The Orthodox Church is currently in its fourth week of Lent (our Lent varies from Catholic/Protestant Lent because we have a different date for Easter; the reasons for that merit their own post, but the “Date” section of the Easter Wikipedia page offers a pretty good summary, if you’re interested). As I’ve mentioned before, Orthodox Christians traditionally fast from meat and dairy products during Lent, so Jordan and I have been trying some new fast-friendly recipes this year. In the past week, we’ve made some delicious vegan discoveries that I’d like to share.
#1: Falafel. Or, really, most Middle Eastern food (they know how to eat). On the recommendation of our priest, we tried a little hole-in-the-wall Middle Eastern restaurant in town (aren’t those always the best kind?) and were far from disappointed. Good prices, better food. Fast, fresh, and the cook visited our table to see how we enjoyed our meal. We each got a falafel sandwich: falafel, hummus, and tabouli inside a pita pocket. We bought some frozen falafel and garbanzo beans (the restaurant is also a grocery store) and recreated the meal at home. We made fresh hummus in our Vitamix and vowed to never go back to store-bought again. This morning, I had a falafel “taco” for breakfast: falafel, spinach, onions, garlic, and tahini in a rice-flour tortilla. This leads me to another interesting discovery I’ve made, thanks to fasting: you don’t have to be limited to certain kinds of foods for certain meals. I eat vegetables for breakfast; I have soup as a snack. Just because it’s 9:00am doesn’t mean you have to eat bacon and eggs. Fasting encourages (to some extent, requires) me to think more creatively about what I eat.
#2: Ugly Soup.
I have to credit this one to another blogger, Ruth, author of GraceLaced. I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for a while, and last night I got the chance. We shop at Costco, so often we find ourselves with half-full bags of vegetables on the verge of going bad just because we can’t eat them fast enough. I didn’t have the exact ingredients Ruth uses, but that’s the beauty of this recipe: you can use whatever you have on hand. We had tons of celery, carrots, and potatoes, so I used lots of those. I also used black beans instead of corn and spinach instead of cabbage. (And of course, I made it sans meat.) Like the ingredients, the measurements don’t need to be exact, either; I added a can-full of water to make it more “soupy” and help fill up the pot. It turned out great, and Jordan loved it, which is a win for me; I’m not really a natural chef, and sometimes when I try new recipes (especially when I deviate from the ingredients list) it doesn’t totally pan out. Thankfully, my own version of Ugly Soup was delicious, and I think it will be a new staple meal of ours, especially during fasting periods.
#3: Almond milk.
Again, we have our Vitamix to thanks for this. It’s incredibly easy to make almond milk in the Vitamix: almonds plus water, blend until you have almond milk. Today, I wanted to make some coffee at home, and decided to try and make almond milk foam. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out, but I was pleased with the result. It wasn’t quite as foamy as what you might get at Starbucks, but after blending some almond milk in the Vitamix for a few minutes, I had a warm, frothy, creamy addition to my afternoon coffee.
Now, I want to emphasize that the overall point of physical fasting is one of spiritual significance. Lent is a time to prepare ourselves for the death and resurrection of Christ; it’s a time to foster spiritual discipline and growth, and fasting assists in that by reminding us of our physical limits as humans and freeing us from the control of certain passions. However, I like to document the other discoveries we make along the way, because changing your diet (for whatever reason) has multi-faceted results. I enjoy how the fast opens my mind about food in general.