Friday, February 26, 2010

Lenten Lentils: Pineapple Lentils


1 1b. brown lentils, rinsed and sorted
8 oz. can pineapple tidbits or crushed pineapple in 100% juice, drained with juice reserved
4 cups water
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice or vinegar 
3 Tbs. molasses
1 Tbs. dry mustard
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

Combine all the ingredients except for the pineapple in a baking dish (Set aside the pineapple, but add the juice at this point). Cover and bake at 350 for an hour to an hour and a half. After about 45 minutes of baking, stir in the pineapple, and add more water, if needed. You can also make this in a crockpot, cooking about 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high, adding the pineapple in the last half hour or so.

I like to make crockpot meals on Mondays during Lent because we have Great Compline that night with no meal at the church. It makes life so much easier on those nights knowing dinner will be ready when I get home from work. While this dish has a fairly long list of ingredients, it's really simple to make, which is definitely a plus for Lent. And you can be pretty flexible about the seasonings. Feel free to adjust them to your taste or omit or substitute something if you don't have all of these on hand.

I serve this over rice, as you can see in the picture. This actually shows leftovers.  The rice and lentils were stored together so the rice has absorbed the juice from the lentils, which is pretty yummy.  We usually eat this with sweet potatoes, also seen in the picture, and a green salad or other green vegetable. This recipe easily serves 12.  I generally either make a half batch or freeze half of it.  It freezes really well. I recommend adding the pineapple after it defrosts if you want it to hold its shape, but it's pretty tasty either way.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday of Orthodoxy

 We venerate your most pure image, O Good One, and ask forgiveness of our transgressions, O Christ our God. Of Your goodwill, You were pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh and deliver your people from bondage to the enemy. Therefore with thankfulness we cry aloud unto you: You have filled all with joy, O Savior, for You did come to save the world.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lenten Lentils: M'jaddarah

Last year I completely disappeared from this space during Lent, but I'm trying to post at least once a week, so this year I've decided to create a Lenten series of fast food Friday posts. I'll be combining my love of two things, Lent and lentils (Well, make that three things, if you include puns.). Lent is my favorite time of year (OK, Lent and Pascha, but you can't have one without the other, so in my mind, it's one time of year.)  I so value the increased opportunities for corporate prayer, and I treasure the increased sense of community with my brothers and sisters in the parish. I love the rhythm that the near-daily church services gives to my weeks. Even though it makes me really busy, the time seems to feel really peaceful and ordered rather than hectic.

And lentils are one of my favorite foods. I love all kinds of lentils, and I love them prepared many different ways.  I don't believe I ever even had lentils until I went away to college, but I was instantly smitten and have only come to love them more and more in the years since. Thankfully, James is a lentil fan, too, because we eat them at least once a week during Lent.  I thought it would be fun to share some of my go-to lentil recipes. 

Today I'm sharing my own personal m'jaddarah recipe. If you've spent any time in an Antiochian parish, you're probably familiar with this dish. M'jaddarah is one of those very simple and very delicious foods that each cook makes in her own way. I think we first had it at our first Lenten pitch-in (as we call potlucks here in central Indiana). James loved it so much, that he begged the woman who brought it to make it again and again, so I knew I had to learn to make it. My version uses brown rice, which is not typical, but that's all I ever buy.  And I actually find it easier to use brown rice, since you can add the rice and lentils at the same time.

2-3 onions
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup brown rice
6 cups water
salt & pepper

Chop the onions (I think the more onions the better, but if I'm low on onions I'll use two), and heat the oil (a cast iron skillet is perfect for this) Add the onions to the oil, and cook slowly over low heat, stirring occasionally until they're a nice deep golden brown color. One you've got the onions going, drain and rinse the lentils. Put them a in pot with the water and rice, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer.  Periodically check on the onions and the rice and lentils and give both a stir. After the lentils and rice have been cooking about 20 minutes, stir in some of the onions and oil (up to half, I do a couple of big spoonfuls) Total cooking time on lentils and rice is about 40 minutes, and about an hour for the onions. This can vary and you may need to cook it longer and/or add more water to the lentils and rice if it's sticking.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the m'jaddarah topped with the remaining onions.  Additional toppings may include green salad, cucumber, green onions and more olive oil. It's often served at room temperature, but it's also tasty warm.  I like it topped with salad which I give a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Obviously, this dish contains oil.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

St. Valentine's Day

Blessed St. Valentine's Day to all. It seems that there are various stories about why this saint and this day came to be associated with romantic love.  In fact, as there are more than one saints named Valentine, it's not completely clear which of these saints is being commemorated. The Writer's Almanac on NPR today relates one story of a St. Valentine, who would secretly perform marriages, despite Emperor Claudius II forbidding men to marry in order to boost enrollment in the army. On being discovered, he was sentenced to beheading, so in addition to promoting marriage, as a martyr St. Valentine was a great witness for his love of God.

Regardless of how this day came to be observed, the gesture of expressing our love to those dear to us is a good one on any day. I usually make small token for my husband and leave it somewhere for him to find. Last year I used cutouts from the cardboard sleeves of some Charlie Brown DVDs that we had gotten at the library to decorate a few Valentines.

The first year we were married, I made these felt Valentines that I left scattered all over the place.

This year, I don't know if you could say I went in a really silly direction, or a really practical one. We have a few hand-knit dishcloths that I have made, and we both really prefer these to the store bought cloths, so I made this:

A heart-shaped dishcloth. It certainly made James laugh, but he's not quite sure if he should be irritated that I gave him cleaning supplies as a token of my love and affection. Although I have to admit, I do feel particularly loving toward him when he does the washing up.  :o)

Since today is also the last of Cheesefare, we are industriously applying ourselves to the remaining items of dairy in the house. We've managed to eat up most of the cheese, and we will likely have eggs and milkshakes for dinner. I ate this for an afternoon snack, which is sort of a Valentine in itself. It's Black Raspberry Chip from Graeter's, which I was thrilled to find is now available at a local grocery store chain here in Indianapolis.

It feels quite appropriate that St. Valentine's Day should fall on Forgiveness Sunday, as we endeavor to show love and humility to one another and to God, forgiving one another as we enter Great Lent.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Books I Read in January

The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan
Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan
A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan

Right now I'm plowing my way through a re-reading of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, which I do every once in a while. There are currently 12 reeeeaaaallllly long (700-1000 page) books in this series. And it's not done yet. Even though Robert Jordan passed away in 2007. If you are unfamiliar with the Wheel of Time, it's a fantasy saga with a huge following of sometimes fanatic readers. There are a number of fan sites devoted to it. I started reading this series when I was 14, and a friend asked me to read the first book. He was delighted that I was undaunted by its length and that he would have someone to talk with about the books. At that point only three of the books had been published, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. So this series is a habit that I've retained since my teen years. The twelfth book was released in the fall, and I've been re-reading them ever since. It's necessary to do this occasionally so that I can keep track of all the characters and story lines in my head. All this to say that I've mostly been reading WoT books this month.

I'm not going to write notes on each of these books individually. I think would be a bit pointless to read any of the three (books 5, 6 & 7) without reading the whole series. The first book is The Eye of the World. If you like epic fantasy novels, you should read it and decide if you wish to read on.  This series is a (perhaps the) seminal modern work in the genre. If you don't enjoy fantasy novels, or series with a huge scope, you probably won't enjoy this, and you might not even if you do like the genre. To me they are old friends, and I love them despite their flaws.

Vintage Knits for Modern Babies by Hadley Fierlinger

This book is lovely. I want to knit about a dozen different things from this. I'm currently knitting a gift for a friend from it, which is why it is sticking around in my sidebar. I got it from the library, and I think I may need to add this to my personal library, especially if I ever have some modern babies of my own. I suspect you'll be seeing a few projects from this pictures in the future.

Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Elise Schein and Paula Bernstein

I found this book to be thought-provoking. I was especially interested in what each had to say about how learning of and getting to know their twin, as well as their journey to learn about their birth mother, affected their views of family. I enjoyed it and would recommend it. 
Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham
I didn't really care for this book. I read it because I was intrigued by the concept, a Revolutionary War soldier who gets propelled forward in time to modern day. It's a romance novel, and I didn't find the heroine to be very likable. I also didn't think the major conflict of their cultural differences due to being from different time periods was resolved very convincingly. If you enjoy reading romance that's not overtly sexual, I can recommend it on that front, but note that it has a rather syncretistic treatment of Christian and pagan practices.

And thus ends my summary of the books I read in January. I plan to do this the first week of each month.  Likely the list will get more varied and lengthy when I finish the WoT re-read.