ash wednesday and the beginning of the lenten season

SONY DSCSince I was a little girl, I have always observed the Lenten season. I grew up in a traditional Protestant church, although most of my Protestant friends from other denominations didn’t recognize the church holiday. The ritual of attending an Ash Wednesday service, meditating on the Scripture and prayers, and walking to the front of the sanctuary for the imposition of ashes became something I looked forward to as much as Christmas or Easter. Lent always symbolized a period of discipline. It was a season of growth, of a sacrifice for something greater.

I remember one year I gave up drinking soda, and went the entire forty days without a single drop of Dr. Pepper. I was in high school or middle school, and this was a pretty big deal because I’d gotten into the [VERY BAD] habit of drinking a bottle during my after-lunch math class. For Easter lunch I cracked open a can of soda and was repulsed by the first sip — as it turns out, I hadn’t really missed what I’d given up in the first place.

Many Lenten seasons have been fraught with disappointment, with broken fasts and “cheating.” Many have been satisfying in a way that only come from giving up something valuable and learning from the pain of that separation.

SONY DSCBut all have involved pancakes.

The day before the beginning of Lent, known to many as Mardi Gras, is called Shrove Tuesday in the church calendar. Traditionally, church-goers would clear their pantries of all sugar and yeast before Lent – a part of the traditional Lenten fast in the Catholic church – and to use up those resources they would make pancakes.

I love pancakes, so any excuse to eat them is just fine with me.

SONY DSCHere are two recipes developed from a hodge-podge of other paleo, grain-free recipes, all made to be fluffy with a tender crumb, a gentle sweetness, and to pack a high-protein punch with fiber-rich coconut flour and eggs. The toppings are what make these cakes special — add applesauce, sliced or mashed banana, coconut cream, shredded coconut and chia seeds, cacao nibs, warm maple syrup or almond butter! I think these would also be delicious with a bit of melted ghee on top. Simple and pared down, but nourishing, kind of like Lent.

SONY DSCFluffy Coconut Flour Pancakes

3 Tbsp. coconut flour

2 egg whites, beaten

1 egg, whisked

1/4 c. coconut milk (or more if texture dictates)

1 ripe banana, mashed (or 1/3 c. unsweetened applesauce, although I prefer the custard-y texture of the banana)

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. baking powder

pinch of salt + cinnamon

butter/oil for griddle

In a bowl, beat egg whites until fluffy and forming stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, whisk the whole egg and combine with mashed banana, coconut milk, vanilla, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and flour. Mix well to combine. Gently fold in beaten egg whites. Head a griddle or skillet on high and grease with a dab of coconut oil or butter, and fry pancakes on both sides until fluffy and golden.

If desired, add a half scoop of vanilla protein powder and drizzle in a bit more coconut milk to maintain moisture. Although this changes the texture of the pancakes quite a bit, if you’re hoping for extra satiety in the morning this is one way to find it. Or, simply serve your pancakes with a fried egg on top, a side of bacon, and a drizzle of maple syrup.

*     *     *     *     *

Grain-Free Banana Pancakes adapted from Against All Grain

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/4 c. coconut milk

1 tsp. vanilla + honey

2 Tbsp. coconut flour

1/3 c. almond flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 ripe banana

butter/oil for griddle

In a bowl, whisk eggs and combine with wet ingredients. Sift together dry ingredients and add to wet mixture, omitting the banana. Heat a griddle and grease with fat of choice, then dollop on batter to cook until golden. Before flipping, arrange a few slices of banana on the raw batter side, then flip to cook all the way through. Serve with plenty of butter and a little maple syrup.

*     *     *     *     *

Are you observing the Lenten season this year? Are you giving anything up? I’m going to give up sugar — it’s too much of a physical temptation and an emotional crutch — and to compound my efforts I’m also going to adopt a new habit along with what I’m giving up. I like to add some positive reinforcement, and this year I think I’ll start by going through a new Bible study (one of my goals for the month) or finding somewhere to volunteer. Let me know how you’re celebrating Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday, if you observe Ash Wednesday, and if you’re practicing sacrifice for Lent this year — I’m always curious!


90 thoughts on “ash wednesday and the beginning of the lenten season

  1. Delightful pancakes. Thinking about giving up giving up stuff. But if you can do it, so can I. Good luck and carry on.

  2. I’m not Catholic now, but I was growing up – I never knew that about the pancakes and emptying pantries of sugar and yeast. Yesterday I saw a sign in front of a church for a pancake breakfast today – and now I know why!

    And I remember giving up soda for lent one year too! I was probably in elementary school at the time, my mom stopped buying it and I eventually just forgot about drinking it because it wasn’t in the house. I remember thinking “what’s so hard about lent?!”

    I’ve been experimenting with coconut flour more now too… it’s different, but I’m starting to really like it.

    • I think the “emptying the cupboards” thing is a pretty ancient practice, and the only thing that stuck around was the pancake breakfasts. In fact, up until a few years ago, IHOP used to offer free pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. Happy Lent!

  3. Thanks for sharing your recipe…I love any excuse to eat pancakes too! Interestingly though, even though we are Catholic, my parents never made pancakes on Shrove Tuesday…. I guess pancakes is not their thing? lol… I haven’t decided what to give up for lent yet, but the sugar thing has never worked for me b/c my birthday always falls during the Lenten season. :0 Congrats on being FP! 🙂

  4. Thanks for the grain free recipes – very helpful & they look delish. My OH has given up chocolate and crisps for Lent. Me, I’m not so much for the giving up particular food groups – being coeliac and lactose intolerant hasn’t helped in finding food on the move. But I’m making sure I get at least my 5 fruit & veg a day, and hopefully more.

  5. I’m just learning about Lent as an adult and love learning the origins of these traditions. I had noticed pancakes being mentioned quite a bit earlier this week, but had no idea why.

    I’m giving up tv for Lent. When I first started thinking about it, I kept going back and forth in my mind and trying to think of reasons why I shouldn’t (my husband works a lot of evenings and I’m stuck at home while my baby sleeps.) This was an indication to me that I really did need to give it up and focus that time on God and things that were more productive. I’m only one day in, and I can tell it’s not going to be easy.

    • I congratulate you for being brave — giving up something that we’re so comfortable with, accustomed to, or the most resistant to giving up is often the most difficult of Lenten fasts! What positive ways will you be filling your time now? That’s the most exciting part.

      Have a blessed Lenten season and thank you so much for visiting and commenting here.

  6. Giving up meat from cows and pigs. Instead, I will eat poultry/fish, more vegetarian dishes, and perhaps find local (more sustainable) meats like deer or bison. Hopefully the habit carries on beyond Lent!

  7. Thank you for sharing your lenten experience and those recipes! Last night I went to a lenten service at church and had my first experience of ashes on my forehead. I am going to try and write a series of poems reflecting my thoughts during this lenten season.

  8. I love your post and the pancakes look great. This year I’m going to fast from chocolate. As you said, it is definitely a physical temptation for me and the only thing keeping me from my size 2 jeans! Hopefully it works out for you too, Best of luck:)

  9. The pancakes looks delicious. I didn’t know about that tradition of pancakes. I don’t follow lent every year but when I do I give up on pastry..I love sweets. Great post and thanks for sharing.

  10. Yum! I’ll have to give your recipes a try! As a side note, my 8-year-olds told their Sunday School teacher they were giving up homework and school for Lent. Needless to say, I got a few sideways glances when I picked them up the other day!
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. 🙂

  11. Hurrah for coconut! I absolutely love cooking and baking with it and am always on the look out for good recipes. Very lovely photos too. And congratulations on being freshly pressed!

  12. I also love pancakes. In previous years I’ve given up soda, my debit card, or said more prayers. I also like the discipline of Lent, and that Catholics are united and excited by their Lenten sacrifices.
    I enjoyed you post very much.

    • Thank you so much for visiting and commenting! I also enjoy the unity of the season, for Catholics and Protestants alike. Your idea of giving up your debit card is a GREAT one — thanks for the inspiration! I may try to do that sometime outside of the framework of Lent.

    • Thankfully, my sweet husband gave me the gift of a clean kitchen and some roses, plus a promise of a nice dinner this year, instead of chocolates. Although I did bake cookies for neighbors/classmates and…yesterday I ate one. Time for more prayer and fasting and a new start today!

  13. Great blog! You definitely captured my attention with those pancake pics! Lol. I am a member of missionary baptist church and we have Ash Tuesday services. I couldn’t think of anything to “stop” doing yet so I will take your suggestion and “start” something positive. Maybe a thoughtful card or note to a loved one or friend each week would be a nice act of kindness to start! Thx for the inspiration!

  14. The pancakes look amazing! I will definitely have to try them sometime! I am giving up meat this year for lent. It is a big change, but its something I tend to over indulge in and the sacrifice will hopefully help me look more to God for sustenance. 🙂

  15. I used to drink one bottle of coke a day. One day I just stopped (and same here I didn’t even miss it) I rather have a big glass of water or tee before I leave for work and that does it…
    PS: yo ujust gave me an idea of what to cook this weekend 😉 Thanks a lot! 🙂

  16. I hope this lent is a really peaceful time for you. I try to just slow down a little more and take time to consider what I have, including what I have to eat or enjoy. Quite easy to drop back though… Luckily I too didn’t think that wordpress would count as something to give up! Maybe I won’t look at my stats for a month…

  17. These pancakes look really good. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

    On Lent…I pray that I will enter into the kind of fast that really pleases God…laying down self in exchange for helping others, replacing selfish habits with selfless ones that serve our King. Only by His grace will I be enabled. May it be so in and through our Lord Jesus Christ!

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting, and thank you for the reminder of your prayer. What a beautiful, sacrificial attitude that is so fitting in this season, as we approach Easter and the resurrection.

      • Iron sharpens iron…Your post mixed with the Scriptures from the Liturgy today led me into that prayer. May we follow as the Lord leads us…deeper and deeper into communion with Him. Blessings to you on your journey!

  18. Good luck with your fast! I enjoy the Lenten season as well, and began sacrificing + starting something a few years ago.

    Each Easter celebration since has been more pleasant: a new good habit picked up and a bad one dropped. Congratulations on FP!

  19. I am also lenting… Since years no alcohol and meat for 46 days and I know how it feels afterwards: i could continue avoiding! I like the pancake tradition, even I am
    Catholic I have never heard about it. But i will do this next year too!

  20. i attend a little protestant community church & we just started to emphasize the tradition of lent a few years back… i love it – who knew?! it’s such a wonderful lead up to easter and a really dedicated reflection time. i alway mean to be reflective in the lead up to christmas, but the holiday it so fraught with layers of cultural expectations that it easy to get carried away… lent isn’t tainted by commercialism – it feels like an authentic tradition : ) my husband & i are giving up eating out, which we will benefit from greatly!

    thanks for the pancake recipe! gonna try it this weekend 🙂

  21. I’m a Baptist officially but I’ve always had Anglican leanings. One thing I think we’re really missing out on is the observance of traditional Church holidays/seasons like Lent. I think Easter would be more meaningful if Lent were observed first.
    Anyway, great post and congrats on the FP! I’ll be trying the recipe soon, as my husband has to cut down on the starch (Crohn’s disease). I’ve yet to try a nut-flour recipe, but this one looks like a good place to start 🙂

    • I think that is something missing from many contemporary or charismatic churches — the meaning of the seasons IS so much more beautiful. Best of luck with the recipe and thanks so much for stopping by!

  22. I grew up in the Episcopal church. Though I am now an Atheist, Lent is still such an important time of year for me. As a teen, I too kicked the soda habit to the curb for 40 days. When I had my Easter pop, I was surprised how much I didn’t really care too much for it any more. This was a big lesson for me and I do my best to kick bad habits in the same fashion.

    Thank you for sharing your season (and your pancakes) with us. Peace be with you.

    • I think Lent is the same for everyone – it is both a very community-oriented season, and one in which your personal commitment must be honored no matter what. Be firm in your discipline and fervent in your pursuit of God. Do it quietly and humbly. Find a community of like-minded people who can encourage you in your journey. And lastly, slow down and be quiet, reflect, and really appreciate the beauty of Lent as we approach the miracle of Easter. No matter if you’re a college student or not, this is a very special time in the church calendar, and I hope you enjoy it and learn from it!

  23. Your recipes look delicious! I have never heard about the pancake tradition. My family is Lutheran and we observe Lent, but are not typically die-hard followers of the season. However, I love this time of year because all of the hymns shift to fantastic keys and it seems to refocus my attention after all the Christmas and New Year’s hype. I have decided to give up Starbucks, not only as a crutch I use for motivation but also to save my wallet.

  24. Delicious recipes. I also love pancakes, so learning new ways to make eat them gives me more reasons to eat them!

    I also am observing Lent. Through cleaning up my eating habits, I have abandoned many of my favorite foods (What I wouldn’t do for a Dr. Pepper). This year I am giving up impatience. My aim is try to stop doing everything at one time.

  25. Any new recipe for a superb pancake is welcome!

    I, myself, gave up Facebook last year, which was probably one of the toughest ones I have ever fulfilled. This year, I chose to give up heavy cream in my morning coffee. It forces me to find enjoyment in something else upon rising, rather than my coveted cup of jo.

    I believe sharing our own promises for Lent gives us strength to make it through the 40 days, and maybe gives us ideas on what else we can do without for the next Lenten season. Thank you, Little Dutch Wife, for writing this entry and to everyone else for sharing!

    Good luck to everyone observing Lent!

    • What a wise thing to seek in giving up the cream in your coffee. I hope you find your mornings in the Lenten season to be something worth being thankful for. Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!

  26. Alas, I have an aversion to bananas. I love your blog tho!:) Last year I gave up gluten & sugar (most white, processed things, I don’t think I had alcohol either). I felt SO guilty about a bite of bread or a piece of candy, so this year I’m adding something more positive. I did, however, feel SO much better, less bloated, healthier. But thanks for your blog post!:)

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