But our Lenten abstinence does not have to mean bland food. The recipes we often associate with Lent are primarily popular American dishes from the 1950's. Catholic culture in Europe and Asia, however, has been coping with Friday abstinence (and not just during Lent) a lot longer.
The collections of Lent recipes below may make you long for Lenten Fridays. And if you observe the traditional Friday abstinence, you can use these Lent recipes every Friday of the year!
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When we think of German food, we think of sausages and sauerbraten, not meatless dishes. Since Germany was the home of the Protestant Reformation, it's easy to forget that parts of the country, especially Bavaria, still hold tight to the Catholic Faith.
These traditional German recipes, presented by Jennifer McGavin, the About.com Guide to German Food, are the sorts of things that Pope Benedict XVI might have eaten during Lent, while growing up in his native land.
Americans are well acquainted with Mexican food (or at least an Americanized version of it), but relatively few of us know much about Spanish food, to which it is related. As Lisa and Tony Sierra, the About.com Guides to Spanish Food, point out, though, Spanish food is perfect for Lent, because the Spaniards eat quite a bit of seafood. Still, not all of these recipes, which include tapas (appetizers), paella, soup, and dessert, contain seafood, so there's something here for everyone.
You will find some overlap between Spanish Lent recipes and Mexican ones, but this collection of Mexican recipes for Lent offered by Chelsie Kenyon, the About.com Guide to Mexican Food, may look a bit more familiar. Many staples of Mexican restaurants in the United States, such as cheese enchiladas, chile rellenos, and chilaquiles, make perfect Lenten foods. But Chelsea also includes some delicious side dishes and wonderful desserts-for those of us who haven't given up dessert for Lent!
When we think of the Catholic Church, most of us think of Rome. Under the traditional Lenten fast in the Western Church, no meat was allowed at all during Lent. (And you thought that meatless Fridays were bad enough!) It's no surprise, then, that the Italians developed many wonderful Lenten recipes that are often quite simple and wholesome, yet very delicious.
Kyle Phillips, the About.com Guide to Italian Food, offers the following collections of his favorite Lenten recipes:
Looking for Lent recipes that are a little more exotic? Tired of eating your fish in the ever-popular stick form? These Chinese fish recipes, courtesy of Rhonda Parkinson, the About.com Guide to Chinese Food, may be the cure for your Lenten blues! All of these recipes, which range from stir fries to salmon burgers and marinated baked fish are healthy and simple to prepare.
My children love meat; they expect it every meal. So planning meatless meals for Lent that will satisfy them takes some time and effort—and those are two things that families may find to be in short supply. That's where Stephanie Gallagher, the About.com Guide to Cooking for Kids, comes in. Her list of ten Lenten Recipes for Busy Families has something that should satisfy even the pickiest of eaters—from salmon patties and baked cod to Mexican pizza, fish tacos, and vegetarian chili, and three Italian-inspired pasta dishes. All are simple, yet so full of flavor that your kids won't even miss the meat.
Every Catholic family has its fallback Lenten food—the one you make when you can't think of anything else to make. (Spaghetti and macaroni and cheese are pretty common ones.) For my family, it's usually eggs in some form, particularly scrambled or egg foo yung. Quick, easy, economical, packed with protein—eggs make a great Lenten food.
The potential uses for eggs are limited only by your imagination, as these Lenten egg recipes from Barbara Rolek, the About.com Guide to Eastern European Food, show. Polish stuffed eggs, Eastern European crepes, salmon turnovers, Russian cabbage pie—these are probably not the first things that come to mind when you think of eggs. But all of these recipes are egg-based, and every one is delicious!
Have you ever gained weight during Lent, even though you fasted every day and only rarely ate meat? If you're like me, you're one of those people who can benefit from a low-carb diet. Yet our Lenten staples are high in carbohydrates: spaghetti and other noodles; potatoes; breaded fish; even just bread.
You don't need to break your low-carb diet, though, just because it's Lent. Many of the European cuisines listed on this page offer low-carb recipes, but to make it easier to find some, Laura Dolson, the About.com Guide to Low Carb Diets, has compiled a list of low-carb Lenten resources.
The "Whole Foods" lifestyle has become more common in recent years, as many people have come to question the wisdom of filling ourselves with prepackaged, processed food. If you've ever thought of moving your diet in more of a whole-foods direction, there's no better time than Lent. As Jen Hoy, the About.com Guide to Whole Foods Cooking, points out, "Whole foods cooking lends itself easily to Lenten cooking with its abundant and simple vegetarian and seafood recipes, and light, clean desserts." Jen's 24 Whole Foods Recipes for Lent will take you through an entire meal, from appetizers to dessert.