Cooks Exchange

Here are some delicious recipes for Valentine’s Day and Lent

This June 2, 2014 photo shows tomato and avacado salad with gingered tomato vinaigrette and toasted peanuts.
This June 2, 2014 photo shows tomato and avacado salad with gingered tomato vinaigrette and toasted peanuts. AP

Valentine’s Day and the first day of Lent are today, which may pose a contradiction in food choices.

Chocolate is synonymous with Valentine’s Day. For Lent, some believers fast from chocolate during the 40 days leading up to Saturday, March 31.

Valentines often treat their significant others to dinners out, candy, flowers and all things romantic. Lent, on the other hand, is a solemn observance in which the faithful mark with prayer, fasting, penance and self-denial.

Valentine’s Day is about love, too, but a worldly love. Lenten observers dedicate their actions to Jesus Christ and abstain from meat today and at least on Good Friday. All Fridays leading up to Easter are meat fasts for some.

Valentine’s Day was changed from the pagan fertility holiday, Lupercalia, to St. Valentine’s Day to honor St. Valentine, a more palatable change for Christians.

Today, I thought I would offer a multiple choice of recipes, a couple for Valentine’s and some for Lent. A friend in Georgia made a meatless caprese portabella mushroom recipe that she says is so good. It is the one making the rounds on Facebook lately. These stuffed mushrooms are guaranteed to stave off any meat cravings with plenty of cheese, tomatoes and flavorful basil.

Another Lenten offering is an elegant one that could be the entrée of any Valentine’s meal and still be meatless. This stuffed avocado recipe is made with shrimp.

For Valentine’s and for days when meat can be eaten for Lent, my lettuce chicken is a light, but flavorful entrée. A wonton or egg drop soup could be the starter course, followed by eggrolls or shrimp Rangoon, a meal that also works for the upcoming Chinese New Year.

Valentine’s calls for chocolate, so how about an old-fashioned chocolate pie? This is one my grandmother made, and she was a fantastic pie baker. She always used the pie dough remnants to make crispy cinnamon rolls. This pie is made with cocoa, which gives it a rich taste without being too dark.

So, whatever is celebrated or observed today, there are some good dishes that are not difficult to make.


Chefs at Rouses Markets are offering cooking classes for adults and children in several locations. Circle the calendar for tomorrow, Feb.15, 6-7:30 p.m. in Mandeville, Louisiana, 3461 East Causeway Approach or for Feb. 22, 6-7:30 p.m., 1644 Gause Blvd., Slidell.

Chef Nino will show participants how to prepare Mardi Gras muffalata crawfish pasta salad and Italian sausage with bell pepper tomato gravy.

For the younger set, Chef Sally will be teaching how to make pasta e fagioli soup and to make granola bars using fresh ingredients Feb. 22, 5-6:30 p.m., at the Mandeville store. Cost is $10 per child. Registration is available online at


Coming next week will be recipes with fresh beets. Readers, if you haven’t shared your favorite beet recipe yet, e-mail me.

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

Stuffed Avocado with Garlic Shrimp

1 whole medium avocado

About 2 cups medium to large shrimp, raw or uncooked frozen (defrost prior to cooking)

6-7 cloves garlic, minced

Olive oil

Coarse sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped

Chili powder, optional

Halve the avocado and take the pit out.

Scrap out most of the meat, leaving a very thin layer to hold up the shell better. Set aside.

Chop up the meat into squares and place in a bowl. With your hands, squish the squares a little bit, to crush some but so that most keep their shape. Set aside.

In a pan, place about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the minced garlic and the shrimp.

Add a dash of coarse sea salt, and over low heat, cook just until the shrimp turn pink. Do not overcook, or they’ll be dry and hard.

Pour the shrimp with garlic and olive oil into the bowl with the avocado pieces.

Add some chopped parsley or cilantro and mix well. (If you want to incorporate some chili powder for extra flavor, do so now before mixing.)

Spoon the mixture into the avocado shells, sprinkle with some freshly ground pepper, and garnish with additional parsley/cilantro if desired.

Serve immediately.

Note: Hard-boiled quail egg can be used as garnish, but it’s not essential to the recipe, of course.)

From and Robert Washington of Houston’s Magic 102.1

Lettuce Chicken

Sauce mixture, ingredients and recipes follow

2 whole (each about 1 pound) chicken breasts

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, finely chopped

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 cup finely chopped mushrooms

1/2 cup finely chopped scallions

1 head iceberg lettuce, children.

Toasted, diced or slivered almonds, if desired


1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons chili powder

Stir in 1/2 cup hot water, keeping sauce smooth. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger root. And 3/4 teaspoon minced garlic.


Skin, bone and diced the raw chicken breasts; mix with the soy sauce and let stand for 15 minutes. In a 10-inch skillet, heat the oil; add chicken mixture; stir-fry fast using moderate to high heat, until chicken is opaque and cooked through. Add water chestnuts, celery, mushrooms and scallions; stir-fry fast for a few minutes. Add Sauce Mixture; stirring constantly. Cook fast until thickened and any excess liquid is reduced. Chicken and vegetables should have only a light coating of the thick sauce to bind them together. Chill. Makes 3 1/2 to 4 cups.

At serving time, arrange a lettuce core side down on a serving dish, preferably a footed one. Turn chilled chicken mixture into a serving bowl. If used, turn the almonds into a small bowl. Arrange the three containers on a tray. Eater remove the lettuce leaves, spoon portions of the chicken mixture into the centers of them and fold over or roll up to enjoy in pick-up fashion.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pie

3/4 cup sugar

2 heaping tablespoons flour

3 eggs, separated

1 cup milk

3 tablespoons cocoa

1/8 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon butter

1 baked 8-inch pie shell

Mix sugar, flour, egg yolks, milk and chocolate in top of double boiler. Cook until thick. Using electric mixer, beat in vanilla and butter. Pour into baked crust. Top with meringue made by beating egg whites with an additional 6 tablespoons of sugar. Brown in 325-degree oven. Serves 8.

Caprese Stuffed Portabellas

2 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley


3 large Portabella mushrooms, stem removed, washed and dried

5 fresh mozzarella cheese balls, sliced thinly

1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced thinly

Fresh basil, shredded to garnish

Balsamic Glaze:

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to grill/broil settings on high heat. Arrange oven shelf to the middle of the oven.

Combine all the garlic-butter ingredients together in a small saucepan (or microwave safe bowl and melt until garlic is fragrant).

Brush the bottoms of each mushroom and place them, buttered side down, on a baking tray.

Fill each mushroom with the mozzarella slices and tomatoes, and grill/broil until cheese has melted and golden in color (about 8 minutes).

To serve, top with the basil, drizzle with the balsamic glaze and sprinkle with salt to taste.

For the Balsamic Glaze:

Combine sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil.

Reduce heat to low; allow to simmer for 5-8 minutes or until mixture has thickened and reduced to a glaze.

Drizzle on top of cooked mushrooms.