Millions of Christians are preparing to celebrate Lent
, a forty-day period of spiritual preparation to grow closer to God in the days before Easter…which will be celebrated April 16th this year.Lent symbolises the days which lead up to Jesus’ crucifixion and subsequent resurrection…the forty days and nights Jesus spent alone in the Judaean Desert being tempted by Satan.

This period of reflection…and time for fasting, abstinence, and prayer…begins every year on Ash Wednesday, the day after Shrove Tuesday.

Shrove Tuesday, also commonly known as Pancake Day, will take place on February 28 this year. This is the day that worshippers used up ingredients such as eggs, milk and sugar…before beginning their fast during Lent.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, the day after Pancake Day. Ash Wednesday is considered a day to cleanse the soul before Lent actually begins. Palm crosses from the last Palm Sunday are burned, and the ashes are used to mark crosses on the foreheads of parishioners to symbolise repentance for sin and a reminder that death comes to everyone.

This year Lent begins on March 1 and will end on Holy Saturday, April 15, the day before Easter.

Lent is often a time when believers tend to give up something… such as alcohol, coffee or smoking…until Lent ends to “purify” their bodies.

Lentils have long been used as a staple food during the Lent season…having been found in the Bible not only in the story of Esau, son of Isaac and Rebekah, selling his birthright to his brother, Jacob, for a bowl of lentil stew (Genesis 25:29-34)…but also as being among the provisions brought to David when he was fleeing from Absalom. (2 Samuel 17:27)

Compared to other types of dried beans, lentils are relatively quick and easy to prepare. Unlike most legumes, dried lentils do not need to be presoaked.

One cup of dried lentils will yield 2-2 ½ cups of cooked lentils.

  • First spread the dried lentils out on a light colored surface and check for small stones or debris. Next place the lentils in a strainer and rinse them thoroughly under cool running water.
  • Boil your water before adding the lentils. Lentils placed in already boiling water will be easier to digest than those that were brought to a boil with the water. 
  • Use three cups of liquid for each cup of lentils. 
  • When the water returns to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer and cover. Green lentils usually take thirty minutes, while red ones require twenty minutes.
  • Cooked lentils will keep fresh in the refrigerator for about three days if placed in a covered container.

Lentils readily absorb a variety of wonderful flavors from other foods and seasonings.

  
The most “famous” dish containing lentils is the Indian dish known as dhal or lentil curry, an ancient recipe and part of the everyday diet in India.

Dal, also spelled dhal, is both the Indian term for dried, split legumes…and various soups prepared from them. 

Dal is typically eaten in India with rice, and rotis, a wheat flatbread. The manner in which it is cooked and presented varies by region.

 The dal typically contains split red lentils is commonly referred to as Masoor orkempu (red) togari bele.

Most dal recipes begin with boiling the legumes in water with turmeric and salt. Some recipes also call for other ingredients…such as tomatoes, tamarind, unripe mango…often to impart a sour flavor. 

After cooking, a fried garnish…known as chaunk, tadka and tarka….is prepared by frying raw spices…cumin seeds, mustard seeds, asafoetida, fenugreek seeds, dried red chili pepper, turmeric, coriander, garam masala…for a few seconds in hot oil on medium-low heat. Next ginger, garlic, and onion are generally fried for ten minutes. Once the onion turns golden brown, the spices are added, and the chaunk is poured over the cooked dal.

Here is a recipe for Masoor orkempu (red) togari bele, if you’d like to try making your own.

  
1.  Eat lentils with a rich source of Vitamin C… 

Eating lentils with a rich source of Vitamin C will give you six times as much iron as you would get from eating the lentils by themselves. 

Many vegetables, including broccoli and bok choy, are high in both iron and vitamin C. Try adding lentils to salads featuring dark, leafy greens and orange or grapefruit segments such as the following salad from Pulse Pledge seems like a good choice…

Pulse Pledge is a website devoted to “pulses” such as lentils, chickpeas, beans, and dried peas. Check out the website for free recipes, information and more.

While there, also take the “Pulse Pledge” to eat pulses once a week for ten weeks and join a “global food movement.”


Lentil, Grapefruit and Fennel Salad with Avocado

Combine…

  • 2 cups cooked green lentils
  • 1 head of radicchio, chopped
  • 1 head of fennel, thinly sliced
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 avocado thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

Dressing…Stir together…

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp honey

Pour dressing over the salad and toss to coat.
  
2.  Eat lentils with a grain like rice, whole-grain pasta, or whole-wheat bread.

Lentils do not contain all of the amino acids required by the body for protein synthesis. Combine them with a whole grain for a meal providing complete protein.

Lentils have been cooked into flat breads for centuries…most commonly with barley and wheat. Lentils, barley, and wheat all originated in the same regions and spread throughout Africa and Europe during the same timeframe.

The following recipe for Middle Eastern bread, made during Bible times, will supply protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, potassium, vitamins A and C, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. 
Copycat Ezekiel 4:9 Bread (makes 4 loaves)

  • 8 cups wheat flour
  • 4 cups barley flour
  • 2 cups lentils, cooked and mashed
  • 1⁄2 cup millet flour (grind up millet in the blender)
  • 1⁄4 cup rye flour
  • 1 1⁄2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 -6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 (1/4 ounce) packets yeast or 1 tablespoon yeast, in
  • 1⁄2 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and honey and let sit for 10 minutes. Mix the wheat, barley, millet and rye flour together. Blend lentils, oil and small amount of water(from the 1 1/2 cups water) in blender and place into large mixing bowl with remaining water. Stir in two cups of mixed flour. Add yeast mixture. Stir in 1Tbsp salt and flour. Place on floured bread board and knead until smooth. Put in oiled bowl. Let rise until double in bulk. Knead again and cut dough. Shape into four loaves. Place in four greased pans. Let rise until double in bulk. Bake at 375* for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

  

3.  Eat lentils with meat to add extra nutrients, protein, fiber, and sustenance.

Moroccan Lentil Stew

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1# lean ground beef
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon  pepper 
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 1 (19 ounce) can chickpeas, drained
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1⁄4 cup vermicelli, broken (or orzo or other small pasta)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh parsley
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1⁄4 cup lemon juice

Melt butter over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Stir in meat, onion, and celery. Cook, covered, 10min. Add spices. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas and broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes. Stir in noodles. Simmer, covered, about 7 minutes longer. Whisk together flour and 1 cup water until smooth. Whisk flour mixture into soup. Simmer, stirring often, for 5min. 

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