The Food Column: The Polamalus focus on good cause

Theodora Polamalu will make a rare public appearance at a Jan. 25 dinner to raise funds for an Orthodox Christian charity.

A silent auction that night also will feature items signed by her Steeler husband, Troy, including adult and children's jerseys, a throwback jersey and a hat.

The Polamalus, Orthodox Christians themselves, want to bring a branch of FOCUS North America, the primary Orthodox outreach organization, to Pittsburgh. The dinner will help to finance the Pittsburgh center's planned opening on Orthodox Easter, April 24, 2011.

Thea Martin, president of the Ladies Philoptochos Society of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Mt. Lebanon, notes that the Pittsburgh center is in the process of securing a building. The center will focus on serving the working poor and will begin by feeding the hungry. As the center grows, it may move into other avenues of outreach, such as shelter or medical care, Mrs. Martin said.

Mrs. Martin hadn't heard of FOCUS until she attended a church convention in Atlanta. She stopped by to visit the FOCUS booth, discovered that Mrs. Polamalu is on the national FOCUS board, and began hatching a plan to ask Mrs. Polamalu to speak to her 150-member women's group.

What resulted was an event much larger than a speech for 150.

The Jan. 25 dinner at Holy Cross will include silent auction items from hotels, restaurants and other businesses in addition to the Polamalu memorabilia. The Greek dinner, at $50 per person, will include appetizers (feta, olives, hummus and pita), Kotopeta Avgholemono (chicken rolls), rice pilaf, green beans almondine and dessert (baklava and galatobouriko, a Greek custard in phyllo).

Mrs. Polamalu will speak on "Restoring Living Icons," or reaching out to serve other people just as Orthodox Christians might reach out to the saints depicted in their icons.

"FOCUS is a ministry that Troy and I are excited to be involved with since its mission to serve the poor is one that resonates deep within our philanthropy," Mrs. Polamalu said in a statement. "We chose to get involved with the ministry because as Orthodox Christians we are called to exemplify the commandments of Christ to care for our fellow man in need."

FOCUS, which started just last year, has seven other centers scattered across the country in cities such as Minneapolis, Orlando and San Diego. The name stands alternately for "Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve" or for "Food, Occupation, Clothing, Understanding and Shelter." The organization is Pan-Orthodox, meaning it is a cooperative effort of all Orthodox sects: Greek, Russian, Syrian and so on.

For the Jan. 25 dinner, RSVP by Jan. 10 to Vasso Paliouras at 412-563-3577 or

For more information on FOCUS North America and to order tickets online, visit (scroll down the home page to see information on the Pittsburgh-Polamalu event).

The church ladies are probably already cooking for the above event, but otherwise, it's taking a while for the food scene to get rolling again. I suspect everyone is cooked out after Christmas.

But you can watch others indulge. WQED-TV (Channel 13.1) is airing four of senior producer Rick Sebak's food specials at 8 p.m. Thursdays. "Breakfast Special" is served Jan. 6, followed by "Sandwiches That You Will Like" on Jan. 13, "Pennsylvania Diners and Other Roadside Attractions" on Jan. 20 and for dessert, "An Ice Cream Show" on Jan. 27.

This just in: Natural health food counselor Rosemary Traill will lead a free mini-tour of the East End Food Coop at 7 p.m. Jan. 6.; learn the nutrional value of whole grains, soybean products, leafy green vegetables and sea vegetables. Call Kara at 412-242-3598 to register.

While you're waiting for other food-related events to come along, you could try your hand at contests:

Sweetened condensed milk recipes: The Eagle Brand folks are looking for holiday recipes using their product. Top prize is $10,000, and deadline is Jan. 10;

Peanut butter recipes: Jif offers the "Holiday Spread Recipe Contest" through Jan. 17. Grand prize: $10,000 toward a kitchen makeover;

But you've probably had enough peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk to last you until next Christmas, right? Here is one of my favorite veggie recipes (with another, Vegetable Medley Salad, that can be found on the web at to help get you started with those New Year's resolutions:

Roasted Winter Vegetables

  • 3 carrots
  • 3 small turnips
  • Half of a rutabaga
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel all vegetables and cut into chunks. Place vegetables in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with oil, salt and pepper. Cover pan and roast in oven for 35 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Garnish with parsley.

Serves 6.

-- "Better Food for Kids: Your Essential Guide to Nutrition for All Children from Age 2 to 6" by Joanne Saab and Daina Kalnins

Vegetable Medley Salad

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch pepper
  • 1 (15-ounce) can whole baby corn, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups halved fresh Brussels sprouts, steamed until crisp-tender, cooled
  • 1 cup halved fresh
  • mushrooms
  • 2 cups fresh cauliflower, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh snow peas, halved
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced

In a bowl, whisk the lemon juice, oil, sugar, salt, oregano and pepper.

Combine vegetables in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour dressing over vegetables, seal bag and place in refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.

Serves 12.

-- Adapted from Taste of Home Magazine

Rebecca Sodergren: .


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