Friday, March 18, 2011

Kitchen Experiments 2: The Sequel

Since discovering that my gallbladder was on the fritz, I have avoided red meat and pork as much as possible. I continue to remind myself that the allure of the hotdog would make me REALLY feel terrible. Telling myself I can't have lamb will be even more difficult.

I have had success eating buffalo (or bison) in the past -- no vomiting after or worse coming from the other end.

I remembered a recipe Rachel Ray wrote in her 2, 4, 6, 8 cook book for lamb meatballs. Lance and I had both enjoyed them (when I could eat lamb) and I figured lamb had about the same consistency as bison (or buffalo).

Modifying her recipe, I was able to create my won delicious recipe.

Buffalo Meatballs (approximately 16 tbsp sized meatballs)

1 lb buffalo (or bison)

3 cloves (medium size) garlic - peeled

1/2 small onion (about the size of a tennis ball)

1/4 cup parsley

1 small red bell pepper - cut and seeded (really, any bell pepper would do)

2 tbsp olive oil

salt & pepper

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place garlic, onion, parsley, bell pepper, and olive oil in a food processor. Pulse to get everything somewhat chopped, and then grind to a smooth consistency (not quite pesto, but smooth).

3. Place buffalo in a medium sized bowl and add salt and pepper. Add mixture from food processor and really mix well with the buffalo.

4. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a large spoon, scoop about a tablespoon sized amount of the mixture and place it onto the baking sheet (on the paper). There should be about 16 meatballs total.

5. Bake meatballs for about 10 - 12 minutes until liquid runs clear. You could save the liquid and freeze it for future use OR use the drippings to make a pan gravy for the meatballs.

I served these meatballs along with a Lenten pasta bake; Nina liked her 2 cubic centimeters of cooked meatball smashed and blended with caramelized butternut squash and breastmilk.

Look for a future recipe for AMAZING vegan scones!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day!

I love the color green. For as long as I can remember, it has been my favorite color. Perhaps because I loved Kermit the frog as a young child, perhaps because green is the color most associated with nature and life, I love it. The green buffalo grass in summer (in Texas), the quaking green of aspen leaves in the spring (in New Mexico), the green moss that grows in abundance in winter (in Washington), and my favorite dish of green beans and shallots at Thanksgiving -- green is just marvelous. I could also go on for years about the virtues of green chile, a substance I once abhorred and now crave beyond belief. I also happen to have a complexion that rocks most shades of green.

St. Patrick's Day is naturally a day where I don't have to worry about finding something to wear. I had a student once ask me if I liked green because I wore it every day. Ha! If she only had a look at my wardrobe, she would understand the extent of my green obsession.

Besides green being the official (Catholic) color of St. Patrick's Day, I also love this day because I love St. Patrick.

St. Patrick is dear to me not because he is my patron (St. Juliana of Lazarevo is) nor has he interceded for a miracle for me (that was St. Nicholas -- see this blog post), but I am just in awe of his life.

Captured and sold into slavery, he was able to escape only to have God tell him to go back and convert those who held him captive. Like most Apostles, or Equal-to-the-Apostles (St. Nina is a good example), St. Patrick listened to God which is quite unlike me. I am willful. I don't like talking to others about God or my faith -- it isn't shame, it is just that I get all defensive and am generally not good at it. I would NEVER make a good missionary. Yet, there are people out there that are AMAZING apostles and can convert whole countries. They inspire others to love God and teach them the truth!

Yet, I named my child after an Equal-to-the-Apostles for a good reason: even if it is not our talent to go forth and preach the Gospel, literally, to others, as a Christian we are held to a standard of preaching the Gospel figuratively through our actions. The two commandments Christ said were most important were to love God and love others. Loving others is not merely social justice, but also a turning of another's heart to God and His divine grace. However, shoving how wrong someone's lifestyle is in their face does not win many followers. Not blinking an eye to their choices and embracing them as a fellow man loved by God, I believe, is.

May St. Patrick pray for us and teach us all how to love each other more fully and so fulfill the law of God.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kitchen Experiments 1

I have been playing around in my kitchen lately. I do love cooking and Lent tends to inspire me to create meals from scratch that require little or no fake meat products.

One of my favorite meals to make is Aloha Burgers, which are veggie burgers sauteed with teriyaki sauce and pineapple. I sometimes top them with curry mayo and always make sure to put spicy Dijon mustard on them.

However, in the past the v.burgs tended to stick to the non-stick skillet because there was an insufficient amount of oil in the sauce. The pineapple tended to suffer as well.

Recently, I decided to add a little dark sesame oil in the pan prior to putting the v.burgs and pineapple on to cook. The result was FANTASTIC -- nice crispy outside with all of the lovely salty tang of teriyaki.

Aloha Burgers:

- Veggie burgers (1 per person -- I like Annie's low sodium CA burgers and recently discovered Chez Gormet by Marie, Oregon Treat. Both veggie burgers are low in sodium and contain almost no soy. The Chez Cormet burgs are also gluten free.)

- Multi-grain hamburger buns (1 per burg - I like the ones at Trader Joe's. If I have extras, I toss them in the freezer for next time.)

- 2 pineapple rings per burger (canned or fresh doesn't make much difference -- if I have extras, I also toss them in the freezer with the pineapple juice which could be used for smoothies)

- Teriyaki sauce

- Dark sesame oil

- 1 tbsp Mayo + 1 tsp curry powder: approx 1/2 tbsp mayo per burger)

- Mixed greens (approx 1/2 cup loosely packed per burg)

(You can roast butternut squash or sweet potato to accompany this dish -- I just choose whatever starch is hanging around pre-made in my fridge.)

1. Heat dark sesame oil in pan over medium heat -- about 1 tsp per veggie burger.

2. Place pineapple and v.burgs on plate. Put approximately 1 tsp teriyaki sauce on one side of each and spread evenly.

3. Place pineapple and v.burgs in pan TERIYAKI side DOWN. Leave alone for about 3 minutes. While they cook, toast buns and put together curry mayo.

4. Just before flipping pineapple and v.burgs, place another teaspoon of teriyaki sauce on one side. Spread evenly, THEN flip. Leave alone for another 2 minutes or so. Have buns lined up and ready (mayo spread, lettuce on hand to top burgers).

5. When burgers are ready, place on the bottom bun, then place pineapple on top, then add lettuce onto pineapple, and top with top of the bun. Eat immediately!

I also have been experimenting with buffalo and scones, though not together. Will post that later as I need to wake my offspring soon!

Monday, March 14, 2011

So Many Thoughts, So Little Time

I have made it a goal to blog at least once a weekday during Lent. I have to start one of my lists here to remind myself of all the thoughts that have been racing around my head:

- Baptism

- Recipes and Kitchen Experiments

- The Cookbook Collector Review

- Glee Episode = Best "The Talk" EVER

Wow -- that is almost a week's worth of blog posts!

Oh yeah, and

- Prophecy (Book of Isaiah)

- The Saplings Review

These will all have to wait because I need to get Nina up so she can be on her new daylight savings time schedule.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Know Your Limits

I have been blogging daily since Lent officially began. I had made it a goal along with exercise for at least 40 minutes daily.

I was doing fairly well, perhaps not so much with the exercise, but blogging was going fine.

Then I ate koliva for breakfast, an almond butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, followed by a peanut butter cookie flavored Larabar.

Apparently this was TOO MUCH for my gallbladder-less body. Yesterday was a difficult day and I was not able to blog.

I am slowly learning my limits for my body and I would do well to pay attention: nuts have A LOT of oil! Good oil, but oil none the less.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


My first attempt at making koliva was not so good. Lance was all excited when he saw me mixing it in the bowl and begged me to save a little for him when I came back from the Liturgy for the Departed.

I came back home with about 4 cups of koliva and that is a low estimation. While the koliva looked pretty, it was unbelievably crunchy due to the very undercooked wheat berries. I served Lance a cup of koliva and our conversation went something like this.

Lance: "I really have to chew this stuff."

Me: "I know; I needed to let the wheat berries cook longer."

(minutes later)

Lance: "My jaw is hurting from having to chew so much."

Me: "Then stop eating it!"

(I walk away in a huff)

I tried to re-constitute the koliva by adding hot water to it. Sadly, I forgot that when one heats sugar and water together, one makes simple syrup. The simple syrup then combines with the graham cracker crumbs to form a sort of honey gravy.

The result being slightly underdone wheat berries with lots of hot fruit and almonds in a honey gravy.

This morning, as Lance watched me eat my syrupy concoction, our conversation went something like this:

Lance: "How is it?"

Me: (I explained the chemistry of trying to revive the koliva)

Lance: "Hmmm...well I did like it."

Me: "No you didn't."

Lance: "Well, it was your first try!"

Me: "Which means you still didn't like it. Don't say you did when you didn't."

Lance: "I liked the way it tasted."

Me: "If that is the only thing you liked, then you didn't like it."

Lance: (opens mouth)

Me: "Just drop it -- let's talk about something else."

I guess some koliva is better than none at all.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wait, What?

I had planned to write about some films that were nominated for an Oscar, and then I realized I had seen a grand total of two of the ten films.

So, I think I will write about the list of films and then write about some films I have recently seen that were memorable.

The Other Boylen Sister (British version) -- I LOVED the acting and plot in general. Didn't like how Mary turned to camera to tell her story, seemed too modern.

The Other Bolyn Sister (American version) -- Hm, Eric Bana is dreamy and a bit TOO dreamy for King Henry. Can Scarlet Johansson and Natalie Portman be more GOREGOUS??? Not possible. It was only *slightly* better than the British version

Sweet Charity -- I can see why this film flopped. Shirley Maclaine was AMAZING -- AMAZING! The plot and the musical numbers took way too long. Gotta love Fossy though -- and Chita Rivera!!!

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly -- What a BEAUTIFUL film this was! I really want to read the book because the main character was quite interesting. I enjoyed how the film didn't make him saintly and made him human. I had not seen work by this director and I am really intrigued to see more of his work. I can't recall the name of his latest film, but I will need to see it.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest -- If anyone read the book, could you please tell me if the defense attorney was pregnant in the book? My friend and I were wondering about this because no one in the film seems to take her pregnancy into any consideration. Which was pretty cool. If Nina wanted to ever get a real mohawk, I would get the clippers and hair gel. The push ups in jail were AWESOME. I also liked Lisabeth's warthog head earring. Swedish film is just excellent and I liked the conclusion of the series because everyone gets their comeuppance.

It Happened One Night -- I haven't seen a black and white film in quite awhile or one so old. Well, not terribly old. I forgot what it was like when films didn't rely on so much editing to tell a story. The scenes were chalked full of good acting because the actors had to interact more as if they were on stage. They had to give it their all because it would not be easy to cut away bad takes. It was AMAZING -- funny, full of heart, and a happy ending.

*Start Oscar Nominated Film Review*

Films Nominated (those in bold I have seen): Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids are All Right, The King's Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter's Bone

The King's Speech -- I love me some Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush (though I would prefer to see the former in a wet shirt). I also like Helena Bonham Carter, but she was not a big draw for me. The film was well done, but I found myself "underwhelmed" (to quote a friend). It was a feel good movie with EXCELLENT acting. Worth an Academy Award? Well, they won, so I suppose so.

The Kid's Are Alright -- I saw this when it was originally released. I LOVED IT! The acting was terrific and the situations were very true to life. I enjoyed how the moms didn't like the son's friend and it is later that he realized they were right. It just captured all of these moments in one's family life that are simple yet profound.

I REALLY want to see True Grit, Black Swan, and 127 hours in that order. I *might* want to see Winter's Bone if I knew more about it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Let Us Begin the Fast with JOY!

The few weeks proceeding Lent, Lance and I sit down and discuss what our "rules" will be for the fast. In the past few years certain practices were a given: no meat or dairy, no sex, Prayer of St. Ephraim, and go to every service possible.

Over the years I have added to the list: no eating out, no movies, no TV, no shopping for random stuff, no desserts, no processed foods (except bread and crackers -- Lance also makes an exemption for chips), etc. We try to serve the needy in some way. We try to be kinder to each other.

Last year, Lent presented a new difficulty since I was pregnant. I didn't have to fast from food, prostrations were tricky because my knee decided to give out on me after 2 months, and I had to be on my computer for school.

This year I am breastfeeding, so the traditional Lenten fast is not a possibility. Upon reflection, I have realized that I have not kept normal fast practices for over a year! That is crazy!

I actually enjoy fasting because: 1) I am not a big on cooking meat; if some one else cooks it for me, I can manage, 2) I believe a vegan lifestyle helps preserve our little planet*; God created it for us and we ought to take REALLY good care of it, 3) fasting helps keep one disciplined; if I can stay away from cheese for 40 days, I ought to be able to love others by not getting angry, impatient, or annoyed with them.

Without a "food- based" fast, I find it more difficult for me to abstain from other things. So, I really had to examine my lifestyle to determine how I should enter Lent with joy and not with dragging feet.

I plan to post pictures to facebook because my family and friends in far off places in the world are loving Nina's pictures. I would really like to use Lent to find ways to keep in touch with folks, and facebook helps me do that to some extent.

I do want to blog because I would go insane otherwise. I need to take care of myself and blogging definitely helps keep my mind shaper. Singing "Where is Thumpkin?" 12 times daily does not have the same affect blogging does.

I also want to be more active. I had heard of a plan to do "40 for 40" where one exerts oneself 40 minutes daily for the whole fast. Exertion can include walks, jogs, dancing, etc. -- the point is to keep moving!

Also, I have to cut out the TV. Ever since we got cable, I tend to watch too much while breastfeeding Nina. With all the Buffy and ANTM marathons, it is very easy to just sit on the couch and not attend to the necessary things in life.

Though we plan not to let Nina watch TV until she is two, I know she is listening when the TV is on and I don't want her absorbing too much of the insanity that is modern television. If she gets influenced by Iron Chef America, that might not be a bad, no, I will only watch three programs a week and that will be the only time the TV will be used.

I have other practices that I plan to keep, but I want to practice them in secret. The only other person who knows what I will do is Lance because it is important to communicate with your spouse what you will do during the fast. As your souls are united, it is important to help bear the other's burdens.

I always have to keep in mind St. John Chrysostom's homily for Pascha "for those who have fasted, and those who have not, the table is full laden!". Above all these fasting rules, it is more important for me to cultivate a loving heart and a soul that longs for God.

* When Lance and I went to Maui for our honeymoon, we frequented a totally vegan grocery store called "Down to Earth". After a few visits, I realized their bags had vegan statistics printed on them. One of the stats said that if everyone ate a vegan diet for just half the year, we would save TONS of the earth's resources. I found it really cool since the Orthodox practice of fasting has one keep a mostly vegan diet for half the year!

Friday, March 4, 2011


It does not take much to get me relied up, but it does take quite a bit to make me utterly and completely appalled by the actions of others. I tend to let things go when it comes to people and their choices. Two recent news stories however, have me TOTALLY AND UTTERLY APPALLED.

I dislike the s-word very much, but it here it goes: MIKE HUCKABEE YOU SUCK YOU FILTHY, STUPID HYPOCRITE.

So, Natalie Portman, not only a fine actress but a DECENT human being, gets pregnant out-of-wedlock. SO WHAT? Many people do and sometimes some of them decide to end the life of their child. WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE HER DO THAT?

Yes, she is famous, has lots of money, and she will be able to hire help -- good for her. That hardly means that young women will see her state and say "omg, Natalie totally rocked that $40K maternity gown, I need to get preggers so I can has one too!!!1!1!!!". If that were true, then there would be a lot more "meat-ware" ala Lady Gaga. Have your crack research team check out this blog post while you are at it.

Decide what it is YOU REALLY STAND FOR Huckabee before you decide to mouth off about a woman CHOOSING to have a child when she isn't married.

Second, in the VERY TRAGIC end: Suspect in Houston Day Care Fire Still Missing

My mom called yesterday to check in and chat. I was getting Nina ready for bed and finally got to talk to mom when Nina was nursing. Towards the end of our conversation, my mom mentioned this news story about a woman with a home daycare. Allegedly, Jessica Rene Tata left SEVEN toddlers and pre-school aged children home by themselves while she went shopping at Target (authorities have her on film in Target sans children in her care). She must have left something on inside her rented apartment because it caught fire. Four children died and two were severely burned. When she returned to find her apartment on fire, she began to tell firefighters and neighbors that there were children in the apartment and offered no help.

She then claimed she needed to go to the hospital for trauma and, because the authorities did not arrest her or charge her with any crime, she was able to get to Dallas and fly to Nigeria where she is now hiding.

While my mother was telling me of this tragedy, I began crying and I suppose something changed in my heartrate and general being because Nina was suddenly wide-eyed and worried.

When Jessica Rene Tata does get extradited to the US, she faces child abandonment and neglect charges. Why she will not be charged with man slaughter is beyond me except that they might be holding off on it in order to lure her back into the country. I can only assume she fled because she knew in Texas she would face the death penalty.

So, if you know anyone in Nigeria, pass along this picture of a woman who is on the run after killing four children, injuring several others, and leaving their families devastated.

May God have mercy on us all.