Catholic Culinary Confessions

 

 Crabby Cakes for Crabby People

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(Click to watch my latest Culinary Confession as I seek the best crab cake in Baltimore.)

This week, I want to share an article I wrote for the Archdiocese of Baltimore Catholic Paper, The Catholic Review, with our Grace Before Meals “fam.” As you know, the Maryland scene is quite proud of its seafood specialties but, in particular, the Maryland Blue Crab.  This mean-looking crustacean packs a sweet flavor when boiled or steamed and, of course, seasoned with a Chesapeake Bay favorite – Old Bay.

Steak and cakes – the best of both worlds.

(Steak and cakes – the best of both worlds.)

In this Culinary Confession, I sample some of Maryland’s best crab cakes.  You can try to determine which is the best for your taste buds.  I would think determining the best would be an impossible task, which is why I picked places that are close to locations where people can pray for divine inspiration.

My jalapeno-wrapped crab cake, baked in a cupcake pan to keep the form.

(My jalapeno-wrapped crab cake, baked in a cupcake pan to keep the form.)

During the months of July and August, our team will offer our members a walk down memory lane with some of our previously published blasts.  This will give our team a chance to prepare for the launch of our new website and the highly anticipated book, Spicing Up Married Life.

One of the featured recipes in the new book – complete with color photos of each dish.

(One of the featured recipes in the new book – complete with color photos of each dish.)

We will definitely offer some updated news, tips, and recipes with these Blasts from the Past, but we also want to make sure the fun stories, prayers, and recipe exchanges are not forgotten.

In the meantime, I pray that you and your family have a blessed summer, safe travels, and many opportunities to celebrate the greatest gifts of life – the food on the table and the blessed lives of the people around it!

My entire family on a Philippine Island vacation 2011-2012.

(My entire family on a Philippine Island vacation 2011-2012.)

Let us pray: Lord, we pray that this time of vacation for family and friends will be a time of recreation – to be recreated and renewed.  Keep all travelers safe and focused on their ultimate destination in Heaven.  With the prayers of the angels and saints, we ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Guardian Angel pointing to the Way of the Cross of Christ, Lourdes, France.

(Guardian Angel pointing to the Way of the Cross of Christ, Lourdes, France.)

Click here for the crab cake Culinary Confession for the Catholic Review.

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Posted in Culinary Confessions, Prayers, Restaurants, Restauraunt Reviews | 2 Comments »

Hot Springs, Cold Drinks & Corny Jokes!

 

In my limited experience and knowledge of Alaska, I imagined the scene as cold and snowy.  The travel tip to visit the town of Chena Hot Springs opened my mind to a warmer – in fact hotter – side of Alaska.  The natural hot springs, beautiful natural surroundings, and opportunities for outdoor recreation make for a great detour or destination.  Chena Hot Springs are quite a distance from Fairbanks, so people who drive to Chena go for one reason alone: to soak in that mineral-rich hot spring.  The local patrons swear by the healing properties of this water.

While no religious miracles have happened in Chena, like those attributed to the healing waters of Lourdes, France, I can say this quiet spot provided a rustic retreat-like setting where people can certainly quiet their souls and rest.  In some cases, finding quiet and peace in this busy world could be considered miraculous.

Lourdes, France.

(Lourdes, France.)

This resort – the only thing in this town – is a unique place.  It has different tours and attractions, such as a geothermal plant, a dog kennel where dogs are trained for the Iditarod, as well as multiple outdoor trails that you and your family can explore by bike, horseback, or cars with four-wheel-drive.

The steam from the hot springs.

(The steam from the hot springs.)

When you arrive, prepare to relax and enjoy the beauty!  That was the case for me.  After the long drive, I arrived in a very punchy and silly mood.  To make it even more funny and festive, our first tour was to the largest permanent ice sculpture garden/bar/lounge in the world.  From the outside, this looked like a big-time tourist trap.  But after I entered this chilly sanctuary, I was quite impressed.  The psalm, “Ice and snow bless the Lord,” came to my mind, instantly.  I’ve seen fantastic ice sculptures before, but I’ve never been in one.

One of the many ice sculptures in this ice garden.

(One of the many ice sculptures in this ice garden.)

This tour was filled with paradox.  The hot springs and the ice lounge were like an ironic joke.  The mesmerizing beauty of the artist’s ice creations, the long drive, and the fun company that joined me at the ice lounge started to warm up my silly sense of humor and playfulness.

Watch this video and see just how much corny fun I had in this place.

(Watch this video and see just how much corny fun I had in this place.)

Let’s just say, it is good to laugh and even better if you can laugh at yourself!  To help warm up your sense of humor, here’s the recipe for a cool drink for a hot summer day.  I’m sure a few sips of this drink will help you enjoy yourself in this busy world.  Of course, you have to be of legal drinking age to enjoy this one.  And that’s no joke!

Click here for more summer drink specials for the entire family.

Let us pray: Father in Heaven, help us to have a humble disposition to laugh at ourselves and to see the humor in truth – especially in the face of challenges.  May our summer travels and vacations be filled with enough joy to refresh our weary souls.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

It’s ridiculously humbling/embarrassing to see advertisements this big!

(It’s ridiculously humbling/embarrassing to see advertisements this big!)

Do you have what it takes to be a stand-up comedian?  How were my jokes?  Do you have a joke that you can share with me and our subscribers?  Your posts, questions, and comments help us to lighten the mood and to be a leaven in society.  Post your comments below.

One of the many beautiful views.

(One of the many beautiful views.)

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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Faithful Foodie, Prayers, Recipe-Drinks, Recipes, Uncategorized, Video | No Comments »

Posted June 13th, 2012 | Faithful Foodie, Prayers, Video

Eating Through Alaska

One of my travel philosophies is that you should see a new place through the eyes of God and through your stomach.

(Click to watch and share some of my Faithful Foodie Adventures in Alaska's food culture.)

(Click to watch and share some of my Faithful Foodie Adventures in Alaska’s food culture.)

Seeing through the eyes of God means that a traveler makes a concerted effort to visit some of the local religious sites.  For Alaskans, surrounded by so much natural beauty, it was easy to sense God’s presence.  The changes of the weather, the rugged but beautiful terrain, and the almost 20 hours of sunlight was awe-inspiring and humbling. An experience of God is an one of humility, awe, and renewal.

(Chena Hot Springs - off the beaten path!)

(Chena Hot Springs – off the beaten path!)

In a more tangible sense, I had the chance to visit a significant church in Anchorage – the Holy Family Cathedral.  It was, surprisingly, a very simple building, small and without much ornamental decoration, especially compared to some of the other cathedrals I’ve visited in the past.  But not many cathedrals  – even some of the most decorated ones – can say a Pope visited, blessed, and prayed at this spot!

(Plaque to commemorate the visit of John Paul II.)

(Plaque to commemorate the visit of John Paul II.)

It was inspiring for me to see a vibrant and active faith in this diocese considered missionary territory.  I was especially edified to see young families coming to daily mass to worship God with sincere faith.  These visits to local shrines always fill my soul with a greater appreciation for our universal Catholic Faith. No matter where I go in the world, I can always find a spiritual place to call home!

(The simple but faithful interior of the Cathedral.)

(The simple but faithful interior of the Cathedral.)

The second part of my travel philosophy, seeing a new place through your stomach, has obvious implications.  You eat as many of the local foods as possible!  For me, that meant the famous Alaskan king crab, fresh salmon, halibut cheeks, reindeer a.k.a. caribou, mooseand, if possible, a dish that came from a whale.  I was able to sample most on my wishlist, minus the whale.  I was not north enough to visit the local Inuit villages to taste their whale preparations.  Maybe next time?

(Alaskans say that moose are so large and meaty they can feed a family for almost one year.)

(Alaskans say that moose are so large and meaty they can feed a family for almost one year.)

Thanks to our subscribers (a.k.a. “fam” – short for family, rather than “fans”), Twitter followers and Facebook friends, I was directed to many delicious dining spots. Your tips and recommendations were excellent!  But be prepared to spend a bit more money for food – and just about everything – in Alaska.

A money-saving travel tip I can offer is to avoid the big restaurants in Anchorage and even fast food places, as it will only frustrate you to know that you’ll pay almost double for a meal that is supposed to be cheap!  Instead, patronize offbeat dining spots and the food trucks.  I found some great ethnic and gourmet food trucks that provided hot, fresh, delicious, and substantial food for a very reasonable price.  With the money you save on less expensive meals, you can splurge at least once on your vacation to get to the famous Alaskan fare.

(Halibut with blueberry vinaigrette at the Denali Grand Lodge.)

(Halibut with blueberry vinaigrette at the Denali Grand Lodge.)

The biggest food tip of all is to pray before you eat!  I’m not trying to sound like a pious priest, but, after hearing of the harsh and dangerous conditions native Alaskans endure to hunt and gather food for their families, I realized just how spoiled I have become when it comes to purchasing food.  Learning more about the local food production scene in Alaska may even inspire me to try my hand at gardening, fishing, or even hunting. One of these days!

For now, I thank God for grocery stores, farmers, hunters, ranchers, and everyone else who cooperates with God to give me ingredients to make the food that will nourish the hungry soul.

Let us pray: Father in heaven, we are humbled by the thought of where our food comes from.  Lord, we pray in thanksgiving for all of the people involved in the process of providing food for our world family. May all of these resources never be wasted but generously shared with those who go without.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

(Talkeetna's Famous Seward’s Folly Hamburger at West Rib & Grill.)

(Talkeetna’s Famous Seward’s Folly Hamburger at West Rib & Grill.)

What was the most unique food you ever tasted on a vacation or trip?  What was the most expensive food item you ever tried?  Was it worth it?  Do you work directly with food production, such as farming or ranching?  How does this job affect your faith and your spiritual practices?  Your posts encourage our movement and our members to stay connected and inspired.  Post your comments below.

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Posted in Faithful Foodie, Prayers, Video | 2 Comments »

Posted June 6th, 2012 | Uncategorized

 

Faithful Foodie Adventure

Taking the High Road Less Traveled

 

Recently, I visited the great State of Alaska.  I found it to be an incredibly beautiful place.  Despite the challenges of weather and terrain, I was also quite impressed with God’s created wonders as well as the people – the native locals and those who choose to make this unique part of the world their home.  If I ever have the opportunity to return, I would do it in a heartbeat!  That’s how much I enjoyed this trip.

( On top of Flat Top Mountain in Anchorage, AK)

( On top of Flat Top Mountain in Anchorage, AK)

As I often write about my travels, I pray that our subscribers and readers don’t assume that I’m showing off or trying to make people jealous of these fantastic experiences.  I believe that my travels (primarily work-related) and once in a lifetime experiences are gifts from God. Therefore, these experiences and blessings ought to be shared.

Hopefully, you can see that I try to find inspiration and faith connections wherever God leads us – even and especially if the road is a difficult one!

While this is my most memorable experience of Alaska, it’s not my first visit.  In February 1972, my mother traveled with my siblings and me to America’s port of entry – Anchorage.  She was in charge of bringing her scared young children (I was only two years old) to connect with my dad in the East Coast.  He came to America two years prior to prepare a home for his family.  The time apart, the distance to travel under tough circumstances, and the challenge of leaving their homeland was not easy for my parents, but it was a road worth taking.  Their willingness to accept these challenges in order to provide a better home for their family is a testament to their belief that hard work pays off, eventually.  That’s particularly true for our faith!

(Cathedral in Anchorage.)

(Cathedral in Anchorage.)

My parents sacrificed greatly, surmounted great heights, and weathered many bumpy roads to provide for their family.  I thought about my parents’ challenges on my recent trip to Alaska, especially since my mother tells stories of her first experiences of America – beginning in Alaska.  Hearing her stories gave me a whole new appreciation for the great opportunities in our country, the great state of Alaska, and in particular the Anchorage Airport where it all began.  Thanks, mom and dad, for taking the high road in life and a road less traveled.

Mom and Dad.

(Mom and Dad)

Following the footsteps of my mom and dad – who just loved taking pictures and videos of our family trips – I will be sharing tidbits of my Alaskan trip throughout the month of June.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy some of the stories, pictures, and videos – including this one I called “The High Road Less Traveled.”  And you’ll also find an extra video about my trip to Alaska.

(Click to watch my latest adventures mountain climbing and going offroad in Alaska - They're pretty exciting!)

(Click to watch my latest adventures mountain climbing and going offroad in Alaska – They’re pretty exciting!)

"High Road Less Traveled" Extras

“High Road Less Traveled” Extras

Let us pray.  Father in Heaven, in giving us the gift of freedom, You give us a choice in life: to take the easy way out or to accept the challenges in order to improve and see a view of life that only comes to those who are willing to climb.  In our lives, we will encounter many challenges.  May Your gifts of freedom and Grace inspire us to take the road that always leads to You – even if it’s bumpy and difficult to climb.  Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(The road to the top of the mountain.)

(The road to the top of the mountain.)

What are some of the challenges and sacrifices your parents endured for your family?  Have any of you experienced the difficulty of emigrating to a new land?  Do you know anyone who is trying to avoid the easy way out?  Do they inspire you?  How can you help them along the way?  Your comments and questions help us to keep our mission going.  Please post your comments here.

GREAT NEWS: A BABY IS BORN!

Me with my mother always making sure I'm cooking it the right way, i.e., her way – with love, that is.

(Grace Rosalia Hansbrough)

On June 5, 2012, our Project Manager, Joe Hansbrough and his wife Erica were blessed with the birth of their daughter yesterday, believe it or not, her name is Grace Rosalia Hansbrough. She weighed 7lbs 9oz and measured 20.5 lbs. Erica (aka “Mommy”) had a fever going into labor, so there were concerns about Grace’s heart rate and health, but by God’s grace, the best outcome possible was had and the family couldn’t be more happy.

[I know what you’re thinking, considering I’ve said “Grace” a million times in one paragraph, but you can never have enough Grace ;-P]

So join us, the Grace Before Meals “family”, in welcoming Grace into the world and keep her and all children, born and unborn, in your prayers as we hope to strengthen more families in faith and food.

Me with my mother always making sure I'm cooking it the right way, i.e., her way – with love, that is.

(What Grace Before Meals is all about: Family. Congratulations Hansbrough family!)

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