Thursday, March 28, 2013

Meeting My Goddaughter-To-Be and a Banana Bread Recipe

Yesterday we drove to Kingston, Ont. (almost 2 hours from here) to visit our friends from church who just had a their forth child, a baby girl named Anna.  They've asked me to be her Godmother!  Her mother is a Chinese convert to Orthodoxy and her father is Russian.  We had a really nice visit with them all!  Here is a photo of the two papas with their girls:

I made banana muffins to bring to them using a recipe (below) from the Food for Paradise cookbook (original recipe is for Banana Bread).  I made them with tahini which added a nice nutty flavor.  I wish I had added chocolate chips though!  They really make it delicious!  I poured the batter into these nifty cupcake holders (on right) that my sister (Thanks, Martha!) had given me. They do not require the use of a muffin or cupcake pan as they no not collapse with the batter. So I stuffed them all on a baking sheet to bake. Some of them turned out in sort of funny shapes from being squashed next to each other.

Here is the finished product!

I really recommend this recipe during Lent!  I try to look for old bananas in the grocery store when they have produce marked down (usually I can get about 7-8 for $1).  I throw the bananas in the freezer when I get home and pull them out when I want to make Banana Bread.  

Lenten Banana Bread
from Food for Paradise

1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil (or tahini for oil free)
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup (2 or 3) mashed bananas
1/2 cup chopped nuts and or chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Beat together oil, sugar, water, and banana.  Add flour mixture to banana mixture.  Stir in nuts or chocolate if using.  Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes or until done.  Cool in pan for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tax Season and Recipe for Pujanbi Chhole

Today we got our taxes done at H&R Block.  It's so nice to be done!  Before we were married we used to do our taxes ourselves, but there were too many questions the first year so we've gone to H&R Block ever since then.  It's so nice now to have it done with in 1 1/2 hours and to know they'll take care of any audits or questions from CRA (Canadian version of the IRS).  I sound like an advertisement for them!  The peace of mind and less stress (especially during Lent) is very worth the money for us!  As you can see from the photo, Liza is happy having taxes over and done with!  We were happily surprised at what a great little tax deduction she is in addition to her other good attributes.  Anyway, both this year and last we just happened to have an Orthodox Christian tax preparation specialist!  Last year we had a Russian guy and this year a Serbian woman.  It's so nice to run into other Orthodox Christians... and seems to be a lot more common than it was before!

Today, I made Punjabi Chhole using a recipe from The Poliva Family blog.  Here is a photo of my finished product:
I'm not so sure I can legitimately say I really made this recipe since I made so many substitutions.  Here's what I did:
green pepper -> yellow bell pepper (not a big deal)
fresh ginger -> powdered ginger
cilantro-> flat leafed parsley
canned chickpea -> dried chickpeas I cooked myself

And the bigger deals were that I did not have the spices it calls for.  I picked up a spice mix for $1 at the grocery store for "Chana Chaat" (Chickpea Salad).  It contains: paprika, salt, red chili, corriander, amchur powder, cumin, cinnamon, fennel, black pepper, fenugreek seed, carom, and bay leaf.  I had ginger powder, cayenne, and used powdered mustard instead of crushed mustard seed.  So basically, I added a bunch of spices it didn't call for by using the mix and didn't use black salt or cardamom.  I don't know how it's supposed to taste, but it turned out very well seasoned in my opinion and tasted great.  I think I'll cut back on the cayenne next time since it was a little too hot for us.  Definitely a recipe I'll keep, so I encourage you to try it.  It's also very economical (especially using dried chickpeas) as well.  I haven't tried to cook much Southern Asian food, but I love to try new things!  

Have any of you tried any new types of cooking lately?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Larks for the 40 Martyrs, Chili Recipe, & Shopping Deals!

Chunky Vegetarian Chili

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 (16-ounce) cans stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell peppers, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until tender.  Add sugar and remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.

I made this chili when we got home from Liturgy today.  I actually sauteed the onions, peppers, and garlic and then put everything in a slow cooker.  I think that it probably it better if it is simmered for more than 30 minutes as that's not long enough to let the flavors meld.  But I put the recipe here just as I'd gotten it.  I participated in a neighborhood chili cook-off recently (and won an honorable mention).  This is the recipe of the guy next to me.  It was great!  I knew the recipe would come in handy during Lent.

I also made zhavoronky (pronouced zháv-run-kee, meaning "larks"). I used my sister, Martha's recipe that can be found on her blog here. Here is the outcome:

 In the photo of the ones on the plate, two of them were made by a friend.  I like how she formed beaks with the dough and how Martha made beaks with almonds.  Mine are beakless and therefore a little mutant looking.  Next year I hope for better looking ones but am not too disappointed with my results.  They do taste wonderful!  The orange zest really is important I think even though the recipe says it is optional.  

And... here are a few photos of Liza enjoying her little zhavoronok.

I went to a sale of used clothing and items for babies and children today that was held in my neighborhood. I came out with some real deals! I got everything in the photo for $29.50!

The booster seat on the left will go to my mother in laws so Liza has a place to sit when we are there. The two dark items you can't really see well are nursing shirts... both for about $5 each and they fit perfectly! The diaper cover is 100% wool and looked brand new and was only $4! A lady who runs a cloth diaper service said it retails for at least $25. I am very pleased with all the results of today's shopping :)

At the sale, one vendor was giving away the little painted wooden birds you see in the photos (on the shirt and with the baked zhavoronky). Her brother who passed away had made hundreds of them and she didn't think it would be right to sell them so she decided to give them away today! I told her how today I made little birds out of bread and gave them away since it's the Russian tradition for the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste (and the start of Spring). She thought that was really a neat coincidence!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Last Day of Clean Week

When we got home from church this morning (Presanctified Liturgy again) I heated up the soup (from Wednesday), got out the salad (made yesterday), and made fresh almond milk.
I made the salad from lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados, and black beans and seasoned with fresh lemon juice, herbs de Provence, and salt.  It  was pretty yummy!  The fresh almond milk was the best part of the meal though!  I sweetened it with honey and added a little vanilla. 

We got a nice break from our "same old" soup yesterday when friends came over and brought vegetarian sushi with them!  Yum!!!  Now we are back to the soup for lunch and dinner.  I'm looking forward to tomorrow when the fast will be lightened a little!  Andrey is going to make a chocolate cake for my and my mother in laws birthday and I'm going to let myself have some of these:
They are my favorite Lenten snack!  I kept seeing them in the cupboard last week (before Lent!) and craving them.  So good!  When I googled to find a picture of them, I saw that they are selling on for $10!  I think that's at least twice what you buy them for at Trader Joe's.  I'm well stocked for Lent though, so I shouldn't have to resort to buying them online.

I'm hoping to make zhavoronky this afternoon and later on today we will go back to church for the Matins for St. Theodore of Tyro (and the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste) tomorrow.

We heard some more sad news this morning.  The son of an acquaintance lost her son to suicide.  We just saw them a few weeks ago at a church event.  It's so very sad to hear of this.  Lots of people to pray for!

On a cheerier note, here is the photo of Elizabeth for this post.  It is from when we were in Georgia.  It was taken while we were on a walk to the light house at Fort Pulaski near Tybee Island.  I love her smile even though her eyes are covered by her hat!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Barley Soup for Clean Wednesday

Simple Barley Soup (Slow Cooker) (Oil free)
from Food for Paradise

6 cups water
4 carrots, sliced
1/2 cup barley
4 onions, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns

Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  

Such a simple recipe!  Here it is in my slow cooker this morning.  I'm hoping it will be ready for when we get back from Presanctified Liturgy this morning.  I put it on high for 4 hours and also made a double batch so it will last for a few days.

For Lent, I'm trying to "deep clean" my house.  Each week I have a certain part of the house I'm focusing on.  This week it's the basement.  Yesterday Andrey and I dusted the window ledges, bookshelves, and other furniture.  My annual "deep cleaning" is not too impressive though... it's probably just regular cleaning to most people.

I'm reading "An Extraordinary Peace: St. Seraphim Flame of Sarov" as my Lenten reading.  It's very good!  I can only read a few pages though and feel like there is so much to think about.

I found out last night that an acquaintance lost her first baby at full term.  I'm so sad for her and her family!  I can't imagine how heartbreaking that would be!  I've held Liza close to me and told her I love her many times since finding that out.  She brings such joy to our lives!  This is her this morning... clapping as she woke up!

Monday, March 18, 2013

First Day of Lent and My Birthday!

Today is my 34th birthday!  I'm not celebrating it much since it's the first day of Lent.  Andrey woke up early to go to services this morning and gave me my present before he left...

Sorry, it's not a great photo.  It is an enameled Pascha egg with St. George!  At church yesterday morning, I saw these eggs for sale (there were 3 or 4 of them) and mentioned them to Andrey.  I think it is perfect for this upcoming Pascha with St. George's day on Bright Monday!  At Forgiveness Vespers later that day, I saw they had all been sold.  On the car ride home, I told Andrey we missed out!  I had no idea he'd bought one!  It was a very nice surprise!

As far as meal planning, for today and tomorrow we'll just try to eat fruit and nuts.  I'll make an oil-free soup later on this week.  The more fun Lenten cooking will come after this week.  Andrey has promised to make a birthday cake this Saturday for me (and his mother who shares a birthday!).  We stocked up on nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, and LÄRABARs at Costco last week.  Hopefully enough for the entire Lent.  We bought a big bag of raw almonds so I can make almond milk for our cereal.  Yum!

And here is another photo of little Liza.  This one was taken at Magnolia Plantation in Charleston on our trip down South a few weeks ago.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Menu Planning for Great Lent

Hello!  I've started to blog since I've been working on my menu planning for Great Lent and hope it might be helpful to others.  First I made a list of my favorite Lenten recipes (some new things I want to try but mostly tried and true).  I put together my meal planning today for Lent and realized I could have a different meal nearly everyday!  So, here is the list I came up with:
  • Veggie Chili
  • Mjaddrah
  • Garlicky Spaghetti and Beans
  • Artichoke Pasta Salad
  • Ratatouille
  • Red Potato Salad (with scallions and dill)
  • Multi-Grain Salad
  • Beans and Rice
  • Mashed Potatoes with Mushroom Gravy
  • Vinegret Salad
  • Shredded Beet Salad (with walnuts)
  • Vareneky
  • Cucumber-Tomato Salad
  • Avocado Salad
  • Tofu Alfredo with Pasta and Veggies
  • Pesto Lentils and Potatoes
  • Mushroom Bourguignon
  • Curries:
    • Lentil
    • Chickpea
    • Veggie
    • Shrimp
  • Roasted Veggies:
    • Brussels Sprouts
    • Carrots
    • Beets
    • Squash
    • Asparagus
    • Potatoes, etc., etc.
  • Soups:
    • Coconut Milk Clam Chowder
    • Split Pea Soup (with African Smokey Spice mix from Trader Joe's)
    • Lentil Soup
    • Black Bean Soup (traditional)
    • Quick Black Bean Soup (with corn and coconut milk)
    • Sweet Potato Soup
This only counts one meal per day since breakfast is usually cereal or oatmeal with almond or coconut milk and the other meal (lunch or dinner) will be leftovers or some basics like hummus, eggplant caviar, etc.  

Let me know some of your favorite Lenten dishes!  I'd love to learn some more!  If anyone would like the recipes to any of the above, let me know.

PS.  This blog will mostly be about my cooking, but will, of course, include photos of my favorite baby, my 7-month daughter Elizabeth.  Here she is at our parish's Blini Festival last Sunday.