Top 10 Restaurant Meals & Recipe Highlights


As promised, my “Blast from the Recent Past” continues!   My objective in this week’s Eblast isn’t to relive the past, but be grateful for each and every experience I’ve had with my family, friends, and God’s great gift of food.  Starting with ten and ending with one – here are my top ten restaurant meals from 2012:

#10

Pizza, Chinese & Foodie Friends 

Marc Bello and his girlfriend Jennifer are incredible foodies from Pizza-a-Casa in NYC.  They make amazing pizza at their shop where they also offer classes on how it’s made.

 

Marc and Jennifer joined me for a sampling of a new Yunnan Restaurant, Lotus Blue, managed by a good childhood friend of mine, Jeffrey Lim.  Lotus Blue is not your typical “asian” restaurant. It’s a true fusion of cultures and culinary style with deep, brothy, and bold flavors – including the use of the pungent durian fruit for a tasty dessert!

#9

Home Town Food

Eating in the Philippines means encountering a lot of fresh seafood, pickled seaweed, whole roasted pig, fried chicken, and rice – all eaten “island style.”  One restaurant, Kai Lui Restaurant in Palawan, really impressed me. Not only did it have a great fusion of Filipino flavors but a relaxing, no-shoes policy. If you are ever in Palawan, dinner at Kai Lui is a must.

#8 

Auction Dinner with the Baldwin Family

As part of my service I try to provide dinners as prizes for charity auction.  One of the prize winners this year was the Baldwin Family, who also happen to be parishioners at the church where I now serve in Millersville, MD.  The Baldwins own a home construction company, so they know the importance of quality in the kitchen!  At their home I prepared three types of pasta, a sampling of flavor-packed bit-sized foods, chutney, and finally three big bites of the fusion fajitas featured on the Food Network – but it was the kitchen that was a gourmet chef’s dream!

Trio of pasta – pesto, norcina cream, and amatriciana – bacon and onion.

 

Trio of meats: garlic shrimp skewers, bacon wrapped pork tenderloin over white truffle potato puree topped with an apple onion. 

 

#7 

Asian Gyro in Oklahoma City?

  

Fr. Hamilton, a good priest friend of mine, was so excited about this hip new food place in Oklahoma City, and after tasting their fusion of flavors, I can understand why!  Delicious.

 

Foodie Express
Foodie Express

#6

Eats of Italy in New York’s Eataly

I sometimes long for authentic Italian cuisine.  Many small towns have Italian immigrants with the skills and connections to source out authentic ingredients, but I’ve found that Eataly in NYC makes me feel like I’m back in Roma.  If you are able to check it out, make sure you go in the late morning or afternoon to avoid the mega crowds at lunch and dinner times.

#5

 Ristorante Cecilia Metella

Most Italian / Roman restaurants have specialty pastas, but one in particular stands out for me. It’s the world famous Scrigno pasta from Cecelia Metella Restaurant just outside of Rome, near the sacred catacombs.  The meaning behind the pasta, its taste, and – of course – learning how to make it for my TV show Savoring our Faith made it all the more fantastic!

 

#4 

Talk and Eat in Talkeetna, Alaska

Finding food in the small villages across America’s largest state was quite an adventure. I was drawn to the hipster-earthy village of Talkeetna, a famous foodie hotspot, known for its love of food and nature. I had to agree with the masses on this one. It is another must if you have the opportunity.

 

Alaska Trip Part 2 What To Eat
Alaska Trip Part 2 What To Eat

  

#3

 Florida Fiesta!

This past year my family went on a vacation to the beaches of Florida. Besides the sun and surf, I also enjoyed the spicy, bold – yet so simple and delicious – Latin influenced foods.  One place I discovered was Fuego Latina, a nondescript Latin food lover’s hot spot in a strip mall. Check out their “sampler” platter – a meal for literally 3 people!

 

#2

 Mission Barbecue

As you know, food is only a means to an end for me.  The owners of Mission Barbecue have a similar philosophy. In addition to having friendly and super-fast service, providing some of the best local barbecue in the area – smoking beef, pork and chicken at least 2 times a day – they donate proceeds from their food sales to the Wounded Warrior Project.  For Mission Barbecue, good food is the means to a good end – to help our wounded warriors and first responders.

 

Culinary Confessions -Mission Barbecue
Culinary Confessions -Mission Barbecue

#1

Dinner at Celebrity Chef John Besh’s home with his family!

Through my good food-priest-friend, Msgr. Nalty of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, I had a crab salad gumbo dinner with world famous Chef John Besh and his family. It was a beautiful experience. I was able to witness the faith of their family both in their exchanges and in knowing their oldest son was coming late because he was serving as a peer minister for his high school retreat. Later, in another beautiful experience I found ironically amusing, I was able to surprise Chef Besh’s mother and father, who recognized me as the priest on TV who cooks.

 

To round out my Blast of the Recent Past for 2012, I also want to share my favorite recipe:

Bacon Wrapped Turkey Breasts!

Click on the picture to access the recipe!

 

2012 was truly a year of great adventures and achievements, and yet, for many of you, there may have been loss or sadness. We offer all of these to our Lord, good and bad times, and give him praise for everything we have, for we are still here today and have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. May 2013 yield many more great times and accomplishments for each of us as we seek to build stronger families, have better meals, and be ever-pleasing to God.
 
Be sure to keep checking out the website for updates on upcoming events, recipes each week, new blog posts and articles. And now, registered members can leave comments on events and recipes, so we look forward to hearing from you. We would love for you to share your experiences with us, as you are all part of the GBM “fam”. 
 

 

 

 For all of you who have received Spicing Up Married Life and want to share it with others, please leave a review on Amazon for others to share in. Your review may help provide insight to those seeking ways to strengthen their relationships in or out of the kitchen. We would love to know what you think of it as well, so please post today!

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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Recipe, Recipe- Pork, Recipe-Meats, Recipe-Turkey, Restaurants, Video | 2 Comments »

Blast From The Past

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 and me.

(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!)

Food for the Body

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.)

(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.)

 (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.)

(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.)

(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!)

(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.”)

(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.)

(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!

Food for the Body

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.)

(“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.)

(Bourbon Coconut Cream Chicken, with Trinity Fried Rice in a grilled red pepper ring.)

Click here for recipe

Food for the Soul

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.)

(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.)

Posted in Blast from the Past, Chicken, Food for the Body, Food for the Soul, Food for Thought, Past Emails, Prayers, Recipe, Recipe-Meats, Recipes | 2 Comments »

Blast From The Past

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.

Food for the Body

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!

Food for the Body

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!

Food for the Body

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].

Food for the Soul

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 »

Blast From The Past

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!

NEW VIDEO:

Grand Opening: St. James Coffee Shop!

(Me with Amanda from St. Matthew’s Church, and some of her teens who helped me during a demo of “Board Breaking.”)

Take a look at this blessed an unique coffee shop in Rochester MN. Yes, there is a Eucharistic Chapel and yes, they are cheaper than Starbucks!

Having just returned from another Steubenville Conference in Rochester MN (truly fantastic once again!), I thought this would be a great time to promote the opening of a great new Catholic coffee shop called St. James Coffee, complete with a Eucharistic Chapel and good coffee to boot…and it officially opens today! Check out my tour of the place and if you are up in Rochester MN, be sure to stop in for more than just a good cup of Joe, but the Grace of God. The perfect place to share Grace Before Meals!

Want an Odd Job Assisting Fr. Leo?

Don’t worry, it is not that odd! Fr. Leo and the GBM team are looking for young adults with a culinary background and missionary-hearts living in the Baltimore area to potentially assist with the cooking at events in the future. As we seek to create the best presentations and demonstrations possible, there is much work that needs to be done at each event, so your help could make a big difference. The position is not regular, but does offer payment. If you are interested in this opportunity to help Fr. Leo with food preparation at different events, please send your resume and information to assistant@gracebeforemeals.com. Think of it as a cool and helpful way to gain culinary and spiritual training!

Food for the Body

Coming Home 20 Years Later!

Originally posted November 12, 2008

A few weeks ago, about 50 “ young” men returned to their alma mater for their high school reunion.  I wanted to stress “ young” because I was one of them!

We celebrated our 20 year Mount St. Joseph high school reunion.  It was strange to walk through halls where I once wandered aimlessly as a lost freshman, where friends played practical jokes on each other, and where I was yelled at a few times by teachers. We celebrated on the grounds of the newly constructed sports stadium with homecoming victories over our rivals in football.

For a few hours, several of my classmates shared life updates, visited old classrooms, marveled at the new structural additions, and most importantly, remembered moments that made high school more than just a building.  In that brief reunion with my former classmates, I must say that it was good to be home.

Students at Mount St. Joe are referred to as “Mount Men.”  Our patrons are St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, and St. Francis Xavier, the founder of the Xavarian Brothers, the order of religious brothers that staffs this school and many others around the world.  The Mount “Tower,” part of the original building, still remains a focal point for the modern campus.  It is a symbol of what each Mount St. Joe student is to exemplify – a strong, enduring, visionary beacon for the community and world.  Even though none of us former students would have admitted it 20 years ago, we were all very proud to be a part of the Mount family.

Looking back, I realize the high school years can be some of the most challenging for young people.  It’s a time of internal conflicts: bodies (and hormones) develop at an unbelievable pace, but limited psychological and life experiences prevent teens from fully understanding these inevitable changes.  As high school students, we wanted to be treated as adults, yet we tended to act like unruly kids.   Change occurs so quickly that some teachers hardly recognize students after a summer of growth spurts.  Parents marvel at how clothes sizes change as dramatically as voices drop from tenor to squeaky baritone.  The amount of transformation that occurs in a young person during this time requires the watchful eyes of faithful teachers.  Change can be good, if we change into something good .  Therefore, teachers must see that their objective isn’t simply to educate students so they can graduate.  Teachers must see their vocation as vital assistance to parents in the formation of these children through academics, virtue- based development, and by sharing the gift of service with others.

Thank God for good high schools like Mount St. Joe, a place where the Brothers, Priests, and lay teachers watch, guide, and care for students as they would a brother or son.  As parents entrust children to these institutions for about 8 hours daily, school should be an extension of the family. At the Mount, we are a large family of brothers.  Granted, it isn’t perfect, but what is perfect this side of Heaven?

During the reunion, I was so proud to learn that from a class of about 200 men, three of us became Catholic priests and one non-Catholic student was ordained as a Protestant Minister.  Many of my classmates are now working in secular industries. Some serve in the military, in manual labor, as doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, and a handful are fire fighters.  Classmates spoke lovingly about their wives and how proud they were to be fathers.   It did my heart good to see how one guy who arrived after the opening speech and prayer bowed his head to offer Grace before he ate his meal.  I was even more honored to celebrate the Mass for several of my classmates, many of whom expressed their congratulations and prayerful encouragement of my work as a priest and as host for the Grace Before Meals movement.  Some were surprised to learn that I entered the seminary only six years after graduating high school.

The homecoming reunion weekend at Mount St. Joseph made me reflect on the importance of religious orders that focus on the education of young people. We need more teachers who see that educating young people is more than a job, it’s a calling from God. We need more high schools that challenge young people to grow, not just in body, but in mind and spirit. We need families to ensure that what young people are learning in high school are life lessons and not just useless facts. Too often we hear stories of teachers who use the classroom to indoctrinate students in relativistic tendencies, to question authority (especially legitimate religious authority), and who try to convince children that opinion is fact

These problems in high schools are very real.   What is necessary to make certain high school becomes a good foundational experience for young people?  The parent, the primary educator of the child, who talks with sons and daughters about what’s being taught in school.  And after all, the best place for home schooling is the kitchen table.

After 20 years, it was wonderful to see a good number of us Mount Men, some prodigal sons, return for this special homecoming.   We may not have had a fattened calf prepared for us, but we did feast on four years of memories.  And at Mass, the greatest learning institution in world history, we celebrated the fact that we were more than classmates; we were students of truth, children of God, and brothers in the Lord .

Food for the Body

A Mature Palate!  Vitello ai Funghi – Veal and Mushrooms.

20 years ago, I never thought that I would become a priest, and I had no idea that food would become such an important part of my life.  20 years ago, I don’t even think that I could grasp a concept that combines priesthood and food .

Recently, I had an opportunity to be a guest on the show Franciscan University Presents where we discussed that very unique combination of theology, food, faith, and family.

In the discussion with Fr. Michael Scanlon and Dr. Regis Martin, the concept of maturity in regards to faith and food was presented analogously.  We can’t appreciate certain theological concepts or even certain foods as children, because we have not yet grown up.  20 years ago, I would have never thought that I could ever enjoy a pan-seared slice of veal with a wild mushroom sauté.  For me, pizza and nuggets were all I needed.  On occasion, I eat foods that young people enjoy, but I definitely changed in that I would much rather have something fresh, with more veggies, and bold flavors that doesn’t require ketchup .  Perhaps, moms and dads can make this very mature meal for their young high school students as a way to test the maturity of their palate.  I can tell you, we didn’t get this in our high school cafeteria.  At that age, I don’t think we’d even know what to do with it .

https://gracebeforemeals.com/soul/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/img_0865.jpg

Please click here for the recipe.

Food for the Soul

Homecoming!

Being back at my old high school forced me to examine how much I’ve grown up.  I did some pretty stupid things as a youngster , from which I have learned many lessons , especially through the act of confession.  I’m still learning some of those lessons.  One thing I’ve learned for sure, even after 20 years, Mount St. Joseph is still like a home.   The priests, brothers, and teachers of my alma mater made sure the students were raised to be men who would continue to be true gentlemen and lifelong students – always learning, always growing!

Let us Pray:

Father, high school can be a tough time for young people. We pray that all involved in educating high school students can do so with patience and familial care.  Give to the students a desire to learn and the motivation to grow.  Protect them from harmful things that can destroy a young person’s future, even his or her life .  Give to parents the grace to be patient with young people especially by helping them to remember, they, too, were young once . Let’s not forget to pray for the entire staff – the lunchroom crew, the janitorial staff, the coaches who urge us to victory, and even the bullies who hopefully grow up in life.  And Father in Heaven, during the month of November when we remember the faithful departed, grant to all our teachers who have died eternal rest .  Amen.

This was Brother Donald, the MSJ Librarian.  In all four years of HS, this man was the only one who gave me detention for talking too much in the library. We miss you!

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Blast From The Past

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!

Busy Break!

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.)

(Me with Amanda from St. Matthew’s Church, and some of her teens who helped me during a demo of “Board Breaking.”)

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.

Food for the Body

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.”)

(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.)

 (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.)

(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.)

(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.)

 (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.)

(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.)

(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 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.)

(“Glory Tent” – a break out session.)

Food for the Body

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.

Satisfyingly Stuffed Chicken

The making of the chicken

Click here for recipe

Food for the Soul

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.)

 (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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Blast From The Past

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!

Happy 4th of July!

The month of July is going to be a time of looking back as we prepare ourselves to look forward to a new chapter in the Grace Before Meals movement.

Many changes are coming for Grace Before Meals, as we prepare for a new look, a new book, and new ways for each GBM “fam” to be involved. As our nation celebrates its independence on this day, we reflect on the freedoms that we are afforded, especially during this ever-important fight for religious liberty we face in our political landscape. It is in our freedom that we are most able to love God and all others, especially our families.

Click for a classic recipe for Beer-B-Q Italian Sausage and Onions

“Click for a classic recipe for Beer-B-Q Italian Sausage and Onions”

At Grace Before Meals, we not only want to stress the importance of family meals, but feeding others in need -body, mind and soul. With your help, we can not only make a difference amongst families, but in our society and world if we simply go out and share “Grace Before Meals”. We call this a movement because it is meant to allow for anybody to be part of the change and make the difference in our families and society. So as we look forward to the future, we hope you will be a big part of bringing families back to the dinner table to share a meal and share the faith.

God bless you and your families this July 4th.

-Fr. Leo and the GBM team

Food for the Body

Celebrating “DEPENDENCE” Day

In this week’s email blast I’d like to commemorate two important celebrations:  The Feast of Peter & Paul and Fourth of July, America’s Independence Day.

Last Sunday (July 29, 2008), the Church Universal Celebrated the Solemn Feast of the two “Princes of the Church” – Saint Peter and St. Paul.

This Friday, the United States will celebrate July 4th, Independence Day.  I realize many of our subscribers are from other countries, but most countries also have an “Independence Day” – a day to recognize the country’s freedom.  So, hopefully, this week’s email message can be taken to heart and applied to your own civic calendar, no matter where you live in our world!

Many of you may ask, how are these two celebrations related?

Let me explain.  In the United States, American citizens pledge to a nation that lets all citizens practice their religious customs without fear.  People died to protect this freedom from tyranny!  We can’t forget that America was founded on important principles, like religious freedom.  There are many countries today where the Christian Faith, like during the times of the early Christians, has to be practiced underground, lest followers be persecuted by the ruling government.  Unfortunately, America seems to embrace this freedom less and less, with neighbors suing neighbors for putting out a nativity scene, banning crosses from public places, and relegating the phrase “In God We Trust” to an obscure part of our currency!

It seems that modernity has added a new interpretation of Independence Day as meaning a freedom from moral codes, virtue oriented responsibilities, and the negation of the Supreme Law of God established in natural law.  Americans can’t forget that even though we live in a free nation, citizens must still hold to a common belief that we are one nation UNDER God and recognize what our Founders understood: IN GOD WE TRUST!

For Christians, that motto, “In God We Trust,” is actually a prayer uttered in particular by Saint Peter and Saint Paul.   Both saints traveled to different countries to remind people of every nation that we are under the care of a loving God.  And His Son Jesus and all of the Saints show us we can trust God’s loving plan and depend on God’s strength in the midst of carrying life’s crosses.

For Christians living in America, these two celebrations – although separated by the incorrect interpretation of the “Church and State” mentality – can actually be seen as a unique opportunity to unite ourselves to God.  You and your family can celebrate something I’d like to call “DEPENDENCE DAY!”  This is a day for all people to recognize how we, like Saint Peter, Saint Paul, and all of our nation’s fallen heroes can depend on God’s goodness – and especially, His mercy.

It is my pastoral viewpoint, that “Independence Day” when taken out of context (and it often is taken out of context) can lead us to believe that our independence somehow makes us self-sufficient and thus, unwilling to ask for help.  We may begin to think that if we “depend” on someone, we’re somehow not living up to our potential.  We have falsely believed that depending on each other turns us into weak creatures – even though we really are weak creatures.  A false independence makes us live for ourselves, forgetting that others may have to depend on us!  A negative understanding of independence makes us forget that we need to depend on each other to get through this life.  If we don’t depend on God, prayer, our family’s love, or our Faith, then we become a society of mere individuals separated by a lack of trust. Rather, we should aim to be a society that recognizes how we are called to be a “communion of persons!”

Perhaps we can consider how St. Peter and St. Paul approached “freedom.”  They did so by recognizing that a truly free person is one who freely trusts and depends on God!

In this email, I don’t want to minimize the importance of our nation’s Independence Day.  I believe we are called to evaluate what “independence” really means, and how the modern understanding of that word has led us down wrong paths – paths that have made us dependent on the almighty dollar, rather than the almighty God, our soul’s greatest treasure.  We have become dependent on drugs, alcohol, bad relationships, and other things that destroy us from within, while forgetting to depend on the power of Grace, the love of our families, and the reality of prayer that strengthens us from within.

Today, a day that falls between the Feast of Peter & Paul and Independence Day, we should consider celebrating a day to strengthen our Dependence on God!  Since July 2nd offers no liturgical or civic celebration, I say we can go for it.  Go ahead and proclaim, July 2nd as a “Family Depends on God Day!”  After all, in America we have the freedom to celebrate our faith!  So go ahead, celebrate “Dependence Day”!  Our country’s understanding of true independence depends on it.

Food for the Body

Depending on a Good Friend!

By now you may already know I was in Rome for the Pallium Ceremony.  I was part of a group of pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Baltimore who came to support the new Archbishop Edward O’Brien, who received the sacred pallium from the Holy Father last Sunday.  The pallium symbolizes the Archbishop as being “yoked” or “united” to the Holy Father.  It also symbolizes how the Holy Father now depends on the Archbishops to help preach the Gospel to all parts of the world in union with him.  It was a remarkable event, especially since I had the good fortune to distribute Holy Communion at that Mass!

ry stomping grounds, I had a chance to visit a few familiar restaurants and sample a few new ones.  I’ll have to blog about some of these later because there were just too many culinary delights that I want to share with you.  One meal in particular stands out.  It was a meal a priest friend of mine, Rev. Msgr. Christopher Nalty, made for me at his apartment in Rome.

Msgr. Nalty and I were classmates together at the Pontifical North American College.  On this trip, we had a chance to hang out and catch up.  More importantly, we had the chance to remind ourselves of the importance of good friendships!  Ever since our early morning prayer times in Rome, we recognized how we must depend on each other’s prayers and priestly fraternity to get through our difficulties.  In this trip, I truly depended on him, especially since he got me a room with an air conditioner and cooked a FANTASTIC dinner for me in his makeshift kitchen.

It shows that if you’re a real “foodie” you’ll create space to cook anywhere, including a Vatican Official’s non-efficiency apartment!  Check out the risotto and the tasty antipasti!

For the main course, he prepared a perfectly tender Ossobuco.  It’s  slow braised veal shank!  Click here for Msgr. Nalty’s Recipe, which I’m calling a “Naltso Buco!”  For the recipe, [click here].

Food for the Soul

A Dependence Prayer!

This week, we may prayerfully consider what we have become unhealthily attached to or dependent upon?  Our country’s dependence on oil, money, and technology is important, but can become unhealthy.  Have we forgotten to depend on God?  You may want to ask your family and friends if you are a dependable person.  Ask one another how you can all do a better job at depending on God – as a family.  Perhaps you can make a new start this day by praying a regular family prayer or by resolving to return to church if you’ve been away from it?  Perhaps you cold offer up a weekly family (or better yet, daily) rosary, scripture study, or even offer special daily petitions at the Grace Before Meals?

Let us pray: Lord, help us to be like Saint Peter and Saint Paul, who relied on Your goodness, Your strength, and Your mercy to bring the Gospel to all nations.  May we never forget how You truly are the source of all goodness, and therefore, we must always look to You to help us celebrate our Faith and our country’s Freedom.  Bless those who died to defend our country’s Freedom with Your forgiveness and an invitation to the Heavenly Banquet.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Ask Fr. Leo for fatherly advice.

Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.

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