By Iuliana Petre

Killeen Daily Herald

With today’s arrival of Lent, bringing with it a need for prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial, meat-loving Texans may be wondering how they’ll survive without steaks and burgers on Fridays.

But, fear not, vegetarianism is not so scary. With a multitude of alternate protein sources on the market, there’s hope of surviving all 40 days.

“As far as protein substitutes, there’s tofu and instead of using regular milk, use soy milk. Also, there’s a paste called Niso, which is used in a lot of Japanese cooking and it’s higher in protein,” said Chef Ramona Lezo, a culinary arts instructor at Central Texas College.

Lezo recommends adding soy — found naturally in legumes (beans) — to dishes to keep from losing out on essential proteins.

And to feel fuller longer, Lezo recommends eating more grains.

“Usually when you eat vegetables and fruits you’re always hungry within a few hours. I’m not a vegetarian, but I would say eat foods with more grains, legumes and nuts. These are higher carbohydrate items,” Lezo said.

Chef Mark Murgia, a culinary instructor on Central Texas College’s Fort Hood campus recommends rice as an option but warns against cooking with saturated fats.

“What people don’t realize is that when they’re using a saturated fat — lard or butter for cooking — they’re defeating the purpose of fasting because they’re cooking with an animal by-product,” Murgia said.

Lezo recommends vegetable lasagna, cheese or vegetable tortellini and risotto, and foods cooked with fresh herbs and spices — basil, oregano, parsley, garlic, nutmeg, saffron — and mushrooms, as filling meal options.

Parsley and basil are used mostly in Italian dishes, saffron is used in risotto and garlic is used mostly in Asian cuisines, Lezo said.

“Be careful with cheese,” Murgia warns. “Depending on your denomination or the laws of your fasting, you can go as orthodox as you want.”

For serious fasters, Murgia recommends cooking with mono- or poly-unsaturated fats like those found in olive oil.

“There are also different type of vegetarians, pesco vegetarians can eat fish, while pure vegetarians don’t. One interesting fact I learned is that less than 4 percent of vegetarians are vegan,” Murgia said.

For serious fasters or vegetarians, Lezo recommends grilling a portobello mushroom and putting it on foccacio bread for a sandwich.

“The mushroom will bring out the tomato, basil and rosemary in the bread, which has really nice flavors and complements the mushroom,” Lezo said, adding that crepes and salads with tasty dressings are another good option. For a quick vegetarian dressing, mix yogurt, garlic, vinegar and chopped cucumbers for a sauce that complements a Greek salad, Lezo said.

“Also be careful of desserts. Desserts have a base of eggs and milk and more than likely they have butter in them. Just because they’re not labeled as meat, they still contain those animal by-products,” Murgia said.

Contact Iuliana Petre at or (254) 501-7469.

Easy brunch focaccia


4 morningstar farms maple flavored veggie sausage patties, thawed

1 tube (13.8 ounces) refrigerated pizza dough

3/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon dried sage leaves

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple or

1 can (8 ounces) pineapple tidbits (juice pack), drained

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese or cheddar cheese


Cut the maple-flavored veggie sausage patties into bite-size pieces. Set aside. Unroll dough onto baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray.

Press dough into 14 x 10-inch rectangle.

In small nonstick skillet cook onion in oil over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally.

Stir in sage and pepper.

Spread over dough.

Arrange veggie sausage patty pieces and pineapple on top of onion mixture. Bake at 425°F for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are brown.

Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 425°F for 5 to 6 minutes more or until cheese melts and crust is golden brown.

Cut into rectangles to serve. Serve warm.

Serves 6.

— Family Features

Portobello Mushroom burgers


4 portobello mushroom caps

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon minced garlic

salt and pepper to taste

4 (1 ounce) slices provolone cheese


Place the mushroom caps, smooth side up, in a shallow dish. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, basil, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper. Pour over the mushrooms. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes or so, turning twice.

Preheat grill for medium-high heat.

Brush grate with oil. Place mushrooms on the grill, reserving marinade for basting. Grill for 5 to 8 minutes on each side, or until tender. Brush with marinade frequently. Top with cheese during the last 2 minutes of grilling. Serves 4.

zucchini Risotto


7 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 tablespoon butter

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cups Arborio rice, uncooked

1/2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced with a vegetable peeler

10 sun-dried tomatoes, softened and chopped

1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed

6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan (or mozzarella) cheese

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves, or to taste (optional)

freshly ground black pepper to taste


Bring vegetable or chicken stock to a boil in a medium stock pot, then reduce heat to a low simmer.

Melt butter in a large, heavy bottomed stock pot over medium heat.

Stir in onions and cook for two minutes, or until softened.

Add the rice and cook for another two minutes, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted.

Gradually ladle in simmering vegetable stock, stirring continuously.

Risotto will become “creamy” and slightly sticky, yet still firm in the center, or al dente.

When almost finished, stir in the zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, and thyme, adding stock as needed and stirring continuously.

Stir in basil and three tablespoons cheese just before serving.

Divide risotto among six bowls, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and season with pepper to taste.

Serves 6.

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