Creamy Leek & Potato Soup With Beans

Let’s end the year with a recipe:

4 large leeks – greens removed and finely chopped

4 potatoes peeled, quartered and sliced

3T olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

6 C water

1/4 C miso, mild

salt and freshly milled pepper

1 can cannellini beans drained and rinsed

Soak leeks in a bowl of water once chopped to remove dirt.  Heat olive oil in a large stock pot.  Add leeks, garlic and potatoes and cook covered over low heat until softened (about 10 minutes).  Add the water and salt and bring to a boil.  Simmer partly covered for 30 minutes.  Process 1/2 the soup in a blender until creamy then return to pot.  Add miso (optional).  First, melt it in a bowl with broth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add beans and stir well.  Serve hot.

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December 31st, 2011 by Fr. Greg

Blessings

Every so often some inconvenience in our lives comes up and it serves as a reminder of how good we really have it.  The freak storm at the end of October left our house without power for six days and made me realize how much I take things like lights and refrigerators for granted.  Something similar happened early this morning.  A water main broke nearby – read about it here – and, while it was fixed several hours later, we still don’t have potable water – everything coming out of the tap is rusty.  Decent water is another one of those things we take for granted.  We had a loud and wild storm last night, and if anything was to happen I figured we would lose power, but the water thing (I have no idea if it was storm-related) is an interesting wrinkle.

Below is the picture of the public works guys fixing the water main.  Check out the old trolley tracks that were buried and were, at least for today, once again visible:

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December 22nd, 2011 by Fr. Greg

Beneful? Not Even Close

I had a fun visit today to Pets Gone Healthy, a pet store on the Marlborough/Northborough border owned by Sts. Anargyroi parishioner Sandie (for a nice article on Sandie and the store click here).  PGH specializes in organic and natural stuff for pets – sort of a food movement for animals.  Those of us who are into the health and healthfulness of what we put into our bodies no doubt should extend this to our pets as well.  Sandie showed me a very scary thing – the ingredient list for Beneful Healthy Radiance, a dog food which purports to be healthful and the right thing to do for your dog.  The ingredient list is a horror show – I will post it below – but just to pick a few things: Salmon, supposedly the featured ingredient, is way down on the list.  Corn is first (see the movie Food, Inc.).  There is also meat meal (yikes) and several artificial colors which wreak all sorts of havoc.  We often speak of eating “healthy” food – by this we really mean “healthful” food, which is food that is good for you – healthy food is food that is not diseased.  In this case, the food is neither healthful nor healthy.

Sandie filled me in on the epidemic of pet obesity, which is a very real problem that mirrors the larger problem of American obesity.  Surely the well-intended use of dog food like Beneful (the name is, I assume, meant to invoke the word beneficial) is a contributing factor.

Here is the ingredient list (emphasis mine):

INGREDIENTS
Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), salmon, rice flour, soy flour, sugar, propylene glycol, meat and bone meal, water, tricalcium phosphate, soybean oil, animal digest, salt, phosphoric acid, sorbic acid (a preservative), potassium chloride, dried carrots, dried green beans, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, calcium propionate (a preservative), choline chloride, Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, added color (Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 2), ferrous sulfate, DL-Methionine, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium carbonate, copper sulfate, Vitamin B-12 supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite.

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December 21st, 2011 by Fr. Greg

Fun At The Icon Museum

This is a picture of the girls decorating Christmas ornaments at the Museum of Russian Icons in nearby Clinton (about 12 miles door-to-door from Sts. Anargyroi).  Last Saturday was “Family Day” at the museum and it was pretty cool – in addition to the usual exhibits there were ornament and cookie decorating stations as well as story readings and tours.  Our visit was partially a reconnaissance mission – next year we will definitely make this a church outing for our youth.

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December 20th, 2011 by Fr. Greg

Wanderings Then & Now

When I pick up a dictionary and look up a word I usually end up jumping from one entry to another and what should take twenty seconds becomes five or ten minutes.  Usually another word will catch my eye, I will read the definition, and then think of something else to look up.  This was especially fun when I was growing up because our house had an old Webster’s with a “Pronouncing Gazetteer” as well as a “Historical People” (or something like that) section – you have no idea how much fun this was for an only child who loved to read.  Nowadays I mostly look up words online.  My Nook Color even has a feature where I can press a word and I have the option of looking it up in a dictionary or on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is far from perfect, but it is a good jumping off point for things and I do find it useful.  The internet as a whole is great for the kind of adventures I would have with a dictionary, and Wikipedia is no exception.  I was reading the epistles of John and Jude today (I am catching up on my 2011 New Testament Challenge reading) and I got to wondering which epistle was the shortest book in the Bible – clearly it was II or III John.  Well, I immediately looked it up on Wikipedia.  III John has the fewest words while II John has the fewest verses.  I will go with III John as the winner.  My ramblings took me to this cool page – non-canonical books referenced in the Bible.  Great stuff.

I should add a corollary to the above.  Books that never made it into the Bible and that sort of thing are fascinating and have much to offer but I always encourage people to resist the fascination until they are fully familiar with the Bible, which we as Orthodox Christians should know inside and out.  This came up when The Da Vinci Code was a best-seller.  I had many people asking me about other Gospel narratives and that sort of thing.  That stuff is great if you are already familiar with scripture – we need a reference point.  I say the same to people who approach me with an interest in the Qur’an – get your Bible down and then knock yourself out.  Incidentally, the short Johannine epistles got me to thinking of the short passages in the Qur’an.  The Islamic holy book is set up from longest sura to shortest, with the shortest being only about three lines.  You can read about it here (I prefer the Yusuf Ali translation both in this case and in general – for my M.Div. thesis I did my own translations that largely mirrored Ali’s).

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December 19th, 2011 by Fr. Greg

RIP

In the past few days we have had the deaths of three prominent people – Christopher Hitchens, Kim Jong Il, and Vaclav Havel.  All will be remembered, for different reasons.  I am out of gas – more tomorrow…

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December 18th, 2011 by Fr. Greg

Christmas Message From Metropolitan Methodios

His Eminence gave the sermon below after vespers last Sunday night for the feast of St. Spyridon.  Please pass it around:

Christmas Reflection 2011

 

Beloved in the Lord,

 

“And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

 

On Christmas day, the Church proclaims to humanity the good tidings of the birth of the Savior who is “Light of Light, True God of True God, begotten not created… who, “for us men and our salvation came down from heaven and was Incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man” (Confession of Faith).

 

Holy Scripture, the hymnology of the Church, and the Orthodox Christian icon help us to focus on this, the greatest of mysteries. “He who knows no beginning now begins to be, and the Logos is made flesh” (Doxastikon of Christmas Orthros).The Divine Logos, “He who by nature is invisible is seen today in the flesh”. “He lowered the heavens and came down to fashion corrupt Adam anew” (hymns from the Lity authored by John the monk).

 

St. Paul writing to the Galatians proclaims that God sent forth His Son, “so that we may receive adoption as Sons” (4,5). To the Romans, he speaks of the consequences of this salvific miracle: “If we are children of God, then we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:17).

Studying the icon of the Nativity, we learn that Christmas is a Paschal mystery which culminates in the passion, death and Resurrection of Christ. The Incarnate Savior is seen in a sepulcher–shaped manger. He is wrapped in a winding burial cloth foreshadowing His repose in a sepulcher hewn from rock following his Crucifixion (Luke 23:53). The infant Jesus is not placed in a cradle, but on an altar of sacrifice symbolizing His death. The icon of the Nativity, however, points beyond darkness and death. A brilliant ray of light and an image of a dove pierce the darkness of the cave to symbolize the presence of the Holy Spirit. Above is the hand of the Father, the source of life. On the altar lies the incarnate Christ. In the poverty and misery of a manger, the three persons of the Holy Trinity appear. God is present and makes Himself known.

 

It is of paramount importance for us “to arise and behold the divine condescension from on high that is made manifest to us.” (Sticheron of the Sixth Hour). This is indeed difficult. The obstacles to Christian faith and practice raised by secular culture have unquestionably affected our lives. We are immersed in an environment beset by cynicism, apathy and selfishness — in a society that has lost its spiritual roots. Our culture has no time to reflect upon the “reason for the season.” It is reported that 98% of the references in various media highlight the impact of Christmas on the economy, on travel, on retail sales, etc. Few stories refer to the Son of God. Sadly, the media is only part of our culture which is determined to push Christ out of our sphere of interest. Public and private schools throughout America have removed references to Christmas from the classroom. The lyrics of traditional Christmas songs have been changed. ‘Silent Night’ has been changed to “Cold in the Night”. “We wish you a Merry Christmas” has been changed to “We wish you a swinging holiday.”

 

Under the influence of hedonistic consumerism, Christmas has lost its true meaning. Recently, shoppers filled retail department stores beginning at midnight in what has come to be known as “Black Friday”. Regrettably, some individuals — armed with pepper spray cans! — proved that they knew the price of everything and the value of nothing. The wisdom of the world claims that happiness comes from what you own, how much money or influence you have, how important other people think you are. St Paul reminds us that we celebrate the birth of Him who, “through he was rich, yet for your (our) sake became poor, so that by his poverty you (we) may become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). We celebrate the birth of Him who asks us,“what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:26)

 

Christmas has always disturbed the conscience of the materialistic world. It has always challenged those who are on a frantic race to enrichment at all cost. It has always challenged those individuals whose selfishness and greed exploit the dignity and rights of their fellow human beings.

 

My brothers and sisters,

 

This Christmas, let us pause from the hustle and bustle of our daily routines to be alone with God. To pray. To read Holy Scripture. To read and reflect upon the beautiful hymns of our church which help us to focus on the Christmas miracle. Let us turn off our radios and televisions, our IPhones and IPads and everything else that is electronic. Let us hear the voices of the archangels proclaiming the birth of the Savior. Let us close our eyes to the blinding lights of the world so that we may see the light emanating from the cave in Bethlehem.

 

May that light radiate in our hearts and enlighten our minds this Christmas and every day of the New Year 2012.

 

With Archpastoral love

in the Incarnate Lord,

M E T H O D I O S

Metropolitan of Boston

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December 17th, 2011 by Fr. Greg