Maybe it's a little strange, but I always look forward to Lent. It's a tough time of year - not really winter (not that we've had much of a winter this year), and definitely not spring yet. Lent, with its focus on penance, self-reflection, and self-denial seems like the last thing that would brighten up an already difficult time of year, but I find it invigorating. In a lot of ways, it's my New Year's ritual
I take it seriously, too. I fast to the extent that I can: I have medical problems that make full fasting unwise, but I eat more simply, I forgo meat on Fridays, and I observe the traditional practice of 'giving something up' for Lent in addition to the newer idea of 'picking something new' for Lent - that is, developing some positive new habit.
As a committed carnivore, but also someone who doesn't like fish (which for some strange reason don't count as meat), I have to admit that planning meals without meat is something of a puzzler. While married, my wife had grown up as a vegetarian and could throw something together without thinking - me, not so much. The problem is a little more complicated still, now that I've transitioned to almost completely cooking from scratch - a quick meal of rice and beans isn't so quick when you can't just open a can of beans and the long cook time requires advanced planning.
To the rescue, comes lentils - not a bean, but a pulse, they have a relatively short cook time, coincidentally almost identical with that of brown rice. This has quickly become my favorite lenten meal:
Brown Rice and Lentils
5 cups vegetable stock
1 cup brown rice
1 cup lentils
1/2 cup celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, dice
1 onion diced
1/2 cup jalapeno peppers, sliced into rings
salt and pepper to taste
Throw everything in a pot, bring to a boil over medium high heat, then lower to maintain a simmer for 45 minutes or until everything is done. I get about 4 servings.