Meatless Monday: Comforting Crepes

Meatless Monday: Comforting Crepes

One of the biggest benefits of blogging is when I receive message from readers telling me I have made a difference in their lives.  Chicago Now blogger Shannan Younger, writer of Tween Us, sent me a note to let me know her family has been going meatless on Mondays and added, "Thanks for the encouragement to make the good change."

I asked Shannan if she could share with you how Meatless Monday has affected her family as well as her favorite recipe.

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This past fall, I have made an effort to observe Meatless Mondays at our house. I’d heard of it before, and would try it occasionally, but never made any kind of real commitment. Reading about Beth’s experiences and seeing some of her wonderful recipes motivated me to make it a, well, weekly event and so far, we’ve been successful.

I am far from being a maven of the meatless meals, however. I still have my training wheels on in this venue.  I was raised in the Midwest and often heard family stories of life on the farm, making me a full-fledged, card-carrying meat and potatoes kind of girl. I found Meatless Monday intimidating, and so eased into very gradually. I didn’t even tell my family, thinking that I’d be curious to see if they noticed. (They really didn’t.) I haven’t broken out any exotic recipes yet, but we’re pretty much meat-free on Mondays and enjoying food that’s not so different from what we are used to eating.

To my own surprise, I’ve managed to make Meatless Monday comfort food nights. It’s been a great time of year to ease in, as warm soup is perfect on these chilly, dark nights. My dinner efforts have consisted of mostly soups paired with salad and bread, or on nights when I am less prepared, pasta dishes or breakfast for dinner. Not a stellar showing, I realize, but it’s a start.

I know that there are great benefits for the environment and for our health as a result of Meatless Monday.  There have been a few other bonuses as well that have surprised me.

1. Kitchen time with my tween. My girl is a big salad fan, and on soup/salad nights, she is solely responsible for the salad.  Not only can she handle the responsibility, she enjoys it. She makes the salad while I make the soup and it’s very nice to spend time in the kitchen together. Or she announced that she could make crepes by herself and by golly, she could and did. We’ve cooked together in the past, but this experience has taught me that she really likes having some culinary autonomy, a task that doesn’t involve me always looking over her shoulder like those that require adult supervision.  Not only is it quality time together, it’s reminded me that I need to give her tasks to do that don’t involve me, both in the kitchen and beyond.

2. Saving money. Rising grocery prices concern me. Meatless Monday, with our favorites of lentil soup, corn chowder and black bean soup, are easy on the wallet, much more so than meat. These have been nutritious ways to balance the escalating food bill.

 3. Connections to family and friends through recipes. Because I lack culinary confidence, I started with recipes that bring me comfort and to which I already had a positive connection or association. I love reaching for the soup cookbook my mother gifted me on Christmas years ago, and always visit her inscription when opening it. I enjoy thinking of a dear college friend when making her lentil soup recipe. Watching my daughter make crepes from a recipe that my great-grandmother used to make every Friday of Lent is joy.

For me, Meatless Mondays have turned out to be less about cutting out the burgers and more about being mindful about what I am making in general. That mindfulness has helped me focus on the benefit to my family nutritionally and economically, as well as reminded me that I have been blessed with amazing people who love me, who happen to have given me meatless recipes.

Grandma J’s Crepe Recipe

1 cup of flour
1 cup of milk
pinch of salt
as many eggs as there are people eating (this works for up to about 5 people)

Whisk together the ingredients in a bowl.

Heat crepe pan (or I just use an 8 inch nonstick skillet) over medium to medium-high heat and spray pan with cooking spray (or a rub with a bit of butter).

Pour approximately ¼ cup of batter into the hot, coated pan. Quickly swirl or tile the pan to evenly coat the bottom. You want the layer to be thin.

Cook over medium or low-medium heat (depending on the strength of your burner) a minute, maybe two, until the edges begin to curl. Once the edges curl, flip the crepe. Cook the other side for a minute. You want both sides to be golden. Serve warm.

If using butter, it is best to do so quickly. In my family, one person makes the crepes, while the other person butters and rolls them up. They can be served plain, or with syrup, or with yogurt, fruit or chocolate for dessert. You could do a wonderful veggie filling, especially spinach and mushrooms. I’m afraid my picky eater isn’t a fan of those, and I love these so much I am happy to eat them plain. We haven’t gotten to the embellishing yet. Sometimes we pair them with eggs, or just a salad.

Shannan Younger writes Tween Us on ChicagoNow.

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