Monday, April 29, 2013

Lenten Meal Plan Week #7

Lenten Meal Plan Week #7

SUN-   Tuna Like Lamb
THURS- Pierogies

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Shrimp and Potato Soup

I saw a recipe for soup in a magazine. I haven't had soup in a long time and the idea of it was persistent. So I made soup for dinner.


Sauté celery heart and 1/2 a diced onion in olive oil. When translucent add chopped parsley, salt and dill. (I used the frozen parsley from an earlier blog.)

 Throw in a diced potato and then 32 oz vegetable broth. Boil till potato is cooked.

 Add a handful of chopped shrimp and cook for a few minutes.

It's delicious!

You can eve use orzo, pasta or rice. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Finish What You've Started and Receive Your Just Rewards! (Large Lima Bean Casserole)

If anyone has wearied himself in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.

We are coming to the end of our Lenten Journey and as I start planning my Pascha/Easter feast for my family, and listing the foods that are now available to us, I sit here at a crossroad.  I love Lent.  I love the opportunity it offers us to repent, to take a hard look at how far we've slipped away from where we want to be.  I love the invitation to remove ourselves from the world even if just a little bit.  I love remembering that there is something greater for us.  There is more than just this life, as blessed as it may be.  And as excited as I am about finishing the fast with ambition, I'd love to sink my teeth into a messy, medium rare cheeseburger with all the fixin's including a bit of chili slipping down the side. 

But there are only 7 days remaining.  Only 7 days left in this season of Holy and Great Lent.  Then we will all be rejoicing.  Then we will all shout from the depths of our souls, "Christ is Risen!" 

To help us finish the fast well, I have posted the Homily of St. John Chrysostom which is read at the end of the Resurrection Service.  

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let him enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.
If anyone is a wise servant, let him, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.
If anyone has wearied himself in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.
If anyone has labored from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay. For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious. He both honors the work and praises the intention.
Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward. O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!
Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.
Let no one lament his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn his transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Saviour's death has set us free.
He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He descended into hades and took hades captive! He embittered it when it tasted his flesh! And anticipating this Isaiah exclaimed, "Hades was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions."
It was embittered, for it was abolished!
It was embittered, for it was mocked!
It was embittered, for it was purged!
It was embittered, for it was despoiled!
It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!
It took a body and, face to face, met God! It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen!
"O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?"
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the First-fruits of them that slept.
To him be glory and might unto ages of ages. Amen.

Until then... Here's a bean casserole you might like to try. 

Large Lima Bean Casserole

Prepare 1 lb. Large Lima Beans- I like to rapidly boil the beans in PLENTY of water for ten minutes and then cover and and let stand for an hour.  I drain the water and rinse the beans well. 

Put beans in a large baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  • chopped onion
  • 3 sliced carrots
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 can water or vegetable broth
  • oregano
  • ground pepper
  • 2 t salt
  • 1/2 t sugar

The oregano container had such little bitty holes!  I twisted the top of and seasoned like a Greek!  :)

Bake uncovered for 1 hour. 

Don't Rest Yet! Finish the Race!

It's amazing what a little ambition can do.

Some days we only have to push ourselves a little further to win the prize and then we will see that we are strong.  Finish the race my dear friends. Don't rest in defeat in front of the finish line. There is one more week till our Lord's glorious resurrection. There are only 7 more days of this gifted time to see things more clearly. Finish the race with ambition. And when it is time to celebrate on the other side of the line, you will rest knowing only joy and gratitude.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Five Steps to Baked Tofu

Recipe called for:

  • 2 tofu cakes, vacuumed packed. (10-12 oz)
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 T cider vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2T chopped onions
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 t minced, pealed, fresh ginger
  • 1 t packed light brown sugar
I didn't pay attention and used one block of tofu. Grrr.  But I added 6 medium sized mushrooms and quartered them. The mushrooms kept it from being too salty but a second block would have been better.

I also did t have ginger so I used mint. Wish I had ginger.  Ginger is a great root to cook with.

Step One

Weigh down tofu to release liquid- 30 minutes.

Step Two
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Step Three
Combine remaining ingredients in a 9X13 or 9X9 baking dish. Set aside.

Step Four
Cut tofu in 3 horizontal slices and then cut into squares (or triangles) and place in baking dish.  Turn to coat tofu with ginger sauce.

Step Five
Bake 35-45 minutes and turn several time.  Tofu is done when ginger sauce is absorbed and ginger sauce is gone. 

Step Five
Serve over rice. 


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dinner and Palm Sunday Cross Making

I never had any luck with baked veggies till recently.  The oven was never hot enough.  Yet, I thought I'd try it one more time.

I cut up eggplant, potatoes, zucchini, onions, garlic. Poured in a can of diced tomatoes, and a ton of oil. Sprinkled oregano, salt and a touch of cumin.

Slid it into a 450 degree oven and I waited.

It was looking pretty good... but it wasn't cooking fast enough, so I hiked the temp to broil and planned to get back to it.

Then I remembered I wanted to make this video on PALM FOLDING.


And then I remembered my dinner!!!!  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

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A Little Lenten Encouragement

A Natural Red - Even Lucille Ball Would Be Jealous of These Eggs

Need to dye your eggs for Pascha but can't find the dyes in the grocery any longer?  Maybe you have an allergic reaction to synthetic dyes.  I did some research and found a few links and articles on naturally dyed eggs last month.  Here are the directions for naturally dyed red eggs.
STEP ONE - Collect Yellow Onion Skins.  Yes, YELLOW ONION SKINS.  Not red onions, yellow.  If I didn't do it myself I wouldn't believe it either. A large pot of yellow onion skins, when boiled for 30 minutes in 9 cups of water and 3/4 c of white vinegar make a red dye. 
making the dye
Cooking for my family of three, I didn't start early enough to save for this dye job, so one Sunday I asked for help from a local restaurant famous for their homemade onion rings.  The owner said they must go through a hundred pounds of onions a day!  I thought she was exaggerating, but by Tuesday afternoon she had two grocery bags stuffed and waiting for me. 

Before you prepare the dye, take the eggs out of the refrigerator so they can come to room temperature.  This will limit the cracking.   Also, I understand medium eggs dye better than large eggs. 
I crammed the one bag of skins into my large pot.  (I saved the other bag in case this didn't work.) As it turned out, one bag was more than enough. 
Poured 12 cups of water and 1 c of white vinegar over the skins and smooshed them down.  The original recipe called for 9 cups of water but I had so many skins and didn't think they would get wet enough, but they smoosh down very well.  There was more than enough dye.


As I did with the dolmathes, I inverted a plate and weighed it all down with my glass measuring cup before I boiled the skins.


It's Working!
 After 30 minutes of boiling the water...
Cook for 30 minutes.  Turn off heat.  Strain the skins in a colander, saving the dye in a clean pot.  It's a good idea to strain them again with a mesh strainer to remove little bits that can stick to the eggs when cooking or you can use coffee filters in the colander.   

 cooking the eggs
Place the room temperature eggs into the dye and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and cook, simmering eggs for 15 minutes.  (You can let the eggs sit in the dye water for 30 minutes before heating the water.)

Still had my doubts.


If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes!

Hot out of the pot they looked very brown.  I was a bit disappointed.  But as they cooled they turned redder.  They camera took some liberties and makes them look redder than they were. 
When they are just cool enough to touch, dip a rag into a small bowl of olive oil, and coat the eggs. 




Our legal department says we are not liable for any spills or splatters
so be sure to wear an apron and use glass or stainless steel.

And although we can't endorse any particular company, (I love Yankee Candles)
we encourage you to light a sweetly scented candle. 
When you are working with onions, vinegar and boiled eggs, it can get a bit stinky. 


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Monday, April 22, 2013

Navy Bean Soup

This Navy Bean Soup is just like my Fifteen Bean Soup, except I add a bay leaf. 

  • 1/2 bag of navy beans- look for pebbles and rinse
  • 1 -15oz can of tomato sauce
  • 2 cans of vegetable broth or 1- 32oz carton
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 bay leaf
Cook in a crock pot on high for 5 hours and let sit for 1 hr, if you can wait that long.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Lenten Meal Plan, Week #6

 Lenten Meal Plan Week #6

SUN-  Cincinnati Style Chili and Pasta , Fried Zucchini
MON- Baked Potato and L/O

TUES- Baked Tofu and Rice (didn't get to it last week)

WED- Potato/Zucchini Fritters
THURS- Pierogies

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Greek Fries Are a Great Treat.

One tip for a successful fast is to save some foods for a treat.  Ours are fried foods.  We save fried foods for the weekend: fried zucchini, loukoumathes, shrimp... Today's lunch was Greek Fries.
  • Using a potato cutter, cut 4 potatoes, rinse them in cool water and place them in a large bowl.
  • Dust 2T of flour over the damp potatoes
  • Season with garlic powder, dried parsley and dried oregano.  But be warned, this late in lent, they smell like souvlaki! 
  • Heat oil to HOT
  • Fry the spuds
  • Drain on a paper towel, or coffee filter
  • Salt and serve

Friday, April 19, 2013

Feasting and Fasting, the Orthodox Way. Celebrating Palm Sunday with Fish Plaki

We are about to begin our 6th and final week of Lent and then brace for Holy Week and all I can reflect on is how amazing Lent and fasting are. Where else can we fast and feast on the same day? It sound’s impossible, I know! But you can do it with a Greek Fish Plaki.
If we’ve been participating in the fast, we are aware that the Orthodox faith instructs fasting by certain levels: first meat (pork, beef and chicken,) then dairy (milk, cheese, butter) and eggs, then fish (but not shellfish as in shrimp and calamari), then wine (all alcohol) and oil and then all food. (My sweet son, who is learning to fast, read this and shouted out, “All food!?! That’s impossible!”)
If we have a Spiritual Father to guide us, he has assigned us a certain level of fasting. Knowing our personal experiences in fasting and health issues he might advise a personal fasting rule based on the levels we follow. For example, if we’ve never fasted a day in our life, he might advise us to refrain from meat Wednesdays and Fridays; Wednesday to remember the day Christ was betrayed and Friday for the day He was crucified. Or, he may want us to fast from meat every day and increase our level by instructing us to refrain from dairy or egg products on Wednesdays and Fridays. If we fast from meat, dairy and eggs on Wednesdays and Fridays all year long, he may guide us to keep fasting from meat, dairy and egg products all during Lent and to fast from fish on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Yet, do not confuse the “personalization” of fasting to mean that we get to fast from what we chose, like “giving up” chocolate or soft drinks for Lent. A spiritual father’s instruction is one of clemency; the church calls it “economia.” It would be better to fast to our limited ability than to fail in fasting, so a spiritual father can offer us a stepping stone till we can participate in the full fast. Why is this important to clarify?
Orthodox Christians fast on various levels. Ideally though, we are fasting for six weeks (seven if you include Holy Week) from meat, dairy, eggs, fish, wine and oil. And we are observing a sober time where we reflect on our past actions, intentions and sins; it’s basically a time for repentance. So when a Great Feast Day falls during Lent, like it did with the Annunciation (March 25) and it will with Palm Sunday (this year it falls on April 28,) the Church sees the importance in celebrating the feast. Clergy dress in bright, colorful vestments (instead of purple,) we are encouraged to decorate the interior of the church and icons with flowers and palms, and we break the fast. Well, we don’t stop fasting, but the Church alleviates the fast by taking it down a notch.
On Palm Sunday we are “permitted” to eat fish to celebrate the holy day. If we’ve been fasting from meat, dairy, eggs, fish, wine and oil for 6 weeks, you can see how fish for dinner is a great treat. If we haven’t been fasting at this level, I imagine we’ll miss the whole point. We might even wonder why we are fasting so strictly on a Feast Day.
What will you cook for Palm Sunday? Here is a recipe for a Fish Plaki with Potatoes. What's Plaki (plah-KEE)? It's a dish that is traditionally baked with olive oil, tomato, and vegetables.
Mom’s Fish Plaki

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Peel 5 potatoes and cut in ½’ discs. Place them in greased baking dish and bake for 30 minutes while you prepare the sauce.
Plaki Sauce
  • Slice 2 onions and sauté in olive oil with
  • 4 Celery stalks (chopped) and
  • 3 garlic cloves

When the onions are translucent, add
  • 3T chopped dill
  • 2T chopped fresh mint
  • 1c chopped parsley
  • A splash of white wine
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 3T olive oil… (1/4 c if you’re Greek)
Let sauce simmer until potatoes are ready.
When potatoes are almost finished cooking, remove baking dish from oven, place 4 pieces of grouper over the potatoes and pour sauce over fish. You can use tilapia, whiting, or cod, but I favor grouper for this dish. Place slices of lemon rounds on top of fish. Bake for another 15 minutes until the fish is flaky. Serve.
Sauce should be thicker.  I didn't let it simmer enough. But it still tasted great!
(ONE IMPORTANT NOTE: Lent is a time we focus on Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving. But since I write on Lenten recipes I focus on fasting for my blog, In Service and Love at . During these 7 weeks, if we only focused on the food we ate or didn't eat, we haven’t engaged in a spiritual exercise but we have merely started a diet.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Do you salt your eggplant before you cook it? I do. It removes bitterness.

I'm preparing a roasted veggie mix of eggplant, potatoes and onions for dinner tonight. Wish I had zucchini. I'm sure it will still taste yummy.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Up Next! A Dye Job. Naturally Red Eggs.

Red dye from yellow onion skins? This one I had to see for myself. I'll be dyeing them early so you can try it too.

I asked a local restaurant to save some onion skins. She said they must through a hundred pounds of onions a day! What!?! Yes, they still make onions rings in the South. The best kind.

Spana What? Spanakopita! A Hearty Lenten Dish. (edited)

 Spanakopita is a great way to fit spinach in your meal plan, but it takes more prep than the dishes I usually post. 

Don't start till your filo sheets are defrosted.  Read the directions on the box and be delicate with your filo.  Cracked filo sheets are hard to work with and make a messy pita.

Also use silken tofu and drain any extra liquid.  To drain liquid, you remove the block of tofu from the box and place in a baking dish.  Place a plate in top and weigh it down with something like a can of soup.  Let it sit for 15 minutes.  (I forgot to take a picture of my tofu draining so I placed the container in the baking dish and took this picture later. I also regret using firm tofu.)

Saute 2 c chopped white  and 1 c chopped green onions and 3 chopped stalks of celery in a large pan.  Leeks are a great substitute.

When the onions are translucent (about 10 minutes) and add crumbled tofu and  1/4 c white wine.  Cook another 5-10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine
  • 3 T parsley
  • 1 T mint
  • 3 T dill
  • 2 t salt
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1 package of fresh pre-washed spinach (chop if you like but it's not necessary) and onion/tofu mixture.   


Pour 1 c olive oil in a bowl.  Brush olive oil on bottom of a large cake pan.  It's great if the baking dish is a bit smaller than the size of the filo sheet.  If not, trim the sheet so it sits in the dish and a tad along the sides.

Place a filo sheet in pan and lightly brush with olive oil.  Place another piece of filo on top of the first and brush again.  Repeat this process till you use 8 sheets of filo.

Spread 1/4 of the spinach mixture in the baking dish.  Place a filo sheet over the spinach and lightly brush with olive oil. Place another piece of filo on top of the first and brush again.  Repeat this step till all the spinach is used.  (The women in our parish place the filo sheets like a messy bed, to make a thicker pita.)

Place a filo sheet in pan and lightly brush with olive oil. Place another piece of filo on top of the first and brush again until all the filo is used.... about 10 more sheets. 

Generously brush olive oil on the final layer and chill in fridge for about 20 minutes.  This will firm the layers and make it easier to cut.  You must cut the pita before you cook it since the filo layers cook so crisply, it would just be a mess if you tried to cut it after it cooked. Two inch square pieces are good for sides, smaller pieces make great appetizers and larger pieces make great dinner portions.

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.

Splash a bit of cool water to the top layer before you bake the pita to avoid an overly flaky top. 

Bake for 30 - 40 minutes until top is nicely browned. 

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