Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Awesomeness of Cooking in Lent!

Happy Lent, y'all!

I hope that you are having an abundantly blessed and epic Lent thus far, even if it may not seem like it (because we all have those times when we feel like we’re failing Lent—but God continues to bless us through and in it all!).

Lent provides a chance for extra prayers, sacrifices, and giving of alms (or other such things) to others. It also becomes a time for me to think about food. I love food. When I was a young girl (we’re talking six years old and up), my favorite books all had pictures of food, descriptions of food, or many important occasions that included food. Want to know how I learned about St. Edith Stein? I was in a Catholic bookstore, and thought, hey, I’ll totally buy a saint book. Hmm…this Stein lady looks a little intriguing, I’ve never heard of her, but maybe I won’t like the book. Let me flip through the book and see what I think. I then proceeded to flip through the pages of the book, some of which were illustrated. I stopped. One of the illustrations featured a picture of Edith Stein and chocolate. Yes. I am totally buying this book. TRUE STORY. I bought this book solely because of the food picture.

I have found simplifying meals to be a cool Lenten sacrifice. Sacrifice-ish. We still eat delicious food, but it’s just not over-the-top extravagant or fancy all the time. Prior to Lent, I realized that in order to intentionally simplify our meals, planning ahead would be imperative. Usually, I try to meal plan a week ahead of time. But I decided to try something a bit crazier. A couple days before Lent, I decided to meal plan for the entire season of Lent. I sat down one evening, and planned out one main meal for every day, figuring that the other meals would come from sandwiches or leftovers.

We’ve been in Lent for about two weeks, and I have been extremely grateful for this meal-planning binge that I went through! I honestly didn’t know if planning out a whole Lent of meals was beneficial or a waste of time, but so far, it has been awesome. 

I’ve been able to simplify our meals, yet make them creative. Instead of getting caught with an “OH NO! I have no meal planned, um, spaghetti again!” I can know and plan ahead for meals, so that they can always happen when they need to. And prior planning allows me to be more creative than just throwing on a pot of noodles or rice for dinner.  

Over-planning has broadened my meal scope. So, I planned one big meal for each day of Lent. Already, there are at least three days where we didn’t eat the prescribed meal, because we were still enjoying leftovers. Our Lenten Meal Plan is extremely flexible, and open to change.  There will also be days where we may be out of town and unable to have the meal we pre-planned. And that’s awesome. It means that I have a whole host of scheduled meals which we never ate, that I can use on days where we need more food in addition to the main meal. Also, since I didn’t want to schedule repeat meals very much, I got to hunt through all of the recipe documents on my computer, which I have rapidly been acquiring over the past couple years. And I got to pull out a bunch that I have never used, so that I can experiment with them this Lent!

Grocery Shopping is so much easier. Instead of thinking, Well, we don’t have any beef in the freezer. I should buy some beef in case I use it in the next couple weeks, I can, with all surety, think: We don’t have any beef in the freezer. But we’re not scheduled to eat beef for another couple weeks, so I won’t buy it yet. Instead of mentally creating meals for a week and jotting down the ingredients on a grocery list, I can look at the Lenten Meal Plan—on our freezer—and focus on buying the necessary ingredients for those dishes.

It takes a huge load off my mind. Meal planning has never been a huge stressor for me, but there are times when I’m trying to focus on getting meal planning over with so that I can work on homework. And on these occasions, I usually blank out and start pulling meals off a list that we have of about 10 basic go-to dinners. And while this is fine, having meal plans for the next month already typed, printed, and ready-to-go has been a fantastic relief. I can focus on other things more, like enjoying time with my husband and friends, doing homework, playing games, reading books, and making crafts.

It forces me to clean out the freezer and refrigerator. I figured that if we’re trying to simplify meals during Lent, it would be worthwhile to find all of the hidden containers of unidentifiable, once-edible stuff in our fridge and freezer. Now I have a much better idea of what leftovers must be eaten, what ingredients we do or do not need to buy, as well as more fridge space in general.

The basic structure that I used was the following:

~Do something fun and special on Sundays; whether it’s a full-on brunch, or a meal of chicken, potatoes, and fritters, it doesn’t matter—but have fun with it!

~Include a dish with rice and beans every week. Get creative with the rice and beans, changing up how they are made—make a rice pilaf, do enchiladas with refried beans and rice, or go all southern with red beans and rice.

Carrot soup! Paired with fresh-baked french bread, it's a
lovely, brightly colored meal for a snowy day! 
~Make a soup and homemade bread one day a week. I’ve been trying to do this early on in the week, since Mondays and Tuesdays are typically slower for us, and allow time for sitting at home with a simmering pot of soup or stew. And there’s nothing better than a hot bowl of soup with bread fresh out of the oven when it’s cold outside (and it has been cold—it’s still snowing over here in Ohio!).

~Try to do one noodle dish a week, since they are easy to make and manipulate, and go a long way!

~Fit in new recipes, or ones that I haven’t used much, where possible!

~Try to use chicken once a week, but also try for a non-Friday, mostly meatless day.

This is a very basic, very loose structure, but that’s how I roll. Also, since I’m the second oldest of six kids, I only know how to cook big family meals. So, our meals stretch a long way, either by eating them as leftovers, or tossing them into the freezer for a future meal. This has been a very handy aspect, since several means are already pre-made! My thoughts on the Lenten Meal Plan may change as the days go by, but so far, I am quite pleased with how things have turned out.

On that note, I’d like to share one of my top-favorite meals to make and eat with my husband: Falafels on Pita Bread with tzatziki sauce. The falafel recipe is fantastic. Falafels are super easy, very economical, healthy, and all-around epic. To make the falafels, you just throw all of the ingredients into your blender, mold it into balls, and deep fry it. How easy is that??? The pita bread recipe I use was sent to me by a friend, and is way better than most pita bread recipes I had come across. There are a plethora of tzatziki sauce recipes on the internet, and I don't follow any of them perfectly, but blend ingredients together and hope that it works out.  I recommend giving it a whirl if you want to change up your cooking routine! 

What are your favorite Lenten recipes?

No comments:

Post a Comment