Mar 24 2011

Living in the Peaceable Kingdom

Each Thursday during Lent, I offer a vegan recipe as I learn to cook and like vegetables, and as I contemplate what it means to live non-violently.

In my heart, I’m a shieldmaiden of Rohan.

In the third Lord of the Rings movie, when Eowyn confronts the Witch King in battle, standing between the beast and her father, my heart pounds.

The Witch King taunts her, “You fool. No man can kill me. Die now.”

Eowyn pulls off her helmet and cries, “I am no man!” stabbing the the creature that has rained down death and destruction upon so many.

When I first saw the scene on opening night, a loud cry escaped my lips. (I don’t tend to make noise in movie theaters.)  But I wasn’t alone. The entire theater erupted in whoops and shouts and applause.

I’ve seen it countless times now, but it never fails to stir up a sense of power and fierceness and rightness in me that I rarely experience in daily life.  And I wish I could experience it more often.

My response to this scene has been one of the main reasons I’ve never considered myself a pacifist.

Of course, one could say that the Witch King, as evil incarnate, is the proper recipient of Eowyn’s battle rage.

But as I began reflecting on my reaction to the scene and praying about how to reconcile it with the part of me that is broken-hearted by the violence and the destruction of life, God brought a question to mind:

If I lived in a world without violence, where peace was not defined by the absence of violence, but a richer, deeper experience of peaceful life that had only itself as the reference point, how different would my personality be? How different would the world be?

The Kingdom of which Jesus gives us a glimpse is our world almost unrecognizably transformed, its DNA reordered so that love and peace are not defined as opposites of hate and war, but only with reference to themselves.  Christ loves us with this kind of Love–a Love whose reference point and definition is God’s very being.

A world of Shalom, life transfigured with peace and health and wholeness.

Being a shieldmaiden of Rohan would have no meaning in such a world.

It’s truly impossible to imagine.  I can only catch it faintly out of the corner of my eye. But that’s okay. Just trying to imagine it fills me with wonder and hope and trust. It also fills me with a sense of anticipation: who Christ is forming us to be will be both the same, yet different than who we are now at some level, because how we define ourselves will change as the world is transformed.

And every time we love another as Christ has loved us, something happens that is more powerful, more fierce, more right than Eowyn’s triumph over the Witch King. The shalom of the Kingdom is near. The world is healed.

Then the heart of Éowyn changed…’I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy…in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.’



Few weeks go by when this soup is not on the menu at the Contemplative Cottage. Originally based on a recipe from Molly Wizenberg’s food blog, Orangette, I’ve made some changes, adding chickpeas to raise the protein content, as well as making it vegan.

Red Lentil and Chickpea Soup

4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large yellow onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
Pinch of cayenne or more to taste
2 quarts vegetable broth
2 cups red lentils

1 14-oz can chickpeas

Juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste

In a large pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering. Add the onions and garlic and cook until golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook for 4 minutes longer. Add the broth, 2 cups water, the lentils, and the chickpeas. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Continue to cook until the lentils are soft, about 40 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice.

Mar 18 2011

Living in the Peaceable Kingdom


(No food photos this week, but instead, an even better example of the peaceable kingdom: a photo of my godson Ben sleeping, just after his baptism this past Sunday.)

Tofu Chili

We all know of recipes that taste even better the next day: this is one of them. It also handles reheating well without mushing together.

2 tablespoons olive oil  in a large soup pot

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1-14 oz package of extra firm silken tofu, cubed

1 1/2 cups, roasted red peppers

2-15 oz cans of your favorite beans (black and kidney were what I used)

1-28 oz can of diced tomatoes with the juice

1 tablespoon chile powder

1 teaspoon cumin, ground

1 teaspoon salt, to taste

a dash of cayenne, to taste

Sauté  onion and garlic 5 minutes on medium high heat, stirring to keep from browning. Add tofu and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add everything else and bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to medium low heat (not boiling) for 30 minutes.

For those of you who like creamy chili, and don’t mind losing its vegan character, add a (very small) dollop of greek yogurt. I don’t recommend topping it with any kind of cheese, dairy or non-dairy, or with guacamole, as the taste is already quite rich.

Another variation: top with a small spoon of chipotle or roasted red pepper salsa. Serve with or on tortilla chips.

Mar 10 2011

Living in the Peaceable Kingdom

On Thursdays of Lent, I’m going to be sharing a vegan recipe as I attempt to learn not only to cook vegetables, but enjoy eating them.  Tonight’s yummy experiment was inspired by reading four different stir-fry recipes.

One of my new loves is rainbow chard–it’s not only beautiful green with veins of red or yellow or purple, it’s flavor is rich and nutty, without the I’m-eating-grass bitterness of spinach.


Tofu Stir-fry

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 bunch of green onion, chopped

3 large leaves of rainbow chard, chopped

1/2 package of frozen vegetable stir-fry (onions, red peppers, brocolli, mushrooms, water chestnuts)

1 cup chopped roasted red peppers

1 1/2 cups extra-firm silken tofu, cubed

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon tumeric

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/8 cup whole bean tamari (For migraine-sufferers, this is optional. The jury is still out whether tamari will go on my list of susan-unfriendly foods, but I’m hopeful. It smells and tastes so good!)


Saute garlic in sesame oils for a two minutes at medium high heat, stirring constantly. Add frozen veggies and green onion.  Stir until veggies are thawed, about 3 minutes, then add red peppers, chard, tofu, salt, honey, and tamari.  Keep everything moving for 5 minutes or less on medium high heat. Veggies should be bright colored and still crisp.  Makes two meals.

Serve over rice.


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