For my Orthodox friends participating in Great Lent (or anyone else who may be interested), I have here the general fasting guidelines for Great Lent and Holy Week, along with some tips for simple snacks & meals for those of you who maybe don’t like to cook, or are generally intimidated by Lenten limitations. I would like to note, however: These are the general fasting guidelines. Personal fasting rules may vary, and you should really consult your spiritual father if you have any questions regarding your own fasting rule. I am not an authority on this matter! But I do hope this will be helpful.
The general guidelines for Great Lent are as follows:
From Monday, February 27, 2017 until Great & Holy Pascha (Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017)
Monday – Friday, we abstain from all meat, eggs, dairy, fish, oil & wine
Saturday & Sunday, oil & wine are permitted
Fish is permitted on the Feast of Annunciation, and on Palm Sunday.
The first week of Great Lent is known as Clean Week. Interestingly, the actual rule for Monday – Wednesday is a complete fast from foods, breaking the fast for a Lenten meal after Presanctified Liturgy Wednesday evening; however, there is a Greek custom to have a sort of mini celebration on Clean Monday. People go to the park to fly kites and have [Lenten] picnics, and enjoy a special bread called lagana which is typically only made on this one day each year. This is in response to Matthew 6:17-18, “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Both traditions are wonderful. The strict fast is generally more of a monastic rule, while those in the world will often simply cut back and have only one meal in the evening.
The Thursday evening meal is ideally the last meal taken until Pascha. At this meal, wine and oil are permitted. The Fast of Great and Holy Friday is the strictest fast day of the year: even those who have not kept a strict Lenten fast are strongly urged not to eat on this day. After Saint Basil’s Liturgy on Holy Saturday, a little wine and fruit may be taken for sustenance. The fast is broken on Saturday night after after the Divine Liturgy on Pascha.
(Holy Week guidelines taken from AbbaMoses.com)
Great Lent isn’t only about food, but this is a food blog so that’s what I’m working with here. Saint John Chrysostom can tell you everything else you need to know. I also try to post inspirational quotes from the Fathers and saints, as well as liturgical hymns and other texts, each day during Lent. I have put together a collection of links to these posts on the Orthodox Stuff page.
Now, in case you don’t like to cook…
Store Bought Items
Ezekiel Bread and Thomas’ brand Traditional Bagels are Lenten and oil-free. Great for PB&J sandwiches, or use the the plain, onion, or everything bagels to make a nice veggie sandwich.
SuperPretzel brand frozen soft pretzels are Lenten, without oil. While I hate to even mention it…one of my guilty pleasures, Nissan brand Top Ramen noodles, are Lenten – the Oriental and Chili flavors (and Shrimp since it’s shellfish).
If you’re celebrating a birthday during Lent, many fruit pies are made without eggs or dairy. Or just serve Birthday Cake Oreos!
Although they are expensive, if you really must, you can find vegan cheese at local health food stores. Daiya is a nice brand that is made without soy, and melts better than most other brands.
For veggies burgers, I recommend Qrunch brand. They’re made with quinoa instead of soy, and they taste wonderful (they don’t taste like meat, but they taste GOOD). They come in a variety of flavors, and are available at Target, Meijer, Whole Foods, and Horrock’s so far.
There are tons of milk alternatives available, not just soy! Almond, rice, coconut, cashew, and hemp are a few. Plain unsweetened almond milk tends to be the best for cooking & baking savory foods.
Replace butter with Earth Balance or Smart Balance, the Light Buttery Spread with Flaxseed Oil flavor. Alternatively, you can sometimes use tahini to replace butter/oil – check out this recipe for Tahini Garlic Bread, and this recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies.
You can use Ener-G Egg Replacer in cookies, or a combination of baking powder and vinegar for cakes and sweet breads. Mashed bananas can also be used. Canned coconut milk can replace oil in cakes.
Steamed veggies and baked potatoes with tahini sauce, dry roasted nuts, fresh or dried fruit, pita bread with olives and hummus, veggie sushi. Many cereals are Lenten, try them dry or with a milk alternative (or with orange juice, that’s how my Tete and sister do it. Can’t say I’m really a fan of that, though). Ants on a log, bananas or apples with peanut butter or other nut butters.
For days when oil is permitted, you can make a quick dinner of angel hair pasta with olive oil, salt, garlic & parsley, maybe add some sauteed onions and broccoli. Serve it with garlic bread made with margarine or oil, and a salad on the side. You can make any cream of [insert vegetable] soup by replacing the dairy milk with a non-dairy beverage (a plain, unsweetened variety, of course).
Indian curries are nice and can be made with or without the oil.
Try adding nuts to your meals to help fill you up. Carbs are wonderful, but too much will give you a sugar buzz and you’ll just end up feeling sluggish later. Beans & legumes are full of protein and iron, try to eat them once a day. A hot meal in the morning, like oatmeal, cream of wheat, or teff porridge, will give you a little boost – especially in wintertime.