Avocado Chimichurri

IMG_9163Dear human beings,

You NEED this in your life. Fasting or not, you have got to make this, and I can’t believe I haven’t put it on this blog until now, because it’s a big favorite around here.

But no worries. I’m here now. To change lives.

Avocados are nice. Guacamole is good. Chimichurri is better. We like to eat ours on top of toasted sourdough bread, but you could dip it with chips, or heck, eat it by the spoonful. You won’t be sad.

Avocado Chimichurri

2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and cubed

Whisk it all together, except for the avocados. Fold those in at the end. Eat it on bread or with chips or all by itself.

(I often omit the cilantro because I have weirdos in my house. It’s excellent that way, too.)

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Fudgy Brownies

fudgy brownieeeeeeMany boxed cake and brownie mixes are free of milk and egg products. Find a brownie mix that is, and instead of adding an egg or two as directed, use this great substitute:

1 tablespoon freshly ground flax seed
3 tablespoons water

Stir together and let sit for a minute or two, then add to the batter as you would the egg. Cook according to package directions, and voila! Quick, easy, delicious brownies. I think this might be my new go to lenten birthday/name day treat.

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Fried Rice

One of the fasting staples around here is fried rice. We use it as a main dish at least once a week. I love it because it’s so easy to whip up in a short amount of time, it’s a great way to use up leftover rice, and it’s quite versatile: use white or brown rice, use any kind of vegetables, go heavier or lighter on them, substitute any oil you prefer for the coconut oil–but you really need the sesame oil, or it won’t taste right. 

This is especially great if not everyone in your home is fasting, because you can easily add meat and/or eggs to it for those who aren’t, and leave the rest lenten-style for those who are. Here’s a basic version, but keep in mind that all measurements are very much approximate; it’s really just to taste.

Fried Rice
Serves 2-4

4 cups rice, cooked
1 bunch green onions, chopped (green and white parts)
1-2 bags of frozen stir-fry vegetables* or about 2 cups of vegetables of your choice, chopped
1/2 cup beansprouts (optional)
1 cup shrimp, cooked (optional)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pan or wok, heat the oils over medium heat and cook the onions till tender. Add the veggies and cook till they are as soft as you like. Add the rice and soy sauce, stir until well combined. Then add the cooked shrimp, if using. Stir fry until hot. Season with salt and pepper, if needed, and serve immediately. This also reheats quite well, of course.

*If you use the frozen veggies, you may want to cook them ahead of time to make sure all the liquid is gone.

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Black Bean & Edamame Salad

It’s easy, it’s yummy, it’s healthy, it’s lenten. It’s obviously not soy-free, but I’ll post it anyway, because fresh, organic edamame is okay with me in moderation. Many thanks to my good friend, Missy, for this great recipe, which is adapted from Clean Eating Imagemagazine.

Black Bean & Edamame Salad

1 15oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup fresh or frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 green pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup diced red onion

Combine these ingredients together in medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing which is:

1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Drizzle over top of bean salad and toss to combine.

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Baba ghanoush

There is no end to my love for baba ghanoush: good for you, easy to make, and hard to resist. I almost think it shouldn’t qualify as lenten…but it does.

This recipe is from Desert Candy.

Baba Ghanoush

2 large eggplants (about 2 lbs), pricked all over with a fork
2 garlic cloves
3/4 teaspoon sea salt 
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini

Preheat oven to 450 F and roast the eggplants for 40-45 minutes, until the skins are black and the flesh is soft and collapsed. 

Meanwhile, smash the garlic with the salt in a mortar and pestle until paste-like. (In lieu of a mortar and pestle–although I keep telling myself I need to get one!–I have used a small food processor for this step.) In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and tahini until thick and lighter in color. Add the garlic paste.

When the roast eggplants are cool enough to handle, split them in half and scoop out the soft flesh. Puree the eggplant flesh in a food processor until smooth.

Add the eggplant puree to the garlic/tahini mixture. Taste for seasoning. Allow to rest until cool.

To serve, spread in a platter and drizzle with olive oil and any of your desired toppings. 

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Clam Pasta (aka the Best Friend Maker)

This is for Katarina. I’m her best friend because of this dish, which is awesome. She even kissed me in an effort to convince me to come to her house and make more for her, but in lieu of that, I shall share the recipe.

I often bring this to the pot luck dinners we have at my parish on Wednesday nights during Lent, after the Presanctified Liturgy. People are constantly asking me how to make it, and I have to admit: it comes from a can.

Seriously, all you need is a can of Progresso’s White Clam Sauce, poured over linguine–but last night I spiced it up a little bit and I liked it even better that way, and the additions provided some extra nutrition. Here’s what you need:

2 cans Progresso White Clam Sauce*
1 can (10 oz.) baby clams, drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups fresh baby spinach
2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 package (16 oz.) linguine

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat, add oil and cook the garlic for a minute or so. Then add the spinach, mushrooms, and baby clams. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and the spinach wilted. Add the clam sauce, simmer for a few minutes, and serve over linguine. (For the pot luck, I just let it sit in a crock pot on the “warm” setting until it’s time to eat.)

By the way, I usually just get the clam sauce from Kroger or Walmart, but I found a deal at Amazon that is a lot better. Check it out.

Thanks, Progresso!

* I’ve tried another brand, DeLallo, but I didn’t like it nearly as much.

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Melomakarona is a dense, very sweet traditional Greek cookie. I have sometimes heard it called simply “makaron”. Some people find they are too sweet for their liking; however, I have such a sweet tooth, it’s never a problem for me! But because not everyone is so afflicted, I prefer to make these cookies on the smaller side, just enough for a bite or two each.


3 cups coconut oil*
1 cup orange juice, divided
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
7 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350. Meanwhile, blend the oil and 1/2 cup of the orange juice in a large bowl. Mix the sugar and spices together in another bowl, then add them to the oil mixture. Put the baking soda in the remaining 1/2 cup of orange juice, dissolving it and letting it fizz, then add it to the oil mixture.

Mix together the flour and baking powder, then add that to the oil mixture until it forms a soft dough. Add in the nuts.

Form the cookies from about one tablespoon of dough. You can make log shapes, balls, crescents, etc. Place them a couple of inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for about 30 minutes. While the cookies are baking, make the honey syrup.

Honey Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
1 cup water

Stir all ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and the mixture simmers. Remove from heat.

Dip the completely cooled cookies into the syrup and place on a rack to drip. If they’re not completely cooled, they’ll fall apart! Be careful. Immediately sprinkle them with more chopped nuts if you like. I really think they are best this way.

* It’s probably not traditional to use coconut oil but I try to avoid vegetable oil. My coconut oil has a slight coconut taste to it, which I personally like, but “deodorized” oil is available, too, or you can just use vegetable oil.

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Chewy Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe originally came from IsaChandra at the Post Punk Kitchen. Along with the lenten chocolate cake I recently published here, this is my go-to recipe for a great lenten dessert. I like to make these for birthdays and name days that fall during a fast. They’re amazing. Below is the recipe from Post Punk Kitchen, with a couple of modifications from me. You will need:

3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon whole flax seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Grind the flax seeds on high in a blender until they become a powder. Add coconut milk (or hemp or almond, whatever you like) and blend for another 30 seconds or so. Set aside.

In a large bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

In a seperate large bowl cream together oil and sugar. Add the flax seed/coconut milk mixture and mix well. Add the vanilla.

Fold in the dry ingredients in batches. When it starts to get too stiff to mix with a spatula, use your hands until a nice stiff dough forms. Add the chocolate chips and mix with your hands again. Alternatively, use a stand mixer. You need some power for this recipe!

Roll dough into 1 inch balls and flatten into a disc that’s about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet about an inch apart.

Bake for 10 minutes. Seriously, 10 minutes. You really don’t want to overbake these, or they’ll end up being nothing special! Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes, then set them on a wire rack to cool completely.

These are really good as cookie-wiches: spread some kind of lenten frosting on one, and put another one on top of it. If you make them this way, however, you may want to make the cookies smaller or else you may find them to be too rich.

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Mujaddara is one of my favorite things. I love to make it during the fasts because everyone in my family enjoys it, even the children, and it’s very easy, inexpensive, and one batch makes a whole lot! My godmother taught me how to make it a couple of years ago and I can never get it to turn out quite as delicious as hers, but it’s close. I am not sure how accurately I remembered what she taught me so maybe I am doing something different (I know she doesn’t use the pine nuts so there’s at least one variation), but whatever I’m doing, it’s working. Here is what I do.

2 cups rice
2 cardamom pods
1 1/2 cups green or brown lentils
4 sweet onions
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cumin
olive oil
toasted pine nuts (optional)

Put a large skillet on the stove and heat it up over medium heat. While heating, slice the onions, then add some oil to the pan and then the onions. Stir occasionally as they cook until they are soft (15-20 minutes?), and then turn the heat up to medium-high and stir frequently until they are caramelized to a nice deep brown. This should take about 20 or 30 minutes, I think. When they are done, add a splash of water to deglaze the pan.

While the onions are cooking, cook the rice and lentils. You can cook them according to package directions, but my preferred way for the rice is to cook it in the oven. Here is how I do it. Preheat oven to 350. Place the 2 cups of rice into an oven proof dish, about 2 quarts in size, and on the stovetop boil 2 3/4 cups of water along with a pinch of salt and a little oil. When it boils, pour it into the dish with the rice and cover the dish tightly with a double layer of foil. Bake in the oven until the water is absorbed and rice is tender; this should be 45 to 60 minutes. Remove and fluff with fork. For this recipe, put the 2 cardamom pods in with the rice as it bakes.

The lentils can simply be boiled on the stovetop until they are tender but not too mushy.

When all these things are cooked, mix the rice, drained lentils, and half the caramelized onion in a pot, along with about half a cup of water and a little olive oil, plus the spices, salt, and pepper, and stir and heat on the stove over medium heat until it’s all combined and smelling delicious.

Then place it all into a serving dish and top with the remaining caramelized onions and the pine nuts, if you’re using them. This is delicious served with chopped cucumbers and tomatoes drizzled in olive oil–or if it’s not a fast day, I like to have it with Greek yogurt.

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Here is how I make hummus. I’ve gotten lots of compliments on it from people who should know! It’s very easy. This is what I do.


1 can* chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
1/3 c. tahini
1/3 – 1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
additional olive oil
paprika (optional)

Put it all in a food processor and whip it up till it’s very smooth. To get a really smooth consistency, you can remove the skins from the chickpeas, but of course, that’s pretty time consuming!

While it’s being pureed you can add more liquid as required: olive oil, reserved liquid from the chickpeas (if using canned), maybe slightly more lemon juice. You really want a consistency that’s not too thick; it shouldn’t be like cookie dough, more like yogurt.

I like to serve it with paprika and olive oil drizzled on top. I think it’s also great with za’atar.

* I’ve also used dried chickpeas but I can’t remember the equivalent, and I like to have the extra liquid to add in if needed.

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