Monday, March 29, 2010

Holy Monday

Today I dyed eggs for Pascha.  I had the pleasure of onion skinning with my husband at Sprouts and then later at Albertson's with a young man from the produce department.  It was such a crazy thing to first request onion skins and then to peel onions in public.  Over 30 minutes we handled nearly every onion in the display until we had collected several inches worth in a large box.  At Albertson's, the poor kid from produce turned out to be a Russian Orthodox boy who had left the church and obviously felt bad about it.  What a weird and wonderful thing peeling onions turned out to be!  He was really struck by it too because his name is the patron of our church.  We talked about how traditions like this egg dying tied you to a particular place and gave you a context.  He asked me when Pascha was.  He told me about his mother who writes icons.  He told me how he and his brothers never wanted to go to Church with her.  He said when he was ready to settle down he would go back.  He seemed a bit home sick, forlorn.  

When I got home I promptly dropped and smashed my jar of sauce.  Mr. Flavius has been in the best mood lately!  Instead of being irritated and injured (I dropped it on his toe), he shooed me out the door to get more sauce rather than try to make do with something from the pantry.  I had already dyed a dozen eggs, so I grabbed one on my way out the door.   When I got back to the store he was stocking strawberries looking a bit lost in his thoughts.  I handed him an egg and wished him a blessed Holy Week and a fruitful Pascha.  He turned it over and over in his hands, examining it.  "It is just like the ones my mother made when I was little."  Pray for him, won't you?  His name is Maximus. 

Dying eggs with onion skins is not hard.  It is a simple thing to do.  All you need are:
  •  the skins of 15 or so large yellow onions
  • 2 tablespoons of white vinegar
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • vegetable oil
To make the dye:
Place onion skins, vinegar, and water in a pot over high heat.  Cover and bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain and reserve the liquid.  Toss the skins.

To make the eggs:
Place the eggs in a pot in a single layer.  Pour enough dye to cover the eggs.  Bring to a boil, cover and turn off the the heat.  Let the eggs steep for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon to a plate with paper towels. Let dry.  Gently rub with vegetable oil.  Take to church.   

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Wednesday and a Challenge!

Today is B.'s first birthday.  I am trying to figure out what to do about Lenten and fasting birthdays because we have 4 lucky winners at our house.  I adapted Martha Stewart's Darkest Crepe Cake for your fasting enjoyment. 

B. said his first phrase today: happy birthday!  It was amazing the girls were singing to him over and over to him, so he joined in.  Very the cute.

N. proposed a Challenge to his brother D.  

D. at 7 has tremendous anxiety where loose teeth are concerned.  For the past month his tooth has remained loose, but in place.  Yesterday, he whacked it on the slide at school (yowch!) and it became substantially looser, but still well attached.  So N. talked D. into biting a cover or a pillow (this is blurry) and began to pull the opposite side away and Voila!  The tooth is out.  Unfortunately, D. misplaced the tooth almost immediately and now the Tooth Fairy has a hunt.  Well, if she can stay awake, she has a hunt.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I am still waiting on pictures from the Hierarchical visit.  In the meantime, I will share with you the bread that I baked for Vladyka Jonah's visit.

The recipe is from, the only website exclusively devoted to Orthodox Christian Holy Bread. Thanks to my handy-dandy . . . Nutrimill (you thought: Notebook! didn't you?  Oh, you know you did.)  I was able to have fresh ground whole wheat and chickpea flours for this bread, which was a blessing because going 45 minutes across town in traffic to even find a Middle Eastern Grocery for chapati and besan flour was not going to happen.  

This past fall my heirloom rose bushes were unexpectedly loaded with beautiful, fragrant blossoms.  I jumped on the opportunity to make some rose water.  It is the only flavoring called for in this bread, but almond, vanilla, or orange would be appropriate as well.

Andrew Troth of Mediterra Bakehouse gave me excellent direction.  There is a crack that ran along the edges of some of my olive leaves and so I asked Andrew how to prevent that from happening next time.
The trick to decorative dough motifs on bread is to put the pattern on the bread after it has proofed, just before it goes into the oven. This keeps the decorative motif from shifting. To prevent cracking try a few little razor cuts along the edges of the decorative dough.
If you take a visit over to Mediterra's webpage there are the most wonderful photographs of their morning meditation in dough. It just calls to me.  There is something about bread that is so basic and humble and yet at the same time glorious.  How you can take a few modest ingredients and turn it into a soul satisfying delight is a mystery (or at least the beginnings, you need a priest for the soul satisfying part).  I know, some will scoff and say, "no, that's science."  Actually, science can only observe and try to explain the chemical interaction of the yeast and sugars fermenting making alcohol and CO₂, raising the flour and chains of gluten proteins into something that once heated to an internal temperature of approximately 190°F gives you a tasty comestible.  Others will point out that heat excellerates the activities of the yeasty-beasties (a very scientific term), causes the sugars to caramelize, steam introduced at the beginning of the baking yields a crisp crunch.  And don't forget oven spring!  Ok, maybe less mysterious, but it is still ripe with mystery to me.   Did you know it is mentioned in Scripture 217 times?

Monday, March 1, 2010

So the Metropolitan is Coming. . . Now What?

Metropolitan Jonah is coming.  This is wonderful news.  Many preparations have already begun in earnest to make ready for his pastoral visit.  It reminds me of something straight out of the Bible.   We are making ready with painting and trimming, cleaning and polishing and waxing.  The gold vestments will be sorted, washed and ironed and mended.  There is yard work, things to frame and stoops to mend.  The altar amd sacristy will be scrubbed and cleaned, painted and polished.  There are dishes to make and bread to bake.

Sadly, my family has been absent from these proceedings due to lingering ear infections, mysterious fevers, and conferences in far away lands (really, just Austin).

I started this post last week.  Metropolitan Jonah celebrated Divine Liturgy for us and it was wonderful.  Pictures, recipes, and more to come...