I thought I didn’t like clam chowder.

It turns out I just don’t like canned clam chowder. We have two Lenten birthdays in the Mackerelsnapper household. No matter what we do, those birthdays will always be in Lent. One year when we were dating, Mr. M’s birthday fell on a Friday, so I invited him over to my apartment to make him dinner. I was just starting my cooking career, and it was so long ago that I couldn’t go to the internet to find recipes, because it was mostly AOL chat rooms and X-Files fanfic and whatnot. Anyway, I went to my trusty Betty Crocker Cookbook to find a dinner that would be easy yet elegant, romantic but not overbearing, and special enough for the agnostic steak-lover but meatless enough for me to eat alongside him.

“What is this?” he asked as I served him his dinner.

“Salmon mousse in puff pastry,” I replied, waiting for him to voice his admiration.

Salmon mousse?”  He bust out laughing. “Are you trying to kill me?”

“Kill you? What are you–? Oh! Oh no!”

::facepalm:: I never made him salmon mousse again.

Anyway, many years later, and this was another year in which his birthday fell on a Friday, only this time around he and all of our brood are Catholic. There are three ways that practicing Catholics may approach a Lenten Friday birthday.

  1. Say, “I’m sure God won’t mind if we celebrate such a special day!” and make steak.
  2. Say, “It’s Lent, and you’ll have another birthday another year. Bread and water for us sinners.”
  3. Say, “It’s Lent, but it is your birthday. Let’s break out something that is meatless but slightly luxurious.”

We went with #3. We made bread bowls directly from this recipe,though we did skip the cornmeal and egg wash bits. We also halved the recipe and shaped them into five bowls instead of four. They held up well to the hollowing-and-filling process. We filled them with clam chowder. We used this recipe as a starting off point but made a few changes, even beyond the leaving out of the bacon slices.

Clam Chowder

2 T olive oil
5 T butter, divided
2 onions, finely diced
1 8oz bottle of clam juice or 1 c clam broth (you can make that by treating clam shells like the vegetable trash in veggie stock)
2 10oz cans of minced clams, drained, juices reserved
4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 c half and half, divided
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 T flour

In a large stock pot, soften onions in olive oil and 2 T butter over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes (you want them translucent but not quite brown). Add bottled clam juice and the juice from one of the cans of clams, then add potatoes and salt. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes or until potatoes are nice and soft.

Meanwhile, pour 1/2 c of half and half into a shaker bottle and add flour and black pepper. Shake until blended and smooth.

Once potatoes are ready, add half and half, clams, remaining clam juice, and remaining butter. Heat over medium, but don’t allow it to boil. Once heated through (butter has melted), add reserved half and half/flour/pepper liquid, and stir over medium heat until thickened, reducing heat as needed to avoid boiling. Serve immediately.

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Adding the black pepper to the thickening flour & cream may just be a quirk of mine. I find that the pepper helps to break up the flour and makes for a smoother thickener, with fewer lumps to be worked out in the final product.

I made clam chowder for the Birthday Honoree, because Mr. M loves clam chowder, but I am not a fan. Or, at least I thought I wasn’t. I am, however, a fan of this stuff for sure. Next time his birthday falls on a Friday, I have even more reason not to think about making salmon mousse.

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Lent 2014: The Leftovers Lent

No, this year’s challenge is not surviving on leftovers for 40 days (though that would be interesting). I started this blog as a way to get myself back in the discipline of writing on a regular basis: just once a week, I told myself, might get me back in the daily groove. Once a week for God, and maybe that would open up enough of a crack in the door for the writing grace to walk back in and spend a little time with me. The good news is that it worked.

The bad news for this blog is that my fiction career, piddling though it may be, is demanding what spare time I have.

But it’s still Lent. I still have to cook, and we’re still going Pre-VII-style meatless. The blogging of it, however, will be extremely limited. This year will be a “best of” with a few new recipes thrown in. For instance, in the event our mint comes back enough before Easter, I really want to make samosas with mint chutney.

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For tonight, however, we’re pulling out a family favorite: Slow Roasted Potato Leek Soup.

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No, that doesn’t look slow roasted to me, either. I had to hurry things along because the slow cooker was otherwise engaged first thing this morning making a batch of veggie stock. So, if you’re in a rush, you, too, can soften your leeks in butter then soften them some more with the diced potatoes in the recipe’s 2 c veggie stock before adding it to your slow cooker.

We’re serving it with our… Homemade Beer Bread

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3 c flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 T salt
1 T sugar
120z bottle of beer
Optional: 1/4 c butter

Grease two loaf pans. Preheat oven to 400F. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and beer together and divide between loaf pans. Slice butter into pats and place on top. Bake at 400F for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

The Lent 2013 Challenge Wrap Up: “I learned something today” X 40

  1. Appreciate the time you have. Before this project, I could regularly be heard to say, “I don’t have time.” The hardest part of the Lent 2013 Challenge wasn’t going meatless. It wasn’t even surviving on $90/week for five people. The hardest thing was making a healthy meal for five different palates, all within 20 minutes. Oh, how I’ve missed making fresh pita and homemade bagels. I have a better understanding now of how very, very hard it is to avoid processed foods when your time is truly and honestly spoken for by other aspects of survival, like holding down a job… or trying to find one. 
  2. The work done by a “stay-at-home” parent has real, concrete, monetary value.
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    I’m assuming you now see how little value our culture has for a parent who stays at home instead of going out to work. Sure, we hear platitudes, “Of course you work, honey. You just don’t get a paycheck.” I already knew this going in to Lent 2013, but the work I do as a homeschooling mother is the equivalent of our family hiring a cook, laundry service, (very bad) cleaning service, three private school tuitions, private transportation… shall I go on? I save our family tens of thousands of US$ per year. Why is it that if a woman earns that much, she’s a valued employee, but if she saves that much, Google autofill describes her as a lazy, annoying, stupid leech?Just because you don’t see what you’re giving your family in terms of dollars and cents, girlfriend, your worth is beyond rubies.

  3. The domestic church is becoming more important than ever. Or, The way to evangelize the anti-Catholics may be through their stomachs. When I first started this blog over a year ago, I thought I would draw most of my readers from those Catholics who, like me, are trying to find our way back to traditions that once gave us identity and our choices greater meaning. Sure, I have a few of those visiting. What has been even more humbling and sweet to me, however, is the many (well, not many, but several) non-Catholic, even full-on-atheist vegetarian and vegan visitors who have spent a moment or more in my family’s virtual kitchen. If I had only tagged my posts “Catholic,” these people would have skipped over it as if I had tagged them “misogynistichomophobeswhopromotepedophilia.”Right?

    As Ven. Fulton Sheen said, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” No, you probably should not receive a consecrated Eucharist in which you don’t believe (if you value your integrity, anyway)… but you can come on over to my kitchen table, and I’ll feed you some love and laughter and a slow cooker of vegan black bean soup. Can you still hate me then? Can you still say I hate you? The Catholic Church is the Body of Christ on earth. The domestic church is how we can be that Body of Christ in a world hell-bent on crucifying us.

    Before you pick up those nails, though, would you like a freshly-baked pita?

  4. If you plan on doing something to care for God’s people, even if you don’t have the start-up capital, He’ll find a way to provide. When we started this Lent, it was my goal to give to our local food cupboard one of each of the tools that we used the most in our Lent 2013 challenge, paid for out of the money we saved on our new, voluntarily low budget. So, how exactly was I going to get a quality slow cooker, a microwave and a hand blender all for $70? I just shrugged and said, “God, You want these people to get small appliances? You’re going to have to provide the money, ’cause you know what we have on hand, and it ain’t much.”A few weeks later, a reader (who shall remain anonymous unless she comments and claims it) sent us $200. We went shopping tonight.
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    Tomorrow I’m taking First Shift shopping, because they decided to buy the stick blender. Okay. Gotta go get a hankie…

  5. Bloggers:  don’t ever bemoan your small audience. I’m not Jennifer. I’m not The Anchoress. Guess what? Ain’t. Even. Bovvered. By God’s grace, it just recently occurred to me, I never gave up my blogging “mission,” if you will, just because my highest number of hits in one day is 80, and that was last year. I know plenty of people who give up what they love because it’s too hard to get the attention that they want. True humility is true freedom. If you don’t need validation from others to do what you know is good and right, then there’s nothing to stop you. Which brings me to…
  6. Never say “I can’t do that. It’s too difficult,” unless your next words are, “without God’s help.”   

Lent 2013 Challenge Day 44: Good Friday Krabby Stuffed Potatoes

Outwardly, this seems luxurious for Good Friday: Seafood? Really? With white wine? When seen in the light of using stuff up in the fridge, though, hopefully the indulgence factor drops. I also based this on a family recipe that called for a can of condensed lobster bisque, but we’re aiming for from-scratch per the rules.

I had wanted to have some deep, meaningful reflections for the most solemn day of our faith year… but between choir practices and making sure Mr. M was equipped to manage a loud, squirmy preschooler through collective hours of Triduum doings… stuffed potatoes with salad it as good as it got. Humility can just show up in the form of a recipe without a reflection.

Wait. Did I just give a reflection in spite of the humility? Sheesh, you can’t even dress me up, much less take me out.

Krabby Stuffed Potatoes (prep time: 3 min + 15 minutes)

5 baking potatoes, scrubbed and baked in the slow cooker on low 6-12 hours
1 T butter
1 T flour
1 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 c white wine or vegetable stock
1 8oz can PLAIN tomato sauce
1/4 c heavy cream
1/2 c shredded sharp cheese
1/2 lb “krab” pollock seafood flakes

As your potatoes are baking in your slow cooker, melt butter over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk flour with salt and pepper. Sprinkle seasoned flour over butter, then whisk in wine/stock. Let that reduce over medium-high for about 3 minutes, then whisk in tomato sauce and cream. Once that’s all bubbly, fold in cheese and stir until melted and smooth. Fold in “krab” and heat through.

Cut potatoes open on their individual serving plates, then pour “krabby” stuffing inside.

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Speaking of humility, it tasted way better than this picture looks.

And, folks, there you have it: a meatless, cheapo Lent for 5. I shall post our obligatory “I Learned Something Today” reflection sometime soon. Stay tuned, Mackerelsnapper fans. Erm, all three of you.

OH! Gluten-free friends? Corn starch for the flour should work.

 

Lent Challenge 2013 Day 43: Bread Alone?

Ah, the Lent Challenge.  Boy, that takes me back.  All of four days ago, we were still fasting and so busy with the Triduum that it took me until Easter Monday to finish the blogging of it all. Just as our Jewish older sibs get rid of all the chometz (every single crumb of leaven) in the house heading into Passover, we thought it would be kind of meaningful to use up all the bread in our house in anticipation of Good Friday.

It's a pot! It's an oven! It's...

Slow Cooker, you’re my hero!

Slow Cooker “Quiche” (prep time:  10 minutes)

8 c cubes of leftover breads (I say “breads” because we used everything we could:  naan, pita, rolls, leftover French bread, etc.)
2 broccoli crowns
1 onion
1 c chopped celery
1 c shredded mozzarella
1/2 c parmesan cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c milk (if your “quiche” seems dry, add more milk until it is at least malleable)
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper

 

Chop broccoli stems in your food processor first, then chop the florets, to make sure they’re all chopped evenly. Then go ahead and chop your onion in there, too.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until well-mixed.  Spray your slow cooker liner with cooking spray.  Pour in “quiche” and cook on low 4-5 hours.

This makes an ENORMOUS batch.  It can be halved easily, but as this was an experiment, I don’t know how that would affect the cooking time.

Lent 2013 Challenge Day 41: On the Road Again

Yesterday our homeschool field trip club visited a museum in the city where Mr. M works.  Because of our schedule, we would be eating lunch at the museum, and all five of us would be eating dinner in the inevitable traffic jam on the way home.  Thus, I had to make all three meals for the day before leaving the house in the morning.

Breakfast was the usual:  yogurt or Instant Breakfast (depending on the kid), cereal, fresh fruit.

Lunch was hummus wraps with whole-wheat tortillas (hummus was homemade because it’s cheaper and I’m allergic to tahini; tortillas were store-bought because I can only do so much with my time).  We also brought along small Tupperware snack cups of apple sauce,  the last three juice boxes someone gave us, and a large tumbler of water for myself.

Dinner was spiral noodles and peas in cream cheese mushroom alfredo.  It was mushroom alfredo because, surprise, we were out of evaporated milk; I subbed a can of cream of mushroom soup from our emergency stash.  We gave the Tupperware microwave pasta cooker one.  last.  try. The results were passable, though they were a bit gummy and did take longer than the 9 minutes the recipe promised.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that our dinner was still hot by after 7 hours.  I made sure to preheat the Thermoses with boiling water for five minutes, then I heated a rice bag in the microwave (the kind you use for sore muscles) and placed that between all the Thermoses in a bag in our trunk.  So, the meal itself took fewer than 20 minutes to cook, but I may have gone over with the prepping of Thermoses.  Thermi?  Hm.

Lent 2013 Challenge Day 40: It ain’t over ’til the fat lady makes chili.

“Mrs. Mackerelsnapper, didn’t you know that you’re not supposed to count Sundays in the 40 days of Lent?”

I did, actually.

“Then why are you calling today your 40th Day of Lent when Lent isn’t over yet.”

Oh, my dear reader, read more carefully. It’s the 40th day of the Lent 2013 Challenge. We are counting not days of Lent, but days of budgeting meatless meals for a family of five on $90/week. So, I am perfectly comfortable calling this Day 40. Tomorrow will be Day 41. Etcetera.

I do have a seedless English cucumber in the fridge that I had hoped to turn into tzatziki and make some “suddenly pita” along the lines of the recent delicious Suddenly Naan. However, here is it, Monday of Holy Week and we have had snow all day long. Pita and cold food just wasn’t gonna cut it. We need hot comfort food.

Slowcooker Vegan Chili (prep time: 5 minutes)

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1 15oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 c chopped celery
1 onion, finely diced
1/4 c red wine, beer or vegetable stock
2 T minced garlic
2 tsp chili powder (use something spicier for more kick, but we’re feeding kids here)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
2 bay leaves

Dump it all in your slow cooker, turn to low, then walk away for at least 4 hours, as many as 10. Remove bay leaves before serving with some of these lovelies:

Microwave Vegan Corn Muffins (prep time: 5 mintues; cook time: 10-12 minutes)

1 T ground flaxseed + 3 T water, whisked together and set aside
2/3 c flour
1/2 c cornmeal
2 T white sugar
1 T baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c rice milk
1 T oil

Mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Pour milk and oil into the bowl where you’ve premixed your flaxseed and water. Add wet to dry, stirring just until all ingredients are moistened. Spray a microwave-safe muffin pan (ours is silicone) with cooking spray. Fill each muffin cup half full and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a rack IMMEDIATELY (or else you end up with gummy muffins, speaking from experience). Repeat until all batter is used.

This recipe usually makes about 18 muffins. If you only have one micr0-safe muffin pan, you’ll be wiping the cups clean with a dry cloth and re-spraying them between batches. If you’re anti-cooking spray, I don’t know if rubbing the cups with oil will work. Get back to me if it does?

This usually makes about 18 muffins. What we don’t eat I freeze and use with breakfasts.