



This was the hands down winner for "I wish I had been taught that in school!" comments. I was really surprised when I taught my daughter this content, and mentioned it to friends, how many well-educated adults I encountered said that to me. It's an oft-overlooked subject, but a very important one. The way I see it - there are two distinct categories of information a person should learn when studying Personal Finance. The first is the practical side - What is compound interest? How do I handle my checking account? How do I look for a job? That sort of question. For a practical introduction to Personal Finance, we really liked Moneytime . It is designed to take up to a year for kids ages 10-14, but we did it much more quickly on an intensive schedule. 


Discovering God's Way of Handling Money: A Financial Study for Teens by Howard and Bev Dayton


The other side of personal finance is values and decision making. In this area, worldview makes a LOT of difference! Discovering God's Way of Handling Money: A Financial Study for Teens by Howard and Bev Dayton was an EXCELLENT resource - I highly recommend it. Since many of the practical activities in the workbook duplicated those activities in the game, we mainly used this book for reading rather than for exercises. It provided wonderful guidance & wisdom for future money decisions.

Hope you enjoy exploring some of these great resources for your family!

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Monday, March 21, 2022

Thinking About Repeating a Year of Math?

Thinking of Repeating a Year in Math? (Source)
When I talk with other Homeschooling Moms about math, I hear one thing over and over again. It goes
something like this: "We're finishing grade x in math, but my kid isn't getting it. She's gotten okay grades all year, but she works super slow, and doesn't remember what we learned two months ago. I don't think we should go to the next grade. I think we're going to have to repeat this one before we can proceed!"

Sound familiar? 

A while back, my daughter was in a similar situation. She COULD do certain math questions, but slowly and painfully. Math was becoming unpleasant. 

There had been a time when she had enjoyed practicing math by playing Prodigy, but now she had tested into a level that was discouraging - so she had quit the playing the game.

Then, a fellow Mom (who is REALLY good at math! Thanks Alli Pait! : ) gave me a great tip that turned things around. 

She told me, "You know - you can override the grade levels in Prodigy, right?"

I did NOT know!

Well, I went home and did it. I went ahead and paid for the premium membership that rewarded her a little extra for her work, and set my daughter back not just one year, but several years in Prodigy.

Every day, I assigned her to play  "easy" math games on Prodigy, doing 30 to 45 questions a day - but at the same time, we kept working at her regular level with regular lessons. She enjoyed it! The game was fun when it was so quick and easy to get lots of right answers. It made brushing up on the few tricky spots easy.

Next thing I knew, she was enjoying speeding through the levels in Prodigy, getting a great review, and gaining the much touted automaticity - and confidence - that is needed to go on to more difficult math skills. She was getting the running start she needed to fly!

But, at the same time, we didn't have to "fail" any books or grades - we could go right ahead with on-level concepts. 

If you have a kid who is getting bogged down in math, give it a try. 

(And, no - this is not a paid endorsement. Just a product I really like!) 

You can sign up for Prodigy here.

Here's how to override grade levels.


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Tuesday, March 8, 2022

18 Almost No Time, No work Orthodox Lenten meals (Kid Friendly)

Creating a menu for EVERY DAY of a Lenten Season can be quite a challenge - even for one meal a day. But, there are some days when families like more than one meal a day (Imagine!).

Every family needs a list of meals that are quick and easy to serve with little notice - even families that faithfully menu plan. For omnivores, this list often includes things like burgers, eggs, hot dogs,  chicken nuggets, or boxed mac n cheese. 

This is the vegan version!

I'm putting in links to specific brands that I find tasty, and I believe are vegan. No affiliate links, just stuff I like using.

Here are those easy menus that I like to prepare when time and energy for cooking are limited. They're easy meals that can be prepared with very little time or effort, and the family likes them!


Also - scroll to the bottom of the page for more Lenten Menus!


Pasta with sauce (use homemade or jarred sauce, as you prefer)


White Beans


 Black-Eyed Peas

 Boca burgers with microwaved baked potatoes



 Meatless Crispy Tenders (or other Vegan Chicken Nuggets) with Baked Fries (from the freezer section of the grocery)



 Confetti Spaghetti


Mexican layer Dip with Tortillas & Chips



 Claire’s Delight over Rice



Hummus with Veggies, Chips or Bagels and Grapes (storebought or homemade hummus)

Lightlife Smart Dogs with Baked Chips & Vegetarian Baked Beans


Ramen Noodles (Soy Sauce Flavor by Maruchan) with Veggies added (we like Broccoli in ours)


BLT made with Lightlife Smart Bacon



Vacation Soup


Lazy Day LoMein


Black-Eyed Pea Salad


White Bean Salad


Black Bean & Corn Salad with Tortilla Chips

Club Sandwich made with Tofurky Deli Slices, Daiya American Cheese, Lightlife Smart Bacon, Lettuce (or cucumber slices), Tomato, and Vegan Mayo on Toast. (to me the trick of enjoying these "fake" foods on a sandwich is to use a small quantity of each - one slice Tofurkey, one slice "cheese" etc - and let the flavors blend)

For more Lenten Menus, check 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

9 Dump Dinners (Vegan & Gluten Free)  

40 Day Lenten Menu for People Who Hate to Cook

Lenten & Omnivore's Week's Menu

Lenten & Vegan Church Coffee Hour Plan

Orthodox Lenten Menu 2021, with Less Time in the Kitchen


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