Easter Rising

I feel like I don’t know where to begin with this one.  It’s our Easter post after successfully meeting the Lent 2012 Challenge.  I had sausage pizza and soda today, wine with dinner, and a lot to think about since Mass yesterday.  The homily was about how we can either choose to find the Risen Christ, or we can keep looking at the tomb, keep saying, “They’ve taken Him and I don’t know where they’ve put Him.”  We can believe in transformative living, or we can believe that nothing will ever change, especially not that which inside of ourselves seems dead. 

I’ve been trying to practice searching for Him instead of staring at the empty tomb.  Instead of thinking that I’ll never have the time or energy or willpower to live the life I want to offer to Christ, I have been looking for new life–His life, hiding in the garden.  It’s not hard to find right now, in Spring.  He’s in the garden of the silly giggles of my youngest.  He’s in the garden of my husband’s determination to power through a day of work and a night of yet more work while battling a sore throat.  He’s in the garden of creativity that my older kids display when performing a well-rehearsed “Easter show” in our basement (it was mostly special effects–pretty awesome). He’s in the trees that bloom along the highway.  He’s in the Eucharist I can hide within myself as strive to carry it to others. 

I had better not be a tomb.  I had better be a garden. 

Speaking of people who are gardens and rise again in our own lives, my best friend from college shared with us her mom’s recipe for pineapple filling.  She gave this to us years ago, shortly before her mom was diagnosed with the brain tumor that eventually passed her from this life to the next.  This recipe has since become an Easter favorite.  Please enjoy it and remember to pray for those souls who are in God’s purifying care. 

Peg’s Pineapple Filling

12 slices of white bread
1 large can of crushed pineapple, undrained
1/2 c butter (veganize with margarine)
1/2 c sugar
4 eggs

Coat a 9X11 baking pan with cooking spray, and preheat your oven to 350F (or you can cook this alongside your ham, as we usually do).  Cut bread into cubes.  In a large bowl, mix remaining ingredients and fold in bread cubes.  Pour all into coated baking pan and bake at 350F for 60 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. 

Now that it’s the Easter Season, I am going to take a hiatus from blogging.  The Lent 2012 Challenge was great.  Now I am looking forward to some other projects.  First I have two First Eucharist dresses to sew by early May.  In the meanwhile, I have a large writing project I’m hoping to have completed by July 1, followed by another I’d like to have mailed to the publisher by November 1.  I’ll be back with more Meatless Fridays and Wednesday Desserts after Pentecost!

Holy Saturday Forenoon

We had a lovely slowcooker meal planned for Holy Saturday supper, out last Lenten hurrah. Thusly:

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
1 pound can of refried beans
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 c shredded carrots
1 c frozen peas
3c mashed potatoes (we like garlic mashed for this)
Optional toppings: shredded cheese, parsley, chives, paprika, etc

In crock of slow cooker, combine first 4 ingredients. Cover with mashed potatoes, smoothed to edges. Cook on low 3-4 hours. Top as desired.

So after we has this a-crocked, I remembered my dad saying how every Holy Saturday they would have hamburgers for lunch…wait, lunch? A web search revealed that the 1945 fasting rules said to keep the Lenten fast through “forenoon Holy Saturday.”. See, even God wanted us to make sure our Easter cooking started on Saturday, and He wanted us to taste it first for quality. God is good.

Stay tuned for a wrap-up and an Easter recipe!


“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.



Spaghetti & S’meat Sauce

Also known as…

Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese

Approximately 1 lb of seitan, already cooked in broth
1 T olive oil
1 T palm shortening (confession:  I used butter, which made ours less than vegan)
1 sm onion, finely chopped
1 large green or red bell pepper, chopped
1 T minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 24oz jar of spaghetti sauce (use your own if you’re a better person than I am)
1 tsp each of dried parsley, basil, oregano & thyme
pinch of black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar

In a food processor, finely chop the seitan until it resembles ground beef, and set aside.  Combine oil and shortening in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and sautee onion and pepper until softened.  Add seitan, garlic, and salt, and sautee over medium high heat approximately 2-3 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a low boil.  Reduce heat to lowest setting and let simmer at least 20 minutes or until you are ready to serve.  Serve over spaghetti. 

I think this is my favorite seitan meal so far, and it seemed to go over with the family as well.  Seconds were provided and we didn’t have leftovers.  This was our meal before heading out to Holy Thursday Mass.  First Shift of Kids is preparing for First Eucharist, and in our parish those are the kids who get their feet washed.  It was pretty amazing to see our children experience that part of the liturgy first hand.  It was also a long, long night for a passle of second graders to power through, but power through they did. 

And now it’s time to prepare for the home stretch!

Burying the Dead

It’s Spy Wednesday, which is a term that I’ve heard occasionally through the years but never really focused on  until today.  Today is when we remember the betrayal of Judas.  I find it interesting that the straw that broke the Judas’ back seems to have been an extravagant and apparently meaningless gift to Jesus via the woman with the alabaster jar.  Oh, the things we’ll do for money, saying we want it for “the poor” when really we just mean ourselves. 

I’ve heard Judas called the first bishop gone bad.  What amazes me is that, unless I have this wrong, Judas made up his mind a day before his ordination to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew this.  Jesus… ordained him anyway? What the what?  It’s a reminder that it doesn’t matter how much sacramental grace Christ dumps on your heart; if your heart’s not open, you won’t catch a drop of it.  We must participate in grace, with grace, and through grace.  There is no other way to The Way. 

Today we finished our Corporal Works of Mercy by actually burying the dead.  The father of middle child’s godmother passed away, and today was his funeral.  I did not debrief the kids much on the experience.  I probably should have, but I kinda whimped out and hoped that the experience would speak to them more than words could have.  All I really did was, when it was our turn to say goodbye at the casket, lead them in saying, “Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.  May the divine assistance remain with us always, and may the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace, amen.”  That’s probably the next set of prayers to teach. 

The funeral luncheon was so filling, and the running around afterwards was so extensive, that we just ended up picking up hoagies and such for our dinner.  No recipe tonight.  Please pray for my friend’s dad, her family & his loved ones.

Chickpea Rice Pilaf

Fast, cheap and easy.  I hope nobody thinks, “You are what you eat.” 

Our Favorite Chickpea Rice Pilaf
1 T olive oil
1 T butter (or vegan-friendly spread)
1 sm onion, finely chopped
1 c jasmine rice
1 c chopped vegetables (we’ll be using carrots, green peppers & celery
1 15oz can of chickpeas, rinsed & drained
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp each dried parsley, basil and thyme
2 1/2 c vegetable stock

In a large saucepan, melt oil and butter together over medium-high.  Add onion, rice, and vegetables, and stir over medium heat until rice is golden brown.  Add chickpeas, seasonings and stock, and cover immediately.  Reduce heat to low and leave covered for twenty minutes.

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.

Palm Sunday, Palm Shortening

We went to vigil Mass last night and came home to fry up some fish in some palm shortening. Hence the title. I actually like these better than Long John Silver’s, and that’s saying something, coming from someone who used to take pilgrimages to go to LJS.

Beer Battered Fish

1 lb of white-fleshed fish (haddock, cod, we used tilapia), cut into six portions
2 1/4 c all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 t salt, divided
1/2 t black pepper
1 t baking powder
1 12oz bottle of beer (we used a lager–THE lager, if you know what I mean, PA peeps)
1 egg, beaten
approximately 1 q oil for frying

Place oil in a heavy skillet with sides at least 3″ high and heat until a frying thermometer reads 375F. Meanwhile, in a shallow dish toss together 1 c flour, 1 t salt and the black pepper. Dredge fish portions in this flour mixture and set aside on a rack to dry a little while you complete the next step. In another bowl, mix together 1 1/4 c flour, 1/2 t salt, 1 t baking powder, then add in beer and egg, whisking together until smooth. Making sure the oil is at temperature, dip each fish portion in the beer batter, then gently slip it into the frying oil. Fry approximately 3-4 minutes/side or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Drain on paper towels before serving.

Are you out of malt vinegar? We were. Boo! In a very small container I shook together 2 T apple cider vinegar and 1 t HP Brown sauce, and it made a more than passable substitute. Due to lack of time, we just baked up tater tots while the fish was in process. All in all, not bad.


Campfire Salmon…but without the campfire

It was rainy, cold, and we were just about out of gas for the grill.  So this is what we did.

Campfire-less Salmon
2 lb salmon fillets, cut into two equal portions
1 T olive oil
2 T lemon juice
1 T dried tarragon
salt & pepper

Preheat your broiler to high, and place the rack at the second highest setting.  Place each salmon portion skin-side down on a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil.  Rub salmon with oil and lemon juice, then sprinkle with tarragon, salt and pepper.  Wrap seasoned salmon loosely in the foil, and broil on high for 15-20 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with fork. 

You can also do this on the grill for closer to 10 minutes, or you can throw them on the coals of a campfire.  This is just how we made this salmon last Friday.

Ugly Shoes

Against You, You alone have I sinned. I have done what is evil in your eyes. –Psalm 51: 6

Second Shift of Kid put these things on my feet one morning shortly before we were heading out to a music class.


Oooh!  Minty fresh!

I was so busy that I forgot to put on more sensible less hideous shoes. I really only use these while gardening, because I can hose them off. So when we showed up at class and I looked down at my feet… I cringed, then I offered up my embarrassment. Jesus was stripped of his garments in front of a blood-thirsty audience. Wearing ridiculous shoes in order not to hurt my toddler’s feelings is nothing.

Today many bishops are calling for a day of fast and abstinence for religious freedom. I want to participate, but I’m already doing a modified fast all Lent-long (2 small meals, one moderate meal, no snacking) and abstaining from flesh meats (because it’s Friday). I’m hypoglycemic, so an outright fast while flying solo with children would be unwise. So what should I do? Am I already doing enough? Do I even need to add anything?

So I decided to wear ugly shoes.

Don’t get me wrong: I love capitalism. There are worse ways to fund a culture. The problem with captialism is that it can poison our idea of what is right versus what is wrong. In our quid pro quo culture, we have lost the idea that we could possibly sin and only hurt God by doing it. The cry among even Catholics is, “But it’s not hurting anybody! What’s the big deal?”

Now even when we try to do penance, it has to have some sort of benefit for me: “If I fast, I’ll lose weight. If I stop buying meats, I’ll have more money to give to the poor and won’t have to give up movies or whatever. If I give away my extra clothes, I’ll be more organized.” This may be why we’re having a hard time expressing why we as Catholics think that poisoning a body into malfunctioning is wrong. Life without children seems easier, less risky, and less expensive to our culture’s eyes. Where’s the immediately visible benefit to living in harmony with biological reality? There is none. It’s more expensive.

So I decided to wear ugly shoes.  I get no benefit from wearing these goshawful things. Well, St. Philip Neri got no benefit from shaving off an eyebrow or half of his beard in penance. He got stared at, and I bet I got some looks, too. These shoes won’t help me lose weight, I won’t make any money to give to the poor, and they won’t simplify my life. They will help me to remember that not everything has something for me in it. They will help me to remember that I’m not as selfless as I should be. And they will help me to pray that all of us, no matter what faith we profess, can live more in harmony with our bodies, ourselves, and each other–even in the ways we don’t see we are hurting.