hardcore Lent 2.0

This year, I’m doing “hardcore” Lent again. One of the best things about it is that I have to get out of my comfort zone of veggies and protein for meals.

So far this year, I have plans to try several new things, including:
• Tabbouleh
• Tomato & Lentil Soup
• Shrimp Pho

I’ve already made the Tabbouleh, and later this week I’ll be making the pho. Stay tuned for recipes!

italian style lamb meatballs

1/3 lb of delicious meaty tastinessI like big meatballs.

I don’t want tiny meatballs that sit, dwarfed, atop a pile of spaghetti. I want meatballs that stand on their own—that don’t need a base of spaghetti to fill you up. I don’t even want spaghetti with my meatballs—that means that I’m just eating filler.

So, without further dramatization, I present my recipe for big meatballs. This time I made them with lamb, but they’re pretty much the same with any meat. The main difference is the spices, and even then not much…

I use dried herbs. Purists will probably insist on fresh. Fresh is fine if you get excited about mincing herbs and go through them before they go bad. Otherwise: dried is close enough.

I cook these in a tasty tomato sauce, so you get a bonus recipe here: zesty tomato sauce!

We need to make the tomato sauce first.

Tomato Sauce:

  • 2tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (14.5oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (6oz) tomato paste
  • 1/2cup veggie/chicken/whatever stock (or water)
  • 2tbsp each: dried oregano, dried parsley
  • 1/2tbsp dried thyme
  • 1tsp sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon
  • 1tbsp Tabasco-type sauce

Step 1: Fry the garlic for about a minute in the nice, hot EV Olive Oil.

Step 2: Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste and stock.

Step 3: Add the herbs, sugar, salt and pepper.

Step 4: Squeeze all that tasty juice out of the lemon and into the sauce.

Step 5: Add the Tabasco. You could also add dried chili flakes or something else spicy. We’re really just doing this to give the sauce one last kick in the pants.

Step 6: Stir it all up. (I hope you felt inclined to stir as you added things, but it should be OK either way.) Set it to simmer while you prep the meatballs.

Meatballs:

  • 1lb of ground lamb
  • 1 egg
  • 8 Ritz-style crackers, crushed up into tiny bits
  • 2tbsp dried basil
  • 1tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2tsp curry powder (yes, really: curry powder)
  • salt
  • pepper

Step 1: Put it all in a big bowl and get dirty mixing it up with your hands!

Step 2: Fashion 3 MASSIVE 1/3lb meatballs. I said I like them big and I meant it. They may be just as tasty small, if you are so inclined.

Step 3: Place these meatballs gingerly in the tomato sauce, which should be slightly bubbly by now. If the sauce doesn’t cover the meatballs, add some water so that it does. Stir things up a little bit, but be careful not to destroy your works of art.

Step 4: Put a lid on the pan, and let it all simmer 20 minutes.

Step 5: EAT YOUR MEATBALLS. Make sure to ladle copious amounts of sauce on them. I had green beans (you just heat them…) on the side and creamy leek soup as an appetizer with my meatballs.

This should feed 3 hungry people, or 1 massive beast of a hungry person.

crema di porri–creamy leek soup

creamy and leekyThis is an Italian recipe for leek soup. I’ll be honest, I got it off another website and didn’t change it much. But my recipe has a picture and much more lively text.

Ingredients:

  • 3 average, ordinary, whatever your grocer sells, leeks
  • 2tbsp Olive Oil (Extra Virgin or Pure)
  • 2tbsp flour
  • 1 box (32oz) of veggie stock—if you get broth don’t add any more salt!
  • 1tbsp ground cumin
  • salt
  • 2c milk (I like 2%)
  • parsley, chopped (a nice sized pile)
  • parmesan cheese (don’t get pre-shredded—it shreds fast and easy and tastes better when you buy a wedge)

Step 1: Clean and chop the leeks. Leeks are somewhat annoying to clean. They are grown by piling sand/dirt up around them so they tend to have lots of dirt in the leaves. The easiest way is to cut the tops off about 1/2 inch below where the leaves all join together and then cut about 1/2 inch off the bottom (that’s just to get rid of the roots). Then cut some slits through about 12 of the remaining leek from the middle to the greener end. Open it up and you should see the dirt. Wash the crap out of these things. In fact, if you can, soak these for a while before proceeding. It’s worth it not to get yummy sand in your soup.

Chopping these things is easy. I just slice them. Since we quartered the thing earlier when cleaning it, it works out nicely.

Step 2: Heat up the Olive Oil in a big pot. (OK, maybe a medium pot works, but my pot is big.)

Step 3: When the Olive Oil is nice and hot (if it’s smoking it’s too hot) add the chopped leeks and fry them for a minute or two—just long enough to show those leeks you mean business.

Step 4: Add the flour and stir it up really good. You want the leeks to be thoroughly coated with flour so that it won’t make clumps when you…

veggie stock--it's unsaltedStep 5: Add the veggie stock. Stir while you add it to prevent flour clumps. I use this stuff:

Step 6: Wait 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally. You want a simmer here. NO BOILING!

Step 7: Remove the pot from the heat and add the milk. Stir while you do this.

Step 8: If you want to blend it, this is where you would do it. I’m lazy, so I didn’t.

Step 9: Put the pot back on the heat for 5 minutes. Remember: Simmer.

Step 10: While simmering, add the chopped parsley and a bunch of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Step 11: Scoop it out into bowls and eat up!

This can serve 5 or 6 as a first course and 3ish as a main.

abbacchio brodettato

Abbacchio Brodettato is a Roman recipe for lamb. I made this the week after Easter. It was fantastic, and rather easy to cook. I got the recipe from about.com. In fact, I pretty much followed the recipe closely enough that it’s not really worth me rewriting it here. Instead, I present pictures of the process.

I also made some potatoes. They were pretty simple: quarter a bunch of potatoes, put them in a bowl. Put some Olive Oil in the bowl. Chop up some herbs (Rosemary, Thyme, anything savory really) and put them in too. After mixing it all together, put them in an aluminum foil packet and bake it for 20-30 minutes.

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lemon butter cookies

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I found this recipe in a cookbook I own, and I didn’t make many changes to it. The cookies came out nicely. They aren’t hard, but they aren’t chewy—the best way to describe it is crumbly.

lemon disassembly in pictures

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Ingredients:

  • 1 c. butter (softened)
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • peel of one lemon, finely shredded
  • 2 c. flour
  • powdered sugar (if desired)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the butter into a big bowl and mix it for 30 seconds to a minute on medium.

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Add the sugar to the bowl and beat it in.

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Add the lemon peel and then ad the flour in thirds. It will not seem very doughy, but just beat it until the flour is somewhat mixed in. At the point, mix it a bit with your hands or a spatula.

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Make little balls of dough (just grab some of the stuff in the bowl and roll it in your hands). I like to flatten them. The original recipe did not include that step, but I think they’re better when flattened.

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Bake them for about 15 minutes, or until the sides are just getting golden. Let them sit for about 5 minutes and transfer them to a wire rack or some other cooling surface. At this point, you can optionally sift powdered sugar onto the cookies. (The powdered sugar is definitely worth it!)

recipe for “hardcore” lent–koshari

DSCF2095I was watching No Reservations a few weeks back. It was the episode where Bourdain visited Egypt. There were several dishes on that episode that meet the requirements of "my “hardcore” Lent. One of these was a dish called Fül—it consists of mashed up fava beans and several other ingredients. I will post the recipe for it when I get it worked out.

The second dish was a dish called koshari. I based my recipe off of a recipe I found online. I made a few modifications, but kept it mostly the same.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 3/4 cup uncooked rice (white)
  • 3/4 cup brown lentils
  • 1 cup shell macaroni (elbow macaroni works too)
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (at least) dried work too, if you feel like cooking them
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp Sambal Oelek
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • vegetable oil
  • water (at last 4 cups)

The first day

I cooked the chickpeas the day before everything else. I bought them dry, because dried chickpeas are cheaper. Cooking them is simple. I soaked them in lots of while I was at work and running errands for a total of about 12 hours. I then drained the water. I then simmered the chickpeas in plenty of new and salted water for a little over two hours. When they were finished, I drained them and put them in the fridge.

Cooking the koshari (the second day)

In a saucepan, put the lentils in plenty of water and bring it to a boil. (Make sure it is salted.) Once the water starts boiling, drop the heat to medium-low and simmer the lentils for 25 minutes. Drain the lentils after they’re done cooking.

Add the lentils back to the saucepan, add at least four cups of water and the rice (and a little salt). Bring the water to a boil, drop the heat and simmer again. This time, simmer the rice and lentils for 20 minutes.

At this point, cook the macaroni according to the package directions. You will want to cook it until tender, not al dente.

In a skillet (or a saucepan), heat about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil until it shimmers. Add the garlic to the oil. After a minute or so, add the tomatoes, cumin, sambal and vinegar to the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil. Once it boils, drop the heat and simmer the sauce until everything is ready. Make sure to crush the tomatoes well when stirring the sauce occasionally.

In yet another skillet, heat some more oil. (You’ll want maybe 3 or 4 tbsp this time.) Once it’s ready, add the sliced onions and brown them. Once they are brown add some water and continue cooking the onions. You’ll want to repeat this a few times until the onions are caramelized.

At this point, you should have five separate dishes. These are traditionally layered in the following order: rice/lentil mix, macaroni, spicy tomato sauce, chickpeas and finally onions.

Enjoy!

“hardcore” Lent

I decided that I wanted to take Lent seriously this year and do something that I would notice and might do me some good. A good friend of mine said that last year he did the Orthodox Lenten fast. He told me a little about it, so I decided I should investigate it a little bit.

It basically boils down: no meat, no fish with backbones (shellfish and squid is ok), no olive oil, no dairy/eggs and no wine/hard liquor. According to one source, this actually includes all oils and all alcohols! So, I did some more research on the topic, and I found that before the 20th century, the Catholic Lenten fast was much closer to the current Orthodox Lenten fast. It essentially bars eating meat and dairy products. Both traditions (the current Orthodox and former Catholic) make exceptions for the ill, pregnant, young, etc.

So I decided I would use older Orthodox food restrictions (i.e. beer and non-olive oil are acceptable) with the common fasting tradition. The Orthodox Lenten tradition also calls for totals fasts on several days, but recognizes that it is very difficult for most working people to complete these. The Orthodox tradition also does not completely relax their restrictions on Sundays and Holy Days during Lent, which I think is partially due to the different method of counting the days of Lent used by the Orthodox churches.

So, my Lenten sacrifice, which I like to call “hardcore” Lent (because it sounds cool) and many people I know like to call “you’re crazy” Lent boils down to the following:

  • No meat
  • No fish (excepting shellfish)
  • No olive-oil
  • No dairy or eggs
  • No alcohol (excepting beer)
  • No eating between meals
  • One full meal a day and two smaller meals that do not add up to the larger.

So far, it’s been rough for me. I haven’t quite gotten my meal sizes figured out yet, but I’m carefully monitoring and adjusting them. I’ve also cut down my workouts a bit due to the decrease in calorie intake. My current workout schedule is:

  • Monday: run 2 miles
  • Tuesday: Leg weights
  • Wednesday: Arm weights
  • Thursday: Leg weights
  • Friday: Arm weights / run .5 miles

So far I’ve already lost more weight than normal with this Lenten diet. I also look forward to Sundays and obligatory feast days a lot more than I used to. (The two feast days during Lent that we are taking off are St. Joseph’s feast day on March 18 and the Annunciation on March 25.)

new gym routine

I’ve explained my workout before, but the amount of time that it takes has always bothered me. I don’t really like spending more than an hour at the gym. My weights days were taking around 1:15 to 1:30 every time, while my cardio days only took about 45 minutes. I came up with a plan to even the days out a little more, which I’ve been following for the last two weeks. Continue reading “new gym routine”