Monday, November 3, 2014

Meatball express


I hate frying, probably a holdover from my childhood task of manning the backyard deep fryer.  But my husband loves spaghetti and meatballs, and meatballs are a handy item to make in bulk and stash in your freezer (at our house, meatballs are popular in curry, sub sandwiches, and in a savory cherry sauce for pot lucks).

When the butcher had ground beef on sale this week, I steeled myself to spend a morning frying several pounds worth of meatballs.  Even with an electric skillet, multiple batches would be required. I'm no stranger to baking meatballs- my mom used to bake meatballs and hamburger patties in cake pans lined with aluminum foil. It was certainly time saving but they tasted steamed and slightly tinny. Then I came across a suggestion from the Barefoot Contessa to bake meatballs on a parchment paper (or its silicone equivalent) lined rimmed cookie sheet- the low sides allow for heat circulation while trapping the fat.

Instead of getting greasy while falling over small children, it took me five minutes of hands on time to go from 5 lbs of raw beef to trays full of meatballs (probably even quicker if I had a cookie scoop).  Then in the oven for 30 minutes at 350, and dozens of perfectly browned meatballs (and no frying pan full of burnt meat pieces!) awaited me. And because the meatballs don't have to be flipped, you can use far less bread crumbs and get a more delicately textured product.  

I'm never frying meatballs again.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A bishop's costume (for less than $1)!




I am really happy with how my older son's All Saints Day costume turned out. I purchased about 3/4 yard of 60" decorator fabric and 10 yards assorted gold and silver satin ribbon for from our local Catholic thrift store for seventy five cents total and few common household materials and a raid of the rag bag rounded out the supply list.

The fabric had been cut in two pieces- one selvedge to selvedge piece less than half a yard long and one smaller irregular piece.  I used the larger piece to make the chasuble and the smaller for the mitre.  The chasuble was pretty easy- I cut a poncho shape, finished and hemmed the edges, and sewed on the trim in a yoke shape.  

I winged the mitre, and I wanted to document the process for future years. I overlapped two manila file folders snugly on my son's head, with the folds above each ear.  I taped the folders together, then cut a peaked shape at one end.  Then I taped the peaks together separately. Using the folder as a pattern, I cut 2 mitre shapes from each of the red decorator fabric and some scrap gold cotton for lining.  I sewed the trim on one of the red panels, then with the right sides together, sewed the red panels together at the side seams and repeated the process for the lining.  I turned the red panels right side out but left the lining right side in.  I topstitched the red and gold pieces together (one of each in each seam) to make the "wings" of the mitre. (Our copy of The Church Visible absconded to my husband's office, so I apologize for the lack of technical terms.)  I pushed in the cardboard insert, then whip-stitched the exterior and the lining together around the bottom edge and tacked the "tails" in place. 

Our parish All Saints Day party offers prizes for families who come costumed in saint groups.  The son pictured will be St Augustine of Hippo; I will be St Monica (pashmina as a headcovering, tears drawn on cheek with eyeliner); the baby will be Adeodatus (cloak); and my husband, declining to be St Ambrose, will be Patricius (bedsheet toga). 

What's the best All Saints Day costume you've seen?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pumpkin carving (and pumpkin recipes links)


Tonight is pumpkin carving night at our house, with my husband and my younger son's godfather doing the honors.  Since at least two of the pumpkins are pretty small, they will probably stick to faces, but if you have more pumpkin surface area to work with, check out these saint jack-o-lanterns from Catholic Cuisine.  What a nice way to mark All Saints Day!

But!  What to do with all the leftover pumpkin (since everybody had to have their own pumpkin from the pumpkin patch)? I'm planning on serving homemade pumpkin pasta for a yummy meatless Friday dinner tomorrow night, and this slow cooker pumpkin curry is definitely on the horizon for one of our busy nights next week. Maybe I'll make some pumpkin butter. From soup to nuts, Libby's has some great pumpkin recipes to choose from, like pumpkin gouda mac and cheese, pumpkin shepherd's pie, and tantalizing pumpkin desserts (to get your fresh pumpkin into an equivalent puree, roast it).  Pumpkin steel cut oatmeal is my older son's favorite breakfast. If your sweet tooth is still not satisfied, King Arthur Flour also has some delicious recipes for pumpkin baked goods.  Bon Appetit!

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Baptism Party for 68


My younger son was baptized at the beginning of the summer, and we had quite the party to celebrate!  Sixty-eight friends and family joined us on this special day. About 2/3 of the guests were children (reflecting our parish's demographics), and I found that the menu below was both economical and popular, in addition to lending itself well to having components prepared in advance. I will definitely be repeating this menu for my children's future sacramental occasions!


The Menu
Pork/bean tacos (slow cooker recipe follows)
Chips and salsa
Lemon poppy seed cake with Meyer lemon curd glaze
Iced tea-lemonade
Eponymous vineyard wine

Notes on Quantities
  1. I made four batches of the taco filling and bought ten 20 count bags of tortillas and three 2 cup bags of grated cheddar cheese. I borrowed extra slow cookers from neighbors, and made the taco filling the previous day.  On the day of the baptism, I kept it warm in the oven in foil pans while we were at church. I had a batch and a half of taco filling (which froze well) and two and a half packages of tortillas remaining.  More cheese would probably have been eaten. The Sriracha bottle also took a hit.
  2. I bought a gigantic bag of chips and a gallon of salsa. The kids preferred using the taco filling as a dip, so another bag of chips (and more of the filling and salsa) probably would have been eaten.
  3. I made one batch of the cake (using two boxes of yellow cake mix) and a double batch of the lemon curd in advance; I froze the former.  The tiered cake was elegant, but no one else felt comfortable cutting into it. Maybe I would try a sheet cake next time. Everyone got a piece, but not a scrap of cake was left, so I would make an extra half batch of cake.
  4. I purchased two packages of Lipton iced tea-lemonade mix (each making 10 quarts) and borrowed a beverage dispenser from a friend. The blend was extremely popular and having one beverage kept things simple.  Keeping the dispenser filled was also an easy task to delegate with a mix (versus using a homemade concentrate).
  5. A few families brought cookies and a salad, which were very much appreciated.
  6. A magnum of wine and a couple bottles of champagne were sufficient.  
  7. I bought the paper goods on post Easter clearance, opting for solid pastels.
Pork and Bean Tacos
Each batch makes 10-12 burritos (or more smaller tacos)
3 cups dried pinto beans, soaked overnight and drained
2 lb pork loin, seared (do not sub pork shoulder, as it will be greasy)
4 cups water
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T salt
2 T chipotle
1 T cumin
1 t oregano
lemon or lime juice to taste
1 lb bag of frozen corn
Optional garnish: chopped cilantro and/or scallions

Combine all ingredients but lemon juice and corn in slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.  Shred meat and stir in remaining ingredients.








Thursday, October 23, 2014

When the swallows return to Capistrano


Mission San Juan Capistrano

 A little reading from today's saint and about the mission that bears his name...

 Those who are called to the table of the Lord must glow with the brightness that comes from the good example of a praiseworthy and blameless life. They must completely remove from their lives the filth and uncleanness of vice. Their upright lives must make them like the salt of the earth for themselves and for the rest of mankind...So it must be with the glowing lives of upright and holy clerics. By the brightness of their holiness they must bring light and serenity to all who gaze upon them. They have been placed here to care for others. Their own lives should be an example to others, showing how they must live in the house of the Lord.(
Mirror of the Clergyby Saint John of Capistrano)

There’s a figure in all this...for the condition of American Catholicism. Its long history, certainly, from the Spanish colonial beginnings on. But, most of all, San Juan Capistrano seems an image for recent decades—because sometime around 1970, the leaders of the Catholic Church in America took a stick and knocked down all the swallows’ nests...And it wasn’t until the swallows had been chased away that anyone seemed to realize how much the Church itself needed them, darting around the chapels and flitting through the cathedrals. They provided beauty, and eccentricity, and life. What they did, really, was provide Catholicism to the Catholic Church in America, and none of the multimedia Masses and liturgical extravaganzas in the years since—none of the decoy nests and artificial puddles—has managed to call them home. (Joseph Bottum, First Things)

Image source



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A paper doll to call your own


Check out a blast from the past!  These paper dolls of Father Peter and an altar boy (circa 1943) were used by Catholic Extension to teach children about the Mass and Benediction.  With eight pages of cut outs, including a pop-up altar with candlesticks, there's a lot to keep little hands busy.

Image source

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fall Gleaning


 She said, "Pray, let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers." (Ruth 2, 7)
Ma and Laura picked the tomatoes...even the smallest green tomatoes.  There were enough ripe tomatoes to make almost a gallon of preserves...She sliced [the green tomatoes] and cooked them with salt, pepper, vinegar, and spices.  "That's almost two quarts of green tomato pickle.  Even if it's only our first garden on the sod and nothing could grow well, these pickles will be a treat with baked beans this winter," Ma gloated. (The Long Winter)
While at a pumpkin patch with my sons this weekend, I commented to the farm owner that fruit remained on the vine in the tomato patch.  She encouraged me to glean the vines, and I ended up with an unexpected bounty of cherry tomatoes, ripe tomatoes, and green tomatoes.  I slow roasted the grape tomatoes, made American Masala's "better than ketchup" tomato chutney from the ripe tomatoes, and salsa verde from the green tomatoes. 

Subbing green tomatoes for tomatillos has been a game changer for me, as my rural grocery store doesn't always have the latter and I am partial to green salsa.  Do you have a lot of green tomatoes left in your garden? Here are some recipe ideas so they don't go to waste.
 


Sunday, July 13, 2014

From Today's Gospel


The Divine Sower
The seed is the word of God.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hint of the day: double duty cookie press


Deviled eggs- an economical meatless Friday hors d'ouevres popular with many.  But I hate washing out decorating bags (especially for a Sriracha filling) and I've never had much luck with substituting parchment paper or baggies.  My aluminum cookie press came to the rescue!  Just a few quick turns, and my deviled egg tray was completed and cleanup made easy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hint of the day: lay flat to dry

 

As the days are getting warmer, I have been washing winter clothes and putting them away for next season.   But I ran out of space on my drying rack for garments that need to dry flat.  Fortunately,  my patio set came to the rescue! Children's garments would fit on the chair seats.