Lent begins on Wednesday (March 1). For many Christians, it marks the end of the Mardi Gras and all its accompanying revelry and vices and the start of a season of penitence and abstinence.
In New Orleans, with its large Catholic population, many of us give up something we crave: chocolate, wine or, maybe, TV. And, many of us abstain from eating meat – at least on Fridays.
Catholics, 18 and older, who are in good health are required to fast on Ash Wednesday (March 1) and Good Friday, by eating only one full meal a day, according to the Archdiocese of New Orleans. (Smaller meals are allowed, if required to maintain health.) Catholics 14 and older also abstain from eating meat on all Fridays in Lent.
In New Orleans, we often joke that giving up meat is not much of a sacrifice. Unless you dislike alligator (yes, it’s allowed), crabs, crawfish, fish, oysters and shrimp, you can eat quite well – even feast — without eating a bite of meat during the season.
For those, however, who want to go completely vegetarian on Fridays or, perhaps, throughout Lent, we’ve combed through the many cookbooks we’ve received to take you through a meat-free breakfast, lunch and dinner for your first Friday in Lent.
Then, throughout Lent, we’ll return to sharing weekly “Meatless Monday” recipes that might be helpful as you plan your meals throughout the season.
Also, you can find many meatless recipes here; or by searching through our database of thousands of recipes at NOLA.com/food.
One benefit of going vegetarian for 40 days is that you may learn to be more creative about building meals around vegetables and plant-based proteins rather than around meat or seafood.
This is a great opportunity to experiment with different cooking styles: Try the growing variety of gluten-free flours, taste a variety of vegetarian sausages available now, make cashew creams for sauces or experiment with frying, saute or blending tofu.
In “Everyday Vegetarian” (2017, Oxmoor House), the editors of “Cooking Light” offer more than 150 recipes as well as tips for getting more protein into vegetable-based meals, including cottage cheese, which offers 12 grams per half cup; Greek yogurt, which offers 14 grams per 6 ounces; and tofu, which provides 8 grams per 4 ounces.
The number or amount of vegetables we should eat varies based on our age, sex and how active we are, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov/vegetables to find out more about your own specific requirements for a healthy diet.
Who knows, you might find you get used to making vegetables the star on your breakfast, lunch and dinner plate?
It is fairly easy to avoid meat in the morning by eating cereal, oatmeal, yogurt and fruit. And, we all know waffles and pancakes are another great way to have a meat-free breakfast.
If you feel like stretching your cooking horizons, try this recipe from “Chickpea Flour Does It All: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegetarian Recipes for Every Taste and Season” (2017, The Experiment).
Chickpea, or garbanzo bean, flour is easy to find at health food stores and groceries, including Whole Foods.
“Gluten-free pancakes were something that eluded my kitchen for quite some time after I went gluten-free,” author Lindsey S. Love writes. “The batter was always too runny, and the pancakes never held together long enough to be flipped over. Then, I read an article that simply said to increase the amount of flour to reach a consistency that was thicker, and I’ve never looked back.
“These pancakes are slightly sweet and hearty without being dense, hold together perfectly, and are just as delicious when eaten as leftovers.
“Sauteing the pear slices is a really quick and tasty way to soften and warm them, and the sage is great for making this morning meal not too sweet. While the pears may be sweet enough for some, I really like drizzling these pancakes with warmed maple syrup.”
Find more of Love’s recipes at her DollyandOatmeal.com/.
Sauteed Pear and Sage Pancakes with Almonds
Makes 8 to 10 pancakes
3/4 cup chickpea flour
3/4 cup oat flour
1 tablespoon cane sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg
1 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 firm but ripe pear, cored and sliced thin
1-1/2 teaspoons minced sage, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil; set aside.
In large mixing bowl, combine flours, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, olive oil and vanilla. Gently pour wet ingredients into dry, mixing thoroughly to combine.
Heat large skillet over medium heat; add 2 teaspoons coconut oil; once melted, add 2 tablespoons of batter for each pancake.
Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side; place cooked pancakes on baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more coconut oil to skillet as needed.
While pancakes are keeping warm, heat same skillet over medium heat. Melt the remaining 2 teaspoons of coconut oil; add the pear slices (reserving some slices for garnish) and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. In last 30 seconds, add the minced sage and cook until wilted and fragrant.
Plate pancakes; top with a few pear slices, sage, almonds and syrup.
By making big-batch vegetarian dishes, we can make food the night before and then brown bag it to reheat in the office microwave. Red and white beans — made without sausage — are inexpensive and easy. Try tossing a handful of greens into the pot as well. or, how about a pot of chili, sans meat from “Everyday Vegetarian” (2017, Oxmoor House)?
This recipe from the editors of “Cooking Light” is simple and calls for canned beans, making it fairly easy to pull together. The editors say that it freezes well for up to three months.
If you haven’t tried vegetarian sausages recently, give them another try. The texture and flavor have improved significantly. As the “Cooking Light” editors note, however, “vegan sausage varies widely in taste and texture; we liked the meatiness and mild heat of the Field Roast brand, Mexican Chipotle flavor, but use whatever brand you like best.”
Can’t Believe It’s Vegan Chili
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
1 12.95-ounce package vegan sausage, chopped
2 cups chopped tomato
1/2 cup white wine
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried ground sage
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 cups unsalted vegetable stock
3 15-ounce cans unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 15-ounce cans unsalted kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups chopped kale
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
Heat large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic and sausage; saute 5 minutes. Add tomato, wine and seasoning. Bring to a boil; cook until the liquid is reduced by half (about 1 minute). Stir in stock.
Combine 2 cans of cannellini beans and 1 can of the kidney beans in medium bowl; mash with a potato masher. Add bean mixture and the remaining beans to the pan. Bring to a simmer; cook 5 minutes. Add kale; cover and simmer 5 minutes. Top with the oregano.
For dinner, it’s so easy to fall back on pasta when trying to cut down on meats. After all, spaghetti with a few chopped vegetables, olive oil and Parmesan cheese can be on the table in mintues.
Instead, try this recipe from “Real Food, Real Simple” (2017, Page Street Publish) by registered dietitian Taylor Riggs. Instead of ground turkey, as she recommends in her cookbook, substitute ground vegetarian sausage. The “fresh basil in this dish keep it nice and light, while the squash keeps the carb count in down,” Riggs said.
Serve with a green salad and whole grain bread and you’ve got a filling meal.
If you prefer. forgo the “boats” and remove strings from the squash completely before serving.
Italian Spaghetti Squash Boats
Makes 4 servings
2 small spaghetti squash
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
1 pound mild vegetarian sausage
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, optional
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut each squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out seeds. Use 1 tablespoon of olive oil to lightly brush inside of each half. Place face down on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until a sharp knife slides easily into the back.
While squash cooks, heat remaining tablespoon of oil in skillet over medium heat and add garlic, onions and sausage. Cook for about
6-7 minutes, or until sausage is browned. Add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.
Drain tomato mixture to remove excess liquid.
When squash is done, flip each over and, using a fork, gently scrape out some of the strings. Fill each with sauce.
If adding cheese, top boats with mozzarella and return them to oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted.