On occasion, our Grace Before Meals movement will send out some “Blasts from the Past,” not only because the messages are still relevant today, but it also helps us remember how far we’ve come! Post something by clicking here.
Grace Under Water
I’m heading down to New Orleans to visit some friends, so this week’s Blast From The Past looks back on a heated competition for best cooking priest between my friend Msgr. Nalty and myself, called “Grace Under Fire.”
(The proud parents, Godparents, me welcome Grace into the faith.)
Speaking of Grace Under Fire, this past weekend, I had the joy of baptizing my Project Manager’s daughter, Grace, bringing her into the church and opening her heart to the Holy Spirit. It was a great celebration and she did wonderfully. We thank God for the beautiful and important sacrament and pray for Joe, Erica and Grace, along with all children, families and individuals seeking to grow in the faith through our holy Mother Church. God bless and have a great week!.
(To hold Grace (and all babies) is to experience God’s Grace. Welcome to the church, Grace!)
Grace Under Fire
Originally Published July 9, 2010
My recent visit to the great state of Louisiana was filled with culture, faith, and lots of food. On one day, I offered a unique presentation unlike any other Grace Before Meals presentation. I agreed to a cooking competition with two of the best chefs in New Orleans!
(Me with Chef Justin of La Petite Grocery.)
I’m constantly being asked to participate in cooking contests – Iron Chef or Throwdown! style. While I’m confident enough in my cooking, I think the aspect of cooking competitions can take away from the Grace Before Meals message. Yes, I did the Throwdown! with Bobby Flay. But remember, that was a complete surprise! Also, preparing for a cooking competition requires incredible amounts of logistical preparations. It’s like creating a mini-Iron Chef cooking stadium!
On a more philosophical point, I normally turn down cooking competitions, because it makes more out of the Bobby Flay Throwdown! victory than necessary. Although that competition was very real, very serious, and very much a surprise, the primary objective of the show was to highlight the Grace Before Meals movement. Food should result in stronger family ties, not competition.
(Bobby Flay and Me – June 2009.)
However, I agreed to enter into this culinary combat against Chef Justin of La Petite Grocery and Chef Christopher of Commander’s Palace. This competitive cooking presentation was a favor to my dear friend, Msgr. Nalty – the doo-rag wearing priest who assisted me with grilling the steaks on the Throwdown! show.
(Me and Msgr. Nalty – getting hot under the collar.)
A few years ago he was appointed the pastor of the second largest parish in the New Orleans Archdiocese. He also had the difficult responsibility of merging two other church communities. Talk about a difficult task! While most Catholics feel at home in any Catholic church anywhere in the world, human nature attaches great importance to an actual church building. It’s understandable to feel at home where your family was baptized, married, or buried. A parochial mentality can make transition into a new community quite difficult. The closing of a parish building can feel like a death in the family. However, our Faith is not only parochial, it’s also universal. And unfortunately, nothing on earth remains the same forever. It was time for the community to get a little closer, necessitated by diminishing numbers and finances.
(Speaking to a sold out crowd at the “new” Good Shepherd Parish.)
Msgr. Nalty, being a faithful and innovative pastor (and a big foodie), had an idea to host a “food event” that would bring all three parishes together. He would invite local chef celebrities to “compete” against me. That could generate some local buzz and help bring merging community members to share an evening of fun, faith, food, and family! They called this event, “Grace Under Fire!” My cooking skills would be challenged again.
Perhaps people wanted to taste the Famous Fusion Fajitas or sample the cuisine from professional and popular chefs. Regardless of the reason, the crowds came and ticket sales had to close a few days before they could really even advertise!
(Participating Family. Ticket were sold individually or a lower priced for an entire family. What a bargain! Delicious gourmet food for everyone!)
What an opportunity to share the Grace Before Meals message with a community that hungers for a renewed sense of a parish family. The cooking demonstrations and competition became a means to a greater end: fun for this new parish family!
The emcee of the evening was Mary Matalin, Republican strategist, a recent Catholic convert, and the wife of Democratic strategist, James Carville. Talk about a unique opportunity to merge a marriage out of two completely diverse political backgrounds.
(Mary Matalin acting as emcee and asking me questions as I chopped the “Trinity.”)
Giving the final verdict was Judge Martin Feldman. Feldman, a Jewish born Catholic Convert (Justice Antonin Scalia is his godfather), expressed sincere gratitude to be part of this community-building event. Recently he made national news as the judge who declared Obama’s federal ban on oil drilling illegal. Rather impressive to know his decisions made national news!
The criteria of this cooking competition was simple. Create a family friendly recipe in 30 minutes or less, and use only 10 ingredients. Five points for plating and design, 10 for creativity, and 10 for taste. Time went quickly. Competition was fierce. The judges had quite a challenge. Both dishes were worthy and delicious! Judge Feldman read the verdict: a tie!
(After the decision – a “family picture” with the competing chefs and the judges.)
While it would have been great to “boast” another victory against some impressive chefs, it was much better to boast about the wonderful event that proved the power of our Grace Before Meals movement. This event showed Grace Before Meals, even when under fire, brings family and friends closer to the table!
Coconut Bourbon Cream Chicken and Trinity Rice
The two Chefs presented a delicious local black drum fish with a preparation called “Court bouillon,” which is usually served as a stew. Instead, he beautifully pan seared and then braised this dish over some popcorn rice. The Cajun-French, with their accent, simply call it “coo-boo-yon.” Whatever you want to call it, the first thing that came out of my mouth when I tasted it was, “OMG – delicious!” (Okay, that was more like 4 words!)
(“Coo-boo-yon” – short for black drum court bouillon.)
I prepared a dish that truly used only 10 ingredients, (they counted theTrinity – celery, pepper, and onion as one dish, and they allowed us salt, pepper, and oil as a given). My dish reflected the fusion aspect of my cooking, as it brought together some Asian flavors combined with Cajun spices and a tribute to Bourbon Street – a touch of bourbon to add some extra flavor to my coconut cream sauce. Enjoy!
(Bourbon Coconut Cream Chicken, with Trinity Fried Rice in a grilled red pepper ring.)
When Grace is Under Fire!
Msgr. Nalty’s responsibility to bring different parishes together puts a burden on many people who feel the pain of transition. As I said before, it’s sad to say “goodbye” to a place that means so much to people, especially the sanctity of a church building. I know this personally, as my own home parish no longer has a regular parish priest in residence, and the school was recently closed down due to low numbers and finances.
In such situations our faith can be tested – Grace is under fire! Yet our faith tells us that our citizenship is in Heaven, and our faith gives us the grace to move forward, never letting go of the beautiful memories we may have in the past, but never afraid of starting new ones for the future. As church buildings come and go, we can never forget that God wants “church” to begin in our hearts, minds, and souls – not in a building. Our ultimate goal is not to keep earthly buildings standing forever. Instead, our goal is to bring our souls (where Christ wants to dwell) forever in Heaven!
Let us Pray: Father, when our faith is tested, especially when the tests and challenging situations come from within the Church, give us Grace to stay committed to Your Church family on earth. Help us to have the proper balance of seeking and protecting holy things on earth – like churches, statues, and holy images. At the same time, help us never forget that spiritual faith can only be touched with the heart, mind, and soul; and that practice of our faith is never limited to one building or at one place only. Give us O Lord, the strength to always be Your family on earth and to reach out to those who do not yet feel a sense of community. May You, our Good Shepherd, feed us the Heavenly Food that makes one in the Body of Christ. We ask this, in Your most Holy Name. Amen.
(The Sanctuary of St. Stephen Church, New Orleans. NOTE – this is a correction from last week’s e-mail blast that had two pictures of the St. Louis Cathedral sanctuary. I apologize for the mistake in the photo descriptions.)
On occasion, our Grace Before Meals movement will send out some “Blasts from the Past,” not only because the messages are still relevant today, but it also helps us remember how far we’ve come! Post something by clicking here.
Old Dog, New Tricks
Now I am not truly an “old dog”, though I feel like it sometimes when traveling non-stop or when doing a flying jump kick over some volunteers to break some boards (see picture below). But as the fall approaches, our Grace Before Meals team is preparing to launch some new “tricks” as discussed in last week’s blast, including the long-awaited release of my new book Spicing Up Married Life, coming out September 18.
And if I have to take the designation of being an “old dog performing new tricks,” as humbling as it may seem, I am glad to, as I know I am in good company- specifically, St. Dominic (whose feast day is August 8) and my former spiritual director, Fr. Frank McGauley.
I look back fondly on the many lessons I learned from this amazing priest, who passed away on July 15, 2008. He was 86 years old at the time, and yet, as you will read below, he was always learning something new about his faith and love for God, as well as God’s love for us. And much like St. Dominic, his faithfulness was inspiring and helped me to grow deeper in my own. So please enjoy this stroll down memory lane to remember this great priest and friend from whom I learned so much. And with St. Dominic’s intercession, we ask for God’s blessing on all priests and religious, families and communities, and all those, including Grace Before Meals, who seek to glorify God with their lives and devotion. May we please him by our faithfulness and true love.
St. Dominic – Old Dog, New Tricks
Originally Published August 8, 2007
My spiritual director is an 85-year-old Jesuit Priest who served in the missionaries of India for more than 30 years. He learned their languages and culture in order to serve the poor and local tribes as their pastor, spiritual leader, and friend. He’s worked with Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta and a host of other holy men and women who brought the Good News of Jesus to that part of the world!
His credentials were enough reason for me to “select” him as my spiritual director. But there are so many other reasons, such as his sincere joy, his holy fear of the Lord, his sensitivity and awareness to the battles against evil, and also his down to earth spirituality. Above all, he is humble!
I could jokingly say, he’s everything I’m NOT – but then, I wouldn’t be joking!
Every meeting, without fail, I receive so much spiritual food from his wisdom and counsel. But one thing I constantly marvel at is how this “old man” approaches suffering, trials and challenges – especially the challenge of growing older. He sees challenges as lessons in life, and he tells us that nothing goes to waste! He lives with knowledge and hope that even our problems can be useful in God’s hands.
In my last Spiritual Direction Meeting (I usually go once a month), I heard he had a nasty fall down a flight of stairs. He let go of the safety rail with his one hand because he was afraid of tipping over the plate of food he had in his other hand. Of course my ears perked up, simply because he mentioned food! (I secretly wondered if the meal was worth the fall!) But thank God his athletic skills from his younger days kicked in, so that he fell in such a way to avoid even worse physical damage. Though it could have been worse, it was bad enough to bloody him up and require medical attention. He thanks his angels for helping him out, especially at his tender age!
Yet in all of this, this man of God was able to learn a life lesson, which he conveyed to me. He mentioned that the plate of food could be a symbol of the many responsibilities, privileges, and issues that we carry. These things are precious to us and we are afraid to tip them over. BUT for him, the handrail was a symbol of GOD. No matter how tempted we may be to try and take control (i.e. use both hands) and manage our own affairs, we cannot let go of God. Look at what might happen if we do!
Here is a man who could call himself “a ragged old dog.” Yet he is so willing to learn new tricks! I used this phrase “old dog” because of the Feast we celebrate every August 8th – the Feast of St. Dominic, founder of the Dominicans. His name and the name of the congregations he founded literally means “Dogs of the Lord” – domini (Lord) canes (Dogs). An image of St. Dominic normally shows him in the beautiful white Dominican Robes pointing up, holding a book, and next to him a dog holding a torch in its mouth.
Even though my spiritual director is a Jesuit, I see in him a true “Dominican” – as he is ever faithful to the Lord, like the old dog “Fido” (which is a form of the word “Fides” – “Faith”). Sorry cat lovers, but that’s why they call Fido “man’s best friend,” because the dogs are ever faithful!
This old faithful – my spiritual director – reminds me that life should be a spiritual journey and that we can find spiritual lessons in every encounter – even if its challenging and full of suffering. After all, Jesus didn’t die on the cross to be jewelry, but to be a visible lesson and reminder of love, forgiveness, and the reality of human suffering, especially in our elderly population – who is so often forgotten. My spiritual director, and all of the elderly patients I minister to remind me of the importance to grow old gracefully and to realize that getting older presents its own challenges. We who are younger can learn tremendous lessons from them, even if the only lesson we repeat is patience, patience, patience!
I’ll close with this story I keep close to my heart whenever I consider working with the elderly. A young priest noticed the old Monsignor sleeping in his pew during prayer. One day the younger priest expressed his displeasure to the old man and questioned how he could sleep during his prayer. The old Monsignor explained that he tries to stay attentive to the Lord in prayer, but sometimes his age gets the best of him. “In those moments,” the old man explained, “I sometimes hear God say, ‘You’re not as young as you were, but your faithfulness is like a dog who sometimes serves his master best by simply resting at his master’s feet!”
With the prayers of St. Dominic, I want to ask God to bless my spiritual director with a long and faithful life – I obviously need that “old dog” around to teach me new lessons!
Orzo Ginger Chicken
The FDA has some ideas for healthy eating for our elderly community. Sometimes we have to wonder, how did people in generations past live such long lives without the FDA? I think they used common sense by eating appropriately, healthy, and festively – and they started young. So start now! But if you do have someone a bit older in your family life, you may want to make them a healthful and soul satisfying meal. Here’s an idea for a very simple and tasty dish that’s not only easy to prepare, it’s also really easy to eat! For the recipe [click here].
My spiritual director has taught me great ways of praying! He reminds me to make sure that “nothing goes to waste.” Therefore, if ever I have certain challenges, I try to reflect on them and ask, “What did I learn from this?” This examination of conscience not only reminds us that our challenges are not useless, but could also be helpful! My spiritual director’s fall taught him and me to always manage the “food on my plate” by not overdoing it, and to always, no matter what, hold on to the railing!
Let Us Pray: Lord, when life gets a bit more complicated, help me to take a moment to gain true balance, so that I can better walk with You and with Your people. Help me to be strong, but at the same time humble enough to keep me dependent on Your loving guidance. Help me to walk, hand in hand, with You! Amen.
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Posted in Blast from the Past, Chicken, Food for the Body, Food for the Soul, Food for Thought, In Memory, Menu Inspiration, Past Emails, Prayers, Recipe, Recipe-Meats, Recipe-Pasta, Recipes, Spicing Up Married Life | 1 Comment »
On occasion, our Grace Before Meals movement will send out some “Blasts from the Past,” not only because the messages are still relevant today, but it also helps us remember how far we’ve come!
For a summer break, there’s certainly no time to relax! I’ve been all over the place for another great Steubenville Conference, this time in St. Louis, with plenty of cool kids who appreciated some of my dance moves- not bad for an old guy! Just playing. I’m currently filming the second season of “Savoring Our Faith”, so I hope you’re hungry for more episodes and recipes. I’ll be heading to another Steubenville conference in Rochester, MN this weekend, so be sure to be there if you’re up in the area. It’ll be a good time, don’cha know. (Bad impression, I know.)
Anyone, this week’s blast chronicles another Steubenville Conference from 2010, and the work and faith that is involved in each one. Please feel free to leave comments on our site as we look back, for we hope to impress you with the things to come.
Young At Stomach!
Originally posted June 23, 2010
Young people look at life differently than the older generation. The young at heart, can look at life with freshness, vibrancy, and enthusiasm. Perhaps that’s one reason why Jesus admonishes all His followers to have a child-like faith. No matter how old we are, we are constantly challenged to maintain that “young” disposition so that faith never gets old, out of style, boring, or lifeless.
(Me with Amanda from St. Matthew’s Church, and some of her teens who helped me during a demo of “Board Breaking.”)
My work with Grace Before Meals has provided me an opportunity to share the Good News with a diverse section of people – old and young alike. Pastors and event organizers are impressed that our message applies to all groups equally. Our parish missions and diocesan presentations draw families together. I’m inspired to see a church or an event hall filled with groups of people of different ages. Moms, Dads, grandparents, young adults, teens, and children have made a connection to our movement, simply because everyone needs to eat!
(Cooking for the Legatus Chapter, Des Moines, Iowa, in the private home of one of the members.)
What surprises me, however, is the unique ability of young people to eat so much more than adults. I’m talking specifically about the amazing appetites of teens and young adults! Young children may fuss and be picky, and older folks restrain and just get full more quickly. But teens and young adults seem to devour food! Young at heart is one thing, but being young in stomach is another!
(Teens praying for more food. Actually, they were praying that I’d “break-dance” at the Youth Conference.)
As being young at heart is primarily a very good thing, it also requires some attention simply because the lack of experience can lead one who is young heart down some dangerous roads. That’s also true for the young stomachs – appetites that need attention and in some cases purification. Young stomachs are hungry, and we need to pay attention to how and what we are feeding them.
(Andrew and Rachel, youth minister volunteers at St. John Baptist Church, where their parish has Grace Before Meals supper clubs.)
I’ve experienced this time and again, especially at the recent youth group venues where I’ve given presentations. One example is a recent presentation at Steubenville University. Young people come from around the country to experience the faith made more digestible in the togetherness called “communion.”
(Teens design commemorative T-Shirts from their parishes/groups.)
They feast on God’s word and by the example and testimony of the presenters and group leaders. Young stomachs are hungry, and it’s the conference organizers job to make sure they are being fed properly – in body, mind, and spirit!
(Connor and Daniel – the two Young Adults on the side of the group – helped develop leadership skills among this youth gathering.)
Thank God these events are a team effort. It takes a team to organize the content and substance of the weekend, but also an impressive crew to set up, clean up, and feed the hungry crowd!
(Someone from the kitchen and youth support staff.)
Seeing a weekend like this confirms the fact that no matter how bad or grim the news may be about the younger generation, there is real hope for the young at hearts and the young at stomachs. There is an alternative to the political stump-filled rhetoric about hope, change, and new beginnings: It’s the message that comes from God, who calls us to desire and sacrifice to both love and serve one another.
(The devoted kitchen crew that cooks for groups up to 2,200 people for every conference.)
The teens that come to these events walk away with transformed expectations. They know that making it through this life requires more than money and food for the belly. They realize “success” requires faithfulness, believing in eternal truths, and having a real prayer life lived out with a community. They also know that their Church and their Faith, even though it’s oftentimes ridiculed and denigrated in pop culture, has an authentic responsibility to feed all of God’s children with truth and Good News.
The young people at these conferences eat it up – like only young people can! Such weekends give me great hope. I admit I can no longer put it away like I used to when I was younger. Sometimes I pray to be more appropriately “young at heart and stomach” again.
(“Glory Tent” – a break out session.)
Satisfyingly Stuffed Chicken
Here’s a simple recipe that provides flavors that seems to satisfy everyone’s taste buds, no matter what age. It’s a tender piece of chicken stuffed with pancetta and Brie cheese. The simple preparation, comfortable cooking time, and great flavors makes this chicken dish as comforting as chicken nuggets for the kids, hearty enough for the teens, and refined enough for the older guests.
Praying for the Young at Heart and Young Stomachs
It’s ironic how young people on one hand can be easily misled when it comes to pop-culture, but on the other hand can be discerning when it comes to fashion, friends, faith, and food. It shows how the teachers and parents of those young at heart and young at stomach must pay close attention to how these hearts can be molded and how their stomachs need to be appropriately satisfied. As Christ became one of us, in all things but sin, parents and other authority figures need to be able to do the same when relating to young people. That’s the only way they will follow!
(It’s natural and to follow the true Leader who will lead us to still waters.)
Let us pray: Father in Heaven, no matter our age, we are Your children. And in every age, You show how love requires patience, especially when dealing with the young at heart. Give grace to those involved in youth ministry, so their actions and words will conform to Your loving plan. Give our young people, especially in this summer season, the grace to follow, listen, and learn. And above all, give us the hunger to be fed with truth that satisfies not only our stomachs, but our hearts as well. Amen.
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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.
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
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 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.
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp butter
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 4-oz can green chili peppers
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
12 6-inch tortillas
In a large saucepan, cook onion and green peppers in the 2 Tbsp butter till tender. Combine onion mixture in a bowl with chopped chicken and green chili peppers; set aside.
For sauce, in the same saucepan melt 3 Tbsp butter. Stir in flour, coriander and salt. Stir in chicken broth all at once; cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup cheese. Stir 1/2 cup of the sauce into the chicken mixture. Dip each tortilla into remaining sauce to soften; fill each with about 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture. Roll up. Arrange in a greased 13x9x2-inch baking dish; pour remaining sauce over enchiladas. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven about 25 minutes or until bubbly. Serves 6.
• I cooked and used the whole chicken using the broth for the sauce.
• I heated the tortillas in the microwave before dipping in the sauce.
• I added more cheese to the tortilla when filling with chicken mixture.
• I covered while heating.
Crispy Creamy Chicken
Ingredients (for 1 person’s dinner and next day lunch to share!)
2 chicken breasts
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten with 2 teaspoons of water
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup white wine
½ cup cream
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 branches thyme
1-2 button mushrooms, sliced
Instructions: Poke holes in chicken with fork. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour. Soak in egg wash and then dredge in bread crumbs. Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes. Flip chicken and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove chicken from pan. Add butter, mushrooms, thyme, wine, and cream to the pan, and stir together. Return the chicken to the pan, reduce heat to low, and simmer for another 5 minutes. In this cooking process, one side of the chicken remains crispy. The bottom of the chicken soaks up the liquids, which the low heat thickens to create a mild sauce. Carefully remove the chicken and cut into ½-inch pieces. Place over fresh green salad, top off with mushrooms, and drizzle with cream sauce. You can use leftovers (if any) in salads, an Asian stir fry, or for a creamy tomato pasta sauce!
- All Souls Day
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- From the Feedbag
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- What's On the Table