Monday, April 29, 2013

Provençal Salad with Tuna and White Beans

Palm Sunday is one of the two days during Great Lent when we can eat fish.  Our parish (and I think many others) has a potluck that day.  My favorite thing to make and bring is a Provençal Salad with Tuna and White Beans from the Chic Simple Cooking book.  My sister Martha gave me this book for my 23rd birthday.  Before getting my own copy, I had been checking a copy of this book out of the library regularly!  It's a great basic cookbook with hints of gourmet.  None of the recipes are complicated, but focus on putting the right ingredients together for perfect flavor.  The book has a list of seasonal menus in the back (with wine pairings) which I often consult.  So, without further ado, here is the recipe of the day:

Provençal Salad with Tuna and White Beans
From Chic Simple Cooking

2 tsp. olive oil
1 leek, julienned, or Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, julienned
2 carrots, julienned
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 19-ounce can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup water, vegetable stock, or fish stock
1 fresh tuna steak (about 1 pound), 1-1½ inches thick
2-4 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1-2 tomatoes, diced
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or basil
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add 1 tsp. of olive oil.  Add the leek or onion, celery, carrots, bay leaf, and thyme, and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the beans and water or stock and cook about 5 minutes, or until the beans are soft and heated through.
  2. Remove the bay leaf.  Scoop the vegetables and beans into a large serving dish.
  3. In the same pan, heath the remaining teaspoon of olive oil over medium-high heat and add the tune.  Cook for about 5 minutes per side or until desired doneness.
  4. Cut the tuna into large chunks and arrange them on top of the bean mixture.  Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar, tomatoes, and parsley or basil.
Serve at room temperature.  Serves 4.

I tripled the recipe for church and had to make a major substitution.  I couldn't find tuna steaks this year, so I ended up getting halibut steak.  The guy at the fish counter told me he thought it'd be fine, but honestly, it wasn't.  Tuna steak has a meaty texture and could almost pass as a pork chop.  The halibut, on the other hand, was really flaky.  It tasted fine, but didn't have the texture that it really wonderful in this salad.  Next year, I will plan more in advance and order tuna steaks if I have to.  They are worth it!

The day before Palm Sunday (Lazarus Saturday) is a caviar day... a day when the church calendar officially recommends (well, allows) that you eat caviar (and it's a wine day too)!  We love taramosalata so that is our usual Lazarus Saturday treat.  On the way home from church, we first stopped by Bridgehead Coffee with a friend, then the Italian grocery store to pick up the taramosalata.  The Italian shop also carries Art-Is-In bread which is one of my favorites and has a wonderful olive bar.  So, we came home and had a wonderful, simple lunch.  It was so delicious!  What a nice little feast!

In addition to the Great Feast of Palm Sunday, we had another joyous occasion yesterday - the baptism of our friends' new baby, Anna.  I was very honored to be her Godmother.  May God grant her many, many blessed years!
Big sister, Dora, Liza, and me before the baptism

Friday, April 26, 2013

Pilgrimage to Jordanville and Mjaddrah Recipe

We went to Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY for a quick trip this week.  It was such a nice Lenten pilgrimage!  

On the way there, we stopped in the charming town of Gouveneur, NY for lunch.  We had a picnic with the hummus and bread we'd packed and then stopped by a coffee shop for some caffeine.  

We were able to be there for Presanctified Liturgy on Wednesday.  Before we left we decided we'd better go soon since this would be our only opportunity to go to a mid-week Lenten service at the monastery.  It is only a four and a half hour drive for us.  I definitely think we should go more often.  We are planning to go for Pentecost weekend this year (the feast day of the monastery is the day after - Holy Spirit Monday) and again in July for Liza's nameday (July 18th - Grand Duchess Elizabeth).  

There is a women's skete nearby the monastery also named for Grand Duchess Elizabeth that will be celebrating their feastday that day.  I hope we can make it a tradition to attend the services at the skete for Liza's nameday.  As a side note, I also highly recommend their handmade skin cream.  I bought the natural cream for Liza (ingredients are olive oil, water, beeswax, and vitamin E).  It healed the baby eczema she's had on her hands for months!  It healed with just a few treatments.  The only other treatment I'd used was coconut oil, which did not do much, but did make her hands a little softer.  This one really took away the bumpiness and redness.

Yesterday I made a big pot of Mjaddrah.  I learned the recipe when I was in the Holy Land, where I spent five months volunteering at the Orthodox school in Bethany.  I don't always measure, but here is approximately how I made it.

Mjaddrah (Lentils and Rice)

1 cup rice
1 cup lentils
3 cups water
1 Tbsp. cumin (I've used whole seeds and ground - both are good)
2-3 onions, sliced
olive or other oil

Add the rice, lentils, and water to a pot and  bring to a boil.  Once boiled, add salt (maybe ½ tsp), cover, and simmer.

Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat.  Add the onions and saute until they are starting to brown.  Turn down the heat to medium-low, add cumin and some salt, and keep cooking them while you continue to stir.  After about 20 minutes or so, you should have nice caramelized onions and the rice mix should be done.

Serve the caramelized onions over the rice and lentils.  It goes very well with a salad with crunchy lettuce.

The girls performing during their 75th anniversary last year
Me with some of the girls who live at the school
This will be a busy weekend with several church services.  Tomorrow is Lazarus Saturday and one of my favorite days!  It is really a festive day (a sort of Nameday for me and my sister Martha) and along with Palm Sunday give us a glimpse of Paschal joy before starting the solemn Holy Week services.  Growing up, we would make palm crosses and put them into bunches with pussy willows on Saturday after Liturgy to be handed out that night at Vigil.  Lazarus Saturday also holds a special place in my heart as it is the feastday of the church at the school in Bethany.  Pilgrims come from all over to celebrate in Bethany.  I was not there during Lazarus Saturday (I was there August - January), but would sure love to be able to do that someday.   If you remember, please say a special prayer tomorrow for the students and nuns who work at the school.

The chapel built over a stone found during excavations that reads "Here is where Martha met Jesus and he told her of the Resurrection"

Friday, April 19, 2013

"Creamy" Clam Chowder and Almond Biscotti

"Creamy" Clam Chowder

2 medium potatoes, cubed
2 carrots, sliced
1 onion, diced
2½ cups water

2 vegetable bouillon cubes
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
2 (6.5 oz) cans whole baby clams, undrained
1 (15 oz) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 can coconut milk
1 tsp. paprika

Put everything except the coconut milk and paprika into a large pot and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Stir in coconut milk and paprika and serve.

This is my favorite Lenten soup!  I made it today for the first time this Lent.  I had to make some substitutions - sweet potato for the carrot and kidney beans for the white beans.  I highly recommend this recipe!  It's very easy and so delicious!

My deep cleaning for Spring hasn't gone as planned, but I did manage to get some work on in my living room this week... mainly the floor.  They were really dirty and hadn't been cleaned well in a long time.  Since all the furniture had to be moved to do that, we decided to rearrange things when we moved it back.  I really like our new look!  It seems much more spacious.  Liza is enjoying having a little more room to crawl around.

Here is another recipe for today!

Lenten (Vegan) Almond Biscotti

2 cups flour
1 t. baking powder 

¼ t. salt
1 c. sugar
4 T. margarine, softened
Egg replacer for 2 eggs' worth
½ t. vanilla extract
½ t. almond extract
¾ c. almonds, toasted (on a pan for just a few minutes) and coarsely chopped

  1. Heat oven to 350º. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. 
  2. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and margarine together using an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy and uniform. Mix in the egg replacer. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. 
  3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix in the almonds until just incorporated. 
  4. Use floured hands to shape the dough into two 13x2-inch loaves on the prepared baking sheet, spaced about 3 inches apart. Bake the loaves until golden and just beginning to crack on top, about 35 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.  
  5. Let the loaves cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Lower oven temp to 325º. 
  6. Transfer loaves to a cutting board and slice each on the diagonal into ½-inch thick slices with a serrated knife. Lay the slices about ½ inch apart on the baking sheet and bake until crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 15 minutes, flipping the slices over halfway through baking. Transfer the biscotti to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving, 1 hour. 
I found this recipe on Facebook a while back and made it this week for the first time.  They were nice and had a good subtle flavor.  I think it is a good base recipe that could be open to modification to fit your mood (ie, dipped in chocolate at the end, add dry fruit, use other nuts, etc.).  It's definitely a recipe I'll make again and probably include some variations depending one what I have.  Sorry I don't have a photo of the biscotti!  They are all gone... what we didn't eat I passed along to a friend yesterday.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Learning to Bake and a Lenten Pudding Recipe

I spent most of the day yesterday making kulichi with a few other ladies from church.  We made it in two batches.  The first batch was not rising but I decided to go ahead and put them in the oven.  They still did not grow much.  The second batch was a little bit better with rising (but I think mostly because we waiting a little longer to put them in the oven).  When we were finished making the breads, one lady who often bakes with us joined us and I told her about the difficulties of the day.  She asked which yeast I used and I showed her the bottle and it turns out she had used that a few months ago and ruined a batch of blini since they wouldn't rise!  So, I threw the rest of the yeast away - it's ruined enough recipes!  I don't know why it was put back if it was bad, but at least it's gone now!  She told me one way to test if yeast is good is to smell it.  This yeast had no scent at all!  Good yeast should have a nice yeasty aroma.  I don't think all is ruined though as I am definitely not a perfectionist (and I don't really want to spend another day baking).  We cut open one of the ones that didn't rise well and tasted it... it was delicious!!  In total we made 28 kulichi (using eight times the recipe below) which will be sold by the church sisterhood for Pascha.

So, although I've make kulichi probably at least ten times in my life I'm still learning a lot.  This time my lessons were:
1. Be patient!
2. Check the yeast to see if it's active.

The results of the kulich baking day.  The tops are cracked and ugly, but they taste good!
If you follow the recipe and follow those rules, the result should be both beautiful and delicious!  Here is the recipe I used (I got it from my mother):


6-6½ cups flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. yeast
¾ cup sugar
5 large eggs
½ cup butter
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1 cup raisins (optional - I didn't use)

Set butter out to soften. Scald cream and blend into 1 cup flour.  Let cool to lukewarm.  Dissolve yeast in a little waster and add to lukewarm cream and flour mixture.  Separate eggs, putting whiles into a medium sized bowl and set aside.  Add ½ cup sugar and the salt to the egg yolks and stir into flour mixture.  Beat egg whites until stiff and add remaining sugar (¼ cup).  Fold egg whites into flour/yolk mixture.  Place bowl in warm place and let rise until full of bubbles (about 30 minutes).  Add lemon zest and softened butter to the mixture after it has risen.  Add enough more flour to make a dough that can be easily kneaded and knead well, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Place in a buttered bowl, cover, and let rise about 1 hour or until doubled in size.  Punch down and add raisins, if using.  Divide into four equal portions and place each in a greased 1 lb coffee can (Note: we lined our cans with parchment paper instead of greasing).  Cover cans and let rise one more hour.  Bake 350° for  ½ hour to 45 minutes.  If tops begin to brown too quickly, cover with foil and continue baking.  Immediately after baking, remove breads from cans and cool.

Today I wanted something sweet so I decided to make tapioca pudding.  Here is my recipe:

Lenten Tapioca Pudding
The assembled ingredients minus the salt, vanilla, and almond milk

⅓ cup sugar
3 tbsp. minute tapioca
½ tsp. salt 
1 can coconut milk
1 cup almond milk
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit

1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a medium sauce pan, whisk together sugar, tapioca, salt, coconut milk, and almond milk.  Slowly bring to a boil over medium high heat, whisking constantly.  When it comes to a full boil, remove from heat and add the vanilla and fruit.  Pour into a nice dish to set.  Let cool for about an hour. 

The final product!
It's not quite as firm as tapioca made with eggs, but it's pretty good and really delicious!  I've also made rice pudding following approximately the same recipe but using already cooked white rice.  I would imagine you would need about a cup of cooked rice, but I don't remember exactly what I did... I do remember it was delicious!

And as always, I've got to include a photo of my little girl.  I had mentioned in a previous post about how she fell asleep at the head table at the fundraising dinner at church a week and a half ago, but I didn't get a photo.  Well, a friend of mine did catch the little snoozy baby and send me the photo:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Salad Days

My salad days, when I was green in judgment: cold in blood, to say as I said then!  Cleopatra in Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra, 1606

That's not the kind of salad days I'm talking about!

I've got one and a half fasting salad recipes for you, both of which I made today.  The first is a carrot salad called "Korean Carrot Salad" by the Russians.  It's a pretty popular Russian salad and definitely more Russian than Korean!  I don't know where it got it's name.  The second is not really a true recipe, but just about how I make pasta salad during Lent.

So, first off here is the "Korean" Carrot Salad:

7 carrots, shredded
1 onion, chopped and sauteed
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. ground coriander
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. sugar or honey

Mix up the last seven ingredients (everything except the carrots and onion) to make the dressing (I usually put it in a jar and shake).  Mix together with the shredded carrots and sauteed onion.  Marinate 4-24 hours.

I made a triple batch of this recipe today for lunch after Liturgy tomorrow.  For us to eat at home I made a pasta salad today.  My favorite ingredients to make pasta salad more hardy during Lent are artichokes, avocado, olives, and beans (usually from a can).  Here is the recipe for what I made today:

Pasta Salad

1 lb. pasta (I had fusilli)
1 (1 L) jar artichoke hearts (in oil, I get them at Costco)
2 bell peppers, chopped and sauteed
2 tomatoes, chopped
frozen spinach
1 cup black beans
red wine vinegar (about a half a cup)
herbs de provence
salt and pepper to taste

I mixed everything together including oil from the artichokes.  If I didn't have oil from artichokes, I'd use olive oil or an Italian dressing (and then leave out the vinegar).  I like to add more vegetables and other stuff than pasta.  I know this recipe is nothing ground-breaking, but it is good!

This week, we were in Montreal from Monday to Wednesday.  Andrey was attending a clergy conference at St. Nicholas Cathedral, our diocesan headquarters.  I went so I could go shopping since there are definitely different styles in the stores in Montreal.  I thought I could get something cute for Liza.  But it turned out that I mostly baby-sat for Liza and our friend's one year old son.  The first day I tried to take them both shopping with me.  I had the one year old in a backpack carrier and Liza in the stroller.  We made it to the mall (quite a hike!) and walked around a little.  I gave up after about an hour since there were too many stairs and escalators and it was hard to bring the stroller up or down them while trying to be careful with the baby on my back.  From that trip, I have the Liza picture for this post.  It is a photo of her at the final luncheon of the conference.

Monday, April 8, 2013

I Won!! And Gluten-Free, Vegan Banana Muffins

 I found out on Saturday that I won this beautiful print from Heather at the Audrey Eclectic Blog!  It's just in time for Pascha :)  It's the first time I've won something from a blog.  I'm really looking forward to having it up on my wall the whole Orthodox Pascha (Easter) season which goes until June 12th this year!

And keeping up with the theme of the weekend, we won more art yesterday!  At the Fundraising Luncheon put on by our parish youth we won this lovely painting of a peaceful fishing scene!  It was painted by a young girl in church.  She's quite talented!

Today we are leaving to spend a couple of days in Montreal with some friends.  Andrey is attending a clergy conference there.  One of our friends eats gluten-free so, last night I made gluten-free, vegan banana muffins.  I used my usual Lenten Banana Bread recipe but replacing the flour with Trader Joe's Gluten Free Flour.  They turned out fabulously!  Here is the exact way I did the recipe:

Gluten-Free Vegan (Lenten) Banana Muffins
1 3/4 cups all purpose gluten free flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder  
1/2 teaspoon baking soda  
3/4 teaspoon salt  
1/3 cup oil (I used canola, but wished I used coconut)  
2/3 cup sugar 1/4 cup coconut milk (from a can)
3 mashed bananas
nearly 1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°.  Mix dry ingredients.  Add sugar, coconut milk, and banana and mix well.  Stir in nuts.  Pour into a lined muffin tin and bake for 35 minutes or until done.  Cool in pan for 15 minutes.  Yields 15 muffins.  The icing is powdered sugar, coconut milk, and a touch of vanilla.

This morning I had one of the extra ones that wouldn't fit in the box with a cup of Banana Cinnamon Spice Tea.  It was a great combination!  I got the box of tea half price last week since it's Christmasy.  By the way, the cup I had it in is a mason jar with a Cuppow lid.  The cozy was made by my sister Martha for another project (a candle holder) but works perfectly for protecting my hands against the hot cup!

We had a really busy weekend with lots of church services and lots of visiting with friends (and the bishop).  Liza was so well behaved.  She can fall asleep anywhere!  She slept in church at times, at friends house (even though the conversation was sometimes loud), and during the meal with the bishop.  She was on Andrey's lap at the head table when she fell asleep during the meal.  It was so cute!  I didn't get a photo though.  Here is a photo from last Tuesday though when she fell asleep at the reception after a friends baby's baptism.  So sweet!  When she's awake she has so much energy and is so wiggly in our arms (my arms ache from holding her in church this weekend!), so it is always a nice break when she decides to snooze!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Baby Goats!

I had seen a sign advertising Eggs for Sale for a few months now at a farm near my house (it is only 2.5 km  from us).  Today I finally went for the first time to pick up some brown eggs (I eat eggs and drink milk during Lent since I'm still nursing).  When I arrived they told me that a goat had given birth just 1 and half hours earlier and said I could come meet the two new kids. 
Here are the nice chickens who lay eggs for me to buy
I got to pet the little guy!  I also got to see their two horses, chickens (about 100), geese (maybe a dozen of them), cow (named Daisy), dogs, and cat.  I'm so happy to find a farm so close to my house!!  They just moved here last June and actually are from the US like me!  They had a farm in Illinois before coming to Ottawa (to be closer to grandchildren).


We got a new bike trailer to use with Liza this summer!  I'm so excited about it!  It is from Wike and is made in Guelph, Ont.  There are so many great bike trails by our house since our neighborhood is surrounded by the Greenbelt (also the reason why we have a farm so close by even though we live in a really suburban neighborhood).

Cooking wise, I don't have much to say... nothing gourmet or exciting at least.  Andrey loves instant oatmeal packets and I usually keep buying them even though I don't like to since they are so processed and full of unnecessary stuff.  This week, I figured out a solution.  I got Quaker Minute oats and mixed in:  dried fruit, coconut sugar, chopped almonds, shredded coconut, and chocolate chips.  I put in all in a big container with a scoop.  We prepare them just like instant oats with boiling water.  They take a little longer to absorb the water, but taste great!  I think this is a more cost effective and healthier (not healthy though) option to the instant packets.

Another yummy thing I made was a creative oil-free pasta dish.  I cut up avocados, tomatoes, and artichokes (from a can) and mixed in minced garlic, dried herbs, and a little salt.  I mixed it up like a salad and put it in our dishes then added cooked spaghetti on top, adding a little of the cooking water as well.  We had it with pine nuts on top.  It was so good!  It was so good that I don't even have a photo since we finished it so fast tonight.  We are not super strict about xerophagy days during Lent although we try to keep Wednesday and Friday oil-free.

This weekend will be busy as our bishop is coming and we have a full schedule of services.  The youth in our parish are putting on a fundraising luncheon on Sunday (the reason the bishop is in town this weekend) to raise money for the orphanage of the Ascension Monastery in Molnitza, Ukraine.  There are some great videos on Youtube about it. Unfortunately they are in Russian, but are still interesting to watch even if you don't understand the language:

Forpost -
About Patriarch Kyrill's visit -

Well, I'd better be getting to bed!

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Small Lenten Feast and Vareneky Recipe

On Saturday, Andrey and I enjoyed a nice meal of leftovers with shrimp, quinoa, and red wine:
It was really a treat!  The wine and shrimp made all the difference :)  

On Sunday, we had a nice visit with some friends who visited from out of town and have a little boy just two months older than Liza.  The babies had fun playing together!
We like to tease that we'll arrange their marriage now so they won't have to worry about dating when they grow up.  It would be nice if it would work!

I made a loaf of bread yesterday using the same recipe as for the zhavoronky.  I added dried cherries as well as the orange zest.  It is so good!!!  The recipe as it is written makes two nice sized loaves.  I think it baked for about an hour (but I wasn't keeping track!).

Today I spent most of the day cooking with other ladies from church.  We try to get together about once a month and make food to sell as a fundraiser (mostly we sell to other parishioners).  Our parish has a retirement home that we are affiliated with right next door.  We make the food in their common room there so it's convenient for the ladies who live there to come and help.  We make things where many hands make the work a lot easier... such as pirozhky, pelmeni, and vareneky (pierogies).  Today we make two types of vareneky - some with potato/onion and some with potato/onion/mushroom.  The mushroom were most people's favorite (including me).  Here is our recipe:

Yield  = about 1000 vareneky (with four batches of dough)

4 large scoops (about 12-14 cups) flour
4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 cups warm water
6 tablespoons oil


  1. Mix the dry dough ingredients in the large mixer:  flour, salt, and baking powder. 
  2. Mix water and oil in a measuring cup. 
  3. Turn mixer on and slowly add wet ingredients to dry.
  4. After it’s all mixed, check to see if you need to add more flour.  It should be very soft, but not sticky.
  5. Make four batches of dough for the amount of filling listed below.

40 lbs potatoes, boiled and mashed
20 lbs onions, chopped and fried in vegetable oil
8 lbs mushrooms, chopped and fried in vegetable oil
Salt to taste

Mix potatoes and onions.  Separate half of the potato mixture and add mushrooms.

Put the dough through the pasta maker in small bits (about 1 cup) first at setting 1, then 3, then 5.  Cut circles with small cans.  Freeze on trays lined with wax paper or anti-stick parchment paper until they are ready to put into bags.

Sorry I don't have a better recipe for the home cook!  I think the proportions could be modified pretty easily, but I've never done that.  So, I guess posting this recipe is only good if someone wants to get a group of friends over to make them (and has the freezer space for them!).

We also make eggplant caviar and hummus.  These are all staples for Great Lent!  So, anyone in the Ottawa area, let me know if you want to purchase any for your lenten table :)

EDIT:  Just some notes about the vareneky, you could use a rolling pin to roll the dough.  The church sisterhood owns the Italian pasta maker which is great since the dough is a consistent height.  We use old vegetable cans to cut the circles (I think they are soup cans).  So, any round cutter about that size would work.  The proportions of dough to filling are hard to get since we aren't always consistent with the amount of filling each on gets since so many people are helping to do the job.  This dough recipe is the best Lenten (no egg) noodle dough I've found.