A Festival of Firegrilled Flatbread

Here’s another one so easy that I can barely call it a recipe.

  1. Heat up the grill.
  2. Make a batch of quick thin-crust pizza dough (we were very hungry after a day of creek trekking, so I made a batch and a half).
  3. Stretch out dough into 2-4 circles.  Brush with olive oil.  Grill 3-4 minutes/side.
  4. Cut flatbreads into wedges.
  5. Serve with toppings, such as:
  • Shredded cheese
  • Goat cheese crumbles
  • Teeny Tiny Taco Topping
  • Flavored cream cheese
  • Mushrooms in olive oil and thyme
  • Obatzda
  • Hummus
  • Black bean spread
  • Tomato salad, aka chopped tomatoes with olive oil, minced garlic and fresh basil.  I made a batch of this while the dough was resting; my kids dug into it, and then I had to make more while the pizza was on its first side; my kids dug into it, and then I had to make more while the pizza was on its other side; then I put the tomato salad on top of the refrigerator and told the children to go away until dinner was actually served.
  • Whatever bits of vegetable and meatless protein you have on hand.  This is a great way to use up leftovers.


This is so easy, I’m not even sure I can call it a recipe and still respect myself.

Remember thin crust pizza dough?

Remember Teeny Tiny Taco Topping?

Wanna know a really quick meatless Friday dinner that won’t heat up your kitchen?

  1. Have a stash of Teeny Tiny Taco Topping in your fridge.
  2. Mix up a batch of thin crust pizza dough.
  3. Heat your grill as hot as you can get it (we are spoiled brats who have a gas grill–sorry, charcoal folks).
  4. Throw your pizza crust onto your grill and wait five minutes.
  5. Flip the crust over and wait another five minutes.
  6. Bring flame-kissed crust inside and sprinkle it with cheddar cheese while it’s still warm (vegans–skip this step).
  7. Cut crust into squares and top with Teeny Tiny Taco Topping.  So quick, so easy, so not draining the cool out of your kitchen on a ninety-something day.

Catching Up With Cauliflower Curry

I just can’t get enough!  Of cauliflower curry, that is.  I’m a few Fridays behind in posting, due to weekend travel and all sorts of summery-ness.  My motto for summer cooking: if it doesn’t come out of the microwave, the grill, or the slow-cooker, we’re going out to dinner.

Slow-Cooker Cauliflower Curry
1 small head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1 small onion, sliced into super-thin rings
1 T olive oil
2 t paprika
1/2 t black pepper
1 c plain nonfat yogurt
1/3 c mayonnaise
1 t curry powder
1 t powdered ginger
1 t dried minced onion
1/2 t salt

In the crock of a slow cooker, toss cauliflower and onion with paprika, pepper, and olive oil.  Cook on high 2-3 hours or low 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally.  In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients, stirring until smooth.  About 10 minutes before serving, pour yogurt mixture over cauliflower mixture and stir to heat and combine.  This goes great with naan or on top of rice.  This should be fine with vegan mayo.  I don’t know what impact soy yogurt would have, however.

Teeny Tiny Taco Topping

Didja miss me? The Easter Season has come and gone, so it’s time to get back to work on sharing our meatless Fridays with all youse guys.

Remember back in Lent, that Word on Lunches post? We found another lunch option, now that Eldest Dumpling has boycotted meatball-free Spaghetti-os. We came up with this over Memorial Day Weekend, when plans got changed around and we didn’t have thawed meat to grill. Teeny Tiny Tacos served us well as one of our exceedingly rare dinner-on-the-couch-in-front-of-the-TV occasions.


Teeny Tiny Taco Topping

2 15oz cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 T minced garlic
1/4 c prepared salsa (mild or wild, you decide)
1/3 c lime juice
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro

Stir all ingredients together and chill at least 4 hours, overnight if you can. Serve with corn chips.

Actually, I made this to double as tonight’s dinner, served with Spanish rice, and then the leftovers can go in tomorrow’s thermoses. “Meatless dinner on a Thursday in Ordinary Time?” you ask. “What has gotten into you?” A couple of things. The novel I’m working on right now involves researching into the nastiness that is dioxin. Dioxin gets ingested by animals, stored in their fat at concentrated levels, then gets eaten by us and stored in our fat in concentrated levels… so if I’m ever eaten by a bear, that poor bear will suffer from serious dioxin poisoning. But seriously. It’s given me pause as to how often I serve my family meat. The second thing is something we learned over our Lent 2012 challenge: eating meatless isn’t as big a deal as we thought it would be.

“Sensational” Stuffed Shells and Seder Foods

Happy Passover to our Jewish friends & family! Today we celebrated this Good Friday with our Little Flowers Girls Club. Our virtue of the month is Wisdom, and our saint is St. Edith Stein, a convert from Judaism. What better way to get to know her (and how she felt led into the Catholic faith) than to take a look at the types of foods her family would have had on their seder plate when they celebrated the Passover?

First we had a quick refresher of what Passover means and why our big brothers & sisters in the faith celebrate it. We also reviewed that this was the meal Jesus shared with His disciples when He gave us the Eucharist. As I explained each symbolic food to the girls, I asked them to “find” how that same symbol shows up in our faith life as Catholics.


  • First we made the (hypoallergenic) charoset out of chopped apples, cinnamon, grape juice, and honey. This reminds us of how the Israelites had to mix things together to make the mortar they were enslaved to produce. As Christians, we remember that we are slaves to sin until we are born in Christ.
  • Next we talked about the maror (our romaine lettuce was wilting, so we dipped into our Easter horseradish early) and how it reminds us that the Israelites’ slavery was bitter and took up all of their senses—they could “taste” nothing but the bitterness.
  • Karpas: Some of the girls picked fresh parsley from our deck pots, and another mixed Kosher salt into a mug of water. Then we talked about how the parsley is green, the color of life, but the Israelites were sad about being slaves. That’s why the karpas (green vegetable) is dipped into the salt water. We missed the parallel with our baptism, but that’s probably because I didn’t think of it until now. Next year I’ll remember. Maybe.
  • Our zeroah was a beet. I explained how usually it’s a piece of roasted meat on the bone to remind us of how the Israelites sacrificed a lamb for the Passover. The lamb’s blood would sluice down into a fountain of water at the base of the temple, and the blood and water would just pour out the side of the temple during all the Passover sacrifices. I asked the girls if they could think of anything in our faith as Catholics where water came pouring out the side of anything, and one guess correctly: Jesus on the cross, when His side was pierced. So what does that make Jesus? The new temple! They got it. I was so proud.
    We also talked about how Jewish vegetarians use beets because of how their red juices remind us of the blood of sacrifice, and how we picked a beet over meat because as Catholics we do not shed animal blood on Lenten Fridays, in honor of the original Good Friday.
  • The roasted egg, or beytzah was given a visual aid boost by my middle child, who picked it up while it was still warm and promptly dropped it. Among other things, the beytzah is a reminder that the temple was destroyed, and just like an egg can’t be put back together, neither can that temple. However, Jesus is the new temple and the new sacrifice, and He rose again and can’t be destroyed!
  • Last came the matzoh, the unleavened bread that is eaten as a reminder of the speed with which the Israelites had to escape Egypyt. I showed the girls how three matzoh are placed together, and one of the girls immediately referenced the Trinity. Then I told them how the middle matzoh is broken in half—they immediately identified it with Jesus—and one piece is hidden, to be found at the end of the meal.

When all that was said, they each took helpings of the foods and sat down with cups of grape juice, and we talked about how wine plays a part in both the seder and our Mass. Then we talked about the ten plagues, each one taking away from the happiness of any innocent Egyptians who were hurt by them due to their pharaoh’s stubbornness. Then with our fingers we put ten drops of wine with our fingers for each of the plagues. Midway through, we had to make another batch of charoset. I’m a little weirded out that they also ate all the parsley. When it was time to find the afikoman, the hidden half of matzoh, I reflected on how these were little girls looking for missing bread, and how Mary Magdalen was a woman looking for her missing teacher in the garden that first Easter Sunday. I wonder if she needed as many hints to find Him as our club needed to find our afikoman–the mom who hid it was good is all I can say!

There was so much more that could have been said, because it’s such a rich experience. I’ve been blessed to have attended two seders in my life: one as a child and one as an adult. Each time I look at the seder, I learn something new about my Catholic faith. Jesus came not to abolish other religions but to fulfill them. Think of that next time you hear someone complain about how Catholics “hijacked” another faith’s celebration.

Okay, now for “Sensational Stuffed Shells


The “sensational” part is not self-congratulatory. It’s a reference to the reality that some kids have different sensory needs, and we can either write them off as “picky” or try to find foods that meet those needs. My kids have hyposensitivity, so they prefer strong flavors. This recipe was written to fit that bill.

½ lb of jumbo pasta shells, cooked
24 oz jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 pint ricotta cheese
2 c mozzarella cheese, divided
2 eggs, beaten
1 T garlic powder (feel free to reduce this and all seasonings to your liking)
2 t each of dried parsley, thyme, oregano, basil
½ t salt
generous pinch of black pepper

Let shells cool enough to handle. Pour half of sauce into the crock of your slow cooker. Combine ricotta, 1 c mozzarella, eggs, and seasonings and spoon into cooled shells. Place shells seam side up into sauce. Pour remaining sauce over all and cook on low 4 hours. About ten minutes before serving, sprinkle remaining mozzarella on top.

No spiritual significance to this meal. After planning for our seder foods, I was all significanced out.



Creamy Slow Cooker Polenta

This is one of my favorite ways of cooking:  cooking in installments.  I’ve come to the realization that I really need to get this blog organized into a more sensible format.  During the Easter season, I’m hoping to go through all the posts and recategorize them so that they are easier to find:  by cooking method, by vegan vs. seafood, etc. 

 Anyway, I guess I got off track.  Cooking in Installments is my newest category.  Here’s the first, um, installment.  Given the long stretches of time between steps, I’m not going to list the ingredients until just before the steps involving them. 

 Creamy Slow cooker Polenta

 Step 1:
2 c cornmeal
2 c tomato or vegetable juice
2 c water
½ t salt 

Combine the above in your slow cooker and heat on low for 4 hours.  Please note that Second Shift of Kid and I had this and this alone for lunch today (with the exception of adding some parmesan cheese & black pepper, and it was perfectly tasty thus).  Then we kept the rest of it on warm until about half an hour before we were expecting to eat.   

Step 2:
1 small onion, finely chopped
½ t Kosher salt
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
40 fresh sage leaves, cut into thin strips
2 T flour or cornstarch
2 c milk
Bleu cheese crumbles for garnish 

Place onion and salt in saucepan over medium-high heat and stir until onion starts to brown around the edges.  Add in butter, olive oil, and sage, stirring over medium-high heat until golden brown throughout.  Sprinkle with flour/cornstarch and stir until evenly coated.  Slowly whisk in milk and bring to a low boil, simmering 3-5 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Stir Step 2 sauce into the slow cooker polenta.  Serve topped with optional bleu cheese crumbles. 

If you skip the “eating some for lunch” step, please take into consideration that your end result will be thicker than ours, but you can always add more milk, water, or vegetable juice if you’d like your polenta looser.  To veganize, just use rice milk, skip the cheese, and use some other shortening in place of the butter.  On an unrelated note, one of my kids said about this dish that “It tastes like Buca di Beppo!”  That then led to a conversation of, “How can it taste like a building?” “I don’t think it tastes like bricks!” etc. etc.

 Basically I’ve spent the day eating little else but polenta, and I can’t complain.  I’m even kicking around the idea of putting some sweet maple polenta in the crock before I go to bed, so we have a nice warm puddingy breakfast waiting for us in the morning. 

 By the by, I’m participating in the Catholic Writers Guild “30KforChrist” this month.  More on my overall writing goals in another post, but just thought I’d share that here.  I just finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy (haven’t seen the movies yet), and the idea of being there to sing or talk someone through their death came up repeatedly.  As we head into Holy Week, I’m thinking of our words “being there” for Jesus as He heads into His passion.  They may not make it easier, but maybe we can give Him something to hold on to.