Monday, August 14, 2017

Quick & Easy Marinara Sauce

Looking for a delicious, easy, homemade sauce that tastes great without adding cheese?

Here ya go!

Quick & Easy Marinara Sauce
Quick and Easy Marinara Sauce

In a 2 Quart Saucepan, Saute
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Large Onion, Chopped
2 teaspoons Garlic (minced, or puree from a jar)
Add
2 Cans (15 oz each) Chopped Tomatoes with their liquid
Puree with an immersion blender to your desired texture
Then add
1 (8 oz) can Tomato Sauce
1 teaspoon Oregano
1/2 teaspoon Basil
1 Tablespoon Capers
1 (4 oz) can Mushrooms, Drained
Salt & Pepper to taste (I use a scant teaspoon Salt and a generous pinch of Pepper)

Simmer for 10-15 minutes to blend flavors.

Serve over Pasta

Large Batch Quick and Easy Marinara Sauce
(This is great for serving a larger group, or for preparing extra for the freezer)
In an 6-8 Quart Saucepan (sometimes called a Dutch Oven), Saute 
1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Large Onions, Chopped
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
2-3 Tablespoons Garlic (minced, or puree from a jar)
Add
1 #10 Can (or 7 15 oz Cans) Chopped Tomatoes with their liquid
Puree with an immersion blender to your desired texture
Then add
1 (15 oz) can Tomato Sauce
1 Tablespoon Oregano
2 teaspoons Basil
1/4 Cup Capers
3 (4 oz) cans Mushrooms, Drained
Salt & Pepper to taste (about 1 Tablespoon Salt, and 1/2 teaspoon Pepper is my preference)

Simmer for 20-30 minutes to blend flavors.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Greek Skillet Chicken

Greek Skillet Chicken
Skillet Chicken is my favorite method of making Chicken. Although I'm sure someone else somewhere has had the same idea (it's not earth shattering), it IS my own method. It has some definite advantages:

1) It cooks faster than large pieces
2) It thaws faster
3) It absorbs marinade better
4) The portion sizes are more adjustable.. Especially if you're serving several people, it means that one person isn't forced to take and waste more than they really want, while the person beside them is wishing for more. It also permits child-sized portions.
5) It's easier to tuck into a wrap the next day or add to a salad or a "bowl"
6) It's easier to use the leftovers as an additional ingredient for a single meat-eater of an otherwise vegetarian dish. I often have portions of this in the Freezer to add to a meal.
7) It's moist and flavorful. 

Greek Skillet Chicken
This is what I do. I usually buy large, skinless, boneless chicken breasts. The ones at our grocery that normally have the best price are about a pound each! Which means that there aren't many meat eaters who really want to eat a whole one! If smaller ones have a better price, I buy them : )

I slice them crosswise into slices about 1 cm thick.



I drop them into a plastic refrigerator container or zippered freezer bag, and then add my marinade. I usually put 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of Chicken per container. After adding the marinade, if I'm going to use it the same day, I put it in the fridge. Otherwise, I put it in the Freezer (after labeling, and dating the package, of course!)

A large Chicken Breast, sliced 1 cm thick
To use, (if frozen) put in fridge the day before you'll use it, so it can thaw.

Then, remove Chicken from marinade, and cook in a nonstick skillet over medium or medium high heat, until done. I add an extra spoonful or two of the marinade to the skillet, so the flavor cooks in better. It concentrates, then evaporates while cooking, then the meat starts to brown.

Greek Chicken Marinade

1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Minced Garlic
1 teaspoon Salt
Dash Pepper
1 teaspoon Dried Oregano

Of course, if you prefer you can use this marinade to marinate whole boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts and cook by your normal method. I sometimes do this with my electric indoor grill.

This can be served as a Chicken Dish to Accompany any of the several Vegan Meals below OR it can be served Souvlaki-style, inside a pita with Salad & (optional) Tzatziki, and Fries on the side. 

Tips for Dining with Vegetarians . . . .

This Chicken is great with any of the following:

Bulgur Pilaf ( Pourgouri )
Confetti Spaghetti
Greek Okra & Tomato Stew ( Bamies Yachni )
Greek Stuffed Veggies ( Gemista )
Greek Green Beans ( Fasolakia Yachni )
Mediterranean Chickpeas & Vegetables
Mushroom Kabobs, Grilled ( Manitarakia )
Orzo Pilaf
Greek Inspired Oven Fries
Rosemary Roast Potatoes in the Slow Cooker
Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Italian Lunchbox Salad 
Mediterranean Two Bean Salad
Mix & Match Italian Rice Salad
Tabouli
White Bean Salad

Greek Tahini Sauce

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Refreshing Diced Salad

Refreshing Diced Salad
This is, hands down, my favorite Veggie Salad. I've been eating it pretty much every day lately - I
keep a big container of it in the fridge for convenience.

I like it because it is simple, yet unique. Refreshing and special without the addition of unhealthy ingredients like bacon, cheese, oil or heavy dressings. Because the vegetables are diced, the flavors of all of the vegetables marry in a remarkable way that produces a different flavor than each vegetable has when served alone. And that means that simply a bit of salt brings out the flavor, without requiring the addition of the heavy ingredients that so many veggie salads use.

I try to chop an equal amount of each of the three vegetables, so the proportions below are just a guideline. 

In this salad - the vegetables themselves provide the flavor - and it's great!

This is a perfect side dish for any legume and rice dish, as well as a great side dish to add a splash of color and flavor to a typical meat and potatoes meal. 

Here's the recipe:

Refreshing Diced Salad
Mix together
2 Cups Cucumber, Diced in 1 cm cubes (about 1 Large)
2 Cups Tomatoes, Diced in 1 cm cubes (about 3 Romas)
2 Cups of Celery, Diced in 3 cm cubes (about 3 Stalks)
At this point, the salad can be stored in the refrigerator or served

At serving time, add to each portion
Salt to Taste
Caper Buds to taste (about 1 teaspoon for 1 1/2 cups of salad is my preference)

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Monday, July 10, 2017

July Vegan Meals for a Week

July Vegan Meals
In the heat of the summer, it's nice to have quick, easy meals that avoid turning on the oven. Here are a few of my favorites for serving in July. I'm offering a week's worth of ideas - you decide which day to serve which one : )











Day 1

In the heat of summer, if the weather is good, I make this on the porch in a slow cooker, so the house is not heated by the cooking : )

Greek Stuffed Veggies ( Gemista )

Day 2

Kale & Tomatoes with Tahini Sauce





Day 3


Hummus with Capers and Veggie Dippers


Breadsticks, Stove top for dipping in Hummus


Day 4

Curried Chickpeas over Rice




Day 5 (for that day that there's no time to cook)

Vacation Soup




Day 6

White Bean Salad




Vegan Mock Crab Cakes





Day 7

Mediterranean Chickpeas & Vegetables





This Week's Dessert Idea:

Monday, July 3, 2017

Why Xtra Math Didn't Work for Us . . . and What Did

Math Drill is incredibly important to Math Success!
I'm a firm believer in Math drill. 

My Mom was an Elementary School teacher who specialized in Math. She said that the secret of elementary math success lay in mastering drill - especially of addition - so that there was no hesitation, and the answers were automatic.

I, on the other hand, was taught "New Math." It was an educational catastrophe - and I'm pretty sure that Common Core math is the same thing with a new name. The focus was on math logic - which was good, but drill was considered unimportant. The theory was that if you knew the "why" behind the math, you could always calculate the answer - by counting, doubling, or some other "work around."

As a result, I became one of those students who tested well in math logic, but horribly in computation. Which meant that eventually I could do a formula perfectly, but still get the wrong answer because I made mistakes when doing simple tasks like adding 7+3, or multiplying 8x6!

By the time my Mom realized what had happened and tried to fix it, my math anxiety had become way too severe. 

Of course, when I decided what to study at University, half of the options were closed to me because, like so many American kids of my generation, I was "bad at math." I thought it was a condition, like dyslexia, that was simply the result of bad genes or whatever. I know of no great mathematician who made a habit of counting on his fingers while calculating multi-page equations!

I didn't realize that it was something I could fix!

Then, I started teaching my daughter, and learned that

I wasn't a victim of a "learning disability" but rather a victim of bad teaching.

When I began teaching my daughter, I also mastered those facts that I had never been able to master before.

I was determined that my daughter would have a better math education than I had, and better than what modern traditional schools offer.

She would learn her facts thoroughly, though drill, as well as learning the logic behind math.

She mastered number concepts, counting, and became fairly proficient - but a bit slow - at flash card early on.

So, we started a long relationship with Xtra Math to drill those math facts. We spent years trying. And it was VERY slow going, and proving to be very frustrating for both of us, too.

Every wrong answer, or slow answer brought instant negative feedback from the computer, intensifying her anxiety.

The more anxious she became, the more mistakes she made - and the more frustrated I got with her for not doing a good job! I remembered my Mom getting frustrated with MY math anxiety - and I forgave Mom for it all! I understood how she felt! ; ) And, I asked my daughter's forgiveness for my frustration. But, I still didn't know how to fix it.

Although my daughter was ahead of the curve on math logic, she was lagging in math drill (sound familiar?).

I thought that Xtra Math was ideal because it timed every question, and made sure that a child could not compensate for not knowing 8+3 by being really fast at 2+0. It seemed perfect.

At long last, after much difficulty and years of trying, she mastered Xtra Math addition.

Subtraction should have been easy - after all, subtraction is reverse addition - and she KNEW all the facts. But it wasn't. It, too, was taking months because of the anxiety produced by the program, and the temptation to guess in order to meet the time requirement.

Finally, I began to think about what my Mom, the math educator, had told me about Educational Psychology.
1) Children should ALWAYS give the right answer - never the wrong one. Otherwise the wrong one gets "stuck" in their heads! Repeating the RIGHT answer is the key to successful memorization.

2) Pressure is counter-productive, as it produces anxiety.

But, Xtra Math focused on speed before accuracy. Since the questions were timed for a 3 second response from the first day, the temptation was to guess and get a wrong answer. And answers that weren't speedy enough were "wrong." And, if a child got frustrated and guessed too many times, their scores were set back for several days, making it take even longer to overcome the hurdle (which has a good side, in teaching children not to throw a temper tantrum when frustrated - but still made the frustration even worse).

Finally, I went back to the age-old method of printing out drill pages - those pages of 100 questions that have to be done in 5 minutes. 

I told her to first focus on getting EVERY QUESTION RIGHT - no matter how long it took - and then we'd work on speed.

And I discovered that while on Xtra Math she had only been getting about 50% correct, on paper, she was getting a pretty consistent 100%

Then we worked on speed.

And, we bought a little prize to look forward to 

 - - from the thrift store (there has ALWAYS been a prize on offer for finishing a level - so that wasn't much of a change, but having the prize purchased and in the house was a great motivator!).

After getting the prize (a mechanical dog named Creampuff) it only took her 1 1/2 days to finish it!

And, in about 2 weeks - she beat the subtraction time!
100 questions - ALL correct - in well under 5 minutes!

The same SPEED as required by Xtra Math -but without the negatives.

So, while Xtra Math does work great for some kids (I'm not meaning to insult the program here, just offer my own experience) try some old fashioned paper drill pages if Xtra Math isn't a good fit for your kid.  You can find them at this link.

It just might be the secret to success for your child

So, to find some great FREE worksheets that WORKED FOR US - check out this link Great Math Worksheet Site

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Greek Souvlaki at Home

Greek Souvlaki
Greek Souvlaki - THE Greek Feasting Dish of summer - or perhaps of any season.


Souvlaki is traditionally made over charcoals outdoors, and requires advance marinating and threading onto skewers - so it can be a wee bit of extra work.

I've simplified this just about as much as anyone can simplify it!

I don't relish dealing with raw meat. So, I usually buy "Country Style Ribs" for this dish - or else the pre-cubed and sliced varieties (depending on prices). If I buy the "Country Style Ribs" - I only have to make a few cuts to turn them from strips into the traditional cubes. If it's pre-cubed, all the work is already done : )

Once I have the cubes, I put them in a Zippered Freezer Bag with the Marinade, and toss them in the freezer (unless I'm using them the next day - in that case I toss them in the fridge, in a plastic box to prevent drips)

Then, the day before I want to use them, I bring them down to the Fridge and thaw 24 hours. Then, I remove the meat from the marinade and discard the marinade. I thread the cubes onto skewers, and then I grill on an electric indoor grill till well-done, about 20 minutes on my grill. (We live in a neighborhood where charcoal grilling is illegal - if you are able to charcoal grill, you can use the same recipe, just grill over your charcoals!)

Souvlaki Marinade
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Garlic Salt (or to taste)
3/4 teaspoon Dried Oregano
A Few Dashes of Pepper

Souvlaki may be served with the following: 
Salad Made of Shredded Cabbage, Cilantro, perhaps some Lettuce, and Tomato
Tzatziki Sauce (Greek Yogurt Sauce)
Onion Wedges
Lemon Wedges
Pickled Peppers
French Fries  (or Greek Style Oven Fries)





Pita Bread (purchased or Homemade)


Tip for Dining with Vegans or Vegetarians:
Make Manitarakia for Vegans!



Greek Tahini Sauce:




For Vegetarians, Halloumi Cheese, Sliced 1/4" thick (1 cm) and grilled is a great option.


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