Lenten Food Ideas

greek food
I thought I would write a blog entry containing some Lenten food ideas. Writing this list will help me with meal planning and perhaps it will help someone else browsing the internet for ideas! My toddler of course does not fast, but he also doesn’t really like to eat meat very much, so I try, as much as possible, to find meal ideas that he will also like. So here it goes…

Also before I start my list, one thing I learned during the Nativity fast is when making beans from scratch (dried beans) to make them without oil. Its too hard to keep track of which leftover beans have oil or not, so I just cook them all without oil and then reheat them with oil if its an oil day.

1. Pasta noodles, spaghetti sauce and great northern beans. Puree the beans in a food processor and add it to the sauce and put on the noodles. Really easy and tasty! (tip: The Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms at Trader Joes is oil free).

2. Pasta noodles, with sauce of pureed great northern beans, spinach and garlic. I haven’t actually tried this yet, but I am going to…

3. Pasta noodles with “alfredo” sauce made of pureed cauliflower. There are many recipes for this online, but even if you just use cauliflower, some vegetable broth, onion, pepper and garlic, it should taste fine.

4. Vegan Pizza. Homemade pizza dough is very easy to make with wheat or spelt flour, sugar, water, yeast, salt, Italian seasoning, and a touch of Earth Balance coconut margarine. If its an oil day, a good sauce is an artichoke pesto with toppings of spinach, onion, white beans, and mushrooms. (My own dough recipe: 3 cups organic spelt or whole wheat flour, 1 cup water, 1 package yeast, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbs italian seasoning, and 2 tbs coconut margarine for non-oil day, or olive oil for oil day. If margarine is also not to be used, skip the pizza dough and use flatbread. Let dough rise for at least 1/2 hour if possible. If time allows, let rise for 1 hour, kneed, then let rise again for another 1 hour)

5. Curry! Curry paste, coconut milk, plus lots of potatoes, onions, carrots, and mushrooms on top of brown rice for added carbohydrate and protein. This is a good meal, but unfortunately not very high protein. Some shrimp might help if you eat shrimp during the fast.

6. Spelt risotto. Empty a box of vegetable broth and pour in a bag of pearled spelt/spelt berries, add in chopped zucchini, mushrooms, and garbanzo beans. (Hint: Do not add in quinoa – I added some to my last batch and now the whole dish tastes like quinoa and less like spelt and mushrooms.)

7. Veggie fajita burritos. Bean, rice, tortillas, veggies! (Costco is now selling vegan veggie fajitas also!)

8. Portabello mushroom soup

9. Portabello mushroom sandwich or burger

10. Taco salad without the taco meat (Dark greens, kidney beans, corn, black beans, red onions, chips, avocado, salsa, etc.)

11. Vegan tortilla soup. Pacific Foods makes a vegan tortilla soup base that makes this really easy to make in the crockpot. Just add a variety of beans, onions, canned tomatoes and maybe even some pasta noodles.

12. Traditional green lentil soup.

13. Red lentil soup. Cook the lentils with about a ratio of half coconut milk to half water/vegetable broth and add in carrots, zucchini and cauliflower.

14. Rice noodles with peanut butter soy sauce and vegetables. I use Trader Joes spaghetti rice noodles and use a sauce of Organic soy sauce mixed with peanut butter. Some people use Soyaki sauce and peanut butter for this dish, but the only form of soy I can eat is fermented soy, so I use this other version. Pretty much any vegetables will do: carrots, broccoli, celery, etc.

15. Split pea soup. I read to avoid eating peas if you are trying to grow your family..otherwise, its a great soup and very easy to make!

16. Apples and peanut butter

17. Pita bread wraps with hummus and vegetables. For the oil days, etc.

18. Oatmeal. Good at any of time of the day. Not all oatmeal is the same. Some is very processed and lacks natural protein and iron. Bob’s Red Mill Organic Thick Cut Oats is, relatively, very high in protein and iron. Add in raisins for even more iron.

19. Homemade veggie burgers. It seems I can’t find my favorite recipe for these online anymore, but generally I would use black beans, lentils, mushrooms, ketchup, quick cooking oats, and seasonings to make these.

20. Potato and bean burrito. Shredded potatoes cooked in oil with cumin, chili powder, etc and refried beans in a tortilla. Then fry it in oil to cook it all together. For an oil day : ) Otherwise, its just as good with boiled beans and potatoes in a flatbread.

21. Vegan chili

22. Tortilla or pita bread wrap with white beans and spinach. High in protein and iron.

23. Lavash bread/flatbread, oil, garlic and vegetables.

24. Lentil tacos. Cook lentils exactly as you would taco meat (i.e. tomatoes, onions, and seasoning) and use in place of the meat in tacos or burritos.

If I think of any more ideas, I’ll add them to the list. Making this list has definitely helped me feel more mentally organized for preparing food for my family for Lent. It seems that the key ingredients to have on hand are: lots of vegetables (especially spinach), oats, lentils, peanut butter, potatoes, mushrooms, tortillas, pita bread, canned tomatoes, and a variety of beans.

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Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are No Good!

When I first heard of genetically modified organisms at some point in the last decade or so, the very thought made my skin crawl.  I had seen the movie Gattaca as a child and that was one of the first things that came to my mind.  In the movie Gattaca, new humans are born based on genetic selection – a eugenics process.  Similar to what happens in the book Brave New World.  So it seemed that allowing the genetic modification of food could be a slippery slope…If we start tampering with our food, it would not be long before we start tampering with human beings.  (If you count gender-based abortion and childhood euthanasia the medical community is already marching down this path.)

But that was not the only thing…it just seems wrong.  Do you know what I mean?  Remember, instances as a young child when you just had a gut feeling something was wrong even though it was never explained to you?  There are just those things that as human beings, many of us, instinctively know to be wrong thanks to our Creator who wrote His law on our hearts.  The importance of respecting God’s creation is one of those things to many of us.

But what if someone is born with a deformity like a cleft palate?  Do we not provide reconstructive surgery if possible? Of course if possible!  I guess that is the difference.  Somehow there is a difference, this invisible line, between tampering with nature – God’s creation – and employing the tools given to us by God to help others.  Its difficult to describe, but somehow many of us feel and sense this line.

Within God’s creation, we know what a human being is generally like and we know what an apple is generally like.  They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and they are all good.  This is the diversity and beauty of Gods creation.  I can travel the country and taste apples and oranges from hundreds of farms and each one will taste just a bit different (maybe some so subtle that I cannot even tell), reflecting the beauty and love of our God.  God’s creation is His sacred work.  Doesn’t it just seem wrong to tamper with it?   Do we really have the audacity to say that we know better than God?  Or was it God that gave us the tools to tamper with his creation, and therefore the work is blessed?  Many argue that if God gave us the ability to do something, it must be of Him and it must be His will.  Well, He also gave us the ability to do MANY things that we know are wrong (which I will not write here)… at least we used to know this much.

But, GMOs help feed the poor!  We must distribute them everywhere!  We can create food faster and better!  Who cares if it all taste the same! Who cares if it attempts to destroy God’s footprint in his creation! Who cares if it slowly sickens the people eating them! It does not take much of a Google search to discover that research shows GMO crops are likely overall unhealthy, destroy soil, contain few nutrients, and are laden with pesticides.  They are so modified internally that they produce their own pesticides (called Bt) internally to kill pests!  Meaning, without any added pesticides, these non-poisonous plants are engineered kill life and, on top of this, are often drenched in additional pesticides and herbicides.  GMO crops are modified to be resistant to herbicides making it is easier for farmers to spay herbicides directly onto the crops without “damage.”

God turned water into wine, turned five loaves of bread into thousands and has sent manna down from heaven.  God has shown that He will provide for our needs – the world poverty argument just seems weak to me.

Then we have the issue of Genesis 1:29: “Then God Said,” I give you ever seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.  They will be yours for food.”   The Bible says that God gave us seed bearing fruit.  GMOs destroy the crops ability to produce life giving seed.  These crops last for one generation and then you have to buy more from Monsanto.  This is wrong on so many levels!  (Not to mention the fact that Monsanto thinks that it can patent life and threaten smaller farmers who happened to have GMO seed blown onto their farm by the wind….but that’s a whole other story and there are plenty of great documentaries about this important topic).

So do I eat GMOs?  I try to avoid them as much as possible.  I would say 95% or more of what we eat at home is GMO-free.  So far, only corn, soy, canola, cotton, sugar beets, most Hawaiian Papaya, some zucchini, and some yellow squash are GMOs.  It is easy enough to avoid corn, soy, and beet sugar, if you eat healthy unprocessed food.  If you look for cane sugar instead of beet sugar on your ingredients lists, it is likely non-GMO.  (I try to avoid soy whether GMO or not since I do not think it is very healthy, but the Trader Joes brand is supposed to not have any GMOs though the products have a lot of non-gmo soy filler.)  Eating out or at potlucks is the biggest concern for confronting GMOs.  And every now and then I buy something with GMOs for my husband who likes to eat some junk food.  The verses in Corinthians help me deal with GMOs; (1 Corinthians 10: 24 – 26: Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.25Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience’ sake;26 For the earth is the Lord’s and all it contains.” This verse is not totally related as it was about food actually offered to idols, but it helps my conscience eat food that may or may not contain GMOs.  In a way, I feel that GMOs were made for the “idol” of “corporate greed” and possibly “secular humanism” – at the very least, metaphorically speaking.

I think GMOs are wrong, on so many levels, but I also can’t go broke trying to avoid them and shouldn’t spend all my time thinking about how to avoid them or whether the food that I’m served at a restaurant, friend’s house, or potluck contains them.  Sometimes I think of refugees in other parts of the world that are probably given GMO-filled food for all of their meals.  I pray and hope that God will bless their food and miraculously turn it into something full of health and life.