Tagged liturgical year

Coquilles St. Jacques on St. James’ Feast Day


It’s St. James’ Feast Day, so this is what we had for dinner. It’s the classic Coquilles St. Jacques, simmered briefly in vermouth and then enrobed in sauce and browned briefly in the broiler. A green salad, some bread, and perhaps some white wine to round off the menu and you’re good to go.

And as always Jenn Miller over at Catholic Culture gives us some great material for reading to the kids at the dinner table.

We might not be able to make the medieval pilgrimage journey to Santiago de Compostela, but this feast gives us a chance to think of the physical journey of the pilgrim, and remind us of the spiritual journey we are making.

Coquilles Saint Jacques

2 shallots, chopped finely
2/3 cup French vermouth (I like this one)
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 lb. sea scallops (bay scallops are fine too)
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
the juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Gruyere or other Swiss cheese

In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the shallots, vermouth, salt and bay leaf to a boil. Just when it reaches boiling point, bring down the heat to low and simmer 3 minutes. Add scallops and enough water to almost cover the scallops, but not quite, about 1/2 cup. Simmer scallops, covered, 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and steep 10 minutes so that the scallops absorb the flavors.

Remove scallops to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside. Strain cooking liquid into a liquid measuring cup. You should have about 1 cup water. If you have more, return to saucepan briefly and boil to reduce to 1 cup.

While liquid is boiling, in a small saucepan over low heat, whisk together the flour and butter. Cook for a few minutes, whisking but do not allow to brown. When thick, add the cooking liquid, a squeeze of lemon juice to taste, and 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream. Whisk until smooth and add salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste. Fold in scallops.

Distribute scallops into clean scallop shells set on a baking sheet. (You can also use ramekins, or small baking dishes, or a shallow baking pan; even a pie pan would work.) Sprinkle with grated Gruyere.

Broil about 3 minutes or until tops are brown.

(How) Can I (Catholic) Homeschool for Free?


A friend who likes to plan early asks: Can I homeschool for free?

Quick answer: Yes.

Since so many homeschooling resources are now available online, you could get away with little more than pen, paper, a computer, a printer, and an Internet connection. BUT, unless you’re thinking of becoming a 100% unschooler (I’ve met only one person like that in 15+ years), then you will have to spend some time figuring out your curriculum for the year, which materials you’ll be printing out, which digital resources you’ll be using online, and some sort of schedule or lesson plan. I’d also recommend that the discerning Catholic parent keep an eye out for anti-Catholic bias, so you can at least discuss these things with your child if necessary. I also am a book lover, so I’m not in favor at all of doing away completely with books in the home and/or doing all schoolwork on the computer. Find the balance that works for you and your family.

I’ve gathered some links to get you started. There are thousands more on the Internet, but some of these are my favorites, some come highly recommended by fellow Catholic homeschoolers.

The basics for Catholics:

The Holy Bible
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Saint Nook
Printable Liturgical Calendar from Michele Quigley
Liturgical Year from Catholic Culture
Catholic Encyclopedia

Other good Catholic sources:

First Eucharist — really good resource, I have a hard copy of the book and we use it for Sacramental preparation
Eucharistic Miracles
Waltzing Matilda’s Coloring Pages
Domestic Church
Free Catholic Children’s Audio Books
Free Catholic Books
Our Catholic Homeschool
Catholic Handwriting Books
Free Vintage Catholic Textbooks and Readers

General Websites, secular, covering a wide range of subjects:

Open Culture
Khan Academy
The American Library Association’s Great Websites for Kids

International Children’s Digital Library
The Baldwin Online Children’s Literature Project
Children’s Books Online
Project Gutenberg

Numeracy, from BBC
YouCubed, from Stanford University
Kids Math Games Online
Free Math Worksheet Printables from KidZone
Mathematics Enhancement Programme

e-Learning for Kids
Neo K-12
Knowledge Adventure
Science Printables from Education.com
Printables from Scholastic.com

History and Geography

We like timelines for studying history, which you can do either on a wall, a lapbook, a notebook, or download Michele Quigley’s Book of Centuries.

We do history and geography here mostly through literature, so I recommend Alicia Van Hecke’s excellent list Reading Your Way Through History, which has been a go-to resource for us almost since we returned to homeschooling in 2001.

Mary at the 4Real Homeschooling forums put together this excellent Picture Book List for History that you’ll want to check out.

Eyewitness to History
History World
History Learning Site
Look for time lapse maps on YouTube, like this one.

Piano Nanny
Classics for Kids
Harmony Fine Arts


Web Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art
Art Coloring Pages
Google Art Project
Jerry’s Artarama


Open Culture
Worksheets from Education.com

Buying low-cost books

Other ways to get freebies or low-cost homeschooling materials are via book swaps or co-ops, so try to find a local homeschooling group; they’ll probably have other resources they can share with you.

Cathswap on YahooGroups remains the largest online Catholic swap group, at 7000+ members worldwide. In our early years of homeschooling I bought a lot of books through there. Do be careful if you’re buying internationally because besides the increased cost due to shipping, shipments are also harder to track and complaints/returns more difficult to manage. Facebook version here

Start collecting used books early. You can print out the following curricula and booklists or save them on your phone, for when you’re shopping used bookstores and book sales.

St. Thomas School from Jean and Maria Rioux
Angelicum Academy
Catholic Heritage Curricula
Ambleside Online (secular, but has lots of Catholic- /Christian-friendly options)
Mater Amabilis – the Catholic version of Ambleside Online
Kolbe Academy – click on each grade for booklists
Free Resources from Our Catholic Homeschool
The 4Real Learning Booklist from Elizabeth Foss
Catholic Mosaic Booklist — this is the booklist for Cay Gibson’s excellent book Catholic Mosaic

Free Resources, Middle School to College:

Other Resources, Secular:

Homeschool Freebie of the Day
Free Unit Studies
Free Lapbooks at HomeschoolShare
Homeschool for Free and Frugal
Free Homeschool Deals
Easy Peasy All In One Homeschool
Donna Young

If you need help with purchasing books, you might want to check out:
Book Samaritan

Lastly, check out my Homeschooling Pinterest Board for other ideas and freebies.

Click on Page 2 for places to buy used books in the Philippines.

If you’ve got other favorites, please tell me about them in the comments!!

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Fresh Figs

Was getting a bit tired of our usual veggie salads, and needed more vegetarian ideas, specifically those with more of a Mediterranean bent, so I got me Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. I cannot wait to try ALL the recipes. Okay, maybe 99%. I’m not a leg-o-lamb person. But hubby is, so maybe I’ll make that one for him. For now, I’m going page by page and just having fun discovering new flavor combinations. This one with the figs and sweet potato and reduced balsamic is excellent, though I wish I would have added some feta to up the salty element. (I don’t like goat’s cheese, which is in the original recipe. But maybe next time I make this I’ll add some just for the hubs, since he can eat that.)


3 medium sweet potatoes, cut into wedges (I cut each in half lengthwise, then each half into quarters, then each quarter into 3 pieces, lengthwise)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
~ 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Toss the above in a large mixing bowl, then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast about 20 minutes until tender and browned in places.


While sweet potatoes are roasting, reduce

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (doesn’t have to be fancy)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (superfine if you have it, but regular will do, what’s important is it gets dissolved well before you heat it up)

in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer a few minutes until thickened, but not too thick as to be unpourable or undrizzleable.

Also, prepare

2 tablespoons olive oil
large bunch green onions, trimmed, cut into 2-inch thickish shreds
1 red hottish pepper, sliced thin
6 ripe figs, wiped or rinsed clean, quartered (if large) or halved (if small)
Maldon sea salt (or other coarse salt) and additional black pepper for seasoning

Heat olive oil in a saucepan or skillet. Add green onions and red pepper and cook over medium heat, for a few minutes or just until wilted and fragrant.

When sweet potatoes are done, arrange in a platter, along with the figs. Scatter the green onion-red pepper mixture all around, including the oil, and drizzle with the balsamic reduction. Sprinkle Maldon sea salt and black pepper on top to finish and you’re done! Enjoy!


Can be prepared for St. Albert of Jerusalem‘s Feast on September 25, though fresh figs may be tricky to find at that time. I wouldn’t hesitate to sub dried Calimyrna figs, which is available year-round, either stewed in a bit of wine, or soaked in the balsamic vinegar prior to use in the recipe, or used as is but chopped.

Basic Hummus

With all the listeria hysteria last week caused by hummus, I thought I’d share a very basic recipe for making it at home. It really is that simple and it really is that good. Many of the store-bought hummus available in our area have additional things like red peppers (which my kids don’t like) or pine nuts (allergies in the family) or just not flavorful enough, and that’s what’s great about homemade — it’s customizable. I like my hummus garlicky and not too lemony, and that swirl of olive oil at the end plus the sprinkling of paprika makes this dish party-ready as well. This recipe is from a Lebanese co-worker of my hubby’s, who generously shared his recipe with me after I fell in love with it at his party, one of the very first we attended as a newlywed couple years ago. It’s been a favorite since.


1 1/2 cups dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
water for soaking
1 teaspoon baking soda
the juice of two small lemons + the zest of one
5 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped roughly
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 cup homemade or storebought tahini (sesame paste)
approximately 8 tablespoons water
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
paprika for sprinkling

Pick through and rinse chickpeas, then soak overnight in water to cover.

Drain chickpeas and transfer to a saucepan. Sprinkle with baking soda. Over high heat, cook 2-3 minutes, stirring, then add water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat to a simmer and cook, 20 minutes or so or until tender, skimming foam and chickpea skins as they come to the top every now and then.

When done, drain chickpeas and set aside a few for garnishing. Transfer to a high-speed blender or food processor. Add lemon juice and zest, garlic, salt, and tahini. Process slowly at first, adding most of the water gradually and stopping every now and then to scrape down sides of blender or food processor. When everything is incorporated, process on high, adding just enough water to achieve the consistency of a dip. Taste for saltiness and adjust if needed.

Scoop/pour into a bowl. Swirl a spoon on the surface to create a spiral groove. Put reserved whole chickpeas in the center. Pour olive oil on top so that it pools nicely into the grooves. Sprinkle paprika in a cross pattern on top, and serve.

Almost anything can be served with hummus: pita chips, pita bread wedges, tortilla chips, various crudites, or (shhhhh) you can even just eat it with a spoon.

If you forgot to soak the chickpeas (which I’ve done often enough), pick through and rinse, then put in large saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat to a simmer and cook about 2 hours or until tender, baking soda optional.

Canned chickpeas (2 15-oz cans), drained, can also be used to make this recipe.

Hummus can be found all over the Middle East, but since I learned about this dish from a Lebanese friend, I especially like to serve it on July 24, St. Charbel Makhlouf’s feast day.

Hot and Sour Soup

It’s supposed to be spring! It’s 37 degrees F outside. I want my salad and my fruit and my cold soups. Instead I’m back to this. But at least I can eat it by a sunny window. Gotta be thankful for the little things.


Hot and Sour Soup, adapted from a favorite, Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

This is pretty much an assembly job. You work in steps and groups of ingredients, and then combine everything in the end, when they come together beautifully.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, about 7 cups. While waiting for water to boil, put the following into separate bowls:

1/4 cup black fungus, aka dried tree ear or cloud ear fungus
1/4 cup dried lily buds
1/3 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
1 or 2 dried Chinese hot peppers (optional)
1/2 lb. pork meat (I like lean cuts here, so loin or tenderloin will do, as will boneless pork chops), cut into thin strips/shreds

When water is boiling, add about 2 cups total to the black fungus, dried lily buds, shiitake mushrooms, and hot peppers, just enough to cover. Let soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients, about 20 minutes.

To the remaining boiling water, add 2 tablespoons of the shredded meat, decreasing the heat and letting it simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add the following to the remaining pork in the bowl:
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Whisk together in another bowl (I know, this calls for a lot of bowls, but it’s worth it, trust me):

2 eggs
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water

While things are soaking and simmering, prepare:

1/2 package firm tofu, julienned
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 green onions, trimmed sliced thinly
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

When tender, remove hard twiggy parts from the black fungus and de-stem the mushrooms. Slice fungus and mushrooms into thin strips. Tear the lily buds into long shreds with your fingers. Leave red peppers whole or slice into strips if you want your soup hotter.

Add the black fungus, lily buds, and mushrooms into the soup. Let simmer a few minutes, then add the julienned tofu, along with the salt, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce. Increase heat and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 7 minutes.

Give the marinated pork a final stir, then add to the soup along with the green onions, stirring well to prevent the pork strips from sticking to each other. Simmer 5 more minutes.

Give the egg-and-cornstarch mixture one last good whisk. Pour slowly into the soup, stirring gently to form shreds. Increase to heat to medium and let boil a few more minutes to thicken and clear. Add black pepper and stir once more to flavor.

Taste and add more black pepper and rice wine vinegar if necessary, or serve and let diners adjust seasonings at the table.

This would make a great addition to your fall or winter table. It’s particularly appropriate to prepare on St. Gabriel Taurin Dufresse‘s feast day on September 14.

French Onion Soup / Soupe a l’Oignon Gratinée

Reposting from my old blog.


Onion soup is a lovely thing to make right after the onion harvest at end of season, when the weather’s just starting to cool down. Onion soup is also a lovely thing to start love stories with. Like ours, which certainly didn’t begin with onion soup, but has seen its share of this dish through the years. Our first real date (though with a group) was at the now-defunct 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant in St. Louis. My then-suitor invited me via a sweet 2-page note, hyping up the view of airplanes taking off and landing as “romantic”. I didn’t see anything romantic about airplanes doing what they do, but whatever. Well, everyone ordered this starter served in a crock like the one in the last photo. I fell for the crocks.


Now ubiquitous, French onion was in vogue at the time, served in a crock at the (also defunct) Famous-Barr‘s basement restaurant on Kingshighway and Chippewa in St. Louis. St. Louis Bread Company chose to serve it in sourdough bread bowls, crowned with golden melted cheese flecked with brown. You take the bread lid that’s served on the side and dip it in the soup, then you eat the soup, then you eat the bowl it came in. Scrumptious and brilliant.


As a newlywed, I burned my hand making Julia Child’s version (in The Way to Cook) in our apartment one monthiversary. The soup had just finished its short foray into the broiler to melt the cheese and when I pulled the sheet bearing the cups (we didn’t have crocks) a bit too quickly and sloshed the boiling liquid right onto my wrist. My hubby promptly got butter and ice and ice water in a large bowl, and I ate dinner with one hand in the bowl and one hand holding my fork. Yeah, romantic indeed.

Our children all love French onion soup, and it’s one of our emergency meals, the closest SLBC (now Panera) a mere 5 minutes away. The homemade version, of course, is so much better, cheaper, and customizable. To make it, you’ll need:


3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
3-4 large onions, sliced thin (red and yellow combo is nice, as are Vidalias, and no need to get too fanatic about slicing evenly)
2 large pinches sugar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup wine, red or white (almost any dry wine will do, or sherry or French vermouth)
2 tablespoons flour (gluten-free instructions below)
1 French baguette, sliced and toasted
2 quarts beef broth or stock, or as some will debate, water
Grated Gruyere, I prefer Swiss over French, but your choice
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Pecorino or Grana Padano), optional


Heat oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring every once in a while, until onions are limp and just beginning to brown.


Add the sugar, salt, and pepper, and continue to cook, stirring every few minutes, until onions are caramelized nicely, 20 minutes or so. Add garlic, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs. I just stick the thyme sprigs in there — if you want to go through the trouble of picking the leaves off the stem, be my guest, but I don’t usually bother as the leaves tend to fall off anyway in the cooking and I can fish out the stems easily enough later. Cook a few minutes more. Add wine and bring to a boil by turning up the heat. When boiling, reduce heat and simmer until wine has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over, and cook about 8 minutes, stirring often. Add the beef broth and bring back to a boil. When boiling, lower heat to a simmer and cook 10-15 minutes more.

While soup is cooking, toast bread slices and grate the cheeses.


Fish out the bay leaves and thyme sprigs and you’re done! Ladle into crocks or individual soup bowls, top with toasted bread slices and sprinkle on the cheeses. I prefer Swiss Gruyere and try to find the real thing as I find locally produced ones too salty. I do like the touch of Parmigiano on top. You can also use use grated or sliced Swiss cheese (holey or not), or any yellow melty cheese for the top, like Mozzarella or Provolone.

Amusing trivia I found while researching for this post: the French/Swiss Gruyere Cheese war.

Broil for 3 minutes or so, just until cheese is melted and top is golden.


Gluten-free note: If you wish to make this gluten-free, besides subbing gluten-free bread slices for the bread, omit the flour and thicken the soup instead, right before ladling, with some tapioca, arrowroot or cornstarch dissolved in some water. Bring the soup to a boil again and stir the starch mixture in to incorporate and cook a few more minutes. Taste to make sure the soup doesn’t have any raw starch taste before serving.

The Lyon(s), France version of this is known to be particularly thick and rich, so preparing this dish would be a great way to celebrate St. John Vianney‘s Feast Day on August 4.

It’s also perfect for our meatless days during the Lenten season.

Chicken with Almond Sauce on St. Frances of Rome’s Feast Day, March 9

Today we’re celebrating St. Frances of Rome (click here for her fascinating story), so for dinner I’ve made a chicken dish which dates back to the Middle Ages. Since St. Frances was a good home manager I could imagine her directing the servants to pound the nuts and grind the spices and chop up the herbs for her. We have our modern appliances to help us with this, but if you don’t have a food processor or blender, I’ve provided ideas for substitutions below.


Nut sauces can be found in many different cuisines: Spain’s romesco, Syria’s muhammara, Mexico’s mole. Through all of these there seems to be a common thread running which food historian Rachel Laudan discusses here. Italian pesto is more an herb sauce than a nut sauce, so this particular Medieval almond sauce with its accompanying spices seems to be a marriage between ancient Rome’s moretum and the Islamic-influenced nut sauce. (I am an amateur food historian and would welcome any corrections on this.)

So, without further ado, the recipe, adapted from Redon, Sabban and Serventi’s The Medieval Kitchen.

1 whole chicken, cut into parts (cut yourself (here’s how), or buy already cut pieces)
olive oil for frying
salt and freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup almonds
handful flat-leaf parsley
handful dill

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
pinch saffron threads

Heat olive oil in large skillet (I use a 12″ cast iron) over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.

Arrange chicken pieces in skillet, leaving space in between so they brown properly. Do this in batches if necessary.

Brown 4 minutes or so, until golden. Turn pieces carefully, browning the other side, 4 minutes more.

After all pieces are browned (return everything to the pan if you did this in batches), add 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately lower heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, covered, approximately 35 minutes or until tender but not falling apart.

While chicken is cooking, process almonds and herbs in food processor or blender until smooth.

Grind peppercorns in coffee or spice grinder, or with the use of mortar and pestle. Combine with cinnamon, ginger, and saffron and set aside.

Remove chicken pieces to platter when they are done. Keep warm in low oven, covered loosely with foil.

Add cooking liquid to almond mixture in blender and process until smooth, adjusting seasonings with salt and pepper.

Return almond mixture to pan and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently until reduced to a thick sauce. Add chicken pieces to sauce to coat lightly and heat a few minutes more before serving. Alternatively, arrange chicken pieces in platter and serve sauce on the side. Sprinkle with spice mixture.

Suggested substitutions for the sauce:

– store-bought pesto, with or without finely chopped fresh dill mixed in
– almond butter mixed with chopped herbs
– almond flour mixed with store bought pesto

Prayer for St. Frances’ intercession, from Catholic Culture:

O God, who have given us in Saint Frances of Rome a singular model of both married and monastic life, grant us perseverance in your service, that in every circumstance of life we may see and follow you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

The Plan for Lent 2015

Credit: SaintJohnWellesley.org
Credit: SaintJohnWellesley.org

– Commitment to daily Mass whenever we have a car at our disposal. (This sentence was very hard to type with it being 1 degree F outside. UGH. Please pray for me.)
– Confession every two weeks.
– Adoration on Wednesday evenings.
– Mom’s Reading Material: Sheen, Magnificat, continue/finish up current books. New attempt at reading/singing the Filipino Pasion.
– Nino’s Reading (with Mom): My Path to Heaven
– Yena’s Reading: Holy Bible, finish up Following the Holy Spirit, 9 Words (reread)
– Migi’s Reading: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius
40 Bags in 40 Days.
– No music on Fridays. (One teen is not happy with this.)
– Maundy Thursday “Visita Iglesia”.
– Mom’s Lenten Resolution: Write letters to the people on my “apostolate” list.
– Nino’s “Good Deeds List” (choose one a day)

  • No whining.
  • “Right away” obedience.
  • Give up your 30-minute show for the day, or your Thursday game.
  • Clean your toys yourself.
  • Help with a chore.
  • Learn a new prayer.
  • Lead a decade of the family Rosary.
  • Color a Lenten saint coloring page.
  • Color a stations of the cross page.
  • Write a letter to Papa and Mama.
  • Write a letter to a sibling.
  • Donate clothes or toys.
  • Pray for babies.
  • Pray for persecuted Christians.
  • 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.

    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

    Autumn Breakfast Quinoa


    Here’s a simple, flexible recipe for autumn-themed quinoa. I was out of breakfast ideas and saw pumpkin quinoa on Pinterest, and that was enough to set me experimenting on my own.

    I’ve had horrible experiences with overcooked quinoa, so this was carefully watched.

    Bring a pot

    ~4 cups water

    to the boil over high heat.

    When boiling, add

    1 cup quinoa

    and lower heat to medium. Let cook ~10 minutes or just until done.

    While quinoa is cooking, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

    When done, drain well (a large sieve works well for me). Transfer to a large bowl and toss with

    3 tablespoons pureed pumpkin
    1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
    1 tablespoon coconut oil
    1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
    1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

    Spread evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

    Bake 30 minutes, giving it a good stir every 10 minutes or so. Don’t press too much on the grains, you don’t want them all smooshed together as to become pasty. After the first 10 minutes, keep stirring/tossing, but leave them in small flattish clumps, with spaces in between, so that some edges get exposed to air and get nice and toasty. You’re shooting for a nice combo of soft and grainy but with a teeny bit of crunch. What you’re really doing is drying it, kinda like how you would make granola. (If you have more time, you can extend the baking time so the quinoa does get crunchier and drier.)

    Remove from oven and serve hot. I topped mine with a sprinkling of brown sugar, chopped pecans (which would be really yummy made into a praline first, but who’s got time for that, right?), and raspberries, after which I drizzled a bit of almond milk all throughout.

    Walnuts would work too, roasted 5-7 minutes first in a 350 degree F oven
    Fresh chopped apples, or apples cooked in a bit of butter or Earth Balance, lemon juice and cinnamon
    Hemp seeds, YUM!!
    Butter! (if you’re not avoiding dairy), or maybe a little cream
    Any other autumny fruit or nut topping you like
    Maple syrup would be sensational

    Happy Fall!!!


    Quinoa is grown in the Andean region, so this dish would be suitable for celebrating the feast days of any of the following saints. A simple variation of toppings — for instance, strawberries for the spring or summer saints, or an Andean-grown fruit, like dried papaya — will work here.

    St. Narcisa de Jesus Martillo Moran, August 30
    St. Teresa of the Andes, July 13
    St. Francis Solano, July 14
    St. Laura Montoya, May 13
    St. Martin de Porres, November 3
    St. Rose of Lima, August 23

    A Marian Study for May


    Note: This is a work-in-progress. 🙂

    This is our rough outline for a Marian study we’re doing in May, covering art, geography, religion, history and the liturgical year. It’s a combination of ideas culled from the Blessed Mother Notebook Project message thread at the 4Real Forums, and a collection of magazine articles and religious calendars that I’ve been collecting the past several years. Yena (11, entering 7th grade) will be doing a main notebook based on the choices and references I’ve listed below — we’ll start out with a goal of 20 pages and expand as needed/desired. Nino and I will be doing a little one for him with mostly holy cards, stickers, and short prayers to memorize. I’m putting a little booklet for my bedside table, with my favorite images and Marian prayers.

    Will update/fix links below as I’m able.

    1) Mary the Mother of God – January 1 – Solemnity
    Icons of the Mother of God
    – for teens and up: Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Marialis Cultus
    Mary, Mother of God according to the Church fathers
    Beautiful homily from Pope Benedict XVI on January 1, 2012

    2) Litany of Loreto – incorporate pictures from Loreto trip 2009
    – Calligraphy Work

    3) Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11 – incorporate pics from Lourdes trip 2008
    Image 1
    Image 2
    Image 3
    Re-watch The Song of Bernadette
    Additional reading, if you like: The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel

    4) Our Lady of Fatima – incorporate pictures from Portugal trip 2013
    Fatima from Mary Pages
    Miracle of the Sun image

    For calligraphy work: the Fatima prayer

    O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.

    5) Our Lady of Guadalupe – December 12 –
    – narration of story of Juan Diego
    – illustration of tilma, roses,

    6) Annunciation of the Lord – March 25 – Solemnity
    The Annunciation, Eugene Amaury-Duval (see calendar)

    7) Immaculate Heart of Mary – April – Memorial, Movable

    8) Our Lady Help of Christians – May 24 – Solemnity, Australia

    9) Our Lady of Antipolo

    10) Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – August 15 – Solemnity

    11) Queenship of Mary – August 22, Memorial

    12) Mama Mary’s Birthday – September 8 – Feast

    13) Our Lady of Sorrows – September 15 – Memorial

    14) Our Lady of the Rosary – October 7, Memorial

    15) The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – November 21 – Memorial

    16) Immaculate Conception, December 8 – Solemnity

    17) Make a mosaic of a Marian image

    18) Scherenschnitte of a Marian image

    19) Compile a list of the Marian title for Patroness of all the Countries – can do this on world map — or list of basilicas/Cathedrals around the world dedicated to Mary
    – can explore architecture, stained glass,

    JPII’s prayer:
    “Virgin Mother of God, let me be all yours!
    Yours in life, yours in death, yours in affliction, fear and misery.
    Yours on the Cross and in bitter grief, yours for time and eternity.
    Virgin Mother of my GOd, let me be all yours! Amen”

    -Pope John Paul II
    (taken from A Year With God)

    Polish Madonna
    Polish Madonna Prints and Notecards
    Black Madonnas

    23) Mary, Star of the Sea – Our Lady, Stella Maris

    24) Our Lady of the Olives:

    25) Paper dolls of Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Grace
    Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Guadalupe

    26) Mary’s Life

    27) Marian Holy Cards — Mom do a google search — so many beautiful ones!!

    28) Madonna of the Streets:

    29) Madonna of the Book by Botticelli

    30) Marian Art from Bouguereau

    31) Dormi, Jesu by Coleridge

    32) Madonna and Child, Murillo

    33) L’Innocence, Bouguereau

    35) Madonna and Child, Antoine Auguste Ernest Herbert

    36) Madonna with Child and Two Angels, Fra Filippo Lippi

    37) Virgin and Child, Giambettino Cignaroli

    38) Holy Family, Carlo Maratta

    39) Holy Family, Agnolo Bronzino

    40) Virgin and Child, Bernard Van Orley

    41) Madonna with Christ Child Blessing, Giovanni Bellini

    42) Madonna in Adoration of the Sleeping Child, Giovanni Bellini

    43) The Immaculate Conception of Aranjuez, Murillo

    44) Rest on the Flight to Egypt, Simone Cantarini

    45) Presentation in the Temple, Giovanni Bellini

    46) Lamentation over the Dead Christ, Botticelli

    47) The Visitation, Vittore Carpaccio

    48) Virgin and Child, Francesco da Santacroce

    49) Nativity with Saints James the Greater, Eustace, Nicholas, and Mark

    50) The Virgin of the Rosary, Murillo

    51) Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist, Niccolo Soggi

    52) Virgin of the Grapes, Mignard

    53) Madonna and Child with the young St. John the Baptist, Sandro Botticelli

    54) The Virgin of Lorette, Raphael

    55) Madonna with Child, Bartolomeo Montagna

    56) Holy Family, Raphael

    57) The Nativity, Noel-Nicolas Coypel

    58) Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Caravaggio

    59) Annunciation, Rodriguez Hernandez

    60) Madonna of the Rose Bower, Stephan Lochner

    61) Little Garden of Paradise, Oberrheinischer Meister

    62) Song of the Angels, Bouguereau

    63) Nativity/With Lamb (unknown)

    64) Madonna and Child, Jusepe de Ribera

    65) The Virgin at Prayer by Quentin Massys

    66) Virgin of Sorrows by Sassoferrato

    67) Madonna and Child by Marianne Stokes

    68) Luke 2:5-7, 41-48

    69) Song of Songs 6:10, Revelation 12:1

    70) Mary’s “Biography” using guide from Anne Neuberger

    References and Additional Resources:

    Meditations on the Litany of Loreto, for the Month of May
    Virtual Tour of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
    Titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary
    Web Gallery of Art
    Marian Feasts in the General Roman Calendar
    Our Lady’s Litany: Readings and Reflections
    MaryLinks Calendar
    Marian Feasts
    Forum Discussion on Christian symbols
    Stories about Marian shrines, excerpts from Shrines to Our Lady
    Shrines to Our Lady Around the World
    Dan Paulos
    Hail Holy Queen: Reflections on a Well-Known Prayer by John Collins, SJ
    Life of the Virgin Mary papercuttings
    Dan Paulos at Trinity Stores
    Ikon Gallery
    Marian Icons
    Blessed Virgin Mary Stickers
    Marian Stickers
    Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue
    Legends of the Madonna, The Carpenter’s Shop
    Mary’s Book
    Nicolo Barabino’s Madonnas
    Holy Cards
    Marian Holy Cards

    Three Salads

    I’ve been meaning to blog about each of these salads, but the days are just so filled in the summertime that food blog posts get buried at the bottom of the pile. But I wanted a record of the salads we’ve loved, to make it easier for next summer.

    The amounts I’m giving here are approximate, as they’re sorta the put-together-with-whatever-you-have salads. If one or two items are missing, don’t worry about it. Whenever I make a salad, I try to have some salty, some sweet, some sour, some fatty-crunchy element in the form of nuts or bacon, some soft-to-creamy element and LOTS OF crispy-crunchy veggies and/or greens. Here, without further ado, are three salads for you to experiment with and enjoy:

    Red, White and Green Salad
    Red, White and Green Salad

    This would be perfect for celebrating the feastday of any of our Italian summertime Saints, like St. Anthony of Padua (well okay, he was born Portuguese, but he did live and die in Padova) or St. Alphonsus Liguori.


    1 zucchini, sliced thin (preferably from a zuke harvested young, so the seeds aren’t very prominent yet)
    a few red radishes, sliced thin
    1 avocado, cubed (mine was a bit on the overripe side, it doesn’t hurt the texture or flavor, but it’s not as aesthetically pleasing 😀 )
    1 medium cucumber, peeled if you like and cubed
    cherry or pear tomatoes, halved
    red or orange pepper, diced
    feta cheese, crumbled
    a bit of red onion, sliced thin
    some jicama, diced


    lime juice + sherry or other white wine vinegar
    toasted and ground up cumin, a few pinches
    ground cardamom, a few pinches
    1 large garlic clove, mashed to a paste with some sea salt
    extra virgin olive oil
    cilantro, a small handful, minced
    additional sea salt to taste
    a teeny tiny bit of minced jalapeño if you want some heat (optional)

    Variation: Half of the avocado can also be mashed up and mixed or blended with the dressing ingredients to get a mayo-like thickness.

    Jicama Relish with 3 Citrus (Citri? :D) Dressing
    Jicama Relish with 3 Citrus (Citri? :D) Dressing

    a large jicama, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    juice of an orange, plus another orange cut into supremes
    juice and a bit of zest from half a grapefruit
    juice of a lemon
    sea salt to taste
    a couple of pinches cayenne pepepr
    a handful of red radishes, julienned
    small handful cilantro, minced

    Toss everything together and put in the fridge until chilled. I was never a big jicama fan growing up though some family members loved it, but I love what the Mexicans do with them! A simpler version would be just jicama, the juice of either lemon or lime, and some cayenne.

    Warm Red Cabbage Salad with Apples and Walnuts
    Warm Red Cabbage Salad with Apples and Walnuts

    This is my most favorite yet, except for the fact that I still have to use the stove and oven… but the results are just worth it so I’m willing to put up with some heat in the kitchen. And it really is more of a fall salad, but I just *love* walnuts and will use any excuse to use them in a salad, especially toasted like this, even if it’s in the middle of summer!

    A handful of walnuts, tossed with a bit of oil (walnut if you have it) and some salt and pepper, then toasted in the oven at 350 degrees F for 5-7 minutes or just until fragrant (do not burn!!!!)
    a few tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1 large clove garlic, minced
    Some red onion, sliced thin (I used about a quarter of a large one)
    Cut up red cabbage (I used about half of a fairly large head)
    Several splashes balsamic vinegar
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    A really crunchy apple, quartered or sixthed or eighthed 😀 then sliced thinly — I prefer Golden Delicious or Granny Smith for this, but only found Galas when I was at the store, so I got that instead
    Feta or Jack or whatever salty cheese you like, diced
    a couple of tablespoons of parsley and/or marjoram, minced

    Set aside the walnuts (chop into bits if you like, I prefer to leave them whole).

    In a large skillet, heat up olive oil and garlic just until garlic is sizzling (DO NOT BROWN). Add red onion and stir a bit, just to soften slightly, but NOT UNTIL LIMP, you want a bit of crunch left. Add the cabbage, stir a bit, then the balsamic vinegar. Sauté until cabbage is somewhat wilted but still on the crunchy side. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add more vinegar if it isn’t tart enough. Stir a couple minutes more, then remove to a large bowl. Add the apple slices and the walnuts. Toss, toss, toss. Top with the diced cheese and sprinkle the herbs over all. Enjoy warm.