Lent is a religious observance of many Christian denominations throughout the world. It starts on Ash Wednesday and lasts approximately six weeks before culminating on Easter Sunday. The way that people observe the holiday varies from different regions, cultures and denominations with some being very strict in following the words the Bible while others...not so much. The purpose of Lent is to commemorate the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the desert before starting his public ministry. This means that almost all of the practicing religions change their diets during this time period.
Fasting was much more severe in ancient times compared to today. In some places all animal products were strictly forbidden, while others permitted some meat like fish or fowl. In modern times the observance has become a little less strict in most places by allowing more food to be consumed as long as it is still less than you would normally eat. The most common practice in America is abstaining from meat (except fish) on Fridays making them Meat-Free Fridays. Any time there is restrictions put on your diet (be it diets, health reasons, religious beliefs, etc.) it allows for people to try some new dishes that they may have never tried before. These are some of our favorite recipes that you can enjoy throughout Lent and beyond when meat may not be an option.
Using the horseradish for a bit of kick this salmon dish can be prepared on the stove, the grill or in the oven (we made ours in the oven). It also pairs well with a sweet side dish such as our sweet carrot salad to offset the bit of bite from the horseradish.
Sometimes the easiest thing to do is just substitute veggies for meat. This recipe has a similar taste and texture to lasagna but is much lighter and easier to prepare. Don't feel obligated to use only eggplant either as zucchini or yellow squash will just as well.
This was one of my favorite recipes we've made. It was a perfect size for a light lunch or a snack and with some denominations allowing one big meal a day and two smaller ones (equaling less than one meal combined) this could be perfect. The options are unlimited in terms of the veggies that you could use as well. We made ours with a Mediterranean olive and artichoke relish but you could also add feta cheese or fresh basil to intensify the Mediterranean flavors.
Sometimes though you just need a burger! Now if the itch for a burger hits you on a Friday during Lent this Black Bean Burger would be a perfect scratch. Forget those frozen hockey puck veggie burgers found in the freezer aisle and instead scrap together some black beans, onion, garlic flakes, cilantro, parsley, cumin, egg and red pepper flakes and make yourself a burger that can give ground beef a run for it's money.
Mardi Gras is the last great feast and celebration before Lent and is celebrated most famously in New Orleans, Louisiana. So if the spirit of Mardi Gras is still with you into Lent you can enjoy this classic Naw'lins dish with some fresh seafood. Etouffée is similar to gumbo but doesn't contain the File Powder.
If you regularly eat meat it can be hard to find veggie recipes that are healthy and leave you feeling full. This Spinach and Garbanzo Pasta has protein from the garbanzo beans, heartiness from the whole wheat pasta and spinach, sweetness from the raisins and lastly just the right touch of spice from the fresh cracked peppercorns.
As a teenager and up through college my go-to dish to make myself (besides ramen noodles) was nachos. They are easy, quick and its nearly impossible to screw up nachos. However, as I've gotten older I've expanded my nacho game with meals like the Spicy Shrimp Nachos. It's a nice combo of red sweet pepper, red onion, pepper flakes, jalapeño, and shrimp over nachos and topped with Monterey Jack cheese. Like the Mediterranean Pitas you can really throw just about anything you want on the nachos to go with the shrimp.
If you are looking to really step outside the box and try new things during Lent I suggest the Salmon Charmoula. Chances are you've never had a charmoula marinade unless you've traveled to places like Algeria, Morocco or Tunisia so this a prefect opportunity to try something new. When you pair the marinade with some fresh salmon you may decide to add this to your dinner rotation outside of Lent because of how good it is.
This is a dish that is often times made in Spain with meat or seafood (depending on the region) but can easily make a tasty veggie meal as well. The simple combination of basmati rice with veggies creates and easy and tasty dish that can be thrown together in under an hour.
Quinoa has become a staple among health nuts in recent years for being a "superfood". It is high in fiber but also provides protein which is necessary when not eating meat. This dish is a gooey baked goodness that made delicious leftovers the following day.
So there you have it! Just because you are observing a religious holiday doesn't mean that you have to eat just bread and water. You have the chance to try things that you might not have otherwise and I'm convinced that at least one of these dishes will make it into your regular meal rotation if you give them an honest shot. If you would like to see our full selection of vegetarian recipes you can click here.