What's for Supper?

What’s for supper? Vol. 65: The importance of being parchment paper

Ooh, I’m in such a hurry! We’re headed out for a day trip as vacation week wraps up. I’ll just have to talk about food and skip the jokes, to save time.

SATURDAY
Chicken burgers

We decorate the tree on Christmas eve, and then we went to “midnight Mass” at 10 PM. Part of me was sad and a little irritated that the parish wasn’t giving us our rare and special twice-a-year midnight liturgy this year; but the other part was like, HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT, WOOOOO! Because we did manage to get all forty presents wrapped, but there were still ten stockings to fill . . .

SUNDAY
Christmas brunch; Pupu Platter for 15

Our traditional Christmas morning brunch is  cinnamon rolls, bacon, grapes, orange juice, and egg nog.

christmas-brunch

 

Tip: The way to keep kids from drinking egg nog until they throw up is . . . buy tiny cups. Cheers!

eggnog-small-cups

I made Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon roll dough the day before, and rolled out the rolls in the morning.

cinnamon-buns-red-pan

I made a double recipe, which was insane. I make this same mistake every year. We ended up throwing out both unused dough and uneaten cinnamon buns, and we brought a pan to my mother-in-law’s house, too.

We ordered Chinese from the restaurant down the road. We used to do the whole “Thanksgiving recreation” meal, or sometimes a glazed ham with cherries and pineapple rings, until we realized nobody wanted a huge, formal meal, and also it was kind of crappy that everyone else gets to relax and have fun on Christmas, but I was spending all day cooking. So, Pupu platter!

pupu

MONDAY
Leftover chinese food, leftover chicken burgers

Plus some extra frozen pork rolls my husband picked up because he is crazy. I also threw in some sad peppers and avocados I found in the fridge, because it felt like we hadn’t eaten vegetables in six years. Somehow the vegetables are always the first to drop out.

leftover-pupu

Finished making caramel chocolate-covered almonds from Smitten Kitchen today. This project had been lagging on and on for weeks. We eked out a few batches in time to give to teachers, and finally finished the rest on Monday.

If anyone’s interested, I have a series of photos showing exactly what the caramel should look like while it’s cooking. It goes through an alarming series of transformations, all of which are normal. Just say the word and I will share the pics.

I made the first few batches right, but then I got lazy and didn’t separate the caramelized almonds properly. So I just broke it up into clusters, rather than individual almonds and dipped those into chocolate, which was way easier and faster and just as good. I thought the gold sugar was especially pretty.

almonds-done

This recipe could be used for any time of year — just change the colors of sugar and sprinkles you use.

TUESDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Husband ran out to the store for meat while we all lazed around eating chocolate and playing video games.
We also made stained glass cookies, on the principle that it is better to make Christmas cookies late and slightly crabby then not to make Christmas cookies at all. We used this foolproof sugar cookie recipe for the dough. Then we sorted out some Jolly Ranchers by color, bagged them, and smashed them.

candy-crush

Then we cut them out and used smaller cookie cutters or knives to make cut-outs inside the cookie shapes. You’re supposed to bake the cookies part of the way, then fill them with candy bits, and then finish baking, but I forgot, and filled them before baking.

filling-cookies

They turned out great! Note the parchment paper.

cookies-baked

Look, I even made a corny pro-life cookie.

baby-cookie

That baby head-to-pelvis ratio is pretty accurate for Corrie, as I remember it.
Irene, of course, made a skull with glowing red eyes:

skull-cookie

Murry Christmas, weirdo. The key to the success of this recipe is, and I cannot stress this enough, USE PARCHMENT PAPER. Not wax paper, and not (brrr, your poor molars) tin foil. Parchment paper. If you don’t have parchment paper, do not make these cookies!

WEDNESDAY
Bacon, Brussels sprouts, and eggs; french fries

How I love this one-pan dish from Damn Delicious. It would make a wonderful brunch, but I think it’s super for supper, too. Bacon needs balsamic honey, eggs need hot pepper, and everyone plays well with Brussels sprouts, what do you know about that?

bacon-eggs-pan

I had microwaved leftovers for breakfast the next day, and had a banner day for productivity. I owe it all to protein, and Brussels sprouts. Even kinda congealed, it was so very good.

bacon-leftovers

THURSDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs, salad

I stuck with Fannie Farmer’s recipe for meatballs, which is basically one egg and half a cup of breadcrumbs for every pound of meat, plus whatever spices and herbs. I used about 6.5 pounds of beef and a little ground turkey, and made 85 wonderful meatballs. Rather than frying them, I put them on a broiler pan and cook them in a medium-hot oven. They keep their shape and don’t get all greasy, and it’s so much easier.

meatballs-pan

Yum yum. We were pretty much snowed in all day, so I was happy to have a very hearty meal.

spaghetti-meatballs

Speaking of snowed in, here is my recipe for completely delicious hot chocolate: Put into a pot one heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder and two heaping tablespoons of sugar for every mug of hot chocolate you want. Add enough water to make a thick syrup, and mix over low heat until the sugar is all melted. Then add the milk and a glug of vanilla. Stir and heat until it’s hot.

Benny insisted on drinking out of her doll tea set. As I mentioned before, the key to success and happiness in life is and always will be TINY CUPS.

FRIDAY
I think pizza.

And now my poor family is waiting for me in the car! Happy trails. Hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas and using parchment paper like I said. I’m not kidding.

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The fowler’s snare

Today’s Christmas art is from my dear friend, Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. O.S.B., painter, gardener, and author of three books.  You can find more of her arresting art work here; and I want to return to her art at a later date.

But today is a hard feast day, the feast of the Holy Innocents. They are the first martyrs, whose blood became that terrible red carpet to lay before the coming king.

Here is the responsorial psalm for today, the feast of the Holy Innocents:

R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.

Had not the LORD been with us—
When men rose up against us,
then would they have swallowed us alive,
When their fury was inflamed against us.

R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept the raging waters.

R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.

Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.”

I don’t know what to make of this. So many of my friends are so ensnared, so longing for rescue, so overwhelmed by the waters. What is the answer? What kind of rescue is that?

The answer does not come from Christ, our brother, who somehow allowed Himself to be ensnared:

christmas-art-margaret-realy

 

The answer is Christ.

What this entirely means, I do not know. When Christ is the answer, I don’t always understand the answer. But I do stop looking elsewhere, when that is the answer I get.

Not long ago I found myself caught in an old, painful memory, feeling once again some wounds and gashes that I thought had been healed. They opened again because I saw a woman going through what I had gone through many years ago — but for her, there was rescue, there were sympathetic people rushing to her aid, there was help. I survived, yes, because here I am today; but I saw myself hanging there alone at that time, and I was angry. As I walked and remembered, I cried out to the Lord, “Where was my rescue?”

He answered, “Nobody rescued Me, either.”

And He had a choice. He didn’t have to be there, but He put Himself there, His sacred head surrounded by those thorns, that snare, that unspeakable trap of wood and nails. And that was what He was offering me: A chance to willingly be snared with Him. He is the answer. I don’t know what it means, but there is no other answer. I had no choice but to suffer, at the time; but now I do have the choice to place my suffering with His.

I stop looking somewhere outside that ring of thorns. There, caught, pierced, His heart bleeds for the brokenhearted, innocent and otherwise. I place the suffering hearts of my friends inside that snare of thorns with Christ.

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Caress: Iconography for the Incarnation

Merry Third Day of Christmas! In haste, in between visits with family, I’m thrilled to share with you this icon of Joseph and Jesus, written by Nathan Hicks, which I hope you can enjoy in leisure:

joseph-and-jesus-icon-christmas-art
Note how Joseph’s eyes are perhaps a little wary and uncertain as he holds the Child; but Jesus puts His face right up to his foster father and encircles his head with His arms, totally ready to give all without reservation. Babies and God, I’m telling you, man. Pay attention, and you’ll learn something.

Note also how Jesus’ little legs extend past the interior frame of the image. On his blog, Hicks says:

Icons were ultimately a relational reality. The Kingdom of God  has pierced into our souls through our wounds, creating a dynamic space where the divine reaches to the human.

This divine movement to us is not intrusive and overpowering, but gentle and accommodating. God does not require us to move beyond our nature, but instead asks for us to allow Him to transfigure us as we are. There is no swallowing of identity, which is defined in part by our wounds, but a support of and a strengthening of our identities so that they show forth God. This means that God doesn’t eradicate the things that make us miserable, but instead give us the means to make those sources of misery a source of light and joy.

And that’s why I have the buildings and objects bending towards you, the viewer. God moves heaven and earth out of the way for you and condescends to make you a god by grace.

RELATIONAL. Lots to think about (and I hope you realize how rare it is to find an artist who is interested in sharing more than a word or two about his creative thought process! Most artists I know think with paint, and when they’re done, they’ve already said everything they’re going to say).

Here is another piece that Hicks has shared with us: “Morning Caress.”

morningcaress

Hicks says:

“Morning Caress” is a Byzantine-style painting about the Earth and the environment. The Earth is a creature, just like us, and is in its own society with the other planets But with the sun the Earth has a special relationship. The earth reaches out to the sun and the sun to the earth. Morning Caress is the story of the unconscious love of the world itself.
I’ve been thinking about this lately, how the earth participates in salvation history without the capacity to be conscious of that participation — but it participates nonetheless. It makes me feel better about my sometimes absurdly passionate affection for the natural world, for fruits, for leaves, for textures and colors. It is all right to love the world, because God made it, God loves it, and most importantly, God is present in it.
I read “The Rape of Man and Nature”, a well-written (if somewhat poorly argued) book by Phillip Sheridan, a giant in the English-speaking world Orthodoxy, who finally stated the Orthodox standpoint on nature in a way that I could understand it: God is in nature in a way similar to us wearing clothes. The clothes aren’t us, but we are definitely connected to them and without us the clothes don’t have form.

And in a similar way (with much higher stakes!) we “take form,” and become who we are meant to be by our nature, when we allow God to dwell in us. Joseph was as ready as he could be to become the foster father of the Son of God, but what could he do? Saint or not, he was only a man, and could not possibly live up to the task, any more than a tree can understand the bounty of the warmth of the sun or the miracle of photosynthesis. The best he could do, the only thing any human can do, is to allow Him to come close and do what He will.

Oh, feel that sun.

Oh, time, strength, cash, and patience! I must come back to this later. Do check out Hick’s blog, The Dynamis Project, and his Facebook page, too.

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Remember Syria on the feast of Stephen

 

Today is the feast of St. Stephen, first martyr of the Church. That’s what kind of faith it is: One day we celebrate the birth of the Savior, and the very next day, we celebrate the death of a man who died for that Savior’s sake. It’s an especially poignant feast to remember as we see the images of Syrian Christians celebrating Mass in a church half-filled with rubble, the roof blasted away.

Imagine if this were your church?

This is your Church.

This is the Catholic Church, and these are your brothers and sisters. After this footage was taken, the Catholics remaining celebrated Mass on Christmas eve, in a roofless, blasted structure that’s safer than it’s been for a long time. Christians have not been able to enter for years, but they came back to Christmas to find it still standing, still waiting for them to come and worship God. They brought in flowers and candles from God only knows where, and they assembled a nativity scene out of scraps of rubble, covering it with branches from the trees that are still putting out green leaves.

Do not forget Syria. Catholics suffering around the world don’t want to take away the joy of us Christians who enjoy peace and plenty on Christmas. But do not forget them. Do not forget what kind of faith this is. The Savior does not promise to keep our bodies safe; but He does promise that the Church will always prevail against evil.

The ornament featured above was painted by Erica Ploucha (more of her work is here). Her husband Nick sent me the photo, saying “I can’t see this ornament and not think of Syria.” God has not forgotten the people of Syria, and neither should we.

What's for Supper?

What’s for supper? Vol. 64: Life in the express lane

Oh, I had such high hopes for this week. A new recipe and another recipe to redeem a past failure. What could go wrong?

Bear but a touch of my hand, and you will be upheld in more more this. But not much more.

SATURDAY
Frozen pizzas

I think we were Christmas shopping on Saturday. I remember thinking fervently, “Oh, thank goodness we bought those pizzas, because we were out shopping all day.”

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, chips

I think we were still Christmas shopping? Or making chocolate caramel almonds, something exhausting. I had to make a separate trip out to the store to get more sprinkles.

MONDAY
Hot dogs, spicy fries, corn

Maybe you remember the dreadful chicken salsa verde slop I made last week. This was where my high hopes began. When I make terrible food, I like to redeem myself by remaking it better next time; so I found an actual recipe. Chicken, cream cheese, salsa verde, garlic, cumin; serve with cilantro, pepper jack, avocados, and sour cream. Can’t miss.

Well, the avocados weren’t anywhere near ripe on Monday, so we had hot dogs. Which was good, because we had spent a lot of time shopping on Monday.

TUESDAY
Asian peanut pork on noodles

Here’s a recipe I’ve been drooling over for a while, from A Year of Slow Cooking: Asian peanut butter pork. It was so easy! It smelled so wonderful all day! At this point in the week, I was slow cookers’ greatest fan. Not only had I slapped together this magnificent meal, we still had that salsa verde feast coming up later in the week. Boy oh boy oh boy. We had a lot of shopping to do, and there’s nothing like coming home to a hot meal after shopping all afternoon, and boy did this one smell good.

The peanut pork was. . . fine. I don’t know. It tasted exactly like what it was. I thought the lime and peanut combination was fine. The natural crunchiness of the peanut garnish added some natural crunchiness. And that was the extent of it.

peanut-pork

Maybe I overcooked it, or used the wrong cut of meat. I was under the impression that it was impossible to overcook things in the slow cooker, because the slow cooker is in charge, but maybe I am wrong.

WEDNESDAY
Scrambled eggs, sausages, grits

On Wednesday, I was pretty hot to get that salsa verde thing going, especially since I knew we had a big day of shopping ahead of us, and I would want to come home and have a really tasty meal waiting. READY, AVOCADOS?

Nope. Not ready. Scrambled eggs it is.

THURSDAY
Creamy chicken nachos(?)

I decided that time and tide could wait for no avocados. I assembled the rest of my ingredients, and GUESS WHAT?

I never bought salsa verde.

I don’t even want to tell you how many supermarkets I had visited, and at no point at all did I buy salsa verde. I probably waltzed past various salsa verde aisles thirty or forty times this week. Probably that salsa sat there, staring through the curved window of their bottle homes in mute disbelief as I passed again and again, oblivious as a fruit fly to my now two-week-old obligation to stop and pick up a few jars of salsa verde.

So I looked up a whole other recipe using the ingredients I did have, mostly. It called for chicken, ranch dressing mix, cream cheese, and bacon. I figured any idiot could throw together something resembling ranch dressing mix, and as for the bacon, well, I had bought six boxes of ready-cooked bacon for Vincent de Paul, a decision I do not wish to discuss with anyone. My husband offered to run to the store to pick up ranch dressing mix, but I said, “No, no, that’s crazy! We’ve been shopping so many times this week! I can’t stand to buy even one more thing! I can do this! It will be good!”

So it cooked all day, and it smelled pretty nice; but at this point, I was starting to get the message that it was possible I was some kind of idiot who had nothing but terrible ideas poorly executed. So when it came to adding poor’s stolen bacon, a little warning bell went off in my head, saying, “Ding ding ding! This is terrible food, so please don’t waste even terrible bacon in it!” So I didn’t, and it was. Terrible food. Well, I ate it. I had thrown half a jar of jalapeno peppers into one pot, which made that portion terrible, but peppery.

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle

I . . . I have to stop at the store. We don’t have any noodles.

 

 

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And in His hand, the golden ball

I’m not sure if you want to cry, or what; but if you do, you might consider reading Tomie dePaola’s The Clown of God. (If you don’t own the book, you can hear and see it read aloud in this video.)

Quick summary: In Renaissance Italy, a ragged street boy falls in with a travelling show troupe, and as he grows, he becomes an expert juggler. Eventually he strikes out on his own, and becomes a celebrated performer all over the country. He has a complicated routine, but always ends with a rainbow of balls and then “The Sun in the Heavens,” a single golden ball that he tosses impossibly high.

He enjoys his fame; but then times get hard, the clown gets old, and no one cares about his act anymore. He even drops “The Sun in the Heavens,” and the crowd jeers. Now a ragged beggar, he stumbles back to his old hometown, where he takes refuge in a dark church and falls asleep. He wakes up in the middle of the night to blazing lights and music, as a procession of villagers and religious present Christmas gifts before a statue of Mary and a somber Child Jesus.

When they are all gone, he gazes as the statue; and, remembering that he once made children smile, he suits up and goes into his old juggling routine one last time. He works his way through all his tricks, and finishes with the rainbow of colored balls. Finally he adds “The Sun in the Heavens.” He juggles it higher than ever before and cries out, “For you, sweet child, for you!”

And then his old heart gives out and he falls dead to the ground. A sacristan finds him and calls a priest, who blesses the old man’s body.

But the sacristan backs away in fear: The child Jesus is smiling, and in His hand, He holds the golden ball.

***
Among other things, it’s a story of when things are almost too late — when we almost miss Christmas, because of all the hustling and costume changes and juggling and fuss.

If you can, remember that phrase: “For you, sweet child!” — and toss Him one golden ball.

Apologize to someone if you were rude.
Put your phone down and read a book to your kid.
Let an insult pass without comment or retaliation.
If a street person asks for one dollar, give him ten.
Stop and pray for someone, or give a word of encouragement, before you go on with your juggling routine.

For you, sweet Child! He will catch that ball, and smile.

The Catholic Weekly

Can we celebrate Christmas as Syria burns?

Trying to tamp down the guilt that rose like a cloud of evil dust, I mentally ran through my week, comparing it to the week that my brothers and sisters have endured in Aleppo. I shouldn’t have bought any presents, I thought. How could I even dare? How can we light our Advent candles and sing “O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel?” We are not captives. We are healthy, wealthy, safe, pampered. Our walls our intact. We are home. Our children are with us, safe and warm in bed. The Syrians, they are the ones who need rescuing, Lord. Lord, isn’t there something I can do?

Read the rest of my latest at The Catholic Weekly here.

***
Image: By Ahill34 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons