Meatless Fridays, Week 3

This week’s recipes were an exercise in frustration…and adaptation. For reasons unknown, my grocery store was out of key ingredients for the recipes I planned to make. And since we get all our groceries delivered, I didn’t discover this until it was too late. So, I improvised, pulling together three meals out of the groceries we did get and the items we already had on hand. Two of these recipes are tried and true favorites, and one was…a spur of the concoction, which I would totally make again.

And for those keeping a running tally, we have passed $6,000 in funds raised for the Sisters of Life. You all are just amazing!

Fast & Easy: Polenta with Mushrooms, Tomatoes, and Garlic

Serves: 4; Prep Time: 5 Minutes; Cook Time: 25 Minutes

This was the week’s totally cobbled together meal. But it worked. And you should cobble it together, too. Polenta is a family favorite here, and this time, even Becket deigned to eat a bite. I’ve posted my polenta recipe here before, and this meal is one of the reasons why I always have instant polenta on hand. It’s so good, so fast, so filling, and you can throw just about anything on top of it to make a delicious meal.

This doesn’t really need a side dish, but bread or salad are always good options.


  1. Chicken Broth, 6 cups
  2. Heavy Cream, 1 cup plus 4 Tablespoons
  3. Instant Polenta, 1.5 cups
  4. Parmesan Cheese, 1 cup shredded plus extra for topping
  5. Butter, 4 Tablespoons
  6. Baby Portobello Mushrooms, 16 ounces, sliced
  7. Cherry Tomatoes, 2 pints
  8. Fresh Greens, 4 hand fulls (I used baby kale and baby spinach because that’s what I had; regular kale or spinach could also work, but if you go that route, make sure they are roughly chopped)
  9. Garlic, 4 cloves, chopped
  10. Basil Paste, 2 teaspoons
  11. Kosher Salt and Pepper
  12. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Cooking Instructions

Creamy Polenta

  1. Bring chicken broth and cream to a boil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, stirring occasionally to prevent cream from scalding.
  2. Once the liquid is boiling, very, very, slowly pour in the polenta, stirring constantly, to prevent polenta from clumping.
  3. Once the polenta has thickened to the point that it starts pulling away from the side of the pot (about 5 minutes), remove from heat and stir in butter, Parmesan, and 1.5 teaspoons of salt.
  4. Taste and add a touch more salt if necessary (it almost always is for me.) Cover to keep warm.


  1. Heat 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil in a large skillet; add sliced mushrooms, season lightly with salt and pepper; cook over medium-high heat until mushrooms begin to brown and soften (about 5 minutes);
  2. To the pan of mushrooms, add the cherry tomatoes (and a little more olive oil if the pan seems dry) plus a touch more salt and pepper; as the tomatoes cook, flatten them with the back of your spatula; continue cooking over medium-high heat until all tomatoes have broken apart (about 5 minutes);
  3. Add garlic and basil paste; stir, cook for another minute, then add baby greens; continue cooking for another minute or two, until greens are wilted; stir in 4 Tablespoons of cream; check for seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if desired;

Allergen Friendly: Roasted Vegetable Bowls

Gluten Free, Dairy Free (option), Nut Free, Vegan (option)

Serves: 4; Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 25 minutes

I like meat. I really, really do. But I like vegetables more. I am 150 percent fine with eating nothing but vegetables for days or weeks on end. Especially when the vegetables are roasted, tossed with quinoa, and sprinkled with a bit of fresh parmesan. Normally, I top these bowls with cubed avocado…but this week wasn’t a normal week. You, however, should totally do that, grocery store permitting. You also should feel free to play around with which vegetables you roast. Add more or switch them out depending on your preference or what you have on hand. Sweet potatoes, carrots, asparagus, and radishes would all be great additions or substitutions.

One quick tip: when roasting vegetables, you want to make sure you don’t crowd the pan. If you do, the sogginess factor increases ten-fold. So, make sure to use 2 large pans when making this dish.

Serve with good bread.


  • Quinoa, 1 cup
  • Chicken broth (or vegetable broth or water for vegan), 2 cups
  • Red Potatoes, 4 large, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Green beans, 4 cups, ends trimmed
  • Red Pepper, 2, seeded and sliced
  • Red onion, 2 medium, quartered
  • Garlic cloves, 4 crushed
  • Avocado, 2, peeled and cubed
  • Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan), 1 cup, grated (Leave out for vegan)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 4 Tbsp., plus more for drizzling
  • Kosher Salt & Pepper

Cooking Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees;
  2. Chop vegetables and spread out with the garlic cloves, on two large baking sheets, lined with parchment paper;
  3. Drizzle vegetables with oil, season with salt and pepper, toss to coat; roast for 25 minutes;
  4. While the vegetables cook, rinse the quinoa well, in a fine mesh strainer, then drain;
  5. In a medium pot, combine the quinoa and liquid; bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes); fluff with a fork and keep warm;
  6. When the vegetables and quinoa are done, divide the quinoa into bowls, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with a little more salt, plus the pecorino-romano; add vegetables and toss to combine.
  7. Top with avocado pieces and enjoy!

A Little Bit Fancy: Garlic Shrimp and Spanish Potatoes

Serves: 6, Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 25 minutes

I have no idea if this is actually a Spanish recipe or not. But two years ago, this was one of the recipe boxes we received from Blue Apron, and that’s what they called it. Since then, I’ve modified the recipe, so that I can get everything I need for it at Aldi. I’ve also done my best to replicate the spice profile (Blue Apron just sends you spice mixes, so it’s always a guess when trying to make it on your own). The modifications work well, and this is now a standard, “It’s Friday night and we’re having company” dish, (we eat meatless on Fridays all year). It comes together fast, but always seems extra fancy.

Couple notes: This is moderately spicy, and Toby will eat it, but your kids might need it cooled with some sour cream. Also, this tastes best topped with a handful of chopped chives, but chives were not to be had this week, so I added chopped parsley for a touch of green in the pictures. Parsley was fine. Chives are better.

I served this last night with freshly sliced cucumbers, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt.


  • Red Potatoes, 2 lbs., cut into bite sized pieces
  • Red Pepper, 2, cored and sliced
  • Orange or Yellow Pepper, 2, cored and sliced
  • Red Onion, 1 large, halved and sliced
  • Garlic, 4 cloves, minced
  • Shrimp, medium or large, peeled, 2 pounds
  • Smoky Spanish Paprika, 1 Tablespoon
  • Ground Cumin, 1 teaspoon
  • Ancho Chile Powder, 1 teaspoon
  • Harissa Spice Blend, 1 teaspoon
  • Cayenne Pepper, .25 teaspoon
  • Chives, 1 bunch, chopped
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 450 Fahrenheit
  2. In a small bowl, combine paprika, cumin, chile powder, harissa, and cayenne; mix well and set aside;
  3. On a paper-towel lined plate, dry shrimp, then season with salt and pepper; set aside
  4. Chop your vegetables;
  5. In a large bowl, combine potatoes with 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil, half of the spice mixture, and desired amount of salt and pepper; toss to coat, then spread out on a parchment lined baking sheet; roast for 20-22 minutes (tossing midway through) or until potatoes are soft and golden;
  6. While the potatoes cook, heat 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil in a large skillet; add onions and a pinch of salt; cook until they begin to soften and brown (5 minutes); add peppers and half of the remaining spice mixture, and continue cooking, until they are soft and beginning to brown (8 minutes); taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if desired and transfer to a large bowl; cover to keep warm;
  7. In the same pan, heat another 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil; add shrimp and cook for two to three minutes without stirring; add garlic and remaining seasoning; cook another one to two minutes until shrimp are pink and cooked through; remove from heat;
  8. In a large bowl, combine shrimp, peppers, and potatoes; toss well; then plate
  9. Serve topped with chopped chives (or parsley or cilantro).

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Meatless Fridays, Week 2

$5,613!!! That is how much you helped me raise for the Sisters of Life last week. The tips so many of you left in my Venmo tip jar were beyond generous, and I am grateful for every single one. My hope at this point is that we can raise a total of $10,000 for the Sisters before the end of Lent. They’ll be able to use that money to assist moms facing unplanned pregnancies, as well as women grieving abortions. My prayer is that someday they’ll also offer a retreat for grieving post-adoptive birth moms. This is such an unmet need in the Church, and I can think of no better women to take on that work than these beautiful sisters. If any of you want to join me in that prayer, I would really appreciate that.

Okay, now on to the next collection of meatless recipes for your Lenten Fridays (or Fridays all year round).

Fast & Easy: Oven-Baked Caprese Sandwiches

Serves: 4; Prep Time: 5 Minutes; Cook Time: 15 minutes

This is an old favorite that I used to serve at my Thursday night dinners. My friend Rob calls them “Emily Sandwiches”…but that descriptor doesn’t quite work for the Internet. I bake these in the oven, which works well for a crowd, but you can also broil them, grill them, or use a panini press if you have one. To modify for kiddos, just leave off the ingredients they won’t eat, even if that means stripping them down to just the cheese and bread.

When I baked these up the other day, I cooked up some red peppers and zucchini with olive oil and salt, to serve on the side. It was a fantastic complement to the sandwiches. A simple salad would be great, too, though.


  • Ciabatta rolls, 4
  • Basil Pesto, .5 cup
  • Fresh Whole Milk Mozzarella, 8 ounces
  • Roma Tomatoes, 2-4 depending on size (or whatever you can get)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit and line an extra large baking sheet with parchment paper;
  2. Thinly slice the tomatoes and the mozzarella;
  3. Divide the rolls in half, lightly brush the insides with olive oil; place on baking sheet with the insides facing up;
  4. Toast on the middle rack of the oven for 5 minutes;
  5. Remove from oven; on the top of each roll, spread 2 Tablespoons of basil pesto; on the bottom half of each roll, place 2 ounces of fresh mozzarella, followed by a single layer of tomato slices; sprinkle tomatoes with a pinch of salt and a little freshly ground pepper;
  6. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese melts;
  7. Remove from oven, assemble sandwiches and serve.


  1. If you can’t find Ciabatta rolls, any good bread will do, but if you go that route, do the initial toasting of the bread, with olive oil on the top side, then, when you remove from the oven, flip the bread before adding the remaining ingredients.

Allergen Friendly: Creamy Coconut Lentils

Serves: 6-8; Prep Time: 35 minutes; Cook Time; 30 minutes

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Vegan

This is an old favorite that my roommate Shannon and I used to make at least monthly. Chris, however, isn’t the world’s biggest fan of lentils, so once we got married and moved to Pittsburgh, I had to resort to getting my lentil fix only when we ordered Indian takeout. When I made this yesterday to photograph, I contemplated making Chris something else for dinner…but in the end didn’t have the energy and figured he could just deal for one night. Much to my surprise, though, he enthusiastically ate every bite. Well, almost every bite. Toby was such a fan of this, that after he finished his, he climbed onto Chris’ lap, grabbed his dad’s fork, and proceeded to help himself to Chris’ dinner.

I always serve this with roasted curried cauliflower (page 163 in the “Around the Catholic Table” cookbook).


  • Red lentils, uncooked, 2 cups (so, from a bag, not a can)
  • Coconut oil, .25 cup
  • Yellow onion, 1 large
  • Jalapeno peppers, 2
  • Fresh Garlic, 2 cloves
  • Fresh Ginger, 1.5 Tablespoons
  • Cumin Seeds, 2 teaspoons
  • Ground Turmeric, 1 teaspoon
  • Ground Cayenne Pepper, .5 teaspoon
  • Coconut Milk, 1 can
  • Diced Tomatoes, 1 14.5 ounce can
  • Kosher Salt, 1 Tablespoon
  • Jasmine or Basmati Rice, 2 cups, uncooked
  • Cilantro, .5 bunch
  • Unsweetened Coconut Flakes, .5 cup,
  • Plain Greek Yogurt (optional for kids)

Cooking Instructions

  1. Pick through lentils to make sure there are no stones mixed in; rinse in a colander; and drain
  2. Place lentils in a large pot, cover generously with water, and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes;
  3. While the lentils are cooking, medium dice onions and peppers (removing seeds and ribs, unless you want this to be blazing hot); then peel and mince ginger and garlic.
  4. Set the rice to cooking according to package instructions—in a rice cooker if you’ve got one, on the stove if you don’t.
  5. When the lentils are completely tender and breaking apart, drain them in a colander and allow them to sit while you prepare the sauce.
  6. Heat coconut oil in a large pot or sauté pan; add onions and slowly caramelize over low heat. This should take at least 15 minutes. No rushing.
  7. When the onions are a buttery, golden brown, add ginger, garlic, and jalapenos. Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly, until the mixture becomes fragrant (about 2 minutes);
  8. Add turmeric, cayenne, and cumin seeds; mix in well; cook for a minute more.
  9. Stir in the coconut milk, tomatoes, and salt. Bring to a simmer. Add lentils to the sauce and cook for 5-10 minutes or until everything is heated through.
  10. Remove from heat, stir most of the cilantro into the sauce, leaving a couple tablespoons for garnish. Plate up, first with the rice, then with the lentils, remaining cilantro, and a Tablespoon of coconut flakes. (If too spicy for kids, stir in a dollop of yogurt or sour cream to theirs).


  1. The only ingredient on this list that might not be at your local grocery store is cumin seeds. These are super important to the flavor, and I would NOT recommend substituting with ground cumin. You can, however, find them at any Indian grocery store or on Amazon.
  2. The spice profile on this is pretty mild, but since I wasn’t sure about how Toby would deal with it, I stirred a little plain yogurt into his. Chris’, however, was yogurt free and Toby didn’t complain at all about it being too spicy when he dug into his dad’s food. Your kids’ milage may vary.

Just a Little Bit Fancy: Seared Scallops and Parmesan Risotto with Brown Butter Sauce

Serves: 4; Prep Time: 5 minutes; Cook Time: 30 Minutes

The original plan for this week was scallops and lemon risotto, but last Friday (when I planned to cook and photograph the recipe), was cold and blustery, and lemon anything didn’t suit the weather. So, I scrapped the lemon and decided to top my basic parmesan risotto with a brown butter sauce. That was one of the better culinary decisions I’ve ever made, because this is probably the best risotto I’ve ever made. Not complicated. But soooooooo good and sooooo rich. If you make this, be warned that your Lenten Friday won’t feel very Lenty.

I served this with roasted Brussels sprouts, which was the perfect savory complement to the richness of the risotto.


  • Arborio Rice, 2 cups
  • Sweet Onion, 1 medium, chopped
  • Fresh Garlic, 2 cloves, minced
  • Parmesan, 1 and 1/3 cup, shredded
  • Salted Butter, 7 Tablespoons
  • White Wine, .5 cup
  • Chicken Broth, 4 Cups
  • Water, 4 cups
  • Sea Scallops, .5 lb.
  • Fresh Greens (Arugula and Kale), finely julienned, 1 cup
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil


  1. Prep all your ingredients: Chop the onion, mince the garlic, shred the cheese, finely julienne the greens. Then, set them aside.
  2. On a paper towel lined plate, lay out the scallops and pat dry; sprinkle with salt;
  3. In a medium-sized stock pot, bring the broth and water to a simmer (not a boil!);
  4. Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large pot or deep sided pan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the onions and cook until translucent (about 3-5 minutes).
  5. Add garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds more.
  6. Add rice. Mix in with the onions and garlic and allow the rice to toast for about 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t burn.
  7. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add wine. Stir until absorbed.
  8. Begin adding broth slowly, one ladleful at a time. After you’ve added the first ladle of broth, stir the rice until the liquid is absorbed (about 1 minute). Then, add the next ladleful. Repeat until the rice is creamy and soft, but firm to the bite (al dente);
  9. When the risotto is almost done, heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan; when the oil is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles when dropped in the pan, add scallops in a single layer, not touching; cook three minutes without moving; flip and cook another 3 minutes; remove to plate and cover with foil to keep warm;
  10. When the risotto is finished, remove from heat. Add parmesan. Stir vigorously until combined; Add greens and stir gently until combined; Add salt and pepper to taste;
  11. In a small sauce pan, melt remaining butter and continue to cook, stirring almost constantly, until the solids have turned a deep, dark, golden brown and the foam has mostly settled (about 3-5 minutes);
  12. Divide risotto into bowls; evenly divide scallops and place on top of rice; drizzle browned butter evenly over bowls and serve.

Like What I’m Sharing? Then leave a “tip” in the tip jar. All tips will be donated at the end of Lent to the Sisters of Life.