Being a vegetarian isn't easy, especially if you aren't determined to be one. Everyone knows that vegetables are healthy for the body, yet most of us can't imagine a diet without meat, eggs, cheese and milk. And for good reason: when you eat only vegetables you're always hungry! A roasted meat, some fried eggs and a good chunk of cheese, followed by a big piece of cake, with lots of cream, is every gourmand's dream. Moderation is what our doctors recommend - same as our priests in church. They all say our body needs some "cleansing" (read "detoxifying") from time to time, a fasting that will "clean" our soul too, through our will of abstaining from those foods. Fasting means a total and voluntary abstinence from any animal products such as meat, eggs, milk and cheese. The Easter fasting in the orthodox religion is also called the Great Fast or Great Lent, and is the longest of all fastings. It runs for seven weeks before Easter. On the most important Orthodox feasts celebrated during the fast period, fish is allowed.
Vegetables are number one on my list when planting and sowing in spring, then all summer long while they are growing and ripening. I'm not a vegetarian, but I like veggies, especially those grown in my garden. We have a tradition for fall canning vegetables in our country, and so I can a lot of food. Pickles, sauces, ketchup, vegetable salad with mustard and mayonnaise and eggplant salad with veggies, are just some of the canned goods I make with the veggies from my garden. Canning vegetables is traditional for all people living in the cold zones, all over the world, but for us, it's mostly important because of the Easter Fasting.
So you see, I need to have as many cans on hand as I can make, for the fasting days when vegetables are all we can eat. We eat all kinds of veggies, canned or raw. Beans, peas, potatoes, cabbage, onions, carrots, beet, peppers, tomatoes cooked with rice or egg-free spaghetti or noodles and all kind of fruits, bread, crackers and different fasting desserts (prepared without eggs, butter or milk) - are some of the food we enjoy during fasting days.
I cook many different soups for lunch such as tomato soup with rice, bean soup, minestrone soup, vegetable or mushroom cream soup, potato, red orach or letuce sour soup. Also for lunch I make casseroles with all kinds of vegetables. One day it's peas, another day it's green beans or dry beans; then there's the sauted sour cabbage or spaghetti with pesto, vegetables or with tomato juice. Potatoes are frequently eaten during fasting: fried, baked, boiled, saute or in addition to many other veggies and tomatoes. We oftenly have crackers with jam for dessert. Donuts made without butter and milk are very good, especially when powdered with sugar. Rice with dried plums is a traditional fasting dessert, but I substitute apple or pumpkin for the plums. For dinner I usually make a potato salad or a bean puree, or we eat some of the eggplant salad I canned last fall. We have snacks between the meals, with ruits, nuts, cereals and dry fruits. Olives with onions or radishes and fresh buns are also delicious.
I have many meals I haven't cooked yet during this fasting, one of which is stuffed sour cabbage rolls. These are our traditional Christmas meal, when we stuff them with pork, but during fasting they will be stuffed with rice, pumpkin seeds and raisins.
My favorite fasting meals are the dried bean puree and the potato salad. Both are very easy to cook and so delicious. Here are the recipes, if you would like to try them.
Dry beans puree
1 cup dry beans
1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 stalk celery
2 garlic cloves
¼ cup olive oil
2 onions for saute
1 tablespoon tomato paste
It is covenient to start cooking dry beans the evening before. Put the dry beans on a table and pick up any dirt from it, then place the beans in a pot and rinse with cold water. Let them soak overnight in water at room temperature. The next day discard the soaking water and add fresh water until beans are covered. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to minimum, cover pot with a lid and let boil. While beans are boiling you need to boil more water in another pot. When boiling, throw away the water from the beans and add the boiling one. Change water from the beans two more times to prevent gas in your stomach. Add a fourth pan of fresh boiling water along with the carrot, onion and celery, salt and let boil until beans are tender. Mash beans, vegetables and garlic, with a few tablespoons of the bean soup, using a food processor. Add salt and chopped savory, one tablespoon olive oil. Add more soup, if necessary, until creamy. Slice onions and saute in olive oil, using a pan. Stir until tender. Add tomato paste and spread saute onions over the beans puree. Same puree can be made with green peas.
1 red onion
1 red sweet pepper
1/2 cup olives
parsley and dill, chopped
lemon or vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Peel and cut potatoes in cubes. Put potatoes in a pan, add cold water until they are covered, add salt and bring to boil. Cover with a lid and let boil until tender at minimum heat, about 10 minutes. Drain and place potatoes in a bowl and let cool. Slice onions, add salt and rub. Chop sweet pepper and herbs. Combine potatoes with sweet pepper, onions, herbs and olives. Add salt, vinegar or lemon juice and olive oil.
Lot's of cooking, isn't it? But wait to see the Easter meals--now there is a lot of cooking! Until then I'm not only fasting and cleaning my body and soul, but cleaning the house too. The Easter cleaning has started and this includes also the garden. I still have onions to plant, radish and spinach seeds to sow, dig the garden - so much to do in such short time! So I'm leaving you for now, but I promise to come back with more information about our Easter and more recipes.
Happy Spring everyone!