Posted January 30th, 2011 | Events, Grace Before Meals

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Bellefontaine, if my etymological skills serve me well, means “Belle” – “beautiful or good” and “fontaine” – source.  That’s what I discovered in this picturesque town tucked away about 50 miles northwest from Columbus, OH.   Here at this parish community, I found a “beautiful source” of encouragement and hope.

Fr. Patrick Sheridan, Pastor chats with parishioners after Sunday Brunch event

Fr. Patrick Sheridan, Pastor chats with parishioners after Sunday Brunch event

On Saturday I had the opportunity to share a message to encourage marriage life – especially to promote my new book (that I’m almost finished editing), Spicing Up Married Life.

About 25 recently married couples came together for a romantic, informative and inspiring evening and a delicious meal!  Happy Smiles means a Great Evening!

About 25 recently married couples came together for a romantic, informative and inspiring evening and a delicious meal! Happy Smiles means a Great Evening!

The next morning, I had the great privilege to present the Grace Before Meals message to a packed house!  They even needed to set up other tables.  I guess colder weather brings us together, especially since the expert caterers prepared a delicious version of my Monte Cristo Breakfast Sandwich – a perfect dish for cold weather!

The Caterer, Chef, and Assitant.  They not only followed the Grace Before Meals recipes perfectly, they also added their own special touch of grace!

The Caterer, Chef, and Assitant. They not only followed the Grace Before Meals recipes perfectly, they also added their own special touch of grace!

It’s always great to visit different parts of our country.  I find that small towns, a little protected from the busyness of the world, still faces its own struggles and challenges to support a good upbringing for their families.  It’s not easy anywhere – even in a town with such a “belle” name. However, visiting “Bellefontaine” reminded me that the most “beautiful source” of encouragement comes from a perspective of faith.  It was encouraging to hear a small church of people sing every song joyfully.

A joyful wait staff sample my version of Monte Cristo Breakfast Sandwiches.  Smiles tell it all:  It's delicious, easy and family friendly.

A joyful wait staff sample my version of Monte Cristo Breakfast Sandwiches. Smiles tell it all: It's delicious, easy and family friendly.

It was great to see young people serving both culinary events with smiles (especially with cool “Grace Before Meals” name tags). And it was a great source of encouragement to see so many people come together and share the blessings of family and faith with one another!

What is your source of encouragement?  Please let us know by posting your comment.  And, if you are from Bellefontaine and attended any of these events, tell the world wide web what you thought of your Grace Before Meals weekend.  Posted comments are greatly appreciated, but most appreciated are your prayers!

Posted in Events, Grace Before Meals | 8 Comments »

Posted January 16th, 2011 | Uncategorized
Ravens Fan Family at Ascension Church in Arbutus, MD.  Sad, but hopeful AND faithful fans.

Ravens Fan Family at Ascension Church in Arbutus, MD. Sad, but hopeful AND faithful fans.

Football Team Baltimore Ravens Fans are no doubt recovering from Saturday’s Play-Offs game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  After the tough to swallow final score, I also had to do my part and console my nieces and nephews.  This post game consolation time gave me the chance to put into perspective analogies about the football game and our own lives as Christians.  We all have a calling – a play to execute if you will.  Sometimes we do well, and other times we don’t.  Regardless, we all have a calling to play like champions, even if we don’t capture the title!

Me with the Raven at M&T Bank Stadium for the Big Brother and Big Sister Benefit Event

Me with the Raven at M&T Bank Stadium for the Big Brother and Big Sister Benefit Event

At one point, I asked my nephew what he thinks the coach said to the players in the locker room?  By the way, the Coach is a practicing Catholic!  I’m sure he was firm, but charitable (In truth and Charity).  I then asked him, if he was the coach, what would he tell the players?  If he was a player, what would be helpful words to hear at that moment?  I’m sure critique will come, but encouragement will make the critique more acceptable.  That’s a play right out of Jesus’ example in the Gospels!

Ultimately, this post game consolation gave me, the priest uncle and a wonderful nephew a great chance to talk about implying a more balanced sense of importance regarding sports, competition, and winning.  It’s a conversation that all Grace Before Meals families can have with their children.  And, one of the best places to do that is around a dinner table.

Last night’s tense game provided time for families and friends to come together, share a common passion, and also feast around typical game day foods.  My family would have made the Raven’s team proud.  We definitely cheered, and even cried.  We were there with them the entire time.  The only break we took was to say grace before the meal, and to take bites of tasty treats in between the screaming and cheering.  After the loss, the only thing we could do was console one another.  Thank God there was still some food left – including my beer and citrus based ribs that I cooked from completely frozen to juicy and tender in just about 2 hours.

Bear and Citrus Sauced Ribs!

Beer and Citrus Sauced Ribs!

Towards the end of the night, I saw my nephew eventually smiling again.  Sad, but not discouraged knowing that ultimately – no matter how important the game is – it was only a game.  The family is truly the best place to find consolation in the midst of disappointments.  And, comfort food – like most foods you get at sporting events – can be a great consolation prize -as long as you can share it with people you love.

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I look forward to sharing my rib recipe with those who have signed up to receive the free weekly emails from me.

What do you tell your children or a loved one who lost an important game?  What foods / recipes do you prepare for big games?  Please share your thoughts and comments.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Posted January 13th, 2011 | Chicken, Recipe-Meats, Recipe-Sauce, Recipes

Food columnist, Susan Reimer from the Baltimore Sun is writing about wings leading up to this Saturday’s Ravens game.  We’ve submitted our “Glorious Wings” recipe for the column.

glorius wings

Ingredients:

20 chicken wings, cut into separate pieces – discarding the wing tips is optional (but it makes it easier to cook if the wing tips are separated from the middle wing piece)
4 cups vegetable oil

1 Tbs salt

1 Tbs black pepper

1 Tbs Old Bay Seasoning

1 tsp Chili powder
Instructions:

Heat oil in a large frying pan. Season wings with salt, pepper, Old Bay Seasoning and chili powder. Cook wings in batches for about 10 minutes-15, or until the wings are fully golden brown in color. Tip, be sure to not overcrowd your frying pan, making sure there is space between each wing to cook evenly.

Ingredients for the Sauce:

4 tsp olive oil

1 Tbs butter

2 Tbs balsamic vinegar

2 Tbs hot sauce (any brand)

2 Tbs ketchup

2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced

2 – 4 Tbs red pepper flakes

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt and black pepper

¼ cup maple syrup
Garnish and Dipping Sauce:

Fresh cilantro

Fresh Blue cheese dressing with crumbles of fresh blue cheese
To Prepare the Sauce:

In a sauce pan, heat oil and butter together. Sauté the garlic and the red pepper flakes together, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and cool. When cool, combine all of the ingredients together (except the cilantro and blue cheese) and mix together until fully incorporated, that is, creamy and smooth in texture. NOTE: The other liquids may cause splatter if the oil is too hot.
To combine wings and sauce: Pour about 2-4 Tablespoons of the sauce in a deep bowl (metal or glass). When the wings are cooked, remove from the hot oil and instead of straining, immediately place hot wings in the bowl with the sauce. Mix or toss the contents together, making sure that each wing is coated with the sauce. Add a drizzle of more sauce as desired. To serve, plate wings with a small container of blue cheese, and sprinkle some fresh cilantro leaves on top of the hot wings for a taste of freshness. This entire recipe can easily be doubles or tripled.

Posted in Chicken, Recipe-Meats, Recipe-Sauce, Recipes | 3 Comments »

Posted January 8th, 2011 | Uncategorized

Christmas ends with Sunday’s Feast of Jesus’ Baptism.  Scriptural commentaries reflect on a very profound question:  If Jesus was already Holy and Pure – being God’s Only Begotten Son, and all – why would he need to be Baptized?  John (Jesus’ humble cousin), asked the same question in the statement:  It is I who should be baptized by you!

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To answer that question, the Early Church Fathers would say that Jesus’ entry into the water of the Jordan River did not purify Him.  In fact, the opposite happened.  He purified the water!  And that same water purifies all that it touches – including our own souls (that is, if we allow the waters to touch our souls).

With this stunning revelation, all of the images of water references in the Hebrew Scriptures come to life in a whole new way. God’s creation of water; Moses being drawn out of the water; the recently freed slaves from the Egyptians who passed through the divided water of the Red Sea without getting wet; the leper being cleansed by plunging into the river 3 times;  Noah and the flood waters that purified the putrid earth;  We see the same in the New Testament water references:  water into wine; the calming of the waters; the water that flowed from Jesus’ pierced side:  All of these water/food point to this incredible event that revealed Jesus’ true identity:  God’s Beloved Son in Whom His Favor Rests!

Families bring their church to Baptism for the same reason: to hear the Church (God’s mouthpiece on earth) to proclaim that this child, purified from the stain of original sin, is truly God’s child – the way God intended the child to be:  PURE and CLEAN!  And, it doesn’t just take water, but sacramental water, namely Holy Water.  That means, water into which Jesus has fully entered, the same way he entered the Jordan River.

Hopefully people can see the difference.  Water, by itself is limited.  Sure, it can satisfy thirst of the body.  Too much of it, can bloat you or even kill you (i.e., drowning).  The water into which Jesus entered (Holy Water)  has similar effects:  It can satisfy our spiritual thirsts.  And when immersed in it (which is the more literal translation of the Greek Word Baptism), it can “kill” the sin in our souls.  That’s what happens in Baptism:  the child, immersed in the waters, literally “dies to sin” and comes out a whole new person.  While the Baby was always considered a Blessing from God (all human life is!), the Baptism provides the Child with a whole new status.  All that with a simple dunk or sprinkle of Holy Water!

That’s what water does to us.

For the faithful foodie in us all, we may want to consider the role of water in our diet.  Some researchers suggest that we drink around 8 cups per day.  Many people report losing weight simply by replacing sodas and sweetened drink with pure simple water. Chefs would probably say water is the most important ingredient in cooking.  It determines the potency of flavors, helps keep meats juicy, and it creates luxurious sauces.  But, the water has to have something added to it:  salt, cooking alcohol, flavor that comes from the bones of chicken or fish to create broth, or whatever seasoning is required.

In other words, water is just water unless something is added to it.  That’s true for us spiritually.  Water is just water until Jesus enters into it!

When we dip our fingers in the Holy Water Font;  when we bring some of that holy water from Lourdes, France home with us to keep in our homes; when we bring our children to church for Baptism; we recognize that water is something different.  It is sacred.  Holy Water can save us by drowning sin in our lives.

img_0577 (Lourdes, France: Shrine where people are cured because of the Holy Waters attributed to the miraculous apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette)

Jesus’ Baptism helps makes sacramental theology more understandable.  The church takes ordinary things such bread, wine, oil, water, an engaged couple, a young man who wants to do God’s will, and puts these things within a ritual to allow God’s spirit to enter into it.  After the prayers are faithfully said by the right person (such as John – who was appointed to do this despite his unworthiness, yet he strived to be as worthy as possible), the “ordinary thing” becomes extraordinary. It becomes a Sacrament!

When I won the Throw Down against Bobby Flay, I joked with him telling him that my marinade had Holy Water in it.  That was only a joke, so calm down, I wouldn’t do anything like that.  It was my way of saying that my Fajita recipe was different because I’m trying to allow God to be part of that cooking process.  In other words, God is not kicked out of my kitchen! I did / do pray when I cook, asking God to make this simple meal something that helps remind us of His presence / entry into this common experience.  While the food is not a “SACRAMENT” in a strict sense, it is “sacramental” in an analogous sense because we are reminded that God is part of the meal!

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Making the ordinary extraordinary requires allowing God’s presence to permeate that very thing.  It could be your marriage, your job, your family.  These are ordinary things.  But when God is permitted to enter into it, like His Son did in the Jordan River, it changes the whole dynamic.  For chefs, adding just water to something can ‘ruin’ the meal, unless, something else is added to it.

Perhaps we may need to improve, not only our cooking, but our lives, by making sure that Jesus enters more fully – immersed – into all the ordinary things we have!  He entered into water to purify it.  He can enter into our lives – the raging waters, or the water that needs to be stirred up in our souls.  He will make it new.

Blessing oneself with Holy Water wards off evil

Blessing oneself with Holy Water wards off evil

Please submit your comments, questions or suggestions.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Posted January 1st, 2011 | Uncategorized

This has been the 4th party my family has hosted within one week!  First we had Christmas Our Christmas Eve Celebration.

img_1788Then we had the big Christmas Day celebration, for which I served as the chef for the day and created a course feast for the family.  Here’s the menu (and yes, I’ll post some of these recipes on the website and send as part of the new “Blasts” that will be sent out each month, but you have to subscribe for these complimentary recipes!)

Appetizers:  Creamy White Wine and Herbal Shrimp & Baked Artichoke Dip served with Crostini

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Pasta:  Penne alla Norcina (An Italian Sausage based cream sauce) – true comfort food!

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Poultry Course:  Citrus, Herb and Bear Can Roasted Whole Chicken – which I cooked on an outside grill.  Delicious!

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Pork Course:  Bacon wrapped sage seasoned pork tenderloins, served over braised onions and apples

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Beef Course:  Rosemary and Italian Crumb Crusted Prime Rib of Beef

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Potato Course:  Roasted potatoes, scored and seasoned with thyme, olive oil and kosher salt

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Veggies:  Oven Roasted Broccoli, Cauliflower and Red Onions

The next day, the Feast of the Holy Family, we all gathered again at my sister’s home.  He dined on delicious comfort foods: Crab Soup, variety spiced hot wings, and flavorful cuts of meats and cheeses for thick and delicious deli sandwiches.

Three straight days of feasting was enough for me.  I went on a 5 day retreat in the hills of West Virginia, where I feasted on spiritual truths from prayer and some gourmet meals prepared in a simple cabin out in the woods.

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Finally, a big New Year’s bash at mom and dad’s topped off a week of family festivities and delicious foods.

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Throughout the feasting and joy, I can easily sense a deep level of faithfulness.  Perhaps this type of celebration provides a glimpse of the celebration of the eternal wedding banquet.  Heaven is NOT boring! It is a celebration of something deep, meaningful and eternal.  And, it’s also something done within the context of relationships, i.e., family and friends, people with whom you like to spend time.

img_1989(Grandpa with some of his grandsons)

I sensed this faith throughout our celebration, but especially in last night’s New Year celebration.  About 15 minutes before midnight, we gathered as family and friends to quietly reflect on the past year’s blessings.  We paused in a moment of silence to ask for blessings on our New Year’s resolutions, i.e., our desires to be better, similar to the sentiment of a confessional act of contrition.  To keep the tradition since the 5th century going strong, we also prayed the Te Deum with hopes to receive the plenary indulgence the Church generously offers.  Then after recognizing God in the midst of the good times, rather than only paying attention to God in the bad times, we broke open the party hats and noisemakers.  We counted down together, not necessarily to watch a decorated ball drop, but to simply count the precious seconds of the past that projects us into the future.  We cheered the New Year and lit sparklers for the kids to enjoy in the front yard, bringing laughter and the light of hope into a lonely dark night. We feasted again, a literal midnight snack, and then pushed to the wee hours of the morning to clean up – what I affectionately call “Grace AFTER Meals.”

We finally got around to sleep about 2:00 am, resting in the Lord who refreshes us, recreates us, and makes all things new.

This morning, even though it wasn’t a Holy Day of Obligation, my family gathered in my mother’s living room and I offered a “home Mass” for my family.  I told them that today, January 1 – the Feast of the Mother of God – is really a Holy Day of Opportunity!  And what exactly was the opportunity?  to do what my family has always done – celebrate the gift of life together as a family!

God was “invited” to each of these celebrations.  However, He is not as much a “guest of honor” as He is the Head of the household. He is actually the One who invites us to celebrate with Him.  Because of that simple act of recognizing God in our lives – the good times and bad – we can celebrate this New Year with great hope.

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Life can’t be boring!  Life can’t be “the same old, nothing new, drudgery!”  With God, all things are made new!

From my non-stop party family to yours, I wish you all the blessings of a New Year in God who truly re-creates us into his beloved children.  That’s something to celebrate, not just at the end/start of a calendar year, but everyday of our life!

Happy New Year!

Now, please post a comment to tell us how YOU and YOUR FAMILY made this a special New Year Celebration!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »