King St. Louis IX, French Food, & Hospitality

King St. Louis, Feast Day: August 25

St. Louis, king of France from to 1236-1270, was known for his generosity and hospitality. Every day King Louis had 13 special guests from among the poor to eat with him, and a large number of poor were served meals near his palace. During Advent and Lent, all who presented themselves were given a meal, and Louis often served them in person. To remember King St. Louis of France on his feast day let us recall his hospitality with a French dish.   Ratatouille is a hearty French dish and the vegetable ingredients are abundant now in late summer.  It seems a fitting dish to prepare in honor of King St. Louis and experience a little French cuisine.  And in the spirit of King St. Louis, invite some guests to share the meal with you. 

Easy French Ratatouille

Makes 4-6 servings

1 large eggplant
1 medium yellow onions
2 medium bell peppers
3-4 medium zucchini
2 large tomatoes
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
1/8 cup loosely packed basil, sliced into ribbons
Salt and pepper

Peel the eggplant (if desired) and chop into bite-sized cubes. Transfer them to a strainer set over a bowl and toss with a tablespoon of salt. Let the eggplant sit while preparing other  ingredents. Dice the onions and chop the peppers, zucchinis, and tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Mince garlic. Veggies will be cooked in batches. 

Warm a teaspoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and salt to taste. Sauté until the onions have softened and are just beginning to brown, (approx. 10 minutes). Add the peppers and continue cooking until the peppers have softened (approx. 5 minutes). Transfer the onions and peppers to a clean bowl.

Add another teaspoon of oil to the pot and sauté the zucchini with a generous pinch of salt until the zucchini has softened and is beginning to brown (approx. 5 minutes). Transfer the zucchini to the bowl with the onions and peppers.

Rinse the eggplant under running water and squeeze the cubes gently with hands to remove as much moisture as possible. Add 1 teaspoon of oil to pan and sauté the eggplant until it has softened and has begun to turn translucent (approx. 10 minutes). Transfer the eggplant to the bowl with the other vegetables.

During cooking, a brown glaze will build on the bottom of the pan. If it looks like this glaze is starting to blacken, turn down the heat. To dissolve the glaze between batches add 1/4 cup of water or wine into the pan and scraping up the glaze. Pour the deglazing liquid into the bowl with the vegetables.

Finally add 1 teaspoon of olive oil in the pan and sauté the minced garlic until starting to turn golden. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, and sprigs of thyme. As the tomato juice bubbles, scrape up the brown glaze on the bottom of the pan.

Add all of the vegetables back into the pan and stir until everything is evenly mixed. Bring the stew to a simmer, then turn down the heat to low. Stirring occasionally, simmer for at least 20 minutes or up to 90 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Just before taking the ratatouille off the heat, stir in the basil.   Bon appetit!

St. Louis, Pray for us!

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Heavenly Cloud Cookies

Sacred Art Series Rosary Flip Book and Trader Joe's Vanilla Meringues

I picked up a box of Vanilla Meringues  - "Heavenly Cloud Cookies" -  from our local Trader Joe's to serve as a little treat following our family rosary. 

Additional ideas and recipes can be found in the archives

Happy Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary! 

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Onion Ring Chains "Linked" to August 1 Feasts

While it is no longer on the current liturgical calendar, the feast of St. Peter in Chains was a feast day commemorated on August 1st to recall St. Peter's miraculous release from imprisonment and the dedication in the 4th century of the church Pietro in Vincoli - St. Peter in Chains in Rome.  Last year I posted this St. Peter in Chains Feast Day Bread recipe as an idea to commemorate the feast.

This year I found a quote from St. Alphonsus Ligouri whose feast is also on August 1.  He wrote in his sermon "On the Love of Christ":

Since God knew that man is enticed by favours, he wished to bind him to his love by means of his gifts: “I want to catch men with the snares, those chains of love in which they allow themselves to be entrapped, so that they will love me”. 

So another "link" to making chain related feast day foods for August 1. 

Onion Chain Links - Fried Onion Rings

1 onion, cut into ¼ inch slices
1 egg
1 t. baking powder
1 ¼ c. flour
1 t. salt
1 c. Panko bread crumbs
1 c. milk
oil for deep frying

Heat oil to 350 degrees.  Separate the ¼ inch slices of onion into separate rings.  Mix egg and milk, whisking until combined. Combine flour, salt and baking powder in another bowl. Dip onion rings in egg mixture, then in flour mixture.  Dip the flour-coated onion rings back into egg-milk mixture a second time. Place on a wire rack to let excess egg-milk mixture drain.  Place dipped onion rings into Panko bread crumbs and coat completely.  Drop in hot oil and cook 1 minute per side until golden brown color.  Place on a paper towel to drain excess oil. Sprinkle onion rings with salt to taste.

Serve either as individual links or cut the links so they open and link together several onion rings for a chain of onion rings.  Serve with ranch dressing or spicy dipping sauce.

St. Peter in Chains, Pray for us.
St. Alphonsus Ligouri, Pray for us. 

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Serve it in a Scallop Shell

No time for anything fancy on the feast of St. James? Still want to make it fun? A really simple idea is to just serve anything in a scallop shell. Since I had purchased the large shells for the Coquilles St.-Jacques dish, I realized how fun it would be to use for any serving on St. James day. The shells are available at many craft stores and kitchen stores, as well as online outlets like Amazon.

Try serving up a condiment or spice like sea salt pictured here.

The scallop makes a nice sized side dish for serving up salad or fresh fruit. 

A fun dish for snack time, apple slices, orange wedges, carrot stick, etc. Pictured here are goldfish crackers since St. James was both a fisherman and a "fisher of men." 

How about cookies?

It is a great little dish for a dessert, like ice cream for a warm July evening.

The possibilities are numerous.  Enjoy!

Why a scallop shell?

The scallop shell is a common symbol of St. James and is associated with travelers/pilgrims especially on the Camino de Santiago. Earliest connection of the scallop shell to the Camino and saint James is dated in the 10th century. The shell is commonly found on the shores of Galicia and served as a proof of completion of the pilgrimage. In a practical sense, the shell was the right size for gathering water to drink or for eating out of as a makeshift bowl.

There is a legend with a couple versions linking St. James to the shell.  One says that after St. James' death, his disciples took his body by ship to the Iberian Peninsula to be buried. Off the coast a storm hit the ship, and the body was lost to the ocean. After some time, the body washed ashore undamaged, covered in scallops.  Another version states, that as the ship carrying St. James' body approached land, a wedding was taking place on the shore. The young bridegroom was on horseback, and on seeing the ship approaching, his horse got spooked, and the horse and rider plunged into the sea. Through miraculous intervention, the horse and rider emerged from the water alive, covered in seashells.

There are two metaphors I have seen for the shells. The grooves in the shell, which come together at a single point, could represent the various routes pilgrims traveled, eventually arriving at a single destination at the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela. The scallop shell could also represent the pilgrim. As the waves of the ocean wash scallop shells up on the shores of Galicia, God's hand also guides the pilgrims to Santiago.

Whatever the meaning – the various symbolism and stories associated with the scallop and St. James, make it a great visual for the feast day.

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Coquille St. Jacques - Scallops for St. James

Coquille is the French term for the scallop, and also refers to a classic French dish with scallops prepared in sauce and served in a scallop shell.  The scallop shell is the traditional emblem of St. James, son of Zebedee and has long been the badge of pilgrims on the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  There is a traditional Coquille St.-Jacques which is made with mushrooms and wine sauce. This is a different baked scallop recipe, which includes sun-dried tomatoes which are red as a symbol of a martyrdom on this feast day. Served in a scallop shell they are a fitting meal for the feast of St. James.

Parmesan & Sun Dried Tomato Scallops 

24 small bay scallops
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped/minced
2 T. bread crumbs
1 clove garlic
couple sprigs of parsley
olive oil
salt to taste
pepper to taste
2 T. parmesan cheese

Chop the parsley and garlic and add to breadcrumbs. Add the parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomato pieces, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Mix well. Add the scallops and mix to coat. Fill each shell with the mixture of breaded scallops (approx. 5). Place on baking sheet in 425 degree oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes until scallops are done and breading crisps.  Serve in shells.

St. James, pray for us.

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St. Benedict - The Raven and the Bread

St. Benedict of Nursia whose feast day is July 11 (March 21 traditional) is, among other patronages, the saint invoked against poisoning. There are a couple stories associated with him where he was spared of poisoning. In one depiction Benedict was given poisoned bread by priest who was jealous of him and his fame. Knowing that the bread was poisoned St. Benedict called to the raven (or crow), who would often come and feed from his hand, to take it away to a place where no one could eat it. The raven flew away with the poisoned bread in his beak and disposed of it, then returning to be given rations from St. Benedict. You can read the episode yourself in The Dialogues of St. Gregory (Book II, Chapter 8) which is the life of St. Benedict.

Due to this and other stories, the raven is often depicted with St. Benedict in pictures. It is the mascot of many Benedictine schools. So since the bread and raven are noteworthy symbols associated with St. Benedict, this very simple feast day idea came to mind. I know as busy parents it is always nice to have something that is really easy to put together without a lot of effort. Bread is something we usually have on hand, or is easy to obtain. Any kind will do and if you have special dietary considerations can choose a suitable bread as well. And if you have more time, it is also possible to bake your own bread for the feast using one of the many past recipes here at Catholic Cuisine. 

I went the easy route and picked up a boule of Italian bread from the store. Then I sliced it up and served it with the raven mascot looking on. We happen to have a couple fake ravens/crows in our decoration but a simple alternative if you don't have a plastic raven/crow handy and don't want to get one (readily available around Halloween) - use a paper silhouette you can print out and place as guardian of the bread at your table. This site has some great raven/crow silhouettes in their free clip art, including this one - Raven Silhouette Clipart.

St. Benedict, Pray for Us!
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Honey Sweetened Grasshopper Bars

The Birthday of Saint John the Baptist from Saints: A Year in Faith and Art
There is a great recipe for Grasshopper Parfaits in the archives here at Catholic Cuisine. After making them for the rest of my family, I decided to try and find something that I could enjoy as well for our celebration on the Solemnity of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist since I've been on a strict Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet for the past four months.  These Honey Sweetened Grasshopper Bars were perfect and tasted amazing! Cocoa Powder is not on the AIP list of approved foods and it had been a while (113 days to be exact) since I had eaten any chocolate, but so far I haven't noticed any adverse reactions and am hoping that it can remain in my diet as an occasional treat.  This recipe is dairy-free, gluten-free, grain-free, refined sugar-free, seed-free, nut-free and makes a delicious option for those looking for a healthy dessert!

Honey Sweetened Grasshopper Bars
adapted from Raia's Recipes


Mint Layer

  • 1 large avocado
  • 1/4 cup organic raw honey 
  • 6 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 1/2 c. shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract (or a few drops of peppermint oil for AIP)
  • dash of salt (I used Real Salt.)

Chocolate Layer


Mint Layer
1. Line a 9×9 inch baking dish with foil.
2. Place all ingredients in high powered blender (I used my Vitamix) or a food processor. Blend until smooth.
3. Smooth mixture into prepared dish and stick in the freezer while you prepare the chocolate layer.

Chocolate Layer
1. In small saucepan, melt coconut oil and honey over low heat.
2. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients.
3. Pour over chilled bottom layer and return to the freezer for about 15 minutes, or until the chocolate layer is hardened.
4. Remove from foil and cut into bars.
5. Store covered in the freezer.

Makes approximately 8 servings

Note: These would also make a healthy green treat for St. Patrick's day in March! 

Saint John the Baptist, pray for us! 

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