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)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 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

DIRECTIONS

  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

Ingredients:

-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

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

Ingredients:

-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

Ingredients:

1 lb spaghetti or Perciatelli pasta

7 ounces grated Romano cheese

1 tablespoon butter

fresh black pepper to taste

Directions:

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}

Ingredients:

asiansalad1 pound medium shrimp, shelled
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 ½ tablespoons Asian fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
pepper
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

Ingredients:

-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

Ingredients:
-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

Ingredients:

– 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.

Ingredients:

-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.

Keeping the Feast springs into summer


Keeping the Feast went on hiatus during the Easter season. It returns for the summer with a focus on savory, splendid dishes created to compliment the saintly feasts of the season as well as the good times that abound with family, our church communities and friends. With a focus on Jersey fresh foods from our farms, fresh and salt waters, this is a wonderful time to celebrate God’s bounty in good company at the table.

Looking back a bit though, the Easter season was sprinkled with terrific  opportunities to gather recipes at parish pot luck socials and fundraisers. It was also a time to share recipes with friends – including Faithful Foodie Jeanne Kysela – director of digital media for the Trenton Diocese – who helped launch the web version of Keeping the Feast a few years back.

In this post, you’ll be able to tap into Jeanne’s marvelous granola recipe, tuck into a splendid meatball recipe from the Knights of Columbus of St. Rose Parish, Freehold, and get a taste for the marvelous zucchini pie so many enjoyed at an International Food Festival in Holy Innocents Parish, Neptune.

We’re starting off with Jeanne’s granola recipe because, well, it’s not only a great snack and desert – it’s really fine for breakfast. It makes a wonderful warm weather treat and will definitely tempt palates in cooler weather too.

Here’s the email she sent about her creation. She’ll tell you in her own words, what inspired her special granola and how she went about it:

I’m making granola… WHAT?

Since when do I make granola. Maybe it’s my mid-life crisis recipe or maybe my body is trying to tell me something. I found myself craving salty-sweet snacks everyday at the 3 O’clock hour. Nothing new, but I found as I get older that the candy bar is making me feel worse than better. I found that the sugar in my current snacks made me more tired than energized. So what could I make myself instead of shelling out $1.00 a day for something that my body no longer likes? Granola.

Yup, granola. How I came to making my own granola – well, you can thank all the grocery brands out there for making their granola too sweet or too salty – too wet or dry for my taste. I made it my mission to crate my own recipe.

I figured, since I love Justin’s vanilla almond butter, I should use that as my binder to hold my granola together. Then, put what snacks I would like to have mid-day into my mix to end those salty-sweet cravings.

I’m not going to lie – it was a process to get it right. I experimented with different dried fruits, nuts and chocolate combinations until I reached my granola heaven. I also had a guinea pig, my husband, to experiment on. Thank God he was a good sport.

So now I have my salty-sweet solution which keeps me satisfied, energized and alert until dinner. I found myself bringing it everywhere. I would have it sometimes for an in between meal snack. That’s the beauty of it. It’s portable and you only need a cup to satisfy cravings. Well, you could get hooked and find yourself eating more – so be careful. I even sometimes have it as a late night snack , he-he-he.

So try the next time you find yourself eating something you know you’ll regret later, try making granola instead. Your body will thank you later, and maybe your husband.

Jeanne Kysela
Mad Experimental Foodie Scientist

Jeanne’s Vanilla Almond Butter Granola

granolaINGREDIENTS
2 cups – Rolled Oats
2 cups – Rice Crispy Cereal (not sugar coated)
2 TBSP – Flax seeds
½ cup – Currants or your favorite dried fruit
½ cup – Sunflower Seeds
½ cup – Sweetened Shredded Coconut
½ cup – Semi-Sweet Mini Chocolate Chips
½ tsp – Kosher Salt
¼ cup – Light Agave
1 cup – Unsalted Peanuts
10oz. – Justin’s Vanilla Almond Butter @Justins (www.justins.com)

YOU WILL NEED
1. You will need 2 very large bowls to accommodate all the ingredients
2. Cooking spray
3. One sheet of wax paper
4. A large plastic container to store mixed granola

DIRECTIONS
1. Gather all of your ingredients.
2. Spray your bowls and storage container lightly with cooking spray.
3. Add and mix all ingredients, except the Almond Butter, in one of the large bowls.
4. Now split the mix between the two bowls and add 5oz of Almond Butter to each bowl and mix thoroughly.
5. Once both bowls have been mixed, you can combine the two bowls into one large batch in your storage container. As you add each bowl to your container, press it down using the wax paper.
6. Leave the granola to rest for at least an hour in the fridge before eating. The granola will stay up to 2 weeks in the fridge and 1 week not refrigerated.

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A savory Feast

The following recipe for Italian Meat Balls in sauce (or gravy as you prefer), was requested for Keeping the Feast after tucking into them at the pasta dinner fund raiser May 3 for the Habitat for Humanity house going up with major help from St. Rose Parish, Freehold and Colts Neck Reformed Church.

The savory recipe was passed on to me by way of Freehold resident Patricia Yoczis. She was kind enough to ask its creator, James Brown, of the Knights of Columbus, for a copy to share with readers. The Knights have been giving an energetic boost to the house raising since the project began and the pasta fund raiser was but one of the efforts they contributed to.

I liked the meat balls so much that Pat sent me home with a container full which made for good dinners for a couple of days. I hope you’ll enjoy them as well.

Italian Meat Balls recipe from James Brown

Recipe makes about 18 to 20 meat balls

Ingredients:

1 large onion diced
2 cloves fresh garlic crushed and chopped
Pinch crushed red pepper
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound veal
1/2 pound ground pork
2 large eggs
1 cup grated Parmigiano
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup water

Directions: Mix  all ingredients together in a large bowl and shape into medium size meat balls. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, spread light virgin olive oil on a cookie sheet and put the meatballs on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes.  Then combine the meat balls with the marinara sauce of your choosing, then cook over medium heat on the stove until the meat balls are thoroughly cooked.

________________________________________________________

A Tasty Pie

Holy Innocents Parish in Neptune hosted an International Food Night between Masses on April 18 that featured a wonderful potluck buffet from the very diverse community. It seemed so very appropriate to sample food from around the vast Catholic communion — from the USA to the Philippines, to to the Caribbean and Central and South America and Europe — on a weekend when the Gospel reading was the story of Jesus meeting two disciples on the road to  Emmaus and accepting their invitation to a fish dinner by the sea.

Among the dishes so well enjoyed by those attending, was a lovely zucchini pie by Mary Beth Sheehan who made it from her grandmother’s treasured recipe. It is easy to make and tasty to eat. I enjoyed sitting with Mary Beth, her daughter Hannah, a fifth grader at Holy Innocents School, Hannah’s schoolmate, Grace Dalton, and family friend Sonny Scott as we all shared not only the pie, but specialties from other lands and our own including chicken adobo, Haitan fried port with rice and beans, roast ham from the USA and German sausages and potato pancakes. What a night!

Mary Beth’s grandmother’s zucchini pie

Ingredients:

1 yellow onion, diced

3 zucchini, chopped

6 eggs

1 cup Parmesan cheese

1 cup Bisquick

1 block of mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes

Directions: mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, transfer to a large baking pan and bake at 350 degrees until done

A sweet treat to share with good friends on Easter Day


Christ is Risen: The world below lies desolate Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty Christ is Risen indeed from the dead, the first of the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsleepers, Glory and power are his forever and ever St. Hippolytus (AD 190-236)

The Great Feast of Easter is almost at hand and with it, the end of fasting and abstinence. As our joy soars in recognition of the great gift of Salvation conveyed to us by the Passion of the Lord and his triumph over death, we set the table to celebrate. But because of my family’s work schedules, we won’t be sitting down to a traditional Easter day dinner around the old, walnut table in the little blue house this year.

Instead, I’ll be paying most of my Easter visits over the Octave which seems just lovely to me – stretching out it does, the sweetness of the celebration, sprinkling memorable moments with dear ones throughout the week. Luckily enough, for Easter day, I’ve been invited to join the table of the large, warm, Irish family of my wonderful friend, Juta.

They welcomed me three years ago when our family celebrations were largely set aside during a time of grieving for our brother and uncle, Pete. I have treasured the memory of their hospitality – so redolent with savory, insightful Catholic conversation and character – ever since. And to be frank, when I mentioned to Juta that the Rogers clan wouldn’t be uniting until Easter Monday, I was hoping for an invitation back and thrilled when it came.

For a table gift, I wanted to bring something that everyone would enjoy and when Juta spontaneously shared her memories of a favorite sweet treat – lemon bars – it linked to warm memories of Easter dinners of my childhood. In our case, it was not lemon bars but lemon meringue pie – our maternal grandfather’s favorite confection – that always graced our table. He still lived in the city back then and he’d drive down from Newark with his big, blue Ford station wagon crammed with sweets in celebration of the day: chocolate Rabbits from Italian specialty stores wrapped in gold foil and nestled in paper mache keepsake containers; chocolate covered cherries (grandpa’s favorite); a variety of baked goods – always a pound cake and always, always, a lemon meringue pie.

Though so many years have passed, an encounter with a good, bakery made lemon meringue pie transports me straight back to that Easter table. One taste of the filling – at once sweet and tart – the soft meringue, drifting like a cloud above it and the slight crunch of the crust and I’m back at that table with grandpa again. I make no pretense of being a great baker.

I’ve taken to watching “Martha Bakes” with Martha Stewart regularly on the Create channel in hopes of making up for the deficiency but can’t see it happening any time soon. Yet over the past week, I’ve given it my all, wrestling with a combination of recipes in an attempt to offer something lovely and lemony for the Easter table in the passable shape of a good lemon bar. The biggest hurdle was developing a knack in spreading out the shortbread dough evenly on the pan. I learned finally to relax with the dough, handle it a bit, roll it into a ball and then take time flattening it out. As to cutting the squares, a key is letting them cool completely once they are out of the oven.

Easter Day Lemon Bars

Ingredients:

-1 cup butter, softened

-2 cups white sugar

-2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

-4 eggs

-2 lemons juiced

-Powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust: In a medium bowl, blend together softened butter, 2 cups of flour and ½ cup sugar, work it into a ball and then press it gently and evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9/13 inch pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, til just turning golden -don’t let it go brown. Lemon cream:

Meanwhile, in another bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 ½ cups of sugar and ¼ cup of flour. Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice. Pour over the baked crust. Bake for an additional 20 minutes in the oven. The bars will firm up as they cool.

If you wish to cool them in the refrigerator, do so only for two hours. I made the mistake with one batch of cooling them in the fridge overnight and had a hard time cutting them into uniform squares the next day. Also, using a hot, wet, very sharp knife helps too.

Prayer before the Easter Meal: Lord, the Resurrection of Your Son has given us new life and renewed hope. Help us to live as new people in pursuit of the Christian ideal. Grant us wisdom to know what we must do, the will to want to do it, the courage to undertake it, the perseverance to continue to do it, and the strength to complete it. source:  New Saint Joseph People’s Prayer Book

Sharing at table with family and friends as the Great Mystery of Holy Week unfolds


“From Holy Thursday evening until the great Vigil in the night between Holy Saturday and Easter, the catechumens and the baptized fast and pray and await the celebration of baptism. Any meals are very simple.” Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, “At Table During the Easter Triduum”

Lent ends quietly each year on Holy Thursday evening as the Church moves into the Three Days of the Pascal Triduum

Lois Rogers readies a variety of foods for Lent and Holy Week, including warm lentil salad for Holy Thursday, pictured at right.

Lois Rogers readies a variety of foods for Lent and Holy Week, including warm lentil salad for Holy Thursday, pictured at right.

often called the Easter Triduum or simply, the Triduum consisting of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

The Triduum celebrates the heart of our faith, salvation, and redemption: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is on Holy Thursday, that we commemorate the Institution of the Eucharist (the “Sacrament of Sacraments). On Good Friday, we remember his Passion, crucifixion and death, on Holy Saturday, his descent to the dead and on Sunday, his glorious Resurrection.

Starting with Advent this year, I’ve been scouring recipe pages that reflect the great universal nature of the Church and finding treasures along the way. Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday are rich beyond belief in custom and cuisine.

Holy Thursday goes by many names around the world, from “Green Thursday” in German-speaking and Slavic countries drawn from an old German word “grunen” (to mourn) which became green; to pure, clean or “shere” Thursday which emphasizes the ancient tradition of preparing for Easter with major housecleaning and bathing to Holy or Great Thursday (Jueves Santo in Spanish).

This important, complex and profound day celebrates the institution of the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Jesus Christ and the institution of the sacrament of the priesthood.

Culinary observances of the day are delightfully legion around the world according to a variety of sites on the Internet. In some Latin countries, sugared almonds are the treat of the day. In countries where the day is known as “Green Thursday,” it’s the tradition to bring that color to the table with a soup of green herbs, a bowl of spinach with boiled or fried eggs and meat with dishes of various green salads.

Vegetables and herbs eaten on this day are thought by many to convey health to those who consume them and because I became enamored of Mexican recipes when writing Keeping the Feast during Advent, I was drawn to the same recipe well for Holy Thursday with a warm salad that blends greens (parsley) with lentils and an assortment of herbs, spices and a red pepper.

The salad can be served warm or cold but on the rainy, damp evening that friends joined in for a “tasting” and photo taking for all of the Holy Week dishes for Keeping the feast, it seemed right to serve them warmed up. My friends, Juta and Pat, enjoyed the zesty nature and color of the dish.

Warm Lentil Salad for Holy Thursday

Ingredients:

– 1 can (15.5 ounce) lentils – I used Goya premium – drained and rinsed

– 1 teaspoon kosher salt
– 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
– 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– 2 Tablespoons Jerez vinegar*
– 1 sweet, medium onion, finely diced
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 2 Tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
– 2 Tablespoons chives, finely chopped

– 1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced.

Directions:

Toast the cumin seeds until they become fragrant (2 or 3 minutes) in a small, dry skillet over medium heat. In a large skillet, combine the lentils, oil, vinegar, onion, garlic, parsley, chives, red pepper and toasted cumin seeds and stir to blend. This dish can be served warm or chilled.

*Recipe Note for Warm Lentil Salad:  Jerez vinegar is sweet sherry vinegar from Spain and said to be a wonderful ingredient but it’s hard to find. Rice wine vinegar – available at most supermarkets – is considered the most acceptable substitute and since I always have some in the cupboard, it’s what I used. Champagne vinegar, white wine or red wine vinegar were also recommended by food writers on the internet.

Good Friday

Growing up, Good Friday, a day of fast and abstinence, was taken very seriously in our childhood home. It was a day off from school but one when religious observances trumped all. We couldn’t go to the movies in the little Walter Reade theater known as the Arnold downtown and frankly, Dad frowned on frivolities of any kind.

Dinner was a light meal, usually featuring pan fried fish and maybe some stewed tomatoes – one of Mom’s favorite vegetables. I remember that we never got to indulge in Hot Cross Buns on that day as our little Protestant friends did. I think there was maybe just a hint of a suspicion that they were some kind of suspect Protestant food and thus to be avoided.

Good Friday Struwen Pancakes

Good Friday Struwen Pancakes

Living now in a community that is mainly Orthodox Jewish, I can liken my parents’ self imposed restrictions of Good Friday to some – but far from all of the traditions I see observed on Saturdays including long family walks beside the water (we lived very close to the banks of Raritan Bay) and lots of family togetherness.

In my house even now, Good Friday is relatively the same. I’ll be attending church and am especially looking forward to attending “Living Stations of the Cross” with the youth group from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Whiting on Friday night.

While keeping to fast and abstinence, I’m allowing myself a food treat though – which again reflects by quest to find the culinary treasures of the Church Universal. No, it won’t be Hot Cross Buns but it will be a German yeast pancake called Struwen which is a popular Good Friday lunch in some regions of Germany.

This pancake, served fresh from the frying pan is said to represent the “Gebildrot” or sponge that was used to give Jesus a drink of sour wine as he hung on the Cross.

Good Friday Struwen Pancakes

Ingredients:

– 2 cups flour

– 1 ½ teaspoon instant yeast

– 2 tablespoons sugar

– ¼ teaspoon salt

– ¾ cup lukewarm milk

– ½ cup raisins

– 1 egg

– zest of one small lemon

– Light vegetable oil for frying, powdered sugar for dusting, cinnamon applesauce as a lavish garnish on top

Directions: Mix all the ingredients except for the raisins and oil in a bowl until a thick batter forms, then add the raisins and stir. Let the batter rise for one hour in a warm spot. Heat about ¼ inch of oil in a large skillet and then place enough dough in the oil to form a large cake, about 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Flatten a bit if you like and fry it on medium heat until golden brown, then flip to the other side. Drain on paper towels and serve warm with powdered sugar and applesauce with cinnamon.

Table Blessing for Holy Thursday:

Lord Jesus Christ, in your ardent love for Your apostles You desired to share the Passover meal with them on the night before You suffered. During the course of that meal, You instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist where You offered to us Your own Body and Blood as bread and wine to nourish our souls. Send Your blessings upon this table and all those who partake of it. Nourish us with the Bread of Life, until the day we are called to the banquet of eternal life.
Amen. (Byzantine Matins)

Table Blessing for Good Friday:

BEFORE THE MEAL

Leader: Christ for our sake became obedient unto death, even to death on a cross. Let us worship him and say: We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.

ALL: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Leader: Lord Jesus, it is right that we should glory in your cross, for you bring us life, salvation, and resurrection. Draw us closer to you at this table, and let us share in your passing-over from death to life, both now and for ever.

ALL: Amen.

AFTER THE MEAL

Leader: Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, for dying on the cross so that all might receive the life that never ends. Give us grateful hearts for the life you poured out for us, for the suffering that takes our sin away. Glory and praise to you, Lord, both now and forever.

ALL: Amen.

Prayer Source: Prayers at Meals by Michael Kwatera, O.S.B. and Dietrich Reinhart, O.S.B., The Liturgical Press