Posted August 31st, 2011 | From the Feedbag, Grace Before Meals, Prayers, Video

From the Feedbag

“From the Feedbag” is a Grace Before Meals E-mail Blast that answers questions or responds to comments our subscribers send to us. As our movement continues to grow, we want to make sure you have a voice. We will sincerely try to answer every question or respond to every comment, even if it may take a little time. Thank you for your past comments and e-mails. We value your input and ideas. So keep sending us your questions, sharing your comments, and being blessings to our movement. E-mail us at assistant@gracebeforemeals.com.

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Do Blessings Really Work? And A Question About Board and Bread Breaking.

(Yes, this is SPAM, but in French it's called "KAM!"  Why not just call it Spamé?)

(Yes, this is SPAM, but in French it’s called “KAM!” Why not just call it Spamé?)

This week, I offer two unique e-mails. One came from a vineyard I visited during the “Fruit of the Vine Retreat” I offered in Napa Valley last June.

(Some of the pilgrims from the tower of Castello di Amorosa Vineyard in Napa Valley.)

(Some of the pilgrims from the tower of Castello di Amorosa Vineyard in Napa Valley.)

This trip was a highlight of the summer. The pilgrims who came along experienced incredible faith opportunities, complemented with food and wine, exquisite views, and fantastic people. I can’t say enough about it! I’ll just have to leave up to you take advantage and truly understand for yourself when we offer this trip again next year. So many people are already calling/e-mailing me about when we’ll go to next year. Let’s just say the plans are in the works. So stay tuned!

(A top of the mountain view of Napa Valley from Hall Winery.)

(A top of the mountain view of Napa Valley from Hall Winery.)

One of our stops took us to the beautiful home of the Taylor Family, with a vineyard of the same name. While we never discussed the specifics of faith in detail, the family definitely had plenty of it as they embarked on this new venture to produce high quality wine with a personalized, family touch. While I was there, I blessed the vineyard (at their request). So after getting drenched I prayed for God’s protection on this land, with the hopes that the land, like our souls, will be fruitful, productive, and yield a harvest to be shared with a hungering and thirsting world.

(Getting a hands-on lesson about growing grapes.)

(Getting a hands-on lesson about growing grapes.)

Here’s a pleasant and surprising e-mail from the owner. You’ll read how blessings DO work! You better believe that the next time I lead a group there, we will go back and visit this family and celebrate God’s blessings around our table and in the Lord’s vineyard!

Fr. Leo,

It was such a pleasure hosting and meeting you and your entire group during your recent Napa visit. Thank you for taking the time to visit us and for the vineyard/estate blessing. Several weeks ago while our fruit was in bloom we had a very strong storm come through Napa that caused a lot of damage in the vineyards. I am convinced that your blessing protected our vineyard from damage as miraculously we escaped major “shatter” from the 1 1/2″ downpour. Many of our neighbors had considerable loss in their vineyards. Thank you so very much.

I hope that you decide to return to Napa. I would love the opportunity to cook alongside you in our new wood fired oven.

Warm regards,

Sandy

Sandra Taylor Carlson

Taylor Family Vineyards

sandy@taylorfamilyvineyards.com

(Our Lady blessing the vineyard of Meritage Winery and Resort – our hotel with a chapel!)

(Our Lady blessing the vineyard of Meritage Winery and Resort – our hotel with a chapel!)

And now for a completely unrelated question/topic about the martial arts, and its connection to my faith and my spirituality that also promotes peace. It’s a question I receive regularly. Most recently I reflected on it as I participated in my sister’s 4th Degree Black Belt test. There, I had a reunion with my former instructor and my students. I even had a chance to “spar” against a few of the testers. Yes, it brought back memories and reminded me of how God worked even in the midst of my martial arts training.

Hello Fr. Leo,

I had a quick question about the Catholic faith and learning martial arts. If man is ordained a Catholic priest, could he still learn/practice a martial art? If not, why can lay Catholics engage in the martial arts but not Catholic priests?

Thank you,

NICK,

Dear Nick,

A Catholic Priest IS permitted to practice martial arts. I still do, to some degree. As a former instructor, I taught my students – no matter what religion they professed – the need to practice natural virtue while engaging in martial arts training. To be a good and effective practitioner of martial arts, you have to be humble, obedient, and disciplined. That doesn’t sound bad, does it?

(Me and my former instructor, Mr. Fred Ocampo.)

(Me and my former instructor, Mr. Fred Ocampo.)

The popularized/Hollywood impression of martial artists is that they’re all tough guys who go around bullying people. In fact, the opposite is true. Most of the traditional practitioners were monks, who were willing to defend their country and culture if necessary.

For most modern practitioners, martial arts is a sport. It gives training to the body and mind. Some people make it a “religion,” which, at my school, we heartily rejected. While we could be considered “masters” of the art, we all preferred to just be called “teachers,” as humble martial artists recognize there is only one trust Master: God of the Universe!

As a sport, you can approach it with humility or pride. I’ve seen more violent basketball, baseball, and football players than martial artists.

("Great in the Lord Conference" – The "Bread Breaker" now "Board Breaking.")

(“Great in the Lord Conference” – The “Bread Breaker” now “Board Breaking.”)

My suggestion: take martial arts training for all the right reasons. Do it for exercise, for toning, strengthening muscles, and gaining flexibility. Study and respect the antiquity of the Asian culture, which has produced incredible inventions and unique techniques that still work today! Practice this skill with the intent to be humble.

If you have the opportunity to use it to defend yourself or your family, then thank God you know how to. The fact is God gives us strength, wisdom, and a right mind to avoid situations where we will have to use it. In other words, martial artists don’t frequent rough and tough places. Our skills teach us to avoid problems and to only use the skills as a last resort.

To help you formulate a better understanding of the art, I offer you the “creed” students said before every class:

The Martial Arts is: A peaceful life secret, only to be used in defense. It is a commitment to develop and succeed for the good of society. It’s a way of life, following our positive natural virtues, of courtesy, perseverance, and self-control and indomitable spirit.

(Using martial arts techniques for a popular youth conference talk called "Spiritual Combat," for about 5,000 teenagers at the Eucharistic Congress in Atlanta, Georgia, 2010.)

(Using martial arts techniques for a popular youth conference talk called “Spiritual Combat,” for about 5,000 teenagers at the Eucharistic Congress in Atlanta, Georgia, 2010.)

Let us pray: Father in Heaven, teach us humility so that we, like vineyard workers will depend on You; and, as soldiers, we will hear the command and be willing to fight – not with weapons but with faith – against forces that want to harm our souls. Give us Grace, Lord, to put all things in Your hands – our food, our sports, our hobbies, so as to transform these into gifts, rather than weapons! Amen.

Let us know: Did you ever have something blessed and then afterwards truly feel that the blessing worked, like the Taylor Vineyard blessing? Do you practice a martial art, and how would you reconcile your spiritual commitments with this potentially deadly skill? Do you have any questions for which Fr. Leo can offer a perspective – a “food for thought?” Your communication encourages our efforts. Please post your comments and questions below.

And be sure to check out a new webisode, when Fr. Leo visits Auntie April’s Soul Food for some Chicken and Waffles while out in San Francisco.

Chicken and Waffles!

Click the picture to watch Fr. Leo’s newest webisode!

For more videos and updates from Fr. Leo, go to Youtube, Facebook and Twitter. And share Grace Before Meals with your families and friends today!

Posted in From the Feedbag, Grace Before Meals, Prayers, Video | 8 Comments »

Posted August 28th, 2011 | Uncategorized
Orange and Beer Baby Back Ribs.

Orange and Beer Baby Back Ribs.

This delicious and simple rib preparation made all of the weather preparations worth it! I’m grateful that it wasn’t as “bad” as originally predicted. But, like the news of a big snow storm, I felt a nice quiet in the air. People stopped running around, and spent some quiet time together, and hopefully around a delicious meal. I’ll eventually get around to posting the recipe for this simple rib recipe. But for now, consider it feast for the eyes!

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Faithful Foodie Adventure

“Faithful Foodie Adventures” is all about exciting opportunities that await us at various tables and food destinations across God’s beautiful world.  Some weeks I may offer a cooking class tip, a restaurant critique, or even some food ideas that hopefully expand our faith while satisfying our culinary sensibilities.  If you have any food adventure ideas, please be sure to let us know.  E-mail me your ideas at assistant@gracebeforemeals.com.

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The Best of England and France in North America?

I went on a vacation/retreat to Quebec with my Jesus Caritas Group of priest friends.  All of my friends are foodies in their own right, having studied in Rome – a veritable cornucopia of Catholic culinary culture.

(Quebec Parliament from my hotel view.)

(Quebec Parliament from my hotel view.)

In this week’s E-mail Blast I offer some food and culture tips for one of the most unique “European” cities in North America.  Quebec City combines rustic European (in particular an old town French community) mixed with the polite civility of England (of course, not including the unfortunate recent riots).  The city is remarkably pristine, carefully manicured, and gentle in the friendliness of the people.  The architecture in the city center makes you feel like you’re in trapped in the 1800s, especially since the weekend we picked happened to coincide with their historical cultural celebrations.  The majority of local folks dressed in their native vesture, sang their traditional songs in the open squares, and proudly showcased their uniqueness in the world.

(For only $10 CAD you can have a picture taken with this guy.  I passed...but admired his efforts to dress like that on one of Quebec's hottest summer days!)

(For only $10 CAD you can have a picture taken with this guy.  I passed…but admired his efforts to dress like that on one of Quebec’s hottest summer days!)

But now on to the food!

In my limited research about Quebec Culture I couldn’t find anything particularly unique or interesting that I just “had” to try/eat/visit.  Besides the quaint fresh market where I purchased fresh produce for summer salads, I discovered that Quebec (like most of that part of Canada) proudly promotes their rich flavored maple syrup, which you can purchase in almost every store.  But, for the most part, the majority of French influenced restaurants served very recognizable dishes.

(Quiche and fries at a local spot along St. Jean (of Ark, that is.)

(Quiche and fries at a local spot along St. Jean (of Ark, that is.)

French onion soup (not as cheesy as Americans may prefer), croque-monsieur’s (a type of sandwich), quiche (of course), moules-frites (mussels and fries), and the rustic plate of steak frites (steak with fries) are all very popular and offered in almost every restaurant.  I especially enjoyed the fact that “French Fries” come standard with a side of mayonnaise for dipping! Which leads me to the question, which is healthier:  mayonnaise or ketchup?  Either way, perfectly fried potatoes still need a saucy accompaniment.

Most Quebec restaurants offered the plate of the day with “pre-fixed menus” to help the locals with their budget, but more to help tourists maneuver through a different language.  However, being a well-visited international city (although you could never tell by how quaint the Quebec airport really is), there were also many Italian restaurants, Irish pubs, a minority of Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine, several over-priced gelato stands, and even a famous fast food establishment in the city.  Okay, I saw a McDonald’s in the Old City, but it served some French foods!  Interestingly, there was not a Starbucks to be found anywhere, which made taking a coffee break an unnecessarily frustrating adventure for the caffeine inclined .

(Busy and bustling boulevard of St. Jean.)

(Busy and bustling boulevard of St. Jean.)

Again, the Old Quebec City offered “typical” foods of a big city, served by incredibly pleasant people, with classic architectural buildings as a background for festive dining.  Still, I did a lot of cooking and took plenty of time to tour the city streets.  Cooking in gave us more time to relax and just be ourselves, but it also meant we ate delicious food for a fraction of the price.  Admitted by the local Quebecois, they live in a very expensive city.  A 15 % tax is imposed on everything – including food.  While it made it painful to offer a 20% tip to the wait staff, I discovered that patrons’ tips seriously help supplement a low income for restaurant workers.

I got the impression that the food culture in Quebec was not as much of a priority, as I sensed it was in France and other French-influenced U.S. cities like New Orleans and Historic South Carolina.  Yet the people of Quebec certainly do want to make it a “part” of their cultural focus, which seems to focus more on the hope for future sovereignty and the strict use of the French language.

(Culinarian Mike Rosen with my cousin Bernadette.  Cooking a meal for a family in Toronto, Ontario.)

(Yes, you too can read French…subtitles, that is.)

While this city had many restaurants to review, I found two that left quite a positive impression on me.  Le Cochon Dingue (The Crazy Pig), with a few locations in the historic part of Quebec served all types of rustic French cuisine with a twist – such as an “egg roll” filled with duck confit and served with Christmas color sauces of basil pesto and cranberry compote – a bright combination that worked well with the fattiness of the duck.  Another restaurant to recommend is “Le Moulin de Saint-Laurent” on the island of Ile d’Orleans – a 15 minute drive from the city center.

(Duck confit "egg rolls" at Le Cochon Dingue.)

(Duck confit “egg rolls” at Le Cochon Dingue.)

With the exception of these two dining venues, and simply trying to be honest in my restaurant reviews, I admit being slightly underwhelmed by Quebec food.  I was hoping for flavor, but wound up adding salt and pepper to almost every meal.  I really wanted to go out to eat, but just didn’t feel compelled by the menu options, the way the food looked, and especially the price.  A comment made over the trip summed it up:  “Quebec cuisine originated from France, but the seasoning and preparation seems to have been taken over by England.”

(A buffet of brunch foods I made with the "leftovers" on the last day!)

(A buffet of brunch foods I made with the “leftovers” on the last day!)

My honest impression of the food, however, doesn’t mask the positive impression I had of the city.  It was beautiful and bustling.  The churches, although mainly tourist spots, had schedules that showed devotion and faith.  And I suspect that part of the Quebec culture can use more inspiration from the new Canadian Saint, Andre Besset.

(A buffet of brunch foods I made with the "leftovers" on the last day!)

(Interior of the Catholic Cathedral in Quebec.)

I also noted the number of families with young children – always a sign of hope!  While I’ll be prepared to rent another house with a kitchen – so I can do plenty of cooking – I must say this visit inspired me to return, and hopefully stay longer so I can more seriously explore the food culture.  Au revoir.

(Quebec family going back in time with the "latest" fashions.)

(Quebec family going back in time with the “latest” fashions.)

FYI:  One of the three historic buildings in Quebec City is the Notre Dame Cathedral.  The city’s spiritual roots are evident in the number of streets and stores that are named after Saints.  When you explore a city, find out the faith history, and be sure to say a prayer for the local people.  It helps vacationers find a connection with the locals.  Remember, a grace-filled prayer can transform a strange land into a home away from home, as it did for the first French settlers in this Northern part of North America.

God our Father, bless the faith and the people of Quebec.  May their patron saints continue to inspire the people of “New France” so to imitate their virtues and become saints themselves.  Bless those continuing to travel in these remaining summer days, and help our families to experience Your goodness in their journeys.  Amen.

(The Oratory, where Saint Andre Besset is buried.)

(The Oratory, where Saint Andre Besset is buried.)

To get the review of a great restaurant, Le Moulin de Saint-Laurent, click here!

QUESTION:  Where did you go on vacation?  Did you find a good place to eat?  Please tell us what city you traveled to and the name of a restaurant that you’d recommend in that city.  Or, if you live in a busy tourist area, what restaurant would you encourage people to try?  Your response will definitely be a helpful travel tip for me and our members.  AND, if you’re interested in being a contributor restaurant critic, please contact the Grace Before Meals project manager for details and for special gifts I send for each entry that is used and posted in future E-mail Blasts. Post your answers below!

Posted in Faithful Foodie, Grace Before Meals, Restaurants, vacation | 5 Comments »

Posted August 24th, 2011 | Faithful Foodie, Restaurants, Reviews

“Under the Seal” Restaurant Review:

Le Moulin de Saint-Laurent

Le Moulin de Saint-Laurent, located on 754 chemin Royal, C.P. 16, Saint-Larent Ile d’Orleans G0A 3Z0, offers customers a rustic country French cuisine that will take diners back to romanticized simpler days filled when family dinner comforted body, mind and soul.  The décor is simple, but clean.  The classic look of the building, originally used for milling wheat, exposed the original rock, brick and stone floors.  Polished copper kettles and pots hanging from the ceiling accentuate the country rustic feel.  Dried flowers along the walls also graced the tables, covered in rich royal blue and white tablecloths.  The autumnal feel, complimented with a dignified and delicate ambiance, making it slightly romantic, but more comforting.

(Quebec Parliament from my hotel view.)

(The side of the restaurant’s scenic waterfall and outdoor dining area)

The guests, mostly couples and a few families, quietly ate well-plated and delicious looking food.  They seemed content, and even entertained with the classical guitarist and violinist offering sweet sounds.  A times, the volume made it difficult for conversations and the talented musicians received well deserved applause from the guests, which at times made it feel more like a dinner theatre rather than a restaurant with background music.

(Quebec Parliament from my hotel view.)

(A big pet peeve: to serve delicious bread but accompanied with tacky plastic containers of butter!)

The polite service, typical of the Quebecois, lagged at times.  I realize that most diners enjoy a leisure meal, but the inconsistent service made my group of diners a bit impatient, waiting for the bill after 3 hours of dining.  Most of the wait staff came across as professional, so it surprised me to have one staff members with multiple piercings, black nail polish, and who nervously rushed.

The menu offered a compact, but flavorful variety of country rustic French cuisine.  I understand the menu rotates weekly, giving diners a reason to come back and sample other creations.  The pre-fixed courses gave customers the best value of an appetizer, salad, entrée and dessert.  Gratefully, the stereotypical dishes such as French Onion Soup, Steak and Fries, or Quiche were not on the menu.  The menu sparked conversation and intrigue, offering escargot and calves brains (sweet breads) as appetizers.

(Quebec Parliament from my hotel view.)

(Le Moulin’s Sweat Breads)

I chose sweat breads as an appetizer, a creamy vegetable soup as a first plate, the lamb shank for my entrée, and a chocolate mousse to end the meal.    The sweet breads were delicious, especially with a cranberry red wine reduction.  However, these would have been better had they been breaded and fried rather than sautéed, simply because the only detectable texture was “creamy.”  However the reductions were luscious and smooth, and very workable with the wine we ordered – a Tollo Rosso from Italy.

The soup was very smooth and delicately elevated with toasted celery seeds. But, a dollop of crème fresh would certainly add something to this simple dish.

The dramatically plated lamb shank had fork tender meat, accompanied with a smooth potato puree and vegetable medley, including a seemingly out of place Bok Choi.  I expected parsnips or something less “asian”, but it simply added a brightness and levity to this typically heavy dish.  Instead of rosemary as a base herb, the chef used fresh oregano (and even the oregano flower) to compliment the sweetness of the meat.  The shank needed a bit more trimming, as the underneath fattiness became sloppy to eat and unpleasant on the plate.

(Lamb Shank)

(Lamb Shank)

The dessert plate of chocolate mouse combined an angel food and pear infused flan served as a base for the bell shaped semi sweet dark chocolate mousse. A meringue and a modern chocolate tuiles gave a modern whimsical quality to a relatively traditional meal.

(A busy plate of desserts. It seemed like the pastry chef was just showing off, and all to the smiles of the patrons!)

(A busy plate of desserts.  It seemed like the pastry chef was just showing off, and all to the smiles of the patrons!)

But then came the unreasonable 15 minute wait for the bill!

The meal was delicious, beautifully plated, balanced, flavorful, and classically French.  The pre-fixed menu options provided variety for a bargain high-end meal, even with a 15 % sales tax.

Overall: The service needed some attention and speed. Some of the food preparation needed a bit more textural variety.  The dining ambiance was definitely affected by the volume of the musicians, and the autumnal feel could “limit” the diner’s seasonal eating experience.  However, the food was delicious and the meal gave me a satisfying memory of my time in a country bistro in France. Which reminds me, I need to brush up on my French!

Another interesting Faithful Foodie connection:  St. Lawrence also happens to be the patron saint of chefs.  He was obviously interceding for this restaurant, because it was certainly “grace-filled”.

COST: $$$$

I give this restaurant a “penance” of only 3 out of 10 Hail Mary’s (which is equivalent to 4.5 stars out of 5.)

penance penance penance

(Great after dinner entertainment back in the Old City: Les Beaux Frers - acrobat and jugglers)

(Great after dinner entertainment back in the Old City:  Les Beaux Frers – acrobat and jugglers)

Posted in Faithful Foodie, Restaurants, Reviews | No Comments »

Posted August 18th, 2011 | Uncategorized

img_4924

Seminarians – most of them so new I can’t remember all their names. But, the guy in the yellow is a returning seminarian, Jake from Peoria, who helped “cook” all these snacks.

With new seminarians recently arrived, the Orientation Team has been hard at working providing information in their new way of living, but obviously new ideas for food!

Check out a new idea for Tacos:  Take a bag of corn chips, add some seasoned ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes and a dollop of sour cream.  The bags are hardly ever completely filled anyway, so there’s plenty of room to make a properly portioned one serving of too-much-fun-tacos.  Look at the happy faces of these seminarians – even after a very long day of orientation information.  It also makes it even easier for dishes.  Just throw out the bag!

Nothing better than festive and delicious food to bring people together!

For those GBM members trying to locate the “recipe” in our recipe cache, don’t search any further.

RECIPE / INSTRUCTIONS:  Folks, it’s not hard. Just get some fritos, open the bag, and dump (if you’re a guy), or gently place (if you’re a girl) some taco seasoned ground beef, chopped tomatoes, grated cheese, lettuce, and a dollop of sour cream. Stick a fork in it, then swirl it around, and buen provecho!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Menu Inspiration

“Menu Inspiration” gives subscribers exclusive access to original and inspired recipes from Fr. Leo Patalinghug, host of the movement, Grace Before Meals.  If you try this recipe, let us know what you think.  If you have a special recipe that inspires your family to come together more regularly, please share it with us and our faithful foodie community.  Pictures of your food surrounded by your family and friends are always welcome!  Post your comments below.

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Cool Soups for Hot Days and Cool People!

Early in the summer of 2011 I had the opportunity to cook for a former parishioner in L.A.  He and his crowd of 20-something friends are famous YouTube personalities.  They were “doing their thing,” feeling the freedom of youth, and sharing in the carefree spirit – typical of entertainment specialists.

(Me with “Joe Nation.”)

(Me with “Joe Nation.”)

I’m sure they felt awkward at first.  Consider it:  a Catholic priest comes into their apartment and cooks for them!  They probably would never expect it.  They’re just a group of uniquely talented young entrepreneurs trying to make it big in Hollywood, film, and the social media scene.  And though there’s a reactionary hesitancy in the Church reaching out to the media and pop culture scene – especially when you think about how poorly faith is often portrayed in TV and film – I think it’s absolutely a necessary part of the Church’s evangelization and ministerial efforts.  After all, YouTube has great influence on society.  So, hopefully, pastors and parish ministries are doing what they can to have a positive influence on the people who make these videos, but doing so without stifling their creativity and sense of playfulness.

(Jessica, a proud Guamanian, who heard I gave a speaking tour in Guam last Spring, and Olga, who doesn't practice a particular faith, sparking the joke that she needed extra prayers.)

(Jessica, a proud Guamanian, who heard I gave a speaking tour in Guam last Spring, and Olga, who doesn’t practice a particular faith, sparking the joke that she needed extra prayers.)

I’ll admit I felt my age with this group of hungry young adults.  I was not quite old enough to be the stereotypical “old priest,” but definitely old enough to be a teacher figure.  But that’s okay!

This group of young people surprised me.  I thought they would have nothing to do with a priest.  I was wrong.  They welcomed me with open arms simply because they felt welcomed by my invitation to cook for them, perhaps similar to the feeling of Jesus’ unlikely dinner companions.  Ultimately, they were excited to have someone cook a healthy, delicious, and unique meal for them.  I’m sure it beat spending a few bucks for local fast food.

(Chicken Fingers with a flare! Peanut sauce marinated chicken over a bed of crunchy garlic oil purple cabbage. Can't get that at Chipotle!)

(Chicken Fingers with a flare! Peanut sauce marinated chicken over a bed of crunchy garlic oil purple cabbage. Can’t get that at Chipotle!)

And so this summer day I began doing the typical Grace Before Meals thing.  We turned a normal workday into a celebration of food, friendship, and faith.  We had a lot of fun!  They posted some of the video on YouTube, and the response was so positive that many encouraged “that priest” to start his own YouTube channel.  (A side note:  that’s in the works, so stay tuned for more information on an official YouTube channel, which you will have the opportunity to subscribe to and watch fun and informative videos.  Keep an eye open for it and tell your kids.)

(Some Steubenville on the Bayou Participants from Sugar, Texas.  We became instant friends on Facebook and Twitter.)

(Some Steubenville on the Bayou Participants from Sugar, Texas. We became instant friends on Facebook and Twitter.)

As for the cooking experience, I faced the typical challenge of trying to prepare a delicious meal in a kitchen that may not be prepared for my mad cooking craziness!  The kitchen didn’t have all the “proper” equipment for fancy cooking, but that didn’t stop me!   The shopping, prepping, and cooking turned into a whirlwind combination of scavenger hunt, Q & A session, and video production – a “typical” Grace Before Meals event. .

(Culinarian Mike Rosen with my cousin Bernadette.  Cooking a meal for a family in Toronto, Ontario.)

(Culinarian Mike Rosen with my cousin Bernadette.  Cooking a meal for a family in Toronto, Ontario.)

I certainly felt the inspiration of being together in a positive setting with unlikely dinner companions.  No, we didn’t have a formal “catechism class,” but we definitely talked about faith, among so many other topics, peppered with silly banter and a lot of bellyaching laughs.  We need more of that in our lives – at a least a balance of it!

My luncheon guests were also definitely on their best behavior.  They apologized if choice language slipped.  Happily, they felt comfortable enough to “confess” how they realized the importance and need to practice their faith a little better and more regularly.  This meal helped them see the blessings God has given them – in their talents, friendship, and fun.  They felt the need to take time and thank God for these blessings, without sounding “preachy.”

(Me and Chef Marc Andres, the chef who assisted me in the culinary cruise.  We both "preached" a message about healthy, delicious, and family-friendly food!)

(Me and Chef Marc Andres, the chef who assisted me in the culinary cruise.  We both “preached” a message about healthy, delicious, and family-friendly food!)

Now for the food!  We turned out some delicious, uniquely flavored dishes.  I wanted to combine flavors and food textures that represented the different variety of people and personalities gathered around the table.  We came from different walks of life, but together we celebrated the delicious food, made satisfying because of the people around the table.

Some of these dishes were truly inspired.  I wouldn’t usually think of these combinations but they worked.  For example, I wanted to serve a chilled soup on a hot L.A. summer day: a fruity type of gazpacho.  Yet, I also wanted to highlight some of the spicy personalities around the table.  So I paired this soup with a spicy siracha pan-seared salmon.

(Chilled Minty Honey Dew Soup with Pan-Seared Siracha Spiced Salmon.)

(Chilled Minty Honey Dew Soup with Pan-Seared Siracha Spiced Salmon.)

Mealtimes and particularly soup preparations can reflect the personalities of the people eating the meal.  Go ahead and think of a soup that represents the personality of a family member. Perhaps you will cook something that is very mild, something savory, or even something plain but comforting.  For this group I wanted to make a soup for “cool” people, but with a very spicy component.  Cooking for people with a Christ-like love always makes the food special!

God our Father, I pray that families and friends will have the chance to celebrate the good times in these remaining summer months.  Despite the different personalities, inspire the cooks to create something that brings people together.  In a special way Lord, I pray for these young creative folks in the Hollywood scene.  Someone has to pray for them, let it be me!  Despite the imbalance of praise and criticism that Hollywood types receive, help these people find the spiritual grounding so that their works of art will (at the very least) not degrade society, but eventually build it up. Saint Genesius (Patron saint of Actors), pray for them.

(Me with the star of the movie Bella and a South American soap opera sensation, Eduardo Verastigui, at a private Grace Before Meals event in Hollywood.)

(Me with the star of the movie Bella and a South American soap opera sensation, Eduardo Verastigui, at a private Grace Before Meals event in Hollywood.)

Post your comments below:  Should Fr. Leo have a YouTube Channel?  Do you know anyone in Hollywood or the film or media industry?  How do you reach out to them?  Even though their lives seem glamorous and fun, do we realize how difficult it is for them to do what they do?  Let us know what you think, as it helps inspire us to keep spreading the message – even to folks in Hollywood!  We love to/need to hear from you!

Want to try the Chilled Honey Dew Soup with Siracha Spiced Salmon?  CLICK HERE for the recipe, and be sure to post a comment about what you think!

Posted in Food for the Body, Grace Before Meals, Menu Inspiration, Prayers, Recipe-Fish, Recipes | 5 Comments »