White Bean and Red Lentil Burgers

whitebeanBy Jeanne Kysela

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Burgers during Lent – NO WAY! But trust me, you’ll want to cook these delicious burgers anytime of year after you taste them. I have to warn you, they are spicy.

I have a confession… I love meat. And every year I dread Lent. That is why every year that is one of my crosses to bear. That goes for chocolate as well. Because when I deny something I really like and want, I appreciate it much more when I do allow myself to indulge.

With that said, I promised myself this year that I would find new and delicious meatless meals I would be satisfied with during the Lenten season. Thanks to my husband, he blessed me with a vegan cook book for Christmas. I was skeptical at first, but after making my first recipe from it, I have not looked back.

So here it is – the tasty and filling….

White Bean and Red Lentil Burgers
(makes 8 larger burger patties)


  • 1/3 cup red Lentils
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups cooked white beans
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons of your favorite no-salt, all purpose seasoning blend
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  •  1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • Grated zest of 1/2 lime
  • Cooking spray


  1. Combine lentils and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer until the lentils are soft and mushy, and the water is almost gone, about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool. (You may use canned lentils that are already cooked, just make sure they are soft)
  2. Mash the white cooked beans in a large bowl and then add the lentils and the rest of the ingredients, with the exception of the cooking spray. If you find that the mixture is still too wet to hold its shape, then add breadcrumbs slowly until firm. Shape into burger patties and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. (Again, you can use canned cooked white beans instead of fresh)
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 400º F. Coat chilled patties lightly with some cooking spray and bake them for about 30 minutes, flipping half-way. You may cook longer if you like a toastier burger. Then , dig in for the best meatless meal ever!


International Lenten recipe tour makes a stop in India

curry-chickpeasWhile Pizza is the usual Friday fare on the table Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry sets for her family, the busy pastoral associate in St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, Freehold and creator of several blogs focusing on on Catholic sense and sensibility, is also known for her creative culinary abilities.

In an inter generational home where the occupants – two growing boys (Ben and Nathaniel), husband Ken (associate director of pastoral planning for the Diocese and well-known Christian musician) and grandparents, Jean and Bill Schlameuss – are all food enthusiasts, Jen’s skill at varying the menu upon request comes in handy.

As someone who, over the years, has savored her culinary skills, I was so pleased she agreed to share a favorite family recipe with Keeping the Feast for this year’s Lenten series. Her first response was to offer her prized recipe for the home made pizza she makes from scratch.

But when she learned this year’s series features easy to make easy international dishes that can be cooking experiences for the whole family, she quickly offered her take on a vegetarian Indian curry.

The curry does involve dicing, grating and a bit of shredding of ingredients giving kids a chance to learn some basic kitchen skills that should help youngsters overcome their view of “the kitchen as a scary place,” said Schlameuss-Perry.

She made it a point to teach Ben and Nathaniel “mostly survival” skills in the kitchen. “I taught them a few things so that if I wasn’t around one Saturday,” for instance, they could put something together.

“I started cooking with my great-grandma, grandmother and aunts,” she remembered. She describes those early kitchen experiences as “a bonding thing” that became a “creative outlet – a way to express love to other people. To share and to nourish them.”

If circumstances permit, she said, Schlameuss-Perry will make as many dishes for the week ahead as she can on a Saturday. “It’s the main way I can show (everyone) I love them.”

Jen’s Chick Pea and Coconut Curry in a Crock Pot


-1 tablespoon olive oil

-1 onion, chopped

-1 red pepper chopped

-1½ cup cauliflower, chopped;

-1- 19 ounce can chick peas, rinsed

-1- 13.5 ounce can coconut milk

-salt and pepper to taste

-1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

-3 tablespoons plain yogurt

-1 tablespoon grated ginger

-juice of one lime

-1 clove garlic, grated

-1-2 tablespoons of red curry according to taste

-12-14 ounce can diced tomatoes

-2 cups of Jasmin rice cooked according to package directions


Heat the oil in a non-stick pan, and sauté the onions, garlic, pepper and fresh ginger for seven minutes. Transfer the onion mix to a slow cooker, add the remaining ingredients and heat on low for six hours. Before serving, stir in the cilantro and heat for five more minutes.

Saintly Spanish inspiration for a Lenten lentil Soup

PasquaIt’s not surprising that a fine picture of St. Pasqual, patron of kitchens and cooks, hangs just to the right of my kitchen stove.

Though I only came to learn of St. Pasqual last year when discovering a print depicting him by New Mexico artist Barbara Barratt in an area shop, a turn or two on the Internet revealed that devotion to him as the patron saint of the kitchen and cooks is wide spread throughout the American Southwest, Central and South America.

This has fueled an ongoing flurry of art works designed to place him squarely where he would be quite prayerfully content: in the heart of the home.

St. Pasqual was born in Torrehermosa in the Spanish Kingdom of Aragon in 1540 to poor peasant parents, Martin Baylon and Elizabeth Jubera. He spent his youth as a shepherd, educated himself by imploring passersby in the fields where he worked to help him learn to read and joined a Reformed Franciscan order as a lay brother sometime around 1564.

Determined to live a life of poverty and prayer, he chose to live only in poor monasteries, praying as he worked the rest of his life. According to various sites on the Internet, he was assigned to the monastery kitchens which at first troubled him because he thought the work would detract from his prayers.

But he came to take great joy in the contemplation and peace he was able to experience while cooking. Always conscious of the needs of others, his charitable works – which included enhancing the bowl of broth that was the standard handout to the poor who sought sustenance from the monks with cabbage, meat and broth – endeared him to the faithful.

Though devotion to him after his death on May 17, 1592 was largely confined to Spain and  Italy in Europe, the Spanish touched by such stories and by his very real devotion to the Eucharist in an age of religious strife – felt real affection for him.

They carried his story across the seas to the New World where it flourishes still. Known also as the patron saint of good advice and finding lost animals – for which I often turn to him for help – there’s no concealing joy in his serendipitous artistic presence in my home.

Indeed, he inspired this take on a Mexican lentil soup adapted from several sites on the internet as the third entry in our International Lenten recipe series.

Mexican Lentil Soup


-1 cup dry lentils

-6 cups cold spring water

-2 sage leaves

-1 fresh oregano sprig

-1 bay leaf

-bud garlic

-2 tbs. Light olive oil

– 12 -14 oz. Canned tomatoes with juice

-1 tbs. Chili powder

– 1 sweet onion, diced

-salt to taste

-1 tsp. Ground cumin (I look for reasonable Badia spices in the supermarket)

-1/2 tsp. Dried oregano

-1 medium carrot, diced

-1 small red bell pepper, diced

-1 tbs. Chopped cilantro

Directions: Put the lentils in a soup pot with the water, bay leaf, sage and oregano. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat and cook uncovered for 15-20minutes or until the lentils are tender. Remove the herbs. While the lentils are cooking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, rub the garlic bud with a little oil, place it on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes or until soft. When the garlic is cool, slice the top off the bud and squeeze the garlic out of its skin. Puree with the tomatoes in a blender and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan, add the onion, ½ teaspoon of salt, cumin, dried oregano and saute over medium heat until the onion is soft. Add the carrot and peppers and saute until tender. Add the chili powder and the pureed tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of salt and simmer for ten minutes.
Combine the beans and the broth with vegetables, cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes. Sprinkle in fresh cilantro just before serving. For more spice, add chili powder to taste.


On a Lenten Friday, try pasta, plain, simple and utterly delicious

pastaThis dish is one of my childhood favorites and I so enjoyed introducing it to my nieces and nephews way back when. It was one of a number of recipes passed on to mom from dad’s mother that basically featured pasta, butter, cheese and sometimes cream, in a variety of ways.

Around our house these dishes were known as “white food” and Mom served them up mostly when one of us kids was under the weather according to what Grandma said was an old Italian custom. In fact, if mom granted one of us a rare sick day off from school, she was sure to serve up a bowl of pasta with warm milk and butter for lunch and maybe even dinner.,

Since the Lenten recipe series this year is designed to bring the international flavors of the Church into the family kitchen, I enjoyed preparing this dish once again to share with readers. The hope is that you will share it in your family kitchens.

It’s a nice easy dish to prepare and one the kids can help with provided they are old enough to grate the Romano cheese called for. I like to serve it sprinkled with a lot of pepper and added cheese. For such a simple dish, it has a surprisingly rich taste.

It tastes great served with crusty Italian bread and a tossed green salad.

Makes 6 servings


1 lb spaghetti or Perciatelli pasta

7 ounces grated Romano cheese

1 tablespoon butter

fresh black pepper to taste


Boil pasta in salted water until al dente. In a pan, melt butter and half of the cheese. Set aside 1 cup of boiling water then drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the melted cheese. Generously pepper the mixture. If the sauce is too thick, add the hot salted water as needed. Dish the pasta into individual bowls and top with the remaining Romano cheese and more black pepper.

Lent offers families chance to share worldwide cooking experience

asiansalad2I love nothing better than browsing library sales for cookbooks – the older the better – and from all nationalities – to add to my collection. They offer so much insight on the foods brought to the tables of our world wide communion.

Recently, the library in a town my friend Linda, a fellow cooking enthusiast, and I visited had posters out for a book sale. Of course, we had to stop by and we left with several cookbooks including a delightful 20 year-old cookbook entitled “Passport On A Plate” an “Around the World Cookbook for Children” ages 9 and up featuring 100 international recipes.

The book became the inspiration for this year’s Keeping the Feast Lenten recipe series which will offer simple recipes from around the world for families to share.

Among the global recipes presented in the book were several from Vietnam which kindled memories of tasty meals from years ago. On Feb. 7 – Vietnamese New Year’s Eve – I had a wonderful opportunity to celebrate with the Vietnamese Community of Christ the King which meets at St. Rose Parish, Freehold and those memories rekindled once again.

The community – more than 200 strong – had gathered for Mass with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. in the church. Following that beautiful liturgy, a festive celebration in the parish center offered the chance to sample that irresistible mix of flavors that are hallmarks of Vietnamese cuisine.

The dish which begins the Lenten series is a simple crunchy vegetable and shrimp salad that children should enjoy helping to prepare and then, digging into. Salads are an important part of the Vietnamese diet and shredded meat is often added to them. In this case, however, the added ingredient – also a mainstay of Vietnamese cooking, is shrimp.

Visit photo gallery of this event [HERE}


asiansalad1 pound medium shrimp, shelled
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 ½ tablespoons Asian fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 medium-size carrots, peeled and grated
1 small shallot, very finely chopped
1 cup cilantro or flat parsley leaves
½ small green cabbage, cored and finely shredded – 6 cups
2 Kirby cucumbers, very thinly sliced

Directions: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and fill the bowl with ice water. Add the shrimp to the boiling water and cook until pink – about one or two minutes. Drain the shrimp and transfer them to the ice water. When cool, drain and pat dry.

In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil with the fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar and shallot. Add the cabbage, carrots, cucumbers and shrimp and toss until evenly coated. Let stand at room temperature for about a half hour until the cabbage is slightly wilted. Toss the salad, top with cilantro/parsley and serve with crusty baguettes.

Savoring the blessings of the sea on the Feast of the Assumption

Stained glass window of the Assumption of Mary, St. Mary Cathedral, Trenton.

Stained glass window of the Assumption of Mary, St. Mary Cathedral, Trenton. Jeanne Kysela photo

Each year of my childhood and young adulthood that I can remember, the family came together for a seafood meal as the culmination of solemnities marking the Feast of the Assumption.
We lived at the Shore where the feast was known simply by many as “Salt Water Day” – focusing around Mass and then a stroll to the water. There, we paid homage to the age old tradition that as the Blessed Virgin rose to heaven on this day so long ago, her tears cascaded into the oceans, turning them into healing waters.
Pious belief has it that the healing essence of the water returns every year on this day, so we’d dip our feet in the water for good health and carry some home in buckets and bottles to share with those unable to make the trip down to the beach.
These days, with the family scattered, a gathering of the clan on special feast days is often possible only on via the internet and I thank God it’s there to link us all from Jersey, to California, to India! The day is spent instead with good friends who still hug the shoreline. Following Mass, we’ll trek off to the beach and following that, we’ll share a traditional seafood meal that always seems to involve at least one really great shrimp recipe.

The one presented here today, is adapted from a favorite cookbook – The Best of the Best from the Junior League. It’s a snap to make and a savory treat.
For luncheon fare, those who favor salmon should enjoy the recipe for salmon burgers adapted from the internet.

Shrimp with Feta Sauce


-1/2 cup minced sweet onion
-1-1/2 cup tablespoon butter
-1-1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
-1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
-4 ripe medium Jersey tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
-1 small clove garlic minced
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
-3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
-4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
-1 pound large uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
-1 pound spinach pasta, cooked according to package directions
-1/2 cup chopped parsley

Directions: In a heavy skillet, saute the onion in the butter and oil until soft. Add the wine, tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper and oregano. Simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened. Stir in the feta cheese and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes longer. Just before serving, add the shrimp to the simmering sauce and cook 5 minutes or until the shrimp are just tender. Be careful not to overcook. Serve over spinach pasta and garnish liberally with parsley for color. Crusty French bread and a crisp green salad complete the meal.

Salmon Burgers

-1 cup finely chopped red onion
-1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-1 (1 pound) salmon filet, skinned and chopped
-1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
-1 egg white from large egg
-Your favorite cooking spray
-8 (¾-ounce) slices of focaccia, toasted

Directions: Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Combine hot pepper sauce and egg white in a small bowl; add egg white mixture to salmon mixture, stirring well to combine. Divide the mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a patty. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Add salmon patties and cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness, serve with tartar sauce on side and garnishes of lettuce and tomato.

For the environment’s sake this summer, make it “Jersey Fresh”

As summer unfolds, the environmental wonders of the Trenton Diocese beckon us to the seashore, the bayshore, rivers, lakes and farmlands of the four counties.

It’s always a good time to consider all that God has given us. This year, with the release of Laudato Si’ – Pope Francis’ encyclical promoting the well being of all creation, it seems especially appropriate to spend some time reflecting on the bounty we’ve been given. In Laudato si – All Praise to You – the pope asks us each to participate in developing an “an integral ecology” which “comprehends our unique place as human beings in this world and our relationship to our surroundings.”

Summer brings out the best of those surroundings and the season always makes me mindful of living in harmony with nature – especially at the table. It’s the reason for pulling off the highway and stopping at farmer’s markets to select “home grown” produce plucked from area farms.

This is a mindset inherited from my grandparents who actually experienced “Jersey Fresh” produce at their front doorsteps in Newark in the old days each week when the driver of the horse-filled cart laden with the best of the season announced himself with the ring of a bell.

It’s a tradition passed down in the family from them and treasured. The advice they gave was worth following: focus on God’s gifts of the season: tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, blueberries and melons in the summer; squash, cauliflower, and the like in the fall.

With those mandates ringing in my ears, I set off recently to the Trenton Farmer’s Market around the corner from the diocesan Chancery, for a look at what early summer had to offer.
As it turned out, beets and cucumbers were in abundance as were Jersey grown green house tomatoes.
Though I’m eagerly awaiting the vine ripened versions for which New Jersey is known, it was good to add these early varieties the cardboard box of produce I toted home.

Here are two recipes, adapted from the internet, which feature some of these first fruits of the season. Both focus on beets, a family favorite in our house for generations. Feel free to substitute ingredients according to your taste.

Beets & Cucumbers

Summer salad


– l lb beets – red or golden or mixed
– 1 lb Kirby cucumbers, peeled and cut into thin slices
– 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
– ¼ cup red onion, cut into very thin, half moon slices
– ½ cup apple cider vinegar
– 2 tablespoons flat, Italian parsley, chopped
– salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions: Trim the beet stems to 2 inches and wash them well. In a large saute pan, cover the beets with salted water and cook over medium heat until they can be easily pierced with a fork – 30 minutes. Drain and submerge the beets in a bath of ice cold water. Remove the skins and root ends with a sharp paring knife and discard. Cut the peeled beets in half and then in ½ half moon slices. Combine the beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, vinegar and parsley in a large bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Beet Relish

This easy to make, Scandinavian-style relish adds a tangy flavor to beef or fish offers a tangy compliment to adds a tangy flavor to beef or fish and is sweet/sour touch to beef tangy flavor relish can be served with relish can be served with beef or fish.


-4 med. fresh beets
-1 cup cider vinegar
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/4 cup chopped, sweet onion
-2 tsp. prepared horseradish
-1/2 tsp. salt

Directions: Again, cut stems down to two inches and carefully wash beets,  In a large saute pan, cover the beets with salted water and cook over medium heat until they can be easily pierced with a fork – 30 minutes. Rinse in cold water; peel off skin. Dice or shred, as desired. You should have about 1 1/2 yield. In medium saucepan heat vinegar and add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Add onions, beets, horseradish and salt. Boil for 10 minutes with the pan covered. Chill thoroughly before serving.