Dormition Fast: Paraklesis

Paraklesis to the Theotokos | Orthodox Quotes from Orthodox and Vegan

Make request, O Pure Mother to thy Son,
who hath willed to grant mercy to us,
to rescue from transgressions and from the soul’s defilement
those who cry out most faithfully.
O God of our Fathers, blessed art Thou.
-Paraklesis to the Mother of God, Ode VII, 3

I noticed today that the cover of my copy of the Paraklesis to the Mother of God reads, “To be chanted in every tribulation and in sorrow of soul and every night of the Dormition Lent.” Well, it’s the first day of the Dormition Fast (aka Dormition Lent) so I figured I’d share a few quotes during the next couple weeks.

If you haven’t already, check my Dormition Fast page for fasting guidelines and some meal ideas.

Blessed Fast!

Life Hack: Vegan Nacho Cheez

Vegan Nacho Cheez Sauce | Orthodox and Vegan
Have I told you how much I LOVE tahini sauce?! It is simple to make, includes few ingredients, and is quite versatile. The variation I use for vegan nachos is my favorite. I pay about $7 for a 32oz jar of tahini, enough to make approximately 25 large plates of nachos! It doesn’t really taste like cheese*, but it does taste pretty wonderful.

*UPDATE* So a friend of mine made his own little variation based on my recipe and had some friends totally believing they were eating a very non-vegan cheese sauce! SO THERE.

Lenten Tahini Nacho Sauce
And the rest of the ingredients for the nachos are just as simple: finely chopped veggies – I prefer bell pepper, onion, and tomato, and sometimes fresh garlic. Black beans and corn would also be great. Simply drizzle the tahini sauce over the chips, add toppings…

Vegan Tahini Nacho Sauce
and bake!

Vegan Tahini Nacho Sauce
The sauce thickens and keeps the toppings from falling off.

Lenten Recipes: Vegan Tahini Nacho Sauce
When the sauce begins to brown you know it’s done.

Lenten Recipes: Vegan Tahini Nacho Sauce | Orthodox and Vegan
Tahini Nacho Cheez Sauce
2 heaping Tbsp tahini
Lemon juice, salt and garlic to taste.
Add water until desired consistency is reached.

Additional seasonings recommended for nachos:
Frank’s Redhot Sauce
black pepper
cumin
smoked paprika
chili powder
turmeric for color

Now, you can use this sauce as a dip (or eat it with a spoon, I won’t judge!), but for vegan nachos:

Preheat oven to 400.
In a small bowl, stir together tahini, water, and lemon juice. Season to taste with spices and hot sauce, adding turmeric for color if desired. Finely chop toppings of choice.
On a baking tray or large oven proof plate, arrange tortilla chips in a single layer. Drizzle with tahini sauce. Sprinkle with toppings.

Bake 10 – 15 minutes, until tahini sauce thickens and begins to brown.

Oh, and this sauce is also perfect for chili cheez fries! What’s your favorite way to spice up tahini sauce???

Cleansing Vegetable Soup

Vegan Cleansing Vegetable Soup Recipe
This is the other dish I brought to the Lenten potluck earlier this week. I looked through a bunch of detox soup recipes online, then used the ideas to throw together this gorgeous green vegetable soup. It’s packed with veggies, easy to make, and this recipe makes a large pot so you could eat it for days…I would have it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I were more disciplined.

Cleansing Vegetable Soup
2 pounds dried split peas
2 heads broccoli
1 pound carrots
1 pound celery
1 bunch green onion
1/4 C peeled & chopped turmeric (or more to taste)
2 bunches kale
6 C vegetable broth (homemade or high quality store bought)
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
optional: 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

Cook split peas according to instructions, allowing them to get very tender and soft (even a little mushy!).
Meanwhile, chop all the vegetables except kale, and add to large pot with turmeric and vegetable broth – include the leafy celery and carrot tops, they add a great flavor and are very nutritious. Bring to a simmer over medium low heat, and simmer until veggies are tender and falling apart, adding salt and pepper to taste (and nutritional yeast, if using). Tear kale from stems and add to veggies. Simmer until tender.
Let the vegetables and split peas cool slightly, then blend in batches – I did a few ladles-full of vegetables along with a big scoop of split peas in each batch. You can blend it all until completely smooth, or leave some of the veggies in chunks.

Vegan Cleansing Vegetable Soup Recipe
At home, I serve the soup with nutritional yeast sprinkled on top and finished with Mediterranean black lava salt (I love finding fancy salts at Home Goods). The split peas bulk it up and make it pretty filling on its own, but it would also be wonderful over rice or potatoes. I bought a container of rice with chickpeas from the monastery, it had bits of onion and dill in it, and it was delicious with the soup mixed in.

This soup is oil free and perfect for a strict fasting day…unless you accidentally grab a vegetable broth with safflower oil in it, which is a totally unnecessary ingredient and why you should make your own broth. But it is better to eat the soup than let it go to waste 🙂

2016 Lenten Potluck #1: Green Detox Salad Dressing

Green Vegan Detox Salad
We had our first Lenten potluck of the season last night. I actually made two things, but the soup you’ll have to wait for until I have pretty picture of it. As it is, this is the best I could do at the time for my salad dressing!

I’ve been eating so much junk food lately, I decided my first meal in Lent should be something very clean and healthy. Of course, I couldn’t help but try a bunch of other things at the potluck, but I tried to stick to things that looked simple and full of veggies and protein. Anyway. This lovely bright green detoxifying salad dressing was perfect for an evening commemoration of St. Patrick. Plus each of the main ingredients is high in various vitamins and minerals, great for bone health and boosting your immunity.

The best part is it’s super easy to make, and has so few ingredients you won’t have to break the bank if you want to use organic produce.

Green Detox Salad Dressing
1 large cucumber, unpeeled
1/4 chopped onion
1 avocado, peeled & de-stoned
2 lemons, juice of
sea salt, to taste

Chop first three ingredients. Place in blender with the lemon juice, and BLEND. It should be smooth and easy to pour, but won’t be very creamy. Add salt to taste.

I served my dressing with an organic spring lettuce mix, but it would also be great as a substitute for salsa. Add another avocado and a clove of garlic, and it’s basically a super-hydrating guacamole.

And did I mention…it’s also oil free and perfect for a strict fasting day.

Big Qrunch Plate

Lately it seems like I’m hungry ALL the time. I feel like a big bear bulking up for hibernation! I usually have a supply of Qrunch Burgers in the freezer and try to find different ways to use them, other than just sticking them in a bun. They’re good “filler” because of the quinoa, and because of the great variety of flavors they come in.

Vegan Qrunch Burger Plate

The Qrunch Plate


As many of you know, I’m not a huge fan of using recipes, but lately I’ve posted quite a few that have actual measurements. Well, not today. The Big Qrunch Plate is something you can throw together with what you have on hand – assuming you at least have the Qrunch Burgers 🙂 But here’s a guide you might use:

Big Qrunch Plate
2 Qrunch Burgers
sauteed and/or fresh veggies
dollop of vegan sour cream
seasonings to taste

For mine, I sauteed onions, garlic, bell pepper, and tomatoes, then added fresh avocado. I bought some less-than-stellar vegan sour cream from Trader Joe’s and seasoned it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, nutritional yeast, and dill, and it tastes much better. It went great with the veggies and Spicy Buffalo Qrunch Burgers, and was just the right touch for the Chef Ernesto breaded green beans I got from Dollar Tree – that’s what you see bordering the veggies & burger. The meal is gluten free if you leave out the breaded stuff (or make your own with gf breadcrumbs).

I finally felt full after this meal! What’s your favorite thing to eat during the winter months?

Protein Noodles

Protein Noodles
Sooo….sometimes I get a little lazy. I wait until the last minute to make my lunch for work, and then I’m too tired to make a real meal. This is one of the simple, and uh, interesting dishes I came up with. It’s ready in 10 minutes, can have as few as 3 ingredients (totally up to you), and it’s packed with protein. It’s also dirt cheap!

Protein Noodles
1 C prepared & drained elbow macaroni (or noodle of choice)
1/2 C prepared minced TVP
Frank’s Redhot Sauce

Prepare noodles according to instructions. Prepare TVP according to instructions. Season TVP to taste with hot sauce, then combine noodles & TVP. Eat.

You can liven it up by using a broth to rehydrate the TVP, adding more seasonings or nutritional yeast, adding vegan cheese, or minced veggies. But, although it’s not very exciting, I really did like this as it was. Nice and simple! And it’s oil free and perfect for a strict fasting day.

Pumpkin Chia Pudding Pie Breakfast Bowl

Lately the majority of my breakfasts and lunches have been whatever I can fit in a mason jar of reasonable size. It’s so convenient, plus…I think it looks pretty 🙂 The 8oz jars are perfect for breakfast. Most days I have overnight oatmeal, but this week I grabbed a couple big containers of SO Delicious coconut milk yogurt. And yesterday something awesome happened.
Pumpkin Chia Pudding Pie Vegan Breakfast Bowl
Last November, some friends from church made a huge batch of pumpkin butter and brought me a jar. I was saving it for something special, I had no idea what. Then when I was putting my breakfast together I had a wonderful idea. I could use the magic pumpkin pie-flavored spread to sweeten my plain, unsweetened yogurt! And sprinkle crushed cereal on top to simulate pie crust. YES!

Pumpkin Chia Pudding Pie Breakfast Bowl
1/2 C plain (or vanilla) unsweetened vegan yogurt
2 Tbsp pumpkin butter*
2 tsp chia seeds
1/2 C bran flakes, crushed

In a small bowl – or in an 8oz mason jar if you’re making it to go – combine yogurt, chia seeds, and pumpkin butter. You may choose to thoroughly mix in the pumpkin butter, or give a couple quick stirs to make swirls. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour so chia seeds have time to gel. I leave mine overnight.
When you’re ready to eat, sprinkle crushed bran flakes over the pudding, then commence consumption.

*If the extra sugar doesn’t bother you, you may increase the amount of pumpkin butter to make your pudding taste more like pie. You may also want to increase the chia seeds to make sure it still thickens properly.
If you prefer less sugar, you could use plain canned pumpkin. But that might make it taste more like baby food.

Do you do meals in a jar? What’s your favorite?

Week of Greek: Menu for a Greek Vegan Feast!

We made it through a whole week of Greek food with 2 Broke Vegans! Is everyone sitting back in elastic-waist pants now, rubbing your bellies? In case you missed a taste of this or that, scroll down to see each course. Just click the picture and you’ll be taken right to the recipe.

Beer Bread

Beer Bread

Tahinosoupa (Tahini Soup)

Tahinosoupa (Tahini Soup)

Lahanosalata (White Cabbage Salad)

Lahanosalata (White Cabbage Salad)

Dolmadakia (Stuffed Vine Leaves)

Dolmadakia (Stuffed Vine Leaves)

Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)

Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)

Soutzoukakia (Greek Meatballs)

Soutzoukakia (Greek Meatballs)

Fasolakia (Stewed Green Beans)

Fasolakia (Stewed Green Beans)

Yemista (Stuffed Vegetables)

Yemista (Stuffed Vegetables)

Halva (Semolina Sweet)

Halva (Semolina Sweet)

And don’t forget to read up on Where to Buy Greek Imports!

Thanks again to my co-hosts at 2 Broke Vegans for helping us feel at home in the beautiful country of Hellas, and a big thanks to everyone that joined us at the table 🙂 See you on the next trip!

Week of Greek: Halva (Semolina Sweet)

For our last course in our delicious Greek meal, I offer you these cute little halva cakes. Now, there can be some confusion as the name halva, or halawe, can also be used to describe an Arabic dessert made with tahini paste. It is altogether different! In this case, I’m talking about the Greek sweet made with fried semolina. There’s no baking for this dessert, it’s all done on the stovetop.

2015-7-17 Halva Semolina Pudding
I had a lot of fun with this one, not only making it, but serving it along side the bottle of ouzo my brother and I picked up in Greece – and those shot glasses are also from our trip! They gray ones are a beautiful reminder of our time on Tinos, a little island known for its marble resources (among other things).

2015-7-17 Halva Semolina Pudding2
When the semolina mixture has cooled, you can press it into a fancy bundt pan, or cupcake tin, or pretty much anything it won’t stick to. I went with the cupcake tin because it makes the perfect individual serving size.

2015-7-17 Halva Semolina Pudding3
The little cakes are soft, sticky and sweet, with plenty of cinnamon. The raw walnuts offset the sweetness just a little.

2015-7-17 Halva Semolina Pudding4
Nearly every restaurant in Greece provided a drink and something sweet at the end of the meal, free of charge. Sometimes it was as simple as fruit and a shot of raki, other times a pastry or ice cream and maybe a glass of wine. I think those Greeks are on to something, it’s the perfect ending to a meal – although halva with coffee would also be a wonderful way to begin the day, if you ask me.

Halva
1 C oil or melted margarine
2 C semolina
1 tsp cinnamon (or to taste)
2 1/2 C sugar (or less, to taste)
4 C water
optional: raw walnuts*

Put water and sugar together in a pot and boil for 10 – 15 minutes. Meanwhile in a large pan, combine oil and semolina and cook at medium high heat stirring continuously until the semolina has browned. Stir in cinnamon. Now very carefully add syrup to semolina – it will really start to bubble and steam up! I added mine slowly, stirring it in a little at a time. Continue to stir, and cook at medium heat another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the semolina becomes very thick. Remove from heat. Once cooled, press the semolina into a bundt pan or cupcake tin. Unmold the halva and, if desired, top with finely chopped walnuts.

Makes 10 – 12 cupcake-sized servings

*I soaked my walnuts for a few hours, then drained them and sprinkled them with just a touch of sugar and a shake or two of cinnamon before garnishing the halva. You can also just use plain old chopped walnuts, or press one whole walnut or pecan into the top of the halva for a simple embellishment.

Although this is [probably] my last recipe for Greek Week, please stay tuned to my facebook page where I will share one more recipe from my co-hosts, 2 Broke Vegans. Tomorrow I will also provide you with a list of Greek brands to be on the look out for during your Greek cooking adventures! And please, if you are feeling charitable, consider giving a gift to the people of Greece through International Orthodox Christian Charities. Thanks to the Jaharis Family Foundation, each dollar you donate will be matched.

Taverna on the Water
Now sit back and enjoy the view, sip your ouzo and savor the halva. I’m going to take a stroll along the beach. See you tomorrow!

Week of Greek: Stewed Green Beans (Fasolakia)

Wow, is it already day four of our magical Week of Greek?! IT IS, and that means we finally get to see what I was talking about when I mentioned Greek foods swimming in oil 😀 And yes, we will need a nice loaf of bread for the fasolakia, the green beans stewed in tomatoes.

And speaking of tomato sauce, check out the Soutzoukakia from 2 Broke Vegans – Greek meatballs made vegan with walnuts and mushrooms – trust me, the combination is superb! After we make the green beans, I’ll give you another bulking-up idea using the meatballs.

2015-7-16 Stewed Green Beans Fasolakia Giaxni
So for the beans, we start with tons of onion to really pack the flavor into this one,

2015-7-16 Stewed Green Beans Fasolakia Giaxni2
and season it simply with salt, pepper, and fresh parsley.

2015-7-16 Stewed Green Beans Fasolakia Giaxni3
And there it is – Greek gold!

2015-7-16 Stewed Green Beans Fasolakia Giaxni4
So slice up your favorite savory bread, preferably something rustic and crusty (yes, crusty is a good quality when it comes to bread!), and get ready to clean your plate.

Stewed Green Beans
2# fresh green beans, de-stemmed and cut or snapped into bite size pieces
1 C oil
2 C canned tomatoes*
3 to 4 onions, chopped
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
salt & pepper to taste

In a big pot, arrange two or three layers of onions with parsley, and beans on top. Add tomatoes, oil, salt and pepper. Cover pot and cook on low heat until tender.

This simple recipe could serve 8 as a side dish. And once again this is very similar to a Syrian dish, we serve the Syrian version over rice – that could stretch it to a main course for 6. Syrians also add meatballs, so by adding the soutzoukakia to the pot (after baking them) you can have a meal for 8 to 10! Add a side of Lahanosalata and you’re in business with another budget-friendly meal that just so happens to be vegan and gluten free.

The recipe is great as-is, but I did add double the tomatoes, and there are a couple other ways you could mix things up with beautiful results.
Alternatives
-Instead of layering onions & beans, saute the onions in the oil. When tender, but before they brown, add remaining ingredients.
-Add 2 Tbsp tomato paste to the canned tomatoes to make a nice sauce
-Remove the lid on the pot for the last 15 minutes of cooking to let some of the juice from the beans cook out and reduce the sauce

201368 old church
In Thessaloniki there was a beautiful little 15th century church nestled in between towering apartment buildings and storefronts covered in neon graffiti. I walked around it taking pictures,

201368 old church12
and suddenly my brother and I found ourselves at a little restaurant, ΤΑ Κουμπαρακια, which turned out to be our favorite restaurant in the city – we ate there three times!

2013615 fav2
There we had the most wonderful fasolakia, cut lengthwise with little bits of eggplant in the sauce. I can’t tell you how often I sit and dream of the day I’ll be back in Thessaloniki, sitting at my favorite restaurant, next to that lovely little church. But this will have to do for now.

What’s your dream vacation?