Clean Monday, Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday – What’s It All About?

Pancake celebration Salisbury Cathedral

Pancake celebration Salisbury Cathedral

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in the Western Church. “Shrove” is the past tense of the word “shrive,” which means to hear a confession, assign penance, and absolve from sin. Shrove Tuesday is a reminder that we are entering a season of penance.

Shrove Tuesday is also known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras (which is simply French for Fat Tuesday). In Italy, Fat Tuesday is known as carnevale-goodbye to meat-from which we get our English word carnival. Traditionally people held one last rich feast, using up perishables like eggs, butter and milk before the fast of Lent began. Now in some places, like New Orleans, this has become a huge celebration that really has nothing to do with the beginning of Lent.

For many however this is still a significant day. Many churches hold pancake suppers, often as a way to reach out to their neigbours. You can find a great collection of recipes and traditions from around the world for Shrove Tuesday in Fat Tuesday Recipes.

For Eastern Orthodox Christians the fast has already begun. Clean Monday, the Monday before Ash Wednesday, is the first day of Great Lent. It is a reminder that we should begin Lent with good intentions and a desire to clean our spiritual house. It is a day of strict fasting for Eastern Catholics and orthodox, including abstinence not only from meat but from eggs and dairy products as well.

The following prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian is a common prayer used during this season.

O Lord and Master of my life, keep from me the spirit of indifference and discouragement, lust of power and idle chatter. [kneel/prostration]

Instead, grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humble-mindedness, patience, and love. [kneel/prostration]

O Lord and King, grant me the grace to be aware of my sins and not to judge my brother; for You are blessed now and ever and forever. Amen. [kneel/prostration]


Have You Ever Thought Of Going Solar with your Cooking?

It is a beautiful sunny day here in Seattle which turned my thoughts to how we can harness the power of the sun for our daily lives. I itch to experiment with solar cookers and am looking forward to experiments in this and other energy efficient ways of preparing my food. Would love to hear from those who have experimented already. Here are some great videos I found on this topic.

I loved this one on using a parabolic mirror for cooking a turkey burger. There are similar videos available on how to cook ceese sandwiches and in fact anything else that you might want to grill.

And this one on how to build a solar generator is both intriguing and appealing to me.

The one that most touched me and in fact brought tears to my eyes is this one. It is amazing to think that rape and violence against women could be reduced by solar cooking. Solar cooking can bring peace and dignity to women’s lives. What impact I wonder could our own creativity provide for people at the margins?

Having Fun Cooking

Mediterranean diet pyramid

Mediterranean diet food pyramid

One of the things that I always like to do to relax after a long trip is to get into the kitchen and cook. Replenishing supplies like my breakfast granola and eggplant dip (baba Ghannouj) which have become staples for our Mediterranean style diet are always fun. I have posted the granola recipe before, but thought that some of you may would appreciate this very healthy version of Baba Ghannouj too. I took my original recipe and added the pepper which I think gives it a richer flavour and the yoghurt adds a nice tang. If you like it hot at a 1/4 tsp chipotle pepper powder too. It makes a great lunch spread or addition to a Middle Eastern meal.

1 medium sized eggplant

1 red pepper (capsicum)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup taheen, (sesame paste)

1/2 cup yoghurt (Greek style preferable)

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp olive oil (optional)

2 spring onions finely chopped

2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

Wash and dry eggplant and pepper. Prick eggplant with fork in 3 -4 place. Place eggplant and pepper on a baking sheet and broil (grill) 4 inches away from heat, turning them on all sides until the skin is charred. 20- 30 minutes. Allow to cool. Peel off skin, cut off stem and deseed pepper. Chop eggplant and pepper finely by hand and mash eggplant pulp or blend garlic, pepper and eggplant in a blender until smooth. Combine lemon juice, yoghurt, and salt. Add to eggplant mix. Blend in taheen, mix well. Add spring onions and parsley. Place on a serving plate and drizzle oil over it.


The Unexpected Blessings of God – Sweet and Juicy Every Time

Tomato harvest

The unexpected blessings of God - sweet and juicy every time

This morning I am giving thanks for the many blessings of God and for the unexpected ways in which they come to us.  A couple of weeks ago I was moaning because I did not think that any of our beautiful big brandyboy and brandywine tomatoes would get ripe this year.  Summer seemed to be coming to an end and they were still hanging on the vine without even a blush or red.  Friends everywhere were sending me recipes for what to do with green tomatoes and I was contemplating the need to pick them all green and let them ripen inside.

Then suddenly it warmed up and in the last couple of weeks we have been enjoying the most beautiful tomatoes I have ever tasted – not only are they ripening but they are more flavourful than ever.  So we are living on a diet of BLT’s a la Tom Sine & tomato basil salad (recipes below) and relishing the wonder of a God who gives generously without measure even when we have given up.

This is not the only place in which I am aware of God’s unexpected blessings at the moment.  As you know we are working hard to raise the money for our first building at the Mustard Seed Village.  But it has not been easy especially in these challenging economic times and I sometimes feel as though all the tomatoes in our gift giving pool are green and will never ripen.

Many of you were very encouraging when just before our Celtic retreat in August, I wrote a blog post entitled Whatever Happened to Thomas – When Doubt Overwhelms Us  in which I shared: I am struggling because I want to see God’s plan mapped out and I want to see it happen now, on my terms. I want to see big donations come in, but God is sending small mustard seed donationsthat move us forward one step at a time. I feel like Thomas who needed to see Jesus in the flesh with the scars from the nails in his hands and feet in order to believe. 

At that point we needed $500 before the Celtic retreat to clear the area where the pole barn our first Mustard Seed Village building would stand.  I shared my discouragement with a friend at church and she said: I’ll do it!  I’ll raise that $500.  And she did.  Over the next week she asked friends at church to contribute $10, $20, $50 to the cause. That gift was immediately doubled by another unexpected gift of $500.  The land was cleared and at the retreat August 13th we held a very moving dedication ceremony on the cleared area.

In the last couple of weeks we have seen these mustard seed gifts multiplied many times.  One of the retreat participants promised a matching gift of up to $25,000 to help get us started.  Another unexpected $10,000 gift the same day provided the first matching contribution we needed and others are starting to contribute as well.  And now we are more than half  way to matching the $25,000.

It was so exciting last week to get together with our architect and say “go ahead we are ready to start” And in the next couple of months we will begin building the first building at the Mustard Seed Village.  I am convinced that without the initial gift from St Albans parishioners that this would never have happened.

God so often works in unexpected ways but we of little faith find it hard to believe that God will ripen the fruit on our vines.  In my impatience I could so easily have picked that green fruit a couple of weeks ago but it would never have had the flavour God intended.  When we patiently wait for God, miracles happen, the fruit  ripens and is sweeter than we could ever imagine.

Oh and by the way if you want to help us match the rest of that $25,000 we would certainly appreciate your donations.

Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches a la Tom Sine

Take 2 slices of good, crusty Italian bread and spread it with mayonnaise, mustard, or butter. Fry pieces of lean bacon and drain off the fat on paper. Place the bacon on one slice of bread and top it with tasty cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese is melted. Top with slices of sweet onion, avocado, lettuce, and large slices of Brandywine tomatoes. Pepper and salt to taste and place the remaining slice of bread on top. Enjoy!

Basil, Tomato and Feta Cheese Salad

1 cup fresh basil, chopped

2 cups of several tomato varieties of all different shades (red, yellow, green, chocolate), chopped

1 cup sweet onion, chopped

1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

½ cup kalamata olives, chopped

Mix ingredients together and serve with an oil and balsamic vinegar dressing.




Enterprise employs immigrants to teach cooking classes and culture

Here is another great idea that shows creative imagination in the development of business.  Read about Culture Kitchen

Culture Kitchen

Culture Kitchen in San Francisco connects local food lovers to immigrant women, to learn to cook authentic, ethnic cuisine from the “experts”.

What Do You Do With All Those Tomatillos?

Tomatillos galore - make good hot sauce

Tomatillos galore - make good hot sauce

This post is by special request from my good friend Andy Wade who obviously has more jalapenos in his garden than he knows what to do with.  And as we look as though we will be getting a bumper crop of both tomatillos and apples too this year I thought that it was a good time to publish this recipe.  You can also find it along with other recipes for the autumn harvest in my book To Garden with God

I have adapted the traditional hot sauce recipe which usually uses tropical fruit to work with fruit & vegetables that are abundant in the Pacific Northwest. This makes a great accompaniment to tortilla chips.  We also love it on omelettes


  • 1 lb. Hot Peppers,Cayenne,
  • Bulgarian Carrot Or
  • Jalapeno
  • 3 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 6 each Garlic
  • 1 Onion
  • ½ cup Lemon Juice
  • 1 teaspoon Mustard Seed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Salt
  • 2 lbs. Tomatillos
  • 2 lbs. Apple,Cored & Sliced
  • 2 lbs. Carrot


1.Cut stems off peppers & put in quart jar. Fill jar with vinegar, cover and let marinate for at least 5 days to 2 weeks. When ready to prepare hot sauce pour peppers and vinegar into blender and puree. Add remaining ingredients & puree as well. Move to large pot and simmer uncovered on low heat stirring frequently for about one hour – until sauce is consistency of tomato sauce. Pour into sterilized jars. Let flavours blend for at least a week before using. Stor in refrigerator after opening.

We Can All Make a Mustard Seed Difference

This is a great story – shows how all of us have the potential to change the world

When Kellogg’s announced this week that it is moving to limit the deforestation caused by the palm oil it uses to make Frosted Flakes, Keebler cookies, Rice Krispies, and Girl Scout cookies, it represented an enormous achievement for two 15-year-old girls from Michigan.  Read the entire story

Could You Host a Gathering Place dinner?

A couple of weeks ago we held our first Taste of the Mustard Seed event in Seattle.  One of the attendees was our friend, TV cooking personality Graham Kerr, once known as the Galloping Gourmet .  Graham was so excited about what we are doing that he has gifted us with 1,000 copies of his book The Gathering Place, to help us launch the Mustard Seed Village. This book is an exciting collection of menus from around the world designed to bring all of us back to the dining table to share delicious food and warm companionship.

Graham is inviting all of us to host Gathering Place dinners at which we share food and companionship while learning about the Mustard Seed Village of the future. Each host will receive a copy of The Gathering Place to assist them in planning the dinner.  Graham suggests you invite each guest to contribute a dish prepared from one of the menus in the book.

Hosts would also receive a packet of information about Mustard Seed Associates and the launch of the Mustard Seed Village which could be discussed during the meal.  At the end of the meal guests would be invited to prayerfully consider contributing a gift to help us launch this important venture.

This type of small hospitality gathering is very much in keeping with our approach at Mustard Seed Associates.  We already have enthusiastic supporters who are planning meals throughout the the U.S and Canada and invite you to join them.  Please email me today, leave a comment on this blog post or call us at 206 524 2111 for your Gathering Place host resource kit.

For those of you who are not familiar with Graham here is a video of of him cooking with Johnny Carson many years ago.  I still don’t think there is a TV cook as entertaining.

The Dangers of BPA in Canning Lids

Home canning season is just beginning and those of us who like to extend the harvest by putting away fruit and vegetables are looking out our bottles and getting ready.  But before you go and buy those Ball or Kerr metal canning lids here is something that you might like to think about.

BPA, the abbreviation for bisphenol A, is a synthetic estrogen used to make some plastics hard and as a resin in can linings so they don’t rust.

According to US Department of Health and Human Services

In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration conducted a review of toxicology research and information on BPA, and, at that time, judged food-related materials containing BPA on the market to be safe.

But recent studies have reported subtle effects of low doses of BPA in laboratory animals.  While BPA is not proven to harm children or adults, these newer studies have led federal health officials to express some concern about the safety of BPA. read the report here

BPA has been in use for several decades. But there  is more and more evidence to suggest that it is definitely something you want to avoid. It is thought that even trace exposure can disrupt your endocrine system and create all kinds of health problems, including cancer, adult-onset diabetes, and obesity.

But here’s the problem: it isn’t easy to avoid BPA. The Centers for Disease Control found that 93 percent of Americans tested have BPA in their bodies. Canned food may be the primary source of exposure. So if you’re going the extra mile to can your own food, Teak, it would be nice to go the extra, extra mile to be free from BPA.

I spoke to Dr. Anila Jacob, Senior Scientist and the resident physician at the Environmental Working Group, about ways to avoid BPA when you’re canning.

“We know BPA leaches when it comes in contact with the food,” she said. “One thing you can do is try not to fill the jar all the way up to the top, but that’s hard because when you move it, it’s going to shake.” Read the entire article here

Now don’t despair there are a few alternatives out there for those that do want to can their own food.

If you can afford them Weck has a beautiful array of glass jars for you to purchase.  But as they are beyond the budget for most of us I suggest the reusable BPA free plastic lids that are now on the market.

The best one I have found, though not had a chance to use them yet, are Tattler Reusable Canning Jar Lids They are made of plastic that contains no BPA.  According to the company properly used, with any standard Mason jar and metal screw band, these reusable lids will last a lifetime. If you ever wear this lid out, they will replace it free!  Now that sounds good not just to get rid of that nasty BPA but also for the budget and even for the environment.

On the threshold of Christmas

Lighting the Christmas Carousel

Christmas is definitely in the air.  Last night we attended a performance of the Messiah – part of our yearly pre-Christmas tradition and this morning I have been baking furiously getting ready for our Open House this evening at which event I will ignore Advent tradition and light all the Christmas candles including my Christmas carousel.

But the preparations have not been without mishap.

I managed to put twice the amount of butter as I should have in my base for pecan slice (squares) – which just meant that I now have a whole plate of coconut currant slice as well as I obviously had to double the flour too.  Hope all the people who said they are coming actually turn up tonight.  Fortunately I have already made shortbread, fruitcake – the real English kind and dips galore.  Ricci is making lemon squares, and cookies, Tom is doing a fruit plate and we will have loads of wonderful punch. Here is my favourite recipe

64oz bottle cranberry/ raspberry juice (make sure it is 100% juice)

960z bottle apple juice

12 whole cloves

6 cinnamon sticks

4 – 2 inch lime or lemon rind curls

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

And for a special treat 1 – 2 cups brandy.

Combine all ingredients except brandy in a large saucepan, bring to boil.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add brandy as desired and serve.  I love this punch because it is not real sweet, it adds a wonderful fragrance to the house (no need to invest in any of those artificial chemical air fresheners and it improves with keeping.  It is great hot or cold and loaded with vitamin C so obviously good for those colds and flu that seem to be plaguing all of us at the moment.

For our open house tonight I will probably treble this recipe – fortunately we have a really large saucepan I can make it in.

Anyhow just in case you think that I am getting a little too carried away with the frivolity of the season let me also point you towards a great Christmas reflection that I was directed to this morning.  it reminded me once more of the true message of Christmas and of the gift of a Saviour who comes to us not in the rich and the powerful but in the poor and the vulnerable.

On the Threshold of Christmas by Dave Perry

So Jesus is born in poverty to change the world. He is the peaceful revolutionary who speaks the inclusive kingdom of God language of love which confounds the power-hungry and domineering elites of our time just as much as it did those of his own era. Christmas is God’s ominously uncomfortable challenge to the comfortable world from the comfortless poor. No space, no room, no joke.  read the entire article