Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Today's JAR- The Power of Prayer

Today's JAR- Just a Reminder  If you want to truly see the power of prayer and experience God's love, pray for your enemies.  It's one of those things you have to experience to believe.  But if you need a Biblical reference, here are two:


“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 

 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:43-48

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Today's JAR (Just a Reminder) Our Purpose is to Learn How to Love.

I keep hearing a conversation that is foreign to me.  It involves Christians searching to understand their purpose in life that would fulfill and complete them and justify their existence.  This language does not refer to a calling, the means to fulfilling this purpose, but in this contemporary theology it seems we all have a purpose for being born.  And until we understand and fulfill this purpose we are wanderers in life, we are letting God down.  There is a dire sense that we were born for a purpose and not simply with a purpose.
I do not like this theology...
God created us with a purpose, a very important have a relationship (walk with) Him, to know Him, to love Him.  This is common to all of us. 

But this kind of love isn’t forced onto us, we have to learn it and be accountable to it, choose it.  Look at Adam and Eve.  They weren’t born with it or they wouldn’t have blamed someone else for their own sins.  They would have apologized.  They would have repented.  They wouldn't have look outside of God for that which only God could give.   They were children.  They weren’t mature in love. 
Let our purpose in life be learning to love in a way that is God-like.  Let us do away with childish things.*  Let us fulfill Adam and Eve's purpose and allow God to guide us. 
* The Greatest Gift -- 1 Corinthians 13
 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part.   But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Year... New Plan- Working Towards a Well Balanced Menu

It's a new year and as I prepare my Menu Planner for the coming week I am realizing that I am limited in my collection of recipes, especially when it comes to fresher ingredients and vegetables.  I have fallen into a terrible habit of tossing a frozen bag of corn into the microwave and calling it the vegetable for the meal.  Surely I can be more creative than that. 

So with the new year I am assembling a new Menu Plan, leaving tons of room for veggies (and salads), even the green ones. 

Any suggestions? 

Thursday, January 09, 2014

I Need a Few More Days Before I Put Christmas in a Box

I'm not ready!   It's past the Twelve Days of Christmas and my Christmas decorations are still up.   The world has already cleared away any sign of Christmas and Valentines are filling the store shelves.  But here in the privacy of my home, we are still in holiday mode.
I had every intention of taking everything down following Epiphany.  I even had my husband bring the boxes from the attic so I could get started.  They sit ignored in a corner of the house.  I'm just not ready yet.    

I need a few more days.  We had a late start this year waiting for school vacation to began till we decorated.  But now, I regret that decision.  I'm just not ready to let Christmas go.  The cheerful songs, the tasty treats, the party planning were so enjoyable.  We had a lovely vacation with company and friends.  It all ended too quickly. 

Just a few more days...   I have no intention of converting our imitation pine into a Valentine's Day tree.  And an Easter Egg tree is not even a possibility, although I've seen it done. 

It isn't the work I dread.  I am not even tempted to cover it with a sheet and leave it in a corner.  I just want it to be Christmas a little longer.  As I think about it I realize I'm not ready to put the ornaments away.  Ours is an eclectic décor with ornaments marking our travels and life events:  First House, Wedding Anniversary, Baby's First Christmas.  So many lovely memories.  How do you put all that back into a box and store it in the attic? 

I just need a few more days.  

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

House Blessings and Theophany

    Lord, when You were baptized in the Jordan, the veneration of the Trinity was revealed. For the voice of the Father gave witness to You, calling You Beloved, and the Spirit, in the guise of a dove, confirmed the certainty of His words. Glory to You, Christ our God, who appeared and enlightened the world.  Apolytikion in the First Tone

Tis the Season for House Blessing.   Following the Great Feast of Epiphany parishes around the globe have started the annual House Blessing Season.  No sales, gimmicks or special decorations needed.   Just a bowl, a sprig of evergreen, an icon of Jesus, a censor equipped with charcoal and incense, and a priest.  Yes, this is a very special time of year when we open our homes for the priest to come and bless the whole family, our work, our cars... bringing God to where we live.. our church away from church. 

If you have a collection of water bottles, it's good to empty them into gardens to have on hand for the holy water that remains after the annual house blessing. 

Prayer from House Blessing:

O God our Savior, the True Light, Who was baptized in the Jordan by the Prophet John, and Who did deign to enter under the roof-tree of Zacchaeus, bringing salvation unto him and unto his house: do You, the same Lord, keep safe also from harm those who dwell herein; grant to them Your blessing, purification and bodily health, and all their petitions that are unto salvation and Life everlasting; for blessed are You, as also Your Father Who is from everlasting, and Your All; Holy, Good and Life; creating Spirit, both now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Today's JAR- We Fast to Prepare for Theophany

Today's JAR.  Just a Reminder- I hope you enjoyed our Fast Free period... 11 days fast free... because today is a fasting day in preparation for Theophany: our Lord's baptism, the manifestation of the Trinity ( the voice of the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Spirit in the form of a dove.) and the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. 

Don't let today's football celebrations overpower tomorrow's celebration of THEOPHANY. 

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Spanakopita, span-uh-koh-pi-tuh.


 If you know anyone who is Greek, I am certain you have tasted the flaky, creamy, rustic saltiness that is Spanakopita.  Its name might even flow off your lips like a true immigrant...   
spa·na·ko·pi·ta  span-uh-koh-pi-tuh;

But I bet you never made it before.... 


The ingredients...

5 eggs
1/2 lb feta, (or so) crumbled
15 oz (or so) cottage cheese
1 pkg. cream cheese (at room temperature)
15 oz (or so) ricotta
2 leeks. 
30 oz spinach 3- 10oz frozen chopped spinach thawed and drained or 2 bags of fresh spinach, chopped.
2 T chopped dill
1c chopped parsley (Italian parsley is always preferred.)
2 sticks melted butter  or 1 stick and 1/4 olive oil
one box of filo (not the thick but the regular.)

The (or so) is Greek for- a little more or less won't hurt the recipe.

Preparing the ingredients...
If you are not using fresh spinach, thaw frozen spinach in a colander and drain before you start to gather the other ingredients.

Leave cream cheese out to soften. 

Take filo dough out of box to rest on counter... but be sure to leave it in the plastic packaging. 

Leeks can be dirty and gritty so you have to cut and clean leeks.  You can also use Vidalia onions. 


Sauté leeks in some olive oil and a pinch of salt till tender. 

Meanwhile, as the spinach thaws and the leeks cook, gather your other ingredients... melt butter on low and add olive oil.  Note: You can use 2 sticks of butter or one stick with 1/4 c olive oil. 

Crumble the feta.  I think it's cheaper to crumble your own than buy it crumbled.


Combine cheeses and eggs.


When leeks are ready, squeeze liquid out of spinach and add to leeks. 

Combine leeks/spinach with cheeses.

Add dill, parsley, and stir.


To assemble...

Brush butter onto pan.  You can use a glass pan for a thicker meal portion or a jelly roll/cookie sheet with a lip for smaller appetizer portions.  I am using a glass pan and not brushing butter onto my counter.  :)

Carefully unroll filo dough from packaging.  We call these sheets of filo because if they are fresh and kept moist, they will lay like a bed sheet. 

Keep it under a damp... NOT DRIPPING... tea towel so it doesn't dry out.  Dried filo is useless.

Layer 6 sheets of filo, buttering each sheet, including the part that is hanging over the pan.

layer 1
butter layer

layer 2

6 layers 
Don't worry that the filo sheets are hanging out. 
We will take care of that later.  Just remember to butter it as well. 

Scoop out 1/2 of the filling onto the filo.  You can use 1/3 and break this down into 3 steps... or 1/4 and have 4 steps.  All depends on how much filo you want to use. 

Remember to fill to edge.

Add 2 more sheets, buttering each sheet. 

layer 1
layer 2
Some areas of Greece will prepare spanakopita with rumpled filo sheets,
like a messy bed, during this part of the assembly.  

Repeat above step or add remaining filling.

Remember to keep filo under a towel while you are filling the pan, at least until you get really fast during this process. 

After the last filling, fold the filo that was hanging out of the pan, in... this won't be necessary for the larger pans.

Butter the edges again. 
Cut the filo sheets to fit the pan.

Layer 6-8 more sheets of filo, buttering each sheet.

Almost done. 
Generously butter the top sheet.

Chill and cut before you bake...

Filo is a fickle ingredient.  It needs to stay moist to assemble, and once it cooks it's the flaky pastry you love! Which means you have to cut it before you cook it, or it will be a complete flaky mess.  But if you were to cut it during this part of the process the gooiness of the cheese filling will also make a mess.  To fix this, chill the spanakopita in the fridge (or freezer if you are in a hurry) for 20 minutes so the filling can set. 

Now that your spanakopita has chilled, cut the serving pieces.

I start in the middle to make even proportions. 

Cut in both directions.

One final layer of butter.

Almost done!  You can now freeze it till later or cook it now. 
To freeze...

Cover with wax paper.

Cover with saran wrap.

Cover with aluminum foil and freeze till you need it. 
I do not recommend using a glass pan if you want to freeze the spanakopita. 

When you are ready to bake...

Brush an egg wash over the spanakopita... a beaten egg with 1 T water.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes... the thicker the spanakopita, the longer it will take.

Wait till the top is a golden brown color.