The Lent 2013 Challenge Wrap Up: “I learned something today” X 40

  1. Appreciate the time you have. Before this project, I could regularly be heard to say, “I don’t have time.” The hardest part of the Lent 2013 Challenge wasn’t going meatless. It wasn’t even surviving on $90/week for five people. The hardest thing was making a healthy meal for five different palates, all within 20 minutes. Oh, how I’ve missed making fresh pita and homemade bagels. I have a better understanding now of how very, very hard it is to avoid processed foods when your time is truly and honestly spoken for by other aspects of survival, like holding down a job… or trying to find one. 
  2. The work done by a “stay-at-home” parent has real, concrete, monetary value.
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    I’m assuming you now see how little value our culture has for a parent who stays at home instead of going out to work. Sure, we hear platitudes, “Of course you work, honey. You just don’t get a paycheck.” I already knew this going in to Lent 2013, but the work I do as a homeschooling mother is the equivalent of our family hiring a cook, laundry service, (very bad) cleaning service, three private school tuitions, private transportation… shall I go on? I save our family tens of thousands of US$ per year. Why is it that if a woman earns that much, she’s a valued employee, but if she saves that much, Google autofill describes her as a lazy, annoying, stupid leech?Just because you don’t see what you’re giving your family in terms of dollars and cents, girlfriend, your worth is beyond rubies.

  3. The domestic church is becoming more important than ever. Or, The way to evangelize the anti-Catholics may be through their stomachs. When I first started this blog over a year ago, I thought I would draw most of my readers from those Catholics who, like me, are trying to find our way back to traditions that once gave us identity and our choices greater meaning. Sure, I have a few of those visiting. What has been even more humbling and sweet to me, however, is the many (well, not many, but several) non-Catholic, even full-on-atheist vegetarian and vegan visitors who have spent a moment or more in my family’s virtual kitchen. If I had only tagged my posts “Catholic,” these people would have skipped over it as if I had tagged them “misogynistichomophobeswhopromotepedophilia.”Right?

    As Ven. Fulton Sheen said, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” No, you probably should not receive a consecrated Eucharist in which you don’t believe (if you value your integrity, anyway)… but you can come on over to my kitchen table, and I’ll feed you some love and laughter and a slow cooker of vegan black bean soup. Can you still hate me then? Can you still say I hate you? The Catholic Church is the Body of Christ on earth. The domestic church is how we can be that Body of Christ in a world hell-bent on crucifying us.

    Before you pick up those nails, though, would you like a freshly-baked pita?

  4. If you plan on doing something to care for God’s people, even if you don’t have the start-up capital, He’ll find a way to provide. When we started this Lent, it was my goal to give to our local food cupboard one of each of the tools that we used the most in our Lent 2013 challenge, paid for out of the money we saved on our new, voluntarily low budget. So, how exactly was I going to get a quality slow cooker, a microwave and a hand blender all for $70? I just shrugged and said, “God, You want these people to get small appliances? You’re going to have to provide the money, ’cause you know what we have on hand, and it ain’t much.”A few weeks later, a reader (who shall remain anonymous unless she comments and claims it) sent us $200. We went shopping tonight.
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    Tomorrow I’m taking First Shift shopping, because they decided to buy the stick blender. Okay. Gotta go get a hankie…

  5. Bloggers:  don’t ever bemoan your small audience. I’m not Jennifer. I’m not The Anchoress. Guess what? Ain’t. Even. Bovvered. By God’s grace, it just recently occurred to me, I never gave up my blogging “mission,” if you will, just because my highest number of hits in one day is 80, and that was last year. I know plenty of people who give up what they love because it’s too hard to get the attention that they want. True humility is true freedom. If you don’t need validation from others to do what you know is good and right, then there’s nothing to stop you. Which brings me to…
  6. Never say “I can’t do that. It’s too difficult,” unless your next words are, “without God’s help.”   

Lent 2013 Challenge Day 44: Good Friday Krabby Stuffed Potatoes

Outwardly, this seems luxurious for Good Friday: Seafood? Really? With white wine? When seen in the light of using stuff up in the fridge, though, hopefully the indulgence factor drops. I also based this on a family recipe that called for a can of condensed lobster bisque, but we’re aiming for from-scratch per the rules.

I had wanted to have some deep, meaningful reflections for the most solemn day of our faith year… but between choir practices and making sure Mr. M was equipped to manage a loud, squirmy preschooler through collective hours of Triduum doings… stuffed potatoes with salad it as good as it got. Humility can just show up in the form of a recipe without a reflection.

Wait. Did I just give a reflection in spite of the humility? Sheesh, you can’t even dress me up, much less take me out.

Krabby Stuffed Potatoes (prep time: 3 min + 15 minutes)

5 baking potatoes, scrubbed and baked in the slow cooker on low 6-12 hours
1 T butter
1 T flour
1 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 c white wine or vegetable stock
1 8oz can PLAIN tomato sauce
1/4 c heavy cream
1/2 c shredded sharp cheese
1/2 lb “krab” pollock seafood flakes

As your potatoes are baking in your slow cooker, melt butter over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk flour with salt and pepper. Sprinkle seasoned flour over butter, then whisk in wine/stock. Let that reduce over medium-high for about 3 minutes, then whisk in tomato sauce and cream. Once that’s all bubbly, fold in cheese and stir until melted and smooth. Fold in “krab” and heat through.

Cut potatoes open on their individual serving plates, then pour “krabby” stuffing inside.

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Speaking of humility, it tasted way better than this picture looks.

And, folks, there you have it: a meatless, cheapo Lent for 5. I shall post our obligatory “I Learned Something Today” reflection sometime soon. Stay tuned, Mackerelsnapper fans. Erm, all three of you.

OH! Gluten-free friends? Corn starch for the flour should work.

 

Lent Challenge 2013 Day 43: Bread Alone?

Ah, the Lent Challenge.  Boy, that takes me back.  All of four days ago, we were still fasting and so busy with the Triduum that it took me until Easter Monday to finish the blogging of it all. Just as our Jewish older sibs get rid of all the chometz (every single crumb of leaven) in the house heading into Passover, we thought it would be kind of meaningful to use up all the bread in our house in anticipation of Good Friday.

It's a pot! It's an oven! It's...

Slow Cooker, you’re my hero!

Slow Cooker “Quiche” (prep time:  10 minutes)

8 c cubes of leftover breads (I say “breads” because we used everything we could:  naan, pita, rolls, leftover French bread, etc.)
2 broccoli crowns
1 onion
1 c chopped celery
1 c shredded mozzarella
1/2 c parmesan cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c milk (if your “quiche” seems dry, add more milk until it is at least malleable)
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper

 

Chop broccoli stems in your food processor first, then chop the florets, to make sure they’re all chopped evenly. Then go ahead and chop your onion in there, too.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until well-mixed.  Spray your slow cooker liner with cooking spray.  Pour in “quiche” and cook on low 4-5 hours.

This makes an ENORMOUS batch.  It can be halved easily, but as this was an experiment, I don’t know how that would affect the cooking time.

Lent 2013 Challenge Day 41: On the Road Again

Yesterday our homeschool field trip club visited a museum in the city where Mr. M works.  Because of our schedule, we would be eating lunch at the museum, and all five of us would be eating dinner in the inevitable traffic jam on the way home.  Thus, I had to make all three meals for the day before leaving the house in the morning.

Breakfast was the usual:  yogurt or Instant Breakfast (depending on the kid), cereal, fresh fruit.

Lunch was hummus wraps with whole-wheat tortillas (hummus was homemade because it’s cheaper and I’m allergic to tahini; tortillas were store-bought because I can only do so much with my time).  We also brought along small Tupperware snack cups of apple sauce,  the last three juice boxes someone gave us, and a large tumbler of water for myself.

Dinner was spiral noodles and peas in cream cheese mushroom alfredo.  It was mushroom alfredo because, surprise, we were out of evaporated milk; I subbed a can of cream of mushroom soup from our emergency stash.  We gave the Tupperware microwave pasta cooker one.  last.  try. The results were passable, though they were a bit gummy and did take longer than the 9 minutes the recipe promised.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that our dinner was still hot by after 7 hours.  I made sure to preheat the Thermoses with boiling water for five minutes, then I heated a rice bag in the microwave (the kind you use for sore muscles) and placed that between all the Thermoses in a bag in our trunk.  So, the meal itself took fewer than 20 minutes to cook, but I may have gone over with the prepping of Thermoses.  Thermi?  Hm.

Lent 2013 Challenge Day 40: It ain’t over ’til the fat lady makes chili.

“Mrs. Mackerelsnapper, didn’t you know that you’re not supposed to count Sundays in the 40 days of Lent?”

I did, actually.

“Then why are you calling today your 40th Day of Lent when Lent isn’t over yet.”

Oh, my dear reader, read more carefully. It’s the 40th day of the Lent 2013 Challenge. We are counting not days of Lent, but days of budgeting meatless meals for a family of five on $90/week. So, I am perfectly comfortable calling this Day 40. Tomorrow will be Day 41. Etcetera.

I do have a seedless English cucumber in the fridge that I had hoped to turn into tzatziki and make some “suddenly pita” along the lines of the recent delicious Suddenly Naan. However, here is it, Monday of Holy Week and we have had snow all day long. Pita and cold food just wasn’t gonna cut it. We need hot comfort food.

Slowcooker Vegan Chili (prep time: 5 minutes)

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1 15oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 c chopped celery
1 onion, finely diced
1/4 c red wine, beer or vegetable stock
2 T minced garlic
2 tsp chili powder (use something spicier for more kick, but we’re feeding kids here)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
2 bay leaves

Dump it all in your slow cooker, turn to low, then walk away for at least 4 hours, as many as 10. Remove bay leaves before serving with some of these lovelies:

Microwave Vegan Corn Muffins (prep time: 5 mintues; cook time: 10-12 minutes)

1 T ground flaxseed + 3 T water, whisked together and set aside
2/3 c flour
1/2 c cornmeal
2 T white sugar
1 T baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c rice milk
1 T oil

Mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Pour milk and oil into the bowl where you’ve premixed your flaxseed and water. Add wet to dry, stirring just until all ingredients are moistened. Spray a microwave-safe muffin pan (ours is silicone) with cooking spray. Fill each muffin cup half full and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a rack IMMEDIATELY (or else you end up with gummy muffins, speaking from experience). Repeat until all batter is used.

This recipe usually makes about 18 muffins. If you only have one micr0-safe muffin pan, you’ll be wiping the cups clean with a dry cloth and re-spraying them between batches. If you’re anti-cooking spray, I don’t know if rubbing the cups with oil will work. Get back to me if it does?

This usually makes about 18 muffins. What we don’t eat I freeze and use with breakfasts.

 

Lent 2013 Challenge Day 38: Breakfast for Anytime

This really only works with the rules if you have a food processor to do your shredding and chopping.  We chopped a whole onion and shredded three potatoes (skins and all).  We mixed all that together and dumped it into our cast iron pan with a good, generous splash of oil.  Stirring it up occasionally, wait until the potatoes really start to brown, then let them sit and glue themselves together a bit.  With a heavy metal spatula…

… flip the whole thing over, in sections if it breaks up (which it will), and let it all get just as brown and crispy on the other side.

Meanwhile, scramble some eggs (or fry them, but since we’re on a time limit, scrambling is faster).  Serve it all up with some sliced fruit.  Just in under the 20 minute wire, and you get a nice picture of Spinal Tap out of it.  Enjoy!

“Waitaminute, Mrs. Mackerelsnapper, OP,” you say.  “Isn’t using a food processor cheating?”  Perhaps.  But remember that our goal is to save up enough money with our fasting to buy kitchen appliances for our local food cupboard to give to families in need?  “Oh, yes,” you reply.  “That’s right.”  Someone REALLY nice even gave us a sizable donation so that we can donate more than the bare minimum.  In about a week, we’ll go shopping and give you an update on what we were able to scrounge.

Lent 2013 Challenge Day 36-37: Nothing to see here, people.

Really, there isn’t.  Late Thursday afternoon I had all the kids out for haircuts, so Mr. M made pizzas for us using the par-baked crusts spoken of in last weekend’s food prep post.

Last night, I had to use up the rest of that monster bag of bargain kale before it went south, so I made sauteed kale with mushrooms (bought on sale last week, also going south) and garlic.  I deglazed the pan with a bit of white wine, having forgotten to take out a container of vegetable stock to thaw.  Meanwhile I had angel hair cooking in our microwave pasta cooker… and I’m starting to give up on that thing.  I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but all but the first two batches of pasta I’ve made in that thing have been just this side of inedible.  They’re gummy and mushy and gross.  So, we had food last night, and it was all by the book, but it wasn’t very tasty.  Alas.  There wasn’t enough Parmesan cheese in the world to save it.