Newswise — Lent began on Ash Wednesday and will last until Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday (April 1). This period commemorates the 40 days and nights Jesus spent in the wilderness leading up to his death and Resurrection. Millions of Christians observe this religious tradition every year, fasting or foregoing meats, treats and other indulgences.

Individuals, even carnivores, who abstain from meat, have the opportunity to explore and experience new fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods during Lent. There’s no need to sacrifice flavor – plant-based dishes can be imbued with rich and satisfying seasonings.

Kim O' Donnel, the first Meatless Monday blogger and author of critically acclaimed cookbooks, including PNW Veg: 100 Vegetable Recipes Inspired by the Local Bounty of the Pacific Northwest, and The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook, offers easy tips and a flavor-rich recipe for Meatless Monday and beyond.

  • We tend not to associate plants with protein -- If you’re concerned about getting enough protein, chew on this: 1 cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams; 1 ounce of pumpkin seeds has 9 grams; 1 large egg: 6 grams; ¾ cup of cooked quinoa: 8 grams. (The RDA for protein for women is 46 grams.)

  • Get into the kitchen. The surefire way to eating meat-less-ly (and sticking to it) is by home cooking. In preparing our own meals, we get the extra benefit of feeding ourselves rather than being fed. We take control at the stove and know exactly what’s in our food. (Plus, there’s leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch!)
  • Speaking of cooking, my mantra is: Delicious first, meatless second. Texture is central to the pleasure of eating meat. And so is umami, that mouth-coating sensation and lingering finish that happens when we eat meat that makes us want to smack our lips and say, “Wow, that’s delicious.” Turns out that the plant world is loaded with umami-rich ingredients, including molasses, mushrooms, mustard, olives, and smoked paprika which create layers of flavor and dispel the notion that vegetarian food is “rabbit food.” 

  • Discover how scrumptious plants can be — by roasting vegetables. In my experience, those most resistant to eating more vegetables have been eating them boiled or steamed. In a 400-degree oven, vegetables soften, sweeten and absorb seasoning in a way that never happens in a pot of boiling water. 

With 100 recipes to choose from in PNW Veg, the challenge is settling on one. For now, Ms. O’Donnel shares her Curried Chickpeas & Brussels Sprouts from PNW Veg. “It’s a good recipe to share at this time of year. It's hearty yet easy enough to make on a weeknight, with the convenience of canned chickpeas.”

Curried Chickpeas and Brussels Sprouts -- Makes 6 servings

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained, or 3 cups cooked chickpeas with cooking liquid (from 1 cup dried)

¾ cup vegetable broth (if using canned chickpeas)

4 tablespoons neutral oil

1 cup diced yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon Madras curry powder

½ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 -by-1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

¼ cup water

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise

½ cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)

Kitchen Notes: For the sake of convenience, you can use canned chickpeas. This recipe calls for using chickpea cooking liquid, which may be too salty from a can, so substitute vegetable broth in its place. This is a dry curry, not a super saucy one. If you prefer the results to be saucier, add more cooking liquid in the final step.

  1. If using cooked chickpeas, drain them but reserve the cooking liquid. If using canned chickpeas, warm the vegetable broth in a very small pan. Spread the chickpeas on a sheet pan in a single layer to dry.

  2. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil, tilting the pan to coat. Add the onion and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, curry powder, coriander, salt, turmeric, and black pepper, stirring quickly to coat the onion. It will be slightly pasty; that’s okay. Add the chickpeas, stirring until well coated with the spices. Cook for a few minutes until the chickpeas are warmed through, keeping an eye on the heat to avoid burning. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside. Carefully wipe out the skillet with a paper towel to remove any burned bits.

  3. Using a mortar and pestle or mini chopper, mash the ginger with the water until well pulverized.

  4. Rewarm the skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, tilting the pan to coat. Add the cumin seeds, which will quickly begin to dance, so stir constantly to keep them moving and minimize burning. Add the ginger mixture and stir briskly; the mixture will quickly thicken and become pasty. Add the brussels sprouts with ¼ cup of the bean cooking liquid or warm broth, stirring to coat, and cook, uncovered, for about 5 minutes.

  5. Return the chickpeas to the skillet with an additional ¼ to ½ cup cooking liquid or broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook until the brussels sprouts are fork-tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve hot with the cilantro scattered on top.

PNW Veg Curried Chickpeas and Brussels Sprouts (c)2017 by Kim O’Donnel. All rights reserved. Excerpted from PNW Veg by permission of Sasquatch Books. For more about Kim O’Donnel, please visit

About Meatless Monday

Meatless Monday is a public health initiative of The Monday Campaigns, a nonprofit organization in association with The Lerner Centers for Public Health Promotion at Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Syracuse universities. The campaign, founded by Sid Lerner, chairman of The Monday Campaigns, seeks to reduce the risk of preventable chronic diseases and conserve valuable environmental resources by encouraging the public to cut back on meat one day a week. The campaign is founded on research that shows Monday as the day people are most primed to start and sustain a healthy new behavior. Since its launch 15 years ago, Meatless Monday has become an international movement with support from schools, celebrities, restaurants, and organizations.

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