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Meatless Meals

Ash Wednesday is a day of fast and abstinence. The Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence; except Good Friday which is also a day of fasting as well as abstinence. These are the 'rules', the obligations that our Mother Church asks of us. In our pleasant affluent surroundings, it's not a lot to ask - we know we can eat tomorrow. We should think of all those in the world (our brothers and sisters!) who do not know even this - who may not have eaten properly in the entire lives and are always hungry.

What do the terms mean, exactly?

Abstinence: no eating of meat
Fasting: food intake limited to one full meal; no eating of food between meals.

The law of Abstinence binds all Catholics over 14 years of age (have completed that year, in other words after their 14th birthday). The law of Fasting binds all Catholics from their 18th year (having completed their 18th year) until the beginning of their 60th year (until and including their 59th birthday).

Meatless meals are a challenge to plan and prepare if you are not familiar with the different menu planning necessary. But it is quite simple and easy, really. If you refer to the Food Guides presented in last week's Stewardship entry, you will see that Meat and Substitutes includes beans, tofu, cheese, eggs as well as red and white meats. Meatless meals typically use one or more of these protein rich substitutes.

One point to remember, and if you are planning to become more or less vegetarian, I would reccommend finding more nutritional information than I am offering here, is that beans and grains are 'incomplete' protein sources. They provide some but not all the amino acids necessary in our diet for health. But in combination, they do provide a complete protein group. The combination doesn't even need to be in the same meal, though that works best, it only needs to be in the same day.

Peanut butter (peanuts are a legume, a bean) on whole wheat bread is a complete protein, in other words. So are black beans on rice, baked beans with steamed bread, hot and sour soup served with rice or rice noodles, minestrone soup with beans and noodles, macaroni and cheese, falafels on pita bread, pasta primavera with peas, steamed vegetables with gado-gado sauce and rice, lasagna with cottage cheese, the list is literally endless. Can you tell we were once vegetarians? (Economic not philosophical, I hasten to add.)

'But what do I do with my family? They won't eat a meal unless it contains meat.' This is a common question.

I suggest two courses of action, carried out simultaneously. First, speak seriously to your family about the obligation to abstain from meat on Fridays, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Point out that as you expect obedience from the family, so does the Church expect obedience from you. Remind your family that the sacrifice of abstaining from meat will bring spiritual, emotional and physical benefits. Tell them that many people in the world rarely eat meat, and remain healthy. Healthier than the average North American, as a matter of fact. It is far simplier to create a high fiber low fat diet when you include less meat in your menu.

Secondly, begin preparing meatless dishes, and don't tell anyone.

  • Lasagna can be made with a meatless tomato sauce (homemade of course), with a centre layer of cottage cheese mixed with steamed chopped spinach and a little black pepper. Top with a thick layer of grated mozzerella and a sprinkling of parmesan.
  • Minestrone soup doesn't need meat. Saute the vegetables called for in the recipe in a little oil, flavoured with chopped garlic and proceed with the rest of the recipe. Use vegetable boullion cubes, or canned boullion if you want, the canned tomatoes don't add quite enough flavour. Be sure to add white or red kidney beans, and an interesting shaped noodle like rotini or penne.
  • Chili can be meatless and no-one will notice. Use a homemade tomato sauce with lots of chunky vegetables in it, maybe more green onion that you would use for spagetti sauce. Add chili powder, kidney beans, and corn. Serve over rice.
  • Hot and sour soup is one of our family's favorite ways to eat tofu. You can be very Chinese with this dish. Serve it in bowls with a large bowl of good rice on the table, everyone adds as much rice as they want to their bowls. You could serve a second course of stir-fried vegetables with this. Again, a little bit of chicken breast, or shrimp improves the soup, but it is just as good without it.
  • Gado-Gado sauce is an Indian Ocean country speciality. It is a spicy, tangy peanut sauce, usually served with steamed vegetables and rice. For the truly fussy child, the idea of peanut butter for a main course dinner may intrique them enough that they happily eat vegetables.
  • The classic macaroni and cheese doesn't use or need meat or even tuna. My husband likes it made with a can of tomatoes added, the children hate it this way, so I alternate. Lots of vegetables lightly sauted in butter or oil, added to the noodles and cheese sauce make this a more nutritious and tastier meal.

The point is, all these meals are meatless and no-one would notice unless they saw it being made, or you told them. They are an easy and painless way to ease your family into eating meatless dishes, and possibly experimenting with more exotic cuisine later when they are accustomed to it. Like curried chickpeas with cauliflower and potato.

As the steward of the home, your family's health and the grocery budget, you have a God-mandated responsibility to ensure that all areas are well served. One way to combine the needs and requirements of your vocation is to learn how to get the most out of every food dollar, in terms of efficiency, nutrition, and taste. I hope that this issue's Stewardship articles on the kitchen will help you accomplish that aim, and that I've inspired you to learn more.

Look for cookbooks in the local library or bookstore to help. I reccommend 'Diet for a Small Planet' by Francis Lappe-Moore, 'Laurel's Kitchen' by Nilgiri Press, and 'The Vegetarian Epicure' Parts One and Two. These vegetarian cookbooks have a more or less Eastern religion-based philosophy, but the recipes and nutritional information is well researched and reliable. The 'Fannie Farmer Cookbook' has several excellent meatless recipes, and suggestions for meatless versions of other recipes.

On the web, the Recipe Archive Index is a treasure trove of recipes. check out the sections for Ethnic Dishes, Grains and Cereals, and Vegetable Recipes.
By the same 'collector' of recipes is the Vegetarian Recipe Archive.
Another great site full of vegetarian recipes and desserts with links to other interesting sites is Great Vegetarian Recipes!
Culinary Online is a magazine about food, reviewing cookbooks and other things, and offering some sample recipes from the cookbooks.

Please note: These recipe sites have been chosen for their recipes only. Any other information or opinion expressed at these sites, or any sites linked to them, has not been checked by Domestic-Church.Com and is not endorsed in any way by Domestic-Church.Com.

Next issue, the Stewardship column will compliment the Health column and discuss household safety (a biggie with children!) and emergency preparedness. The Health Column will be about First Aid, and First Aid Kits for home, car and camping.

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