Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent & Fish Tacos

Things I love about Mardi Gras:
-     The Mayor toasting the city (with champagne) before noon.  
-     We measure a successful Mardi Gras in trash. After the Mardi Gras street sweep, the garbage is weighed. The heavier the load, the better the Mardi Gras.
-     The costumes. It’s like a satirical Halloween. 
-     Making Mardi Gras bead dogs. 

This photo of me and Bowei is from a particularly joyful evening in New Orleans during the 2010 Carnival season ... When the Saints won the Super Bowl — hence, the flying pig. 
My friend Kristen with a Mardi Gras puppy I made for her.

But … The party’s over.

The Tradition: Lent
In New Orleans, the Catholics aren’t the only ones who partake.  

At Mardi Gras, anything goes. But we have one rule: At midnight, when Fat Tuesday becomes Ash Wednesday, men in waistcoats become mice and floats turn back into pumpkins.

The party stops and Lent begins.  And, a lot of New Orleanians, Catholic or not, take this opportunity to rekindle their New Year’s resolutions.

Now, I was not raised Catholic, but my dad was.  So, he brought the tradition of giving things up for Lent into our house and set the example. Dad abides by all the rules and he cuts out coffee and alcohol, only drinking water. Some years, he excludes meat or fried food.  But, this is only after over-indulging on Popeye’s and cracklin Mardi Gras Day. 

My father is never overweight, he exercises daily, running, biking and kayaking in Lake Pontchartrain; but with dietary changes during Lent, he has dropped up to 30 pounds. 

Now, this isn’t a Catholic thing, it’s cultural.  Public school cafeterias abide by these Lenten rules and restaurants adapt with Lenten menus for those who avoid meat on Fridays.  Monday, when you’re back at school (Yes, in the New Orleans area, you get a week off for Mardi Gras), all the kids ask one another what they’re giving up for Lent?

All of my friends growing up gave up things like sweets. One year, I tried to be a vegetarian, but my diet didn’t contain enough outside protein, and I failed miserably — fainting after a shower and being forced to eat pork while still wearing a towel.  Forty days is an accomplishable goal, so when you fail at Lent and discuss it in conversation, it’s embarrassing.  I have, however, successfully cut out soda several times. And, this year, I'm saying "no" to fried food. 

The Recipe:  Julie's Fish Tacos
Not a traditional New Orleans meal, but it is tasty and safe for Lent.

·      1 tbs olive oil
·      1 can black beans
·      1 Mango, diced
·      1 Tomato, diced
·      Taco shells (make it skinny with blues shells or whole wheat tortillas)
·      Salsa
·      1 Avocado, sliced
·      1 lb white flaky fish, such as mahi mahi or orata (I used mahi)
·      1 lime, juiced
·      1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (I didn't use cilantro)
·      Lettuce
·      Panko
·      Egg

Place fish in a medium size dish. Whisk together the oil, lime juice, seasonings and cilantro and pour over the fish. Let marinate for 15 to 20 minutes. (I used the Whole Foods Tequila Lime seasoning.)

While fish is marinading chop tomato, mango, lettuce and avocado (I also made spanish rice during this time, heated the black beans and sauteed some bell pepper.)

Remove fish from the marinade, dip it in egg, roll it in panko and pan fry. Cook the fish for approximately 8 minutes until golden brown.

Colorful taco assembly line.
Why yes I am wearing glitter nail polish and a Flintstones band aid (I cut my finger on the can of black beans).  But these were literally the best fish tacos ever.

*If you would like to add sour cream to this meal, but want something healthier try greek yogurt with lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper.  That's what I put on my taco and it was delicious — I even converted my sour-cream-loving-boyfriend by the end of the meal!

Dear Readers, 
Over the next 40 days, my blog won’t be all about Lent.  But my posts will have a “make it skinny” alternative. I am interested in slimming down some of my usual recipes because I recently got my cholesterol tested.  I don’t eat fast food, or cook with butter. I try to exercise a couple times a week and I eat tons of veggies. But, my sweet tooth and my genes aren’t in my corner. My results weren’t terrible, but I’ve been making small changes, like switching from peanut butter to almond butter. I would like to use Lent as a way to highlight healthy eating habits.  DO NOT WORRY: This is not a health food blog. In my opinion, there is no point in living if I can’t eat  cake balls. I want you to enjoy all of my recipes, I sure do.  I just am trying to do my  part, after all, it is heart month.
Though I can’t have a cake ball everyday … a glass of red wine with dark chocolate's OK!

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