My Friend Daniel

Lent is a period of solemn waiting before Easter.  A time of sacrifice as we meditate on the time that Jesus spent in the desert.  A time meant to allow us to prepare for the beautiful celebration of the ressurection of our Savior.  It begins with a day of fasting on Ash Wednesday and the outward sign of ashes on our foreheads to remind us that anything that we do outside of or without Christ returns to ashes.  It is common practice to give something of significance up or add something good and prayerful into the daily routine.  Last year, our family "fasted" from media and entertainment electronics and Tim and I did something called "The Daniel Fast".   The Daniel Fast is a biblically based partial fast. It is a method of fasting that men, women and young people all over the world are using as they enter into the spiritual discipline of prayer and fasting.   It was hard...both 'sacrifices' that were made, but amazingly rewarding and so much more than just eating differently and communicating differently.  There was much reliance on the strength Christ offered, the help He promises when asked of Him, the quiet that is created when such noise is eliminated.  When physical hunger set in, it was actually a tool to remind me of the spiritual hunger for God that I have.

The following was written by the principal of our school, and I felt it was such a good explanation of this season;  

For the next forty days we are given a solemn opportunity to enter into the desert – to examine ourselves on a variety of levels – to encounter the Lord in powerful ways – to step up and witness to Him in our lives in new and grace-filled ways.
Each one of us is called to go out to the desert to encounter the Lord. The desert is the place where we are completely “out-in-the-open”; we are not hidden. We need to strip away the things that we keep putting up to block the Lord’s working in our lives. For some it is the inability to allow ourselves to be wrong before others – we are quick to excuse ourselves, quick to find fault with others, and rarely do we actually, really & truly apologize to the one whom we have hurt (and sometimes it’s the One whom we have hurt!). We may never say the words and allow past hurts to fester in our memory and poison our “present” with the Lord. We must acknowledge when we have made mistakes.

While we are not meant to complain about our sacrifices or boast about them, I find the challenge of eating in line with the Daniel fast to be exciting in terms of cooking and creating meals, so I've decided to document some of our meals from time to time with reference to the recipes and sites.  I in no way mean to minimize the importance of Lent or insinuate that this sacrifice is fun, as there is much prayer attached and in light of the fact that I have a sweet tooth and love to cook, bake and eat, it is still very much a sacrifice.  I am not giving up the computer this year, as last year, I paid our mortgage twice in the same month trying to be organized for my 6 week sebatacle! 

Thus, my pretend cooking blog:  LOL! 
We begin with Fat Tuesday.  The blackberries that I got as a Christmas present have been calling my name lately, so what better day to use them than the day before I begin eating twigs and berries?  My mom posted these a while back too...probably a better-looking version than mine, but these were just as tasty.

Blackberry Dumplings  serves 6
3 cups berries, partially frozen
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
Toss to coat, set aside.
2 eggs
2 cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup cold water

Blackberries as I know them are different than the standard blackberry that looks like a big black raspberry.  These that I speak of look like very tiny dark blueberries.  They are in fact a domesticated nightshade fruit, and they are a labor of love.  I've planted them unsuccessfully several times, but this year I finally harvested a whole pint!!!  There is much sarcasm there!  They are harvested very delicately and it is a time consuming process, which is why I was so delighted to get a huge ziploc bag full of them as a gift. 

The dumplings are a family recipe...not created by my family, but part of a tradition of heritage foods passed down through generations.  It is very simple really, beginning with partially thawed blackberries that are covered in a mixture of flour and sugar to create the filling.

And then the dough...
Flour, eggs, salt and water.  My dough was nice an yellow, thanks to these babies:  the ladies are laying again finally and we have these gorgeous marigold yolks.  Yummy!

The dough is mixed until light and then rolled out very thin and cut into  3-4 inch squares and a scoop of berries piled in the center of each square.

The corners are brought together to create a neat little bundle until they are all done.  (That's the hardest part--forming all those little delicious packages!)

They're each dropped into a big pot of boiling water for about 7-10 minutes until they pop to the top and float, indicating they're done.

At this point, they begin to be transferred to a big bowl.  In the meantime, cubes of bread are 'toasted' in a skillet of butter and evaporated milk or cream is being heated to go over the top of the finished dumplings.

Oh, sweet mouth is watering! 

We complimented these heavenly bundles with 'Minute Steak', which is breaded cube steak.  The preparation of both of these dishes left the kitchen on the less-than-tidy side!  Where are you kitchen fairy????

Big mess meant good eats though!

The red velvet cheesecake was from a local eatery, and I confess, it may be my all-time favorite dessert, even over fudge!
  There was some major butter going on in this meal! 

A while back, I decided to join Weight Watchers online and track my eating that way to see if I could break past my plateau.  It's been interesting and I've done well, but I'm pretty sure that Fat Tuesday broke the points bank!  FYI, there are 10 points per serving for the dumplings!

So, the very next day, we jump from butter-laden, sweet goodness to a vegan diet without sugar of any kind!  Our palates will become accustomed to it in a week or so. 

Oatmeal sweetened with apples and blueberries is not actually very sweet.   It will be eventually. 

Our big meal for the day was Mexican Quinoa, which I normally make with ground beef. 

Day 2:  Breakfast:  Fruit smoothie with almond milk (2 pts)
             Lunch:  Avocado Lime salad with cilantro, which is simply a relish of bell peppers, onions, black beans, corn, garlic, lime, cilantro and avocado with Tostitos baked tortilla chips.  (9 pts) The recipe can be found here.
Asian Chicken Noodle Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing (minus the chicken) (10pts)  and Winter Citrus Pomegranite Fruit Salad (0pts)
The recipes can be found here and here from Jennifer Segal at OnceUponaChef.  I modified just a little to fit our fast, but...mmmmm!  Vegan dining at it's finest perhaps!

Now, just for the record, while I may have dined well, I still had to resist the chocolate chip cookies that Jakob made and the mid afternoon munchies that would've been easily taken care of with something that contained sugar I'm sure!

I'll write more about the actual Daniel Fast another time, in a shorter post perhaps.