Wednesday, January 14, 2009
I'm back! Happy New Year everybody. We just got back from our very relaxing holiday in Orlando and Andrews, NC last week, and it's taken about a week to get fully back into the system of things: the gym, the emailing and yes, the blog. Bren, overachieving blighter that he is, still managed to vlog everyday that we were away. I am using the fact that I forgot my camera cord as my excuse for not being as ambitious. I'll post some pictures later this week though.
BTW, if you haven't watched Bren's vlog in a while, I would encourage you to watch this one, mostly because of the muppet-type opening. It's hilarious!
We are ringing in the New Year by following the Daniel Fast, a 21-day abstension from all meat, alcohol, sugar/sweetners, dairy, eggs, refined white flour and leavened bread... in an effort to draw closer to the Lord. OH! And no caffiene! That's been the hardest one to give up! Man! We drank so much coffee whilst we were away that, on the first day back in LA, I dusted off my coffee machine, made Bren walk 4 blocks to the convenience store so that I could get some half and half, and brewed a pot to accompany our pizza and Battlestar viewing. Ah, bliss.
Anyway, this fast is inspired by the prophet Daniel. Do you know the story of Daniel? It's kind of complex: an Israelite, taken in by the Babylonian king against his will, becomes the only member of the court who can correctly interpret the King's dreams. All the while, Daniel remains true to his God, without bending to the Babylonians' god, even withstanding trials of fire and lion.
A lot of our daily parlance comes from the book of Daniel: "writing on the wall", "the lion's den", "the fiery furnaces"... and of course, the awesome-st named folks in the Bible, Meshach (ME-shack), Shadrach (SHAD-rack) and Abednego (a-BED-nee-go). Say those name 10 times fast, I dare ya!
Here's Chagall's rendition of Daniel in the lion's den:
Anyway, Daniel was young, handsome and intelligent, sadly for him, exactly fitting the qualifications of new additions to the King's court. Not wanting to bend to King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel decided:
"In those days, I, Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled."
- Daniel 10:2,3
So clearly, this isn't a fast in the strict sense, rather a "partial" fast. And there's nothing special about the foods you're eating; they don't hold any special powers. Rather, it's the intention behind it, the attitude with which you give things up.
I have no self-control, so I didn't think I could do it, especially since I'm so obsessed with food. However, every time a craving rears it head, say, for a sweet, sweet cup o' joe, I remember Who I'm giving it up for. The craving disappears. Literally. Fo'. Real.
Personally, I felt like God was hiding His face from me a good deal over the past few weeks, and while I don't want to assert any undue power to the fast (and away from God), He sure is close today. It's... really amazing! If you follow Christ, and you don't know what that feels like (having Him close to you), then give it a try. Heck, if you DON'T follow Christ, and you don't know what it feels like to have God's presence fall on you, give it a try. Can't hurt, right? How 'bout it? The creator of the universe? And you? Hanging out together? Huh? Huh?!
We went to the neighborhood Middle Eastern/Jewish market the other day, to stock up on cheap veggies (Elat Market, for those of you here in LA. It's on Pico, just east of Robertson), and I gasped with delight when I saw bunches of a straggly looking weed:
It's fresh fenugreek (we called it methi)! You might have heard of fenugreek if you make any Indian food from scratch: the seeds and dried leaves are used quite often, especially in North Indian food, if I'm not mistaken (Mum?!). Their distinctive aroma is often the base of that "curry" smell that seeps the worn-out carpet of every Indian restaurant you've frequented. It's also used to give a maple-like flavor to syrup. Weird, huh?
They're wicked good for you too. The leaves ease digestion, reduce blood sugar levels (great for diabetics), boost milk production in nursing mums, and clearing your sinuses. Apparently, they're from the same family as the peanut and the chickpea, so if you're allergic to either of those, you might want to skip this one.
Their flavor is bold, bitter, fiesty, even! Both Indians and Persians adore them. Mum plants fenugreek seeds in pots on her balcony so that they can have fresh leaves in their chapati dough (yum!). Growing up, we'd have fresh methi with potatoes. I decided to make it with sweet potato, hoping that the sweetness of the potato would balance out the bitterness of the methi. I LOVE how it turned out.
The only annoying part is that fenugreek is very muddy, so make sure you wash it at least twice, and remove any foreign stems that might be in there. Also, you'll have to trim the roots off, which I find much easier with a pair of scissors. You can find methi at most Indian stores, and as I just discovered, Middle Eastern stores. Alternatively, you could make this with spinach or kale.
Served with some brown rice, it's a really satisfying dinner. Given that I made this on the first day of our fast, I'm calling it "Lions' Den Methi".
Lions's Den Methi: Fresh Fenugreek Leaves with Sweet Potatoes and Mustard Oil
You'll need this stuff:
3 tablespoons mustard oil (or regular canola if you don't have mustard)
2 medium shallots, sliced 1/4" thin
1 medium sweet potato (about 10 oz), peeled, and cut into 1/2" cubes
2-3 bunches fresh fenugreek, washed very well (like, 2 or 3 times, they're so muddy!), woody roots trimmed off
1/4 tsp (rounded) turmeric powder
Salt and Pepper
1) Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and potatoes. Saute and allow to pick up some color.
2) Meanwhile, chop the methi finely. You can throw it in a food processor if you like.
3) Once the sweet potato/shallot mixture has caramelized a bit, remove from the pan and set aside.
4) Turn heat up to medium high. Return pan to heat and add remaining 2 tbsp of oil. When it's shimmering, add the methi. Stir often, and saute about 10 minutes until the methi has turned dark green.
5) Add the potato mixture and turmeric to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Add water and turn heat to medium-low. Cook, covered for 10-15 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft. Taste for seasonings and serve!