Saturday, January 31, 2009

Blessings

God provided a huge ham. What a pleasant surprise!

Someone loved on my son by giving him an unexpected toy, too. He needed that this week.

I was getting sick: chills, sore throat, the works. Got up Friday morning and went to Church thinking..."If I can just receive the Body and Blood of Christ..." and my illness left me and I've had some very productive days.

I think poverty is a blessing. Whether it's "money being tight", or "low energy" or even physical illness. Any type of need, because it casts us into the place of dependence on God.

Ice Storm


The big Kentucky Ice Storm of 2009 happened several days ago, and most likely will start melting off tomorrow. Many are still without power.

But it's been gorgeous, like a fairy land to look at.

We were without power on day 1, but it came back on at 10:30 pm that night. Much sooner than expected.

I thank God that this time (last big huge ice storm was in 2003) we have a wood burning fire place. That makes a difference, and dinner on Wednesday night was hobo meals cooked in the fireplace by candle light. Followed by an impromptu family sing along. I learned that my kids know ALL the words to American Pie, as well as the Star Wars version (My, my this here Anakin guy, maybe later he'll be Vader now he's just a small fry...).

Here's what I wrote to a friend, that describes some of this week:

More snow here. Wes and I dragged the kiddos out for Divine Liturgy at 7am in the dark today and the snow was coming down, ice on the trees and already a layer of snow underneath, with the fresh snow it turned the urban sludge into a winter fairyland once again. Snow on the onion domes at Church with the warmth of candle light and incense to greet us as we entered the chapel. Got to see the sun lighten the world and the snow falling out the windows as we celebrated the Divine Liturgy this morning, an icon of the way Christ lightens the whole universe.




Here's a less than fantastic shot taken leaving St. George's Chapel. If you look closely, you might spy the blue onion dome of the main church peeking out behind one of the ice-spangled trees.

OK, I did it: New Cooking Blog!

Hi all, I decided to create a blog about cooking yesterday after I came up with the perfect blog title: Fast Meals from a Slow Kitchen (and yes, the pun is intentional.)

Please visit it, bookmark it, and enjoy.

It's still in the mixing stage right now, but I might pull some of my food posts from here and post them over there. Or I might just start writing from scratch over there. That will most likely be the blog which I monetize at some point.

Friday, January 30, 2009

GFCF S'mores


One of the challenges of being on the GFCF diet if you are a kid, is missing out on some gastronomical community events of childhood that everyone enjoys. It's just no fun to be at the bonfire when everyone else is eating s'mores, and you are stuck perhaps only roasting marshmallows.

Well, fear not, because today I bring you: GFCF S'mores.

First off, the marshmallows: those are easy. Just read the ingredients list and make sure they are GF. If it says food starch, find another brand. So far I've had good luck with generics, which specifically say they are made with corn starch. So, that's easy.

We've been making GFCF graham crackers for quite some time, and have gotten to the point where whipping up a batch is not really that big of a deal. We love all the recipes we have tried from gfcfrecipes.com, and the graham cracker recipe is no exception. My tips for this recipe would be to roll it thin onto your baking stone, perforate the crackers and prick with the fork. Another option is to use a square cookie cutter, but who has time for that? (We even own a cookie cutter that has those cute scalloped edges so popular amongst butter cookies and such. Wouldn't that be so very Martha of me?) ha!

After they are baked and cooled, we keep them in the freezer so that they don't spoil. Sometimes we even eat them frozen.

And part three of a s'more: the chocolate bar. You just can't beat a Hershey bar in life or in a s'more, but when you are GFCF you must substitute that.

I happened to have some extra chocolate frosting left over and sitting in a container in my fridge since my daughter licked the frosting off half my name day cake and I had to re-frost it (and make more frosting to do so) before my friend came over for tea.

This is the chocolate element in the gfcf s'mores and they are wonderful. Taste just like the real deal...only I think I like the texture even better.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Impressive Church Leadership

Today after Divine Liturgy, we all went to McDonalds for some coffee and breakfast. Afterwards, all our cars were iced over ...again.

Bishop Mark helped scrape ice off my car.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

This and That

Lots has been churning through my head and heart this week, but not much of it is the sort of thing I want to write about on a blog.

And so what am I left with? A hodge-podge of I guess.

I still love living here. God's given me at least one new friend, and a few people who are currently in the friendly acquaintance category that I thin, given time and opportunity, could develop into friendship.

Today, Eric was particularly sad about being on the gfcf diet when the OCF was selling donuts and pastries to raise money for a retreat. So, instead of hanging around at coffee hour, we booked it on home (three minute drive), for some lunch. And promises of mom making some treats this afternoon.

So I spent part of my day today making GFCF brownies and some GFCF donut holes. Those turned out very good. At least Eric liked them. Me, not as much. But I don't care. He gets to have those, and I'm very glad he liked them.

Sunday is a nice day to eat up all the leftovers in the fridge, too. Other than the making of treats, its a form of Sabbath rest, I suppose.

And we had family game night: Apples to Apples, Scattergories, and at one point I was doubling up and playing Connect four with Maia while simultaneously trouncing Eric in Rummy. Ha!

So life is good, and that's all the surface stuff. I wish I could sit down with a cup of tea or coffee with my good friends and share all the wonderful things God has been teaching me lately, but that stuff's too personal for blogging. And perhaps it's better to keep some of those things closer to my chest for now.

God is good.

Meanwhile, I found this gem in the book of Jeremiah, and I thought it would be a great Vacation Bible School theme, or at least make for a great Sunday School song:

"For as the waist cloth clings to the loins of a man, so I made the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen." Jeremiah 13:11

"...Loincloth, a loin cloth, Jesus wants me for a loin cloth..." ;-)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It looks cold out there....

It's George Walker Bush and Barak H. Obama. Intersting deletion of the new president's middle name.

And Pastor Rick Warren has some BALLS and I admire his very specific prayer, ending in the Lord's Prayer. Way to go.

Nice pipes, Aretha.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Four weeks...(A View from Above)

I can feel depression settling around me like a fog drifting in when the weather is right. Cold, dank, and can't-see-my-way-out.

It got me wondering, when's the last time I blogged about depression? I know I was so sure, there for a few days, that I'd need to get some meds. And then it lifted, and I've been fine.

So, when's the last time I blogged about being so depressed?

Four weeks ago, that's when.

Perhaps that also explains how I was able to take a three hour long nap yesterday afternoon, and still go to bed before midnight.

OK, so it's only temporary. Temporary I can deal with. Like a rollercoaster ride. Not much fun, but I can hang on for the ride.

Wheeeeeeee!

Some Nice Gluten Free Blogs

This morning we woke up to snow, but that was no surprise since it really started snowing while Wes and I were at book club last evening. It was dry when we arrived, and by the time we left, the roads were covered, it was snowing hard, and the driving, even on the expressway, was very slow and careful. Lovely large winter wonderland type snow flakes.

So, to celebrate a warm, cozy morning with snow out the window, I decided to make coffee cake. This also celebrates the fact that we are pretty much OUT of frozen GFCF waffles and definitely OUT of GFCF chicken nuggets, both of which I must make today.

In searching for a coffee cake recipe I could use, I found a couple of excellent GFCF cooking blogs that I want to share: Karina's Kitchen and Ginger Lemon Girl

Now THESE are some cooking blogs.

So, I am happy to report that the coffee cake turned out scrumptiously well, book club last night really hit the spot: spiritually, intellectually and socially, and it is a cozy do-lots-of-cooking type of Monday, which always makes me happy.

My only advice to all my readers: Be peaceful, think about your upcoming death, think on Christ our Savior and don't forget to pray.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

GFCF Chicken Kiev

Tonight after vespers is our house blessing.

Chicken Kiev is my go-to recipe for when the priest and his wife come over for dinner. So this year I made a gluten free/casein free version of Chicken kiev, and judging by the smells emanating from my kitchen, it will turn out just fine.

I take thawed chicken breasts and pound them with a mallet. This makes me think that flesh was not meant to be pounded or beaten. (God have mercy on all those who suffer by beatings.) The chicken just gets really flat and breaks apart so easily. One must be careful to only pound just enough.

I make a mixture of minced garlic, minced parsley and minced green onions.

Onto each breast goes salt, pepper, a spoonful of the minced stuff, and a large dab of GFCF margarine. (Smart Balance lite is completely dairy free, which most margarines aren't.)

Then I roll the breast, and wish fervently I'd remembered to buy toothpicks. In lieu of toothpicks I do some deft holding together of the roll while I dip it in an egg/water mixture and then dredge it in a rice flour/GF breadcrumb mixture.

Instead of frying and then baking them, I just put oil in the baking dish and plunk them in, and generously spray the tops with cooking spray and bake them that way. 400 F, 30 minutes or so.

I'm serving this with lemon jasmine rice and garlic Kale, grapes and brownies.

Theoretically, unless I make an announcement, no one will know that any of this food is gluten free, except what is normally gluten free like the rice, grapes, and kale.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Brrrrrrrrrr!

It's been, like, one degree here or something. That's Farenheit.

And according to the news, we are not alone. So the cold is everywhere. What's up with that?

Global warming really bites, let me tell ya!

It's not the 1980's anymore!

Oh yikes.

I took my kids to a home schooler's skating party today. Champs Rollerdrome. No, they have not changed a bit. Disco lights, smoke machine (Hey, our Church has one of those!) and lots of super fast little rugrats whizzing around at just below light speed.

I wore a skirt and brought my knitting.

But after her first lap, my youngest BEGGED me for help. When did she not learn to skate?

There was nothing to it but to do it. Doesn't the gospel say something somewhere about laying down one's life????????

My worst fall was once when my daughter pulled me down and I landed on top of her, but with most of my weight falling on my bad knee that had one of my fingers between it and the floor.

I'm not making this up. But my finger is not broken, neither is my knee and I did get some exercise.

And by the end of the skate party, my youngest was much more confident on her skates.

Then I remembered that the reason I wasn't out there doing this with my kids when they were oh...say...FIVE, is because that's when I was almost bedridden with fibro.

And not I'm glad enough to be able to do this sort of thing that I'll risk my aching knees and sore back for a little bit of ear thumping music, a breeze on my face and the glide of skates across an old hardwood skating rink floor. I can almost pretend I'm young again.

But I'm not.

Next time I think I'll wear a looser skirt. ;-)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Art Whimsy

Here is a picture I drew today:

And Ariana's (age 9) drawing, inspired by the one I made:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Underneath it all

I'm having a very hard time getting used to Church on Sunday mornings. I cry every week for one reason or another, it seems. It's embarrassing, and I'm really struggling with feeling like my family is the weird, broken family. Probably because we are. I'm used to that, but it's extra difficult in a giant room filled with strangers, most of whom do not know us, or the things that make us unique.

But I am learning something: Beneath the surface, every person has a story. And often, that story has more in common with our own story than I would at first guess. We were sitting next to a family in the pew on Sunday and after liturgy was over we started chatting briefly and discovered we have the whole gluten free thing in common, as their kids have various food allergies, for instance. And the wife is a special ed teacher and agreed that home schooling my spectrum kids was probably the best thing for them. (It's rare for a public school servant to be supportive of Home schooling servants, so when it happens it is noticeable).

My point is, that it is impossible to look at strangers and glimpse what is below the surface. For that, words must be exchanged and communication has to happen.

So in the mean time I am trying not to get too distracted by what's on the surface.

God, help this sinner!

How Lord of The Rings Should Have Ended

too good not to share!

Po-Ta-Toes (Waffles)

Leftover mashed potatoes (or instant)
an egg or three, depending on your quanitity of potatoes.
a bit o' salt
a bit o' non-dairy (if you are avoiding dairy) milk alternative, or the cow stuff...whatever
a bit (a few tablespoons for a small batch, a few more for a large batch) o' flour (GFCF blend if that is your diet).

Mix. While your Kitchen Aid does all the work, stand there glorifying God. If you don't have a Kitchen Aid, this is a good time for prayers of petition.

Heat up waffle maker and cook each waffle about five minutes.

Serve with ketchup and something savory like beans-n-meat (ground turkey strechted with onions, butter beans and lima beans in this case).

Monday, January 12, 2009

God Provides Yet Again



I was busy in my kitchen sometime last week, and in the middle of baking or cooking or something involving a hand mixer, my mixer broke. Again.

I had just purchased this mixer, too. It seems we go through them very quickly. This was the first use on that mixer and I finished the bread I was making by hand.

If I were the type of cook who only makes cake mixes on birthdays, that would be one thing. But I'm not. My kids are on a special diet and I make everything from scratch in order to afford said special diet.

Here's how it went:

"Lord, my mixer broke again. Lord, I'm going to be bold and ask you for a Kitchen Aid. Lord, I know we can't afford one, and I don't know if this is a need or a want, but Lord, I'm just going to ask, and if you provide me with a Kitchen Aid, it will be a miracle and you will get the glory. But Lord, it will have to be YOU, because we don't have the three hundred dollars it would take for this appliance."

Whenever I thought of wanting a Kitchen Aid mixer, I said "Lord, if it's your will, you can do this, but it will have to be You, etc."

That night, I told Wes I was praying for a Kitchen Aid mixer. About thirty seconds later, he says: "How much was that mixer your are praying for?" "Three hundred dollars, why?"

He hands me a very unexpected Christmas check from a relative for that exact amount.

My Kitchen Aid arrived today. Mine's red.

GLORY TO THEE, O LORD! GLORY TO THEE!!!!!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Socks, 2nd pair


Baby steps toward Fair Isle knitting...just wee baby steps.

Sometimes all you can do

is bake brownies, when your day has been so hard and everyone is just stressed to the max. And you can feel those magic chocolate chemicals taking effect, because they do, you know.

And then it's nice to calm down enough to realize that a nice long walk is in order.

And so you go out, and find that while you are walking, your eyes are leaking and you are talking to Jesus and asking Him if he would heal your daughter. Not if He could, but if He would.

And then all you can do is keep walking in the cold and the wind and pray "Thy will be done" and wonder if things will ever get any better.

Sometimes that's all you can do.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Aren't we the happy homemakers????

Too bad I don't have a pretty calico apron...;-) Or charming pictures to post here.

I woke up to my teenaged daughter working on a triple batch of gluten free/casein free waffles...so I helped her get those individually frozen and into the freezer in a couple of bags.

I home schooled the kids, did some laundry, and then this afternoon I made up a double batch (that means two bags of frozen boneless/skinless chicken breasts, thawed, etc.) of gluten free/casein free chicken nuggets. Hopefully those will last two or three weeks because that job too several hours of working in the kitchen to accomplish.

I had to run to the store to get some cooking oil when I ran out, and I picked up a new hand mixer since we tend to go through those like they are disposable.

So Bethany starts making the bread and realizes we are out of guar or xanthan gum. Necessary for GFCF baking.

For that we whipped over to Whole Foods.

The motor stopped working on that new mixer half way through a batch of GFCF bread my daughter was making. For some reason the dough, which is usually batter-like, was thicker today and the motor burned out. WHY, WHY, WHY????

I really need a Kitchen Aid.

Then I took down the tree Christmas tree and put all that stuff away while my daughter worked on GFCF graham crackers. With no mixer.

Now there's a messy kitchen to deal with and I think supper is going to be something we just cooked, like bread, graham crackers, or chicken nuggets.

Ohm tord. (translation: I'm tired.)

Daily totals: 22 frozen waffles, 155 frozen chicken nuggets, 2 loaves of bread, 46 graham crackers. Not counting what people ate along the way.

I'm glad for my daughter's help!

Everyone says these are the tough years

nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen...

I feel like I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off, just trying to parent my kids this week. Oy vey!

Throw in some possible PMS, and some mental distress and some autism and all I want to do is RUN AWAY!

Monday, January 05, 2009

More knitty-knitty stuff




Just wanted to show you all the fun two color pattern I'm working into my current pair of socks, and also how I'm holding the yarns, knitting in the continental style. The photograph is fipped, unfortunately. That's my left hand you are looking at.

Both colors are being held on two fingers of the same hand, and I just grab whichever one is appropriate to the pattern as I take each stitch. Fun stuff.

Cozy, Cozy Socks!



Well, I finished my first pair of socks yesterday. I'm so happy with how they turned out.

These socks are 100% wool and inspired by the Warm Woolies project. I plan on making several more pairs, and then sending off a package.

You know, about "crafty almsgiving"....it's a great thing to do. How many knitted things or sewn things does one family need? But a fast knitter can surely turn out lots more. And quite frankly, for many of us, a ball of wool is very affordable (five bucks?).

But the key is follow through. I still have my almost completed stack of "goods for girls" sitting in my closet waiting for some snaps. The good news on that front is: They are still there and the snaps are finally purchased. Perhaps some snap pounding will happen today...or not. Crazy busy days have been plaguing me lately.

I do struggle with the following: Having a brilliant idea for a way to give to those in need, and then failing to actually DO it. As many times as Wes and I have talked about it, we have YET to send a check to Heifer International, for instance.

So please don't get the impression that just because I blog about an idea for alms-giving that I'm right there doing what I ought. Follow through is difficult and I'm stating this publicly to keep myself honest. Besides, the only reason I'm blogging about it, is because I have NOT done it. If I had, I'd most likely have to choose to be silent on the subject.

Pray for this sinner.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

How to Celebrate one's Name Day!

Although we've been Orthodox for almost seven years, we are still learning some of the small "t" traditions like St. Basil's Day bread and how to celebrate one's name day.

Yes, it's true that these things are borrowed from other cultures, but what else can we do? It comes with the territory of being Americans, eh?

Well, I made a gluten free/casein free St. Basil bread the other day by sweetening up a regular quick bread recipe and adding a coin. I like lemony sweet breads so I added a touch of lemon oil. Next year I'll sprinkle almonds on top, too. I did not have any on hand this year, so we skipped that part.

And to add to the general festivities, yesterday I celebrated my name day. It coincides with that of St. Seraphim of Sarov, who is an awesome saint, so I got to go to Divine Liturgy in his honor.

It helps to have a friend from "the old country" to let one in on good ways of keeping a feast such as a name day. How do you celebrate it? How is it different from your birthday?

In some countries it basically is celebrated MORE than one's birthday. And of course Americans are way more "gifty" than in many poorer places.

So, my friend said: "You gotta have flowers on your name day, and cake. And you should go to Church!"

Ok, so the Church thing was settled. The kids learned of what she said, and Bethany made me a cake. We had to go to the grocery store to procure some ingredients, so while we were there, they found some precious little potted primroses they wanted to buy for me.

So I got primroses, a chocolate cake filled with apricot jam and iced with chocolate frosting (all gfcf, of course!) and a beautiful card my youngest daughter made for me. And lots of sweet hugs and good times with my kids.

Since everyone loves cake, this is definitely something we can do!

And now I'd better go add some gfcf dumplings to my chicken soup!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Wise Guys - Oh come all ye faithful

These are the same guys who did the accapella techno mix of "Alle Meine Entchen"...

Happy Name Day to me!

I could never remember if my name day (St. Juliana of Lazarevo) is today or tomorrow, so yesterday I got on line and looked it up. It's today. I'm thrilled to find out that my patron saint shares the day with St. Seraphim of Sarov, so there was Divine Liturgy this morning. I was caught flat footed on that score, because the Church bulletin said Matins instead. Not that I'm complaining, but I wasn't prepared for Eucharist. Oh well. There's always a next time.

And since it's a new year, this is a good time to think about whether or not to go for a "Through the Bible in a Year" Scripture reading plan. I think I need to do this.

So I found a handy PDF form that Thomas Nelson (publisher of the Orthodox Study Bible) has put out. I got the link through this blog, and since I can't figure out how to put a PDF link on here, I'll refer you there.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Should I Start a new blog about GFCF?

I could, you know.

Late last night I made some GFCF St. Basil's bread (Wes found the hidden coin!) and my dd was SO grateful that I'd made the special bread so that she did not feel left out of the celebration when the bread was passed out after Divine Liturgy this morning.

And the other interesting GFCF cooking I did, was used these big pieces of round rice paper wrappers to make some pork and cabbage and onion filled "spring rolls". Well, those were a pain, and it took many tries before I figured out the technique for dealing with the rice wrappers. They are very stiff and have to be immersed in hot water to make them pliable. I was dipping the whole thing in and having a "cling to itself" problem, rendering the wrapper unusable. The solution: dip each edge into the hot water, leaving a stiff bit in the center of the circle untouched by the water. I put the filling on that part and was able to fold the wrapper burrito style just fine. The nice thing is, it sealed itself. And then I pan fried them which was also less than successful: too oily (I need to cut down on the oil in my cooking, chub, chub) and it did not crisp them up very well. Next time (if there is a next time) I'll try baking the wraps for a few minutes.

BUT they tasted very very good. I made a sauce out of wheat free soy sauce and some truvia (a stevia blended with erythritol sweetener) and guar gum to thicken it a bit.

Tasted very good. The key is adding plenty of ginger and a bit of soy sauce and some pepper to the stir fry.

The other thing I did, to lower the glycemic index of the foods my kids eat is I made homemade pancake syrup with a 50/50 mix of agave nectar and water, and a cap full of maple syrup flavoring. And 1.5 tsp guar gum to thicken it up. I may add more gum tomorrow, as it's still quite runny, but it tastes very good!

For breakfast the kids can eat homemade gluten free/casein free waffles with this syrup.

Tomorrow's dinner: Chicken and veggie and potatoes baked. Doesn't get any easier or yummier than that! It's my name day and I might make a cake, too. And the kids might kidnap me and make me take them to the store to buy me flowers. ;-) My Russian friend insists that one should have flowers and a cake on one's name day. It will be GFCF chocolate with a raspberry filling...if I make it. Sweetened with turbinado sugar or palm juice sugar. The natural stuff does not make Bethany's head feel funny.

So what do you all think: Separate blog for GFCF, or not?

Shovelglove



She is an 8 kg long handled sledgehammer with an old pillow tied around her, complete with red bow!

She needs a name. She is my shovelglove and her purpose is to help me get some exercise.

What shall I name her? Dusty is NOT an option.

The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ

Today in the Orthodox Church we celebrate the circumcision of Christ, and his naming in the Temple. It's the eighth day.

That's one thing I like about Orthodoxy: Our liturgical calendar is full and consistent.

I've read various blog posts by various writers this season who are against Christmas, for instance, stating that it's a pagan holiday or that the Bible nowhere states that Jesus was born on December 25th, therefore we have no business commemorating it on this day, etc.

Well, the Orthodox Church has no problem doing so, and neither do I. Neither do we forget Christ's cirucumcision eight days after we celebrate his birth, nor the Annunciation precisely nine months before His birth, on March 25th.

The date of Christmas is tied to the date of the Annunication, which is tied to when the Theotokos visited St. Elizabeth, which is tied to when the birth of St. John the Forerunner is celebrated according to tradition, etc. All of these dates are internally consistent within the liturgical calendar.

And the point of the liturgical calendar is to proclaim in time the message of the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: His incarnation, his suffering, his death and resurrection, the descent of the Holy Spirit...all of it. It's a package deal and a seamless garment, so to speak.

So was Jesus really born on December 25th? Perhaps or perhaps not. Does it really matter? I think what really matters is that we remember His incarnation and all that it entails-including the circumcision, the Annunication, the visitation of St. Elizabeth by the Virgin Mary, etc.. If keeping a day Holy for this purpose helps us feeble Christians to do that, then it's a good thing, especially when we also remember (in a consistent manner) the other events in Christ's life that are linked to His birth, or his death and resurrection, etc.

And that's all I'm going to say about that.

Glorious Feast Day! And Happy Civil New Year.