Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Christmas and Nativity Season 2012

This little season has been incredibly busy for us, it always is. This year I think I managed to take back Christmas a little bit and really focus on what I want it to be about, our faith and our family. I think we still have work to do, but it definitely is a process and I am satisfied with our bit of progress this year in that endeavor.

Christmas started to be on my horizon, like much of the rest of the country, right around the beginning of November. It’s like the day after Halloween, the Christmas decorations go up in retail stores everywhere and everyone forgets about Thanksgiving. I started getting gift wish list requests from family members too.

I haven’t really touched our homeschool stuff since we moved. Moving, questioning if they are really ready for anything formal, the tiredness and busy nature of this season, and many other reasons contributed to this. So we kind of have been taking a break and “focusing” on play. I’ve also been trying to think of ways to make our faith more tangible for our kids and find daily ways to incorporate things into our lives. So when the Synaxis of the Archangels rolled around on Nov. 8, it was the perfect opportunity for a little angel craft and learning a little about angels.

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And that was about the extent of any formal learning that went on around here during November and December.

When the beginning of the Nativity season started on Nov. 15, I began to break out a few Christmas decorations and by the end of Thanksgiving weekend we had most everything up. We took the plunge on a fake tree this year, hoping to avoid allergies and enjoy our tree for the duration of the entire 40 day Nativity season.

We celebrated St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6) by seeing The Nutcracker and opening stockings.

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We attended a couple Christmas parties where we visited with old friends and new and ate way too much good food.

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I made the kids matching Christmas PJs after failed attempts to find some online that I liked and had a nightgown option for Jilly.

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We lit the candles on our Advent wreath every Sunday (except the one we were out of town) of the Nativity season, went to church, prayed and talked about Jesus, love, Christianity and tradition.

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We did last minute Christmas shopping at Target.

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We spent a day at a monastery a few days before Christmas. It was a peaceful day of prayer and great conversation with friends and nuns, wrangling kids, and taking in God’s beautiful creation.

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We saw our extended family where were blessed by their generosity and stuffed with good food.

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Gluten-Free Persimmon Protein Bars

If my kids were allowed to live on granola bars all day long, they probably would. If I’m going to the store for a little something, I always pick up a box of bars too. I usually buy the Trader Joe’s ones that come in the pink box, but if I’m at Target I’ll get some Annie’s ones or Cascadian Farms. I don’t generally buy any with chocolate because it makes my kids CRAZY. For days.

We have a ton of persimmons right now that have just been sitting here waiting to be used from our Abundant Harvest boxes. Last year I made some persimmon cookies and I might again this year since we have so many, but this morning I thought I would try and make something semi-healthy for us to snack on. Our cupboards are getting a little bare, but I’m in that odd spot of not really wanting to buy much before we head out of town for the holidays. So I used what I could find in there. If I made these again, I would probably throw in some rolled oats and cut back the flour a bit. This version was super yummy though and a big hit with the kids that are already on seconds as I type this.

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Ingredients
-1 1/2 cups Pamela’s Baking Mix
-1 egg
-1/2 cup chopped raw almonds
-1/2 cup chopped raw cashews
-1/2 cup raisins
-1 1/2 cups persimmon pulp (I used a few of the little ones that are already edible, my big ones are not quite soft enough. I peeled and chopped them and tossed them in the VitaMix)
-1 scoop Garden of Life’s RAW protein powder
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 Tbsp honey
-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-zest of one lemon

Preheat oven to 375. Mix all ingredients together. Spoon out onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread mixture out over parchment to about 1/2 inch thickness. Bake for 14 minutes. Remove from oven. Transfer parchment to cutting board and cut into bars. Place bars on cooling rack.

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How many it makes depends on how you cut them. I used one of our typical bars as a sort of template and got 18 bars.

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Gluten Free Orange Rosemary Drop Scones

Remember that time two years ago when I started a different blog documenting our explorations into the Orthodox Church? Well, that’s still happening. It’s been a winding, up and down, stop and start journey. I’m no theologian and I’ve bumbled and fumbled quite a bit along the way, but the journey continues.

Yesterday, we spent some time picking oranges and lemons in my in-laws backyard while we were there splitting up our Abundant Harvest produce box. This picture perfectly depicts Ethan’s intensity and enthusiasm in the endeavor:

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Even though baking and I have a bad relationship (I swear, something always goes completely wrong even when I do everything completely right), I decided I wanted to try to make some yummy scones for coffee hour (the social gathering in the church hall immediately following Divine Liturgy each Sunday). We got a ton of rosemary in our box and I already had some that was used in our house blessing Thursday night. My first instinct was to make cheddar rosemary ones, but it’s a fasting season in the church right now and so that wouldn’t work. I don’t know how orange and rosemary went together in my brain, but it seemed a good combination. I Googled “orange rosemary scones” and quickly found this recipe from Food & Wine. I adapted it to be fasting friendly (vegan) and gluten-free. They were a big hit and gone in minutes.

Here is my version:

Gluten Free Orange Rosemary Drop Scones

Ingredients:
-2 cups Pamela’s biscuit and scone mix
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 Tbsp baking powder
-pinch of salt
-zest of one softball size navel orange
-juice of one softball size navel orange
-3 Tbsp solidified coconut oil (this happens naturally in my house this time of year, you may need to refrigerate yours to get the same effect)
-2 tsp minced rosemary leaves
-1 Tbsp TJs raw organic honey (this stuff is much thicker than other honey I have purchased in the past, the consistency of butter)

Preheat oven to 375.

In a bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, orange zest, rosemary and honey with a pastry cutter until mixture is crumbly.

Stir in orange juice until just combined, do not over mix.

Spoon heaping tablespoonfuls onto a parchment lined baking sheet as you would cookies or drop biscuits/scones.

Bake for 10 minutes until just golden on the top and edges. Remove from oven and move scones to a cooling rack. Serve.

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Easiest vegetable soup that will feed you for a week and has a mountain of variations

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We started getting Abundant Harvest again! We’re splitting a small box with Stephen’s parents and it is working out perfectly. No more rotting vegetables in the bottom of my fridge, haha.

The easiest way to use up a ton of our veg is to make soup. I’ve had a few recipes over the years, I was quite smitten with a recipe for sausage, white bean and kale soup that came on one of the newsletter recipe cards for awhile because Cara made it for me as one of my first meals after I had Ethan and those first meals tend to be the stuff of legendary awesomeness (At least my discussions with other moms leads me to believe this is so. Bonus interactive: If you had an awesome post-birth meal that your hormones or the level of work your body did made taste even better than normal tell me about it in the comments!).

Anyway, I am not sure how I started making this version, but it was probably just pure laziness on my part. You pretty much just chop everything up toss it in a pot with the other ingredients and let it simmer. No souffritto, no tiered addition of ingredients, no pot watching, nothing fancy.

No one in my house really loves soup the way I do so I usually make this with the intent of having it for lunch all week after a dinner table fight, for a potluck, to freeze, or to bring to a family that needs a meal.

There are a few different variations that I’ve made too depending on what we have on hand, what I get in the box, etc.

So here’s the basic recipe and the variations follow:

Ingredients:
•1 onion, chopped
• 2-3 carrots, chopped
• 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
• 2-3 potatoes, chopped
• sweet potato or butternut squash, chopped
• 2 qt vegetable broth
• 1 qt tomato soup or roasted red pepper tomato soup
• 1 bunch kale, Swiss chard or spinach, chopped
• 2 cans Cannellini beans
• salt and pepper to taste

Chop all of your vegetables and place in pot with all the other ingredients except greens. Simmer until root vegetables are tender. Add greens and just stir them in to wilt. Serve.

Variations:
• Add an herb or a combination of various herbs chopped finely or wrapped in a cheese cloth sachet that can be fished out at the end.
• Swap or leave out any of the veg depending on taste or what you have.
• Add small pasta in towards the end of cooking and simmer until pasta is done.
• For something more like Minestrone, use a jar (or 1-2 cups homemade) of your favorite marinara sauce instead of the tomato soup and add pasta and green beans.
-For something more like pasta fajiole follow the same instructions above minus the green beans and greens and brown some Italian bacon before you add everything else.
-Add sliced browned/grilled sausage at the end.
-For a more Mexican feel use the red pepper soup and one can of black beans and one can of pinto beans instead of the Cannellini beans. Add in some roasted frozen corn and chopped cilantro at the end. Serve with crunched tortilla chips and shredded cheese.
•An additional variation for the Mexican version is to add some cooked shredded chicken.
• Lentils instead of Cannellini beans
• Rice instead of pasta
• 1 can coconut milk and 1 can tomatoes instead of tomato soup, 1-2 tsp curry powder, cauliflower in with the veg and garbanzo beans instead of Cannellini beans for a vegetable curry soup
• split peas instead of beans, no tomato soup, chop a small ham, no sweet potato/butternut squash, 1-2 tsp fresh chopped herbs of the Scarborough Faire variety
• broccoli and pea pods in with the veg, bok choy instead of the other greens, won tons or dumplings instead of beans, no tomato soup, no sweet potato/butternut squash, shrimp or chicken if desired, and soy sauce to taste for a Chinese soup.

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Basic vegetable on the left and the minestrone version on the right.

I am sure you all can be creative and come up with endless variations of your own. I hope you like soup and the people around you do too. Yum!

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