Recent Posts

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Tips for fasting in Advent

The Byzantines in Canada do this type of fasting in Advent: no dairy on Tuesdays and Thursdays and no meat on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. One gets into a rhythm of this after a bit. Here are some ideas for those who want to do this as well.

Skip the meat in Advent
Perogies with onion and potatoes and borsch for dinner from a Canadian recipe, which is what I used. One can, on the dairy days, eat perogies with cheese instead of onions inside. I used, believe it or not, ready-made liquidfied cheese. It works. One could eat the perogies on the non-meat days, and put cheese inside for protein.


7 cups cold water                               
3 medium beets, diced                                              
1 medium onion, chopped                             
1 small stalk celery, diced                             
½ small carrot, diced
1 cup shredded cabbage
½ cup tomato juice
Lemon juice
1 clove garlic minced
Salt & pepper
Cook the vegetables and continue simmering for another hour.  Pour in the tomato juice.  Use enough lemon juice to get the desired tartness.  Add garlic and season to taste. Bring to a boil.  If time permits, let the borsch stand for a while to blend the flavours. 
Potato & Onion Filled Varenyky (Perogies) with Buttered onions
5 large potatoes                                              
½ cup butter or cooking oil
salt to taste
1 small onion chopped

Cook potatoes in boiling water until cooked and soft enough to mash. At the same time fry onions in butter or oil until onions are transparent.  Drain and mash potatoes. Add enough onions and oil to make a filing that is not too runny but pasty.  Cool before using in varenyky.
Varenyky (Perogies)
3 cups all purpose flour                                 
1 tbsp light tasting cooking oil
1 cup water
Using a food processor, mix flour with water and oil until a medium soft dough is formed. Divide the dough into 2 parts. Cover one with a cotton towel or leave in processor.  With the second half, place on a floured surface and with a rolling pin, roll the dough quite thin. Cut into 2 to 2 ½ inch squares.  Put the square on the palm of the hand. Place a spoonful of the filling on it, fold over to form a triangle and press the edges together with the fingers. The edges should be free of filling. Be sure the edges are well sealed to prevent the filling from running out.  Place the varenenyky on a floured board or a cookie sheet without crowding them.  Cover them with a tea towel to prevent drying.  In the meantime put a large pot of water on to boil.
Borsch and cream

Drop a few varenyky at a time into a large quantity of rapidly boiling water. Do not attempt to cook too many at a time.  Stir very gently to separate them and to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Varenyky is ready when they float flat to the top and are puffed. Remove them with a perforated spoon or use a colander and drain thoroughly. Place in a drained varenyky in a dish, and mix with melted butter or oil to keep them from sticking.  Toss very gently to ensure all are coated well.  Cover and keep hot until all are cooked.
Smetana (Ukranian version of sour cream)
¼ pint of whipping cream                              
¼ cup evaporated whole milk (opt. as an extender)
½ cup buttermilk
Mix all ingredients together in bowl. Cover and let it stand in a warm place at room temperature for 15 to 24 hours, or until the cream is very thick and well set.  Use at once or store in refrigerator. Chilled cream is thicker and keeps longer.
(made the day before)

Another possibility for non-meat but dairy days are mussels, which are common in Eire and England, Alaska, California and Canada in places. 

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes


  • 2 lb live mussels
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 2 chopped scallions or 1 chopped shallot
  • 2 chopped green garlic shoots or 2 cloves chopped garlic


Scrub and debeard the mussels. The "beard" is the fibrous hairy thing hanging from one side of the tasty bivalve. Pull it off with a side-to-side motion.
In case you are wondering, a mussel is alive if it reacts. Its shell should be closed. If it is open, sit the mussel on the kitchen couter for a bit. It may close when you are not looking.
Heat the butter over medium-high heat in a large, wide-bottomed pot with a lid; I use a Dutch oven. Saute the shallot or green onion until it is soft but not browned. Add the garlic cloves if using -- if you are using green garlic, leave it out for now.
Add the white wine (I'd suggest a chenin blanc or something crisp, but you can use any decent white), and bring it to a boil. Add the mussels in one layer if possible.
Cover the pot and let the mussels steam for 3-8 minutes. After three minutes, check the mussels; many should be open. You want them all open, but some will do this faster than others.
As soon as most of the mussels are open, turn off the heat and toss in the green garlic, if using. Cover for a minute while you prepare bowls and plates.
Spoon out plenty of mussels and broth, which should be briny enough to not need any more salt. Throw out any mussels that did not open.
Serve with crusty bread, more white wine -- and an extra bowl for the shells. I use garlic bread for the side.