Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Teatime Suggestions for Lent and Easter

Alice Gunther, author of the wonderful book Haystack Full of Needles, A Catholic Home Educator's Guide to Socialization, shares some inspiring and symbolically rich suggestions for "Teatime" on her blog Cottage Blessings.  She has a few "Teas" for the Lent and Easter season which I plan to serve my children this year.  Alice has made it very easy to implement by including menu suggestions, recipes, reading suggestions, and even shopping lists! 

Here is her first Lenten Tea Menu.  This menu is based on Chapter 14 of the Gospel of Mark and is perfect for Holy Thursday.  The Menu includes the following:
  • Palm on the Road
  • Costly Oil
  • Thirty Pieces of Silver
  • Unleavened Bread
  • Mount of Olives
  • The Cock Crows Twice
  • Gethsemane Figs
  • Judas' Kiss
  • Clouds of Heaven
  • Saint Peter's Tears
Her Second Lenten Tea is perfect for Good Friday and is presented using Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Mark.  This Menu includes:
  • The King's Crown
  • Out of Envy
  • The Purple Cloak
  • The Crown of Thorns
  • Golgotha Eggs
  • The Seamless Garment
  • Two Robbers
  • Vinegar to Drink
  • The Roman Centurion
  • Laid in the Tomb
Then, for Easter, she shares a Joyous Easter Tea.   Unlike the two Lenten Teas, she has loaded this menu "with sweets and treats and even a slice or two of savory ham."  
  • Tea
  • Stone Scones
  • Linen Cloth and Napkin
  • Two Angels
  • The Gardener
  • Peace be with You
  • Receive the Holy Spirit
  • The Twin
  • Thomas' Thumbprint Cookies
  • Many Other Signs and Wonders
I hope you have an opportunity to try out one (or ALL) of these tea's with your families!  I am really looking forward to it myself.  Thank you Alice! Pin It

Can Catholics Participate in Seder Meals?

With Holy Thursday coming up next week, I wanted to take a moment to share an excellent sermon, by a wonderful Roman Catholic Priest, on Seder Meals, from Audio Sancto entitled:

The sermon is about 19 minutes long, but is definitely worth taking the time to listen to...

Update: I've decided to close the comments on this post. I am not, by any means, trying to tell you what is right or wrong. I originally posted this link since it is related to celebrating the liturgical year at home, and gives some great food for thought. God bless you all, and I hope you have a very blessed Holy Week!
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Monday, March 30, 2009

Carling and Fig Sunday

Hosanna to the Son of David,
the King of Israel.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
In the Traditional Calendar, the Fifth Sunday of Lent was known as Passion Sunday, and the following Sunday was Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Holy Week. In the current calendar the liturgy of these two Sundays are combined into Palm Sunday of Our Lord's Passion. And so I'm combining the foods associated with both Sundays into the one Palm Sunday.

Peas or carlings were traditionally consumed on Passion Sunday particularly in northern England and Scotland, so it became known as Carling Sunday (or Car-Sunday in Scotland). Recipes varied according to region, including Pease Porridge, or split pea soup. Liturgically there is no connection with the peas (or pease); it's just a traditional food served on this day.

And what fun to sing together:
Pease porridge hot,
Pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot
Nine days old.
Split Pea Soup is a traditional Southern dish, and growing up our house was no exception. My grandmother and great aunts used to use a pressure cooker to make a quick batch of split pea soup.

I use Who's Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make a Roux? by Marcelle Bienvenu as a basis for my recipe. Some grocery stores sell a Mirepoix which saves that step of cutting and dicing the onions, carrots, and celery (the trinity in French cooking). It's a luxury I take when I need to save time. You could make this an abstinence recipe by removing the meat, but Sundays in Lent are not a fasting or abstaining day.
Split Pea Soup (serves 8-10)

1 pound dried split peas
1 ham bone, 2 ham hocks, or 2 cups diced ham (I didn't have a large ham bone or lots of ham, so in the last step of adding the wine I added chopped kielbasa into the soup.)
3 quarts chicken broth and water (I used 2 quarts broth, 1 quart water)
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup coarsely chopped carrots
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon ground thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and black pepper to taste
a few dashes Tabasco sauce
1 cup sherry or dry white wine

Put all ingredients (except wine/sherry) into a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 hours. Add white wine or sherry (and sausage) and cook for another 20 minutes. Remove bay leaves and serve.

Serve with crusty French bread, Southern biscuits, or cornbread, perhaps a salad to round it all off.
The soup always seems to be better the next day, so great for leftovers. My son likes to help in the kitchen, but his question every time we make this is "What happened to the peas?"

Palm Sunday is also known as Fig Sunday because tradition maintains that Jesus ate figs after his entry into Jerusalem, and the withered fig tree that Jesus cursed is also associated for this day. I admit I don't have any recipes of my own that incorporate figs, but a quick search can find Fig or Figgy Pudding, Italian Fig Cookies, Fig Cake to name a few ideas. And when I'm planning this menu, the tunes keep rolling in my head for "Pease Porridge" and "Bring us some figgy pudding".

I remember eating fresh figs as a little girl from my grandmother's tree in her backyard. That taste and texture is so seared into my memory that I've always been disappointed when I have tasted any other fig that isn't freshly picked. For dessert, I'm going to serve some store-bought fig cookies. Pin It

Sunday, March 29, 2009

El Paso Pilaf ~ A Meatless Meal for Days of Abstinence

When I was a child, my siblings and I were members of 4-H.  Each year we took part in an event called "Food Fiesta" where we each had to prepare a dish and present it to the judges.  One year my little brother won a medal for his entry: "El Paso Pilaf".  I couldn't agree more with the judges... I *loved* it!!!

Ever since, I have been making and modifying the recipe.  Since that was about 20 years ago, I have no idea exactly what the recipe called for, so I am going to share my version with you all.  It is a staple in our home since it is easy, healthy, filling, and affordable.

I usually serve it in fried taco shells, though I have also served it in flour tortillas as burritos, and as a side dish for other Mexican dishes. 

El Paso Pilaf
"stolen" from my brother and modified over the years ;) 


  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice (though I do use short grain brown rice on occasion)
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 can (16 oz) kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can (16 oz) chicken broth (I substitute vegetable broth on days of abstinence)
  • 1 can (16 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water (I usually rinse out the tomato sauce cans into the pan with the water)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • toppings of your choice:  lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream, olives, avocado, salsa, etc...


Saute onion and garlic in pan.  Add all other ingredients and mix together.  Cover pot and simmer on low for 45 to 60 minutes.  Serve on tortillas topped with lettuce, cheese, or any other toppings of your choice.


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Chicken Broth on Fridays: Yes or No?

I have recently received a couple emails asking what constitutes a meatless meal or recipe for the days of abstinence during Lent. One reader writes: "I've seen recipes for "Good Friday vegetable soup" and other meatless recipes that use chicken or other meat broth. I don't want to be overly legalistic or over-scrupulous, but I also don't want to offend God by being careless with the obligation to meatless meals on abstinence days. Can you tell me if the Church has a clear ruling on this?"

I wasn't sure myself, but have always substituted Vegetable Broth, when needed, to make our meals truly meatless. I decided to do a little research and found the following article on EWTN which is worth reading: Why No Chicken on Days of Abstinence.

I'll share a few quotes here, but please click through and read the whole article if you can:
In the United States, the bishops recommend abstinence on all Fridays of the year. Abstinence is obligatory on all Fridays of Lent.

The law of abstinence prohibits eating the flesh, marrow and blood products of such animals and birds as constitute flesh meat.

In earlier times the law of abstinence also forbade such foods that originated from such animals, such as milk, butter, cheese, eggs, lard and sauces made from animal fat. This restriction is no longer in force in the Roman rite.

Canon 1250 states: "The penitential days and times in the universal church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent."

Canon 1251: "Abstinence from eating meat or some other food according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops is to be observed on every Friday of the year unless a Friday occurs on a day listed as a solemnity. Abstinence and fasting however are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Present canon law allows the use of sauces made from animal fats, as well as their use in cooking, so the use of beef or chicken stock would enter into this category.

While the use of chicken consommé (that is just the liquid) might fall within the law, it would be more in accordance with the spirit of abstinence to prefer a fish or vegetable soup.

The main thing is to embrace the penitential spirit of Lent. It seems to me at least, if there is an opportunity to deny ourselves, then it would be a nice gift to God and a spiritual reward for us. Another excerpt from the article reads:
The motives for practicing abstinence are admirably expressed by St. Augustine in his Sermon on Prayer and Fasting: Abstinence purifies the soul, elevates the mind, subordinates the flesh to the spirit, begets a humble and contrite heart, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, extinguishes the fire of lust, and enkindles the true light of chastity.

This is summarized in the IV Preface of Lent: "Who by bodily fasting suppresses vice, ennobles the mind, grants virtue and rewards"
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Passion Fruit Cheesecake for Passion Sunday

Since the 3rd Century, today (5th Sunday in Lent) has been known as Passion Sunday.

Passion Fruit Cheesecake


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons nuts, finely chopped
6 ounces butter, melted

Cheesecake Filling
1 1/2 pound cream cheese
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
3 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup passion fruit puree.


Make crust by combining dry ingredients in a large bowl. Melt butter and add to dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly. When incorporated, press evenly into nine-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.Combine cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add corn starch and blend. Add eggs and mix thoroughly, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add vanilla and sour cream. Mix until smooth and fold in passion fruit puree. Pour batter into a springform pan and bake at 300 degrees for approximately one hour and thirty minutes, or until set. Cool slowly and completely refrigerate for several hours. Pin It

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Annunciation Waffles

The children informed me that we had to have waffles today. Why? Well, it said so on their Learning Calendar. Why? Because it's International Waffle Day. Why? According to the calendar, it originated in Sweden where it is known as Vaffeldagen. March 25 is "the day where Swedish women set aside their winter tasks of chopping wood and knitting, and begin their spring tasks by preparing waffles". Again, I asked... why?

Because it is the Feast of the Annunciation (known as "Our Lady's Day" or Varfrudagen).


Isn't that just the best? When you discover a holiday's holy origins!

Now, if you didn't know this tidbit of information in time to make waffles for breakfast, don't worry. According to this website, Swedish waffles are closer to their Belgian cousins and are often served as afternoon treats or for dessert. And since it is a solemnity and we are "fairly commanded to celebrate" my kids say...break out the whipped cream!

Here is a recipe for traditional Swedish crisp waffles or Frasvafflor which is another variation of the one Jenn posted below:

Frasvafflor (Swedish Crisp Waffles)
(from Emma Olsson)
about 10 waffles
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup water
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
3 T. butter, melted and cooled

Stir together flour, water and salt. Let rest at room temperature for about an hour. Add the butter and mix well. Whip the cream and fold into the batter.

Give the waffle iron plenty of time to warm up before you pour in the first waffle. Be prepared to spoil the first one. Think of it as priming the pump or firing a test shot, and you won't be as anxious. The reliable key to when the waffle is done is not when the iron's light goes out, but when steam stops emerging from it. Heat your regular oven to 200 degrees F and set a rack inside. As the waffles are baked, lay each one on the rack in a single layer to keep them warm while you cook the rest.

For a Swedish presentation, serve with more whipped cream, perhaps with some blueberries stirred in, or with lingonberry jam.

* I wasn't going to post this here when I saw that Jenn had already covered waffles in her Annunciation post, but Jessica thought that the posts were different enough to be distinct. I had never heard of the tradition of eating waffles today until my kids pointed it out. Our learning experience went from there!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lady Day Feasting

March 25 marks the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord, another of our highest feast days, a Solemnity, right in the middle of Lent. We bring to mind the Incarnation, the exact moment when the WORD became Flesh. How beautiful the message of our Faith that we revere God in Mary's womb at the moment of conception.

The main food associated with this feast is waffles. Just like pancakes or doughnuts, waffles (or wafers or gaufres) are usual feast day fare. This is Våffeldagen or Waffle Day in Sweden. One website said the name Vaffla, meaning waffle, originated from Var Fru, Our Lady, and that in time the two words became slurred and corrupted, first into Vaffer, then to Vaffla. The waffles are served with whipped cream and lingonberries (or cloudberries). You probably have some lingonberry preserves left over from St. Lucy's feast.

In our house I'm serving those special frozen waffles that are safe for my son's allergies, and put a good dose of safe whipped cream. But for those that can make them, Evelyn's Vitz's Swedish Waffles recipe from A Continual Feast would be perfect:
Swedish Waffles

Here are Swedish waffles for the Annunciation. Light and crisp, these make excellent dessert waffles. They are traditionally eaten with whipped cream and cloudberry preserves. Cloudberries are first cousins to our raspberries.

1 3/4 cups heavy cream, well-chilled
1 1/3 cups flour
1-2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup cold water
3 tablespoons melted sweet butter

Whip the cream until stiff.
Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Stir in the water to make a smooth batter. Fold the whipped cream into the batter. Stir in the melted butter.
Heat the waffle iron. (If it is well seasoned, it will not need to be greased.) Fill the grid surface about two-thirds full of batter. Bake until golden brown.
Place on a rack to keep crisp while you make the rest of the waffles.
Yield: about 8 waffles

Another interesting food tradition is found in Britain, the Tichborne Dole, which is a form of charity or dole started by Lady Tichborne and given every Lady Day.

Seeds plays a large role on this feast. Father Weiser's The Holyday Book explains the connection:
In central Europe the farmers put a picture representing the Annunciation in the barrel that holds the seed grain. While doing so they pronounce some ancient prayer rhyme like this one from upper Austria:
O Mary, Mother, we pray to you;
Your life today with fruit was blessed:
Give us the happy promise, too,
That our harvest will be of the best.
If you protect and bless the field,
A hundredfold each grain must yield.
Having thus implored the help of Mary, they start sowing their summer grains on the following day, assured that no inclement weather will threaten their crops, for, as the ancient saying goes,
Saint Gabriel to Mary flies:
This is the end of snow and ice.
Thinking of the "seed" planted in Mary, a seed cake is also another traditional food. Marian Devotions in the Domestic Church shares a good recipe for a seed cake, with a variety of options for the seeds.

Another approach is presenting foods is the theme of wreath or circle forms. A Cook's Blessing by Demetria Taylor (1965) points out how this feast is one that falls in the Temporal (Time) Cycle, not Sanctoral (saints). Traditionally this feast was pivotal, marking the beginning of the year, occurring nine months before the Solemnity of Christmas. Father Weiser elaborates on how important marking the time:
In the early Christian centuries March 25 was observed in a special way as the Day of the Incarnation. In order to make the Lord's life on earth an exact number of years, even down to the day, an early tradition claimed that it was also the date of the crucifixion. This fact is mentioned in many ancient martyrologies (calendars of feasts) and in the sermons of various Fathers of the Church. Soon other events of the history of our salvation were placed on this day by legendary belief, and thus we find in some calendars of the Middle Ages the following quaint "anniversaries" listed for March 25:
The Creation of the World
The Fall of Adam and Eve
The Sacrifice of Isaac
The Exodus of the Jews from Egypt
The Incarnation
The Crucifixion and Death of Christ
The Last Judgment
It was an ancient custom of the papal Curia (executive office) to start the year on March 25 in all their communications and documents, thus calling it the "Year of the Incarnation." This practice was also adopted by most civil governments for the legal dating of documents. In fact, the Feast of the Annunciation, called "Lady Day," marked the beginning of the legal year in England even after the Reformation, up to 1752.
Recalling the year as a circle of days, reminders of eternity, the cycle of the Year of Our Lord, serve foods in the shape of wreaths or rings or circles. Wreath cookies, Angel Food Cake (double duty, reminding us of the Angel Gabriel), doughnuts with a hole, cakes baked in tube or Bundt pans, Coffee Rings would all be appropriate to serve today. Last Annunciation, Michele posted a Annunciation Pineapple Upside Down Cake with this same theme.

With the tradition of seed cakes and the circular form, I thought this recipe from The Year and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland would be perfect:
Ukrainian Poppy Seed Cake

We like to bake this Poppy Seed Cake for Easter because it reminds us of the whole lesson of Lent, the seed thrust into the ground to die, that it might live. The circle of the cake, baked in the tube pan, is like the circle of eternity — and that is the point of death to self: to live forever.

You may sift powdered sugar over it, or ice it with a thin confectioner's sugar icing, or serve it plain. It is nice plain, rather like a pound cake.

3/4 cup poppy seeds
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup shortening (or butter or coconut oil)
1-1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

Soak the poppy seeds in milk 5 to 6 hours. Cream shortening and sugar. Add 1 egg yolk at a time and beat well after each addition. Add vanilla, milk with poppy seeds, then flour sifted together with baking powder and salt. Mix well. Add egg whites beaten stiffly. Bake at 375° about 30 to 40 minutes in 9" tube pan.
I have a few non-food traditions and ideas on my blog, but not exhaustive. I also have a post at CatholicCulture.org. Today is such a beautiful feast to contemplate. A happy Lady Day to you all!

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Simnel Cake for Laetare Sunday

"The fourth Sunday of Lent is rather unique; like the third Sunday of Advent ("Gaudete Sunday"), the fourth Sunday of Lent is a break in an otherwise penitential season. Laetare Sunday is also known as "Mothering Sunday" because of the Epistle reading that speaks of how not the Jews, but those who come to Christ, regardless of their ancestry, are the inheritors of Abraham's promise. The old practice of visiting the cathedral, or "mother church" of the diocese on this day is another reason for the name. In England, natural mothers are honored today, too, in a manner rather like the American "Mother's Day." Spring bulb flowers (daffodils, for ex.) are given to mothers, and simnel cake is made to celebrate the occasion (this cake has also become an Easter Cake of late, however). The word "simnel" comes from the Latin "simila," a high grade flour." Fish Eaters

Simnel Cake

1 cup margarine, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
4 eggs
1 3/4 cups self-rising flour
1 1/3 cups golden raisins
1 cup dried currants
2/3 cup candied cherries, rinsed, dried and quartered
1/4 cup candied mixed fruit peel, chopped
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons mixed spice 1 pound almond paste
2 tablespoons apricot jam
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8 inch springform pan. Line the bottom and sides of pan with greased parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the flour. Stir in the golden raisins, currants, candied cherries, mixed fruit, lemon zest and mixed spice. Pour 1/2 of batter into prepared pan.

Divide almond paste into 3 equal portions. Roll out 1/3 of the almond paste to an 8 inch circle. Place the circle of almond paste on the cake batter in pan. Cover with remaining cake batter. Bake in the preheated oven for 2 1/2 hours, or until evenly brown and firm to the touch. If the cake is browning too quickly, cover with foil after an hour of baking. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Set oven to broil. When the cake has cooled, brush the top with warmed apricot jam. Roll out 1/3 of the almond paste into an 8 inch circle and place on top of cake.

Divide the remaining 1/3 of almond paste into 11 pieces and roll into balls. These represent the 12 Apostles minus Judas. Brush the almond paste on top of cake with beaten egg. Arrange the 11 balls around the outside edge on the top of cake. Brush the balls lightly with egg. Place cake under the broiler for 8 to 10 minutes, or until almond paste is golden brown. Pin It

Friday, March 20, 2009

Feast Day Sugar Cookies

The go-to dessert in our house for feast days when I'm either rushed for time, or just can't come up with something original, is frosted sugar cookies. Frosted in green for St. Patrick's Day, as they are pictured here, or with white frosting and blue sugar for a Marian feast day, or with a country's flag colors for any international saint, they make a fun addition to a feast day or dessert. The cookie taste and texture is a lot like cookies from Cheryl & Co., if you're familiar with them, or a standard bakery sugar cookie. They are soft, due to the short bake time and thick cut, and frosted with thick buttercream frosting. They are one of my kids' favorites and there are never cookies left for very long.

(I rolled my St. Patrick cookies a little too thinly and they browned a little too quickly, so do as I say and not as I do.) ;-)

Bakery Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter Crisco (or butter, but you'll get a crisper cookie)
1 cup sugar
2 t. baking soda
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
3 cups flour
a few tablespoons of milk as necessary

Cream together Crisco (or butter) and sugar with electric mixer.
Add egg, vanilla and baking soda.
Add flour one cup at a time.
Add milk one tablespoon at a time until dough is of rolling consistency.
Roll out and cut into shapes (roll thickly -- about 1/4 to 1/3 inch).
Bake for 6-7 minutes on ungreased cookie sheet
on top shelf of oven at 400 degrees.
(Cookies will look undone on top).
Cool and frost.

4 T. softened butter
2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
a few T. milk to make frosting spreading consistency

Beat butter in a mixing bowl and add powdered sugar gradually.
Add vanilla and milk and beat until frosting is a good spreading consistency.

After frosting cookies, sprinkle immediately with colored sugar.
Let frosting harden slightly before stacking the cookies.

* Cookies can be frozen for a few months -- freeze before frosting.
On the day they are needed, pull the desired number out of the freezer and thaw.
Make frosting fresh and frost (and sugar) when cookies reach room temp.

A few color suggestions for sugar cookie frosting and sugar sprinkles:

Pink -- St. Valentine's Day, Laetare Sunday, Gaudete Sunday
Red -- Pentecost and any Feasts of Jesus' Passion and Precious Blood (like Corpus Christi), feasts of the Cross, feasts of apostles and martyrs
Purple -- Lent and Advent
Blue -- Marian Feast Days
White -- Angel feast days

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Foods for St. Joseph's Altar

I should have posted this a few months ago, to give ideas to people planning to host a St. Joseph Altar, as it is a large undertaking. And even a few days ago would have been better timing, but you can't argue with a virus that hits the family, so today is the best I can do. I can't let the Solemnity of St. Joseph go by without sharing this wonderful tradition, and a few recipes attached to it, and next year there will be information ready-at-hand.

The Solemnity of St. Joseph is such a special feast day during Lent. Besides being a patron of the Universal Church, of fathers, of families, and so many other patronages, he is also one of the most beloved saint of Sicilians, Italians, and Italian-Americans. One way this devotion is displayed through the tradition of tavola di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph's Table or Altar).

The origin of the St. Joseph Altar comes from a legend that there was a great famine in Sicily many years ago. Things were so bad that the main staple to keep people alive was the Fava Bean, used mainly for cattle fodder. The people prayed to St. Joseph to intercede for the end of the famine, and their prayers were answered. And in thanksgiving, a huge celebration was held, with wealthy families hosting huge buffets, inviting all, especially the poor and sick. A form of this celebration has continued for years as the St. Joseph Table, or St. Joseph Altar.

Be sure to visit to the Virtual St. Joseph Altar. This is a beautiful tribute to St. Joseph, imitating a real St. Joseph Altar with different offerings in memory of departed family and friends. The site is full of information on the history of the Altar, recipes, coloring pages including a 3D Cut and Color Virtual St. Joseph Altar.

For further reading, I highly recommend a most beautiful book that shares full-color photographs of Altars around the United States, includes the ritual, symbolism, stories, recipes, and prayers, St. Joseph's Altars by Kerri McCaffety.

Since this is a food blog, now a little about the foods on a typical St. Joseph Altar. For details on the food symbolism, see
St. Joseph's Table: An Age-Old Tradition
and St. Joseph Altars.

There are three tiers of tables, representing the Trinity and the three members of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, with a statue or painting of St. Joseph or the Holy Family placed on top. The foods on the table are varied, and not limited to the typical symbolic foods listed below:

Traditional Breads in symbolic shapes: lilies, sandals, ladder, saw, hammer, nail, beard, ladder, and cane or staff of St. Joseph; cross, palm, wreaths symbolizing Jesus; artichokes; grapes; twists (some pictures and ideas have been previously posted here).

Symbolic Pastries, usually inedible with fig: Monstrance; chalice; cross; dove; lambs; fish; Bible; hearts.

Fava Bean: As mentioned above, the fava bean was the sustaining food for the families of Sicily. They considered themselved blessed or "lucky" to have the fava bean to survive, so the dried fava bean is now considered the "lucky bean". There are dishes that incorporate the fava bean, and it is given as a token of the St. Joseph Altar. It is a reminder to pray to St. Joseph.

Mudica: Over Pasta Milanese (see below) browned and seasoned bread crumbs are sprinkled representing the sawdust of St. Joseph, the carpenter.

Pignolatti: Fried pastry in pine cone shapes, reminders of the pine cones Jesus played with as a child.

Twelve Whole Fish: These fish represent the twelve apostles or the miracle of loaves and fishes. The Altar is not limited to just the 12 fish, as there are many dishes of shellfish and seafood, particularly Baked Red Snapper.

Pupaculova: Bread baked with dyed Easter eggs reminding of the close approach of Easter.

Wine: Miracle of Cana

Grapes, Olive Oil and Olive Salad, and Dried Figs: All these are reminders of vineyards and orchards of Sicily

Although a solemnity, which is one of the highest feasts of the year means no fasting or abstaining, typically the Altar is meat free. There are many different cakes, breads, pastries, and cookies, including St. Joseph's Sfinge or Cream Puffs, rice fritters, Zeppole, Osso di Morto, biscotti, pizelle, anise cookies, and cannoli, to name a few. Frittata or Omelets full of vegetables, and stuffed artichokes play a large role.

Besides the links above, I had compiled a page for St. Joseph's Altars for more information and recipes. Below are a few recipes I wanted to highlight this year:
Pasta Milanese

3 medium onions, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 (2 oz.) cans anchovies
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 (18 oz.) can tomato puree
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1/2 cups water
salt, pepper, and sugar to taste
1/2 teaspoon oregano
4-5 fresh basil leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 small bunch fresh fennel
1 can macaroni seasoning with sardines (Pasta Con Sarde available from Italian speciality stores)
Cooked spaghetti pasta

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, sauté onions in oil until clear; add anchovies. Fry slowly. Add tomato paste, tomato puree, tomato sauce, water, salt, pepper, sugar, oregano, and basil. Wash fennel and chop finely; add to sauce. Simmer uncovered on low to moderate heat for 1 hour. Add undrained can of macaroni seasoning with sardines. Cover and continue cooking over moderate heat another hour until thick.

Serve over pasta.

The traditional topping for Pasta Milanese is made using stale Saint Joseph's bread. Hard bread is grated into fine crumbs and browned in a skillet then mixed with a little sugar and sometimes a pinch of cinnamon.
Another type of pasta special to the St. Joseph Altar:
Pasta with Honey

1 lb. thin spaghetti or millerighe macaroni
3 cups toasted breadcrumbs
1 cup honey
3 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon sugar

Cook spaghetti (or macaroni) according to directions. DO NOT ADD SALT. Drain thoroughly. Place on a large platter well separated to prevent sticking together. Add toasted breadcrumbs and mix well. Let stand until cool. Heat honey, water and sugar until well blended. Pour over pasta and mix well. (From Mrs. J. Occhino in St. Joseph's Table Recipes)
I already mentioned in a previous post how much I'm enjoying Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans by Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker. The New Orleans area has many beautiful St. Joseph Altars, and this cookbook shared several recipes used for these altars, including Fig Cakes, Italian Seed Cookies, and Ursuline Academy Anise Cookies. The one I'm sharing here is for stuffed artichokes, a unique recipe because there are no bread crumbs for the stuffing -- a bonus for those with gluten or wheat free diets.
Stuffed Artichokes alla Scilian
(Makes 2 servings)

1 artichoke
1 head (about 12 cloves) garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 lemon, sliced
3 to 4 cups water

Cut stem off artichoke and trim 1/2 inch off top of leaves. Open and spread the leaves as much as possible. Wash under faucet. Turn upside down and drain 10 minutes. Mix remaining ingredients except olive oil, lemon and water in a large bowl. Salt artichokes lightly. Spread artichoke leaves and pack stuffing between them. Pour 1 teaspoon olive oil on top of artichokes and top with lemon slice. Place artichoke upright in a pot with a tight lid. Pour 3 to 4 cups water in pot, cover, and simmer over low heat about 45 minutes. Add more water if necessary. When a leaf is easily removed, the artichoke is done. Season with additional lemon if desired.

May St. Joseph bless you and your family, and any St. Joseph Altar, big or small you may visit or participate. Pin It

St. Joseph Salad

The Catholic Cuisine Category for St. Joseph already has a few ideas for foods for his feast days. I thought I would add one more very simple one.

Twelve Months of Monastery Salads: 200 Divine Recipes for All Seasons by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette is another cookbook that I use for inspiration as a break from the "same-old" salads. He makes simplicity elegant with his French touch in the kitchen. This salad is simple and delicious.

Brother Victor explains why this salad is named after St. Joseph. This passage continually inspires me in my own cooking throughout the Liturgical Year:
The monastic calendar, like the secular one, is repeated year after year. It waits for no one and always arrives on time. It is based on the seasons of the liturgy and provides us daily occasion to remember God's friends and our intercessors, the saints. No one should be surpised, then, that so many recipes bear a saint's name. This is completely natural to me, for each day I think of and pray to the saint whose memory is kept on that date. I keep continual company with the Mother of God and the saints, and I am inspired by their words and examples.

Someone once asked me if there was a special mystical meaning in my recipes that bear the names of saints. Ther person thought the recipe was the creation of the saint for whom it was inscribed. She was later mystified, and almost disappointed, by my simple response. I told her that there were many ways of honoring the saints and keeping their memories alive. One of my ways was to name recipes after them, so that others might think of and remember their legacies.
St. Joseph Salad
(makes 6 servings)

1/2 pound baby spinach
1 small head radicchio, shredded
18 cherry tomatoes
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into wedges
2 shallots, finely chopped

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

1. To assemble the salads, in a large salad bowl, toss together the spinach and radicchio until well combined and divide equally among 6 salad plates. Arrange the cherry tomatoes and egg wedges attractively on top. Sprinkle the shallots over everythere.

2. Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together in a measuring cup or small bowl until thickened and pour evenly over each of the salads. Serve immediately. Pin It

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pistachio Mallow Salad for St. Patrick's Day

Even though this recipe is in no way typical Irish fare, it still made a nice addition to our St. Patrick's Day menu today... At least it is green! ;) It was delicious, but not too sweet, and quite simple to prepare.

Pistachio Mallow Salad
Source: All Recipes

1 (16 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant pistachio pudding mix
6 drops green food coloring (optional)
3 cups miniature marshmallows
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
1/2 cup chopped pistachios or walnuts (I omitted these)

In a large bowl, combine whipped topping, pudding mix and food coloring if desired. Fold in the marshmallows and pineapple. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Just before serving, sprinkle with nuts. Enjoy!

Serves 12.

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"I am the bread of life..."

I love making this bread recipe from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It's very easy and after a couple of times the long directions don't seem nearly as daunting. Here is the recipe with my tweaks in italics. I know this recipe is long and seems so confusing but just doing it a couple times makes it very simple. I actually don't own this book yet, and am hoping to get it for a birthday gift from my husband. I have heard there are some great variations of this recipe, including a whole wheat loaf which I would love to make. I love that I know the bread my family is eating when I make this is free of preservatives and it tastes so fresh. I also think this a very special thing to make during Lent to symbolize the Last Supper and Jesus' sacrifice for us of His body which He offers to us as the bread of life.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, "Take and eat; this is my body."
- Matthew 26:26

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."
- John 6:35

Artisan Bread

Preparation time: 15 minutes to prepare enough dough for four loaves, to be baked over four days. Each daily loaf will average 5 minutes of active preparation time. Makes four 1-pound loaves.

3 cups lukewarm water (about 100º F)
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
6 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour (no need to sift)
Cornmeal for the pizza peel (I don't use this)

1. In a 5-quart bowl, mix the yeast, water and salt. Add all the flour, then use a wooden spoon to mix until all ingredients are uniformly moist. It is not necessary to knead or continue mixing once the ingredients are uniformly moist. This will produce a loose and very wet dough.

2.Cover with a lid (not airtight). Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse, about 2 hours, but no more than 5 hours.

3. After rising, the dough can be baked immediately, or covered (non completely airtight) and refrigerated up to 14 days. The dough will be easier to work with after at least 3 hours refrigeration.

4. On baking day, prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal (I don't have a pizza peel so I prep my loaf on a plastic cutting board and then let it rest as below on a small square of parchment paper which is covered with flour and that parchment paper and dough sits on a small plastic cutting board. I also don't use cornmeal because my loaf sticks to the parchment paper which when I stick it into the oven slides right off the small cutting board as one unit onto a cookie sheet already in the oven.) to prevent the bread from sticking when you transfer it to the oven. Uncover the dough and sprinkle the surface with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough (serrated knives are best). Store the remaining dough in the bowl and refrigerate for baking at another time.

Note my small green cutting board (Target $1 section purchase which I use all the time) under the parchment paper with the dough on it. I use the cutting board as a sliding vehicle that the parchment paper slides off of onto the cookie sheet in the oven.

5. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won't stick. Create a smooth ball of dough by gently pulling the sides down around to the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. While shaping, most of the dusting flour will fall off. The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out during resting and baking. Shaping the loaf this way should take no more than 1 minute.

6.Place the dough on the pizza peel. Allow the loaf to rest for about 40 minutes. It does not need to be covered. The bread may not rise much during this time.

7. Twenty minutes before baking, place a pizza stone on the center rack of the oven. If you don't have a baking stone, use another baking sheet (this is what I do, just an old cookie sheet). Remove any upper racks. Place a broiler pan on a rack below the pizza stone or on the floor of the oven. Preheat oven to 450 F.

8. When the dough has rested for 40 minutes, dust the top liberally with flour, then use a serrated knife to slash a 1/4-inch-deep cross or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top (during Lent or always you could make this the shape of a cross instead of an "x" to signify Jesus' sacrifice for us on the cross)

9. Slide the loaf off the peel and onto the baking stone. Quickly but carefully pour 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door.

10. Bake for about 30 minutes (I usually only cook 25-27 minutes), or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. Allow the bread to cool completely, preferably on a wire cooling rack.

This post was written by Robina, at Motherly Loving, and submited for publication here at Catholic Cuisine. Thank you Robina!

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Friday, March 13, 2009

St. Joseph Sfinge (Cream Puffs)

There is a traditional Italian dessert for the Feast of St. Joseph, celebrated on March 19, called St. Joseph's Sfinge. It is a large cream puff, filled with a delicious cheese filling and topped with a cherry.

There are many recipes that can be found for St. Joseph's Sfinge, but I have decided to try the one suggested in my most treasured liturgical year cookbook, Cooking for Christ: The liturgical year in the kitchen, by Florence Berger.

She suggests for mothers to: "Let the children help with the cream puffs. Nothing is quite so dramatic in the oven. I was always timid about trying anything so fancy, but they are really not difficult."

It sounds like fun! I am looking forward to making these with my children in honor of this great saint.

St. Joseph Sfinge (Cream Puffs)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 pound butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel Filling
Boil water and butter. Add flour and salt. Keep stirring until mixture leaves side of pan or forms a ball in the center. Cool. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add sugar and grated peel. Drop tablespoonfuls of dough every three inches on a greased cookie sheet, or fill muffin tins half full. Bake in a hot oven (400°) for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°, and continue baking until light brown. Remove from oven. Open puff in the center of top to let steam escape. Cool and fill with:
  • 1 pound cottage cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • Sugar to taste
  • 18 maraschino cherries
  • 1/2 cup glazed orange peel
Mix cottage cheese with chocolate and orange rind. Add flavoring, milk and sugar to taste. Beat until smooth and custard-like. Fill puffs. Chill until ready to use. Before serving, top with cherry and orange peel.

This recipe makes about 18 cream puffs. Pin It

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Shamrock Mint Cupcakes

Here is a fun and easy recipe for Shamrock Cupcakes in honor of St. Patrick's Day.


Shamrock Mint Cupcakes
Recipe Source: Pillsbury

  • 1 box (1 lb 2.25 oz) chocolate fudge cake mix with pudding
  • Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box
  • 1 cup creme de menthe or mint baking chips (from 10-oz bag)
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 container (12 oz) fluffy white whipped frosting
  • 24 large green gumdrops


Heat oven to 350°F. Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups. In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, oil and eggs with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds; beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in baking chips. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full.

Bake 21 to 26 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely, about 45 minutes.

Stir peppermint extract into frosting until well blended; spread on cupcakes. To garnish each cupcake, cut 1 gumdrop into 4 slices. Place 3 rounds on cupcake to make shamrock leaves; press remaining round into thin strip and place below leaves for stem.

The shamrocks could also be made from green M&M's, or green maraschino cherries cut in half!

"Good St. Patrick traveled far, to teach God's Holy Word and when he came to Erin's sod, a wondrous thing occurred. He plucked a shamrock from the earth and held it in His hand to symbolize the Trinity that all might understand. The first leaf for the Father, and the second for the Son, the third leaf for the Holy Spirit, all three of them in one."

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Lenten Tacos or Tostados

When people ask me what is the best in-print liturgical cookbook, my unhesitating answer is A Continual Feast by Evelyn Vitz. The book encompasses the Liturgical Year, seasonal foods, and daily sacramental living and family celebrations. Besides a wide variety of recipes, the text is inviting and informative with information about Catholic traditions.

It seems my interest in recipes does change over time, so I find myself pulling out cookbooks and rereading them with new eyes. I'm always pleasantly surprised to find new recipes to try. The following is so easy, but just is so perfect for our meatless Fridays. I kept thinking, "Now why didn't I think of that?" We love tacos, and it seems those taco shells can cover a lot of dislikes for my children.

Lenten Tacos or Tostados

Also known as Tacos or Tostadas di Vigilia

Both tacos and tostadas are prepared for Lent in the ways described below. (They might also be eaten on Fridays: the term vigilia in Spanish refers to meatless days--days of "vigil"--in general.)

6 1/2- or 7-ounce can tuna, preferably packed in olive oil (Italian brand best)
2-3 tablespoons peeled green chilies, chopped (or small can of chopped chilies) (optional)
2 tablespoons wine vinegar

TOPPING (any or all of these):
Chopped cucumber
Wedges of avocado
Chopped tomato
Shredded lettuce
Mexican Tomato Sauce (see below), or use store-bought taco sauce

I'd also add the following options for toppings:
Chopped black olives
Chopped green chilis, if not included in the tuna
Chopped hardboiled egg
Grated cheese
Sour cream
Maybe even refried beans?

Flake the tuna into a bowl, mixing in the olive oil as well. (If your tuna is packed in water, drain it carefully, and when you flake the tuna into the bowl, add 1 tablespoon olive oil.)
Add the chilies and vinegar.

Serve on tostadas, or in tacos, with various toppings.

Yield: 6 tacos or tostadas

Mexican Tomato Sauce
(Salsa Cruda)

1 medium tomato, unpeeled, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 canned serrano chilies, or other fresh hot chilies, chopped
Salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Pinch of sugar
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh green coriander (cilantro)

Optional: Few tablespoons cold water

Mix all the ingredients in a blender until well mixed, but not too smooth. Serve as soon as possible: this sauce is best when very fresh.
Yield: about 1 1/4 cups sauce Pin It

Irish Beef and Guinness Stew

With St. Patrick's Day coming up in less than a week, I thought I would take a second to share the recipe for our favorite Irish Beef Stew.

Irish Beef and Guinness Stew

  • 2 pounds lean beef stew meat
  • 3 tbs vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 tbs all-purpose flour
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups Guinness stout beer (or other Irish Stout)
  • 2 cups carrot, cut into chunks
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 tbs fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)


Trim the meat of any fat, cut into 2 inch cubes, and toss them in a bowl with 1 tbs of the vegetable oil. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. Toss the meat in the mixture to coat.

Heat the remaining oil in a deep pan over medium-high heat. Add the beef, and brown on all sides. Add the onions and crushed garlic. Stir the tomato paste into a small amount of water (to dilute); pour into the pan, stir to blend, cover and cook gently (reduce heat if necessary) for about 5 minutes.

Pour 1/2 cup of the beer into the pan, and as it begins to boil, scrape any bits of food from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. This adds a lot of flavor to the broth. Pour in the rest of the beer, and add the carrots and thyme. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Yields: Six to Eight Servings

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!
St. Patrick's Day Blessing Upon You!

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Irish Soda Bread

That much-loved Feast Day, St. Patrick's Day, is just around the corner now. I used to think that St. Patrick's Day was a waste -- a waste of good beer dyed green (well, maybe not so good), and a waste of good time spent doing obnoxious things in the name of a beloved saint. Now I just sit back and giggle that a whole lot of secular people are celebrating a religious feast day. I'm not sure if St. Patrick is giggling with me.

Since we celebrate so many feast days with food in our house, it's no surprise that we feast on St. Patrick's Day as well. I haven't firmed up the dinner menu yet (maybe a lovely Shepherd Pie), but I know that this well-loved bread will be on the table. I can't say for certain that this particular recipe is really very Irish (because I'm not Irish at all). Heck, it was just a year ago that I found out that Corned Beef and Cabbage doesn't have any roots at all in the Emerald Isle. But, we love the taste and the texture, and because it's not a yeast bread, it's very quick to make. I enjoy it all year 'round. Besides being great with supper, it's a treat at tea time, with some butter and jam, and it's something yummy on Saturday morning as you're running out the door. If the kids are not fond of caraway seeds, you can leave them out, but that's my favorite part!

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/4 cup butter, cold
1 T. caraway seeds
1 cup raisins
1½ cups buttermilk
1 egg
1 T. half and half or milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
Using pastry cutter, or your fingers, cut in butter until crumbly.
Stir in raisins and caraway seeds.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk and egg.

Stir until combined.
If dough is too dry, add buttermilk by the tablespoonful until it holds together.
It should resemble rough biscuit dough.
Press dough into a round, dome-shaped loaf.
Place loaf on prepared baking sheet.
Brush loaf with milk or half & half.
Press a cross into the top with a sharp knife or bench knife.
Sprinkle with caraway seeds if desired.

Bake until loaf is deep golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean,
about 60 minutes. Cool on a rack.

When completely cool, wrap with plastic wrap.

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Friday, March 6, 2009


I would like to interrupt the wonderful Lenten posts to remind everyone of an upcoming feast near and dear to my heart.

The Saint Patrick's Day feast almost always lands toward the end of Lent when the fasting and mortifications have become habitual and we are, perhaps, longing for an opportunity to celebrate the lives of one of our great saints.

Patrick was not, in fact, Irish but rather born of a wealthy Roman family. His name was Succat and in his youth he was abducted by Irish brigands and forced into slavery on the Emerald Isle. Patrick prayed faithfully for an opportunity to escape and eventually God led him away from his captors to safety. After studying to become a priest Patrick was sent back to Ireland as a bishop to convert the pagans. This he did with great success and become so beloved in the process that very few people even remembered that Patrick was not Irish. Those that knew did not care, at heart he was a true son of Eire. He loved the people and took their conversion to heart. Patrick died in 461 and his work lived on long beyond his life.

Such a great Saint deserves a little celebration right? So substitute another penance and indulge a little.

Your penance could be green beer. I never understood the appeal of that particular concoction. A Black and Tan, some Guinness, even a long tall Killian's is acceptable, encouraged even since beer is a most noble beverage. However the true drink of the day is that liquid amber, that ambrosia of Eire....whiskey.

The custom of imbibing alcohol on St. Patrick's Day comes from an old Irish legend. As the old story goes, St. Patrick was served a measure of whiskey that was much less than full. St. Patrick took this as an opportunity to teach a lesson of generosity to the innkeeper by telling him that in his cellar resided a monstrous devil who fed upon his dishonesty. The devil was large and bloated. In order to banish the devil, the innkeeper must change his ways. Sometime later St. Patrick returned to the hostelry and he found the owner generously filling the patrons' glasses to overflowing. He returned to the cellar with the innkeeper to find the devil emaciated and starved from the landlord's generosity. St. Patrick promptly banished the demon, proclaiming thereafter everyone should have a drop of the "hard stuff" on his feast day. This custom is known as Pota Phadraig or Patrick's Pot. The custom is known as "drowning the shamrock" because it is customary to float a leaf of the plant in the whiskey before downing the shot.( Paraphrased from Saint Patrick's Day History by Peggy Trowbridge)

It would be a shame not to imbibe in the good stuff in honor of the great man on his feast day. In my house we are fans of Jameson's a good Catholic whiskey, but there are several good ones available.

Another traditional libation is Irish Coffee. This is a wonderful close to a meal with friends.

Irish Coffee

2/3 part freshly brewed coffee
1/3 part Irish whiskey
2 tsps brown sugar
lightly whipped cream

Into a stemmed glass, put two teaspoonfuls of sugar, preferably brown; add one-third Irish Whiskey and two-thirds really hot, really strong black coffee, preferably freshly brewed, not instant. The glass should be filled with this mixture to within half an inch (1cm) of the brim. Stir well at this point to ensure all of the sugar is dissolved, and then carefully float over the back of a spoon a collar of lightly-whipped cream, so that the cream floats on the top of the coffee and whiskey. Do not stir any more. Serve the drink without a spoon or a straw, as part of the pleasure comes from sipping the hot coffee and whiskey through the cool cream.

A feminine cocktail...

Dublin Handshake
1/2 oz Baileys Irish cream
1/2 oz Irish whiskey
3/4 oz Sloe gin
Combine in shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into rocks glass with ice.

Of course, a Baileys on the rocks is always very pleasant.

What's a good drink without a good toast? You can not beat the Irish for a toast so here is one for your feast day.

Saint Patrick was a gentleman,
Who through strategy and stealth,
Drove all the snakes from Ireland,
Here’s a toasting to his health.
But not too many toastings
Lest you lose yourself and then
Forget the good Saint Patrick
And see all those snakes again.

'Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!'
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Meatless Meals for Lent Using Beans

Meatless meals on Fridays during Lent are not a problem for my family – we are very fortunate that our parish has a meatless dinner followed by the Stations of the Cross every Friday during Lent. Despite this, we enjoy many meatless meals throughout the year, as I have found it to be a real money-saver. I also have been made aware in the past year or so that the meatless Fridays obligation was not actually removed… if we do not refrain from eating meat on Fridays, we are supposed to substitute another sacrifice. So, seeing as I was already making at least two meatless dinners a week, I have begun to plan one of those meals for Fridays.

Here are two of our favorite, relatively easy, and healthy bean recipes:

Bean Chalupas

This makes three full-size chalupas (two tortillas each). Younger children may only eat half of a whole chalupa.

1 can pinto beans (can cook dry beans instead if desired)
Cumin to taste
Cilantro to taste
6 whole grain flour tortillas
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 avocado, thinly sliced
¾ cup cheddar, shredded
¾ cup Monterey jack, shredded

Optional toppings:
Sour cream
Shredded lettuce
Diced red bell pepper
Sliced black olives

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook each tortilla for a few minutes on both sides. Make sure to watch them carefully as they can burn easily, especially when cooking the second side (you may find that it helps to add more oil for each tortilla). Set aside. You can also proceed to the next step if you are able to keep an eye on the tortillas as well.

Drain most of the liquid from the can of beans. Heat beans on the stove, then mash to make a paste. Season with cumin and cilantro. Place three tortillas on a large baking sheet and divide the bean mixture evenly onto each tortilla, spreading it to the edges. Top with tomatoes, avocado, and cheese. Bake in a 375 degree oven for seven minutes. This time can be used to either cook the remaining three tortillas or to prepare the toppings.

Top each chalupa with remaining tortillas and return to the oven for an additional two minutes. Add desired toppings and enjoy!

Toddler Tip: These can be hard for little mouths to handle if they are made too thickly. I try to make one with a much thinner layer of beans, tomatoes, and cheese so that my little one can eat it more easily. If it is thin enough, you may be able to cut it into wedges like a quesadilla. I usually use a pizza wheel to cut it into small pieces that she can pick up with a fork. My husband and I cut them up with serrated steak knives, which seem to work better on the crispy tortilla than a table knife.

Red Beans and Rice

This is a recipe that my mother used to make on Fridays during Lent. It is very easy and uses simple ingredients. We like to have cornbread on the side.

½ lb. Dry red beans
¼ cup chopped onion
1 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Cilantro
1 cup uncooked rice (we use brown rice)
Shredded cheddar (as much as desired!)
Sour cream, if desired

Rinse, sort, and soak beans according to package directions. Once beans have completed soaking, place them in a pot with approximately three cups of water. Add the onions and seasonings and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer, covered, at least 1 – 1 ½ hours. Check the water every so often and add more water if it begins to get low.

Cook the rice according to package directions so that it will be ready at about the same time as the beans. Serve the beans over the rice and top with cheese and sour cream if desired. This makes 4 generous servings.

And an easy meatless lunch idea… top a layer of tortilla chips with a can of drained black beans. Add cheeses, olives, tomatoes, salsa, and bake for just a few minutes in the oven to make nachos!

I hope these ideas make plain ol’ beans sound a bit more appealing!

This post was written by Erin at Growing my Girls for publication here at Catholic Cuisine. Thank you Erin!

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Polish Sugar Cookies

You may have noticed that there are quite a few Polish saints on the liturgical calendar. Today's feast of St. Casimir is just one of many. I keep this cookie recipe in my cookbook for just such a feast day. These are a crisp, light cookie (think lemon snickerdoodle), and they would be a perfect tea time treat, as well as a perfect companion to some lemon sherbet or vanilla ice cream for dessert. The first time I made them, I was out of vanilla (I know -- a serious baker's sin), so I substituted 1/2 t. lemon extract. I intended to make them the next time with vanilla, but we loved those lemon cookies so much, I never did try vanilla.

Lemon Polish Sugar Cookies

1 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar, plus extra for rolling
3 egg yolks
1/2 t. lemon extract (or 1 t. vanilla)
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cream sugar and butter.
Add egg yolks and vanilla (or lemon extract).
Add flour, baking soda and cream of tartar.
Mix until well combined -- dough will be stiff.
Pinch off dough and roll into 1-inch balls.
Roll in granulated sugar.
Place on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake until set, not brown, for 10-12 minutes.

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