Tuesday, December 7, 2010

This is a Great "ADVENTure"!!

My oldest son Joshua is in his first year at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire. He sent me this reflection on Advent that I felt is worth of sharing. So, as Joshua would say, "Sit back with your favorite hot beverage, have a bite to tuck in (maybe Mary's Blessed Bars) if you are feeling peckish, and read away!"


Advent is the season of preparation before Christmas. In the liturgical year, the First Sunday of Advent is the start of a renewed cycle, a new year's day, so to speak. This new beginning offers us a chance to refocus our lives on the Gospel events around which the Christian life ought to be centered. Advent is, like Lent, a time of penance and interior preparation for the celebration of Our Lord's birth. It is, however, a less solemn season, for no occasion can be more joyous than the coming of Him who was so long-expected, the fulfillment of all human hope in the form of a helpless infant. But before we can celebrate the coming of the Christ Child, there must first be sufficient preparation. To mark the coming of Christmas we light candles, hang greens, sing carols. These visible signs of eager anticipation, though they are good things in themselves, must not be the only preparation we make.

Advent is a time for interior change, to once again “put off the old man” (Eph. 4:22), as St. Paul writes. In the four weeks before Christmas, we journey with the Magi through the wilderness, seeking the light of Christ by denying self and turning to God in faith and humility. We journey with Mary and Joseph to welcome the coming of the Messiah in our hearts, heeding St. John the Baptist's proclamation to “prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mt. 3:3). Although the journey to Bethlehem is short, it nonetheless must be made if we truly desire to better grasp the living reality of Christ in our lives. This journey is not made alone, but is guided by the grace of God, particularly through the frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist and Sacrament of Penance.

By humbling ourselves before the Lord, we allow Him to enter into our lives and transform us into his likeness. It is only when we are made “like a little child” (Mt. 18:3) that we can better understand the Infant in the Manger. Then, once we behold the baby Jesus in the arms of his mother—“round yon Virgin, mother and child”we cannot repress our joy, but like the shepherds live our lives “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen”(Lk. 2:20). Finally, Advent is a reminder to cast aside all sin and pursue a life of holiness, for though the Christ Child has already come once in history”et verbum caro factum est”he will return again in glory.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

È il giorno di tacchino! (It's turkey day!)

"Mr. Turkey, Mr. Turkey
Big and fat
I'm going to eat you
I'm going to eat you
Just like that!"
~taken from song Joshua sang in his pre-school Thanksgiving program

Another Thanksgiving arrived and I was determined not to deal with usual hustle and bustle of trying to get a week's worth of cooking (and eating) all in a day. For some reason, we Americans feel the need to stuff ourselves, along with a generally bland-tasting large bird, all in the name of being thankful every fourth Thursday of November.

Okay, so I am not against the holiday of Thanksgiving~ I do enjoy the cooking and eating and hanging out with family for a day, not to mention our crazy dessert & bunco time in the evening! I just think we need to realize how much we have to be thankful for everyday and how much the Lord takes care of our every need. It was with this thought that I purposely strove to make 2010's Thanksgiving different. Mary and I spent the Monday before helping out at church de-boning turkeys & making stuffing for their annual dinner on Thursday. Snow fell Monday night which gave David the day off Tuesday, so he joined us again at church de-boning more turkeys along with setting up tables and chairs for the 500 people they were expecting. After taking a walk in a snow-dusted Capitol Park and attending noon Mass, we headed to Straight from NY Pizza in downtown Salem for a needed and welcomed repast.

Wednesday found us preparing everything we were going to take to my folks while still being sure to take time to enjoy being together. After picking up Cari from her apartment, we headed to St. Joseph's for the Thanksgiving Vigil Mass. We returned home (along with Cari who would be spending the night- something her parents love having her do) and finished up a few last items- especially my traditional Thanksgiving cinnamon rolls. Cari worked on her gluten-free cornbread dressing so as to not have to make it at Grammie and Poppa's the next day.

After a good night's sleep, we headed over to the Pitalo's house with a carload of goodies. My facebook status read something like "headed over with cinnamon rolls, sweet potato souffle, cornbread dressing, two kinds of dinner rolls, 5 bottles of wine, hazelnut-pumpkin cheesecake...). It was fun to be able to try some new recipes for this year's feast- both because I wanted to as well as needing to for Cari's gluten-intolerance.

Upon our arrival, the coffee was brewing and bacon ready to go with the cinnamon rolls and the Macy's Parade. Normally, we watch the parade looking for the opportunity to comment on costumes or the lip-syncing of musical artists. This year we were all focused on one part of the parade- the Grants Pass, Oregon High School marching band. That's right, three of my nieces were in the parade! Needless to say, all other things stopped as we watched the girls (and the
rest of the band) strut their stuff along NYC's streets. Knowing the girls had already been having a wonderful week there~ my niece Jana had texted the kids and I a photo of St. Patrick's Cathedral on Wednesday which we all loved~ we were thrilled to see all their hard work pay off!

After the parade, the work commenced to finish up dinner. My dad was in the process of smoking two turkeys while there was a third in the roaster. Mary took over the making of the mashed
potatoes while David made the salad. I heated up the sweet potato souffle- made gluten free this year- and Cari's cornbread dressing along with my mom's delicious dressing and the sweet potatoes to be roasted.
I then got to work on my newest recipe "brussels sprouts with pistachios and lemon". Now, before you stop reading and do something else, hear me out. I grew up thinking this vegetable was from the nether-world and should be barred from being grown. This was due to the fact that my mom (like many mom's out there~ you know who you are) didn't quite know how to make these little orbs taste good. I can remember sitting down at the dinner table refusing to eat the two on my plate while she patiently sat waiting for me to do just that. It was because of this I chose never to serve them to my family. I decided this was the year to "never say never" and try making them in a way that would please people's palates. The dish turned out really delicious~ those that normally would have turned up their noses at brussels sprouts actually tried them, and there may have been one or two converts.
After a blessing prayed by both my dad Tom and grandpa Ed, we sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labors. Having most of my kids there (college boy Josh was enjoying a Pennsylvania farm Thanksgiving week with a fellow student for the week) along with numerous family members made for a bountiful feast of thanksgiving!

The evening was not quite over as friends came over after dinner for our annual Thanksgiving dessert and bunco night. With lots of delectable desserts- including Ron's Oreo Cheesecake, Angela's pumpkin-pecan pie, Shelly's no-bake cookies and peanut butter balls and my hazelnut pumpkin cheesecake with florentines- there was something for everyone to try! When dessert was finished, it was time for a rousing game of bunco~ the sound of rolling dice and laughter wafted throughout the house while the fireplace burned brightly and joy was present.

It came time to head out to our own homes which we did with well-sated stomachs and spirits. This year's Thanksgiving was one I think our forefathers and mothers would have been pleased with as we celebrated not only the bounty of our table but the copiousness of family and friends!

Here are a few recipes from our Thanksgiving dinner~ don't wait 'til next November to give them a try!

Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios & Lemon
(adapted from Bon Appetit)

3tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 minced sweet onion
11/2pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed with leaves pulled from cores-discard cores
3/4cup pistachio nuts
2tbsp lemon juice

Heat oil in large non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and stir for 2 minutes. Add brussels sprouts leaves and pistachios and sautee until leaves begin to soften but are still bright green, about 3 minutes.Drizzle with lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Cari's Cornbread Dressing
(adapted from Bon Appetit)

1 double batch gluten-free cornbread, cut into 1-inch cubes
5 tablespoons butter, divided
12 ounces fully cooked Chicken & Garlic sausages (about 4), halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide pieces
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt plus additional for sprinkling
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus additional for sprinkling
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 large egg

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Spread cornbread in single layer on large baking sheet. Bake until dry and lightly browned, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool.

DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage pieces; sauté until brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer sausage to large bowl.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add fennel, onion, and bell pepper; sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Sauté until onion is golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add to bowl with sausage.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Add cornbread, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to vegetable-sausage mixture; mix gently. Whisk 2 cups broth and egg in medium bowl. Add broth mixture to cornbread mixture and toss. Transfer mixture to 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.

Bake stuffing uncovered until crisp on top, about 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How Saucy Can You Get?

Ever since we've been married, my husband has always commented on how "saucy" I am. Now, before you get the wrong idea, I need to explain just what he means when he says this (and no, you don't need to usher your young children away from the computer). No matter if it's breakfast, lunch or dinner, I enjoy adding some type of sauce~ from gravy to sweet chili sauce to Tabasco to honey mustard~ I usually add a little bit of something to whatever I may be eating (especially leftovers). This would be where I get the "saucy" title from my loving husband which is well deserved and well used to by now.

I am pretty sure the sauciness is hereditary as I can remember my late Grandpa Pitalo asking for Tabasco every time we'd go out for a meal as well as my Dad's penchant for sauces. This has also been passed on to another generation as my daughter, Mary, loves sauces too (she is a lot like her Poppa Tom as she loves sauces- the spicier the better)!

As busy as our schedules have been lately, I've still resisted the urge to buy jarred sauces (except for the numerous Tabasco bottles in our cupboard thanks to my husband's passion for all things Tabasco- but that's another blog entry). Even though the taste is okay for jarred spaghetti sauce, making homemade is really simple~ not to mention it makes the house smell wonderful! Here's the recipe for Grandma Pitalo's Spaghetti Sauce. It's easy, fairly inexpensive and will change your mind about all those jarred sauces staring at you from the grocery store shelves. Try it with pasta, as a pizza sauce, on top of chicken or eggplant parmesan~ the possibilities are endless!

Grandma Pitalo's Spaghetti Sauce
1- 2 1/2 pound can Italian style-tomatoes
3- 12 oz. cans tomato paste, 3 cans water per 1 can paste (9 cans water total)
2 medium onions, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. fresh parsley, chopped
1 T. Kosher salt
1 t. each dried basil, dried oregano, dried thyme
1/2 t. dried rosemary
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups sliced mushrooms (your choice- I like Crimini)
1 pound Italian sausage

Brown onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add tomatoes and tomato paste; simmer on low 15 minutes. Watch carefully, so it doesn't stick. Add water and mix well; add seasonings and cook on a real low fire for 1 hour. Add mushrooms and sausage; cook another 2-3 hours. Serve with pasta and freshly grated Romano cheese (for other applications, see above).
Buono Appetito!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A "Grandma's Luncheon" Celebration

I am pretty sure that someone somewhere has said, "The road to blog writing is paved with good intentions." Of course, you probably haven't read it on any blog anywhere since the originator of the saying hasn't had time to write it down. This is basically how I've been feeling over the last couple of weeks. We've had all kinds of excitement in our family including our 25th wedding anniversary and Mary's 16th birthday. This doesn't even account for the "normal" stuff of our family like church, fencing tournaments, school and work. I finally figured out that I just need to take time to write in my blog instead of keeping those "good intentions" to myself!

One of the many things I am enjoying lately is the many celebrations we are now having as our family continues our Catholic journey. Not only did we celebrate our anniversary and birthdays (including Mary, my Dad & niece Jillian's this week alone), but we had All Saints Day on Monday and All Souls Day on Tuesday. Besides going to Mass, we also wanted to do a bit more celebrating these important days in the liturgical calendar! We ended up inviting my parents over for a "Grandma's Luncheon" for Dad and Mary's birthday as well as a way to honor my late Grandma Pitalo and Grandma Aziz.

We set the table using the yellow rose china that Grandma Aziz had passed down to me along with a lace tablecloth reminiscent of the numerous dinners Grandma Pitalo always had for us. The menu consisted of Chicken Scarpellio (Grandma Pitalo), salad, risotto, and bread sticks. Brian and I had picked up a bottle of Charles Shaw Pinot Grigio at Trader Joe's last week while on our anniversary trip, and it was remarkably drinkable~ my dad and Brian both enjoyed a glass with lunch! For dessert, we indulged in Grandma Aziz' Apple Cake with some caramel vanilla ice cream~ except for Cari who didn't get left out as I made her a flourless chocolate cake.

It was a really nice afternoon, and everyone enjoyed the food as much as being together! I am looking forward to keeping up with the blog as well as continuing to learn about celebrating the many days we Catholics get to commemorate!!

Grandma's Apple Cake
3 c. flour
2 c. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 lg. apples, peeled and sliced
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. Wesson oil
4 eggs
1/2 c. orange juice
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Grease and flour bundt pan. In medium bowl, mix together apples and cinnamon together; set aside. Beat eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla and orange juice together until smooth. Sprinkle 1/2 of apple mixture in pan. Pour half of batter in pan. Lay remaining apples on top; pour remaining batter over apples and spread evenly with spatula.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until done. Let cool on rack for 10 minutes then invert onto serving plate.
*Grandma always dusted the top with powdered sugar, but I like to make a glaze by mixing 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons apple juice. I pour the glaze over the cake just as it's been put on the plate.

Friday, October 22, 2010

It's Gettin' Chili...and cornbread

Another change our family has faced this autumn is the amount of hours I am teaching fencing at our local fencing salle- Salem Classical Fencing. Since I am still the main cook in the house, we've been doing more crock-pot and one-pot dishes in order for me to be able to get other stuff done around the house. Starting to make dinner in the late morning has enabled us to choose to eat what's been cooked for our noontime meal or dinner~ for me that is after 9 p.m. three nights a week. I have also tried going back to weekly menus~ what a difference they have been making as I actually know what to make during the week without coming home after a long afternoon of teaching people how to properly poke each other with swords!

This week's menu has been interesting as I've been trying to make use of what's in the larder without going shopping (especially since it's almost the end of the month which means not a lot in the checking account). I decided to make chili (you could try Ron's Chili as it is delicious and pretty easy) on Tuesday as Cari was coming over, and it's something she can eat without having to worry about the gluten-thing. There was some cabbage in the fridge, so I knew coleslaw was in order. Since a bowl of chili is always better with cornbread (in my humble opinion), we tried a cornbread recipe that uses rice flour. I made a few other minor adjustments (like making a larger batch!!), and it turned out to be one of the best cornbreads I have ever eaten!

Anyway- here's the cornbread recipe for you to try. It's so good you'll forget it's got no gluten!

Cornbread for Cari

2 cups white rice flour
1 1/2 cups stone-ground corn grits (I use Bob's Red Mill)
6 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups milk
1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place 2 tablespoons butter in 9 x 13 baking dish and put in oven while preheating.
Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl combine remaining ingredients; add to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Pour batter into preheated baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm.
*This is so delicious, it doesn't even need extra butter~ although a bit of honey goes nicely with it!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Dinner~ Part Deux

Feeling rather celebratory after a wonderful morning Mass (and knowing what we had in our larder of goodies), today's dinner menu would consist of steak- cooked outside on the grill since the weather was too good to pass up, roasted green beans & twice-baked potatoes followed by another batch of our Caramel-lite Corn (this time drizzled with melted chocolate- almost as good as a certain antlered-animal named snack) while we enjoyed a rousing family game of LIFE. We've chosen as part of our Catholic journey to devote Sundays to family time- not going out to eat or shopping, but rather spending the day going to church and doing things as a family- including reflection, recreation & relaxation. This has been a really good choice~ even though it has seemed weird not doing our bi-monthly Costco lunch and shopping after church like we've done so much in the past!

Brian and I had stopped by Roth's yesterday to buy some meat to round off the rest of our October menus, and they had some wonderful sirloin steaks in a family pack (that also happened to be just past their prime for an extra $3 off~ "score!", as my son David would say).

Green beans have always been one of my kids favorite veggies~ I confess, they LOVED canned green beans when they were young served cold with ranch dressing as a dip for them. Except when I take time to can my own (or find someone else who does), we generally do frozen green beans from Costco or fresh beans from the Saturday Market when they're in season! Our favorite way to serve them (either fresh or straight from the freezer) now is simply by roasting them in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, some freshly ground pepper and a good handful of Kosher salt. After about 20 minutes at 450 degrees, they are a bit crisp and yet still tender~ quite wonderful to eat and still delicious a day after just heated in the microwave!

I love Alton Brown's baked potato recipe, so we decided to try to do a Keatley-twist and make them into twice-baked potatoes. The best part is as I am writing this there are three leftover coracle-shaped goodness (a coracle being a small round boat that I first heard of while reading C.S. Lewis' Cronicles of Narnia)~ I am planning on using at least one to make my version of Bubble and Squeak this week.

Twice-Baked Potatoes
(baked potato part adapted from Alton Brown)

6 russet potatoes, cleaned & scrubbed
Kosher salt
Canola Oil
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
freshly ground black pepper
Hungarian sweet paprika (I get mine from Penzey's Spices)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using fork, poke 8-12 holes in potatoes. Brush on canola oil; sprinkle liberally with salt. Place potatoes directly on middle oven rack; place baking sheet on bottom rack. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove potatoes from oven and dust off some of the salt, leaving most on the skin. Let cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet. Cut potatoes in half; using tablespoon, scoop out inside of potatoes & place into medium size mixing bowl, making sure to leave the shell intact.
Raise oven temperature to 450 degrees. Add cream cheese, 1 cup of cheddar and cottage cheese to potato "insides" along with pepper, to taste. Using fork, mash potato mixture while blending gently. When mixture is combined, spoon into reserved potato skins. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and paprika. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Caramel-lite Popcorn~ in Honor of St. Teresa of Avila

So, as the Catholic Church celebrates an amazing woman- St. Teresa of Avila (aka St. Teresa of Jesus) today, I wanted to make something delicious in her honor. On the way home from noon Mass, I decided that caramel corn would be the dish we'd try~ after all, St. Teresa was a Carmelite nun. Okay, so the pun is a little silly, but the caramel corn is as tasty as it is easy!!

Caramel-lite Corn

2 bags "lite"microwave popcorn
2 cups brown sugar
1 stick butter
1/3 cup dark Karo syrup
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup roasted & salted almonds

Pop both bags of popcorn in microwave (one at a time, please). Place popped kernels in a large brown paper bag while keeping all the un-popped kernels out.

Boil the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in a saucepan over medium high heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Carefully pour caramel onto popcorn in bag; cover and shake. Microwave for 1 minute and shake. Tear open bag and pour into large bowl. Add peanuts and almonds and stir to combine. Let cool for 5 minutes (if you can wait that long). Enjoy!!

*My kids decided this would be really good for the holidays with dried cranberries, white chocolate chips, etc. added to the mixture!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sunday Dinners~ a Risotto by any other name...

Our oldest daughter, Cari, moved into her own- adorable- apartment just about a month and a half ago. While she is enjoying learning all the joys of "grown-up-land", we've tried to make it a habit/tradition of reviving the Sunday dinner of inviting her to enjoy with all of us after attending Mass. We believe Sunday should be used (as much as possible) as a day for family, for recreation and for rest (which is Brian's favorite as he likes his Sunday after dinner naps). I've also learned to be creative as we've found out Cari is gluten-intolerant which means no meals with wheat in them.This past Sunday was another family and gluten-free dinner that was enjoyed by all~ chicken, green bean & roasted red bell pepper skillet along with risotto and a green salad made for a delicious and filling meal! It also gave me an opportunity to share the how-to's of making risotto with Cari as rice is a staple in her kitchen (which it should be in everyone's since it's so inexpensive). While we all generally eat brown rice, once in a while a good risotto is hard to beat. Here's my favorite recipe for an easy risotto anyone (or most anyone) can make:



6 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups Arborio rice (I get mine from the bulk section at Winco)
2 ounces grated Romano cheese, approximately 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

In a medium saucepan with a lid, combine chicken broth and white wine and heat just to simmering. Keep warm.
In a large 3 to 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and sweat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until the grains are translucent around the edges. Be careful not to allow the grains or the onions to brown.
Reduce the heat to low. Add enough of the wine and chicken stock just to cover the top of the rice. Stir until the liquid is completely absorbed into rice. Once absorbed, add another amount of liquid just to cover the rice and continue stirring as before. There should be just enough liquid left to repeat 1 more time. It should take approximately 35 to 40 minutes for all of the liquid to be absorbed. After the last addition of liquid has been mostly absorbed, remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan, lemon zest, and nutmeg.
Taste and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

New Blog Name~ Same Blog Taste...

Okay, so I had decided to give up my blog forever as the time has flown by this year, and I had no desire to try to come up with anything creative for it. My children, however, had different thoughts as they (especially Cari) kept asking when the next post would happen. I finally got to the point of realizing how much I enjoy doing this and how much I've actually missed it. So with all that, I've decided to take a bit of a turn for Mangia Mama, and will be adding some "Tiber Tales" to the foodie stuff I like to wax eloquently (or not so much~ I guess my readers can decide).
The tales will have to do with our family's journey to join the Catholic Church that we started officially this year~ Joshua was ahead of us all by a year or so, but we are now all on the same road towards becoming Catholic. It has been a really interesting- to say the least- travel for all of us. I have a Catholic background as I was raised in the Church and went through everything from baptism to confirmation. My family stopped going to church when I was a young teen. I searched for a church, attending everything from a Presbyterian to United Church of Christ to Dutch Reformed. I finally settled in at an American Baptist Church as a young college student~ which is where I met my future husband. Speaking of my husband- Brian was raised Baptist (mostly Southern), and we were married at Bellflower, CA First Baptist (the church where we met). After moving to Salem from Southern California, we started attending Kingwood Bible Church (Mennonite Brethren). When our oldest kids were toddlers we moved over to Salem Alliance (Christian and Missionary Alliance) where we had been actively involved for the past 17 years.
Needless to say, the decision to start on our Catholic journey was a bit of a challenge as we felt so attached to the people at Salem Alliance. As I read in David Currie's book, "Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic", I understood why he was able to say that he gave the church his family was involved with before becoming Catholic an A+ as we feel the same way about Salem Alliance. There were so many things we love about SAC~ the people, the music, the heart for the brokenhearted, etc., so it was not without much praying, reading and numerous hours of talking that we made our decision.
Many people have had questions about why the Catholic church which we have tried to answer. The best answer I have is that I feel as if I have always had a good walk with the Lord and now I have a great walk with Him. Joshua, our oldest son, has said the difference for him between attending an evangelical church and a Catholic church is the difference between having your thirst quenched with a wonderfully glass of water and diving in a pool that continuously refreshes and quenches as it covers you.
We are now attending St. Joseph's in downtown Salem, Oregon. We are enjoying going to Mass- often daily as well as on Sundays, getting involved in Bible studies, youth activities and taking classes on what the Catholic faith is all about. Our faith and love for God and His Word is going deeper and deeper as we continue on our journey!
You may wonder what food has to do with all this, but it is still a central part of joy in my life! As we have chosen not to eat meat on Fridays as a fast to remind us of Jesus' dying on the cross for us, I've had to learn to be very creative with our meals. The kids said they could only take so many weeks of macaroni and cheese. There are also feast days that we celebrate which are fun reasons to try new recipes. There is a great blog, Catholic Cuisine that has been helpful in finding new recipes from other homemakers for all kinds of celebrations!
I plan to post new recipes and bits and pieces of our journey as we continue growing in our Lord! May He bless you and guide you closer to Him in all you do!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

1/1/2010~ Day 1 Lentil Veggie Stew with Italian Sausage

Here is the first recipe for the 2010 Mangia Mamma Recipe Challenge. I was going to make it when we went to Ron & Shelly's house for football games, but I wrenched my shoulder a bit and ended up getting pizza to take instead. I realized when we got home that I still needed to make dinner, so I asked Mary to whip up some drop biscuits while I went to work on the stew. We had most of the ingredients in the recipe which was originally in an old Bon Appetit magazine (yes, I know it wasn't a cookbook, but it is a magazine which I already had), but I twisted it around to what we had on hand. The verdict came in that it was probably even better than the original!

Lentil Veggie Stew with Italian Sausage
(adapted from Bon Appetit January 2010)

2 T. olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
4 parsnips, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)
4 celery stalks, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 t. dried basil
1 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 pound lentils (about 2 1/4 cups)
3 quarts low-fat stock (I used a combination of beef and chicken, but you could use either or even vegetable stock)
1 cup red wine (I used a Tempranillo but again you could use what you have at home)
3 cups chopped cabbage (any type~ I used 1/2 a head of napa since it was in the fridge)

Cook the sausage in a large pot over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes or browned. Remove sausage from heat and place on paper towel-lined plate. Add olive oil to pot along with onion, carrots, parsnips, celery and herbs. Lower heat to medium and cook for 7-8 minutes or until onions are translucent and vegetables are starting to soften. Add lentils; stir to coat. Add broth and wine. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Add sausage and cabbage and mix well. Let simmer for 7-9 minutes to blend flavors and wilt cabbage. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes about 10 servings. Like I said, I served this with biscuits, but I think it taste delicious over rice. For those of you who don't do meat, you can always skip the sausage and just do the veggies~ I am pretty sure it would still be delicious!

2010 Mangia Mamma Recipe Challenge

Okay, so when I started this blog~ thanks to a suggestion from my sister~ I thought it would be an easy thing to just post recipes and thoughts about how food really is an important thread that ties us together. Even though it felt frustrating doing this and then seeing no comments or just one or two after I'd post something, I still thought it was a good thing to be able to share with others. As I went through a really busy autumn, the frustration level rose a notch as I wasn't making time to even post once a week. So, I had to come to a decision- should I just quit the blog all together or should I do something that would help spur me on to keep writing and sharing? After talking with my kitchen kid, Mary, we decided that we would keep going this year with a 2010 RECIPE CHALLENGE.

I mentioned in earlier postings how important it is for us to glean recipes from our heritage. This gleaning doesn't always have to be straight from family members. Some of my most cherished recipes come from cookbooks I have either bought myself or, mostly, received as gifts.
My orange 1970's Betty Crocker Cookbook was a gift from Grandma & Grandpa Pitalo
Brian has also bought me a few cookbooks that have been well loved (and used) including Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader which has inspired and delighted me every time I go to use it.
Some of my favorite cookbooks would also have to be the ones I have picked up at garage sales and thrift stores. These are mostly vintage, and some have recipes I wouldn't even think of making. The main thing about these cookbooks are the history they tell us~ recipes and ideas our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents- not to mention any other "cooking relatives" we may have in our families- have used or even thought of using.

Okay, so enough blathering and let me get on with what our 2010 RECIPE CHALLENGE is all about! Mary and I have decided that we are going to go through every cookbook I own this year, and we are going to choose 1 recipe from each cookbook to make, eat, and share on the blog. I think I own about 150 cookbooks, so this isn't a challenge we are taking lightly. I am also going to try to not get recipes off the internet, but instead peruse through the collection sitting in my cupboard and on my counter to see if I can find something first.

My challenge for you is to join us on this recipe ramble. Even if you only have a few cookbooks at home, you can still cook a new recipe once a week. Whether you are a novice cook or have had the chance to cook gourmet meals, you can always expand your recipe repertoire! Come along on this journey with us- send me comments, recipes, photos. 2010 promises to be a great year, and we're looking forward to the challenge of making it a tasty one too!