03 March

Algerian-Style Garlic Meatballs

with Chickpeas

March 9: National Meatball Day

We usually eat meatballs Italian style with tomato sauce and pasta or Swedish style with gravy, mashed potatoes and lingonberries. But we wanted to try meatballs Algerian style with chickpeas which we ate with couscous. They were a deliciously different dish to try and we especially enjoy them in celebration of National Meatball Day!


(Adapted from The Washington Post)


  • 1 cup of onions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced, divided use
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided use
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • Water
  • Sliced almonds, toasted
  • Fresh parsley, chopped


In a large skillet, cook the chopped onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat until softened and lightly browned (around 10 minutes). Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked onions to a plate, leaving some oil in the skillet. Set aside. In a large bowl, mince 3 cloves of garlic. Add the ground turkey, egg, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Use a small scoop to shape into 24 meatballs. In the same skillet where the onions were cooked, brown the meatballs, being careful not to overcrowd them. They do not need to be cooked through, just browned. Transfer the browned meatballs to the plate with onions. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Saute the remaining garlic in the oil.

Add 1 teaspoon ground cumin and paprika. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds. Return all the meatballs and onion to the skillet.

Add the chickpeas. Pour enough water to barely cover the meatballs. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium low to simmer. Cook until the meatballs are heated through (around 15 minutes). Stir occasionally. Mash a few of the chickpeas to help thicken the sauce.

While the meatballs are cooking, heat a small skillet and saute the sliced almonds for about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and set aside. When the meatballs are done, transfer everything to a serving bowl. Garnish with the toasted almonds and parsley. Serve hot.

Byzantine Spice Cake

March/April: Palm/Passion/Pussy Willow Sunday

Although we lived in the Chicago suburbs of Elgin, Illinois, for five years, we did not really explore the other Lenten traditions in the area’s Christian churches. Then when Islander’s brother went on his sabbatical year at the Catholic Theological Union, she took the opportunity to return to the city to visit him downtown and her Ukrainian friend Olga W. in Skokie.

She stayed in a guest room across from her brother’s in the CTU dormitory where other priests, brothers and sisters were residing on the same floor. Brother Chet F. from the Congregation of the Holy Cross invited a group of us to go with him to Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Parish in Homer Glen for Palm Sunday. The beautifully painted church with traditional iconography was made even more festive with fresh palm fronds—plus pretty pussy willows.

Islander later asked Olga, who attended Russian Orthodox Church services in her youth, about the pussy willows. She explained that in some colder countries in Europe, palm leaves were not readily available but pussy willows were symbolic of spring so were used instead during Palm Sunday celebrations.

It was very interesting to learn about the pussy willow tradition at the Byzantine church. So for our blog post, we have featured a recipe for Byzantine spice cake that can be made for Palm/Passion/Pussy Willow Sunday.


(Adapted from Genius Kitchen)

For the spice cake

  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup + ½ cup yogurt (plain Greek yogurt)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground mace or allspice


In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil and sugar. Beat in the eggs and ½ cup of yogurt.

Add the baking soda and orange juice to the mixture. In another bowl, sift together the flour and spices (ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and mace/allspice).

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir in another ½ cup of yogurt. Mix until smooth.

Pour the batter into a 9×13-inch greased baking pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, testing the cake for doneness. Remove from the oven. Poke holes in the cake with the tines of a fork. Let cool completely.

For the topping

  • ½ cup water
  • ¾ cup sugar, granulated white
  • ½ cup honey


In a saucepan over the stovetop, mix the water, sugar and honey. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes, reducing heat as to not bubble over and splatter.

Mix until slightly thickened. Cover the saucepan for another five minutes. Pour hot topping over the cake. Spread the honey glaze over the top and let it soak. Cut into squares and serve.


  • This cake was really dense and dry and probably would make a good tea bread if baked in a loaf pan.
  • Plain Greek yogurt may be substituted for sour cream.
  • We halved the syrupy topping. It is sticky-sweet, which complements the very mildly spiced cake.
  • Search our blog for other Palm/Passion Sunday and Lenten recipes.

Irish Soda Scones

March 17: Feast Day of St. Patrick

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day (much like Cinco de Mayo) is often an excuse for some people to party and drink alcohol excessively. For us, we see it as a reason to try Irish-inspired recipes from Highlander’s heritage (he is Scots-Irish, according to genealogical records) and honor the patron saint of the Emerald Isle.

For the Feast Day of St. Patrick, we modified an Irish soda bread recipe and made Irish soda scones. The currants in this recipe lend a subtle sweetness to these scones (without the dried fruit, they would really taste like biscuits, which are close to mini Irish soda bread).

Have a terrific “top o’ the mornin’” or teatime treat with some Irish soda scones on St. Patrick’s Day!


(Adapted from Tea Time Magazine)


  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  • ¼ cup dried currants
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • ¾ cup+ buttermilk, whole


In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, sugar and salt.

Add small pieces of cold butter and mix with a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in the currants and caraway seeds.

Stir in the buttermilk until a sticky dough is formed. On a clean, floured surface, pat the dough to 1-inch thick circle. Cut out shapes with a 2-inch round cutter (or use a 3-tablespoon scoop to make drop-style scones). Place scones onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with a little buttermilk (optional). Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve warm with Irish butter, clotted cream and/or jam.


  • Since we like currants, we added ¼ cup more than stated in the original recipe. We also reduced the caraway seeds to ½ teaspoon because we are not too fond of the flavor.
  • Feel free to substitute the currants for raisins (black or golden).
  • Search our blog for more Irish-inspired recipes. Or see the St. Patrick’s Day recipe list under the Theme Menus option.

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