So much catching up to do!

I “won” National Novel Writing Month and am now trying very hard to prepare for Christmas. That involves a lot of crafting. Otherwise, here’s what we’ve been up to:

  1. No Advent calendar here. We do a gingerbread sacrifice manger: whenever you offer something up to Jesus, put a “straw” (strip of yellow paper) into the manger, and that will make a nice, soft bed for Jesus when he is born.
  2. For the eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas, our Wednesday Dessert were some well-intentioned but badly executed “Saint Nicholas Miter Cupcake.” I used this recipe for vegan white cake, and then I added red food coloring too late in the recipe to make anything but a pink marble cake. Then, somebody on Pinterest said that if you put marshmallows on top of you cupcakes in the last five minutes of baking, you’ll have self-iced cupcakes. Again, well-intentioned but badly executed, to the point that I’ve considered submitting the results to Pinstrosity.

    Well, they were ugly as anything, but they did taste good.

  3. I’ve been known to go through cooking phases. The current phase seems to be called How to Stretch One Can of Black Beans Across Two Meals for Five People. Last week we made a black bean spread for lunch (black beans, minced garlic, some olive oil and lemon juice all smashed together), then mixed the leftovers all up in lieu of the refried beans in our Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie, and we served that for dinner. We had some friends over, and even my self-proclaimed “picky hick” friend liked it.
  4. Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is the day that you can honor Our Lady’s first visit to the Americas by eating chocolate. I told the kids the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe while making hot chocolate.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Heavenly Hot Chocolate

approximately 3/4 c chopped chocolate
3 T butter
3 c whole milk
Optional: marshmallow creme, blue and yellow sprinkles

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a saucepan over low heat to make a ganache, stirring constantly. Whisk in milk until blended and heated through. Pour into mugs and top with a dollop of marshmallow creme, representing Mary’s purity, come to Earth to be the Mother of God, and come later to the home of chocolate to be the Mother of the Americas. Sprinkle with blue and yellow sprinkles, representing Our Lady of Guadalupe’s blue mantle with the yellow stars.


This was so rich that even I couldn’t finish mine, and that’s saying something. It reminded me of how heaven is so rich that we need to trust that God will give us only as much of it as we need here for our lives now.


Black-and-white “Magic” Cupcakes for St. Albert the Great

We’re a Dominican household: a bunch of rosary-praying nerds who can never choose between silence or blabbermouthing, so all Dominican saints, especially great ones, are cause for celebration around here. St. Albert the Great has a special place in my heart because my Dominican name is Thomas Aquinas; we all cultivate a special affection for our favorite teachers. St. Albert Magnus is also pretty special to us because Mr. Mackerelsnapper is a scientist by trade.

We used this recipe here for “Black Magic Cake.” I halved the recipe for starters, eyeing up the flour and cocoa powder so we had enough dry ingredients. Even halved, this recipe made 18 standard size cupcakes, so keep that in mind. Alors, comme ça:


They were done in 15 minutes baking at 350F. Cool before icing. The icing is just your basic Betty Crocker Cookbook White Mountain Frosting. It’s the only kind of icing that Middle Dumpling will eat these days. So between making the cupcakes, the icing, the fried rice for dinner, the NaNoWriMo-ing, and then dashing out to choir, the kitchen looked like some sort of set for a disaster movie.

Thank you, Mr. Mackerelsnapper, for remedying that situation. And believe me, it was quite a situation.

Now, you ask, why would a good Dominican mom, faithful to the Magisterium, feed her children something called “magic” cupcakes, for heaven’s sake? Because, my friends, St. Albertus Magnus was called a “magician” by those who didn’t understand science. These cupcakes are “magically” light and fluffy. How? Through the MAGIC of SCIENCE! The acid in the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda and creates essentially the same froth that you saw when you made your grade school papier mache volcano, trapping those tiny bubbles in a web of rich, chocolately goodness. St. Albert didn’t have time for magic. He learned and taught science as a way of appreciating God’s creativity.

The Dominican colors are black and white. Why? I mean besides the dog thing. Because when you have God’s light in your life, you don’t need to fear the darkness. Science is just the study of how things work, not the meaning of why they work or what they mean.

Thanks, Catholic Memes.


Wednesday Dessert: Ss. Cosmas & Damian Healer Cookies

Phew! Where did this week go?

First, another request to vote regarding the Lent 2013 Challenge if you haven’t already done so:

Last Wednesday’s dessert night took place on the feast of Saints Cosmas & Damian. I asked First Shift for ideas on what dessert we could make that would honor a pair of twins who were doctors. They said “made [insert brand name bandage here]-shaped cookies.” So we did. We took a shortbread cookie recipe, molded the dough into a square on a baking stone, dragged a knife across the middle of the raw dough, then slowly dragged the knife perpendicular to that, making narrow bar shapes. Then the kids poked forks repeatedly in the middle of each bar.


Like this

We baked the bars according to the recipe directions, allowed them to cool, then broke them along the score lines.

What do I love about Cosmas & Damian? They were doctors who healed the poor for free. So often, I feel like gung-ho Catholics think that, unless I’m doing, you know, ministry, then I’m not doing ministry. Saints Cosmas & Damian weren’t priests. They didn’t have a music ministry. They weren’t preachers. They didn’t have any money (in fact, they were called “the silverless”). They just did their rather secular jobs in an extraordinary way. That drew people to God’s love.

Do what you love with love, and that is ministry.

“So… is that the good Korea or the bad Korea?”

Don’t mind me. In my little world, there’s no such thing as a gratuitous Lost reference, even less so a gratuitous Hurley reference. I love how Sun handled that, too.

Today is the feast of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions. St. Andrew was the first Korean to be ordained a priest. I like the story of Catholicism in Korea because it was started not by a bunch of rabid priests who were in it for the money or something, as our culture would like to have us believe. Catholicism was brought to Korea by laypeople. I’m reasonably confident they were not rabid. Laypeople make a difference. You don’t need a collar to proclaim to all nations.

St. Andrew Kim Taegon was captured for the crime of being a Catholic, refused to recant, and so we celebrate his courage. Our family celebrated the eve of this feast yesterday with a Korean-inspired dessert porridge. I’ve only ever had Korean food once; it was fantastic, but I don’t remember any sweets at the end. What I do remember is poor Mr. Mackerelsnapper being served an octopus beak, and the Chinese-Canadian in attendance laughed at him for it, remarking something about, “What is it with Caucasians not wanting to eat anything with a head still on it?” Hey! Is that any worse than Brazilians thinking that eating meat off the bone is barbaric? But I love chicken wings! We’re all a little weird here on this globe.

That brings me to how weird I felt about making a dessert… soup. I’ve never made Korean anything before, so I had to do some research. Googling “Korean desserts” led me to Beyond Kimchee, a blog of Korean cooking. On there is a recipe for hobaak jook, a pumpkin porridge thickened with rice. As it’s just starting to turn seasons here, the flavors seemed perfect, but not only had I never made Korean food before, I’d never made a dessert porridge. I was intimidated to say the least. But as I read the recipe, I realized it was similar to Chinese congee, which I have made before. Once I got past that fear, the rest was easy. So, inspired by Beyond Kimchee’s recipe for hobaak jook, I bring you:

St. Andrew Kim Taegon Slow Cooker Pumpkin Porridge


1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and sliced into 1/2″ slices
1 cup cooked rice (all we have is jasmine, so I used that; if you have sweet rice available, I bet that would rock)
3 thin slices of peeled, fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons shredded sweetened coconut
5 c water
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the first give ingredients into a slow cooker and cook on low 5-6 hours.


Add the sugars, then puree all ingredients together; if you have a stick blender, use that, but if not, pour it into a large food processor.


If you don’t have either, and you also don’t have arthritis, according to our friend at Beyond Kimchee, you can mash it all together with a fork or other hand-masher.

The coconut and vanilla were additions of mine to the original recipe, as was the slow cooker method. Both cooking and faith have that in common: we can add flavors of our own cultures but still have true nourishment. I love the  statue of St. Andrew Kim Taegon that wiki shows. If my memory of Chunhyang is correct, the hat St. Andrew wears is the hat worn by noble scholars. St. Andrew was surely a courageous and noble priest. We all need more of those in our world, regardless of where we live.




Wednesday Dessert: Miryam Cookies

Last Wednesday was our first choir night and Wednesday Dessert of the year. It was also the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary. First Shift of Kids had also requested to find a kind of cookie that Second Shift (who just turned 2 1/2) could help make without endangering herself or driving them crazy. That’s a tall order and a lot of ground to cover with one recipe.

What cookie can a toddler help make? Aggression Cookies came to mind, but how would one tie that in with the Blessed Mother? The Holy Spirit knows how. Since he let me in on it, I’ll let you in on it, too. Thanks to TMCHAPMAN for sharing the link above. I’d rate the recipe on sparkpeople if I had the time to get yet another login to yet another site.

Miryam Cookies for the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary

First, gather your ingredients

1 c butter, softened (if you’re really looking to make your kids work, give them frozen butter–ha!)
1 c whole wheat flour
2 c quick oats
1 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips

Then, talk to your children about how the first girl in the Bible named Mary was not the Blessed Mother! It was Miryam, Moses’ big sister, the one whose job it was to watch over the savior of her people. Then spend a minute daydreaming with your kids about how Sts. Joachim and Anne named their daughter Miryam; did they just like the name? Did they get direct divine instruction to name her Mary? Or did they intentionally name their daughter after a girl whose job it was to protect and nurture the savior?

Next, preheat your oven to 350F. Then have the kids wash their hands and dump the first five ingredients above into the biggest bowl you can find (keep the chocolate chips for later). Now its the kids’ job to pound, smash, smoosh and moosh all the ingredients together in a bowl, just like Miryam and Moses’ people had to smash ingredients together to make clay during their enslavement (charoset, anyone?). Once all those ingredients are mixed together, roll into 1″ balls and place on baking sheets, about 1″ apart. Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven but allow to cool COMPLETELY on the cookie sheets before removing. When I say completely, I mean COMPLETELY, or you’ll have a hot, crumbly mess of molten, sugared oatmeal on your now-blistered hands.

No, I’ve never ignored that direction in the past. Why do you ask?

While all these things are cooling, tell your kids that the name Miryam means “bitter.” Bitter! That’s not a very nice name for your baby girl! Well, remember, when Moses’ big sister was born, life for the Israelites was pretty bitter. They weren’t free. I’ve also read (years ago) that the Miryam “bitter” translates to something more like “bitterly desired.” Miryam’s parents bitterly desired freedom for their children. Anne and Joachim desired that and, well, just a child to begin with.

Both Miryam and the BVM covered up the savior of their people. So now we’re going to use semi-bitter chocolate (read: semi-sweet) to cover up our cookies. Transfer cooled cookies to either silicone mats, parchment or waxed paper.


Melt the chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 30 second until the chocolate drips slowly from a spoon.


Or a knife.

Allow chocolate topping to cool before eating. Enjoy! And enjoy celebrating the name Mary!

PS: Gluten free? Try subbing more oats for the flour. Vegan? Use your favorite vegan margarine and make a rice milk and cocoa glaze.



“There was… an incident…”

Last night’s dinner was derailed by a crazed cat. Seriously. Our older cat was just put on medication, which means he was just put on Pill Pockets. Silly me, I left the house with the pill pocket packet (say that ten times fast) on the counter, and crazed cat tore into that heavy duty foil like it was a felled gazelle and he was a bloodthirsty lion. Bye-bye, $7 on pill pockets. So instead of staying home and making a nice batch of seitan barbecue, we had to drive out to the pet store, pick up the Mr. from his train stop, and while we were out that way at that time, we just got Chinese buffet.

Okay, so dinner was derailed less by the cat and more by my forgetfulness. Guilty as charged. So tonight ended up being seitan bbq night. “Barbecue” around these parts is not necessarily meat on the grill or out of the smoker. Nope, it’s ground meat stewed in a sweet sauce and served on a bun or, as the real rebels do, on cornbread. We usually don’t go more than a month without eating either hamburger or turkey barbecue, so it was weird to think of forty days without it. Think “sloppy joes” without

Seitan Barbecue
Half a batch of seitan, cut into 1/4″ chunk “shreds”
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 c ketchup
2 T mustard
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce (vegan option: HP Brown Sauce)
2 T packed brown sugar

Brown onion in your favorite oil. Combine all ingredients in a slowcooker and cook on low 2-3 hours. Serve on sandwich rolls, over baked potatoes, with a side of cornbread, etc.

Tonight’s Just Dessert was to Visit the Imprisoned. Several years ago, I tried being a pen pal for Mary, Mother of Captives. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but no matter how spiritual I kept my writing, I kept getting hit on. Sorry, it’s the truth. I understand–or really can only imagine I understand. Prison is a lonely place. We want to be loved. Our culture feeds us all this idea that unless we’re loved romantically, we’re not loved. That’s so not true. So tonight we made Easter cards and said a Hail Mary for all the people who would receive our cards.


Guess which ones I made!

After one of the girls asked if she could include a ribbon in her card (the answer was no, per MMOC rules, not to mention per prison rules), we talked about how lonely it must be to not be allowed to receive any gifts (not even a piece of ribbon). I didn’t even get to how sad it must be not to see the sunshine, not to smell the grass, to be abandoned by your friends… just like Jesus experienced while waiting for His trial. It doesn’t matter how they got into captivity, they’re all still the face of Jesus.

So if you want to visit the imprisoned, send a card to: 



Vegetable Cheese Soup

Yes, I said that I would be taking a hiatus until “tomorrow,” but apparently it took six days for tomorrow to get here!  Fear not:  I was still cooking in that time.  Well, for some of that time.  What I was doing with most of my time, however, was preparing for Second Shift of Kid’s second birthday as well as taking Mr. Mackerelsnapper away for a birthday weekend getaway.  So, dear readers at home, wish them both some birthday felicitations. 

Anyway, after the Eggplant Parmesan debacle (turns out 10 minutes is not enough purging time, no matter what my memory tells me), I wanted the next meal–no, two–to be low-maintenance.  This one is.

Vegetable Cheese Soup

1 can creamed corn
1 c shredded potatoes (skins on or off, depending on how lazy you are)
1 c shredded carrot
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 c sliced celery
3 c vegetable broth
1/2 t celery salt (honestly, I used more, but I love celery salt)
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 T dried minced onion (use fresh if you feel like chopping more onion, but I didn’t)
2 T flour
2 c milk
1 c shredded cheese

Combine first 7 ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on high for 4-5 hours.  Make and add a cheese sauce either shortly before serving or, if your slow cooker has a “warm” setting, add the cheese sauce 1-2 hours before serving.  To make the cheese sauce, heat butter, oil and minced onion in a pan over medium heat.  When browning and bubbly, stir in flour, then whisk in milk until lumps disappear.  Bring to a low boil and allow to thicken over medium heat, approximately 3-5 minutes.  Stir in cheese until smooth, then add to the soup. 

I can’t think of a legit way to veganize this, but to make it gluten-free, you could very likely use corn starch in place of the flour. 

For or Wednesday Dessert, we were supposed to work on the corporal work of mercy Clothing the Naked.  However, a young man at our church was supposed to be collecting to fund his trip to work with Habitat for Humanity.  So we shifted weeks around and worked on Giving Homes to the Homeless.  For this, we, toddler and all, went on a hunt through our house and van, looking for loose change.  This turned out to be a great way to clean out our crusty minivan as well as help a good cause.

Wednesday Just Desserts: Giving Drink to the Thirsty Thursday

One: I realized too late that a more worthy use of our practicing this particular corporal work of mercy would have been digging in couch cushions for loose change and giving it to a water-bearing charity that serves some nation where clean water is scarce. Well, next year. This is going to our community food cupboard.


Let’s just tell ourselves that the prune juice offsets the whole lemonade mix thing, shall we?

Two: By the time I got home from my NaPro appointment last night (Did I mention the two-hour each-way commute? Did I mention the long wait times to see this doctor who is worth every minute of the wait?), it was so late that we didn’t even do our Wednesday Just Dessert until tonight. Hence the Thirsty Thursday thing.

Three: Speaking of Thirsty Thursday, did you know that the best way to observe the celebration of the feast of Purim is to get to riproarin’ drunk that you no longer can tell the difference between cursing Haman and blessing Mordecai? Another reason Esther is one of my favorite books of the Bible…

Eggplant Curry Couscous

One-sentence Review: There were no leftovers.

Don’t let the long ingredient list throw you. This is super easy and pretty cheap.  Veganize by using vegan mayo & soy yogurt (I think.  I’ve never done so, with my soy allergy, so do so at your own risk).  De-glutenize by subbing rice or quinoa for the couscous. 


1 medium eggplant (about 1lb)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 t paprika
1/2 t black pepper
1 small onion, diced
3 T total combined oils (I use corn & olive for good flavor with a higher smoke point)
1 c plain yogurt
1/3 c mayonnaise
1 t curry powder
1 t powdered ginger
1 1/2 c water
1 c dry couscous

Peel and cut eggplant into 1″ cubes. Sprinkle with 1 t salt and place in a colander. Let drain 10 minutes, then rinse with cold water & squeeze dry. Sprinkle with paprika & pepper and set aside.

Brown onion in 1 T oil and mix in a bowl with yogurt, mayonnaise, curry & ginger powders. Set aside.

Bring water to a boil, then stir in couscous. Let sit covered while you sautée eggplant in remaining oil over medium-high heat until browned and very soft. Stir in all but 1/4 c of the yogurt mixture. Keep on the heat for another 2-3 minutes until heated through, then remove from the heat. Stir in couscous, then stir in remaining yogurt sauce just before serving.

Ash Wednesday Seitan Parmesan, and Feeding the Really Hungry

Originally we were going to do pretzels and cheese, so we could start Lent with our annual family Pretzel Catechesis. But we have people coming over for dinner on Saturday, and those people requested pretzels for dinner (!), so I had to shift a few things around. It feels a little weird to be frying something on Ash Wednesday, but it’s perfectly legit as far as I know. Then again I’m a hypoglycemic who hasn’t eaten much today, so forgive me a little brain fog?

Seitan Parmesan
6 seitan “cutlets”, patted dry and cool to the touch
1/2 c flour
2 t paprika
1 t salt
1 t garlic powder (optional)
pinch black pepper
1/2 c milk
3 T oil of your choosing (we’re down to a whisper of EVOO, so I had to use palm shortening & butter)
1 c tomato sauce
1/2 c shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine flour, paprika, salt, garlic, and pepper on a plate. Dredge cutlets in flour, then dip in the milk, then dredge back in the flour and let dry on a rack for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a heavy skillet, then panfry cutlets until golden brown on each side. Place browned cutlets on a baking sheet and spread each with some of the tomato sauce, topping with cheese. Bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted.

To veganize: dip cutlets in rice milk while breading, panfry in EVOO and palm shortening, use nutritional yeast or other cheese substitute for the topping.

Review: we’re having power struggles with the toddler right now, but she ate several bites. Oldest kid said she liked it but didn’t eat more than one bite, filling up on spaghetti instead. Middle child cleaned her plate and split the last piece with Mr. Mackerelsnapper. I liked them, but I had one of those brain-cloud things where my brain was unhappy that my eyes were saying “veal parmesan” but my tastebuds were saying, “nope, not veal.” So I was wigging out very slightly on some level. Oh, and after dinner, we had our Wednesday Just Desserts:


Now, a question for those who make their own seitan more often than I have (this is my third attempt). I make my own vegetable stock from leftover vegetable parts, heavy on the broccoli stems. Is the broccoli the explanation why my house stinks to high heaven on stock-making days? Ugh. It smells like an armpit, only without the charm.