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Cook's Exchange: Meatless ideas for Lent

By Andrea Yeager

Special to the Sun Herald

What foods or drinks are going to be put on hold until after Lent? While food fasts in some faith traditions have eased over the years, others still adhere to no-meat Fridays or little meat during the 40 days of Lent.

Chocolate and caffeine are two more favorites that are sacrificed for Lent, which is the 40 days, not counting Sundays, leading up to Holy Saturday or the day before Easter (this year, March 27). The length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century.

Some believers use Lent as a time to renew their commitments to God and to their health, by eating less red meat or simply watching their diets more closely.

I thought I would share a meatless recipe that can be used during Lent. In its original form, the recipe is not so healthy, but with some substitutions, it is.

Readers know that I love to try new recipes and foods, and a recipe that I made last week is a keeper for my family of three, Portobello mushroom caps stuffed with macaroni and cheese. Now, mac and cheese is not in my list of favorites. Yes, I know that is practically sacrilegious in the South, but with balsamic-glazed portobellos, even I am a convert.

I get tons of national recipe emails, most of which I trash, but the mac and cheese mushrooms email from went in the "gotta try" file. Both my daughter and granddaughter love mac and cheese, and with glazed portobellos what could be bad?

This recipe can be made lower in fat and calories by using skim milk and reduced-fat cheese in the macaroni and cheese, like I did. I used a box mix and mixed it according to package directions.

My daughter loved it. Lilly didn't touch the mushrooms, but she ate the mac and cheese.

Please note, this is a filling dish. One mushroom cap per person is plenty. I served it with sautéed green beans, another food everyone in my family eats or at least tries.


4 portobello mushroom caps, stems removed and mushrooms wiped with damp paper towel

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

2 cups macaroni and cheese (can be leftover or made from a box)

2 ounces grated cheese (whatever you like)

1 green onion, minced

2 tablespoons fresh herbs, minced (I used dill and parsley because I had

those on hand)


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 garlic clove, minced or pressed

1/3 cup seasoned panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add in the olive oil. Add the mushrooms stem side up and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more. Flip the mushrooms again and add in the vinegar and brown sugar, moving the mushrooms to coat evenly. Cook for another minute, then turn off the heat.

Scoop 1/2 cup or so of mac and cheese (it can be right from the fridge) into each mushroom cap. Add grated cheese on top. Place in the oven until warm and the cheese is melted, about 10-15 minutes. Make the breadcrumb topping while the mushrooms are cooking, then remove the mushrooms and cover them with the bread crumbs, herbs and green onions. Serve immediately.

Topping directions:

Add butter to a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk constantly while it bubbles. The minute brown bits begin to form on the bottom of the pan, remove from heat and whisk for an addition 30 seconds. Let butter stand for 2 minutes, then add in the minced garlic and whisk. Add in panko and stir well to coat and combine. Set aside.

-- From

Rolling in cabbage

Cabbage rolls must be a reader favorite. Lynette Faul asked for a good cabbage roll recipe that contained meat.

Readers weighed in last week with theirs and still five more readers this week.

I will share three recipes this week due to space limitations and one by Earlene Smith and one by Laurie Kisslinger next week. Faul will have to tell us which one she liked best.

Readers might want to save these recipes, since St. Patrick's Day is a little over a month away.

Sue Duffy shares her recipe that adds bacon to the mixture.


1 pound ground meat

3 strips bacon, chopped

1 medium onion, minced

1/4 cup bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup green onion tops, chopped

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1 cup uncooked rice

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

3 cloves garlic, chopped

Red pepper to taste

6-ounce can regular tomato paste, divided

In a large mixing bowl, mix together all ingredients, including 1/2 of the can of the tomato paste.

Steam 12 to 15 large cabbage leaves in hot water. Remove from heat, and let cool until you can handle leaves to roll up.

Estimate and place enough mixture on a cabbage leaf to make about a 1-inch diameter roll. Roll the mixture on the cabbage leaf and place the open end down in a medium pot.

Add about 1 cup water and the remaining 1/2 can of tomato paste to the cabbage leaves in the pot once you have rolled all the leaves.

Place on stove and cook on medium heat 1 to 1- 1/2 hours. Serves 6 to 8.

-- Submitted by Sue Duffy

"Lynette Faul, this is one of the easiest recipes for cabbage rolls, and I make them for potlucks often," said Toni Betyn of Palmetto, Fla. "Hope you like the recipe."


1 head of cabbage

2 pounds meat loaf meat (ground beef and pork)

1/2 cup of uncooked instant rice

2 eggs

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup water as needed

1 can (10 ounces) tomato soup

1 soup can water

Parboil cabbage so that leaves are easy to remove, and trim the heavy vein off.

Place about1/4 cup of meat on each leaf and wrap like an envelope. Place in a 9-by-13-inch oven dish. Dilute 1 can of tomato soup with 1 can of water. Pour over all. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for about an hour or so.

-- Submitted by Toni Betyn

"I read in the paper that someone was looking for a recipe like this; I hope this helps," Edeltraud Irti said. "I checked my German cookbook, and this is how I make my cabbage rolls."


8 large cabbage leaves

1 cup stale white bread crumbs soaked

1 pound meat loaf mixture

1 small onion, minced

1 tablespoon minced parsley

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon marjoram


1 cup beef stock or tomato juice

1/4 cup sour cream (optional)

Cool cabbage leaves 3 minutes in rapid boiling salted water, drain. (They should be limp enough to roll but not cooked through.)

Cover the crumbs with water, squeeze out the water. Mix crumbs with the meat, onion, parsley, salt and marjoram, blending well. Divide into 8 portions, place one portion in each cabbage leave. Roll up the leaves, folding over edges. Place with overlapped side down in buttered 8-by-8-inch baking dish or pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. After first 30 minutes, add remaining stock or tomato juice blended with sour cream.

Makes 8 cabbage rolls.

-- Submitted by Edeltraud Irti

Homemade sausage

Norma Shiero of Parrish, Fla., needs a recipe for breakfast sausage that uses poultry seasoning. She wants to make her own like she used to make in the school cafeteria for students.

Three recipes needed

A Kiln reader wants recipes for pusharatas, cherry pecan fruit cake and a pound cake.

Again, readers check your files, both paper and computer, and send me these recipes.

Andrea Yeager, can be reached at and Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.