As I know Great Lent begins on Monday, it feels as if I’ve already been making personal sacrifices of my own within the past two weeks. Between wedding planning and finding a place to move into after the wedding to moving in a close relative to the nursing home to giving up my weekly brunch tradition, you can imagine the whirlwind of emotions but I don’t regret being busy. However, I kind of regret posting the latter about brunch – it’s kind of “one of those not like the other” factors but I can explain.
Yes, my fiancé and I had to sacrifice our weekly Sunday brunch tradition after church this past week. Snobs? We are not. Sunday brunch is held at most casual independent restaurants around the noon hour. It is usually done by a buffet of vegetable and meat dishes, a carving station, a fabulous dessert bar and an open bar. It’s sort of like being able to attend a wedding every week – if only all weddings were brunch themed…which wouldn’t seem so bad.. and is another trend that is quickly taking shape. Hint, hint for engaged couples. Even for us. But we already sent out our save the dates. Oopsie. The thing about trends…
But this isn’t a post about trends. Surely, everyone can’t stop buzzing about brunch but the brunch concept has been around before your millenial children have been buzzing about one of the most anticipated meals of the week. Sunday brunch is served early, 11am or usually starts shortly after you get out of church or wake up after a lazy weekend and ends at 2 or as late as 3. Most people can’t be bothered to wake up so early unless they are going to church (and if you’re reading this blog, I hope you do but I still love you anyway!) but they seem to perk about at brunch. Perhaps it’s one of the last times the whole family eats together before the work/school week or the last meal with your roommates or college dormmates before the work week or just to purely to spend time together. And for restaurants, it’s a great way to turn a quick profit. Even if you’re traveling in a new city, google brunch in your city and you will not come up short. Well, they are still peaking or nonexistent in rural areas where brunch takes on different meanings – and it shows up at places like Waffle House or Cracker Barrel…which by the way, those buttermilk biscuits at Cracker Barrel can be it’s own brunch centerpiece star.
And not always do things go according to plan like last week. I really have been thinking of focusing more on seeing myself in the shoes of others and have been trying hard to work on my spiritual life. While I still enjoy spending time with my fiancé and a mean brunch which we did end up doing later in the day, we were stalled in our tracks when we saw a homeless man on the side of a major highway on our way to our brunch reservations last week. The humanitarian in my fiancé wanted to stop but kept driving just for me because he knew I had these reservations set all week and this was the first weekend I had seen him in two weeks from his business trip. I wanted the day to go perfect. But how perfect would the day go knowing we would be able to wine and dine next to the big, antique windows overlooking the historic district of Bethlehem while this person took up the moxie to make up a cardboard sign and hold it along the Highway 61 in broad daylight asking for the very same but could not get? What did he want or need? It wasn’t up for me to decide or judge what he deserves – but to go back and try to help him. And because we did, that actually tasted better to me than any glass of mimosa I’ve downed.
You have to be very careful though about quickly approaching anyone as there are some people who are cunning and intend to scam by “pretending” to be homeless but at the same time, it’s not our place to judge or assess what someone deserves. It is one thing to help others but be wise too. By going back in this situation, I feel something changed in myself that did that and feel better by doing the work of Christ. It would have been nice if things would have still panned out exactly as I planned but we still found a good day in the silver lining. But people like that homeless man where their options are dwindling by the day? It’s hard to see the silver lining especially when people are quick to criticize or won’t even stop to give you the time of day.
This week, I have been cooking up delicious recipes by using up the leftover dairy in my pantry and by experimenting with new fasting or vegan recipes for the fast. I am trying to re-love soup. Some people like my mom and dad love soup. They find it comforting. I am one of those people that find ice cream comforting but ice cream isn’t nutritious even if it’s vegan.Oh, by the way – have you heard? I would like to become one of those soup-loving people. I only really enjoyed it in restaurants or during my families Russian Holy Supper tradition – but the one is once a year and eating out always gets expensive and I lose my spunk in the kitchen. And I don’t ever want to lose my spunk in the kitchen. Because that means this baby blog can’t grow! 🙂
Speaking of spunk in the kitchen, I’ve been loving Isa Chandra MosKowitz’s cookbooks lately in terms of gaining inspiration for vegan cooking. Isa is most noted for the Veganomicon which every vegan you know has probably heard of or owns. I own it and I am not vegan. It’s not some cardinal rule to own a vegan cookbook and not be vegan. It can be hard finding tasty and creative recipes for the fast – Isa’s cookbook packs that with a down to earth and authentic approach. And thanks to a Barnes and Noble gift card that my awesome sister-in-law and her husband gave me for my birthday this past year, I picked up Vegan with a Vengence which was a mutual selection of both my fiancé and I. That’s where I also found her recipe for the roast garlic and white bean soup that I personally adapted and want to share it with you for your Lenten pantries and in general. Isa describes the soup as something you can enjoy while closing your eyes and imagining yourself in Italy with. Between the white beans and garlic, it will be a savory staple to your Lenten pantries that won’t even taste like your sacrificing much flavor at all.
White Bean and Garlic Soup
Adapted from Vegan with a Vengence (with slight substitutions on my part in italics)
2 tablespoons olive oil (I used coconut oil)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt (I used pink sea salt)
A few dashes of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of whole fennel seeds, crushed (Use a mortar and pestle to crush them.)
4 cups of vegan vegetable broth (Most organic vegetable broth brands are fine.)
3 cups cooked northern white beans, drained and rinsed (Must be dried beans!)
3 cups sage leaves or sage
1 bay leaf
2 heads of garlic, roasted (This seems like a lot and it is. I only used 1 head and the aroma and taste is still very pungent. So unless you have a cold or are chasing away vampires, you don’t need two heads…of garlic IMO.)
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. (Seriously. Fresh lemon juice makes a world of a difference compared to that other stuff. But I still don’t call myself a food snob. It’s just that precision and attention to detail in cooking will all make your difference in your cooking.)
Heat a 4-quart pan over medium heat. Saute the onion in the oil for about five minutes, until translucent.
Add the salt, black pepper, fennel seeds and saute for 1 minute. Add the broth, beans, sage and bay leaf, bring to a boil, the lower the heat and simmer, uncovered for five minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Add the roasted garlic, and use a high speed blender or an immersion blender to puree. Return the mixture to the pot and add the lemon juice.
To roast garlic, Isa recommends preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Peel off as much as the garlic that you plan on using and put in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, and when cool, squeeze out the garlic or peel away the skin from each clove.