Pancakes and donut-like pastries became associated with Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) because they typically contained rich foods like eggs, milk, and sugar. These types of foods needed to be used up prior to the simpler eating associated with the Lenten tradition beginning on Ash Wednesday.
Our family has taken this tradition of “using up” a step further in our Lenten observances. We make a commitment every year to only buy staples (milk, bread, bananas) during Lent while using up all of the long standing ingredients in our pantry and freezer. Not only does it save us money that we can share with the less fortunate, but it rotates our food stock and reminds us of the Lenten journey every time we prepare food. As an added bonus, we’ve come up with some pretty great family recipes!
In observance of Mardi Gras and Lent, I’d like to share with you two favorite family recipes.
Though it may include purchasing one extra item, these donuts are the simplest ever and can include the whole family. In addition to Mardi Gras, we make these donuts on Sundays during Lent.
Mardi Gras Donuts
Makes: 8-10 mini donuts
- 1 or more cans of inexpensive refrigerator biscuit dough (store brand is perfect)
- 4-5 cups of vegetable or canola oil
- 1 cup sugar (purple or green colored sugar is a great option if you’re celebrating Mardi Gras)
- 2 tbsp cinnamon
- Paper towels or paper bag for draining
- 1 quart or gallon-sized bag
- Optional: If you want to fill your donuts (paczki) place a frosting tip on a pastry bag or ziplock bag and fill it with your favorite jam or jelly.
1. Heat oil to medium-high heat in straight-sided fry pan or shallow soup kettle or dutch oven.
2. Place sugar and cinnamon in a large ziplock bag.
3. Open biscuits and separate. If you like donuts with holes, use a wooden or plastic spoon to poke a hole in the center of each biscuit and stretch slightly. If you’d like to fill your donuts don’t add holes.
4. When the oil is hot, drop the biscuits in and fry for 1-2 minutes on each side until they are golden brown.
5. Remove to paper towels or bag and drain lightly before tossing in cinnamon-sugar mixture. If you’re filling your donuts, insert the frosting tip into side of the fried donuts and squeeze lightly.
Don’t worry about storage, they won’t last that long.
If you want to go all out, you can mix some Nutella® (hazelnut/cocoa spread) and some heavy cream to create a wonderful dipping sauce. The same could be done with peanut butter.
While I can’t take credit for this classic recipe, here is a favorite Lenten Friday “meatless” dish that is full of both simplicity and flavor:
Pasta Fagoli Recipe
- ½ minced onion
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) with liquid
- Pinch of red pepper, black pepper and salt
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup spaghetti or tomato sauce
1. Sauté onion and garlic in 1 tbsp of olive or vegetable oil in sauce pan while heating your crock pot.
2. Place all ingredients in crock pot for 4-6 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.
3. Serve over pasta shells and top with parmesan.
If you prefer to do it in less time or without a crock pot, complete step one and then add the chickpeas and liquid and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the broth and spaghetti sauce and bring to a boil while boiling your noodles.
On a meat night, consider adding cooked shredded beef to your soup 30 minutes before serving.
Amberly lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin with her husband and two children and is the author of Woman at the Inkwell.