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Lent starts Wednesday — let them eat fish!

Lent begins this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, a period of fasting and abstinence for many Christians.

In the Catholic church, Lent means fasting on Ash Wednesday and every Friday until Easter.

It’s a time when people give up something they like as a kind of penance. Often, you hear people saying they’re going to give up chocolate or coffee or alcohol, things they enjoy.

Maybe you’ve noticed all the television ads for fast food fish sandwiches that have popped up in the last week. Avoid those. A burger place doesn’t do fish well.

Take the period leading up to Easter and use it to adjust your diet to a healthier one. It’s as good a time as any to tweak your food intake.

We should all be eating less red meat and more fish and lean meats. It’s also a good reason to add vegetables. You don’t have to become a vegetarian for 40 days, but it’s a good way to adjust your thinking.

I remember my grandmother’s Friday night meal was often a casserole of large elbow macaroni, grated cheddar cheese and canned, stewed tomatoes. It was incredibly simple and plain, but it feels like comfort food now.

My mother often turned to the Gorton fisherman, or we had tuna casserole. I had a tuna salad sandwich every Friday for lunch when I was in school.

Once in a while, we’d have tomato soup and toasted cheese sandwiches.

The guidelines for the Catholic fasting and abstinence are to have only one major meal a day on Fridays, with two smaller meals that, together, were less than the major meal. No snacks.

It was kind of a drag when I was a kid, or when friends wanted to go out on Fridays for pizza.

Now, it feels more natural, and not so much of a burden. I don’t give up coffee or chocolate, I try to do something positive, like helping someone, or changing an annoying behavior.

I’m looking for some fresh ideas for meatless meals, especially since I’m avoiding pasta, bread, rice and potatoes.

Time to turn to fish. Let’s see what we can come up with.

Tilapia is a very easy fish to cook. The fillets are usually fairly thin and cook quickly. Tilapia takes on whatever flavor you cook it with, so think of flavors you enjoy on chicken, for instance. I’d avoid barbecue sauce, I think. But lemons, capers, dill, Italian spices, Mexican seasonings, Asian flavors all go well with tilapia. A super easy recipe is to put tilapia fillets on a baking sheet, season the fish with salt and pepper and then top each fillet with a slice or two of onion and a slice or two of tomato.

Cod is a firmer, mild white fish that bakes up beautifully. The easiest way to prepare cod is to season it with salt and pepper, squeeze lemon juice over the top and bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes, until the fish is flaky. When serving, add chopped fresh dill or some briny capers to the top for another layer of flavor.

Garlic Parmesan Tilapia

4 tilapia fillets (about 8 oz. each)

2 Tbsp. butter,melted

Juice from 1 lemon

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon wedges for serving

Minced fresh parsley

Preheat oven to broil.

Place tilapia on a large, rimmed baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Combine melted butter, lemon juice and garlic powder in a small bowl. Brush the butter mixture on both sides of the fish.

Place the fish on the prepared baking sheet, bottom side up, and broil for 5 minutes. Flip the fish, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and return to broiler for 5-6 more minutes. The fish will flake easily with a fork when it’s done.

This recipe makes four large servings.

Add thinly sliced zucchini and yellow squash to the baking sheet for a quick side dish. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

The Seasoned Mom

Baked Asian-Style Fish

3-4 fish fillets

3 Tbsp. sesame oil

3 Tbsp. chopped onion

1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

1 lemon, sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

Put the fish fillets in a piece of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Add lemon, onion and fresh ginger. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with sesame oil. Bake 15-18 minutes in preheated 350-degree oven.

Sesame oil is rather salty, so you don’t need much salt.

Serve with a green salad or cole slaw.

Oven Roasted Chili-Lime Cod

2 (4 oz.) cod fillets

Salt and pepper

Chili powder

Olive oil

Lime juice

Butter

Season fillets with salt and pepper, then generously dust with chili powder and drizzle with olive oil.

Roast in a 425 degree oven for 12-14 minutes, until the fish flakes easily. Finish with a pat of butter and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Tomato Pesto Tilapia

2 (4 oz.) tilapia fillets

Salt and pepper

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

2 Tbsp. jarred pesto

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place fillets in center of parchment paper and season with salt and pepper. Toss in the cherry tomatoes and spread pesto over fish.

Fold the parchment paper into a sack to contain fish, and bake 15-20 minutes, until the fish flakes easily. The parchment paper will brown. Serve with additional pesto sauce and some steamed asparagus.

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