Louisiana Okra and Cheese Grits

As promised, today I’m pleased to share this Louisiana Okra and Cheese Grits recipe passed on to me by Esther, the dietitian from Rouses Market in New Orleans. All of the necessary ingredients can be found at Rouses, and luckily you can probably find these simple ingredients in your hometown, too!

Louisiana Okra and Vegan Cheese Grits | Orthodox and Vegan
Esther writes:
Here in Louisiana, grits are a staple in many dishes – don’t forget the okra and tomatoes! Usually, these come as sides, but I believe it’s time for them to join forces to become the main meal.

Louisiana Okra and Vegan Cheese Grits | Orthodox and Vegan
Usually this will include bacon or sausage, but not for this vegan dish.

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion chopped
3 cups sliced okra
1 14.5 ounce canned (no salt added) tomatoes

In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about three minutes. Add okra and tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the cheese grits.

Vegan Cheese Grits
3 Tbsp Daiya dairy free shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grits
3 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

Over the stove, boil water in a saucepan and add grits, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and cover allowing grits to thicken – stirring occasionally. Once cooked to desired thickness, add cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve grits and top with okra and tomatoes!

Thank you, Esther!!! I shared my meal with two non-vegans, and they both enjoyed it.

I have to admit I used way more than 3 Tbsp of Daiya in the cheese grits, I can’t resist adding more fat to every meal πŸ˜€ I may have added something like 1/2 C. I also added a few cloves of finely chopped garlic with the onions in the okra stew.
I appreciated the simplicity of needing nothing more than salt and pepper for seasoning, it really did come out beautifully.

Shout out to Esther and to Rouses Market for taking the time to reply to my email, to send me a HUGE list of every single vegan item in the entire store, and for putting together this fabulous recipe. It’s obvious Rouses cares about their customers, and I greatly appreciate it.

If you’ve got a favorite southern food you’ve learned to veganize, let us know in the comments! And don’t forget to stop by a Rouses Market next time you’re in Louisiana.

Vegan in NOLA: Rouses Market

Before I go out of town, I spend a ton of time researching the area looking for vegan-friendly bars and restaurants, and for grocery stores in case I need to make my own food. For the Orthodox Young Professionals Conference in New Orleans, I found a nearby Rouses Market to stock up the condo I rented with a group of friends.
I noticed on their website they have a dietitian that put together a couple shopping guides for people with special diets. I emailed the store to see if they could do a vegan shopping guide and maybe a recipe, and pretty soon Esther, the amazing dietician, sent me a list of more than 1200 vegan items available at Rouses!!! Sure, it includes EVERY vegan thing in the store, like beans and fruit juice, but still. It just goes to show how much vegan food people are already eating without even thinking about it.

Anyway, Rouses has several locations around New Orleans, so chances are there will be one near you no matter where you stay in NOLA.

Vegan in NOLA: Rouses Market | Orthodox and Vegan
Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to run around the store like a crazy woman taking pictures of every single vegan specialty item I found, but here are some of the things I saw:

-Multiple brands of vegan & vegetarian meats
-Daiya cheese
-Non-dairy milks
-Non-dairy ice cream (Coconut Bliss was only $4.49!!!!!!)
-Energy bars
-Cruelty-free health & beauty supplies

Of course there is also a big variety of fruits and veggies, fresh bread, an olive bar, hummus, guac, salsa & chips. There are hot and cold cereals that can be eaten with the non-dairy milk. The salad bar isn’t too exciting, but it’ll do (I filled a box with all romaine leaves so I wouldn’t have to spend a ton on a whole package of romaine hearts I wouldn’t be able to finish). They also have locally made kombucha that is delicious.

By the way, I did indeed get a recipe from Esther that can be whipped up using simple ingredients found at Rouses, and probably also at a store near you! I’ll be sharing that Wednesday.

Meanwhile if you’re going to be in NOLA and curious to know if Rouses Market carries a specific item, comment below and I’ll check my giant shopping list for you!

Pray Without Ceasing

Still coasting along on material from the Orthodox Young Professionals Conference – woot woot! πŸ˜€ I was too into the speakers to remember to take good notes, but I did write down a few things in our handy booklet. It looks like they are mostly notes from Archdeacon Saed’s comments about how to pray without ceasing.

"Prayer is a request for what is good, offered by the devout of God." St Basil the Great | Orthodox Quotes at Orthodox and Vegan
I have Matthew 5:16 written at the top of my notes:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Of course our actions are very important. I think of it as our prayers being the seeds that grow into the fruit of our actions. We start by praying with our mouth so the words might enter our heart, and from there flow into our whole being. “We pray so that God can help us to become more like Him in our actions.” So praying with words is the starting point. Here are Archdeacon Saed’s [paraphrased] tips for

Establishing a Rule of Prayer

1. Be realistic. Start small to ensure it’s something you can really keep up with every day. You can always add more later.

2. Be regular. Praying at the same time every day, for example when you first wake up or before a meal, will help you make it a habit.

3. Establish a place. Set up a prayer corner in your home, someplace where you can have a little privacy.

4. Sit quietly before you start, “Be still and know that I am God.” Put away your phone, turn off the TV, and give your mind a chance to focus.

5. It may be easier to start with structured prayers. Use a small Orthodox prayer book that you can keep in your pocket or purse, or keep a photocopy of a certain prayer you’d like to say regularly.

I have to be honest, my prayer life isn’t so great right now, so I’m definitely planning to make use of these tips. Below is one of my favorite morning prayers, good words to start the day with.

The Morning Prayer of St. Philaret of Moscow
O Lord, grant that I may meet the coming day in peace.
Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will.
In each hour of the day reveal Your will to me.
Bless my dealings with all who surround me.
Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with the firm conviction that Your will governs all.
In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings.
In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by You.
Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others.
Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring.
Direct my will.
Teach me to pray.
Pray within me.

Vegan in NOLA: Seed Restaurant

So, Friday being a fasting day, I managed to get one non-vegan friend, Angela, to join me at Seed, an adorable little vegan restaurant near New Orleans’ Lower Garden District. Since Green Goddess was closed until August 31, I was super excited to be able to try at least one vegan restaurant in NOLA! And we were not disappointed.

Vegan in NOLA: Seed Restaurant
We started with the Breads + Spreads, although I switched out cucumber and celery for the bread. There are several choices for spreads/dips, and we chose puttanesca, creole cashew cheese, and chickpea salad. All three were good, but Angela favored the spicy creole cashew cheese while I preferred the chickpea salad, which was reminiscent of egg salad with mayo and relish.

Vegan in NOLA: Seed Restaurant
Hope you enjoy this extremely blurry picture of Angela’s BBQ Sandwich, “house-made seitan, bbq sauce, slaw”, on a whole wheat bun. She gave it a thumbs-up.

Vegan in NOLA: Seed Restaurant
I wanted to try a New Orleans classic, so I went with the Southern Fried Poboy made with “fried tofu, light chickpea flour breading, lettuce, tomato, vegan mayo, poboy bread”. As far as I could tell, the tofu was extra firm and had been frozen in water and then thawed, creating a nice meaty texture. I thought it tasted like chicken.
I added avocado because who doesn’t love extra fat? Little did I know the sandwich would be bigger than my head. I ate a few pieces of the tofu and then squished the bun together until I could get my mouth around it without looking like a complete pig. It was wonderful; however, I would ask for extra mayo next time.

Vegan in NOLA: Seed Restaurant
Of course no trip to New Orleans is complete without beignets! As far as I know, Seed is the only place to get traditional beignets that are also vegan (although I did find a hookah lounge that does pita beignets – fried pita triangles covered in powdered sugar – and those are vegan!!). I was expecting fat, fluffy rectangles of fried dough, but these were a bit dense. They also weren’t greasy at all, which makes me wonder if they were baked instead of fried. But who would do such a thing? Nevertheless, they were very tasty and addicting.

Vegan in NOLA: Seed Restaurant
Our waiter told us they also had a couple special items that weren’t on the menu, including Samoa Cheesecake.
Me: “YOU MEAN SAMOA AS IN THE GIRL SCOUT COOKIES??!??!!?” Most exciting news I’ve heard in a while. I’m pretty sure the velvety-smooth cream cheese base was made with cashews, and the caramel layer with dates (yes, you really can make nuts and dates taste like cheese and caramel! It’s miraculous but true and I’m thinking a knock-off recipe is on the way to prove it). There was a layer of chocolate chunks over the caramel, and the whole thing was topped with toasted coconut. It was just dreamy.

I wish I could’ve eaten at Seed every day until I tasted everything on the menu, but, alas, there were too many other places to try! But I’ll definitely be a return customer if I make it to NOLA again. Besides the great food, the waitstaff were very friendly and our waiter was happy to help us make the most of our meal.

If you’ve been to Seed, comment below and let us know your favorite item on the menu! If you haven’t been to Seed yet, I highly recommend adding it to your list of places you must visit while in New Orleans.

New Orleans Fattoush

Hey guys! I’m on my way back from a trip to New Orleans for the 2016 Orthodox Young Professionals Conference, and I have a lot to share with you. I’m putting together a Vegan in NOLA guide πŸ˜€ It’s coming soon and I definitely have restaurant recommendations, but depending on where you stay you might want to cook for yourself once in a while, and then you’ll need to know the best places to shop. I went to a local chain called Rouses, and the pickled okra in the olive bar inspired this New Orleans Fattoush recipe.

In my family, we use the thick, round Syrian bread loaves for fattoush instead of toasted pita bread. The other ingredients are simply lettuce, cucumber, green onions, and kalamata or alfonso olives dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.

New Orleans Fattoush Salad Recipe | Orthodox and Vegan
In this recipe, the whole olives are replaced with muffaletta olive salad and pickled okra, and the green onions are replaced with the garlic from the muffaletta.

New Orleans Fattoush
4 C torn lettuce
1 large cucumber, quartered and sliced
3 C torn day-old French bread
1/2 C muffaletta olive salad
1/2 C pickled okra, sliced
juice of one lemon
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt, to taste

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. I like to let the salad chill for 15-20 minutes so the bread soaks up all the flavors, and the lettuce starts to wilt a little. If you prefer crisp lettuce, serve immediately.

I almost never eat okra, but this was the second dish I made on the trip using it. What’s your favorite way to prepare okra? Comment below and share your favorite recipe!

What I Ate Wednesday: Mostly Junk Food

Hey guys! I’ve been meaning to start What I Ate Wednesday posts for a while now, so today I decided to just go through my phone and grab a few pictures for you. This is just another way to show you the many vegan options available. Today I’m accidentally focusing on the fact vegans don’t necessarily eat healthy food all the time. I just randomly chose these pictures, I promise I don’t eat cake and caramel sauce every day! Although I would love to πŸ™‚ Anyway, here’s What I Ate!

What Vegans Eat: Salad Art with Edible Flowers | Orthodox and Vegan
So, we’re starting off pretty nicely. My mom made this gorgeous salad for a dinner party last month. As I have mentioned before, Tiger Lilies (Day Lilies) are edible. We also have salad greens, fresh veggies, and sunflower seeds for protein and a touch of healthy fat.

What I Ate Wednesday: Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Ice Cream | Orthodox and Vegan
For a Young Adults outing, a few of us met up for Movies in the Park. There were several food trucks out, some with vegan options such as fries and tacos, but I opted for this chocolate-dipped peanut butter bar from Love’s Ice Cream (non-dairy, of course).

What I Ate Wednesday: Coco Jam Caramel Sauce | Orthodox and Vegan
I found this Coco Jam at the nearby Asian market. It’s not jam, though – it’s a caramel sauce! Perfect for topping your vegan ice cream, drizzling over vegan brownies, or eating straight from the jar with a spoon….

What I Ate Wednesday: Hotdogs & Potato Salad | Orthodox and Vegan
For a recent birthday celebration my family decided to have a picnic lunch at the park. Pretty much everyone else had traditional hotdogs with American potato salad, but I was lucky enough to have vegan hotdogs and Syrian potato salad (Syrian potato salad is waaaaaaaay better).

What I Ate Wednesday: Chocolate Caramel Birthday Cake & Ice Cream | Orthodox and Vegan
Afterwards we had vegan cake! I ordered a chocolate cake with caramel filling and caramel drizzle from Rise Grand Rapids. All their stuff is vegan and gluten free and absolutely delicious.

So, I can’t recommend eating these kinds of things every day, but I can say you should never have to feel deprived on a vegan diet. Vegans can have cake, ice cream, chocolate, and pretty much anything else that can give you diabetes (aren’t we lucky).

That said, there are plenty of healthy sweets out there, too. For example, this 6-Ingredient Chocolate Caramel Slice recipe by Blissful Basil featuring almond butter, coconut oil, and pure maple syrup.

So much for the old grass-clippings jokes! What are your favorite vegan indulgences, healthy or otherwise? Let us know down below in the comments!

Dormition of the Mother of God

Icon of the Dormition of the Mother of God | Orthodox and Vegan
Blessed Feast to those of you celebrating! On August 15 in the Orthodox Church we commemorate the Dormition (falling asleep, or repose) of the Mother of God. We also commemorate her bodily translation into heaven.

Unless you’re on the Old Calendar – in that case, the fast just began yesterday and I wish you a good journey. Here’s my quick guide to surviving the two week fast. (Shout out to whomever shared a link to that page on Reddit!)

Evangelistria Marble Church on Tinos in Greece
The Feast of the Dormition is a big day for the Greek island of Tinos, home to Evangelistria (Our Lady of Good Tidings) Church.

This church was built in 1823 after the Theotokos appeared several times to a certain nun, prompting the excavation of a specific area where they found the ruins of an old Byzantine chapel, and below that the foundations of a 4th century edifice that had been dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. An ancient well was also found there, and while the foundation for the new church was being leveled, the workers finally uncovered an icon showing the Archangel Gabriel holding a lily out to the Theotokos, and she kneeling in acceptance of her role in the Incarnation.

Today, the icon is housed in the crypt of the church next to the font. On certain Marian feast days, especially for Dormition, pilgrims flood the island to celebrate Liturgy at Evangelistria, venerate the wonder-working icon, and collect water from the font.

Disembarking at the port [of Tinos], a few 100 metres to the left, a pilgrim is confronted by the second largest street known as the Leoforos Megalochares (the Street of Great Joy) which leads up to the neo-classical church at the top of the steep slope. This street is heavily lined with merchants, on either side, selling ecclesiastical bits and pieces such as oil lamps, replica icons, postcards etc.

It is traditional for many pilgrims to crawl the entire length of this street on their hands and knees, crossing themselves first, as a physical ascetical offering in preparation of meeting the icon of Tinos. This offering should be done in supplication, or thanksgiving for prayers answered or in repentance. – Orthodox Wiki

The red carpet you see going up the stairs leading to the church actually begins at the bottom of the Street of Great Joy – in other words, the bottom of that extremely steep slope, meant to give a little relief to crawling pilgrims (however I felt the carpet and it is very thin!).

Of note: I visited Evangelistria three years ago in June. I hadn’t really looked into the church and didn’t know about the font from the ancient well, and that pilgrims buy little glass bottles from the souvenir shops to collect the water because it is thought to be miraculous. So when I got there and heard about the font, I just stuck my hand in the water. When I returned home from Greece a couple weeks later, I realized a hideous scar that had been on my hand for 21 years was gone (seriously, it was ugly. The skin healed in a weird lump after I accidentally stabbed myself with a pencil). Maybe it was just a coincidence…who knows.

Tropical Watermelon Smoothie

For some reason I just don’t like eating fruit. I’ll have it once in a while if someone has already prepared it, maybe after a meal or something when it’s hot out. Otherwise I just really have a hard time getting myself to eat fruit…except, apparently, when it’s in a smoothie!

This summer I’ve been going through bananas like crazy, I eat about 8 a week. I peel and chop them and store them in a freezer bag in the freezer to use as a smoothie base (they’re nice and creamy when blended), and I’ve been drinking about 5 smoothies a week. Sometimes I freeze other fruit, too. I bought fresh pineapple rings from Meijer in a little plastic container and just chucked the whole thing in the freezer without even cutting the rings into smaller pieces first. I was kind of mad at myself for that when I went to use them yesterday, but was surprised to find they were still easy to cut through when frozen. My dad also bought a giant watermelon and asked me to chop it for him (one of my least favorite jobs). There was so much, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to throw some of it in the freezer, too. And so the Tropical Watermelon Smoothie was born.

Tropical Watermelon Smoothie | Orthodox and Vegan
Tropical Watermelon Smoothie
1/4 C frozen chopped banana
1/3 C frozen chopped pineapple
1 C frozen chopped watermelon
1 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)

Blend all ingredients. Drink. Enjoy! As with pretty much all my smoothie recipes, this is made to fit perfectly in the single serve cup of my Ninja blender.

I could use a few more ideas for adding fruit to my diet. What is your favorite fruit during the summer months, and how do you prepare it? Please let me know by commenting below!

How to Make Prosphora (Bread of Holy Oblation)

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan

Thought I’d update this old recipe and step-by-step instruction for baking Holy Bread (Prosphora) for use in the Orthodox Church, according to the tradition of my Antiochian parish. There are various traditions, so check with your priest and ask his preference. The full recipe is at the bottom.

By the way, what is prosphora??? Prosphora is a Greek word meaning “offering”. Prosphora bread is made for use in the Eucharist in Orthodox Christian churches.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
We use all purpose bleached flour – Yes, it’s OK to use bleached flour, you can read more about that HERE. We use rapid rise yeast, so it isn’t necessary to dissolve it in water before adding it.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Just showing this because I thought the graphic was funny πŸ™‚

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Starting out with 2 C of water

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Looking a little dry. Time for another 2 cups of water, slowly added while the machine is mixing.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
One thing I hate about adding water is the dough starts to separate again, or gets some weird texture and looks like it’s ruined. Every time I added water, I had to step away from the machine because I started having a little panic attack. It seemed like it took forever for the dough to get back to “normal”.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Finally the dough looks okay. It’s smooth and soft, but very firm, not dry. Turn it out into a large floured bowl and cover with plastic wrap so it can rise.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
I like to take pictures of my fist punching the dough, that’s my favorite part.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Now we tear off equal portions to be rolled out, the size will depend on your parish tradition.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
We use a tin to cut a perfect circle – old coffee tins work well.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
We do two layers just like we do with our Artoklasia bread.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Now for the seal. Isn’t this a cute little loaf? It’s made from scraps.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
This is a very clear seal.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Press down very firmly. I like to give it a wiggle, too…but I was also told I had to work FASTER! Or while you’re working on the next loaf, your first loaf might start to puff up and the seal won’t look as awesome.

Orthodox Bread of Holy Oblation

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
He’s good at this.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Poke holes in the corners of the Lamb (the center part of the seal) and in a few places around the edge of the loaf to keep the seal from rising and getting distorted as it bakes. We used a chopstick, but you could use a wooden skewer or toothpick.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
I need to buy some seals of my own. Stamping the bread with a seal is an ancient tradition. St. John Chrysostom, who lived from 347-407, mentioned it in his writings, noting that all the bread was “sealed”. Probably with a cross.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Bake the bread until just barely golden brown. It should sound hollow when you knock on it.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Here’s a finished loaf. Let’s talk abut the meaning of the symbols. I’m just learning this myself, I was told to read The Prothesis from The Order of Preparation for Divine Liturgy from the red service book (I don’t know if there’s some official name for the book, but that’s what we all call it). First, notice the IC XC NIKA in the small squares on the top & bottom, and the large square in the center of the loaf. IC XC NIKA is an abbreviation which means “Jesus Christ conquers.”

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Typically the large center square is the Lamb, cut out and used for Holy Communion. Then the small square on the top is removed in honor of the living, and the one on the bottom in memory of the dead. Then other portions are removed in honor of various other things.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
This triangular piece is for the Theotokos. Theotokos is a Greek word that means God-bearer, or Birth-giver of God. In the year 431, the Council of Ephesus decreed that Mary is Theotokos because her son Jesus is one person who is both God and man, divine and human. So she not only gave birth to his human nature, but also to God Himself.

The Greek letters mu & theta are an abbreviation for “Mother of God.” Looking closely at the triangle, you’ll see it’s formed by kind of stacking the theta on the mu. Hovering on either side are the spear and the sponge (you can see those more clearly on the picture of the seal itself).

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
The 9 small triangles on the right represent the 9 ranks of commemorations:

1. Michael & Gabriel, and all the angels of heaven
2. Baptist John and all the Prophets
3. Apostles
4. Hierarchs
5. Martyrs
6. The Holy Ascetics
7. The Unmercenary Healers
8. Sts. Joachim and Anna, and the saints of the day
9. Saint whose liturgy we celebrate (St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil)

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
And these little guys that fill in the empty spaces are not only ornamental but functional. They keep air bubbles from forming. Neat! But from there, or elsewhere, other portions are removed in honor of the Archbishop, Bishop and every order of clergy.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Each portion is usually cut from a separate loaf, using five loaves total. The remaining bread is used for the antidoron – yet another Greek word, it means “instead of the gifts,” and it is a blessed bread not used for Communion. Customs vary, but generally it’s distributed to anyone present, including non-Orthodox (the lamb being reserved for Orthodox Christians since it’s in the Eucharist). Technically, though, you should not take a piece after Liturgy if you already had one after receiving communion (doesn’t seem like many people keep this rule anymore!) or you at least should not take more than one piece for yourself each time.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Just in case anyone thought this was fancy sandwich bread πŸ™‚

Prosphora/Holy Bread
5 lbs all purpose bleached flour, plus extra for dusting surface
1 packet quick rapid yeast
1 tsp salt
2 – 5 C warm (mildly hot) water, or as needed

Put 5 pounds of flour, yeast, and salt in large commercial stand mixer bowl. Briefly mix to combine dry ingredients, then add 2 cups mildly hot water and continue mixing. Add water as needed until a soft, but very firm, dough has formed.

Turn dough out into a very large floured bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a draft-free spot until doubled in size – approximately 2 hours.

Preheat commercial convection oven to 325 (you may need to use higher heat for a standard oven). Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper and dust them with flour.

Punch the dough.

Tear off equal portions of dough to roll out on a floured surface, the size will depend on the tradition in your parish. After rolling out the dough, you may choose to use a tin to cut it into a clean circle shape.

If making two-layer bread as we do: Place bottom layers on lined and floured baking sheets.

Wet the top of the bottom layers of dough, one at a time, then place the other layer on top.
(At this point some people let their loaves rise a second time, for about 30 minutes. We didn’t do that, but since we rolled out all the loaves at once, they probably did rise for about 10-15 minutes while they waited to be sealed.)

Dust the loaf tops lightly with flour, and be sure to flour your seal regularly between loaves.
Press the seal down very firmly, giving it a gentle wiggle during release.

Poke holes in the corners of the Lamb (the center part of the seal) and in a few places around the edge of the loaf to keep the seal from rising and getting distorted as it bakes. We used a chopstick, but you could use a wooden skewer or toothpick.

The bread should be a light golden brown (very light). Knock on the bread to see if it sounds hollow. If so, the bread should be done. Allow it to cool on racks.

After our bread is cooled we bag it up in very large freezer bags, 2 loaves to a bag, and they’ll keep in the freezer for several weeks. Let the loaves thaw overnight at room temperature (although you can defrost in the microwave in an emergency).

Raw Cashew Basil Pesto

Hello, Friends! Yesterday I shared some ideas for a vegan tea party-inspired picnic which included basil pesto tea sandwiches, and I promised to share the pesto recipe. Well, here it is. This pesto has a nice earthy, rustic flavor, and is oil free and perfect for strict fasting days. With only a few ingredients to blend together, you’ll be whipping this up in no time!

Raw Vegan Cashew Basil Pesto | Orthodox and Vegan
Basil pesto is great as a sandwich spread or vegetable dip – I particularly like it with cucumber and mint. It also works well as a pasta sauce. Of course you can use gluten free pasta sauce or spiralized veggies to make the meal gluten free or even completely raw.

Raw Vegan Cashew Basil Pesto | Orthodox and Vegan
Raw Cashew Basil Pesto
1 C raw cashews, soaked & drained
1/2 C fresh basil, or to taste
1 large clove garlic, or to taste
1 tsp course salt, or to taste*

Soak the cashews in water for at least one hour, or overnight. Drain and rinse, discarding soak water.
In a blender, add cashews, basil, garlic, and salt. Add 1/2 C fresh water and blend until smooth, adding more water as needed.
I recommend adding the minimal amount of basil, garlic, and salt and tasting after blending before adding more.

*If you are using a fine/table salt, you may want to start with 1/2 tsp

For Pasta Sauce do Not drain pasta completely. The pesto will be thick, so you’ll want to mix it with a little water to loosen it up for tossing. When I use the pesto for pasta, I like to add a little black pepper and top it with nutritional yeast. And on oil days this would, of course, be wonderful with a little drizzle of olive oil – but what doesn’t benefit from olive oil??

Pro tip: If you have a Ninja blender, this recipe can be made in the individual serving cup. In other words, quick & easy clean up!

Comment below and let me know your favorite way to use pesto. I’d love to hear from you!