A Greek’s Guide to Sesame Seed Candy (Pasteli)

Christmas day is past but we still are still celebrating in our house and will be until Epiphany.  I finally got the popcorn garland finished today and put it on the tree. As usual I was a bit of a mad woman trying to cook and bake and sew and clean, host parties, go to parties and do every other activity that I do in preparation for Christmas. Right now I am enjoying the fruits of my labor by eating left overs, sleeping in and listening to Christmas music non-stop.

For Christmas gifts, our family typically assembles a few homemade goodies for family and friends.  This year I decided to try my hand at one of my all time favorite foods.  It is a Greek candy called Pasteli . I just learned the official name but I grew up eating these out of my Yiayia’s candy dish.  When I moved away she would send me boxes in little care packages and snacking on theses sweet candies sustained me through many an exam and night on call.

As far as candies go they are reasonably healthy. The version I grew up with and attempted to make contained only honey and sesame seeds. Others may contain sugar, nuts like pistachios and spices like cinnamon and ginger. The preparation is relatively simple and requires no baking or special equipment.  The trick, which I haven’t mastered yet is getting the consistency just right. You can enjoy them anyway but I want mine to be crunchy.  For my Christmas baking I made three batches. The first came out perfectly crisp, just like I remembered them. My next two stayed chewy, still good but a little messier to serve and eat. Substituting some of the honey for sugar (something I’m not willing to do yet) may help give a crunchier end product.    Still even my batches that didn’t come out just right were a big hit with guests and this will likely become a new staple for sweet snacking in my house.  Here is the quick and easy recipe.

 

Sesame Seed Candy (Pasteli)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup sesame seeds

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey

 

A Greek's Guide to Sesame Seed Candy (Pasteli)

 

Directions

  1. Lay a piece of parchment paper on the counter, coat it with a thin layer of butter or oil.
  2. Toast sesame seeds over medium heat until the color changes to a slightly golden brown but do not burn. Set them aside.
  3. In a small sauce pan warm honey, bring it to a boil and cook it over medium/high heat for 2 minutes, stir so it doesn’t burn.
  4. Add seeds to honey and cook  for 10 minutes, stirring to prevent scorching, until the mixture takes on an even deeper golden brown color.  Longer cooking should yield a crispier candy where shorter cooking should give a softer candy.
  5. Pour hot seeds and honey onto the parchment paper.  Place another sheet of parchment paper over top. With seed mixture sandwiched between two layers of parchment paper roll with a rolling pin until candy is about a quarter inch thick.
  6. Allow to cool.
  7. While still slightly soft but mostly cool transfer to a cutting board and slice into squares or strips.
  8. Once completely cool store in an air tight container layered with parchment paper in a cool dry place. If you want to store for more than a week consider switching to the fridge or freezer.

Enjoy this tasty and healthy Greek treat.
Opa!

A Greek's Guide to Sesame Seed Candy (Pasteli)

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

 

 

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On meeting God at The Table

 

Where do you go to meet with God. Thoughts from the Table. Liturgy of Life Reading group, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

 

On slow mornings I sip my tea, sit at the breakfast table and listen to the dreams of a four year old. As we finish our toast  I pull out a book of Bible stories, we read and then say our morning prayers.  Today we came to a story about Moses going up Mt. Sinai to meet with God.

God’s presence descends on the mountain, consumed with smoke and crashing thunder. The people are trembling with fear.  Moses and 70 elders ascend to worship and offer a sacrifice.  Then something even more amazing happens.  They see God,

“and they saw the God of Israel.  There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.”

And then these guys, surrounded by all this greatness, seeing God with their own eyes, the earth around them quaking, they sit down and share a meal.

 

“. . . they beheld God, and ate and drank.” (Exodus 24)

 

Not far back we were reading about Abraham and three visitors who come as angels representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   Abraham recognizes them as the Lord and before they say a word he has his wife baking bread and his servant slaughtering a calf.  They sit down and eat.

 

Is it possible that something as ordinary as eating could be crucial to our spirituality?

 

Food is central to so many stories of the Bible. Sin comes into the world when Eve eats the apple, God’s first gift after the fall is the flesh of animals for food, worship for centuries is primarily through the slaughtering and offering of animals which are then eaten, dietary restrictions are a central part of the practice of Judaism, God declares His grace for His people through the Passover feast, He demonstrates his faithfulness by feeding them with manna, Christ’s first miracle is turning water into wine, and His final time with the disciples before his crucifixion is a feast called The Last Supper.  In His death and resurrection we see the redemption of eating as we partake of His body and blood in the Eucharistic feast.

 

Yet food in our culture has been reduced to fuel, something to quiet our grumbling bellies and get us through our next task.  Its’ preferred form is a to-go box or better yet liquefied into a smoothie or squeeze pouch.  We understand it by its’ most basic nutritional elements, carbs, protein and fat, devoid of any value in its wholeness.  The traditions around preparation and consumption of food have nearly vanished from our society.

 

I don’t have any genius revelations here, only the observation, that if our Christian traditions or history mean anything to us then we may want to revisit food and I don’t just mean taking another glance at the doughnut table during coffee hour.  As Christians we believe that all of the world exists as a communication of God and that in offering what we receive back to God we are drawn deeper into Him.

In the preparation and consumption of our meals we partake of God and His gifts to us.  Of course this is still true if we are microwaving a frozen pizza.  It’s not that any one food or style of eating is necessarily holier than the other. But our pace of life and even our willingness to eat food in isolation or that isn’t carefully prepared, nutritious or even tasty, is affecting our physical health and is perhaps limiting our experience of God’s grace.

What does it look like to submit our food choices and our eating habits to God’s authority? How would we cook or eat differently if Christ was physically dining with us? (Because of course He is. He dwells in you and in me).

In a world that is overheating, with red faced politicians spewing hateful messages, with bombed cities and homeless refugees, with our own mind boggling schedules it may feel insignificant to spend an hour drinking a cup of tea or preparing a loaf of bread. But in the swirling haze, in the trembling and quaking, in our deepest fears, sitting down at the table and eating together may be the very place to begin to meet with our God.

 

 

This post was inspired by my current read, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.by Barbara Kingsolver as part of the Liturgy of Life Reading Group series. We would love for you to join us.

 

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

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A Tribute to Sourdough in Seven Easy Recipies

While most of the country is enjoying the bounty that the end of summer brings our farmers markets are bare and our fields empty.  I’ve been watching you harvest pears with a watery mouth and pangs of jealous.  September in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas is our least productive time.

But our time will come.

In fact while the rest of the country prepares for winter we are planting.  In another few months when the north has long digested it’s last ripe peach we will be hauling in vine ripened tomatoes.  But for the moment we are hungry and stepping outdoors still feels like entering a giant oven.

The solution, of course, is to stay inside and bake in a real oven, with the air on.

A tribute to Sourdough in 7 recipes from Liturgy of Life

Last year ago a friend introduced me to baking with sourdough.  Prior to her instructions sourdough sounded like a code word for an ancient mystery food that I was sure would be impossible to use.   I heard rumors that it was alive, and even worse, needed to be fed?  I was intimidated.

At that time I didn’t know that until the 1950’s nearly all bread in America was baked with sourdough.  The invention of commercially produced yeast caught on for it’s ability to raise bread quickly and more consistently than household starters but millions of loaves had been and are still being baked without it.

Sourdough for all practical purposes is a pot of water and flour that has become inhabited by natural bacteria and yeast.  When it is mixed in with new flour and water the sourdough starts to eat and begins turning that flour into an edible treasure.

Sourdough has several advantages over conventional yeast breads.  First and most important is the flavor.  Fermentation (fancy work for a specific type of digestion) of the sugars in flour by the cultures in the sourdough create new and unique flavors which will vary from starter to starer. This process also reduces both the sugar level and gluten level in wheat products. While bread leavened with sourdough still does not qualify for your low carb or gluten free diet it is notably easier to digest for people with sensitivities.  Sourdough also helps to break down phytic acid ( a naturally occurring substance in wheat known to make digestion difficult) and helps to release micro-nutritients making them more available for us to digest. Plus sourdough stays fresh longer and the flavor actually improves as it sits on the counter for a few days.

Sourdough has its particularities and the process of baking  does take longer but it isn’t any harder than any other type of bread baking.  My starter only needs to be fed once every three weeks, so I simply bake every three weeks and make three loaves of bread and stick them in the freezer.  At that time I can also feed my starter extra if I want to do any other baking. So here are some ideas to get you inspired.

 

Top 7 favorite sour dough recipes:

  1.  Make your own sourdough starter: It is not as hard as it might sound, or buy one here.
  2. Basic Sourdough Bread: This isn’t actually the recipe I use. Mine is a hand me down photo copy, but honestly this one is simpler and I might try it next time.
  3. Pancakes: These are the best. First of all these are the only pancakes I’ve been able to consistently cook without them burning or sticking. They are light and fluffy and don’t leave you feeling over stuffed like conventional pancakes. It is worth having a sourdough starter just for these. I use butter instead of Olive Oil as this recipe calls for and I don’t add water, but I suppose it depends on how thick your sourdough starter is.  I usually make extra and stick some in the freezer.
  4. Biscuits: This first recipe is for a long ferment, which means you have to plan ahead but you get more of the benefits of sourdough.  This recipe doesn’t include a ferment time, they are fast, easy and delicious.
  5. Pizza Dough:  Easy and consistently good. I also make these ahead, bake them for 5 minutes or so and then freeze to use when we want to make a quick pizza.
  6. Crackers: Easy and always a treat.
  7. Pasta: Making your own pasta sounds like a gourmet food, but seriously it is only three ingredients. A pasta maker is great if you have one but you can also roll and cut rustic noodles by hand. I dry them and then store them in the back of my fridge.

 

Let me know what you think and send me a picture of your latest sourdough creation!

 

This post was inspired by my current read, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.by Barbara Kingsolver as part of the Liturgy of Life Reading Group series. We would love for you to join us.

 

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

 

For more blogs featuring lists of 7’s check out this link up.

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Dehydrator Kale Chips, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver. Liturgy of Life Readiang Group

I never thought I would feel this way about kale A quick and easy kale chip recipe inspired by Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I was starting to think that the purchase of my food dehydrator was a mistake. One can only eat so many raisins and banana chips.

That was until kale chips entered my life.  Thank you Barbara Kingsolver for inspiring me to eat my greens (we are reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in our reading group right now and we would love for you to join us).

 

And it’s no secret this book has sent me into a bit of a health food kick  ( I tend to go to extremes so watch out for the chocolate binge that will come in a few months).

I’ve been devouring books and lectures on nutrition and natural medicine.  And while opinions vary on a lot of subjects the place that everyone can agree is that we need to eat more greens.

 

Not only do American’s have a diet astounding low in vegetables we also grow in nutrient depleted soil so that even when we eat our veggies we aren’t getting the nutrition that our grandparents would have eating the same plate 50 years ago.

 

It turns out that there is a simple remedy to a variety of health problems,  cut out the junk food and eat more green. And of the greens Kale stands out for having a rich range of vitamins and anti-oxidants and being relatively easy to grow making it reasonably affordable.  This recipe is a simple way to cut out snack foods (often an area where we tend to pile in extra sugar) and replace with one of the healthiest foods available at our local grocery store or farmers market.

 

These chips are easy to make and we enjoy them as much as popcorn or potato chips (okay so my husband may not totally agree with that statement but he does like the Kale Chips and my daughter and I can’t even wait to get them off the dehydrator before we start munching).

A quick not about baking these in the oven. You totally can do it, just set your oven down as low as it will go and check them regularly. This will work though I find that they don’t cook as evenly, some parts were burnt others too soggy and you miss out on the real crisp and crunch that makes this an irresistible snack.

I have this food dehydrator, it has served me well and is less expensive than buying a pound of of organic kale chips on amazon, if you had any intention of making kale chips a part of your regular life (I know I’m sure this is something you have been dreaming about for months) than it will definitely save you money.

 

Quick and Easy Dehydrator Kale Chips

You will need:

Dehydrator Kale Chips, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver. Liturgy of Life Readiang Group

Food Dehydrator (or oven, baking sheets, parchment paper)

Kale (I buy the organic bags already washed and chopped, this is part of what makes this such a simple go to recipe for me)

Olive oil

Salt

Directions:

Wash and dry kale if needed. If not already chopped remove the stems at this point, chop if desired.

Toss with oil. Just enough to very lightly coat the leaves.

Dehydrator Kale Chips, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver. Liturgy of Life Readiang Group

Sprinkle with salt. Start with a  pinch or two, toss and taste. Remember it will taste saltier as it dehydrates.

I spend a few minutes tossing the kale, working the oil and salt into the leaves.  At this point I pick through my pre-chopped kale and remove big stems.

Dehydrator Kale Chips, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver. Liturgy of Life Readiang Group

Spread kale into food dehydrator or baking sheet.  Follow your dehydrator’s instructions or bake at your oven’s lowest setting. My dehydrator puts veggies at 135 degrees. These take between 2-4 hours. I’ve never had them burn even when I’ve left them on a little longer. Cooking time will depend on your temperature and humidity.

 

Remove once they are crispy. Store in air tight container (though we usually eat most of ours before we can put them away.)

Dehydrator Kale Chips, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver. Liturgy of Life Readiang Group

This post is part of our Reading Group series. Right now are reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. We would love for you to join us.

 

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

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