12 March 2014
by stef
1 Comment

God Picks My Lenten Penance

I suppose jumping right into the writing part will have to be good enough for now.

I’m reading another book and having another blog conversation this year. I asked my friend to pick this year and he picked St. Faustina’s Divine Mercy in My Soul, which has been on my to-read list forever.

This Lent, however, started with a bang and I have yet to catch my breath. Since Ash Wednesday, I’ve had an infection on my thumb (now healing nicely, it’s rather fascinating to watch the new skin emerge, like baby skin, and the old skin peel off, crisp like parchment), sore throat being passed on back and forth in the family, skin infections on 2 of the kids, a heartache rippling out into several others, a car dying and having to be towed, and this morning, an almost-accident while I was driving Migi to his OGTs. But hey, who’s counting?

I’ve long stopped picking a specific penance to work on and just chant Pray, Fast, Give to myself all through Lent as a constant reminder, because like Jenn who lets God pick her penance, I just let Him pick mine. One year it was a stiff neck/back pain that lasted a couple of weeks, another year it was a sprained ankle. He knows what I need.

Right now I need a nap. So I’ll hit PUBLISH on this one, snuggle next to the napping hubby and read “Divine Mercy” until I fall asleep.

A blessed Lent to all.

1 March 2014
by stef
1 Comment

Help! We’re having a baby! How do I homeschool the toddler/older child(ren)?

Candice, dito ko na ia-address ‘yung concerns mo ha, so it can hopefully bless others as well. I was working on a blog post but it got too convoluted. I figured having a specific audience will help me get my thoughts out better :P

How to homeschool an older child (or children) when you also have a toddler and a new baby: Set priorities.

#1 Priority. The Baby. Which therefore means, YOU, the mom. You need to be getting sleep (with the understanding that moms don’t get a lot, but get as much as you can). Things that can help:

- Is dad going to be able to take off work? If he is, take advantage of that, and GET SLEEP. Cleaning the house, etc. can wait. Dad will need sleep too. Napping with baby on his chest? Awesome. That’s why all our kids are close to dad. :)
- If laundry needs doing, one load a day. Have older child help with sorting/folding. Good activity to do when baby’s napping.

#2 Priority. Food. Before baby is born, prepare freezer meals, at least a couple of weeks’ worth, so that all dad or older child(ren) will have to do is heat up food. Don’t stress it though. If you have to resort to freezer-to-microwave meals from the store, or Chinese, or fast food, or pizza delivery, okey lang. You’re not going to keel over and die from fast food (not right away anyway ;) ).

#3 Priority. Homeschooling. I put this here kasi I know that’s your biggest worry, but I wanted to illustrate na it really should be last after the above are taken care of. Because homeschooling is LIFE. Our children will learn far more from LIVING life with a new baby than from any other formal lesson they’ll have about reading or math or science.

- Children will learn that sometimes you just need to go with the flow. A baby, esp. the first few weeks of life, dictates the schedule. Build the rest of your day around the baby. When the baby naps, go nap with the older kids too. At the very least cuddle on the couch and read favorite books. Or older child reads to toddler. Work out things so you all have DOWN TIME or QUIET TIME once or twice a day. Put on some classical music or an audiobook for the older child to listen to. THIS WILL BE YOUR LITERATURE AND MUSIC LESSON.

- There will be many areas of concern, but I want to address the 3 basics — food, clothing, shelter. Past the first couple of weeks, when life starts to normalize a bit more, get older child to help you cook. Simple meals lang, or assembly type food items. THIS WILL BE YOUR READING, MATH AND SCIENCE LESSON. Learning to follow a recipe is an important life skill and it will carry on to other skills. :) Loading a dishwasher is also a lesson in Math/Geometry. Math worksheets (Singapore Math make them really colorful and fun) are great if you just want to make sure she’s practicing her computation skills.

- Sorting clothes can be a lesson for the toddler. MATH SKILL ITO. Sort clothes into piles (Dad, Mom, Ate, Me, Baby), Ate or mom folds.

- Turn cleaning into a game. Sing songs like “Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share”, etc. Or set a timer. “Let’s see how much clutter we can put away in five minutes!! Go!”

- Live the liturgical year. Morning prayer, grace at meals, night prayer. Read a saint’s bio a day, talk about that saint’s life, what he/she did to become a saint. There’s your RELIGION LESSON.

- Encourage your older child to keep a journal. This will take care of WRITING AND NARRATION SKILLS. If a child is not particularly fond of HANDwriting, require only a few sentences (depending on age and maturity). The rest can be done via computer, either the child keyboarding herself/himself, or record audio/video narrations.

- STOP worrying about the AMOUNT of learning that’s going on, or covering a certain number of chapters per week. Much of learning isn’t measurable anyway. Just make sure you surround them with TRUE, GOOD, BEAUTIFUL. Strew good books around, on a variety of subjects. The child will pick up those books because THEY’RE ACCESSIBLE. Hang fine artwork around the house, kahit postcards lang. OR, set up your screensaver to rotate artwork. You can do Matisse for a week, Monet for the next, etc.

- Get out as much as you can, every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day. You’ll need fresh air and sun kasi, and exercise. While you’re out, take note of things like the sky, trees around you, rocks, etc. RELIGION AND SCIENCE LESSON right there. If/when you can go out to a park or a nature trail, take a field guide or two with you, so you can identify trees, leaves, birds, etc.

- Grocery shopping = MATH LESSON. Also HEALTH — Why do we buy this item vs. that. Why this vegetable/fruit is good for you. Where do we get protein and why do we need it? etc.

- If you can, WEAR BABY. This will do wonders in keeping him/her happy and you being able to do stuff around the house and making yourself available to the other kids.

- The baby becomes the lesson :) Borrow children’s books from the library on human development. One book I would recommend — Angel in the Waters by Regina Doman. (I can list more recommendations if you like.) Great time to talk about biology. TOB! ;)

- Let older child help out as much as he/she can. This will help dissipate any feelings of envy and give her a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

- Do make sure that when Dad’s home and taking care of baby, that toddler and older child get LOTS of hug time, better kung individually. What we’ve also done in the past is sometimes have Mom, older child and baby in the family bed, and dad and toddler in another bed. (These are just suggestions; I will not further address co-sleeping because every family is different naman.)

What’s most daunting, I think for most moms with toddlers, is keeping the toddler occupied. Rotate toys/manipulatives to keep them interesting. Duplo, wooden blocks, pattern blocks, large puzzles, playdough (make these before baby comes), finger paints (outside so you don’t have to worry about cleanup), etc. If summer, a sandbox + diff. size cups, and water box outside will keep toddler occupied for hours. Even just a plastic container with a lid will do, you don’t have to get a real sandbox. Also, GOOD VIDEOS (i.e., Veggie Tales or educational ones) — don’t worry about having to resort to these if you need your nap. It’s not going to be forever. :)

Educational videos for the older child/children too ARE OKAY. There are so many available, you won’t run out! So it’s not ideal. So what. You’re also teaching FLEXIBILITY.

More than anything, just RELAX. When our kids see us taking life one day at a time, not majoring in the minors, not stressing over the petty things, THAT’S a valuable lesson. It teaches them how to trust and live in God’s grace and His perfect time. You can do this, Sis :)

29 December 2013
by stef
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Fiat and The Family

An entry for Filipinos for Life’s December Blogging Event, What Child is This? Bearing Children as the World’s Salvation


Christmas season is the perfect time to discuss the bearing of children. That today is the Feast of the Holy Family makes it particularly appropriate.

In Three To Get Married, Archbishop Fulton Sheen says:

It takes three to make Love in Heaven–
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It takes three for Heaven to make love to earth–
God, Man, and Mary, through whom God became Man.

It takes three to make love in the Holy Family–
Mary, and Joseph, and the consummation of their love, Jesus.

It takes three to make love in hearts–
The Lover, the Beloved, and Love.

You can see how the phrase “making love” then takes on a new dimension when viewed in light of God’s mandate. In our society today we throw this phrase around and render it meaningless: making love = sex, and vice versa. And sex according to the world is but a recreational activity, a physical need, a stress reliever, an animal instinct — and those are just the milder terms I’ve seen used.

If we are to recognize that sex is God’s gift, however, then every instance of the marital act, as God designed it, becomes an essential part of every married person’s salvation. God means for it to be free, total, fruitful, and faithful. It is unitive and procreative, because the marital embrace is not simply a communion of bodies and minds, but a communion of souls. Making love with our spouses according to God’s design becomes our personal annunciation. Every instance, blessed and open to life, becomes sacred, because that is when we give our personal Fiat: we say YES to God as much as we say YES to our spouse, and YES to the possibility of new life. Life, a newly created soul, is God’s greatest gift to us. In keeping ourselves open to life, every man becomes another Joseph who says, YES, LORD, I am ready to take on the responsibility of fathering a child. I say yes to whatever it takes, to bring up this new soul, to work for him, to house her, to clothe him, to protect her, to defend him, to teach her. Every woman becomes another Mary who says, YES, LORD, to this new body planted to grow within my own, this new soul to grow as my own soul grows ever closer to You. This is how, as man and woman bound together in Matrimony, we truly participate in this work of salvation. That’s why being unequivocally pro-life in our own homes, in our marriages, in our families, is a non-negotiable.

Bearing a child, as the Holy Family demonstrated, did not end with Mary giving birth. The proper raising of children is a lifetime commitment. While we have the responsibility to see to our children’s physical, mental and emotional well-being, more important than any of those is their spiritual well-being. Every child we bear is another FIAT to life. Continuing to emulate Joseph and Mary, we see that each child is called to be another Christ, and how we raise him/her necessarily becomes reflective of that. Our job as parents is to teach them how to give that wholehearted Fiat as well when their time comes.

Our FIAT then, collectively and individually, enables us to follow in the Holy Family’s footsteps, and to see our role in salvation history, crystal clear and staring us in the face. We not only grow bodies, we grow souls. The unique crosses that we carry, big and small, often come to us via the family, but likewise, we fill our lives with big and small “fiats”, and as we do so, mold our hearts and our wills to His will. It is not an easy trek by any means, but there is no more worthwhile goal than getting each other to heaven so we can enjoy His as well as each other’s company there. It is thus foolish and pointless to wish or expect married and family life to be a bed of roses, especially when we already know that the crown of thorns comes before the crown of glory, and that salvation passes by way of the family.

Additional suggested reading:

Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization
The Family, Gift and Commitment, Hope for Humanity
Gratissimam Sane

20 December 2013
by stef

Holiday Baking: Sugar Cookies


These cookies are excellent for rolling, with a few tried-and-true tricks up your sleeve.

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
Confectioner’s sugar, for sprinkling/cutting dough

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt onto wax paper.
Cream butter and sugar in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Add beaten egg and milk, mix for one minute, then add flour gradually, mixing at low speed, until well-combined and dough is formed.
Divide into two or three parts and form into disks.
Wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and chill for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Sprinkle cutting board with confectioner’s sugar. Lay plastic wrap on top of dough and roll to an even 1/4-inch thickness. Using cookie cutters dipped in confectioner’s sugar, cut dough and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet, 1-inch apart.
Bake 7 minutes or just until beginning to color. Let cool 5 minutes on sheet, then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.
Serve as is, or decorate as desired. The cookies shown are decorated using Wilton’s Royal Icing recipe made with Meringue Powder — the white piping uses the recipe as is, and the blue background is simply royal icing thinned to a flowing consistency.

20 December 2013
by stef

Holiday Baking: Rugelach


This recipe is the traditional one. You may find others — I tried currants one year and didn’t like that. Chocolate chips are not traditional but we’ve also tried that and love it.

Cookie Dough:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 8-oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Cream butter, cream cheese and vanilla extract together in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add sugar and salt, run mixer a few more seconds to incorporate, then add flour and mix on low speed until dough comes together. Divide into four equal parts. Form each into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for an hour. While dough is chilling,

Puree in food processor or blender

1/2 cup apricot preserves

In a bowl, combine filling ingredients:

6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins (regular or golden)
1 cup chopped walnuts

In a small bowl, whisk together egg wash:

1 egg
2 tablespoons milk

In another small bowl combine cinnamon topping:

3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

When dough is chilled, remove one of the disks from the fridge and lay plastic wrap on top to keep from sticking. Roll to a 9-inch circle on a well-floured board. Spoon 1/4 of the apricot preserves onto the circle, spreading evenly.
Sprinkle with 1/4 of the raisin-walnut filling.
With a sharp knife, cut circle into quarters, then each quarter into 3 wedges. Roll up each wedge starting from the wide end. Curl cookie slightly into a crescent shape. Transfer rugalach to parchment-lined baking sheet, points underneath. Chill 30 minutes (since I usually make this around Christmastime, it’s often cold enough outside that I stick it on the porch while I work on the rest :D ).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F while cookies are chilling.

Brush each one with egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Bake 15 minutes or until golden. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

Pictures from the 2006 rugelach baking session, which I wrote about here — when I was still working for b5media.



14 December 2013
by stef

Book Organization: Our Shelves

I promised some people a while back that I’d do a post on how we organize our books. The truth is it’s a bit hard to do this since our shelves are constantly in flux, but this should give a general idea of how we do things. The actual contents of each shelf changes from year to year, and sometimes month to month, depending on the kids’ curriculum and interests. These are our Religion/History/Geography shelves. On top of these shelves are the large atlas books and a globe, as well as the boxes that hold my old stamp collection.

At least once a year, I do a rearranging of the shelves, taking out books that each child will use for that year — those go into their own baskets/desks so they’re easily accessible. Hence the 7th grade Faith and Life books aren’t here, and I guess someone needed to read the CCC again since it’s gone. The kids also regularly take books that they’ve fallen in love with and keep them in their own bookshelves/under their beds/on their desks, etc. I try to keep track of who’s got what so I don’t buy a book again by mistake, but it does get difficult with so many booklovers in the house.

Note: Click on the pics for enlarged versions.

the Catechism and Apologetics shelf

the Catechism and Apologetics shelf

Sacramental Preparation and TOB/Misc Spiritual Reading -- also art cards for Sacrament portfolios or meditation

Sacramental Preparation and TOB/Misc Spiritual Reading — also art cards for Sacrament portfolios or meditation

Liturgical Year -- there's a lot missing here because I'm working on them so they're on my desk.  In the basket is our set of homemade Stations of the Cross for Lent.

Liturgical Year — there’s a lot missing here because I’m working on them so they’re on my desk. In the basket is our set of homemade Stations of the Cross for Lent.

Salvation History + History spines

Salvation History + History spines

We like putting our history living books in chronological order. It’s helpful to see which saints were contemporaries with scientists and statesmen, for instance. One interesting dilemma I always run into is whether I should put a book in the century when the author lived, or the book’s setting. Talk about OCD. >.< Another dilemma is if I should put literature books alongside the history books, in the century when the author lived or if they go in the literature shelves. I just try not to think about it too much :) . If a book is not on one shelf, it must be on the other.

the Ancients through Middle Ages

the Ancients through Middle Ages

Middle Ages through Renaissance/Reformation

Middle Ages through Renaissance/Reformation



the rest of the History books.  on the right are some of the music/art books (no better place to put them right now)

the rest of the History books. on the right are some of the music/art books (no better place to put them right now)



I’ll post pics of other shelves in a future post. :)

14 December 2013
by stef
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Holiday Baking: Spitzbuebe


Original recipe here. For years I was making the recipe for Drei Augen from Gourmet, which I posted at Baking Delights (now Blisstree) when I was still blogging for b5media (reposting below). This is also similar to Linzer cookies, although Linzers traditionally include some nut flour (usually almond) in the dough.


DREI AUGEN / SPITZBUEBE (Jam-Filled Shortbread Sandwich Cookies)

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar plus additional for dusting cookies
2 large egg yolks
2 1/3 cups bleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup seedless raspberry jam

In a bowl with an electric mixer beat butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar, beating until combined well. Add yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift flour over butter mixture and fold in thoroughly.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and press into a 10-inch square, about 1/2 inch thick. Chill dough until firm, about 2 hours. Dough may be made 4 days ahead and chilled.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.

Divide dough into 4 pieces. Keeping remaining dough chilled, lightly flour 1 piece of dough and on a lightly floured surface gently pound with a rolling pin to soften. Roll out dough into an 8-inch square, about 3/16 inch thick. With 1 1 3/4- to 2-inch round cutter cut out cookies, chilling scraps, and arrange about 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. make more cookies in same manner with remaining 3 pieces of dough and with scraps, pressed together. With a 3/8-inch plain pastry tip cut out 3 small holes in half of cookies (these will be tops), leaving remaining half of cookies whole (these will be bottoms).

Put cookies in oven and immediately reduce temperature to 325 degrees F. Bake cookies, switching positions of sheets in oven halfway through baking, 20 minutes, or until pale golden and firm, and cool on sheets on racks. Lightly dust cookie tops with additional sugar and arrange cookie bottoms upside down on a work surface.

In a small saucepan heat jam over low heat until thickened slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Spread about 1/4 teaspoon jam onto each cookie bottom and arrange a cookie top over it to form a sandwich. Transfer remaining jam to a small resealable plastic bag and snip a small hole in one corner. Squeeze a drop of jam into each opening in cookie tops and let stand until dry. Keep cookies frozen between layers of wax paper or parchment paper in an airtight container up to 2 weeks. Makes about 36 cookies.

from Gourmet Magazine, December 1994

Some additional tips:

1. You don’t want the dough to be REALLY firm, as it would be more difficult to roll. I find that it’s best to have it chilled but still a bit moldable, i.e., when you hold a large dough piece in your hand, it should not feel completely hard, there should be some “give”.

2. After dividing the dough into several pieces (rolling one piece at a time and keeping the rest in the fridge) I roll mine on a large cutting board, with plastic wrap on top. The plastic wrap keeps the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and helps to smooth the dough completely.

3. Either follow a sequence of chill-roll-cut-transfer-bake, or roll-cut-chill-transfer-bake. The reason for this is that you don’t want the dough to be too soft/at room temperature because when you lift it from the cutting board and transfer onto the baking sheet, you don’t want it getting misshapen, and that will happen if the dough is warmer than it should be.

4. I watch the baking carefully, larger cookies will of course take longer. The best ones are just beginning to turn color on the edges. From that point they brown rather quickly and easily.

5. When giving these as gifts I assemble them the day that I’m delivering them, so the pretty snow-effect on top of the cookies stays fresh.

12 December 2013
by stef

Holiday Baking: Stephanie Schrader’s Walnut Cups


Original recipe here.

My adaptation: Makes about 60 cookies

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

4 large egg
4 tablespoons melted and cooled
3 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped walnuts

Make the crust: Cream the butter and cream cheese in bowl of electric mixer. Add salt and flour and beat until it forms a dough. Transfer to gallon-sized zippered plastic bag and press flat. Chill 30 minutes.

Make the filling: Whisk together eggs, brown sugar, melted butter, and vanilla. Keep covered; it thickens and dries up as it sits.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Press 1 1/4-inch balls of the dough into each hollow of a 24-mini-muffin tin. I use the rounded end of a lemon reamer handle for this. You can either leave the edges crumbly, or do like I do and press them smooth with my fingers. Pour filling into crust, leaving room for walnuts. Sprinkle walnuts into filling. Bake ~15 minutes or until crusts are golden and just beginning to pull away from the sides of the tin. Cool in the pan on a rack, 10 minutes. Poke out with the flexible tip of a knife — plastic knives work here — or a small spatula. Let cool completely on racks. Store in airtight containers for a few days at room temperature, a couple of weeks in the fridge, or up to two months in the freezer.

2 December 2013
by stef

Where Have All The Men Gone? The Quest for Authentic Fatherhood

Have you ever thought about the word “father”? It is so commonplace, and yet has such profound import as to signify the initiation of a man into parenthood: “He FATHERED a child.” We don’t say, “She mothered a child” until later. Fatherhood is attached to the BEGINNING of something great, a leap into a new phase of manhood. So much meaning and expectation is woven into it, that when a man doesn’t deliver, disappointment is exponentially magnified.

We have a shortage of authentic Catholic fathers because we have a shortage of authentic Catholic men. Feminism and the sexual revolution set into motion a seemingly endless cycle. Second-wave feminism, particularly, was supposed to correct wrongs both perceived and real, but has instead led to more egregious wrongs. Instead of holding men to a higher standard, we have lowered the bar, expected mediocrity, and now have to live with exactly that. Equality sounds good and noble, but the role reversal especially as concerns sex has all but gutted and emasculated men. No need for authentic men in the “liberated” women’s world: an oversimplification of The Pill’s long-term effects, perhaps, but not too far from the truth. Too many of our stories today do not begin with the aforementioned initiation into parenthood, because a man’s role as FATHER — with all that that implies — has been seriously eroded.

Today’s world paints a picture of extremes, of fatherless homes or of abuse, of men who abdicate responsibility, of men who have little to no understanding of what responsibility is, of men who unleash aggression on their wives and children. On the other extreme we have Peter Pans, men who have never grown up and are perpetually tied to their wives’ apron strings, sometimes even their mothers’: a scary tug-o-war scenario played out in everyday life, with no winner in sight — not husband, wife, nor children. It is not a pretty picture. A non-dysfunctional family today seems almost unreachable, a fantasy for many.


Research statistics show the frightening magnitude and depth of mis-fathering and fatherlessness. One could almost argue that all the ills in the world have these as the root cause! It is an epidemic that affects both the USA and the Philippines, though the manifestations are different. In America and other Western nations, cohabitation and divorce are seen as normal and have resulted in “modern families” of all sorts of configurations. In the Philippines where there is no divorce, we find instead men with second or even third “families”, recognized neither by the Church nor by law.

If we are to turn society around from the state it’s in, then our sons need to learn how to become men. There are three pieces to this puzzle:

a) Only a man can teach and show a boy how to be a man; a mother can’t do that.
b) For fathers to be effective, we need to allow them to BE fathers.
c) In the absence of fathers, we need to find suitable, positive role models for our sons to emulate and follow.

The only way to rebuild a culture that appreciates and promotes Christian/Catholic manhood, is to decide that the buck stops here: in our homes, our families, the circles in which we move around, and in our hearts. The cycle has to be interrupted and reversed. We need more Godly men to step up to the plate, no question (see resources below). The onus is on them. But the rest of us have a role to play as well.

Job number one is to shore men up, not tear them down. There should be no place for man-bashing of any sort. As a wife, I am aware that we women are naturally verbal, and if we are not careful we can easily silence our husbands. My children need to be able to look up to the man they call “Daddy”, to know that he is someone I deeply value, respect, and admire. It is worth following a Godly man who doesn’t compromise his integrity, and who knows he’s in charge of shepherding his children into heaven. But I cannot model this mindset while undermining him at the same time. One cannot be proud of a father who is dominated or treated like a doormat by his own wife. The lessons on authority that my children learn at home carries over into how they regard other authority figures, most especially their own Creator. And they need to recognize His authority in their lives if they are to conform themselves to His will. The cycle continues: men who know how to follow Divine authority become men who know how to lead, and who become worthy of being followed, not only by their own children but by their peers as well. Moreover, I cannot tell my daughter that the man she will marry is probably not going to be good enough, intelligent enough, rich enough, and that she’ll have to take the reins or she’ll be going nowhere. We parents have a tremendous responsibility here, if we don’t intend to prime our children for feminaziland in their future domestic churches! My son needs to hear the message, “Be like your father.” And I need to be able to tell my daughter, “That’s what you look for in a man.”

One of the most important things we can do is to shine our light on the fathers who live lives of quiet sacrifice and self-gift, but who are hardly ever paid attention or celebrated. Authentic Catholic fathers are the Atlases of our world today — they bear so much on their shoulders. They provide the bones and musculature our weakened, battle-weary society needs. Entire generations have been affected by the sexual revolution, and undoing its damages may take several more. Not every man will feel up to the task of living an authentic Catholic life, but heroic fatherhood is needed now. The only way to restore Catholic fatherhood to its rightful place is to allow men once again the dignity they’ve inherited as sons of God.

Resources for Fathers:

Your Daughter Needs A Hero
Fathers for Good
What Is A Real Man – Part 1
What Is A Real Man – Part 2
Practicing the Art of Catholic Manhood
Fatherhood (1)
Fatherhood (2)
Restoring the Fullness of Fatherhood
Reversing the Deculturation of Fatherhood
On the Demise of Fatherhood – A Review
Fatherless and Hopeful in America
In Defense of Fatherhood
Men of the Church
The Essential Father
Gratissimam Sane
Toward a Theology of Authentic Masculinity

8 November 2013
by stef

Chopped Horiatiki Salata / Greek Salad


I make no claims at all about the authenticity of this recipe. I’ve read in places that romaine lettuce does not play a part at all in traditional horiatiki. All I know is that our Greek foodie friend who married a Greek foodie gal are two of the coolest people around, and this is how THEY serve horiatiki in THEIR home. So who am I to argue with that? :)

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped, rinsed, spun-dry a couple of times
1 large tomato (love heirlooms for this), chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled or semi-peeled or not peeled, your choice — chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped
1/2 of a medium red onion, sliced thinly or chopped
large handful kalamata olives, halved
pepperoncini — I leave these whole because I’m the only one who likes them in my Greek salad
3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, Greek if available
handful Greek oregano if using fresh, a tablespoon or so if using dried
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Greek feta cheese, sliced, chopped into cubes, or crumbled (I let my family indulge when it comes to real Greek feta since they’re not allergic to goat/sheep milk cheese)

Toss all vegetables in a large bowl. Either whisk the red wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper in another bowl and then pour it into the bowl with the vegetables and toss, OR, sprinkle onto the vegetables directly and toss, toss, toss, until flavors are evenly distributed. Top with feta cheese. Drizzle more olive oil on top as desired.

Serve by itself, or with warm pita or a crusty baguette.

A great lunch item for the feast of St. Andrew of Crete, on the 4th of July.

8 November 2013
by stef

Gingery Asian Beef and Noodle Soup


Here’s another Filipino basic that is great for making use of leftovers, or when in need of a quick no-nonsense meal. I start out here with leftover pieces and gravy from a soy-braised round steak. Store-bought rotisserie chicken, stuffed wontons, fried pork chops, are all fair game.

Oil for cooking (your choice — these days I use coconut or olive oil or a mixture of the two)
Several cloves garlic, crushed and peeled (minced if you like)
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1-inch piece gingerroot, peeled, crushed, minced
Pre-cooked meat of your choice, chopped into bite-sized pieces — I had ~1 cup or so here of the steak mentioned above + its leftover gravy
Salt and/or fish sauce and/or soy sauce to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups water, meat or poultry broth or vegetable broth
Noodles of your choice — egg noodles are excellent, like the ones you can get fresh at the Asian store, but dried noodles will work too, as will any Italian pasta. I used organic egg-free Ramen noodles in this one.

Toppings, any or all of these:
- hard boiled egg, chopped or sliced
- crushed chicharon (pork rinds)
- fried minced garlic
- fried or caramelized onions
- chopped chives or green onions

And even things like
- chopped pickled things such as kimchi or pickled radish
- quick pickles like shredded carrots or cucumber
would work here.

Even crunchy BACON! Bacon makes everything better. :)

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute garlic until softened, then add onions. Cook, stirring, until limp. Add ginger and continue to stir until fragrant. Add meat pieces, give everything a good stir to coat the meat with the flavors, then add broth. Bring to a boil and add noodles. (Noodles can be pre-cooked, or cooked in the broth. I prefer cooking in the broth so they soak the flavors as they cook. Do note that if using dried noodles they will tend to absorb much of the broth, so adjust accordingly.) Cook noodles, stirring frequently, until done. Adjust seasonings. Serve hot with choice of toppings. That’s it! You’re done!

The traditional Filipino accompaniment to something like this is siopao. Maybe I’ll do that one of these days, as the kids have been begging.

7 November 2013
by stef

Vegetables in Coconut Milk and Shrimp Paste


This is a very basic Filipino recipe. I fell in love with coconut milk stews sometime in high school, and I’m still in love. I remember calling my mom a couple of weeks after I got married and asked her how to prepare this, since I had found some lovely hyacinth beans at the Asian store. I could not believe how simple it was, and how delicious! Every newlywed should know how to make this, it’s a lifesaver. You can use it for just about any vegetable there is, and you can also add things like fish or shrimp. If you don’t know what bagoong is and don’t really want to learn, don’t worry. You can always use salt or fish sauce.

1 can coconut milk
2 inches gingerroot, peeled and crushed (or minced)
5 large garlic cloves, crushed and peeled (minced if desired)
1-2 tablespoons shrimp paste, or 1/2 teaspoon salt, or 2 tablespoons fish sauce
Thai peppers if you like things hot — I sometimes prepare half the dish in one pot and half in another, and I put the hot peppers in MY POT :D . Serranos or jalapeños will also work here.

Veggies, cut up — for instance:
1 pound green beans or yard long beans or other podded bean, cut into 2 inch pieces
1-2 pounds winter squash like butternut or acorn, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
okra or eggplant will work too
3 bunches spinach, kale, Swiss chard — all of these will work
Stuffed leaves (the aforementioned spinach, kale, or chard — with shrimp, or chicken, or a combo of pork and shrimp, or some smoked fish)

any or all of the above, in combo, will definitely work — if cooking large amounts you might want to double the coconut milk and other ingredients so you don’t end up with a dry stew. Although, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In some regions in the Philippines that’s exactly what they do — let the whole thing dry up a bit and allow the fat from the coconut milk to be released. Yummy either way.

You can also add things like cut up cooked pork (or increase cooking time if using raw pork), or raw shrimp — peeled or unpeeled, doesn’t matter. Fish pieces will also work, just watch that they don’t overcook and break apart. And of course, you can make it an exclusively meat dish — pork cubes with some fat in them will work perfectly, as will chicken thighs, boneless or not. If you want extra tanginess sprinkle in a few tablespoons of vinegar or lime juice.

The method is fail-safe — dump everything into the pot, bring to a boil, bring down to a simmer immediately, cover and let cook until veggies (and/or meat) are done, stirring occasionally. If using a combo of meat and veggies, cook the meat first, then add the veggies the last 10 minutes or so, so they don’t get mushy.

If you’re using hot peppers but don’t want the final dish to be too spicy, you can add the peppers during the last 10 minutes or cooking, and taste every few minutes or so. Take out the peppers when you’ve reached the level of heat you want.

So delicious over hot rice. Garnish with chopped cilantro if you like.

7 November 2013
by stef

Summer’s End Vegetable Soup

This is a lovely soup to have on hand those beginning autumn days when the air starts getting chilly, but you still have an abundance of veggies from the summer harvest. Of course, you can always change up the vegetables all through the year and use whatever’s in season.


1 pound cannellini or other white beans, soaked overnight then simmered with a few sage leaves, or konbu, in water to cover, until tender — drained

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pound zucchini, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups chicken broth (more if soup is too thick for you at the end)
1 bunch Swiss chard or kale, or 2 bunches mature spinach, trimmed, washed thoroughly and chopped
1/2 head green cabbage
6 large tomatoes, chopped, or 2 15-oz or 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes (I like the fire-roasted kind, but regular will do)
2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
A leftover cheese rind, if you have one (to make it creamier) — optional
Your favorite cheese, grated — I used Swiss Gruyere for this one, but Parmigiano or Pecorino will do just as well (optional for those avoiding dairy — I’d sub a small bowl of sea salt flakes like Maldon for serving, so people can help themselves)
More olive oil for serving, in a bowl with a spoon, or a pourer so people can help themselves

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, celery and carrots. Cook, stirring often, until carrots are partly tender, about 10 minutes. Add zucchini pieces and broth. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Once it reaches the boil, bring down to simmer and cover 5 minutes. Add Swiss chard or kale, cabbage and tomatoes, and cover again. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour. If soup looks too dry, add a bit more broth. When veggies are tender, add beans. Season with salt and pepper, and the cheese rind if using. Cook 15-30 more minutes, stirring every few minutes, until all veggies are tender and the entire mixture is creamy. Adjust seasonings if necessary.

Serve hot!

6 November 2013
by stef
1 Comment

Stovetop Ratatouille, with Roasted Eggplant


Ratatouille is just one of those dishes that make me happy-happy-happy. Besides having all my favorite veggies, it also has such a fun name to say: rat-a-too-ee. Doesn’t that word just make you smile? I try to make this often because I know my days of enjoying it are numbered. My mom, at not-quite-79, can’t really have nightshades anymore because they trigger gout. I suspect I will be the same by the time I get to her age. Here’s some helpful information on nightshades and nutrition.

But what’s even more fun about ratatouille, from a cook’s standpoint, is that you could almost never get it wrong. There are so many ways to prepare it — as a stew, as a casserole, sorta like a stir-fry will work too. Chop up your veggies a bit more finely and voila! You have Italian caponata. Replace the peppers with squash, add some okra and Filipino bagoong, some shrimp and some pork if you like, and you have Filipino pakbet.

This version uses roasted eggplant, which is an extra step, so you can omit it if you don’t have the time. My benchmark is Julia Child’s recipe in The Way to Cook, but this comes a close second.

1 medium-large eggplant, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 -inch cubes and tossed with ~2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Several tablespoons more extra-virgin olive oil
1 large zucchini, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 large onion, cubed or sliced thin
1 bell pepper (you can use red or green — I like red — but sometimes I use both), cubed
1 tablespoon minced garlic, or if you like, several large cloves cut into slivers/thin slices
3 large tomatoes, cubed
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs thyme
a handful of basil, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F while you prepare the eggplant. Spread eggplant cubes evenly on parchment-lined sheet and roast, turning a few times, 15-20 minutes or until just tender, while you prepare the rest of the vegetables.

Heat large skillet (I like using my cast-iron for this) over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil and when hot but not smoking, add zucchini cubes. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring every now and then just until tender but not falling apart. Remove to bowl, leaving oil behind.

Add more oil if necessary, then cook onions, letting soften a bit, before adding the peppers. When peppers and onions are tender, add garlic, stir a few more minutes until garlic is golden, then add tomatoes, salt, bay leaf and thyme. Stir well and cover, cooking ~7 minutes or so. Add eggplant and zucchini and cook 12-15 minutes more, stirring halfway to meld flavors. Adjust seasonings and serve hot. Or not! Since ratatouille is just lovely at any temp — hot, room temp, or cold, making it ideal for picnics in the summertime.

Delicious over rice, if you’re gluten-free. Or with a crisp-crusted baguette, for dipping into the veggie juices. Mmmmm.


I like to eat a plateful of this (or more), topped with a fried egg. :)

Since ratatouille incorporates so many summer vegetables, it would make a great addition to the dinner or lunch table when celebrating some of our French saints’ summer feast days:

St. Eugene de Mazenod, May 21
St. Bobo, May 22
St. Maximinus of Aix, June 8

6 November 2013
by stef

Fettuccine Alfredo, Kinda


I’m posting this because it’s such a simple and easy recipe, and though it’s not the healthiest, I want my kids to have this in their back pocket for those times when they need a quick, filling meal.

It’s not really even a recipe because the formula is quite simple.

Pasta. Butter. Cream. Sea salt. Coarsely ground black pepper. And Parmigiano Reggiano.

Prepare fettuccine according to manufacturer directions. Al dente, of course.

While fettuccine is cooking, put pieces of butter to soften in a large bowl.

When pasta is done, drain and toss with the butter, pouring in cream and sprinkling with salt as you toss. If you want it creamier and richer, simply use more butter and cream. I purposely don’t specify amounts because I go by feel when making this. But I wouldn’t recommend subbing half and half or milk. Only the real thing please, though you could “lighten” as I have here and really just use enough to get a faint coating of butter and cream on the noodles. I’d rather go heavy on the cheese itself anyway. Toss, toss, toss until coated. Then add grated Parmigiano Reggiano and toss again. Romano, Asiago, or Grana Padano will work beautifully as well.

Serve on heated plates, sprinkled with more cheese, and of course, coarse gratings of black pepper.

No, it’s not the “classic” way of preparing Fettucine Alfredo. But it works for us. :)