Doing without

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 9, 2001

Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. During this time Christians all over the world will honor the season in a variety of ways. The two most common are: giving up of something and not eating meat on Fridays.

It is common for people to give up a food item for Lent, especially one that is often viewed as a vice. Chocolate and soft drinks seem to be among the most popular with candy, sweets, desserts and fast food following close behind. Even though making a sacrifice should make an impression on you it doesn’t mean you have to eat fish sticks every Friday. Try some of these recipes, you might be surprised at how delicious doing without can be.

This lasagna recipe recently replaced my old spinach lasagna recipe. While I usually add spinach to my regular recipe this meatless recipe is really good. I chop my spinach up fine and tell my family it is basil and no one is the wiser.

Spinach Lasagna

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 15-ounce can tomato sauce

1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 bay leaves

1 package lasagna noodles

2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained

2 cups ricotta cheese

1 large egg white, slightly beaten

8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using medium-high heat melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion, mushrooms and garlic. Saut\u00E9 until tender, do not brown. Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil, oregano and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaves and set the tomato mixture aside to cool.

Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions and then drain well. In a medium mixing bowl combine the spinach, ricotta cheese and egg white, mix well.

Spray a 13×9-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Layer one-third of the reserved tomato mixture in the bottom. Layer half of the lasagna noodles and then half of the spinach mixture. Top with one-third of the tomato mixture and half of the Monterey Jack cheese. Top with the remaining lasagna noodles, spinach mixture, tomato mixture and remaining Monterey Jack in that order. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Adapted from Meals on the Move

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I like to use catfish fillets in this recipe because they are readily available, delicious and firm.

Parmesan Baked Fillets with Lemon Butter Sauce

serves 6 to 8

1 cup crushed Ritz crackers

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon paprika

2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided

4 large eggs

4 tablespoons water

8 catfish fillets

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 cup butter, cut into fourths

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with a nonstick spray, line with foil and spray again.

Combine the cracker crumbs, cheese, oregano, basil, parsley, paprika, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a shallow dish. Whisk together eggs and 4 tablespoons water in a shallow bowl.

Dip fillets in egg mixture and dredge in cracker crumb mixture. Place fillets on the pan and drizzle with the melted butter. Bake the fish for 30 to 35 minutes. While the fillets are baking prepare your sauce. Simmer one cup of butter, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a saucepan over low heat until is melted. Serve the sauce over the fillets. The catfish and sauce is wonderful served over fettuccini.

Adapted from Absolutely a la Carte

When planning meatless meals, nutrition has to be taken into consideration. By using a variety of beans you can keep your protein intake where it needs to be. Caramelizing the onions brings out the natural sweetness in them and completely changes the flavor.

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Black Bean and Caramelized Onion Burritos

3 cups thinly sliced red or white onion

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

15 ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro, optional

8 flour tortillas

Salsa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium high heat. Add the onion and sugar, saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Then reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking for 10 to 15 or until the onion is caramelized or deep gold brown. Remove from heat and stir in the thyme.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the beans, cumin, cheese and cilantro, if using, stir well. Spoon the bean mixture evenly down the center of each tortilla. Top evenly with the onion mixture. Roll up the tortillas jelly roll style and place the rolls, seam side down, on a baking sheet coated with nonstick spray. Cover with foil and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cheese melts. Serve with salsa.

Mexican Quiche

Serves 6 to 8

5-6 medium eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

1/3 cup diced onion

1/3 cup diced tomato

1/3 can canned chopped green chilies

1 9 or 10-inch unbaked pie shell

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together the eggs, salt, nutmeg, pepper and cream until smooth and light in consistency. Sprinkle onion, tomato and green chilies in the pastry shell and then pour the egg mixture over them. Sprinkle with the cheeses.

Bake for one hour to one hour and 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Serve with the following spinach salad and a garlic bread for a complete meal.

Spinach Salad

Serves 6

16 ounce package fresh spinach, stemmed and washed

1 nectarine, tangerine or small orange, coarsely chopped

1 cup seedless red grapes

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

2 tablespoons pine nuts, walnuts or pecans, toasted

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Toss lightly with the following dressing.

Sweet and Sour Dressing

2/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix all ingredients with a fork or whisk.