Meatless meals during Lent don't have to be tasteless

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer

Growing up in a household where Lenten traditions were observed, we were used to meatless Fridays between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. While it was easy to pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for school lunches, my mother resorted to our Catholic church's Altar and Rosary Society cookbook to find ideas for family meals.

We kids weren't fans of her sauerkraut and dumpling hotdish or boiled cabbage rolls, but we did develop a taste for tuna and salmon - a fish we rarely ate outside of the Lenten fasting season.

Here are a few recipes for meatless meals that aren't a bit tasteless or boring.

Macaroni and cheese topped with buttered bread crumbs.

Macaroni and Cheese

1 t. salt

2 1/2 c. elbow macaroni

1 T. vegetable or olive oil


3 T unsalted butter

3 T. flour

2 1/2 c. milk, warmed

1 3/4 c. sharp cheddar, shredded

1/2 t. salt

1/1 t. freshly ground pepper

2 t. Dijon style mustard

1 t. fresh parsley, finely chopped


3/4 c. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 c. bread crumbs

1 t. unsalted butter, cut into tiny pieces.

Bring water to a boil, adding salt and macaroni. Cook until al dente, 5-7 minutes. Drain, rinse with cool water, put into mixing bowl and drizzle with oil. Set aside.

In a saucepan over medium low heat, melt butter. Sprinkle flour over butter and whisk until mixture is gently bubbling, 2-3 minutes. Gradually add warm milk, whisking continuously,and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer, stirring until smooth and slightly thickened, 3-4 minutes. Add 1 3/4 c. sharp cheddar cheese into the milk mixture, remove from heat and whisk constantly until cheese melts. Stir in the salt and pepper, mustard and parsley. Pour sauce over macaroni and mix to combine. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan or dish. Pour mixture in.

In a small bow, stir together cheese and bread crumbs for topping. Sprinkle evenly over macaroni. Dot with butter. Bake until the top bubbles and begins to form a crust, 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Serves 4.

Zesty tuna salad is sandwiched between a fresh, multi-grain roll.

Tuna Salad Sandwich

1 can (12 oz.) chunk light tuna in water

2 hardboiled eggs

2 stalks celery

2 T.  red onion

1 T. pickle relish

1/2 c. Miracle Whip dressing

In large bowl, combine drained tuna, chopped eggs, minced celery, diced onion and pickle relish. Toss all gently with Miracle Whip, enough to suit taste or hold ingredients together. Make sandwiches using multi-grain bread. Toast as desired. Tuna salad can also be served on a crisp lettuce leaf.

Salmon Veggie Bake

1 lb. fresh or frozen skinless fish fillets, about 3/4 inch thick — salmon, cod or orange roughy

2 c. thinly sliced carrots (4 carrots)

2 c. sliced fresh mushrooms

1/2 c. sliced green onions

2 t. finely shredded orange peel

2 t. fresh snipped oregano or 1/2 t. dried oregano, crushed

4 cloves garlic, halved

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. freshly ground pepper

4 t.. olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 lg. or 2 small oranges, sliced thin

Thaw fish if frozen, pat dry. Cut into 4 pieces, set aside. In a small saucepan, cook the carrots in a small amount of boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain. Place in a large bowl. Combine carrots, mushrooms, onions, orange peel, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

To make one individual steaming packet, you will need 2 pieces of foil, finished size about 12-by-18-inches. Put one on top of the other. Or, if you are using heavy-duty foil that is wider, tear off a 24-inch piece and fold it in half to make the 12-by-18-inch piece. Do one for each of the four serving packets.

Divide the vegetable mixture among the 4 stacks of foil, placing the veggies in the center of the piece. Place one piece of salmon on each portion of veggies. Drizzle 1 t. of oil over the salmon. Sprinkle each lightly with salt and pepper; top with orange slices if desired and another piece of oregano. Bring the two opposite short edges of the foil together with a narrow fold and fold down onto the food. Fold up the ends with a double fold to seal. Allow some space in the packet for steam to build.

Place the packets in a single layer on a flat baking sheet and bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Open the packets carefully to allow the steam to escape. Transfer the packet contents to a plate or for an informal meal, grab a fork and eat from the packet. Serves 4.

Stuffed cabbage rolls

Stuffed Cabbage

1 head cabbage

1 onion, whole

2 c. chopped onions

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 1/2 c. white rice

1/2 c. chopped mint

1/2 t. garlic

1 c. olive oil 

Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the cabbage and whole onion by cutting off the tops, cutting out the cores and then peeling off every leaf. Separately boil the cabbage and onion until lightly browned.

Combine all other ingredients into mixing bowl and add salt and pepper to taste.

Take a handful of the previously boiled cabbage and line the bottom of a midsized skillet. Stuff cabbage and onion leaves, roll tightly and place in skillet. Cover with lid and cook over high heat until boiling, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 40 to 45 minutes.

Salmon Tacos with pineapple salsa.

Salmon Tacos

1 T. taco seasoning mix

1 T. water

1 (7.1-oz.) pouch Chicken of the Sea Premium Skinless & Boneless Pink Salmon (canned salmon will work too)

6 (6-inch) flour tortillas

1 c. shredded Mexican-style cheese

1 medium onion, chopped

1 c. cabbage mix (red and white cabbage with shredded carrots)

1 c. chopped tomatoes

1 c. salsa (or Pineapple salsa)

1 lime

Combine taco seasoning with water. Heat mixture in wok or skillet on medium heat until heated through. Stir in salmon and heat until hot; drain and set aside. Spoon salmon mixture into tortilla, then top with cheese, onion, cabbage mix, tomatoes, salsa and a squeeze of lime juice. Serve immediately. Makes 6 tacos.

Catfish or orange roughy fillets work great in Baked Parmesan Fish, which has a flavorful breading.

Baked Parmesan fish with pasta

1/3 c. (about 1 1/2 oz.) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 t. flour

3 thyme sprigs, leaves removed and crushed

4 (6-oz) white fish fillets (sole, halibut, haddock, cod or red snapper)

1 (9-oz) pkg. Angel Hair pasta

1 medium onion, chopped

1 c. halved mushroom caps

1/2 c. finely sliced green onions

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Preheat oven to 350. Place cheese, flour and thyme in paper bag. Individually coat fish by gently shaking in bag; discard coating ingredients. Place fillets in baking pan with rack. Bake for 20 minutes, or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Heat large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, mushrooms, green onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are tender. Season with salt and ground black pepper.

Place pasta on plates, place fish on top, serving mushroom medley over fish and pasta. Garnish with fresh thyme, if desired.

Cheesy Tuna Strata

4 to 6 slices hearty bread 

1 or 2 small cans tuna

5 to 6 oz. sliced cheese or grated cheese

1 bunch sliced green onions

4 beaten eggs

2 c. milk

1 T. Dijon-type mustard

2 t. Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper to taste


Grease an 8-inch baking dish. Place a layer of bread slice pieces to cover the dish. Spread cheese over the bread slices. Top with flaked tuna and chopped onions. Combine eggs, milk, mustard ,Worcestershire Sauce and salt and pepper. Pour over the bread and cheese mixture. Sprinkle with paprika. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes or until the dish is puffed and browned. If you have refrigerated the dish overnight, it may take a bit longer. Test with a knife near the center to make sure the custard is set and the knife comes out clean. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Serves 6.

Variations: Add a cup of lightly cooked veggies such as thin sliced carrots or broccoli on top of the cheese. Add a can of chopped green chilies. Use Swiss, Cheddar, American, Mexican or Italian cheese blends. 

Serves 6.

Baja Fried Fish Tacos

1 c. dark beer

1 c. flour

1/2 t. salt

1 lb. white fish, boned and skinned

Vegetable oil for frying fish

6 warm corn tortillas

2 c. cabbage, shredded

1/2 c. mayonnaise

1 garlic clove, minced

Tomato salsa

Lime wedges

In a bowl, whisk beer, flour and salt, blending well. Rinse fish and pat dry. Cut into six oblong pieces. In a deep skillet, heat about one inch of oil to 360 degrees. Coat fish pieces in beer batter and drain briefly. Slide coated fish into oil. Turn when golden, about one or two minutes. Cook another 1 or 2 minutes on the other side, and remove from oil with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels. Mix mayonnaise with a little water to thin, and add the minced garlic. To assemble the taco, add one piece of fish to each soft corn tortilla. Give the fish a squeeze of lime juice, if desired. Top with shredded cabbage, tomato salsa and/or mayonnaise dressing. Makes six tacos.