February 14, 2013

Bring Lent to Life: The CRS Rice Bowl

Bring Lent to Life: The CRS Rice Bowl

What You Give Up for Lent Changes Lives: CRS Rice Bowl

When I was a child Lent was all about ashes, fish sticks, the Stations of the Cross, and the Rice Bowl. In those days it was called “Operation Rice Bowl,” and I remember the excitement I had every Lent as I assembled my bowl and marveled at the fact that I could do something that would help suffering people around the world. As a child, I had very little understanding of money, and I don’t think I really had a grasp on the impact that my small contribution would make. But, Operation Rice Bowl was my link to the poor and to those suffering around the world.

Much has changed since I was a child. There have been astounding developments in technology. But there is still poverty and suffering in the world. CRS Rice Bowl (CRS = Catholic Relief Services) has taken advantage of the advances in technology. This year new they are sporting a new website that contains a wealth of resources to reinforce the connection we have with the suffering members of the Body of Christ in our own country and around the word.

Check out these amazing facts about how we can help those served by Catholic Relief Services:

  • 1 in 8 people go to bed hungry each night. We can fast so that they may eat.
  • $20 = 1 month of food for a family.
  • It costs just 25 cents per day to provide a child with the nutrients she needs.
  • $25 provides health exams for 13 kids
  • $50 provides clean water for 500 families

CRS Rice Bowl provides a tangible way for me and you to help to help those in need. At the same time, we learn more about the plight of those who suffer here and abroad.

Simple Meals: Connecting Families Around the World

One of the most effective resources that CRS Rice Bowl provides really speaks to me as The Catholic Foodie. The Catholic Foodie is “where food meets faith,” so it should be no surprise that I am very impressed by the recipes that CRS Rice Bowl shares from the various areas where they serve and where our contributions go to make a difference. In addition to those recipes, CRS Rice Bowl provides cultural information about the areas they serve and lots of resources for catechesis and growth in prayer and faith around the family table. It’s all available on their website: CRSricebowl.org.

Mealtime can be a wonderful time to bring our faith to life. After all, we have to eat, right? Gathering the family around the table is an action that connects us as human beings. There is something in the very essence of who we are that draws us to communion around the table. We see this throughout scripture. From Genesis to Revelation, food shared around the table has a sacred quality. It unites us. It was this very quality that Jesus elevated to a sacrament when he instituted the Holy Eucharist the night he was betrayed. He took the highest celebration of the Old Covenant, the Passover meal, and he raised it even higher, making it a sacrament that conveys to us grace… the very life of God.

Mealtime is a time to highlight our faith, both what the believe and the actions we take because of our beliefs. During Lent, the CRS Rice Bowl gives us an easy way for busy families to live and share our faith around the family table.

Here is a suggested prayer before meals during Lent:

Let us pray.Abundant God,Help us this Lent to let go of those things that weigh us down.May our prayers and sacrifices bring us closer to your Son, Jesus,And help bring life to our brothers and sisters who struggle with hunger and poverty.May we proclaim the dignity of life, and celebrate the witness of your love each day.Amen.

Bean Cakes: Recipe from Burkina Faso

Growing Food in Burkina Faso

“In the small West African nation of Burkina Faso, 80% of the population are farmers. Frequent droughts make it difficult to produce enough food for the entire year. Often, farmers can only grow enough to feed their families for seven months. The rest of the year is called “the hungry season.” This week, we pray for families in Burkina Faso and give to CRS Rice Bowl to help small-scale farmers.” – CRSRiceBowl.org

Beans are some of the most simplest foods. Often they are readily available. If not, then they are easily transportable. Beans are also typically easy to prepare.

This is a very simple and tasty recipe that can serve a family of four. Just double the recipe if your family is larger. And be sure to watch the video below of Father Leo from Grace Before Meals as he prepares this very recipe.


  • 1 can black-eyed peas, drained
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled & chopped
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 2 cups cooked rice


Place black-eyed peas in a blender with the onion, carrots, and egg. Blend to a smooth paste and add salt and pepper. If bean mixture has too much liquid to form balls, then add a ¼ cup of flour to thicken. Shape mixture into 2 inch balls and roll in flour. Pat into flat discs and fry in vegetable oil until browned (about 5-7 minutes), turning occasionally. Serve with rice.

This recipe serves 4 people.

Read Stories of Hope and learn more about Burkina Faso at CRSricebowl.org.

Video: Father Leo Makes Bean Cakes from Burkina Faso

Father Leo loves to cook. And he loves to encourage families to gather around the table to share meals. I’m a big fan of Father Leo and Grace Before Meals, and I cheered him on a few years ago when Bobby Flay of Food Network fame challenged Father Leo to a Throwdown. If you haven’t seen that episode, I won’t spoil it for you. You can find it here: Steak Fajitas.

A Catholic Foodie Variation of Bean Cakes: Pan-Fried Mujadra

Now it’s time for a confession. I’m not a fan of black-eyed peas. Now, you don’t have to run off and tell everybody I said that. But, I thought I would share with you a similar recipe to the Bean Cakes that uses lentils instead.

My wife’s heritage is Lebanese, so we do a lot of mediterranean and arabic cooking. One of our favorite bean-based dishes is Mujadra (pronounced Moo-jah-drah). We’ve been making it for years. But just a few weeks ago I discovered a new way to prepare leftover Mujadra.

One of the interesting things about Mujadra is that it thickens as it cools. In the pot, it might seem like it is too “liquid-y” to be served. But once it is served and begins to cool, it thickens up.

Well, a few weeks ago I need to make a quick meal. I looked in the fridge and saw that we have good amount of leftover Mujadra, and it was very thick. Instead of just re-heating it, I decided to form patties with the Mujadra and fry them in a cast-iron skillet. Truth be told, I pan-fried them in bacon grease. 😉 But it wasn’t Lent and it wasn’t a Friday, so that was ok. To make a Lenten version of the Mujadra patties, I would just use coconut oil for the frying.

It was a totally an experiment that first time. But guess what. My kids loved them! I have made Mujadra patties twice since then.

Although I have already posted my Mujadra recipe before (Mujadra: Lebanese Lentils and Rice for #SundaySupper), I am re-posting it below for your convenience.

Mujadra: Lebanese Lentils and Rice


  • 2 cups dried lentils
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 cup uncooked white rice (we use jasmine or basmati)
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly-craked black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin (or to taste)
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh chopped parsley as a garnish


  1. Rinse lentils and add to a pot with cold water (all 8 cups).
  2. Bring to a boil, and boil on medium-high heat for 20 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, sauté the onions in the olive oil on medium-high heat.
  4. When the onions start to brown nicely, add the onions and olive oil (along with any brown caramelized bits) to the pot. Also add the rice, salt, pepper, and cumin.
  5. Stir to mix well, then cover and cook for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.

This is a great one-pot meal that can be served at table from a serving dish. Mujadra actually thickens as it cools. It can be served hot or at room temperature… Or you can fry it up in a pan. 😉

You can download CF157 here, or press Play below to listen now: