Saturday, November 27, 2010

Kvass Giveaway from FOOD RENEGADE!

Kvass or kvas (from Old East Slavic квасъ, kvasŭ, meaning "yeast" or "leaven"[1]; today, in Bielarusian: квас,kvas, сиривець, siriviets; Lithuanian: gira; Russian: квас, kvas; in Ukrainian: квас, хлібний квас or сирівець,kvas, khlibnyy kvas or syrivets; Polish kwas; meaning "acid" in the 16th century[2]), sometimes called a bread drink in English[3], is a fermented beverage made from black or regular rye bread. The colour of the bread used contributes to the colour of the resulting drink. It is classified as a non-alcoholic drink by Russian standards, as the alcohol content from fermentation is typically less than 1.2%.[4]. 
(from Wikipedia)

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon is full of interesting information on this health elixir prized by Eastern European, Russia, and other Slavic countries.  I have been wanting to make some, but our tropical heatwave had made that impossible up until recently (things ferment too quickly when your house sits at 78°F all day).  Thankfully the Gulf Stream has split off and we are now freezing our buns off (all you, Yankees, are laughing your buns off right now.  I just know it :)) So soon I will be fermenting sauerkraut and making kvass.  

In the meantime head over to Food Renegade and check out her Kvass giveaway!  I never seen such a product down South, but maybe a change is gonna come as naturally probiotic rich beverages grow in demand.

from The Food Renegade:
Like kombucha, kvass is an ancient fermented beverage known for promoting optimal health. First mentioned in Old Russian Chronicles in 989, kvass is the most common non-alcoholic beverage drunk in Slavic countries. It has been said that throughout its history, it has (in some places and times) been more popular than water. Visit any major city in any Slavic country today, and chances are you’ll see kvass vendors on the street.
Like beer, Kvass can turn quite foamy, particularly when made from rye. Veggie kvass ferments tend to simply be fizzy. A refreshing thirst-quencher, a tonic for digestion, a probiotic, and a powerful detoxifier, kvass has deserved its prominent place in Slavic cultures.
Head on over for a chance to win.  She has 8 ways to enter.
They look so tempting and refreshing!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Akathist Hymn: Glory to God for All Things

Fr. Stephen of Glory to God for All Things has this posted.  It is so moving and beautiful I could not help, but to repost.  Please pay Fr. Stephen's blog a visit as it is much more laudable and worthy of your time than my pitiful scribblings.

Everlasting King, Your will for our salvation is full of power. Your right arm controls the whole course of human life. We give You thanks for all Your mercies, seen and unseen: For eternal life, for the heavenly joys of the Kingdom which is to be. Grant mercy to us who sing Your praises, both now and in the time to come. Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

I was born a weak, defenseless child, but Your angel spread his wings over my cradle to defend me. From birth until now, Your love has illumined my path, and has wondrously guided me towards the light of eternity. From birth until now the generous gifts of Your Providencehave been marvelously showered upon me. I give You thanks, with all who have come to know You, who call upon Your Name:
Glory to You for calling me into being.
Glory to You, showing me the beauty of the universe.
Glory to You, spreading out before me heaven and earth, like the pages in a book of eternal wisdom.
Glory to You for Your eternity in this fleeting world.
Glory to You for Your mercies, seen and unseen.
Glory to You, through every sigh of my sorrow.
Glory to You for every step of my life’s journey,for every moment of glory.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

O Lord, how lovely it is to be Your guest. Breeze full of scents — mountains reaching to the skies — waters like a boundless mirror, reflecting the sun’s golden rays and the scudding clouds. All nature murmurs mysteriously, breathing depths of Your tenderness. Birds and beasts of the forest bear the imprint of Your love. Blessed are you, mother earth, in your fleeting loveliness, which wakens our yearning for happiness that will last forever in the land where, amid beauty that grows not old, rings out the cry: Alleluia!

Corn Syrup Free Marshmallows

Yes, you can make them at home!
Every year since I have had children old enough to ask for hot cocoa I have made marshmallows.  They are one of only two candies I make.  The other being Modjeskas, which are really just caramel wrapped marshmallows (but are they ever addictive).
It seems that the whole country is trying to kick the corn syrup habit and our family is no exception.  It really cannot be healthy to eat so much corn anyway, regardless of its multivalence of forms and array of talents.  I took the liberty of modifying Martha's recipe to suit our needs and I have to say that I am pleased with the results.  I doubled this recipe and it worked like a charm.  If you do double it use a Bosch, your Kitchen Aid would float away on a hot syrupy river.  I used honey, but any syrup would do in its stead.

1 box of Knox gelatin (4 pkgs total)
1½ c cold water divided
3 cups of sugar (you can use raw sugar or organic sugar, but not sucanat or rapadura, it must be sugar of some variety)
1¼ c honey or agave nectar
½ t. sea salt
2 t. vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste.  So yummy!)
powdered sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment add gelatin and ¾ c cold water.

In a large heavy bottom pot, place the rest of your ingredients except vanilla: sugar, water, honey, and salt. Bring to a boil. continue to cook until it reaches 234°F-240°F on a candy thermometer (the soft ball stage).

Turn the mixer on low and pour hot syrup in a continuous stream into the mixer. Be careful. Raise the speed of the mixer slowly, so as not to slosh it all over the place. Raise the speed until it is on high. The syrup will go from a gold or tan to a off white and finally a winter white (sugar and corn syrup yield a bright white confection, this is less white, but still very white). It will take approximately 15 minutes. 

When you have a thick, white shiny taffy-looking stuff add your vanilla.
In a 11x13 pyrex dish (greased well), pour the marshmallow creme. Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar and set overnight. Cut into squares 12 hours later and dip in powdered sugar. 

Store in an air tight container, best within 2 days, but we eat them as long as they last.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Fast Is Upon Us...

I am not a creature of habit.  Actually, quite the contrary.  I create more chaos in any attempt at a routine than anyone I know.  Therefore I am grateful (albeit more reluctantly at some time more than others) for those things that force me out of my entropic repose (because, lazy is my middle name) and into a semblance of a routine.  The kids' school does this.  Of course the first month is sheer panic and havoc for me, but we get there somehow.  My milk co-op does this.  I have to be back before a certain hour so I have to plan my Tuesday carefully and actually act on those plans.  Church does this.  Having a set place to be every Sunday and then some, gets me out amongst people, looking and acting civilized (in addition to all the attendant spiritual benefits).  But more than all of those, the Church Calendar does this.  All the fasts and the feasts have created a spiritual rhythm in my life that always calls me back from wherever I have wandered or gotten stuck.  I get stuck a lot.

The calendar that the Church Fathers set out for us in their holy wisdom, reminds us. Go to confession.  Come to vigil.  Remember the saints.  Prepare for the feast.  Bring your baskets (Pascha), bring your first fruits (Holy Transfiguration), remember your oil (Pascha), your salt, your candles (Presentation of Jesus at the Temple), your jars of water (Theophany), and bless your herbs and flowers (Dormition).  Bless your house (between Theophany and Cheesefare Sunday), bless your many wheeled things (Holy Prophet Elijah), bless your herds, and bless your neighbors and the poor (the feast of St. Phanourious).  Remember to fast.  Repent!  Prepare for the Feast!

I saw a comment on Facebook this week that seem to poo-poo the idea of fasting as a legalism, possibly as something archaic, a superstition.  I'm certain that this was stated in all piety.  I don't know the faith of the individual who drew this conclusion.  I thought about this comment and wished that I spent more time with the Scriptures, more time in my prayer corner, more time in front of the icons, more time in Church, more time repenting the junk yard of sins that I manage to rack up against my salvation.  Despite my wishing, there is no plan to make these things happen, there is just poor, pitiful me, scatterbrained and running like hell to thing to thing to thing.  And so for this reason I like the fast.

During the seasons of fasts, I do stop.  I do plan.  I search the calendar (both parish and Church) for ways to participate more fully.  I make a greater effort to find a way into confession, to vespers, and to Great Vigil.  I am more free and able to say no to parties, activities, and extra school functions.  During the fasts, I find peace in not only the simplified routine, but in simple obedience.  In that obedience we find our salvation.

Does this make sense?

God did not make me a crusader.  He did not make me a pillar among women.  He did not give me great authority or terrible wisdom.  He made me a a fitful, funny thing that grows best with extra support, like a great untrained tomato plant with heavy fruit.  The Lord knows what a mess I am so He does not leave me to my own devices.  Were He to abandon me any fruit I managed to bear would rot or drop off prematurely.  So He has staked out my boundaries and trained me how I should grow and for this I give thanks.

Make ready, O Bethlehem: let the manger he prepared, let the cave show its welcome. The truth has come, the shadow has passed away. Born of a virgin, God has appeared to men, formed as we are and making godlike the garment He has put on. Therefore Adam is renewed with Eve and they call out, "Your good pleasure has appeared on earth to save our kind."

-St Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Angel Lush Cake Revisited

It has been far too long since I have brought something to our weekly church coffee hour besides greedy eyes and empty bellies.  This week Mr. Flavius asked if we could make something to end the shuffle o'shame (self-inflicted since no one knows who brings what).  I generally have tried to make main courses, but due to financial constraints I was forced to think outside of the box.

Which oddly enough, led me to a box, several boxes actually, and a few cans as well.  Apparently when people look for thrifty potluck recipes it lands them smack dab in the middle of processed food from a box territory.  And while that is fine, I just do not feel like that $1 package of Cool Whip and 99¢ package of vanilla pudding are really saving me all that much money and are shorting me on quality for sure.  On the other hand, store bought Angel Food Cake is totally worth my money, because 1) I do not possess the proper pan and 2) I am looking to maximize my easy moments these days.

I substituted Italian pastry cream (which you could substitut your favorite homemade vanilla pudding recipe, but this is one I make often) for the instant pudding and whipped cream for the tubs of Cool Whip.  What I ended up with was a lovely, thrifty sweet potlucky treat.  I hope you will try it.

Italian Pastry Cream
Prep time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

6 tbsp. AP flour
3/4 c. sugar
2 c. of milk
6 yolks
1 tbsp of your desired flavoring (as fancy or not fancy as you like: vanilla, cognac, rum, orange liqueur, brandy, Soho, Kahlua ...)
a pinch of salt

Reserving the flavoring and 1/2 cup of milk, place all ingredients in a medium sauce pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously or use a stick blender, until the yolk and flour have completely combined.  With a whisk or a silicon spatula, stir frequently, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent the custard from scorching.  When the custard begins too thicken noticeable, remove from heat and stir vigorously (I use the stick blender here as well).  When it looks like a pot of thick pudding, your done!  Feel free to return to heat as necessary to continue thickening the custard.  Slow and steady is far better than quick and scorched.
When your custard is ready, strain through a fine mesh sieve and place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the custard and leave it to cool to room temperature before refrigerating.  The plastic will prevent a skin from forming on your custard.  You can also sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar on top, but I find it thins the custard over time.

**If you are in a hurry, chill over an ice bath (TIP!: add a goodly amount of salt to your ice water to speed up the process.  It will cut your time by half).

Whipped Cream

1 pint of heavy cream

In the bowl of an stand mixture (or using an electric hand mixture), pour the cream.  Using a whisk attachment, turn the mixture on low speed until bubble form on the surface of the cream.  Slowly turn up the speed, a little bit at a time as you watch the volume of the air increase.  When your cream has soft peaks and hills, turn off the mixer.  Pay attention, because otherwise you'll have churned butter!

Angel Lush Cake
Time to Assemble: >15 minutes

1/2- 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple
1 recipe of pastry cream or 2 cups of vanilla pudding
3 cups of whipped cream
2 Angel Food Loaf Cakes- sliced 3/4" thick
1- 20 ounce can of mandarin oranges
1 box of raspberries

Fold the whipped cream and crushed pineapple into the custard.   In a large 9x13 casserole, place slices of angel food cake in a single layer.  Cover with half of the pineapple mixture.  Add the second layer of angel food cake slices.  Cover with remaining pineapple mixture.  Top with mandarin slices and raspberries (or any fruit of your choosing, peach or apricot halves, pineapple rings, citrus suprêmes, lychees and kiwi, strawberries, instant espresso powder and cocoa. . .).  Let your creative juices flow!  

Sorry for no picture, I was running like a crazy woman this morning.  I am making it again for my girls who missed out while they were at the Grands.  I'll shoot away then.