Wordy Wednesday: Festive Gifts and Meal

Handmade Boxes 2

Handmade Boxes

Each year, my children refashion old boxes and papers, painting them, adding sparkle, so we can use them to wrap or fill. Two of the boxes here came from old pizza boxes. Another from a shirt box.

How to do it? Origami books often have patterns to follow, and that's what we did. The end result is not just a sweet bread or a book all wrapped up, but a piece of art lovingly crafted.

When Christmas Eve finally arrives, the foot of the tree will be graced with their artful creations. Then, it's on to a festive meal. This year, we'll do a shepherd's meal (loosely). Lentils, olives, feta cheese and bread.

Later, we'll celebrate Jesus by dipping challah bread in honey (based on a Jewish Sukkot practice, which is usually done in a tent of sorts. Jesus, of course, came and "pitched his tent among us" according to the original language of John's gospel, so we'll eat our challah under a canopy my eldest daughter is going to rig up in the foyer.)

If you prefer something richer than shepherd's fare, there's always the roasted vegetable dish below. In any case, I wish you a very merry Christmas, filled with love, creativity, and the joy of Jesus who invites you into his tent for the riches of his grace.

Greek Roasted Vegetables

Greek Roasted Vegetables and Chickpeas

Add all to a large rectangular casserole dish and cover with aluminum foil. Roast at 400 degrees for about 2 hours or until very tender. Remove foil, lower heat to 350 and roast for another 15 minutes or until nicely browned...

• assorted vegetables chopped chunky, such as turnip, carrot, potato, celery, red onion
• 1 can or 1 1/2 cups dry and pre-cooked chickpeas
• 1 TB balsamic vinegar
• 1 TB worcestershire sauce
• 4 large garlic, minced
• 1/2 jar Muir Glen Sauce
• 1 TB Muir Glen tomato paste
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
• 1/2 tsp. allspice
• 1/2 tsp. ground clove
• 1/4 cup red wine
• a few pours olive oil
• 2 cups water (add more as needed throughout, for desired sauce consistency)


Add salt and pepper to taste and a few pours of olive oil. Mix in a handful or two of raisins.

Serve over any kind of flat noodle, with salad or other green vegetable. The rich spices are an excellent complement to the mild flavor of chickpeas.

About chickpeas...About 15 grams protein in 1 cup. High in potassium, calcium and vitamin A. Among other legumes, this golden, nut-shaped legume stands tallest in iron. Some research has shown cholesterol reduction with increase in chickpea consumption.

Handmade Gift Boxes and Wrapping Paper by Sara and Sonia. All photos, by L.L. Barkat.

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Gift of a Meal Plan

Chickpea Winter Stew & Biscuit

Most of us would agree that one of the best gifts we can give ourselves is the gift of health. Creating a Meal Plan is a good way to ensure that our ideals translate into reality.

Though it can be useful to use someone else's meal plan, it's even better to create a plan of one's own. But where to begin?

Here are some tips on how to create a nutritionally-balanced vegetarian meal plan (a timely pursuit, if you consider this sobering article on cancer and meat consumption)...

1. Think of each meal as consisting of four basic parts: protein, whole grain, fruit, vegetable (or no fruit and two vegetables).

2. Plan each night with a different protein as the centerpiece, adding grains and fruits and veggies that are natural complements. Chickpeas. Black beans. Tofu. Eggs. Lentils. Kidney beans. And so on.

Some good grain matches are as follows: chickpeas with couscous, rice, or barley. Black beans with cornbread, rice or quinoa. Tofu with soba noodles or rice. Eggs with wheat tortillas, bread, or rice.

3. Alternately, plan each night with an ethnic theme. Greek on Monday. Mexican on Tuesday. Chinese on Wednesday. And so on. The meal plan here at Green Inventions uses a combination of these techniques and thus has variety in terms of both foodstuffs and cuisines.

4. Be dedicated to planning a variety of meals each week for one month, and write down what you do. At the end of the month, type it up. If some meals didn't go over well, drop them out and substitute some new possibilities.

5. Be flexible. And enjoy your meals!

Here's a recipe from the Green Inventions Meal Plan, for chickpea stew, with biscuits.

Chickpea Stew

Chickpea Winter Stew 2

Saute until golden...

- small onion, chopped
- 2 small celery sticks, chopped
- 1 tsp herbs de Provence (or substitute with 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning)

Add and cook 40 minutes...

- about 6 cups vegetable stock (or chickpea water, if you cook chickpeas from dry stage)
- 1/3 cup pearl barley
- 3 cloves garlic, minced

Add and cook another 10 minutes...

- 2 or 3 red potatoes, cut in 3/4 inch chunks
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 cup chickpeas (3/4 cup dry, cooked in advance, or half a can)

Add and cook another 5 minutes...

- 1 cup sugar snap peas (or half cup loose peas)
- 1/2 pack of white mushrooms, sliced thinly


- salt and pepper to taste
- a few pours olive oil

Whole Wheat Biscuits

Sift together...

- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 TB baking powder

Cut in until crumbly...

- 1/2 cup room temperature butter

Add and mix with fingers until dough holds together...

- 1 cup buttermilk (or milk substitute)

Roll dough to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut circles with cookie cutter or mouth of a small cup. Bake at 400 degrees, about 12 minutes.

About chickpeas...About 15 grams protein in 1 cup. High in potassium, calcium and vitamin A. Among other legumes, this golden, nut-shaped legume stands tallest in iron. Some research has shown cholesterol reduction with increase in chickpea consumption.

Recipes adapted from Williams Sonoma Vegetarian

Chickpea Stew photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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The Back Yard News, Vol 1, No. 3

Autumn Still Life

acrylics painting by Sara

In Science and technology...

Paper Thoughts, by Sara

I wonder if you can make paper from leaves? They could collect all the fall leaves and save them and crush them, add glue and water to hold it together, then dry it. The way I read about how you can make origami paper from flax and cotton. Then people wouldn't want to cut down trees. They would save them, to give more leaves again and again.

In fashion...

"I Like to Wear"

Orange coats, yellow coats,
green coats, colored coats,
all coats, fall coats,
pretty coats, small coats.

by Sara and Sonia

Goings on...


We were raking,
and building,
leaves flying,
somebody jumped
into the pile,
leaves in our

by Sara

"Yellow Leaves"

Yellow leaves, yellow leaves hanging from the trees
Young branches and there's water droplets on the
forsythia bush, the grass is also wet but I'm inside
for I'm busy. Busy, writing this poem for you.

by Sonia


As the squirrels hop from branch to branch
hiding nuts for their winter storing, leaves come falling
down in colors so nice, for it's autumn and
now I must go.

by Sonia

In Arts and Entertainment...

"Little Country Community", created by Sara and Sonia, from natural materials gathered in the back yard, and sundry items poached from the kitchen when Mom and Dad weren't looking:

LIttle Community 2

Little Community

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