Tag Archives: Lent

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Nicoise Salad

27 Feb
This old favorite has made several recent appearances on our menu.

This old favorite has made several recent appearances on our menu.

About 15 years ago when we lived in New Jersey, our friends Max and Jamie introduced us to Nicoise salad (pronounced Knee-Swah). I remember Jamie telling us that it was kind of a “poor man’s meal” in France when she was studying abroad, and that she and her friends ate it often because as students they pretty much fit into that income bracket.

Poor man or not, we loved this salad, and for the longest time we had it often. It reminded me of the Italian Antipasto salad that we have on big holidays because it has a few of the same items on it, but yet it’s very different.

Then, it seemed like we didn’t have it at all for months and months and months. I guess we just kind of forgot about it! I recently remembered it when I came across another version of it somewhere, and we’ve since had it several times.

The thing I like about it as a meal option is that it’s got many components to it, so you can pick and choose what you do or do not like and leave the rest on the platter. I like every part of it, but my kids each have at least one part they don’t like.

And, being that it’s Lent, this makes a great, meatless meal for those who do not eat meat on Fridays.

Traditionally, at least as we know it, the components to the salad are:

Boiled string beans

Hard boiled eggs

Quartered, boiled red skinned potatoes (*see note below)

Black olives


There’s a dressing that you toss on the green beans and potatoes before adding the eggs and olives on the top, and then you can add more dressing to the rest as you like.

This time we grilled the tofu on the countertop griddle, but in the past we have used a frying pan.

This time we grilled the tofu on the countertop griddle, but in the past we have used a frying pan.

*Recently however, we have changed out the potatoes and subbed in sauteed tofu. The reason is two-fold: the first is that my kids don’t eat potatoes hardly ever, so this was not a popular item in the salad. I don’t know why, and it still shocks me that they don’t like potatoes hardly at all, especially since I love them. The second reason is that we’ve been doing our very best to stay as far away from carbs as possible, and white potatoes aren’t the greatest for you. On the flip side, they love the tofu. It made me wonder the other day why we didn’t try tofu sooner, since they all love it. (Except Alex. Shocker.)

I’ve found tofu to be like a cameleon, in that it takes on the flavors of whatever you cook it with. That makes it very adaptable and very delicious. When you cook it til it’s crispy, it’s like eating homefries, but healthier.

See, I’m all about potatoes.

So anyway, the photo at the top is the salad with tofu instead of potatoes. You can try it out either way, or try it both ways and see which one you prefer! It’s really a very good-for-you type of meal and it’s light, especially with the tofu. On a day when you might have a big lunch somewhere, this is a nice, light dinner.


3 to 1: Olive Oil to Balsamic Vinegar (You can increase this to however much you’d like.)

Equal parts honey and Dijon mustard. (We do about a teaspoon of each.)

Season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder and basil.

Lenten Sacrifices: what gives?

27 Feb

What to give up for Lent?

Last Wednesday was the start of Lent for our family and for many of our friends. It means that the Easter holiday is in just forty short days. Forty days to prepare yourself, however you choose to do so.

For many people, myself included, the big question is always “What should I give up for Lent this year?”

Last week, when I was in a particularly flippant and cynical mood, I posted on Facebook, saying that there wasn’t a whole lot to give up, and that as far as my beloved chocolate chips, well I just couldn’t go there. Not this year.

We live a pretty frugal lifestyle right now, so we sacrifice so much it seems, already. We only buy what we absolutely need, we only go out when we have freebies if at all possible, and we have given up pretty much everything, for just a short while longer. But, it leaves not a whole lot left to give up.

Or so I thought.

I was surprised though, my kids all chose something to give up, even though none of them are 14 so really, by the church’s rules, they don’t have to give up anything. We do abide by the no meat on Friday rule as a family though, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise me a whole lot that they wanted to partake in this part of Lent as well. Even if they don’t make it the whole 40 days with their sacrifices, I’m proud of them for trying.

And then came the question….

“Well Mommy, what are *you* giving up for Lent?”


There it was.

How could I not give something up for Lent if they all were? One was even giving up computer time. Gasp…I could never.

But I went back to that Facebook post from last week and re-read some of the answers that were there, this time I was in a more serious mood, less joking than I was when I originally posted, and I really began to consider them one by one, except Barbara’s who said to give up Facebook. Nope.

I liked the one from Dolores’ priest, who said to try to complain less. I don’t think I complain a lot, but then if you ask my family, it’s really all I do, in their opinion. 🙂 I guess I could try that one.

But there were several others that I liked also, people whose priests suggested adding positivity to your life by trying to do a particular something more often, something good, something positive. I liked that.

Another friend said their priest suggested trying to do something that’s hard to do normally, something that takes extra effort, whether it is being nice to someone you don’t like a lot, or something like that. Also a possibility.

We too, went to church on Ash Wednesday and our deacon said something I found interesting as well, he mentioned that you might start praying for someone who needs it, and you might not even know that person personally, but you might know of them and know they need the extra prayers, so you could add that into your day.  Very thought provoking idea.

However, one thing stuck out most from all the friendly comments and suggestions. Dolores’ priest said, “and if you fall off the wagon, get right back on and try again.”

I guess I liked that piece of advice the most because in my mind, no one is perfect. No one is successful every time, but it’s the thought and the effort that counts.

During this time of Lent, I think it’s more about taking the time to think and reflect and make the effort to work on something, whether you’re giving it up or adding it in. It is about making yourself a better person, or at least trying to be a better person. I know we all try to live our lives to be the best we can be, but I also know that for me personally, there’s always room for improvement. And who knows, it only takes three weeks to form a good habit or something like that, so if we do end up being successful for forty days, then maybe the new good habit or whatever change we make, will stick for the long term.

And that, a true Lenten lesson, was my takeaway from what originally started out as a flippant Facebook post. Think, reflect, try hard and then try harder.

And if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

February vacation AND Ash Wednesday…a double whammy!

22 Feb

All you need for a great meatless meal during Lent!

Surviving February Vacation week? I hope so! I know a lot of schools don’t actually have a vacation in February, but in our neck of the woods we do, and I’m always grateful for the break. Have you been doing anything special? If you live near a national state park, check out their website. Oftentimes they have special things planned for school vacation weeks. If not, you can always set up an indoor campsite with tents or forts.

Alex set up “Camp Rock” in our house the other day with her guitar and all kinds of stuff in her tent in her bedroom. Kept her amused and busy for quite some time. I always find forts to be a good use of time also. They stay in them for hours.

Alex was set up in her tent for a long time the other day! Forts and tents = tons of fun!

This week Lent begins in the Catholic religion, which means for my family that today is Ash Wednesday and so begins the 40 days of Lent. During Lent there are several practices we follow, one of which is the giving up of meat on certain days, namely holy days and Fridays.

One of our favorite meatless meals is Grandma Rose’s Tuna and Spaghetti. It’s pasta with a twist. It’s a Depression era meal, one that she grew up on back in the 1930’s. It’s one of our family’s favorite meals, and whenever people hear about it, they first say “ewwww” til they taste it. I’ve never had anyone try it and not like it. If you’re looking for something different to try during your 40 days of Lent, or just in general (because we do it this all year long too) give it a whirl and let me know what you think!

Tuna and spaghetti sauce

There's nothing like a pot of bubbling sauce simmering away on the stove!



one 28 ounce can Kitchen Ready Tomatoes

one 6 1/2 ounce can Bumble Bee Tuna and Oil

one clove garlic

1 TBl. olive oil

salt, pepper, basil, oregano to taste

1 cup water


Use 2 qt. sauce pan and brown the garlic and oil.

Remove garlic

Add tomatoes (you can angle the cover of the pan over the pan to avoid splatter.)

Add one cup of water, plus salt, pepper, oregano and basil.

Cook on low heat for 1/2 hour.

Add tuna, including oil in can, and continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Grandma Rose gave us her pasta bowl for serving our pasta. I think of her every time we use it and she's so glad we get lots of use out of it!