Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cardamom Bread: memories, thoughts and a recipe

One of my favorite treats at Christmas or Pascha is cardamom bread. It's been a favorite since I was little.

Before we were Orthodox we belonged to the EOC (Evangelical Orthodox Church). My mom had been part of the Campus Crusade for Christ movement (if I have my facts straight) and moved to Alaska to join her brothers. It was a group of churches in Alaska, Washington, California, Chicago, etc. Based in the home church idea trying to get back to basics and more liturgical. My dad was the pastor for our small home church and we would partake of communion in our home or in a neighbor's house. The bread that we ate every Sunday was cardamom bread. I won't ever forget it. It was sweet and had a flavor from heaven. When I was ten we joined the Orthodox Church of Antioch, we established a real Orthodox parish with a very tight knit community and though my dad was offered the priesthood, he declined after careful consideration.

The cardamom bread was traded in for actual Prosphora baked weekly by women in the parish. It did not have the sweet heavenly taste that our memorable braided bread did, but this was the bread of the Church.

The cardamom bread was still highly regarded in our community. It had special meaning to us. We had not discarded our past but brought it with us into our new Orthodox life. The cardamom bread loaves was baked by the dozen for special occasions and served as special treats. It was traded as a commodity at bake sales and given as gifts for Christmas.

Reading about the origins of cardamom bread it seems to come from Sweden and Finland. This makes sense, since many of us were only a few generations removed from settlers from those lands. My maiden name was Johnson and my grandparents are Fin-Swedes. I'm sure my family wasn't the only one in the church who was of Nordic decent. After all, this group of young people had chosen Alaska to put down roots and start families. Climate very similar to Sweden. It's funny to think about how the Antiochiocian Orthodox Church is the one who decided to allow hundreds of Swede Evangelicals into their very Arab dominated and very NON Evangelical church.

Our bishop is from the old land in Syria, he loves us, he takes good care of us white converts and asked us yesterday to raise up our children to become priests and bishops because we can't always get bishops from Syria. They are currently in a very turbulent war and the Christians have been scattered. He visits us here in Alaska every year, in the coldest time of year, during Christmas. The priest in our small parish is of Assyrian decent. His grandparents and father fled from Iran when his father was young. He loves us, he takes very good care of us white necks (there's not much sun up here). He is extremely well read and gifted with language, he teaches his children, and sometimes mine, the Aramaic language; that was the language that our Christ spoke when he walked this earth.

In the Greek tradition they have their Tsoureki and the Russians have their Kulich. Baked for Pascha (the Resurrection of Christ) full of milk, eggs, sugar and goodness. But those of us who had any childhood in an X - EOC parish still love a big hunk of cardamom bread on any day of the year. For me...especially on Christmas.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas.

And as we Orthodox say: Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Cardamom Bread from the St. John's Cookbook
-2 loaf recipe

1/2 c butter
2/3 c sugar -cream these together
2 eggs        -beat in eggs
add to the top of the creamed goodness but don't mix yet:
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 c dry milk
2 pkg yeast
2 cups flour
1 1/2 c warm water -mix a bit, let yeast proof
-mix together
3 1/3- 4 cups flour, gradually add in, make a smooth/soft dough. Kneed 'till smooth.
Place in greased bowl, rise 1.25 hours.
Punch and divide.
Make 2 braids, put on greased cookie sheet.
Rise 40 minutes.
Brush with milk, sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 375 for 20-25 min or 'till brown.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"What now mama" game

I started a game a long time ago with my kids when I want them to do a lot of work, happily, in a short time.

Here are the rules:

Mom brings a bag of candy like M n Ms, Skittles, Reese's Pieces, etc. (I have also used pennies.)

She declares a start to the game and calls all the children to her.

She declares that they shall do as you say. If they do as you say, they come back to mom and say, "what now mama? (mom?)" and you thank them with words and hand them a piece of candy. Then you give them another task.

I have 6 kids so this can get chaotic. I added another rule last time.

If they interrupt anyone (you or another sibling) they shall play the game with zero rewards.

I will typically do some fast and furious tiding up this way. Our kitchen island is 6'x6'. VERY large and get's VERY full of junk. Also good for tiding up living rooms and dining rooms, etc. Especially places where you know what goes where but you don't want to do all the running around to put it all away.

It usually only lasts for 45 minutes or so. I start to run out of things to tell them to do and it hurts my brain to think of so many things so fast.

Some of them stash the candy for when they are finished and some eat it right away.

They like this much better than the non-candy version which I do use sometimes. I will pick one or two and nominate them for the "what now mama game with no candy". They are basically my slave 'till I tell them, "thank you, you can go." They really don't seem to mind that too much. They really need to know when the end will be, then they can cope with it much better.

The main purpose is to get things cleaned up right away, but also to get the kids in the habit of being polite, saying thank you and making them ask if you need help.

It's easier than beating them with a broom...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Silly Saturday

...just a few things from today.

-7am oldest thinks she has to puke, she doesn't, we go back to bed
-took kids to choir practice
-had girlfriend over for a short chat
-got stood up by a customer
-customer called back, he wants to meet me in 7 minutes at the gas station
-bailed on friend to run to said customer to meet him on time
-said customer decided he couldn't pay me all the money he owed and paid only half
-I let him get away with it
-picked up my nephews
-dropped them off at home and went to get my book I forgot at choir practice
-got home and heard something next to me, I saw something move and freaked out, it was one of our cats, she had stowed away in the van
-ate a gingerbread cookie, first "meal of the day"
-got a call about our baby crib
-asked husband to get baby crib ready
-got upset
-husband hugged me
-husband solved the problem
-got out split pea soup of the freezer for dinner, thawed it
-ate 2nd meal of the day, yes another cookie
-called a bunch of customers who owed me money to make up for earlier
-lady came to pick up crib for a 15 year old mother
-split pea soup is actually refried beans, kids ate beans and chips for dinner
-close by customer came over to pay his bill
-took kids and nephews to church
-home again, home again, jiggity jig
(maybe I should feed myself proper food now)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Salted Chocolate Caramels (with goat milk)

Yesterday it finally REALLY SNOWED at our house. I wasn't sure if we still lived in Alaska this winter. But now we're actually in real winter and not in this limbo state of fake winter/fake fall brown ugliness. I was having a hard time getting my head into the Christmas spirit where I go crazy in the kitchen and all I want to do is bake and sew.

I am not going to re-invent the wheel for this blog. I'm going to re-post the one I used and turned out a perfect chocolaty gooey gourmet tootsie roll with salt on top.

Please let me know if the link quits or won't work, I copied down the recipe so I can re-post it.

Goats for Gods Glory: Salted Chocolate Caramel

Caramels aren't as hard as I thought they would be. I wrapped mine differently than they did.

Bing Crosby was there too, he helped.

Wishing you and yours a white Christmas too.