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Praying for tasty Lenten food? Try these!

By SHARWIN TEE, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 10, 2021 4:00 pm

There was a joke going around Twitter (although it is both sad and funny) that March 2021 was approaching, even though it feels like it is still March 2020 right now.

In the same way, Ash Wednesday 2021 has come and gone, just like that.

Every year, we pledge to make certain sacrifices as part of our commitment to the season, and every year, usually after a week or two, we begin to struggle with keeping our pledges, especially the ones tied to eating.

While the entire 2020 felt like one long year of sacrifice, I think it’s still important to perform some sort of sacrifice during the Lenten season, if only to remind us of its solemnity.

A quick search on the internet and in social media revealed the most popular food-related sacrifices that people promise to do: These range from avoiding favorites like chocolates and sweets, to guilty pleasures like carbs, alcoholic drinks, milk tea and coffee.

The most common one is to avoid meat and now, we also have people pledging to go vegetarian for the entire 40-day period. I thought it would be nice to drop some suggestions to help people resist temptation and power through their Lenten sacrifices.

5 bowls and 0 fish

Going vegetarian, whether it’s just on Fridays or for all 40 days, is definitely challenging, but it’s not impossible. The key is to find ways to develop deep flavors without using meat. I’m sharing my latest recipe for misua because I think it’s a pretty good (and tasty) example. 

  Adding miso adds deep flavor to vegetarian fare like this misua dish

Here’s what you’ll need to make this dish: 1 small carrot, 1/2 of a small head of cabbage, 6 dried mushrooms (rehydrated in 1 cup of water), 1 sheet (1/2 pad paper size) of kombu or dried kelp, 1/2 cup of misua noodles, 1 tbsp of miso paste and 2 tbsps of vegetable oil.

The process is relatively simple. In a pot combine 1 liter of water and the sheet of kombu. Bring them to a boil, let simmer for 1 minute and then set aside. You can buy kombu in Japanese or Korean convenience stores everywhere.

Slice all the vegetables thinly and sauté them in the oil for 2 minutes or until slightly softened. Combine the miso paste and the water used to rehydrate the mushrooms. Pour that and the kombu broth onto the vegetables and simmer for 2 minutes. Add in the misua noodles and let simmer for 2 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  

What you’ll get is this flavorful dish that’s satisfying but also vegetarian. It’s not a sad plate of veggie sticks, lettuce and dip, so it’s definitely easier to go vegetarian when the dish has deep and powerful flavors.

Take this cup and drink

In these trying times, pledging to avoid alcoholic drinks for 40 days is an especially tougher task than others. The key, when getting those urges, is to enjoy a non-alcoholic cocktail. Taking the steps to prepare a drink at least gives you the impression that you are drinking a cocktail, helping to minimize the temptation.

Here’s a quick recipe of my pink “mojito” to help you along:

  This pink "mojito" gives you the cocktail experience without the alcohol. 

You’ll only need five ingredients for this: 2 whole pomelos, calamansi juice, mint, lemon-lime soda and lots of ice. First, crush the pomelos to get as much juice as you can.

Then, tear in a few leaves of mint, and add those, together with the calamansi juice, to the pomelo juice and mix well. Fill up 4 glasses with ice and divide the pomelo mixture evenly. Top up each glass with the lemon-lime soda and you’ve got yourself a cocktail!

The cocktail is fresh, bright, and most importantly, non-alcoholic. Plus, it’s a great way to get vitamin C and you can enjoy this with the kids as well. Pair the drink off with some bar nuts or chips, and you can sort of fool yourself and take care of any urge to drink alcohol.

The good samaritan

Giving up chocolate, milk tea or other sweet dessert favorites is definitely a sacrifice, but it is a worthwhile endeavor when done in the spirit and season of Lent. It may help to have a dessert with no added artificial sugars, like my rice pudding with fresh fruits.

All you really need for this are: 2 cups of cooked rice (I use adlai when I have some), 1 liter of milk, 1 tsp of nutmeg, 2 tsps of cinammon, 1/2 cup of dried cranberries (or raisins) and whatever fresh fruit you have.

 Cinnamon helps make dishes feel sweet without sugar, like in rice pudding.

The process is pretty simple. Just combine all of the ingredients (except the fresh fruit) in a pot and bring to a simmer. Mix regularly to avoid lumps and simmer for about 5-6 minutes until all the flavors are well combined. Top with fresh fruit (you may add plain yogurt if you like) and enjoy.

If you want to make this vegan, use soy milk instead.

Either way, what you get is a dessert with barely any artificial sugar, but the scents of nutmeg and cinnamon help make the dish feel like a sweet treat that can satisfy the cravings for sugar and chocolate. It’s also a gift that keeps on giving, as this is a great way to use up last night’s leftover rice and odds and ends of fruits you may have at home. 

40 days and 40 nights

While the entire 2020 felt like one long year of sacrifice, I think it’s still important to perform some sort of sacrifice during the Lenten season, if only to remind us of its solemnity. I’m also a practical person, though, so I will take all the help I can get, if it means I can follow through on the pledge I made through 40 days.