Eating During Lent

Time to plan those meatless family meals: Lent is very near. Today’s CNS feature tells a bit of it. I usually have one meatless meal with my family each week. Lately, I’ve tried to move that to Friday. I did a baked macaroni dish the other night, following a Joy of Cooking recipe. The eggs made it rich, but the cheese I had on hand gave it an overall bland flavor. Even though I added nutmeg to the egg mix along with the other spices, I didn’t think much of the final result. I told the young miss to mix in some pasta sauce with the leftovers tonight before reheating.

A local sub shop sells day-old bread for 48 cents a loaf. Once or twice a month a pick up a dollar’s worth of bread and I’ll split them, brush them with olive oil and red sauce, then sprinkle cheese on them. The young miss likes when I add my pistachio pesto under the mozzarella.

Me, I could take red beans and rice two or three times a week, but the women of the house can’t handle the spice–plus my wife doesn’t like beans.

Fondue is a favorite of the young miss, too. It can be awkward sharing that large fondue pot, so for the nights in front of a movie on the tube, I’ve conceded to pouring the cheese mixture in warmed mugs.

When we were kids, I remember having an occasional “breakfast” dinner: Mom would fix eggs and pancakes. I don’t do that a lot. I’ve tried one or two recipes for savory waffles, but they aren’t popular on my home front.

The CNS piece mentioned a baked potato bar–I think that would work in my home. The women both love potatoes. My preference would be potato crepes. For these I run potato in the blender with the other ingredients and get a super smooth batter. I spread them thin in the fry pan and when done, I’ll roll the potato cakes like taquitos, filled with applesauce or sour cream. I understand there is an Eastern European lokse, pictured above left. My crepes are even thinner.

My challenge is to fix a meal that’s simpler than my usual meatless fare. My daughter is already used to one to even three dinners a week without chicken, beef, or fish. One Lent I drank only water, but water-only at a meal wouldn’t look much different to the young miss, either. Half the time she prefers water to milk or juice, anyway. My wife is the only pop drinker in the house.

Any good ideas for Lenten meals?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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9 Responses to Eating During Lent

  1. The best meals come from lands which have learned how to be purely vegetarian or have a long tradition of the strict fast: India and Ethiopia. Must suggestion is to get some Ethiopian recipes and Injera. It works great.

    Has some.

  2. crystal says:

    I’m a vegetarian so Lent seems the same, meal-wise. Sometimes I visit a blog called Not Eating Out in New York that posts recipes and one of the latest was Fresh Veggie Korean Pancakes – you guys might like those :)

  3. Todd says:

    When I got home last night, I mixed up a batch of potato crepes. I had russets on hand, which I usually use for baking not pancakes, but my brother sold me on their use in this situation. The complemented the onions and peanut oil just right. Yum.

  4. Karuna says:

    Catholic Relief Services program Operation Rice Bowl has wonderful meatless recipes from third world countries they serve on their website.


  5. Liam says:

    Well, I am a firm believer in fineness of the incredible edible egg, which is a very affordable star of meals at any time of day. No, it’s not vegan. But it is meatless.

    Something I find very mindful is to scramble eggs in the French manner, for supper. Oeufs brouillés – the scrambled eggs most Americans are familiar with should really be known as a “broken omelet”. Properly scrambling eggs requires mindfulness like making risotto or polenta (both of which, btw, make excellent Lenten suppers when meat free).

    And while it is not lean in the Lenten fashion, the ingredients are all ordinary.

    A short-hand approach would run something like:

    Beat some very fresh, high-quality eggs loosely with a fork (do NOT whisk – you do not want to aerate the eggs for this technique). Slide them into the top part of a double boiler (or a pan atop a pot) which is set above — but not touching — an inch or two of barely simmering water. Begin whisking immediately, breaking up the lumps that form. When the eggs start to develop a thick, cottage-cheese-like texture, add slivers of very cold unsalted butter (the point is to slow the cooking down and capture bits of butter in the egg emulsion — slow and steady wins the race), continue mixing until the eggs are about 80-90% cooked, remove from stove and continue mixing to nearly finish cooking them off the heat, and serve over hot buttered or dry toast (I prefer dry), garnished with good salt and garnishes of your choice. Make sure the plate is not cold (but hot would not been good either). If you find the cooking going too fast, you can also use some very cold heavy cream or cheese to slow things down. Takes 20-30 minutes.

    Spoon over *dry* coarse-textured toast (English muffins are perfect) – the point is that the clouds of egg are the condiment for the bread.

    Anyway, that’s what real scrambled eggs are like. Not broken omelets.

    * * *

    For a meatless weekend meal that is special, you can do much worse that yeast-raised waffles (yeast-raised buckwheat pancakes would be more weekday fare) – yeast-raised griddlecakes are far better than baking powder or baking soda versions:

    The immortal Fannie Farmer yeast-raised waffle recipe is the gold standard for waffles. I’ve annotated it below with Cook’s Illustrated’s changes thereto for your consideration)

    (make 6 waffles in a Waring Pro Belgian waffle iron, roughly 360 calories each)
    [CI recipe uses ¾ cup less liquid, so probably only 5 waffles, more like 425 cal/each]

    The night before:
    1/2 cup warm water (90-110F; too hot will kill the yeast) [CI omits]
    1 package active dry yeast [CI uses 1.5 teaspoons instant/rapid rise yeast]
    2 cups warm milk [CI uses 1.75 cups of any kind of milk and melts the butter below in it then cools somewhat before gradually adding to dry ingredients]
    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon sugar [CI uses 1 tablespoon]
    2 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour (dip-and-sweep method, not spoon method)

    The morning of cooking [CI says it can be added the night before if you raise in the frig rather than the counter]:
    2 large eggs, beaten [CI adds 1 teaspoon vanilla extract]
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda (not baking powder) [CI says it’s unnecessary if you raise in the frig rather than the counter]

    Put the water in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve and let stand to proof for about 5 minutes.

    Meanwhile, warm up the milk (I use the microwave) and melt the butter (ditto). Then, add the milk, butter, salt, sugar and flour to the yeasty water. Mix/beat until smooth and fully blended.

    Cover the bowl (I use the self-sealing plastic wrap) and let stand overnight at room temperature. (I put the light on in the oven and stick it in there, to avoid drafts and to keep a bit warm – the light gives off a bit of warmth in that contained environment.) [CI raises for 12-24 hours in the frig]

    The next morning, add the beaten eggs and baking soda and stir until it is thoroughly mixed.

    Preheat the oven to 200F, and warm the dining plates. Waffles may also be kept warm in the oven, but don’t stack them. They can also be frozen individually and reheated in a toaster oven.

    Use per the directions for the waffle iron. For the Waring Pro, each measure of waffle batter is 5 fluid oz. Using the darkest setting will provide the right texture for these crisp-tender waffles (lower settings leave them flimsy like pancakes). The batter will keep refrigerated for a few days.

    Recommended toppings: warm maple or fruit syrup or jams (warm them in the microwave; consider adding maple syrup and cinnamon sugar. Small berries, too.

    * * *

    And, for Fridays, one can do jonnycakes – and there are 2 styles: thick and thin (the latter is less well-known, and is more characteristic of Newport and the East Bay, and I prefer it).

    Order a 5lb bag of Rhode Island whitcap flint cornmeal to do justice to them (this RI corn is extraordinarily hard and dates from the colonial period – other cornmeals cannot duplicate the unique texture and flavor). There are three grist mills left (2 in RI, one on the MA/RI border) that still produce this meal. Eg

  6. John Heavrin says:

    Abstaining from meat is not an arbitrary technicality, of course, but an attempt to make real that idea that as Lent is a penitential season, even our meals should be penitential. The attempt to find the most delicious, imaginative and satisfying meatless meal possible violates the proper spirit of Lent, it seems to me.

    I’m not saying we should eat gruel, or that our meals should make us gag, or that the idea is to be miserable. But if you push away from the table satisfied, was it a penance? If it was not penitential, was it in keeping with the spirit of lent? And if it wasn’t, why not go ahead and eat meat? Because there’s a “rule” against it? Hmmm.

    Trappists are “vegetarian” also. But instead of settling for “Lent seems the same, meal-wise,” they fast for Lent. Perhaps lay vegetarians should consider this as well.

    Just food for thought, as it were. Bread and water Fridays, anyone?

  7. John

    The vegetarian meals many of us eat in Ethiopian restaurants are also meals created for the strict fast (and so are more than vegetarian, but vegan). They are simple and good; we do not have to become too strict in our fast and confuse what the fast is about. Indeed, sometimes it is better to be more generous than too strict, so as to prevent the sense of pride (as I point out in a post which comes up this weekend on VN).

  8. I’ve got links to a number of great Lenten or meatless recipes from around the world here:

    I’ll be adding more throughout Lent.

    Scott P. Richert
    Guide to Catholicism

  9. I’m blogging for families who have to watch their finances – so my spin was Lent food on a budget, with the suggestions more on meatless meals than seafood meals.

    Yes I picked up on the potato bar idea from here!

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