Happy Easter: A Lent Recap

Today marks the end of Lent, which is the most important part of Easter for me. Although I'm not religious, I chose to observe Lent this year by giving up meat.

I made the decision somewhat on a whim, but also under the impression that I didn't eat much meat anyways, so it wouldn't be much trouble. Boy, was I wrong!

The hardest part about giving up meat was finding food to eat. Our dining halls are very veg friendly and almost always have a main entree for vegetarians or vegans beyond just the salad bar. Unfortunately, if you don't like that one option, you're out of luck! What I didn't realize before was that those were the days I would end up eating meat. Since I could no longer eat meat when I didn't like the veg entree, I had to get creative.

Fortunately, I quickly learned some good alternatives that kept me going. One of my favorites was a cheese panini. The grilled cheeses here are usually white bread with American cheese, drenched in oil and grilled. Instead, I order a cheddar cheese sandwich on whole grain bread and put it in the panini machine. That plus a salad is perfect for lunch.

I also found my dessert consumption increased significantly. That may have been partly due to an increase in calorie consumption now that we're in season, but I also think it was often the easiest thing to eat. As a result, though, I have often craved savory foods instead of sweet foods over the past few weeks.

Of course, I wasn't perfect. There were one or two nights where I just didn't have the energy to find something without meat. I also didn't go vegetarian, so I could still eat things like marshmallows, or just pick the meat out of a dish that was otherwise made with chicken or beef stock, for example.

To celebrate Easter and the end of Lent, D and I made pork chops for dinner tonight. Even though he didn't give up meat, he's been eating less. Both of us found our 4oz portions of pork to be overwhelmingly large. I also didn't find it particularly satisfying. Sure, it was moist and flavorful, but it wasn't special or that delicious. I would rather have had twice as much roasted broccoli.

Going forward, I expect that I will only eat meat when it is inconvenient to do otherwise. Although I'm sure many vegetarians probably scoff at this lack of commitment, for me it is about cost, convenience and taste, rather than morality or environmental impact. I also hope to find a way to decrease the amount of sweets I eat, too.

I'm sure this will change as Dan and I begin to cook for ourselves this summer and next year. Fortunately, Dan is super patient and understanding, and willing to experiment with not eating meat while I try to figure out what works for me. I'm sure his needs and wants will influence me, but he's been very open to change so far.

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45-Minute Dinner: Roasted Veggies with Pork Loin and Rice Pilaf
serves 2

frying pan
small pot
baking tray
wooden spatula

2 4-oz. boneless pork loins
dried rosemary
salt, pepper
olive oil

1c long grain white rice
0.25 small onion
dried rosemary
olive oil

1 head broccoli
2c baby carrots
olive oil

1. Rub about 1t dried rosemary, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper onto each pork loin, making sure to coat each side.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
3. Dice your onion. Wash and chop the broccoli into bite size pieces. Mince the garlic.
4. Set a timer for 30 minutes. In the small pot, saute your onion in about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. When it becomes fragrant, about 3 minutes, add the rice and toast it for 1-2 minutes, making sure to coat all of the rice with the oniony oil.
5. Add 2c water to the rice, along with 1t of rosemary. Cover and let the water come up to a boil.
6. While you're waiting, toss the broccoli and carrots together with oil and garlic on the baking tray. Leave two little spots for your pork.
7. Turn the heat on the rice down as low as possible. Leave it covered.
8. Heat about a teaspoon of oil in your frying pan. Add the pork loins and fry for 2-3 minutes a side on medium-high heat. You should get some serious browning. (Feel free to brown the edges, too!)
9. Transfer the pork to the baking tray and put the veggies and pork into the oven. You should have about 15 minutes left on your timer.
10. After 10 minutes, remove the pork from the oven and plate it to rest. [Feel free to (a) use warmed plates, (b) check the temperature with a thermometer--mine read 135°F when I pulled it out of the oven.]
11. You should have about 5 minutes left on your timer. Turn the rice off, but leave it covered. Toss the vegetables and turn the oven to broil on high. Move the veggies right under the broiler.
12. When the timer goes off, stir the rice to mix in the onions/spices, remove the veggies from the broiler and serve.
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Note: To make this dinner vegan, replace the pork with a broccoli steak: slice a 1-inch thick piece of broccoli from stem to crown, removing the florets. Prepare it in a similar manner to the pork.

Do you have a savory tooth? How to you satisfy it? Let me know by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com. 

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