[Note: In case you’re wondering why expensive shellfish is allowed and not less expensive fish, once upon a time, bottom-feeding shellfish was unwanted because it was considered unclean, and it was therefore cheap. The need for protein in the Lenten diet led to eventually incorporating shellfish, and to the discovery of how good it is. That discovery jacked up the price.]
When you shift your focus to healthy fasting it becomes a life-renewing experience, and isn’t that what Lent should be about?
5 foods transform into meatless meals
✚ Greeks love Makaronada, a pasta dish with a thick meat sauce made with tomatoes and ground beef. Instead of putting your recipe away, replace the beef with kidney beans to make a Lenten pasta sauce that’s hearty. Kidney beans have a rich texture and add much-needed protein when fasting, plus they’re seriously flavorful.
✚ When making Gemista, veggies with stuffings (like Lahanodolmadades or Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers), instead of ground meat, add cooked quinoa…it’s a superfood packed with protein, potassium, and fiber. To give that fiber a boost, use brown rice instead of white (this works really well in vegetarian chili recipes too!). But be forewarned, you may like this meatless version so much that you won’t go back.
✚ These suggestions can also be applied to layered pitas like Moussaka. Instead of meat-sauce layers, layer with beans, quinoa, or take it one step further and add cooked shrimp, thinly sliced scallops or octopus (also precooked).
See below for dairy substitutes to use when making béchamel sauce for the Moussaka.
✚ Meat can easily be replaced in most recipes with grains like rice (use brown for extra nutrients and fiber), legumes, orzo (or other pasta), vegetables, or shellfish.
Think about what flavors and textures would go best in your recipes, then make the swap!
✚ For taking it straight, the choices are vast—almond milk (my fav), coconut milk, rice milk, soy milk, plain, vanilla, chocolate—so go with what tastes good to you.
✚ For baking, cup-for cup, almond milk is great (did I mention it’s my favorite?). Coconut milk is okay if you want a tropical flavor. Soy milk tends to be a bit tart and bland so use soy if you prefer no added flavor at all. Rice milk, though neutral in flavor, tends to be watery so it might make your batter too loose.
✚ For sauces, custard tarts, or puddings, it gets a bit tricky. Think about the flavor that would go best with what you’re making. If you don’t want an added flavor, use rice milk. Keep in mind that you’ll probably need to go up on your thickener since cow’s milk is more binding than these milks. Start with a little thickener and increase as needed.
✚ For anything else, again, think about the flavor of the dish, then choose your milk.
✚ We use olive oil most of the time, fasting or not. It’s great in baked potatoes, fries up yummy eggs, and it’s delish for dipping bread. It not only tastes good but it’s healthier than butter.
✚ For baking, you’ll want to use a lighter oil like canola or a non-dairy spread like Smart Balance Organic—it’s 100% vegan, non-GMO, with no hydrogenated anything. I mention this brand because, after scouring a number of supermarket dairy aisles, we found very few butter alternatives out there that are actually healthy.
✚ In times of strict fasting, canola oil can be used instead of olive oil. It’s healthier than other vegetable oils and it’s our swap-out choice for butter in Halva.
✚ It’s hard to replace something as gooey and rich as cheese, and the fake stuff tastes, well, fake. If you’re making an omelet or pie, add chopped olives, or sliced mushrooms or diced tofu sautéed in olive oil, to fill it with flavor and texture.
✚ For breakfast, make oatmeal or have cereal…unless you like egg substitutes.
✚ For baking quiche or custard-like dishes, for each egg, substitute ¼ cup pureed soft tofu.
✚ For desserts like cakes, for each egg, substitute ¼ cup applesauce or ¼ cup mashed banana.
For vegan baking tips go to veganbaking.net.
For standard Greek Lenten recipes, take a look at about.com.
I hope you enjoyed Lenten Kouzina Made Easy. Lenten and vegetarian recipes, as well as more how-to tips, will be featured in our upcoming cookbook. Stay tuned for more uniquely Greek and Karpathian food ideas that you can add to your kouzina routine.
Thanks for following us and we’ll see you next Monday.
Kali orexi! Good appetite!
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
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