What I Ate Wednesday: Donuts and Denny’s and MOAR

It’s kind of sad now that we’re past the 12 Days of Christmas. I had to un-decorate my tree and start to take down our decorations (and some that I left on the mantle, my cat took down for me and destroyed in the process!). Yet Theophany comes with vegan donuts, and I still have some other holiday treats. Let’s take a look.

What I Ate Wednesday: Zalabia (donuts) for Theophany | Orthodox and Vegan
I mentioned this last year, in our parish we’ve brought back the tradition of making zalabia for Theophany. It’s just fried dough tossed in a simple syrup. You can use plain syrup, or flavor it with a little rose water or orange blossom. Some people use powdered sugar instead of syrup, or cinnamon and sugar. Do it however you like, it’s almost impossible to go wrong with fried dough!

What I Ate Wednesday: Jackfruit Chili Sandwich | Orthodox and Vegan
It’s hard to believe it’s still good, but I found a container of my grandmother’s BBQ beans in the fridge leftover from Christmas. I sauteed a can of jackfruit with garlic and onions, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and added it to the beans to make a kind of meaty chili (the beans weren’t the sweet kind). It worked really well, and it was great in sandwiches.

What I Ate Wednesday: Van's Waffles and Maple Veggie Hash | Orthodox and Vegan
We have a discount grocery store nearby, and I found Van’s Gluten Free waffles (which happen to be vegan) for 99 cents! You get six in a box. They’re a little on the small side, so I do three at a time. This is the cinnamon flavor, and I spread a little peanut butter on as well as drizzling with maple syrup. Then I cooked up some soy crumbles and sauteed them with onion and bell pepper, and seasoned with salt and pepper. The soy crumbles/veggie hash got a drizzling of maple syrup, too. Yum 😀

What I Ate Wednesday: Denny's Fit Fare Skillet | Orthodox and Vegan
We had our family dinner at Denny’s on Sunday, and for once I got something other than the veggie burger. The Fit Fare Skillet is vegan if you get it without eggs. It includes potatoes, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and spinach. I would’ve added avocado, but they were out (ask for it in place of the eggs so maybe they won’t charge extra). To make it extra carbolicious, I ordered a plain English muffin to go with it.

What I Ate Wednesday: Trader Joe's Chocolate Orange | Orthodox and Vegan
And finally, we broke open the chocolate orange I bought from Trader Joe’s a month ago. I used to get one of these every year for Christmas when I was a kid, but it was always made with milk chocolate. This one from Trader Joe’s is dark chocolate, and it is wonderful. You get five wedges in one serving, but we were careful not to eat more than two since we’re trying to be good in the new year.

Are you changing your eating habits in 2017? Lemme know how below!

What I Ate Wednesday: A Very Vegan Christmas

Christ is Born! Merry Christmas!

I know I’m the worst blogger in the world, I just haven’t been able to keep up with posts lately – I’ll have to make that part of my New Year’s resolution! Here’s a quick one featuring some of the wonderful food I had during family Christmas celebrations this year. What did you have?

What I Ate Wednesday: Brie En Croute | Orthodox and Vegan
I bought this cashew-based Brie En Croute (brie wrapped in pastry) at the vegan holiday pop-up shop a couple weeks before Christmas. It was very good, and I’ve decided it’s something I could definitely make at home. I can’t wait to try!

What I Ate Wednesday: Cheesy Layer Dip | Orthodox and Vegan
My dad makes a layer dip he likes to call Mexican Dip, although I’m not sure that’s very accurate. The bottom layer is a combination of cream cheese and sour cream seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic. Hot sauce is spread on top, then there’s a layer of minced onion, green pepper, and tomato, topped with cheddar cheese. I usually just buy vegan versions of all the dairy ingredients, but this year I made a cashew cream thickened with tapioca flour for the base. It needs a little work, but overall I was pretty happy with it.

What I Ate Wednesday: Spinach Pies | Orthodox and Vegan
Syrian spinach pies take hours and hours to make, but it’s totally worth it! But…I only do it a couple times year. I use a basic dough recipe, and the filling is extremely lemony spinach with salt, minced onion, and olive oil (and parsley, when I remember it).

What I Ate Wednesday: Christmas Meal | Orthodox and Vegan
My cousin made pulled pork, so I decided to do BBQ jackfruit. I let it simmer in the sauce for a couple hours until it was extremely tender. Two or three people looked at my plate in shock and someone finally asked, “That’s not for you, is it?” I dunno if anyone dared taste it, but at least it *looked* like pulled pork. At the very least it tasted like Carolina BBQ sauce 🙂 P.S. I also made the guac!

What I Ate Wednesday: Chocolate Cherry SoCo Cake | Orthodox and Vegan
And finally, we come to the dessert. A Christmas favorite now, I’ve been making this Chocolate Cherry SoCo cake for years. It’s a modified depression-era chocolate cake recipe with cherries and chocolate chips added in. After it cools I poke it all over and pour on a soaking syrup that includes Southern Comfort. Once that’s all been absorbed, I pour on an additional shot or two of straight up Southern Comfort (we drink 100 proof, but I use 70 for the cake). It’s also good with sliced almonds added.

Next week I’ll share the treats I got from Pangea!

What I Ate Wednesday: In the Womb of Greek Hospitality

Hey guys, sorry I missed you last week!! Tuesday I took the train to Chicago to visit my friend Christina and her husband Tony. I don’t know about everyone else, but here in the Midwest there’s been a terrible cold going around (I managed to get it twice in a month). Poor Christina got it, so we spent most of our time hanging out at home – AKA The Womb of Greek Hospitality – drinking tea around the kitchen table or curled up on the couch watching movies about chefs on Netflix! I also may have made Christina watch Pee Wee’s Big Adventure with me – I LOVE that movie 😀 And we spent tons of time cooking. I didn’t quite get pictures of everything, but I’ll try to fill in the blanks.

What I Ate Wednesday: Fresh Jackfruit | Orthodox and Vegan
I have the hardest time sleeping the night before I travel, so I basically took a short nap around 3am. The train left here at 6, and I slept most of the way. Then after a tour of Christina’s new home, we both took a very, very long and wonderful nap. Afterwards, I had my first visit to a Cermak Fresh Market and also found fresh jackfruit for the first time ever! Sure looks weird!

The white stringy part didn’t have much flavor, but the yellowy part around the seeds tasted a little bit like pineapple.

What I Ate Wednesday: Palestinian Cabbage Salad | Orthodox and Vegan
A few things I put together with Christina instructing me, like this cabbage salad. It’s basically just cabbage, tons of fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and sumac. Actually maybe that’s exactly what it is, I can’t remember.

So, I butchered the jackfruit (vegan appropriation at work) and ended up cooking it down in BBQ sauce. I cooked it for a few hours until it was very tender. We basically made American dakos, placing a rusk in the bottom of the bowl with a layer of cabbage salad on it, then a layer of BBQ jackfruit, topped with avocado.

I also boiled and peeled the jackfruit seeds and sauteed them in oil with salt and garlic. They’re very starchy and make a good snack, but I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort. They’re super slippery, and the peel is hard like plastic. If they don’t split on their own during boiling, it can be tricky getting the peel off. And if you accidentally leave a bit on and try to eat, it’s pretty unpleasant. But I’m glad we at least tried it. I normally buy canned jackfruit in brine, and it already has the seeds removed.

What I Ate Wednesday: Cretan Salad | Orthodox and Vegan
I think this salad is actually what we ate on the first night. Christina had a Cretan salad at a Greek restaurant during a recent trip to Astoria and wanted to recreate it. She told me exactly what to put in, and it turned out wonderfully.

There’s leaf lettuce, lots of cilantro, capers, tomatoes, cucumber, fresh garlic and lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. In place of feta we had a cashew cheese (it was a soft cheese and sort of melted into the salad when we tossed it, but it gave it a great flavor), and we added a dollop of kalamata olive spread when we made dakos.

Somehow I didn’t get a picture of the chili we ate for at least one meal each day. I love having leftover chili because it’s one of those things that just tastes better and better after it chills in the fridge. I could’ve eaten it for a week.

What I Ate Wednesday: Greek Boiled Beets | Orthodox and Vegan
Whenever I get a combo platter at Little Africa, I’m the one who ends up eating all the beets. Sure, beets taste a little like dirt, but in a good way. These were boiled, and I don’t think much of anything was added to them besides maybe some oil and salt. I ate a huge bowl full.

What I Ate Wednesday: Vegan Seitan Ribs | Orthodox and Vegan
On the last day of my visit I made ribs using vital wheat gluten, also known as seitan. I’ve made them before with another recipe, and I think these were not as good – but once you cover something in BBQ sauce, it’s hard to go wrong. This was my first time having access to a grill pan, it was really fun to use.

What I Ate Wednesday: Kale Chips | Orthodox and Vegan
I also made a couple batches of kale chips and experimented with seasoning them in different ways. Salted, Salt & Black Pepper, Salt & Garlic with Nooch, and Oregano & Garlic…with a pinch of salt. We ate these with the ribs.

Not pictured is the steaming hot bowl of fava we also had with this meal. They were on the soupy side, which was the perfect thing to eat before going out into the freezing cold to catch the train back.

What are you eating to keep warm this winter?

What I Ate Wednesday: Pancakes Can Be VEGAN!

I had another weird week, guys. So after about 6 days of eating almost nothing but subpar cookies, it’s time for another What I Ate Wednesday!!!! The cookies were an experiment in gluten free baking with the most natural ingredients I could come up with. They had an odd taste, but after the third or fourth cookie I got used to it and have now eaten at least 18 of them. However, I think I’ll be re-working that recipe this week, and sadly it may not stay gluten free. Now on to my other interesting meals.

What I Ate Wednesday: Grilled Onion Sandwich | Orthodox and Vegan
Everyone’s heard of the grilled cheese sandwich, but what about the grilled onion sandwich? I used margarine on the outer sides of the bread, and inside with the onion there’s also tahini, mustard, and a tiny bit of garlic powder and nutritional yeast. I am a big fan of onions.

What I Ate Wednesday: Pancakes | Orthodox and Vegan
Our bishop visited this weekend for an early celebration of St. Nicholas Day. Saturday we had a pancake breakfast with the Sunday School, and I got to attend since I’m a teacher. These pancakes were made with a Just-Add-Water mix by Aunt Jemima – the Original Pancake and Waffle Mix – that happened to be Lenten (and vegan). If you get a mix that does call for milk and eggs, just use a non-dairy milk and an egg replacer like baking soda + vinegar, flax meal, mashed banana, or Ener-G Egg Replacer.
Pro Tip: Make a double batch of pancakes and freeze half. They can be heated in the microwave when you need a quick breakfast.

Our breakfast also included crockpot oatmeal made with just oats and water. We had a ton of fruit toppings to choose from, and of course syrup and brown sugar!

What I Ate Wednesday: Salata (Syrian Salad) | Orthodox and Vegan
Sunday we had a luncheon. I forgot to get a picture of the green beans & rice, but here are two of the four giant bowls of salata (Syrian salad) we made. I got to do the dressing 😀 It’s super simple – lemon juice, olive oil, salt. Some people add a tiny touch of garlic, and bonus if you have spearmint leaves to add. In the salad my family usually has lettuce, green onion, tomato, cucumber, and radish, but everybody does it their own way.

You can make a wonderful sandwich by stuffing a pita with hummus and salata. Also, some of us actually drank (in a cup!) the juice left at the bottom of the bowl when the salad was gone. It is wonderful.

What are you eating this week?

Don’t Forget to Leave Your Shoes Out for St. Nicholas Tonight!

St. Nicholas Almsgiving Icon

St. Nicholas brings a dowry in secret

Tomorrow (December 6) is the Feast Day of St. Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia in the 4th century. Known for generously giving to those in need, over the years his image evolved (devolved) from that of a saintly bishop, to a gift-giver to children, to a fat little rosy-cheeked imp from the North Pole, jumping down the chimney to deliver presents on Christmas Day.

I don’t really have a problem with having fun with the imaginary Santa Claus, but since he is so far removed from St. Nicholas now I’m glad the Orthodox Church remembers the real man – in fact, he is one of the most popular Orthodox Saints, and the patron saint of my parish. Not only was he very generous, he is also remembered for punching Arius during the Council of Nicea. If you want to know more about the, um, rugged side of St. Nicholas, check out this interesting video I just saw today for the first time!

Celebrate St. Nicholas Day

If you would like celebrate St. Nicholas Day with your family, here are a couple simple and fun ideas:

1. Have the kids leave their shoes outside their bedroom doors tonight. When they’re asleep, slip a few coins in the shoes along with a special treat.

2. Give a gift to someone in need. You could leave anonymous gifts for each other, or for neighbors, family or friends. You could also make care packages for the homeless in your area (great items to include are warm socks, baby wipes, lip balm, band aids, tissues, and a gift card for food).

3. Punch a heretic. …just kidding 🙂

Classic Magic Bars

Happy Friday!! I promised you a recipe for Magic Bars, and a vegan Magic Bars recipe you shall have.

Magic Bars, My Grandmother's Recipe | Orthodox and Vegan
This is Tete’s recipe card, I use a combination of this and the original Eagle Brand recipe. All we need to do is swap out a couple ingredients. For the sweetened condensed milk, you can use any non-dairy version. I bought Nature’s Charm Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk, but you could also make your own. Here’s another option with soy milk.

Sadly, I recently discovered Ghirardelli started putting milk in their semisweet chocolate chips, but don’t worry – Trader Joe’s has vegan chocolate chips for $2!

Tete makes Magic Bars with a corn flake crust, but since I didn’t have any on hand I went with the traditional graham cracker crust.
(Honey is a perfectly Lenten ingredient, but to make these vegan you’ll want a honey-free graham cracker such as Nabisco’s Original flavor)

What I Ate Wednesday: Magic Bars | Orthodox and Vegan
Magic Bars
1 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs (8-9 squares)
1/2 C margarine, melted
1 C chopped walnuts
1 1/2 C chocolate chips*
1 1/2 C flaked coconut*
1 1/3 C non-dairy sweetened condensed milk (or as close as your can is to that amount!)

Preheat oven to 350.
Pour into the bottom of a 9×13″ baking pan. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs evenly over margarine. Add chopped walnuts evenly over graham cracker crumbs. Next, add an even layer of chocolate chips, and top evenly with flaked coconut. Now drizzle the sweetened condensed milk over on top. EVENLY.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and beautiful. Allow to cool at least 20 minutes before cutting (I like to let mine cool completely).

*Optional: After pouring on the sweetened condensed milk, you may wish to lightly sprinkle on additional chocolate chips covered with more flaked coconut. Whether you wish to reserve some chocolate chips & coconut for this purpose or simply use more is up to you.

What I Ate Wednesday: Thanksgiving, Magic Bars!!

We’ve somehow made it through the first two days of the week, and that means it’s time for another What I Ate Wednesday! Are you ready??? This week we get to take a look at my Thanksgiving dinner, and my special dessert…something magical.

What I Ate Wednesday: Thanksgiving Meal | Orthodox and Vegan
My awesome Thanksgiving dinner! Starting from the top, going clockwise:
1. Brussels Sprouts in Balsamic Reduction with Cream Sauce
2. Trader Joe’s Turkey-less Roast (it comes stuffed)
3. Mashed Potatoes with the gravy that came with the TJ roast
4. Homemade Mushroom Stuffing
5. Stuffed Squash En Croute (experimental recipe)
6. Sweet Potatoes
7. Crescent Roll
8. Classic Green Bean Casserole (veganized, of course)

We also had Syrian salad and kalamata olives, but I couldn’t fit them on my plate.

What I Ate Wednesday: Magic Bars | Orthodox and Vegan
For dessert I made something extra special, something I hadn’t had since going vegan about 18 years ago. MAGIC BARS. One of the main ingredients is sweetened condensed milk. It’s definitely something you can make from scratch at home, but I guess I’ve always been too lazy to try. I found condensed coconut milk at Food Fight the last time I was in Portland, but it was more than $5. Then not too long ago I found it at Meijer for about $3, and I broke down and bought it. It’s basically coconut syrup, and it’s so delicious I ate some with a spoon.

Anyway. I borrowed Tete’s recipe (although I used the traditional graham cracker crust because I didn’t have corn flakes, which is what she prefers) and these were super easy to whip up. Recipe coming soon. I had multiple requests to make them again, and I bet you’ll love them, too!

What I Ate Wednesday: Sunday Dinner | Orthodox and Vegan
I didn’t take many other pictures this week because I was mostly eating leftovers (still finishing off those sweet potatoes!), including some leftovers I brought for our Sunday dinner. So, here you can finally see the Syrian salad with kalamata olives (I love wilted salata, but this is a fresh one 🙂 ), and new additions also included roasted red skin potatoes, pan-fried asparagus with lemon, and garlic bread.

What are you guys eating today???

Exploding Canned Dough

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving! I will be virtually sharing my meal with you on What I Ate Wednesday. Until then, I thought I’d hold you over with a fascinating story about Exploding Canned Dough. That’s right – a boring old weekend with the family wasn’t enough. I had to blow things up. Below is the email I sent to Meijer to warn them about their potentially life threatening Limited Edition Jumbo Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls. I will update if I get an interesting response.

Please Note: This isn’t a real complaint, we might have left them at room temperature for too long. But I really did send the email to Meijer.

To Whom it May Concern,

I regret that I didn’t keep the packaging for the bar code, but I wanted to let someone know a can of Meijer cinnamon pumpkin rolls that were purchased from your Gainsville location on Sunday, November 27, basically exploded in my face today as I opened it. I was peeling off the label, as instructed, and when I had it about half way off, the can burst open with such force that the cinnamon rolls were mangled and I had bits of dough and cinnamon sugar all over my face. I’ve never seen anything like it. The little cardboard piece that held the icing was dented and the metal piece bent by the force (I took a few pictures if you’d like to see).

The cinnamon globs were still delicious, but you scared the heck out of me and my family, and my left eye was a little gritty for a while because of the cinnamon and sugar that got in it. You just reinforced my decades-long phobia of canned dough products.

On the other hand, bravo for finally coming up with packaging that doesn’t require you to whack it with all your might. You just might want to sell it with protective goggles.

Meijer Cinnamon Pumpkin Rolls: Exploding Canned Dough

The cinnamon is supposed to be on the inside.

Although slightly traumatized, we did eat the entire dish of pumpkin-spiced globs, but I’m honestly not sure if I’m willing to risk my sight and sanity opening another can. Wait. Yes I am, these are super addicting.

Has anyone had a similar experience?

What I Ate Wednesday: Fast Days and Feast Days

We made it halfway through the week, and it’s time for another What I Ate Wednesday! Sometimes when I look over the pictures from the past week, I can really tell when I was in a hurry to throw something together. The past few days I ate a lot of things that it didn’t even seem worthwhile to take a picture of. I also ate something so weird, I had to take a picture 🙂 And then there was my special meal for a Feast Day celebration.

What I Ate Wednesday: ALT (Avocado Lettuce Tomato) Sandwich | Orthodox and Vegan
I did get off to a good start with pea soup and an ALT (Avocado, Lettuce and Tomato) Sandwich – if you’re eating oil, you could also add your favorite vegan mayo. I made the pea soup using Bob’s Red Mill green pea flour, and added tahini to make it creamy.

What I Ate Wednesday: Double Qrunch Burger Sandwich | Orthodox and Vegan
Another sandwich, but this time I simply prepared two Qrunch Burgers (you cook them in the toaster). They are covered in ketchup, with a little squirt of Just Mayo.

What I Ate Wednesday: Pickle Wrap | Orthodox and Vegan
And this is where I got desperate. I was in a rush to eat something Saturday afternoon, and didn’t have time to slice veggies. Instead I wrapped a pickle in a tortilla! To the left of the pickle is a big squirt of Just Mayo covered in hulled hemp hearts, topped with ketchup and crushed up tortilla chips. It was actually pretty good!

What I Ate Wednesday: Stella's Lounge in Grand Rapids | Orthodox and Vegan
But do you know what’s even better than a pickle in a tortilla? Brunch at Stella’s Lounge! Our parish transferred the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos to Sunday, so after Liturgy my friend and I headed to Stella’s for a special meal. What you see here is Ride the Lightning Salad, Chronic Fries, Onion Rings, French Toast Sandwich filled with Tofu Veggie Scramble with Old Grand Dad Maple Syrup, and a side of Poor Man’s Potato Wing Hash. Oh, and a celebratory Espresso Old Fashioned 🙂

What I Ate Wednesday: Curry Leaf Indian Cuisine | Orthodox and Vegan
Today I finally tried the Indian restaurant that opened near my house quite a few months ago, Curry Leaf. A lot of Indian food contains cream or ghee, but not all of it. I went for the lunch buffet, and the host showed us which items were vegan. Indian food is great because:
A. It tastes good
B. Lots of legumes = protein and
C. It tastes really, really wonderful.
And nearly everything shown here is gluten free, except probably the pancake thing.

What I Ate Wednesday: Coco Jazz Thai Coconut Snack | Orthodox and Vegan
Lastly, I stopped at my favorite Asian market to pickup some jackfruit and decided to take a look at the clearance racks – I love getting a good deal! I found this chili flavored toasted coconut snack from Thailand, Coco Jazz, for only 50 cents. These little bags (one to two servings each) would be great to keep around the house or office for when you need a little extra something.

What’s the weirdest thing you ever ate in a pinch? Let us know in the comments!

Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple

Entry of the Theotokos icon
On the 21st of November in the Holy Orthodox Church, we commemorate the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple.

Kontakion of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple,
Fourth Mode

“Thou Who wast raised up”
The sacred treasury of God’s holy glory
The greatly precious bridal chamber and virgin
The Savior’s most pure temple, free of stain and undefiled
Into the House of the Lord, on this day is brought forward
And bringeth with herself the grace
Of the most Divine Spirit
Her do God’s angels hymn with songs of praise
For she is truly the heavenly tabernacle