Sunday, August 29, 2010

BBQ Sunday--a day of rest!

For us husbands who have the blessing of coming home to a lovingly-cooked meal every day, grilling provides a wonderful way to show some appreciation. And what better day than Sunday to give our wives a little rest in the kitchen. There are hundreds of different ways to cook virtually any cut of meat or fish. Vegetables, bread, and even a few desserts can also be prepared on the grill while enjoying the late summer evenings outside -- perhaps while the kids roam so that mom has that much more freedom to kick up her heels.

However, with so many options, it can be tough to know where to start. One of the cuts with which I have had success is boneless top sirloin steak. A simple yet delicious way to prepare this (or any) cut of meat is as follows:

1) make small stabs on both surfaces of the steak and insert slivers of garlic
2) rub the steak generously with salt & pepper, put the meat in a tall-sided dish, and pour in beer (here you can have a lot of fun testing what brews give your favored flavor)
3) marinate the steak for 30-60 minutes
4) cook the meat for 6-8 minutes per side for medium rare*
5) remove the meat and let it sit, covered, for 15 minutes before carving (remember to cut across the grain of the meat)

*The final temperature for this cut of beef, medium rare is 145 degrees. However, the meat will continue to cook while sitting -- so take it off the grill at 5-10 degrees below that "done" temperature.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saint Augustine

August 28 is the feast of Saint Augustine--a great convert, and one of the most powerful minds in the history of the Church. Over the centuries, his thought and writings have had tremendous influence on the Christian tradition. And he is immensely readable - if you have never read his Confessions, you have a treat in store for you.

Augustine was born in 354 in Tagaste, a town in North Africa, which was then a province of the Roman Empire; that region is now part of Algeria.

Here are just a few details about his life, you can read all about him here .

Augustine's mother, Monica (her feast was celebrated yesterday), was a Christian. However, Augustine was not baptized as a child: the postponing of baptism until adulthood was a common practice at the time (Augustine wrote and preached against the practice later). As a young man, Augustine was deeply interested in philosophy, but was not attracted to Christianity. He was a student of Rhetoric--a common intellectual pursuit and profession at the time--and he was a seeker after philosophical truth. He was also a lover of women; he had a mistress for many years, by whom he had a son.

But while teaching Rhetoric in Milan, Augustine got to know Saint Ambrose, who was then bishop of that city. Ambrose was kind and gracious to the young Augustine--and helped him see Christianity as both reasonable and attractive. After a dramatic religious experience, Augustine converted to Christianity and completely changed his life. He was baptized, became a priest, and was soon bishop of Hippo.

He wrote a tremendous amount, on many topics: aside from his engagingly autobiographical Confessions, he wrote against several important heresies; on theology; on history (in The City of God); and other topics. Many of his sermons also survive. All his works still find many readers today.

Augustine died in 430 at the age of 75, as the Vandals--one of the many barbarian groups that attacked the declining Roman Empire--were storming the gates of Hippo.

Here is a prayer by Augustine that I have long loved:

O thou who art the light of the minds that know thee,
the life of the souls that love thee,
the strength of the wills that serve thee,
help us so to know thee that we may truly love thee
so to love thee that we may fully serve thee
whose service is perfect freedom.

What shall we eat--and serve to our families--in Saint Augustine's honor? There are of course various possibilities. But I propose that we return to the kind of food that Augustine himself might have eaten in Hippo, and that we ate in honor of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas . This is to commemorate and honor the great Christian tradition in North Africa. This Christian world was mostly swept away by the Muslim conquest of North Africa, then of Spain, in the 7th century.

PS I mentioned earlier that Saint Monica's feast day is August 27, the day before that of her great son. During his years as a pagan, Augustine's mother never stopped praying for him--and trying to help him see the truth of Christianity; this is why she herself is honored as a saint. A great quote from her: she died far from her home; before she died she said to Augustine, who was with her: "Lay this body anywhere; this only I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Remembering Mother Teresa of Calcutta on her 100th birthday

Thursday, August 26, is the 100th anniversary the birth of the great Mother Teresa. This tiny but altogether remarkable nun was one of the most memorable and important figures--and forces for good--of the 20th century. She is now well on the path to canonization, and is honored by the title "Blessed." You can read about her life in detail here: Tell your children about her: her life and her wonderful work with the poor, the suffering, and the dying of Calcutta--and all around the world.

Today let's remember her birthday--light candles on a cake, and sing to her in heaven! But, you know, if you can't quite get to baking that cake, and you're out of birthday candles, never mind! The important thing is to recall her and honor her memory--and try to imitate her, as much as we can. Here are two of her famous thoughts and sayings:

"God has created us for greater things – to love and to be loved."

And emphasizing the importance of family life and love, she said:

"Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family, we never know how much good just a simple smile can do."

And one more great quote:

"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat."

Ahhh, now I can't stop!--she said so many great things! Here is one last one:

"I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world."

(There are lots more great quotes from Blessed Teresa at: )

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Feast of Saint Lawrence

A Continual Feast describes the martyrdom of St. Lawrence, a Roman deacon during the third century Christian persecution. Ordered by the Roman prefect to surrender the treasures of the church, he assembled the poor and took them to the prefect, saying, “Here is the church’s treasure.” According to legend he was put to death by being roasted on a grill. He is said to have remarked to his torturers: “One side is done now; you can turn me over.” Traditionally, in some places nothing hot is served at all, in compassion for his martyrdom; it is a day for cold soups and salads. (ACF p. 262.) We decided that serving barbecued chicken is a great way to signify his triumph over the fire...after all, St. Lawrence is now one of the patron saints of cooks!

Basic Barbecue Sauce

1 cup ketchup

¼ cup yellow mustard (for tang)

1/8 cup brown sugar

1/8 cup A1 Steak Sauce

* You can modify the amount of any ingredient to fit your taste preference. If you like it bolder, add some more A1. If you like it sweeter, add more sugar. We have even substituted 2 Tablespoons of honey for the brown sugar.

* This sauce tastes great on pork, chicken, and beef. Marinate the raw meat prior to grilling and then baste with the sauce throughout the cooking process. These instant marinaters are great.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Our Daily Bread: Wheat and Barley Loaves

Painting by LANFRANCO, Giovanni

The gospel reading from this past Monday (Matthew 14:13-21) invited us to witness the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. The hunger for the word of God led over five thousand eager souls to follow Our Lord to a deserted place. Their spiritual hunger caused them to forget their physical hunger, as no one packed a meal. There were only two loaves and five fish to feed the crowd so the apostles suggested that Jesus dismiss the people to go to the villages for food.

Jesus, who is always so generous with us, took compassion on the people. He blessed the food, broke the bread and gave it to His disciples- who then gave it to the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over --twelve wicker baskets full.

It is so easy to get discouraged at times when it seems like our human means are lacking. Perhaps as we reach the end of the month we find ourselves pinching pennies- or no matter how much time we spend trying to solve a problem, the answer remains hidden. We must be optimistic! Many saints teach us how to live spiritual optimism well. St. Teresa of Avila was known to say “Teresa can do nothing alone. Teresa and a maravedi (a penny, say), less than nothing. But Teresa, a maravedi and God can do anything.” (A. Ruiz, Teresian Anecdotes, Burgos, 1982) With God, nothing is impossible! We set before Him our meager two loaves and five fish, and just look at what He can do with them!

There is a wonderful recipe for Wheat and Barley Loaves on page 182 of A Continual Feast. We are eager to feast on this loaf tonight, and we marked it with a cross on top (as suggested in the cook book) to remind us of the wonderful miracle.

(all it needs now is butter!)

Monday, August 2, 2010

On Name Days and Nachos....

On the 31st we celebrated the feast of a great saint, Ignatius Loyola. A former soldier from the Basque Country, he ended up dedicating himself to Christ and founding the Jesuits. I once lived with a family in Madrid where the father was named Ignacio and one of the daughters, Ignacia. The 31st held a great celebration in their honor, complete with authentically delicious Spanish food.
What many Americans may not know is that the standard nickname for Ignacio is Spain is Nacho (Nacha for girls). While I do not know how that came to be, nor how nachos came to be the name for tortilla chips covered in some sort of delicious, Mexican-inspired topping, I think we need to have some nachos in the honor of this great saint. And those named after him! Given his stature, my mother has suggested an octave in his honor.
I, personally, would also suggest some sangria to wash it down, though beer works, too (or at least for those allowed to drink such things….)
My family and I have come to love black bean nachos. They’re a bit lighter and healthier than the more traditional meat variety, but still very tasty! (Warning: children may skip dinner if they eat enough of these!)

Black Bean and Corn Nachos

• 4 cups tortilla chips (about 4 ounces)
• 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
• 1 cup corn (frozen, thawed, or cut off the cob)
• 1/2 cup salsa
• 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack, cheddar, queso quesadilla, Chihuahua, and/or asadero cheese (8 ounces)

If you want them spicy:
• 2 to 4 tablespoons fresh or canned sliced jalapeno peppers, drained

For garnish/ extra dipping:

• Salsa
• ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
• Sour cream

Arrange tortilla chips in one layer, overlapping slightly, on an 11- or 12-inch ovenproof platter.
In a medium saucepan combine black beans, corn, and the 1/2 cup salsa; cook and stir over medium heat just until heated through. Remove from heat; spoon bean mixture over chips.
Sprinkle cheese and jalapeno peppers (if desired) over bean mixture on chips. Bake in a 425 degree F oven for 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve immediately with additional salsa, if desired. Makes 10 servings.