I shan't claim to be a better cook than you are (my husband will attest otherwise). However, if you're looking forward to 40+ days of lentil soup, I will claim to be a better vegan cook than you are. I've heard it said that we should think about food less during Lent, but I don't doubt that we think about it more. That actually works just fine in my mind: Why not think more about the food we're preparing rather than mindlessly stuffing another cheeseburger into our mouths? Ah, Orthodoxy--we make paradox work.
BEANS: Okay, branch out from the damn lentil, for goodness sake. Last Lent I only ate lentils once, and it was in the form of lentil sprouts I made in my pantry. Make your own refried beans with pinto beans. Split pea soup doesn't need ham to be good (I prefer a little vindaloo masala in mine). Tepary beans (admittedly hard to find, but well worth it) are the meatiest little buggers you'll ever sink your pearly whites into. If you've never used dried beans, they should soak for 3-8 hours. Lentils and split peas don't need soaking, but I like my split peas with a little soaking so I wind up with mush. Man, I love mushy peas. Here's bean advice from a man I trust and admire, Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo:
GRAINS: Buy whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain anything--anything to complete the protein (like we talked about last time). It's here that I upset you by telling you that pearl barley is like white bread, so consider looking high and low for hulled barley if you're desperate for barley. Wheat berries are so much fun to chew on that it's almost not funny--almost. There are billions of different kinds of rice, so branch out and try a little mahogany or japonica black rice. And try the recently rediscovered grains like amaranth and quinoa. Mmmmm.
VEGGIES: I've heard you should eat the rainbow (red, yellow, green, purple, white ... blue?!) every day, but if you're like me then that's asking a little much. You can't properly saute a veggie without oil since oil gets a lot hotter than water, so that ought to make those days without oil all the more painful. It is, however, very easy to steam by putting 2 Tbs to 1/4-cup water into a saucepan, putting it on the heat until the saucepan's filled with steam, turning the heat down, adding your veggies, and tossing them (covered) until done. An admirable substitute for sauteing.
SPROUTING: If you're feeling especially adventurous, then ignore the somewhat alarming lady with the bouffant and watch:
Some time before Lent I'll do a thing about helpful cookbooks and other resources.