Paleo-ish Lazarus Cookies

“Tomorrow Christ will come, by His word to bring your dead brother to life. Hearing His voice, bitter hell that is never satisfied will tremble and groan aloud, and it will release Lazarus bound in his grave-clothes.”  — Stichera from Vespers on Friday Evening before the Saturday before Palm Sunday known as the Saturday of the Holy and Righteous Lazarus, The Lenten Triodion

Weird macabre things Orthodox people do: eat mummy bread/cookies called Lazarakia on Lazarus Saturday which commemorates Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. 

We’re still Paleo here in our neck of the woods and it’s made so many people in our house feel generally better, lose weight, and stopped years of chronic stomach aches in our daughter! 

We’re headed to our favorite local monastery tomorrow which we try to do every year on Lazarus Saturday. Our Archbishop serves Liturgy and we get a fun and relaxing day romping in the woods and catching up with the sisters. 

I decided to try a Paleo-ish version of the Lazarakia and make them more like sugar cookies instead of bread rolls to bring with us. I was inspired by all the mummy treats and snacks that float around near Halloween in addition to the traditional bread.

We recently tagged along on a work trip with my husband and we had sweet potato pancakes at a restaurant one morning that were amazing. I thought incorporating sweet potato flour into the recipe might help with texture and elasticity. I couldn’t find any, but I did find a sweet potato pancake mix that was gluten free and decided to use that instead. This recipe is vegan, but because of the frosting and some of the grains in the sweet potato mix, it is not truly Paleo. You could leave off the frosting and double up on the Paleo pancake mix if you wanted to stick with the diet 100%. 


Preheat oven to 375.

Mix together pancake mixes, pumpkin, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and pumpkin pie spice to form dough. Roll dough out and press a gingerbread man cookie cutter into the dough to make the mummy bodies. Place on baking sheet and bake 10 minutes. 

While cookies are baking you may need to chop up the chocolate chips to make the eyes proportional to your cookie cutter. I cut mine into quarters. You could also get the extra mini chips instead. 

Remove cookies from oven and working quickly press two chocolate chips or chocolate chip pieces into the head of each. Use a spatula to transfer cookies to a cooling rack. 

Once the cookies are cooled spoon frosting into a pastry bag (or snip the tip off a plastic zipper bag and use that). Decorate each cookie with frosting “gauze” strips. 


More about Lazarakia & Lazarus Saturday from around the web: 

Of red deserts and blue skies

Obviously, visiting the desert on the Sunday St. Mary of Egypt is not feasible for everyone, but when you live an hour away from Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave Desert, an afternoon of hiking there is a must.

The deep blue skies, the Liturgical color for feasts of the Theotokos, kept my mind on the Annunciation which is also celebrated on our calendar today. This picture, of many I took, stood out to me because of the solar flare. In most Annunciation icons there is usually a semi circle that represents the divine realm, from which three rays emerge. As I was going through my pictures from the day, it was yet another sweet little reminder. There are many ways to commemorate these two important days on our church calendar (most important being attending Liturgy or Typika, depending on your situation, of course).

In the past on Annunciation, I have had a potted flower exchange with friends to start a Theotokos themed prayer garden for the year or had the kids bring vases of flowers to place in front of the icon of the Theotokos.


Feel free to share any special traditions you have for the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt or Annunciation in the comments below!

Favorite ideas from around the web:

Namesdays and our Annual Photinia Hedge Photo

Our daughter’s saint is Marty Photini (the Samaritan woman, the first evangelist, and equal to the Apostles). On our calendar (OCA) her feast day is today (March 20), though I know it varies. There’s this plant called Photinia that blushes the bright red of the martyrs right around her feast day and I like to take a picture of our daughter in front of it every year to document, even if it means pulling over at a random hedge we spot when we are out of town. 

Many years to all the Photinis out there! What ways do you celebrate names days in your family? 

Sunday of St. John Climacus

I had a last minute idea and crowdsourced local stairwells accessible to the general public. I remembered a good one myself while waiting for responses. After running an errand, I took my daughter to my university alma mater to climb four stories in the library and enjoy the view at the top. We’re over halfway through Lent friends. Keep climbing up those steps and don’t let the demons get you down.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Being one of the few remnant saint days recognized in the Christian west, it almost seems redundant to post something for St. Patrick’s Day, yet it also seems like I’d be missing something obvious.

Aside from decorating and wearing green (Tip: Trader Joe’s usually has cute potted Shamrocks right around this time of year), one thing we usually do is a craft illustrating St. Patrick’s use of the shamrock to explain the trinity:


IMG_7421 (2)

When we remember, we also like to pray either all or a portion of St. Patrick’s breastplate:

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,

Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
That may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of hertics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches an smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul;
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left, 
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

One of our favorite books about him is The Life of Saint Patrick by Zachary Lynch.


Since our family in particular is doing Paleo this year, I may try to make these No-bake Shamrock Mini Cakes later today too.

Here’s a roundup of some of my favorite St. Patrick’s Day resources from around the web:

Sunday of the Cross

Today in Sunday school (which is done during the homily for us) I had the kids work together to decorate a cross (a humble little plain cross we had glued and painted from a kit we bought years ago that has glue glops and is imperfect) with basil and roses while I read them the teaching from the Tending the Garden of our Hearts podcast. It gave them a practical (flower arranging is needed in church for various feast days) and tactile skill (smelling the basil and roses, doing something useful with their hands) while hearing the teaching. We practiced venerating with the coordination of our fingers and proper bows and then Matushka brought the tray of leftover basil they had clipped and the tray with the cross they decorated out into the church right next to the one they had done “for real” and Father blessed them at the end of the service with holy water and everyone did their prostrations and venerations and marveled over their arrangement, “Nice touch!” and “That was such a beautiful thing the kids did today!”

Grain Free Lark Buns for the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste

“For singing till his heaven fills,
’Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup,
And he the wine which overflows
To lift us with him as he goes…”

~From The Lark Ascending by George Meredith

March 9 is the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste and Russian custom is to make lark buns to celebrate. Some sources say it is because the larks return to Russia for spring on this day or that they represent the Holy Spirit descending as the martyrs faced their persecution. A few of my fellow Californians told me 40 lizard shaped sugar cookies is the tradition they grew up with. Maybe it is because Western Fence Lizards (aka blue bellies) wake up for Spring around here?

I’ve wanted to join in on this tradition for some time and always have it on my calendar, but never seem to have my stuff together enough to be able to take on a baking project.

This year our family is trying to be Paleo during Lent to see if it helps with some health issues. I bought some almond, coconut, and tapioca flour last week to make Welsh Cakes to celebrate St. David of Wales and decided to experiment with making some grain free lark buns too. The experiment was mostly a success. These are not going to be doughy fluffy sweet bread though, they are  more like a peanut butter cookie texture. In hindsight, I probably would have doubled the honey to make them sweeter (the recipes I referenced called for up to 1 cup of white sugar) and added some orange or lemon extract to bring out that flavor more. 

Before we got started I just mixed up the remaining flour I had leftover from the Welsh Cakes, but the kids and I measured it out and it worked out to be: 

  • 5 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 3 cups coconut flour
  • 2 1/2 cups tapioca flour/starch

Grain Free Lark Buns


  • 9 cups flour mix (see above)
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon (I keep Meyer lemons in my freezer and grate them one at a time and then keep the gratings in a freezer bag to add to water, cooking, etc.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 16 tsp coconut oil

Combine warm water, yeast, honey, and 3 cups of flour. Let sit for 45 minutes to activate the yeast, rise and get bubbly. 

Add remaining flour and ingredients and combine into a dough. The dough will be slightly crumbly. It is not going to be smooth and elastic  like wheat dough so don’t expect it to be. It is best to just make peace with that.

Pull out pieces of dough about the size of a ping pong ball and handle to smooth the consistecy a bit and then form into bird shapes. To do this, my technique was to make an oblong shape then pinch the head up on one end and further pinch to make a beak. Press raisins into the side of the heads for eyes. You may have to reshape the head a bit after this step. You are roughly making something that looks like the marshmallow Easter treats called Peeps. 

You should have enough dough to make 40 larks for each of the martyrs, but it might not work out that way if you have kids helping you. We had just enough. 

Place the larks on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 325 for 20 min. 


More about this tradition from around the web:

St. Gregory Palamas Sunday

If you need a Church school lesson this weekend for St. Gregory Palamas Sunday, this is one of our favorites. St. Gregory loved the Jesus Prayer. 

For the youngest kids, like this example made by my three-year-old, I use a 1in paper punch and black construction paper to make the prayer rope knots. I also write the words to the Jesus Prayer for them (using metallic or white gel pen works best). 

Other options: 

• Slightly older children can can paste the words to the prayer on their knots

• Children able to write can write it themselves on their knots

• You can have kids copy the whole prayer out on a piece of handwriting paper and draw a larger number of knots prayer rope around the prayer

• For fine motorskills development black pony beads and elastic string can be used to make beaded prayer ropes

• If there is someone in the parish that makes prayer ropes, a lesson can be given to older kids to pass the craft on to the next generation (this is very important as so many traditions are being lost!) or you can try to learn together from online tutorials

Similar versions of this lesson abound. I first learned a version of it from the Children’s Garden of the Theotokos curriculum by Macrina Elder, but here are a couple blog posts with variations: 

• Creative Hands Creative Minds: St. Gregory Palamas

• Crafty Contemplative: A Child’s Lesson on St. Gregory Palamas

I think teaching our children the simple Jesus Prayer is an important life skill. I have had so many well meaning people try to teach my kids “meditation” from exercise videos incorporating yoga, to teachers trying to calm a class, to friends and relatives wanting to help them deal with anxiety and emotions. Not to get all fundamentalist here, but whenever I get wind of it I try to remind my kids that we already have this amazing tool in The Jesus Prayer.

Thinking about Lions

Saturday (March 4) is St. Gerasimos who was famous for his lion companion. There’s a short snippet about his life in the book, Christina’s Favorite Saints by Maria C. Khoury.


If you don’t have the book and cannot get it, there is a youTube video of the author reading the book here:

Greek Orthodox author Maria Khoury reads Christina’s Favorite Saints

Here are some links to fun lion crafts:

Construction Paper Lion Heads

African Lion Mask Craft Project

Fork Lion

Pom Pom Lion

For a longer version of the saint’s life:

Life of Saint Gerasimos of the Jordan