During the fasting periods I heavily rely on soups. This is harder to do in the summer months, but it’s still doable, especially in a crock pot, because you don’t have to stand over a hot store and it won’t heat up the house.
I begin with a bag of mixed dried beans. I pour 1/2 a bag of dried beans onto a plate and search through the dried beans for pebbles.
I pour the beans into a bowl, rinse them several times with cool water, and then pour into a crock pot.
I turn on the crock pot on HIGH and add:
-1 can tomato sauce (or one small can tomato paste)
-2 cans vegetable broth (Lately I buy the box of broth and measure it out in the tomato can.)
-and chopped vegetables: 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks and 1/2 onion.
Then add seasoning to taste… but add salt towards the end. The vegetable broth has plenty of sodium.
If you like it soupier (not sure that’s a real word) add more broth or a cup of water.
Souvlaki, like its cousin Shish K Bob, implies “cooked on a stick.” You can have chicken souvlaki, pork souvlaki, lamb souvlaki, shrimp souvlaki… I’ll stop now to avoid sounding like Pvt. Benjamin Buford ‘Bubba’ Blue, from the movie “Forrest Gump.” The point is, find a good cut of meat, season it right, skewer it and cook it… you will be the hero of any summer meal.
PORK SOUVLAKI Greek Style.
I started out with 6.5 pounds of Boston Butt (Pork Shoulder.) I forgot to ask the butcher to debone and trim it, so I had to do that myself.
I cut the meat into 1-1.5 inch steaks…
And then 1.5 inch strips…
And then 1.5 inch pieces.
I put it all in a large bowl and pulled out my seasonings.
It’s just your basic Greek seasonings: olive oil, lemon, garlic, oregano, salt & pepper.
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c wine vinegar
1/4 c lemon juice (1 medium lemon)
4 t salt
1 t pepper
4 t garlic
4 t oregano
4 t parsley
I simply squeezed a lemon over a strainer to keep the seeds from falling in. If you can fight the temptation, marinate the meat in the fridge overnight, maybe even a day or two. But if you can’t wait, it will still taste good after resting for 30 minutes.
Skewer 5-6 pieces on a wooden skewer. If the skewers are metal and large, you will need to cut your pieces larger. Squeeze the meat in the palm of your hand to evenly distribute it on the stick.
The six pound Boston Butt made about 25 Souvlaki.
This next step is the most important part of my recipe… you might have your own traditions… but at this point, my “secret” to grilling is my husband. I hand the skewered meat over to him, and he does his magic at the grill.
When they are done, he brings them back to me, and I finish the meal with a salad, rice and some homemade tzantziki, a cucumber yogurt sauce.
One thing I love about our business is that it offers us an opportunity to give back. That’s why we’ve decided to give 10% of our sales each month to a different Orthodox Charity. This month we are featuring ZOE for Life
I recently spoke with Paula Kappos, President of ZOE for Life!, and Kathy Kovalak, Executive Director of ZOE House, about this wonderful ministry for women.
ZOE for Life! is a pan-Orthodox outreach of Orthodox Christians. Located in the Greater Cleveland area, ZOE also reaches out on a national scale to women experiencing crisis pregnancies. This non-profit Christ-centered support organization has three major goals:
to help women who need confidential emotional and spiritual support during crisis pregnancies;
to assist Orthodox Christians seeking to adopt;
to provide an education for Pure Living and other resources.
The Orthodox community struggles to reach women who are in crisis in a timely manner. Most of the time young girls don’t approach the church (priest, nun) until after the fact, when they are seeking confession or spiritual healing. Kappos said, “We want to make sure we are there before it’s too late. More so, we want to educate and build up young girls before they are ever in a crisis.”
Kappos was passionate to clarify that they strive to offer a wide variety of resources and support for women in a crisis pregnancy:
We are here to listen. You have come to this point in your life due to experiences that are unique to you. Let us connect you with the person who can help you solve the problems you are facing.
Referrals for professional counseling
Connections to someone who has training in dealing with real life issues.
Orthodox Christian adoption options
If you are considering creating an adoption plan for the child you are carrying, we have qualified families who would welcome the chance to speak and/or meet with you.
Depending on your situation, we can help you find a safe and healthy place where you can complete your pregnancy, and give you time to make important decisions about your future and that of your child.
Maternity and layette items are available for you and your baby up to 2 toddler.
We can help you get assistance with health issues unrelated to your pregnancy.
ZOE can help you get prenatal care through your post-partum visit, and, should you decide to parent your child, medical care for the child until age 18.
You and the life you carry are both precious in the sight of God. Let us help you know His love more deeply.
Kappos kept reminding me that ZOE helps women and families when they are most vulnerable. They offer other options to abortions and are a support long the way. They want to promote “Healthy living, healthy choices.”
When I asked what they need for ZOE House, “We need car seats.” said Kovalak. “We help over 50 moms a month, (600 a year.) By law, each of them needs a brand new car seat to take their new born home and many can’t afford one. Many of the other items (clothes, cribs, strollers…) can be gently used, but with today’s ever changing regulations, we cannot distribute a used car seat.”
Today, a season of joy is closing. We call it the Leave-taking of Pascha. And like the Apostles two thousand years ago, we might be feeling a little empty. Perhaps there is a twinge of mourning knowing that we won’t be singing the triumphal hymn, “Christ is risen” on Sunday. We will most likely miss the “Good News” greeting we’ve grown accustomed to.
In the forty days following Easter we greeted each other with the joyful news that Christ is risen! The season of Great Lent and preparation ended and we were in the season of joy.
What difference does it make to say “Christ is risen!”? It’s a tool the Orthodox Church uses to remind us that we are a living expression of faith for today and not a symbol or a ritual associated to an ideology. We are for the moment, not for a museum. We celebrate things in the present tense. We are part of the “now.”
A Time for Everything
So why should we stop singing Christ is Risen? Is He suddenly un-risen? Is He no longer in Heaven?
I think we stop because the church traditions acknowledge that we are living in a temporary reality where things are constantly changing, We experience things in seasons: The moon waxes and wanes, the tides rise and fall, the weather heats and cools. And it isn’t just our physical environment.
Whether you’ve heard the “The Byrds” hit song or read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, you know wheat I mean:
A Time for Everything
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
And this is now the time to close the season of Pascha and prepare to welcome the Season of the Holy Spirit and the growth of the Church.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. (John 14:16-17)
And in Matthew 28:19-20 with the Great Commission
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
So, in a way, it’s almost time to move forward and do something with the warm fuzzy feelings and inspiring moments we experienced during the Paschal Season. It’s almost time to take our joy to the streets and get to work on making disciples and growing the church. And I say “almost” because there is one thing I haven’t mentioned yet.
Waiting is a Lost Art
There is something to be said about waiting. The time where you stop for a moment and let things stew. Any Dr. Seuss fan who’s read The Waiting Place knows what I mean. We are now in a waiting place, a ten day gap between Ascension and Pentecost where the Apostles waited. It’s funny because although there are no outwardly expression in worship or hymnology that talks about this sacred time, we have to respect the waiting process.
It’s important to learn how to wait. In waiting we guard our thoughts so they don’t work ahead of ourselves and turn to anxiety and fear. We can use it as an opportunity for self reflection and growth. But today our society and therefore our kids, who are so in-tune to her needs, have a heightened tendency to push through the waiting process. Waiting is equated to boredom and boredom is the curse of doom and despair.
Waiting can actually be the most exciting and thrilling time of the season. It’s that repetitive clank you feel as the roller coaster reaches for its summit to be sure it has the momentum to get you to the end of the ride. It’s those moments when the clay is still malleable as the artist plays with its form, and later hardens in the kiln to be sure it keeps its shape.
Now, imagine the Apostles and how they waited. They didn’t know they’d only have to wait ten days for the Holy Spirit. And now after 2,000 years, we are still waiting for Christ’s return.
So I encourage you to take advantage of these ten “waiting days” as we prepare for the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Giver of Life, the Spirit of Truth. Use these ten days to prepare for Pentecost. There aren’t any specially subscribed fasts associated with the next ten days, but there is a Saturday of Souls next week where we prepare koliva, memorial wheat, for those asleep in the Lord.
May you find peace and comfort in these “waiting days.”
It’s that time again! The time we shop, I mean stop… stop for a moment and thank our moms, and allow our families to thank us. It can be a sentimental day, a simple holy day of thanks and awareness… a day where family comes together and rejoices in the grace that God has given us to take part in creation in a way that makes us aware of His unending love for us.
Like love and marriage, motherhood is hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Whether you gave birth and cared for your child, gave birth and offered your child for adoption or accepted the awesome responsibility to care for a child, you know that words could never convey the intensity that is motherhood. Even if you conceived a child but weren’t able to give birth, you know the awesomeness that carrying another soul in your womb means. You also know that no gift could ever compare in value to thank you enough because in your heart you know that motherhood in itself is a gift you are thankful for.
Saint Anna and the Virgin Mary
There are two women who can truly understand the grace and sacrifice of motherhood. Saint Anna and her daughter, the Virgin Mary. According to the tradition of the Church, Saint Anna was barren, and she remained without a child until old age. In her desperation to be a mother, they prayed to God, promising that if He were to grant them a child, they would offer their offspring to Him as a gift. This gift to God ended up being a gift for us because it was her daughter, Mary, who was raised in the Temple and who accepted God’s desire for her to carry the Christ, the incarnate Son of God.
And in Mary’s offering, she also offered her son, God’s Son, to be crucified and suffer a public death on the cross so that through death we might have eternal life.
Imagine for a moment how it felt to raise a child knowing He wasn’t yours to keep. Anna gave up Mary. Mary gave up Jesus.
But isn’t this what we are doing? Aren’t we raising children that are God’s, and not ours to keep? Are we not also caretakers of children of God? We raise them, keep them safe, give them tools, teach them to be thankful only to let them go and live their lives, fulfill their calling.
What is Motherhood?
I want to share a quote from the St. Anna’s Retreat in Dumont, CO because I think it defines motherhood best. The plaque is mounted near a mosaic icon of St. Anna embracing her daughter, the Virgin Mary.
In this beautiful world, there is nothing more cherished, no duty more honorable, no responsibility more sacred, no task more difficult, than that of Motherhood.
I hope these are words of comfort and encouragement for the moms who are feeling weighed down by the many responsibilities of keeping everyone on track, fed, dressed, clean and loved… and in church on time. It truly is an impossible job description, but the most important than any other in the world. Thankfully we have two Superstar moms in Saint Anna, and the Mary the Mother of God, to pray to and to ask for their intercession.
And a special thanks to my mom, who set me on a path and let me go to live it. Thanks, mom. I appreciate you more than you could ever know.
This is it! After forty days of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection, this is the last week to joyfully proclaim the Good News! Christ is Risen! He has conquered death by death, granting life to those in the tombs and opening the doors of paradise to all.
Ascension is this Thursday.
And Ascension marks the Leave-taking of the Paschal Season, forty days after Jesus’ Resurrection, when He continued to teach and instruct His Disciples on God’s desires and plan for humanity. (Luke 24: 45-54)
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.48 You are witnesses of these things.49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
The Ascension of Jesus
50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.53 And they stayed continually at the temple,praising God.
Things you might notice in church after Ascension
We’ve stopped singing Christ is Rise, (Before Liturgy begins, at the Small Entrance, after Communion, and at the very end.)
The priest is not holding a candle.
We go back to singing “More Honorable than the Cherubim” after the Consecration of the Gifts.
The priest might be wearing a different color although any of the “bright colors” are an option outside of Lent.
Quick little trivia… Ascension is always on a Thursday. Forty days after a Sunday is always a Thursday. 🙂
Waiting for Pentecost and the Holy Spirit
One thing that wont change is the kneeling part. We will continue to stand during the Consecration of the Gifts until the Kneeling Prayers that are read during Pentecost.
Worship protocol calls for us to always stand for the Consecration on Sundays because Sunday is always a Day of the Resurrection. But historically and for practicing purposes, most Greek Orthodox churches kneel for the consecration.
Yes, it seems people have stopped kneeling in personal prayer and no longer attend weekday Liturgies… so if we didn’t kneel on Sundays, when would we learn to kneel in prayer? When would we experience this important posture in prayer? This is why kneeling is permitted on Sundays while acknowledging it is not the best option.
So there it is! You have 5 more days to sing Christ is Risen. Then it goes back into the Treasure Box of Traditions until next year. But don’t start kneeling on Sundays until the Kneeling Prayers on Pentecost- 50 days after Jesus’ Resurrection.
It’s not too late to send a card proclaiming the God News!
One of my favorite memories is folding palms with our church youth group. We were raised in a large community where thousands had to be made and we were the ones to do it. It was nice to be part of something that was going to be blessed and offered to the faithful. It was truly an honor.
There are many different ways to make a palm cross. You can use one strand or two. With one strand you begin by folding it in a right angle. With two you can make a larger cross and you have to fold the two thick ends together.
In this video I have recorded parishioners of St. Nicholas Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, FL as they fold palms for Palm Sunday.
Holy Week is quickly approaching and one of the traditions of the Orthodox Christian is to color eggs red on Holy Thursday. There are many dyes and food colors to help you get the job done but I prefer to use yellow onion skins. It’s a natural dye. It’s an ancient practice. The color is a deep rich blood red and not a candy apple red. But mostly because it think it’s cool that yellow onion skins make red dye.
Making the dye with yellow onion skins
Collect yellow onion skins. Yes, YELLOW ONION SKINS. Not red onions. Yellow. If I didn’t do it myself I wouldn’t believe it either. A large pot of yellow onion skins, when boiled for 30 minutes in 9 cups of water and 3/4 c of white vinegar makes a red dye.
Start by saving the yellow onion skins as you cook during the fast. Set a container on the counter and add a little at a time. If you don’t have enough you can ask your produce guy at your local grocery store to help you out.
One half grocery bag of skins is more than enough for the average household.
Place onion skins into a large pot. Pour 9 cups of water and 3/4 cup of white vinegar over the skins and smoosh them down. Invert a plate and weigh it all down with a glass cup.
Cook for 30 minutes.
Turn off heat. Strain the skins in a colander, saving the dye in a clean pot. It’s a good idea to strain them again with a mesh strainer to remove little bits that can stick to the eggs when cooking or you can use coffee filters in the colander.
You can make the dye the day before to save time.
Dying the eggs red
Before you boil the eggs, take them out of the refrigerator so they can come to room temperature. This will prevent them from cracking. Also, I understand medium eggs dye better than large eggs and there are some who insist on using brown eggs instead of white. I used medium white eggs for this post.
Place the room temperature eggs into the dye and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook, simmering eggs for 15 minutes.
Some tips on online chat groups include leaving the eggs in the dye for 30 minutes before heating the water or leaving the eggs in the dye over night after they are cooked.
Hot out of the pot they might look brown but as they cool they turn a deep blood red.
When they are just cool enough to touch, dip a rag into a small bowl of olive oil, and coat the eggs for a gloss. Multiple applications of oil may be necessary.
Things to consider: Use glass or stainless steel and be careful of staining your clothing. And we encourage you to light a scented candle. When you are working with onions, vinegar and boiled eggs, it can get a bit stinky.