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

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 (

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

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.


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


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


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


-1 cup butter, softened

-2 cups white sugar

-2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

-4 eggs

-2 lemons juiced

-Powdered sugar for dusting


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


– 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.


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


– 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:


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.


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

Bring Palm/Passion Sunday to the heart of the home after Mass

“They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed it he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.’” (Matthew 21:7-9)

After six weeks of this year’s long and snowy and cold Lent, the last Sunday of the season is about to arrive. It’s a day that is solemn and festive all at once, unveiling the triumphal entry of the Lord into Jerusalem and foreshadowing the

Hearts of Palm

Hearts of Palm

commemorations of his Passion and death in the week to come. It’s a day I look forward to every year beginning with the Palm/Passion Sunday Mass, receiving the powerful symbol of the palms which will have pride of place in the home for the next days and bringing palm crosses to the cemetery where Mom and Dad are buried.

At home in the afternoon, I like to invite friends in for a meal that reflects the significance of the day and the Holy Week that is about to unfold. Thus Palm Sunday dinner in the little blue house always includes – you guessed it – at least one dish featuring hearts of palms. Usually, I serve them in a salad – you can find a recipe for it in the Keeping the Feast archive. But this year, I wanted to expand the search for dishes that members of our world-wide communion would serve not only on Palm Sunday but also throughout Holy Week.

The search yielded such interesting results for hearts of palm including a baked presentation from Italy which goes very well as a side dish along with linguine with red clam sauce. I think everyone will enjoy digging in to them after the placing the palms with care and prayer on the mantle near the three, small cast iron crosses that grace it every year during Holy Week.

Because Palm Sunday is such a busy day, both of the recipes are easy and quick and produce savory results.

Baked hearts of Palm – adapted from the internet


– 2 (7.8 oz) cans hearts of palm – I used whole hearts of palm imported from Ecuador found in the supermarket – drained and sliced into rings

– 1 tablespoon olive oil -1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped roughly

– 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese (more if desired)

-1 tsp garlic salt – pepper to taste

Directions: preheat oven to 375 degrees; toss hearts of palm with all ingredients and spread evenly in a glass pan. Bake for approx. 20 minutes or until lightly crisped and browned.

Linguine with calm sauce

Linguine with clam sauce

Simple red clam sauce and linguine


– 4 tablespoons butter

-3 tablespoons olive oil

-3 cloves of garlic, minced

-1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

-1/2 cup fresh parsley

-1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

-1 teaspoon dried basil

-1/2 teaspoon salt

– 16 ounces minced clams with liquid

-1 tablespoon lemon juice

-1/2 teaspoon sugar (if desired)

Directions: Cook pasta according to package directions. Heat butter and olive oil in pan over medium high heat, add garlic and cook til golden (about 3 minutes), add parsley, oregano, basil, tomatoes, salt and sugar to the pan and mix well. Bring the sauce to a boil, add clams

and then simmer for five minutes. Add lemon juice to sauce and cook for 1 minute. Drain pasta, put in pasta bowl and toss with sauce.

For the blessings and prayers that accompany Holy Week and indeed throughout the year, I turn to a venerable copy of Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers for inspiration. Here are some excerpts from the book for Passion Sunday: Placing the Branches in the Home:

“The branches remind us that Lent is the slow coming of spring to the earth, the renewal of life. They are like the great ‘Hosanna’ with which we hail the crucified and risen Lord.”

As the household gathers where the palms have been placed next to the cross and Scriptures, the leader may read these or similar words to introduce the prayer: “We have come to the last days of Lent. Today we heard the reading of the Passion. That story will remain with us as we leave Lent behind on Holy Thursday and enter into the Three Days when we celebrate the mystery of Christ passing through suffering and death to life at God’s right Hand.

“Listen to the words of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians: ‘We are always carrying the body of the dying Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:10-11).’ The reader concludes: This is the Word of the Lord and all respond: Thanks be to God Let us pray: “Blessed are you, God of Israel, so rich in love and mercy. Let these branches ever remind us of Christ’s triumph. May we who bear them, rejoice in his cross and sing your praises for ever and ever.’”

Variations on well loved dishes for the saintly feasts of March

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s impossible each year, to turn the page of the calendar to March without the faces of my paternal grandparents – Gaetano (Tommy) and May (Mary Emma) Rogers springing to mind.
Where custom, faith and tradition are concerned, the feasts of St. Patrick and St. Joseph bring them into clear focus once again as they were when I was a child. He was a rather short and solid Italian-American barber whose family had traded a fine Italian surname – Racioppi – for the “Americanized” Rogers. She was a very petite Irish-American with a knack for cooking in both species which, in my experience, has never been equaled.
To me they will always be the quintessential physical embodiment of what has come to be known in some quarters of New Jersey’s upper shore as “Gaelic and Garlic.”
I remember being so struck by that slogan when it first appeared on tee shirts at an Irish shop in Point Pleasant Beach where the late proprietor – who I believe was a blend of both herself – coined the phrase.
It seemed to capture them perfectly: Grandma with a truly Irish deep sense of devotion to the faith melded perfectly with Grandpa whose Italian nature basked in her glow and prompted him to grow figs and vegetables in the small plot of land at the home in Newark.
Over their bed hung a massive Crucifix – I’m sure by Grandma’s design. The same with the fascinating Infant of Prague all decked out on her night stand along with some of her collection of bibles – she could never turn a bible salesman away without a sale – so much for the old wives’ tale about Catholics of old not reading the bible!
Going to Mass with Grandma in Newark was one of the great joys of my childhood. I recall that she took me to many churches – including St. Antoninus, St. Lucy and Sacred Heart Cathedral where the family had enjoyed looking in on the final stages of its construction.
She wanted to share with me her great joy in and love for the sacred mysteries of the Church and I can’t thank her enough for that.
But like my own mother, I remember Grandma best presiding over her kitchen while Grandpa read or listened to the ballgame in the living room. I recall how the wooden window would be open wide, even in the cool spring air, as steam bellowed forth from pots full of water for pasta and Sunday gravy and how she would make cakes from scratch measuring the ingredients by the handful and the pinch. I see her once again, serving up a warm, rich stew, always with a dose of garlic in recognition of her embrace of Neapolitan cuisine.
And every March, she’s here once again with me in the kitchen as I do my level best to come up with her version of that Irish beef stew for St. Patrick’s Day. She didn’t favor lamb as I recall but opted often for the less expensive chuck, a family favorite for many generations.
On St. Joseph’s day this year, the request is for pasta with breadcrumbs again, but with a twist — Gemelli pasta instead of long spaghetti — and anchovies. Once again, I’ll strive to re-create the dish my dad liked so well though he actually preferred sardines.

Since St. Joseph’s Day always falls during the season of Lent, a period of penance and fasting, traditionally no meat is served. Instead, fish and pasta are staples of the feast. The traditional Sicilian dish – a legacy from my Sicilian great-grandmother – of Spaghetti with anchovies harkens back to St. Joseph, the carpenter and Jesus as fisherman with its ingredients which include breadcrumbs, symbolic of the sawdust in his shop.

Recipe # 1 — May’s Irish Stew adapted from memory with help from the internet

-2 tbs. Olive oil
-3 tbs all purpose flour
– 2 lbs beef chuck cut into 1 ½ inch cubes
-1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
-6 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
-1 large, sweet onion, cut into large chunks
-2 cloves of minced garlic
-2 cups of beef broth
-1 six ounce can tomato paste
-12 fluid ounces can or bottle of Irish stout
-1 tbl cold water
-1 tbl corn starch.

Directions: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Toss beef cubes with flour to coat them and then saute them in a large frying pan until browned. Place the carrots, potatoes, onion and garlic in a large crock pot. Place the meat on top of the vegetables. Mix together the beef broth and tomato paste and pour into the pot along with the stout. Cover and cook on high for six hours or low for eight hours. During the last hour before serving, dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water and then stir in the broth. Simmer on high setting for a few minutes to thicken the brew and then serve.

Anchovies and Pasta San Guiseppe ala Pietro

-1 pound of your favorite pasta, most use spaghetti, but I’m favoring Gemelli twists this year
-4 tablespoons olive oil, divided in half
-2 ounce tin-oil packed anchovies
-8 cloves of garlic, minced
-2 large tomatoes – the ripest available, diced
-ground black pepper to taste
-1/2 cup your favorite breadcrumbs – panko is trending heavily right now
– 1/2 cup grated Romano with extra on the table for serving

Directions: Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water, then drain and return the pasta to the pot. Drizzle the pasta with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, toss, then cover and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium-high, heat the olive oil. Add the anchovies and saute for 5 minutes, breaking them up with a spatula until they dissolve into a paste. Add the garlic and saute for another minute, then add the tomato. Cook, stirring often, until the tomato begins to break down, about 7 minutes. Season with pepper. For a thinner sauce, stir in a bit of the reserved pasta cooking water.
Uncover the pasta and, while using tongs to toss, sprinkle in the breadcrumbs and Romano cheese, tossing until evenly coated. Divide the pasta between 4 serving bowls, then spoon some of the sauce into the center of each. Top each serving with additional grated Parmesan.

Servings: 4

Lent is the perfect time for this old favorite — Macaroni and Cheese

Growing up, macaroni and cheese was a Lenten staple at our table. Always served with canned, stewed tomatoes (as fresh tomatoes are not in season) they were spiked up by my mom with extra diced garlic, onions and green peppers. The Mac ‘n Cheese and side of tomatoes was a meal we children all ate with gusto.
Both of my brothers expressed displeasure at some of the other wonderful dishes mom made during Lent. Pete’s “ugh” when one of her terrific meatless eggplant casserole meals was legendary,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and Mark never did overcome his abiding dislike of fish in any form. “Horrid fish dishes,” was his frequently heard pronouncement.
But serve them pasta in any form, except the Sicilian concoction with anchovies that my father loved so much, and they wolfed it down.
I have no doubt the recipe below – adapted from several sites on the Internet – would have pleased their palates. I like to use sharp white cheddar, but use whatever cheddar appeals to your taste. Also, while I don’t use Italian style bread crumbs, mom always did and everybody loved the dish.
This is another dish that I think would meet with Pope Francis’ Lenten admonition to keep the fare simple. It’s inexpensive to pull together, tasty and warm and (I think) makes a great lunch leftover.

Auntie Lo’s Mac & Cheese

– ¼ cup butter
-2 tablespoons white flour
-2 cups whole mile or 2% low-fat milk if preferred
-10 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese
-1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
-1 lb elbow macaroni noodles
-3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Cook macaroni pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
3. In a medium saucepan on medium heat, add butter and cook until melted.
4. Remove saucepan from heat and add flour. Whisk constantly for 1 minute.
5. Return saucepan to medium heat and add milk and stir to combine.
6. Heat mixture until milk is hot but not boiling.
7. Grate white cheddar cheese and add to milk mixture.
8. Cook for 10 minutes or until cheese is completely melted.
9. Add Romano cheese and stir to combine. Cook until all cheese is melted, about 2 more minutes.
10. Add macaroni noodles to saucepan and stir to combine pasta with cheese sauce.
11. Pour into a casserole dish or a ceramic, oven-safe crock.
12. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top of macaroni.
13. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Let sit for 3-5 minutes after cooking to cool.

I’m including a link from Creighton University’s wonderful Lenten sight – a staple in my home each year. This page offers a banquet of prayer for the table.

Here’s a sample:

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Lord, we thank you for the blessings of this day and for this time together as a family.
We thank you for this wonderful meals and for this hour we can share it.
Help us remember those who have so much less than we do.
Bless us as a family. Help us grow in love and care for each other.
Comfort and give strength and peace to those who are sick or struggling in any way.

We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen

Setting a faithful, tasty Lenten table with recipes from Catholic cookbooks

Among my treasured culinary resources is a collection of Catholic cookbooks gathered over the years from parishes, retreat houses, convents and sometimes even when – to my delight – I find one for sale at one of the thrift shops whose proceeds benefit Catholic social justice causes.

Throughout the year – and most especially at Lent – I find their inspired recipes for everything from soup to nuFeatured imagets just the ticket for the kind of creative, yet simple meals that Pope Francis would welcome at table (or so I believe!)

Among the favorite books is a heritage collection of recipes I was lucky enough to come by from Msgr. James J. Innocenzi, pastor of St. George Parish, Titusville. Entitled “Heaven’s Bounty,” the collection of hundreds of lovely and extremely workable recipes was compiled under his supervision when he was pastor of St. Michael Parish, Trenton, now a part of St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville.

Bounty’s standout recipe for Meatless Italian Minestrone Soup by Ronnie Brun would be wonderful served up with tasty cornbread from the Upper Room Retreat Center’s “A Taste of the Upper Room.” The book, I  which I purchased at one of their Spirituality Days held each November in Georgian Court University, has become one of my kitchen classics.

If I remember correctly, I was lucky enough to snag the last copy on that Spirituality Day and uncharitable enough to not relinquish it to the poor soul behind me who also had a “taste” for it.”

Meatless Italian Minestrone from the St. Michael’s Cookbook


-1 tbsp vegetable oil

– 1 1/3 c. chopped celery

-1/2 c. chopped onion

-2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

-2 (14 ½ oz. each) tomatoes, undrained and chopped

-4 c. chopped cabbage

-1 c. chopped carrots

-1 can (46 oz.) tomato juice

-1 can (19 oz.) white kidney beans, drained

-1 can (15 ½ oz.) red kidney beans, drained

-1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans, drained

-1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley

-1 tbsp plus 1 tsp dried basil leaves

-1 tbsp plus 1 tsp dried oregano

-3/4 c. (4 oz.) dry small elbow macaroni. Cook according to package directions and drain.

-1/4 c. Parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper to taste

Directions: Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add celery, onion and garlic. Cook and stir until crisp and tender. Stir in tomatoes, cabbage and carrots. Reduce heat to low. Cover. Simmer until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomato juice, beans, parsley, oregano and basil. Simmer until beans are heated. Stir in macaroni. Heat and serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Cornbread from the Upper Room


-1 c. cornmeal

-1 c. flour

-3 tsp baking powder

-1 tsp salt

-1/2 c. melted butter

-2/3 c. milk

-2 eggs

Directions: mix cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Beat together melted butter, milk and eggs. Add liquid mixture to dry mixture. Pour into greased 9”x 9” greased pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until done.

Table Prayer

Lord Jesus, through
the hardship of the cross you give us peace; 
through the pain of
the cross you heal our wounds.  
As we make our way
through the mystery of your passion, 
fortify us not only
through the food we share 
but through the love
we have for one another and you, 
in whose name we

Source: Catholic Doors Ministry