Monday, February 22, 2010

Meatless Main Dish Meals

2/17/10 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Meatless Main Dish meals

Today is the beginning of Lent or Ash Wednesday. The forty days of Lent are set aside by Christian churches to reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Originally, this concentration on a spiritually disciplined life eliminated meat and other rich foods from the diet of parishioners.

Meatless meals for those who were not vegetarians could be quite a challenge. In large families, lots of macaroni and cheese or tuna and noodle casseroles were eaten. This meatless culinary tradition changed in 1966 by decree of the pope. Today Catholics are encouraged to abstain from meat only on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent.

Simplicity is still the premise behind Lenten meals. A simple meal of rice and beans is one example. To us such a meal may seem Spartan in contrast to steak and potatoes. However, cooked rice and beans scooped into a tortilla and heated on a griddle are the staple diet in most Latin American and Caribbean countries. Beans provide protein in the diet.

“Cooking Lent,” suggests that eating rice and beans is a symbolic way for us to identify with those who eat this meal daily around the world. It also suggests that we pray for our sisters and brothers in other countries during the food preparation.

I’m going to start out this meatless meal journey with a common rice and beans recipe similar to the one mentioned above. You can cook your own beans (which I recommend) but for those in a time crunch, canned black beans work just as well. I’m including a classic minestrone soup recipe. It’s delicious and you won’t even miss meat when you eat it.

And finally, I’m including an updated version of the often maligned tuna and noodle casserole. Why? Because some people (like me) really enjoy it — once or twice a year. With the addition of fresh broccoli and mushrooms, this recipe has a fresher taste than the old one. Serve any or all of the above dishes with a crisp green salad and French bread and you’ve got dinner. Enjoy!

Easy Black Beans with Rice

2 tablespoon each butter and vegetable oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
2 cans (15 oz each) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes, with juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Dash hot sauce (more if desired)
1 cup long grain white rice, uncooked
Garnish: fresh chopped cilantro

Cook rice according to package directions (usually 1 cup rice to 2 cups water, simmer for 25 min.).

While rice is cooking, heat oil butter and oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, celery and bell pepper; cook, stirring constantly, until tender.

Stir in beans, tomatoes, sugar, oregano, basil, garlic salt, pepper and hot sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 15 min. or until thickened, stirring frequently; set aside. Taste for seasonings, add more hot sauce or serve on the side if desired.

Serve hot black bean mixture over rice in bowls, garnished with cilantro. Serves 4.

Classic Minestrone Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, sliced
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh (canned or frozen) green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced into moons
1/2 head cabbage, chopped
1-1/2 quarts vegetable stock or water
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 can kidney beans
1 can (15-oz) cannellini beans, with liquid
1/4 cup small elbow macaroni
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, zucchini, green beans, celery and cabbage. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook 10-15 minutes, shaking the pan often. Stir in the stock, tomatoes, sauce and herbs. Bring to a boil, then replace the lid and reduce heat to low; simmer gently 30 min. Stir in the kidney and cannelloni beans with liquid and pasta. Simmer an additional 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Updated Tuna Casserole

12 oz wide egg noodles
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups broccoli, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 (6 oz) cans tuna, drained and flaked
1 (10-3/4 oz) can Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup
1 soup can milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 chicken bouillon cube dissolved in hot water
2-1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (reserve 1/2 cup for top)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400’ F.
Spray a large ovenproof casserole dish with nonstick spray.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt and noodles. Cook uncovered until al dente; add the chopped broccoli to the pasta and cook 2-4 minutes longer. Drain in a colander and set aside.

While the noodles are cooking, sauté the onions and mushrooms in a small amount of butter on medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the soup and milk and heat until warm.

Put noodles and broccoli back into the large pot, add soup mixture, sour cream, tuna, bouillon and cheese. Season. Mix well and turn into casserole dish. Top with reserved cheese. Bake 20 min. or until hot and bubbly. Serves 6.

Note: This recipe is easily halved

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! 
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare

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