Sunday, January 30, 2011

Catholic Schools Week 2011

The theme for Catholic Schools Week 2011 celebrates the fact that Catholic schools are an added value ("a plus") for the nation. Because of their traditionally high academic standards and high graduation rates, all supported by strong moral values, Catholic schools and their graduates make a positive contribution to American society. Catholic schools give a high level of service (the A+ level) to local communities because of the many service projects students undertake. "Giving back to the community" and "helping others" are values instilled in every Catholic school student. Catholic schools give a high level of service to the nation (the A+ level) by serving students from all economic backgrounds and giving them a strong academic and moral foundation, allowing them to succeed in life, serving in the government, industry, business, non-profit and educational fields. [National Catholic Education Association]

Chilled Strawberry Soup - National Soup Month

4 cups strawberries (can use frozen)
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream (can use vanilla yogurt instead or a combination)
1/2 cup cold water

Puree strawberries in a blender. Add to a saucepan, whisk in sugar and sour cream. Stir in cold water. Stir constantly over low heat until heated through; do not boil. Chill thoroughly, perhaps overnight.

I had the pleasure of eating this at a summer ladies luncheon out of an antique depression glass bowl. Perfect!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Split Pea/Vegetable Soup - National Soup Month

1 lb. dried split peas (2 cups)
3 qts. water
1 meaty ham bone
2 tsp. salt*
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp marjoram leaves
1 1/2 c chopped onions
3/4 c. chopped carrots
3/4 chopped celery
chopped garlic clove

Combine peas and water in a large kettle. Bring to a boil; simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand one hour.

Add ham bone, salt, pepper, marjoram, and onions. Cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours.

Add carrots and celery. Continue simmering until tender, 30-40 minutes. Serve hot. Makes about 3 1/2 quarts.

*I always taste it before adding any salt. You'll definitely need less than 2 teaspoons if your ham is salty.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Equipment - National Soup Month

Stock Pot
Of course you can make virtually anything work, but the best soup pots will work with you. On first glance, the $12 version you can get from your local discount store seems fine. It's big enough (often 12 quart or larger) to contain that large batch you want to make but that's only part of the equation. Broth-based soups often need to simmer for a long time, and cream-based soups scorch easily. You'll want a pot that keeps your delicious concoction from burning if you turn away for a bit. In addition to size, look for something that's heavy and has a bottom made of multiple metals bonded together. A common combination is a stainless steel outside with aluminum layers bonded to the bottom. You'll also want a lid that fits well. This version from Williams-Sonoma is a good choice, and this copper pot is the gold standard (but for $600 I would expect someone to actually deliver weekly meals to my house as part of the deal). I use an 8 quart Classic Farberware stockpot that I got for a wedding gift a long, long time ago and it's still in great condition!

My least favorite thing about serving soup is the presentation. After carefully preparing ingredients and tweaking seasonings to perfection, I hate just plopping the possibly less-than-attractive kettle on the table. The alternatives are to keep the kettle out of sight by serving from the kitchen (not always practical when soup is a main dish for a family who will likely want seconds), or use a soup tureen. A tureen is typically porcelain or stoneware and has a lid to keep things warm. You'll want to look for one that's a reasonable size for your needs and, since it involves transporting a gallon of boiling hot liquid, look for one with a very stable base and useful-looking handles. (TIPS AND TRICKS: About 10 minutes before using your tureen, fill it with boiling or very hot water and then pour it out just before filling with soup. The hot water will warm up your dish and that will keep your soup hotter when served.) A tureen will typically come with a matching ladle.

There's one more dish that I bought recently for someone who likes to take soup for lunch. This CorningWare mug has a lid that really fits well and seems to be leak-free. It's big enough for a generous serving and microwaves much better than the plastic bowl he was using. Hardly essential, but I do recommend the product. (I got it at Wal-Mart for less than the price listed on the Corning website.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

a little word for today

Live entirely for God, and since you have to take part in conversations and social gatherings try to be of some use to others. Do not think that God is further away from you when you are in the midst of the busyness to which your vocation calls you than He would be if you were enjoying a tranquil life.

-from a little booklet called Golden Counsels of Saint Francis de Sales

The Machine Shed's Baked Potato Soup - National Soup Month

A family favorite!

2 1/2 lb. baby red potatoes (quartered)
1/2 lb. raw bacon, diced
1 jumbo yellow onion, diced
1/4 bunch celery, diced
1 quart water
2 ounces chicken base
1 quart milk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 sticks margarine (or butter)
1/2 c flour
1 cup whipping cream*
1/4 bunch chopped parsley

  1. Boil potatoes in water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large, heavy pot, saute bacon, onions, and celery over medium-high heat until celery is tender. Drain bacon grease and return bacon, onions, and celery to pot.
  3. Add milk, water, chicken base, salt, and pepper. Heat over medium-high heat until very hot. Do not boil.
  4. In a heavy, large saucepan, melt margarine and add flour (called a roux). Mix well and allow to bubble, stirring for 1 minute. While constantly stirring soup, add the flour/margarine mixture (roux) slowly. Continue stirring soup until thick and creamy.
  5. Stir in potatoes, parsley, and cream.
  6. Serve hot. Garnish with shredded Colby cheese, fried bacon bits, chopped green onions, or all three.
*Between the butter and the bacon, this is obviously not a low fat dish. You can make it a little better, however, by using milk instead of cream. I've even used fat free milk successfully.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bean Soup - National Soup Month

This one reminds me of a better version of Campbell's Bean and Bacon Soup - my favorite as a kid.

2 c. dried beans (I typically use navy beans)
1 1/2 quarts water
1 ham bone or 1 1/2 lbs. ham butt
1 large chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery and leaves
4 cups canned tomatoes (diced)*
3/4 cup diced, peeled potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Combine beans and water in large kettle; boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand one hour. Simmer beans without draining until tender, about 2 hours, adding more water if necessary.

In the meantime simmer the ham in water to cover. Skim fat from the broth and add beans. Stir in remaining ingredients; simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Makes 10 servings.

*If I'm cooking for someone who doesn't appreciate solid tomato chunks, I'll replace the canned tomatoes with a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tips and Tricks - National Soup Month

Suggestions from an old church cookbook:
What to do with those bones -
You've just broiled two tender T-bone steaks. You savor their taste and texture, pick up the plates and scrape the bones off into the garbage pail. NO! NO! NO! What a waste! Instead you put them in a plastic bag and toss them into the freezer. The next time you have steak, you add those bones to the bag in the freezer. Then one day you prepare a nice beef roast. After you have carved the meat off the bones, you throw them in the garbage pail. NO! NO! NO! You put them in the kettle, add the steak scraps from the bag in the freezer, cover them with water, add some salt and start boiling them. Simmer them for a couple of hours and strain the broth into a large bowl.

Let the broth cool for about a half hour and then put it in the refrigerator to let it cool fully. The next day, scrape off the fat that will have risen to the top and you should have some jelly-like broth (the firmer it is, the better the broth). Place the broth in freezer bags, label and date them, and place them in the freezer. Later you can use the broth for soup, gravy or a variety of dishes. [The writer goes on to describe a similar procedure for poultry and ham bones.]

It's also worth your time to re-read Lucy's suggestions in Waste Not, Want Not for sorting leftovers to make soup later.

And last for today, I'd like to point you back to Lucy's Blue-Ribbon Southwestern Chili, a recipe from our archives that includes meat.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Adoration Resources

I was just writing a little piece for my parish on Eucharistic Adoration and found a nice resource I wanted to share with you.

The Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association has compiled an impressive map and listings of places in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico which offer times of Eucharistic Adoration. As their name indicates, they offer a number of resources on the topic as well, including an option to download their listing onto your mobile device to more easily find a chapel while you're traveling.

Obviously, I can't vouch for their accuracy (so you may want to call to confirm details if you're traveling a while to get to one of these chapels), but I did check the ones I personally know of and they were all accurate and included mapquest links to show the way.

What a very nice resource, and thank you to those who have made it possible!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Beef Barley Stew - National Soup Month

1 1/2 lbs. lean beef stew meat, cubed
1 chopped onion
3 cans beef broth (14.5 oz each) OR the equivalent of reconstituted beef soup base or bouillon
1 c medium pearl barley
1 tsp thyme, dried
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp crushed rosemary, dried
1/4 tsp pepper
4 carrots, sliced

Brown meat and onion; add the broth, barley and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Simmer for an hour or until meat is tender and barley is fully cooked.

Add carrots and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Garnish with parsley before serving.

Yield: 8 generous servings

Notes: I added some celery also. You may need to add additional water if the barley absorbs too much liquid. The seasonings all add important elements to this soup, but measure carefully.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. with Father Theodore Hesburgh, CSC

And when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children - black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Catholics and Protestants - will be able to join hands and to sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last." [Martin Luther King, Jr.]

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Turkey Soup - National Soup Month

1 leftover turkey carcass
5 qts. water

3 c cubed turkey
1 large onion
2 carrots, sliced
1 c chopped celery
10 oz. package frozen, chopped spinach
3/4 c fresh or frozen peas
3/4 c uncooked rice
4 chicken bouillon cubes
3/4 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp dried marjoram
3/4 dried thyme

Place the turkey carcass and water into a soup kettle. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove carcass and discard. (Make sure there are no stray bones in the broth.) Skim fat if necessary (but probably won't be with turkey). Stock may be frozen for up to 6 months.

Add vegetables, rice, bouillon and seasonings; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until everything is tender. Add turkey cubes to heat up in the last 10 minutes or so.

Yield: Lots

Notes: I used some wild rice from the freezer instead of what was called for here; it was very good. Also, the vegetables you use are all pretty optional - these are good choices. The spinach made it a lot like Italian Wedding Soup without the meatballs. The bouillon called for in this recipe was just a good amount of salt. Also, I added my leftover turkey gravy from the day before to this recipe. Very good!

My dad who has memories of growing up in very lean times would call this Turkey Carcass Soup, and would consider it a capital waste to throw away a perfectly good turkey carcass without making soup of it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chunky Potato Soup - National Soup Month

3 medium red potatoes
2 c water
1 small onion, chopped
3 tbls butter
3 tbls flour
crushed red pepper flakes
3 c milk
1/2 tsp sugar
1 c shredded cheddar
1 c cooked ham

Peel potatoes and cut into 1 inch cubes. Bring water to a boil in large saucepan. Add potatoes and cook until tender. Drain reserving 1 cup liquid (add water to make 1 cup if necessary).

Cook onion in melted butter, stirring frequently. Cook until it's translucent and tender, but not brown. Add flour to saucepan, season with peppers and cook 3-4 minutes.

Mix with potatoes, water, milk and sugar. Stir well and add cheese and ham. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

NOTES: We all liked this a lot. I added more potatoes than called for and it made enough for 5 generous servings. I used a 3 ounce package of Oscar Mayer Real Bacon Bits instead of the ham (it was plenty and added a great flavor and texture).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Italian Wedding Soup - National Soup Month

1 whole chicken
1 c. carrots, chopped *
1 c. celery, chopped
1 sm. onion, diced
Seasoned with 4-6 minced garlic cloves, 2 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. basil, 1 tbls. parsley flakes, and 1/4 cup chicken soup base. (all are approximate – season to taste)
2 pkgs. chopped frozen spinach, thawed & well drained
1 (1 lb.) pkg. acini di pepe, cooled & drained OR ORZO
Meatballs (see below)

Clean chicken and put in pot with 8 quarts of water; simmer for 1 hour or until chicken is cooked and remove to cool enough to handle, remove meat from skin and bones. Add carrots, celery and onion to broth and cook. In the meantime, cut meat into bite-sized pieces and make meatballs.

1 1/2 lbs. ground round
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 c. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (or more)
1 c. bread crumbs
1 or 2 eggs (to create a moist but not runny mixture)
Combine ingredients and make small meatballs (about 1/2 - 3/4 inch). Brown meatballs in a skillet. Drain and add meatballs to soup.

Add meatballs and simmer for another 30 minutes. Add spinach and chicken and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with acini di pepe and grated Parmesan cheese.

  • This soup is EXCELLENT! Everyone loved it!
  • The original recipe called for 1 pkg. 6 to 8 chicken wings + 2 chicken breasts. That would also be fine, but avoid using boneless chicken breasts if possible. It works, but isn't a great substitute in any chicken soup recipe.
  • I usually add the pasta directly to the soup and then regret it when it all turns to hotdish the next day. It's better to keep the pasta separate and just add it to each bowl as it's served. If you're planning to freeze some of this recipe, do so before you add the pasta.
  • *I almost always add more veggies than a soup recipe calls for. It's just nice to have more stuff in it, but you be the judge.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Patron Saints are here!

The home formed by Jesus, Mary and Joseph has always been regarded as a school of love, prayer and work. The promoters of this church wanted to set before the world love, work and service lived in the presence of God, as the Holy Family lived them.
[Pope Benedict XVI, Dedication of Sagrada Familia]

The custom of assigning patron saints is an old and venerable one. Some cultures and communities have done this before the First Sunday of Advent, others on the feast of the Epiphany. The last quarter of 2010 was a busy one for your Church Ladies, but we are glad to offer the drawing now.

2011's theme is the Celebrating the Family, in conjunction with the dedication of Sagrada Familia; saints are chosen randomly from within our master list. Please email us at psochurchladies(at)gmail(dot)com to receive a saint.

We are also happy to share the list so you can hold your own drawing with your school or family.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Wild Rice Soup - National Soup Month

¾ c uncooked wild rice
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 c. water
½ tsp. salt
1 med. onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, chopped
½ c butter
½ c flour
3 c chicken or turkey broth
*2 c milk or half and half
¾ c diced turkey, chicken or ham
½ tsp. dried rosemary
parsley, salt, pepper

Rinse rice, sauté in oil, add water and salt. Simmer rice about 30 minutes, or until cooked. Drain, reserving 1 ½ cups of liquid. In large soup kettle, sauté onions and carrot in butter until onion is transparent, reduce heat. Thoroughly blend in flour and cook five minutes, stirring frequently. Do not brown. Using a whisk, blend in hot chicken stock and reserved rice liquid. Cook, allowing to thicken slightly.

*If you want a creamy soup, add the milk or half-and-half.
Add rice, meat, and seasonings. Simmer 20 minutes. 8-10 servings.

NOTES: When I make wild rice, I almost always double the amount I cook. It freezes really well and makes a quick side dish or salad another day. This recipe freezes well.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I'm not a very tech-y person, but when I was recently given a second-hand iPhone and discovered there is an app that will allow me to pray the Divine Office with none of that pesky page flipping, I suddenly got a vision of the beauty of technology. Better yet, there is a free version that lets me download 7 days at a time so I can take care of a week's worth each Saturday. (And for a very reasonable price, the full year is available.) In addition, the Mass readings are also part of the package so it's all right there in front of me with virtually no effort and no expense.

My questions is this: What would you think of someone praying along on their iPad or iPhone in church?
  • Distracting?
  • Scandalous?
  • Just fine (after all, this is the 21st century!)?

I have no idea how to set up a survey, so just put your opinions in the comment box.

Just so you know, I am firmly suspicious that e-readers (in most cases) are going to contribute to the downfall of civilization. (When my mother told me of a relative who bought one for her child this Christmas, it was hard to be charitable.) On the other hand, I've tried to decode the Liturgy of the Hours for several years now and find it to be ... confusing.

I'd love to know what you think.

Become a living force for all mankind!

From today's Office of Readings:
Today let us do honour to Christ’s baptism and celebrate this feast in holiness. Be cleansed entirely and continue to be cleansed. Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the conversion and salvation of men, for whom his every word and every revelation exist. He wants you to become a living force for all mankind, lights shining in the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of him who is the light of heaven. You are to enjoy more and more the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity, as now you have received – though not in its fullness – a ray of its splendour, proceeding from the one God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.
-St. Gregory Nazianzen

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Baby, it's cold outside!

It's below zero here in Minnesota, and I know some of the Church Ladies are in the middle of record snowfalls in northern Indiana so (in my opinion), whoever came up with the idea to declare January as National Soup Month had a flash of brilliance. The pot of vegetable chicken soup I made today warmed my kitchen and our tummies. It's great comfort food, and has the potential of being a lower calorie main dish after the richness of holiday food. Broth-based soups can often be made early in the day, or in a crock pot, and cream-based soups are often quick and easy. Soups freeze well and typically taste better the next day. Soups can be a very frugal dish to serve and are a nice way to use leftovers. Paired with a loaf of bread, it's a portable meal to bring to a sick friend or a new mom, and the variety is virtually endless! Perfect, right? (My added bonus is that soup is my son's favorite food and I could serve it pretty much every day.)

If you're interested in joining all the excitement* of National Soup Month, check back here throughout January. I'll have some information, some tips and tricks, and of course, some recipes.

To get you started, try one of these meatless Church Lady favorites from our archives:
*Okay, "excitement" may be a bit of an over-representation. But it is January in Minnesota - give me a break. J

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me twelve drummers drumming.

The twelve points of the creed

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me eleven pipers piping.

The eleven faithful apostles

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Tenth Day of Christmas

On the tenth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me ten lords a-leaping.

The Ten Commandments

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Ninth Day of Christmas

On the ninth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me nine ladies dancing.

The Gifts of the Holy Ghost

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Celebrating Sunday: Epiphany of the Lord

The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts;
the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute.
All kings shall pay him homage,
all nations shall serve him.
[Ps 72, 10-11]

Crockpot Indian Butter Chicken

Other Epiphany Links:
2011 Epiphany Proclamation
Epiphany Baking

Image: Pieter Aertsen, Adoration of the Magi, 1560.

The Eighth Day of Christmas

On the eighth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me eight maids a-milking.

The Beatitudes

2011 Epiphany Proclamation

Dear brothers and sisters,
the glory of the Lord has shone upon us,
and shall ever be manifest among us,
until the day of his return.

Through the rhythms of times and seasons
let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year's culmination,
the Easter Triduum of the Lord:
his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial,
and his rising celebrated
between the evening of the twenty-first day of April
and the evening of the twenty-third day of April,
Easter Sunday being on the twenty-fourth day of April.

Each Easter -- as on each Sunday --
the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed
by which Christ has for ever conquered sin and death.
From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent,
will occur on the ninth day of March.

The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated
on the second day of June.

Pentecost, joyful conclusion of the season of Easter,
will be celebrated on the twelfth day of June.

And, this year the First Sunday of Advent will be
on the twenty-seventh day of November.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the passover of Christ
in the feasts of the holy Mother of God,
in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints,
and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come,
Lord of time and history,
be endless praise, for ever and ever.


Before calendars were readily available, it was the custom to proclaim the date of Easter and other celebrations that flow from it to all the faithful on Epiphany.

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (118) says this "solemn proclamation of Easter and the principal dominical feasts" is "ancient in origin and rich in spiritual content." "Its revival in many places would be opportune since it serve[s] to make the connection between Epiphany and Easter, and orientate[s] all feasts toward the greatest Christian solemnity." Whether you hear this proclamation at your parish on Epiphany or not, you can read it here, update your calendars, and take a few moments to meditate on the wonder of the fullness of God's plan!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Seventh Day of Christmas

On the seventh day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me seven swans a-swimming.

The Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost

O marvelous exchange!

... Man's Creator has become man, born of a virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

~An antiphon from today's Liturgy of the Hours

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for January

General Intention: That the riches of creation be preserved, valued and made available to all, as a precious gifts from God to mankind.

Missionary Intention: That Christians may achieve full unity, bearing witness of the universal fatherhood of God to the entire human race.

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day
for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all our associates,
and in particular for the intentions
of the Holy Father for this month.