Monday, March 2, 2009

Living Lighter for Lent

Bleatings from EnviRambo.

Christians of the world have entered the season of Lent. According to Wikipedia...
There are traditionally forty days in Lent which are marked by fasting, both from foods and festivities, and by other acts of penance. The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigour during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbour). Today, some people give up a vice of theirs, add something that will bring them closer to God, and often give the time or money spent doing that to charitable purposes or organizations. The Lenten semi-fast may have originated for practical reasons: during the era of subsistence agriculture in the West as food stored away in previous autumn was running out or had to be used before it went bad in store, and little or no new food-crop was expected soon (compare the period in Spring which British gardeners call the "hungry gap").
Since subsistence gardening and food preservation still remain on my to do list and food is abundantly available at the supermarket, Lenten fasting remains more a personal choice than force of practicality. Other than the ubiquitous Wisconsin Friday Fish Fry, Lenten fasting is a custom I have yet to partake in. However, coupled with a commitment to live a more eco-friendly, simple, sustainable way of life, Lenten fasting is garnering more of my attention. What better time to broach the reduction of meat consumption than this?

We all know the impact of meat consumption on the planet. There is also the impact on your wallet. Along with the concerns of a carnivorous diet, meat consumption has many negative implications. But, it is just so darn tasty. We are creatures of habit and this is one habit that is hard to give up. Nevertheless, we are going to give it a go. Somehow the family (Well Hubby anyway, the Chitlins really did not get a say.) agreed to go meatless for Lent.

We already have meatless meals twice a week without much trouble. It is the other five days that I am worried about. What will we eat? Seven days a week for seven weeks seems like an awful lot of pasta! Pasta is what we usually have for the current two meatless meals, not to mention with meat several other nights of the week. What will we eat? It may seem a silly question for a vegetarian. I know there are a lot out there and none seem to be starving, but what will I feed my family? Coming from a Western-omnivore's point of view, where the meal is normally centered around meat, I am not sure what to do. I have visions of unending pasta, with spaghetti sauce or white sauce, and a handful of frozen veggies thrown in.

The next few weeks will surely be a test of will and creativity. Perhaps I will expand my culinary skill, my family's palette, and our wallet. In the end I hope we are still eating pasta, just not everyday!

Our rules are loose:
No new meat brought into the house.
May consume what has already been purchased.
(which is not much)
Okay to have meat at school lunch.
Okay to have meat when dining out.
(which is rare)


Daphne said...

Southwestern food is always good since it is so bean based. Burritos, cheese enchiladas, and chili are all yummy. Or go Indian with vegetable curries and chickpeas. Yum. I'm not a vegetarian, but often eat that way during the summer when the garden is producing.

Donna said...

We are pretty big meat eaters in our house, but I've been adding more meatless meals recently. They end up being the fastest, simplest, cheapest meals! Some of the ideas I use for dinner: French toast, pancakes, waffles, grilled cheese, omlette, egg scramble with added diced potato & other veggies & cheese, quiche, beans & rice, and pizza. It's easier than you think!

Carmen said...

For omnivores, you might find that eating a lot of beans and mushroom-based meals will hit the spot. Some of our favorite non-pasta meat-free meals are:
- Barley Risotto
- Spicy Lentils & Rice
- Vegetarian Chili
- Corn Chowder
- Spinach Quesadillas
- Pizza
- Black Beans & Rice
- Grilled Cheese Sandwiches w/ Tomato Soup

I have the recipe for the lentils at my blog:

Electronic Goose said...

We're vegetarian, so I thought I'd share some meals: tofu stir-fry, veggie burgers, bean burritos, chili, spaghetti, spinach lasagna, bean casserole, aloo mutter, pad thai, minestrone soup with tofu and beans, potato and cheese chowder, frittata, breakfast for dinner, hummus, salads, samosas, falafel, dal, "sloppy lentils," quesadillas, Mexican dinner pie, mac and cheese, fettucini, pizza, shishkabobs, mamak mee goreng, veggie lo mein, taco salad, gazpacho, eggplant pomodoro, and on and on ... There is plenty to eat! A great source of recipes is, and they even have a kid-friendly section. You can find a local vegetarian restaurant at You can also make plenty of faux meats fairly easily. Happy eating!

suzannah said...

i gave up meat once for lent in college--it is a big adjustment!

this blog has lots of great vegetarian recipes.

we do meatless meals with grains like quinoa or millet and roasted veggies and parmesan, goat cheese, or feta. yum!

my husband is a hunter, and we eat a lot of venison and recently, goose. i feel like we're having our cake and eating it, too--eating meat without buying factory farm-raise meat.

good luck!

sarah said...

Might I suggest investing in Mark Bittman's cookbook "How to cook everything vegetarian" or Deborah Madison's book "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone". These two serve as alot of my inspirations. Also don't be intimidated by Tofu or Tempeh. Tofu sauted with your favorite barbecue sauce is quite easy and my huband tolerates it without alot of complaints. Or his favorite tofu recipe comes from the second book where we fry it in peanut oil until golden brown and then put a peanut sauce over it

Willo said...

Good for you!!!

We became vegan several months ago and even that was much easier than I thought it would be. I have really relied on the cookbooks "Veganomicon" and "Skinny Bitch in the Kitch." And I know I have seen a ton of vegetarian books at the library lately, that way you could try some recipes without the cost of cookbooks.

Joyce said...

We like pasta e fagioli ( meatless version) a lot at our house, as well as the lentil and barley stew that is in The More With Less cookbook. Legumes are nice and filling, and often combine well with cheese.

Christina said...

My husband was raised vegetarian (still is) and as a kid was asked all the time about what he ate since meat wasn't an option. He'd tell people his favorite foods: pizza, lasagne, pastas. "But," people would splutter, "those things all have meat in them!"

It's not really hard, in my experience, to drop the meat out of most dishes. The harder part is replacing it with a comparable protein. We do eat a lot of pasta, soups, Mexican-inspired or Asian-inspired dinners. Eggs and dairy fill the protein niche; we often have a selection of cheeses on the table to go with the meal. I keep chicken breast in the freezer and will sometimes add some to my and my daughter's meals. Those breasts also get turned into chicken salad sandwiches for us. "Red meat" happens about once a year, at a restaurant; I've started hunting down the local handful that serves local, grass-finished meat.

FOO said...

We eat mostly meatless meals in my home and I post our weekly menus on my blog (and in any of the recipes where I plan to use a small amount of meat you could easily substitute beans or soy protein). We only eat pasta once a week, if that! If any of the items look interesting to you, I'd be happy to post the recipes.

greeen sheeep said...

Thanks for all the encouragement, ideas, and links. Keep them coming! I have this week's meals already planned, but will be looking for ideas to fill out the rest of the month. I have the house all to myself this weekend and plan on spending it researching vegetarian meals. Feel free to leave links here or over at my personal blog -
Greeen Sheeep (

Recipes emailed directly to me would also be appreciated.
flockmaster [at] greeensheeep [dot] com

My family thanks you, too!

Lynn from said...

That's a great approach. We keep a mostly vegetarian house (my DH is a vegetarian). For those who can't quite kick the habit, they might wnat to consider a carbon fast for Lent. The Church of England/Episcopal Church USA started this idea last year, and it really took off...

Condo Blues said...

I'm not a vegetarian, but I eat a lot of vegetarian meals. We tend to cook with meat more as a condiment than as a main ingredient - think stir fry vs. the traditional American meal of big hunk of meat, big side of veg, big side of starch meals.

You can try going ethnic with your meatless meals. The upper casts in India are usually vegetarian and they have a lot of recipes that don't use meat. We do a lot of veggie stir fries w/ tofu or beans as a protein source. The Moosewood Restaurant cookbook is a great source of all vegetarian recipes! I got mine from my sister who gave it to me after they tried going meatless for Lent one year. She said that it was more "the hippy food that you guys eat" :)

EcoLabel Fundraising said...

I am not vegetarian, but I don't eat much meat. When I was in college, I couldn't afford meat. So, for many, many years now, I just haven't eaten much. I feel better when I eat less. My body just feels lighter. I do have to get protein many other ways though, since I am an avid runner who needs it!

The ideas presented on above comments are making me hungry!

Lisa Sharp said...

Well I'm not much of a meat eater to start with, really don't eat much beef.

I gave up meat when I was younger for lent but I was living at home so my mom just made extra of sides for me or left meat out of there meals if that would something that could be done. I ate a LOT of pasta and grilled cheese lol. I'm not a veggie eater (this is why I'm not a vegetarian) so wasn't the healthiest diet in the world.

I had bacon on Easter...

FOO said...

Tomorrow I will be posting my weekly menu with links to all the meatless meals. Enjoy!

kallanach said...

While we embrace more vegetarian fare as a religious observance during Lent, it is also a great time to reflect on the millions of animals who suffer on factory farms each day in order to produce 95 percent of the meat, dairy and eggs consumed in the U.S. Check out The Humane Society of the United States Humane Eating resources and our documentary Eating Mercifully, which looks at factory farming from Christian perspectives.


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