Saturday, February 24, 2018


Blessed Feast St. Theodore Saturday to you!

If you need, here's a koliva recipe.

May their memory be eternal!

Monday, February 19, 2018

(More) Lenten Lunch Box Ideas

Inspired by Sylvia at Orthodox Mom, I'm adding a few more ideas. 

When I packed a lunch as a teacher, I often posted what I brought on Wednesdays, so you might find something there -- although those are maybe more geared towards an adult palette and depended heavily on using up leftovers. Another trick is to make a big batch of soup and save it in the freezer in glass mason jars. This works if you have a microwave at work or school.

You know, right, that quesadillas freeze beautifully, if you had a block of time to whip up a dozen or so. These were gluten free home-made tortillas with black beans, diced cooked sweet potatoes, sauted onion, roasted red pepper, and Daiya shreds

Sylvia offers an entire menu-planning post, and if you scroll down there you'll find some yummy recipe ideas-- surely some of those would make good leftovers lunches! My kids would eat these sliders for lunch and I really want to try this frittata.

Vegan Lunch Box has some ideas, and Anna at PleasantViewSchoolhouse offers these salads: Broccoli Sesame, Fruit & AvocadoRadicchio Slaw, Pear & Hazelnut, Roasted Beets & Orange, Orange & Olive.

In the archives, you can find this Spinach Queso recipe, which you could serve with tortilla chips. You could even make your own "Lunchable" with shredded veggie cheese, chips or mini pizza crust, and a chocolate chip blondie.  

Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies
photo courtesy of Chocolate Covered Katie

Taking advice from Melissa, who wrote Fasting as a Family, I try to keep some sort of spread on hand at all times, and then use it in pre-stuffed celery boats, tortilla roll-ups, quesadillas, etc. The idea is to have pre-made veggie boats & roll-ups for a week, already prepped in your fridge, along with prepped fruit too, and in one special place. Then you only have to open that drawer and pull out a few items to stick in your lunch box.



Beany-Cheeze Spread

Baba Ganoush

 or this more simple version but leave out the bacon.

We love hummus at our house - so much so that I've taped the recipe to the inside of the cabinet because I make it so often. And yet, sometimes one wants something different, so I like to have a few options up my sleeve.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Lemon Ice Box Pie

Daddy's Favorite

(From my Aunt Mariam, may her memory be eternal.)

Save out enough whole cookies to line the sides of the 8x8 or pie plate.

Crush the rest and add to melted butter to make bottom crust.

Mix yolks, lemon juice, and zest with sweet condensed milk. Pour into pie crust.

Whip egg whites with sugar and cream of tartar, and add to the top.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Getting Ready for Lent

This Countdown Calendar really helped my 5 year-old last year. He and the 9 year-old took turns moving the butterfly from day to day, and the weekly schedule calendar in the middle gave him power. He woke up every morning, looked at the calendar, and told me if we were going to church that night or not, and if we would have Communion or not. Thanks be to God, that little bit of foreknowledge really enabled him to deal with the extra services.

Also, the symbolism of Spring helped us talk about Lent in positive terms (being healed, growing - and how fasting, prayer, and alms-giving are a part of that process) instead of just focusing on what we can or can't eat.

And we used this Visual Holy Week schedule to replace the weekly schedule at the end!

Here is the Sunday School Lesson. We were hard pressed to finish those calendars in one class, but you could do it at home :)

Our Lenten Spring - Wanting to Get Healed and Grow!

Memory Verses (we work on these for several weeks)

Younger classes:
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

For the older class a longer passage:
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:22-25

For trees to grow fruit, they have to be cultivated and cared for.
For our “heart garden” to bear the Fruit of the Spirit, we must be cultivated and cared for. Do we want to get well? To be healed from our sins? Then we should work with God to make the soil of our hearts a good place for Him to work in us.


First - Our Lenten Spring

  • Let’s talk about Spring time as a season. What happens during Spring? (Hopefully the children will think about trees that looked dead in the winter growing new leaves, baby birds hatching from their nests, flowers peeking out of the ground, butterflies coming out of cocoons, etc.)
  • Spring is a time for things to GROW. We want the Fruit of Spirit to grow in us, right? Great Lent is a time for that fruit to grow in us, for Jesus to create new Life in us.
  • How do trees grow?  (sunshine, water, soft dirt - we can soften the soil of our hearts by praying more, fasting more, going to church more, and giving alms.
    • Teachers may need to define alms as giving to the needy.
    • Teachers may want to explain that fasting helps us be hungry for God.
  • How do baby birds grow? Their parents feed them! God knows we need extra spiritual food during Lent, so He gives us extra church services and more opportunities to receive His own Body and Blood. This helps us GROW! When can we receive Holy Communion besides Sunday? During Wednesday night Pre-sanctified Liturgy!
  • One last note - our garden is the soil in each person’s own heart. Can you know what is in another person’s heart? Not really - so we should not try to tend their garden, but our own garden during our Lenten Spring.
    • We are going to make a Lenten Spring calendar today that will help you know when these extra
    • If you have some children that will not enjoy the poster craft, I will bring some very hard soil and those kids can try/fail to plant a seed in it, then spend some time breaking it up, watering it, etc.

Second - Lenten Spring Countdown Calendars

Show students the model and point out each part
    • A dot for every day of Lent. Every morning when you wake up, you can take turns moving the clothespin to a new day. As you journey, remember that this is your Lenten Spring - your chance to work with God to be healed and to grow.
    • A picture for every Sunday.
    • Days of the Week in the Middle, to show us when the extra church services are.
    • When we get to Pascha, it means Christ is Risen and we’ll have a huge celebration!
    • Children can use their own thumb prints or stickers to make the days. They can color the words and glue on the poster and also decorate with Spring-themed stickers.


What does Holy Scripture say?

Romans 8:9-11

9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
John 5:6 “...Do you want to get well?”

What do the Fathers say?
“If [the disease of sin] is natural, then it cannot be cured. Thus it would remain always, no matter how hard you worked to rid yourself of it. If you accept this thought, you will lose heart, and say to yourself: this is how it is. For this is that woeful despair, which, once it has been introduced into people, they have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness (Ephesians 4: 19).

“I shall repeat again: Maintain the conviction that our disorderliness is not natural to us, and do not listen to those who say, ‘It is no use talking about it, because that is just how we are made, and you cannot do anything about it.’ That is not how we are made, and if we undertake to cure ourselves, then we will be able to do something about it.”

+ St. Theophan the Recluse, The Spiritual Life: And How to Be Attuned to It

Say the Thanksgiving prayer to close the lesson:

We give thanks to Thee O, Christ our God
That Thou hast satisfied us with Thine earthly blessings
Deprive us not also of Thy heavenly kingdom
But as Thou didst come to Thy disciples and didst grant them peace
So come to us, O Savior, and save us!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

STREAM - Creation and Chocolate

STREAM - a little type of activity we do at our co-op class, incorporating {Science - Technology - Religion and Reading - Engineering - Art - Math} that you might like to enjoy with your children at home, in a classroom, or even at Vacation Bible School. I am not a STEM professional - my background is in English, Drama, and Debate - but that just proves that even you can do STEM if I can do it!  Consequently, please let me know how you improve the activities, as many combined minds often produce better ideas.

You could use the Children's Bible Reader, but the temple connected to our co-op has a set of lovely creation icons in the narthex, so we took a little field trip to observe those. I didn't get photographs, but here is a similar series.

We pointed out the water in the beginning of creation. And the earth. I explained that God made things to be in the states of solid, liquid, and gas when he created the earth, and that is what we are going to learn about today.


Solids are hard, you can knock on them with your hand. Knock on the desk - is it a solid? Yes!

Liquids are runny and can pour. If we walked over to that water fountain and pressed the button, would the water pour out of the nozzle? That's right!

Gases are teeny tiny particles that float about and we can't always see them, but sometimes we can. Did you see your breath outside this morning when you walked to your car? That was a gas.

Let's practice. I'll show you a picture and you can put it in the right category: Solid, Liquid, or Gas.

Image result for helium balloon

The air inside a balloon?

The green cutting board?

The waterfall behind us?

The garden stone?

best humidifierSteam that comes out of the humidifier?

The children caught on pretty quickly, which was good because I was ready to get to the fun part of the lesson. You must have been wondering what any of this had to do with chocolate.

First, I sent them to wash their hands before we made cake pops balls. Then I brought out a package of melting chocolate and asked them if that was a solid, liquid, or gas? They knew it was a solid. We even knocked on it to feel how hard it was. But wait! Let's put it in the microwave for a minute or two! It helps to have an assistant for this. While the assistant melted the chocolate, which handily came in a microwavable container, I explained that we were going to make cake balls and we would start by crumbling up an entire cooked cake into a huge metal bowl and then mix those crumbs with some icing.

My high school Debate Team once made these to sell at lunchtime for a fundraiser, and I can tell you that these two flavor combinations were the favorites: 1) red velvet cake with cream cheese icing and 2) funfetti cake with vanilla icing. 

Since I had only three darlings doing the mixing, it worked for all them to have their gooey hands in the wide bowl at once. Then we rolled them into balls and placed them on paper plates. I do apologize for not having pictures of this, but my hands were pretty gooey too, too gooey to hold a camera. It was a requirement that I get in there and model how to do it, you know. They need to see it done - a great pedagogical truth for any subject, if only I would remember it all the time!

About this time, my assistant came back and showed us the melted chocolate. What is it now, children? Solid, liquid, or gas? As we spooned it up and watched it pour out, they all knew it was now in a liquid state. At this point, we glaringly separated ourselves from the professionals and just went for it, in several different methods, trying our best to coat each ball in chocolate. As we were trying very hard to do this, I remembered that it helps if you freeze the balls for an hour before trying to coat them in chocolate. Perhaps I should have re-read the instructions before doing the lesson - hmmmm. Also, I thought we had popsicle sticks in the craft cabinet but we did not! If we did, we would have inserted them into the balls and used them to facilitate dipping. Oh well, it mostly still worked for us.  I, for one, am proud of children's work that looks like children made it, as opposed to adults making it.

More importantly for you, if I can do STREAM activities or any arts and crafts projects - even with normal (for me) daily set-backs and teacher mistakes in planning - you can do it too!

We set aside our edible art until after lunch, to share with the rest of the students. We could not sell these junior varsity cake balls for a fundraiser, but we did make memories and the children loved the messy process. And that's what we are after in the long run, that the children learn to love science and God's wonderful universe.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Blessed Feast!

Entrance of the Theotokos in the Temple

During the procession, the girls of our parish represent
the Virgins that welcome the Virgin Mary into the Temple.

When I asked our priest what I should share with the little Handmaidens Tea Party, he summed it up this way: The Virgin Mary entered the temple, in order to prepare to become the temple, and now prays for us to become temples of God. So there are three temples, actually.


1. Jewish Temple to which Joachim and Anna brought the Virgin Mary
2. The Theotokos becomes the temple of God when Jesus enters her womb
3. Our hearts can be temples, dwelling places of God

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Nativity Fast Menu

Here is a Weekly Guide that lends itself to variation.


1. At the beginning of each week, make a big batch of salad that keeps well for easy lunches. Kale salads (savory or sweet) and cabbage salads (Mexican Coleslaw, Oriental) keep well. 

2. Also make a big batch of soup (save the pasta and rice to add by the day, if your soup has those ingredients).

3. Try to make double ingredients on one day that you'll use some of tomorrow. (Quinoa casserole one night and Quinoa Pizza Balls for lunch the next day; or rice with stew one night with leftovers as stir fry later in the week)

Lunch - Baked Fish & veggies (tahini sauce or garlic lemon or OJ soy ginger)
Supper - Pizza (veggies and Daiya shreds; or baked with olive oil then add hummus, tomato, cucumber; or cashew "cheese" topped with roasted veggies)

Breakfast - Baked Oatmeal
Lunch - Soup and/or Salad (Lentil, Fasolada, Kale and White Bean)
Supper - Mexican (Wet Burritos, Butternut & Black Bean Enchiladas, Fiesta Quinoa Casserole, Beans and Rice) 

Breakfast - Toast
Lunch - Soup and/or Salad
Supper - Nuts or Beans (Thai Tofu and Broccoli w/ Peanut Sauce;  Kenyan Greens and Peanut Sauce; Tofu Spinach Pies, Not-Meat Loaf, Patties or Balls (Quinoa Pizza Balls, Tuna Potato, Sushi Rice & Veggie, Chickpea Fritters, delicious Chickpea "Meat"balls, Falafel Burgers)

Breakfast - Muffins
Lunch - Loaf/Patties/Balls or Soup Leftovers (have you tried Alton Brown's Winter Vegetable Soup? It's delicious!)
Supper - Shrimp (Creole with Rice, Garlic & Lemon with Pasta, Stir-Fry)

Breakfast - Oatmeal or Maltomeal
Lunch - PBJ or Mexican (Tostadas or Burritos with refried beans, caramelized onion, tomato, lettuce, corn)
Supper - Canned Fish (Salmon Potato Patties & fried cabbage; Tuna Noodle Casserole)

Breakfast - Toast or Pancakes
Lunch - M'Jeddrah (make extra caramelized onions on Thursday and use them today); veggies
Supper - Italian (Tomato Soup and Grilled "Cheese"; Pasta and Sauce; Caponata; Eggplant)

Breakfast - Potatoes Plus (Breakfast Burritos, hash browns and scrambled tofu)
Lunch - Leftovers or Freezer-to-Oven (Fish Sticks, Shrimp Poppers, Dollar Tree Spring Rolls, Boca Burgers, Waffles)
Supper - Crockpot Stew for after Vespers (Meatless Stew over Rice; Mushroom Stew w/ Potatoes)

Monday, November 13, 2017

How to Make Toast

With the Nativity Fast coming up, along with the inevitable and painful lack of breakfast cereal and milk that might mean for you, I thought I'd chat about toast.

Of course, you could always poor orange juice or Gatorade in your Cheerios. We did that for several years with my son who was allergic to dairy. Or you could use your favorite nut milk, though the cost of those is significantly more than dairy milk. I do buy some for my coffee - which maybe shows my selfishness that I'm willing to buy a little for me but hate to buy enough to supply the whole family with a Life cereal habit. Let's be serious, though, and this is one reason why I've been moving away from cereal and towards other forms of breakfast even when we are not fasting: what child eats only the serving size of cereal? My children easily double or triple a serving, making the box of cereal last maybe two days, so even if it was on sale, it feels like money slipping down the drain.

So we are going to save money and eat a little toast sometimes. We'll also eat baked oatmeal, breakfast cookies, and muffins; but let's not forget toast, because one doesn't have to prep it the night before. Hypothetically, everyone in your family might not mind eating plain toast every morning for weeks. If it had butter on it, that's one thing, but it's not the thing we are doing just now. Plain toast would certainly be simple and within the spirit of the fast, and even monastic, maybe. Actually, that might be your child's dream breakfast scenario, and if so, you can joyfully quit reading here. My children, at least some of them, would tire of plain toast if it wasn't on the side of some scrambled eggs. We -  those of us feeding a family with various growth stages, tastes, and needs - must live with the reality we've got when menu planning. It would be nice to plan in some options that can leave our littles feeling content after breakfast. A slice of white bread toast will not do that.

First, since you are not getting the protein you would have procured in a glass of milk, it would be nice if your bread had protein. Also, fiber would help fill up your crew, so they are not asking for more toast an hour later. I'm sure you know some good brands, but if you do find yourself at the store looking, try to choose a loaf with at least 4 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber per slice.

I'm going to share my favorite two bread recipes. One is nutrient dense for the parents and one is just filling for the kids.

1. El Seed
If you have time and already buy these sorts of ingredients in bulk anyway (hello, my friends making a gluten-free menu), then this recipe from My New Roots is super; literally, almost all the ingredients are super foods. Take a look:

photo courtesy of Sarah Britton at

1 cup / 135g sunflower seeds
½ cup / 90g flax seeds
½ cup / 65g hazelnuts or almonds
1 ½ cups / 145g rolled oats
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks (3 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt (add ½ tsp. if using coarse salt)
1 Tbsp. maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)
3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil or ghee
1 ½ cups / 350ml water

I change the directions a little. I replace the nuts with pepitas because we have a nut allergy at our house. This makes it totally Seed Bread. The same person with the nut allergy also does not prefer the chunks in the bread, so I grind all the dry ingredients in a food processor before mixing in the wet.  The result is bread that looks less artistic and more like normal bread. Also, friends, I buy the generic version of Metamucil. Yep. Look at the two ingredients: psyllium seed husk powder and sugar. Just don't buy the orange flavor! Also, omit the maple syrup because the powder comes with a little sugar. After mixing and baking the bread, let it cool then slice it and place in a freezer bag. It makes great toast right out of the freezer and here are the nutrition facts in case you are curious:

6 grams of protein
5 grams of fiber
2 grams of sugar
12 grams of healthy fat (0 cholesterol!)
8% of iron for the day

178 calories per slice

I'm just going to put this our there: my kids don't like this bread. But my husband and I do. My mother likes it so much that she said that from here on out, for every birthday or Christmas present, she wants a loaf of this bread. However, I still must feed the kids, so I buy them cheap bagels and whole wheat bread from Aldi, force them to include some sort of protein, and trust their child-like metabolisms and prayer.

photo courtesy of
2. Bucket Bread

The children's favorite bread is what we call Bucket Bread, from Artisan Bread in Five, because I ask my 10 year-old or 14 year-old to keep a bucket mixed up for me. No kneading. Super quick. It is worth it to watch this video about how to take a handful of dough out of the bowl and form it for baking.

I've mentioned this bread before. The bucket lives in the fridge and whenever we want a loaf (say, wouldn't that soup be more tasty with some warm fresh bread?) I scoop a blob of it onto a pan and bake. Also, we use it for pizza dough and focaccia, and that website has about 50 other ways you could use it. If you leave the scraps of dough in the bucket after using the last bit, and mix the new ingredients right in there with the old, you'll develop a slight sour-dough tang that makes it a little more complex and less flat and white-bready.  Basically, once your kids are old enough to mix this for you - I keep a laminated copy of the recipe right in the pantry next to the flour - and they realize that they will have to eat the store-bought 100% whole wheat bread if they don't mix it up for you, the bucket can stay full all the time.

And you can use the leftover bread for toast. 


You know how to make toast and top it with what your family likes.
Here are some obvious choices:
    peanut butter & bananas
    cinnamon toast
    avocado with Tony's

    photo courtesy of

      Here are some not-as-obvious toppings:

last night's veggies

with hummus

refried beans and salsa

chopped nuts mixed into cinnamon toast topping

sweet potato spread (puréed with honey, oil, vanilla, salt, OJ)

sweet seed mix (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, chopped apples)

vegan mayo* mixed with onion powder, chopped olives, and pecans
beany cheese spread (from Fasting as a Family)

I don't have a picture of the Beany Cheese Spread on toast, but here it is in a tortilla.
You'll have to use your imagination.

You get the idea. To increase the variety for your toast, try to keep some options on hand, options that have protein especially. Please let me know if you have some good ideas, because I am always on the lookout for more!

*I don't get any affiliate Amazon money when I put up these links, but maybe I should set that up!