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They really taste better than they look. At least, I really liked them. They go really well with steak, and if it’s Friday, thinking about the steak that you’re not having is really very Lenten. For Fridays, they would be a nice side to the standard macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, fish, or even with just crusty bread.

Preheat the oven to 450F. Slice tomatoes in half and arrange on a baking pan sliced-side up. Sprinkle a generous amount of Parmesan cheese, some oregano, salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil on each of the tomato slices. Bake for 15 minutes.

I would say about 25% of the kids enjoyed it. Everyone else took the mandatory Dr. Seuss Try it, try it and you may, try it and you may I say bite. The practice of trying out strange new food without making faces and rude remarks is a difficult work in progress, but I imagine it’ll be worthwhile. It occurs that I could even throw in a smallish lesson on what offering it up means. Or not.

ALSO!
The “Lenten Resources” page is back! Check out the link above (beside “First Communion Preparation 2014”). Please feel free to comment if you have any resources you think would be good to add to the list.

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My husband’s family has a neat little tradition of taking the balance of their Easter chocolate (or a great deal of it anyway), melting them, and having Pentecost Chocolate Fondue Extravaganza. We tried it this year, and despite our lack of fancy fondue equipment, it was a hit. We even found ourselves talking about the Holy Spirit! Fancy that.


We melted the chocolate using short, nervous stints in the microwave. Be careful not to burn it!


Everyone got to have a little bowl of fruit and marshmallows, plus their own little ramekin of melted chocolate.


Pentecost-inspired chocolate-covered fruit success!


Can anyone really resist drawing googly eyes on an avaocado and a tomato?

As a recovering picky-eater, I marvel each day at what my children are willing to eat. For some reason, my kids seem to really like avocados and tomatoes. Even mixed together. Even with other mysterious things in it. Our simplified guacamole is only a small part of a very messy meal that involves tortilla chips, sour cream (or plain yoghurt), grated cheddar cheese and salsa. I spoon a bit over everything (in neat, separated piles) into their bowls and they do their very best. Everyone has their own technique. Everyone’s technique makes a big mess (including mine). It’s a great lesson in staying calm even when your lunch is just not cooperating. As our three-year old says, “It’s messy, but it’s good!”

After dicing and mixing an avocado and a tomato, I add a bit of lime, onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper. For adults, we use real Spanish onions and garlic.

Super cool tomato dicing technique
I’ve got to share this with you because it is mind-blowing.


Holding the tomato down firmly with one hand, start slicing parallel lines without slicing straight through.


Rotate the tomato and start slicing perpendicular to the original slices. Remember not to slice straight through. Leave a bit of tomato at the bottom unsliced.


At this point you’ve created little tomato fingers sticking out of a base.


Hold the tomato so that the fingers are sideways and cut out little cubes. Suddenly… diced tomatoes!

You’ll be left with the bottom part to just dice in the non-cool way. I welcome any advice regarding dicing avocados. It’s just a big mushy mess each time.


So green! So healthy!

It was 5:00pm on a Friday. All the easy meal options available in my fridge contained some sort of meat. After a quick consultation with all the stakeholders, we decided on our go-to meatless meal, macaroni and cheese. Without consulting the stakeholders, I decided to add some colour to dinner by cooking spinach in butter and serving it as a side. It didn’t sell very well. The kids dutifully tasted a small piece of shiny green leaf (as per Dr. Seuss’ instructions, Try it, try it, and you may. Try it and you may, I say…). No takers tonight. Except for me. I thought it was delicious.

Tonight, I simply sautéed the spinach in butter and added a bit of salt and pepper. After some online research, I might try this recipe, which involves a bit of garlic, lemon and crushed red peppers. Snow pea leaves, available at your local asian food store (just not in my fridge tonight, unfortunately), is also great cooked this way. It has a lovely, gentle taste that the kids are more open to (despite its suspiciously similar appearance to spinach).

I find this an easy and quick child-friendly dish. Our freezer usually is stocked with some manner of frozen salmon. Some may have instructions on the package, some don’t. I usually follow the baking instructions, but then, at some point before sticking it into the oven, I generously coat the salmon with equal parts mayonnaise and oyster sauce. If there are no instructions, I go with 425F for about 20 minutes, checking to make sure I don’t overcook it. I serve this with steamed rice and some sort of green vegetable (like green beans).


Roasted Carrots. Image by Donna Svennevik.

Carrots are decidedly a vegetable and therefore appropriately penitential – even when they are tossed in olive oil, honey and sprinkled with thyme. I’ve yet to find the perfect oven temperature/cooking time combination. These days, I go with 425F for about 15 minutes. The honey makes it tricky, so check often near the end to make sure they don’t burn. I served it with some home-made macaroni and cheese.

Since my kids are starch-itarians, going meatless on Fridays doesn’t quite have the same effect as it does on adults. I suspect that when they find out that we’re having grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner tonight I will receive the title The Best Mama Ever in the Whole World and there will be much rejoicing in our little house. My daughter asked me today why we give up meat on Fridays. I explained that sometimes, when people get so preoccupied with things that they really like, it’s hard to be good. So Lent is a time that we do without some of those things that we like so that we’re not so distracted. Then we can focus on being better. I suggested that she should think of something else she can do without today, since she’s not really a big fan of meat.

“Oh, I can’t have that at all. My teacher says that if there’s something we really like, then we can’t have it!” announced another daughter when I was serving her something at breakfast. Not that she understood why. I’m going to have to work on the whys. As Pope Benedict puts it, Lent is not a season of sadness, but a season of meaning:

“In common opinion, this time runs the risk of being marked by sadness, by the darkness of life,” the Pontiff stated. “Instead, it is a precious gift of God; it is an intense time full of meaning in the journey of the Church; it is the itinerary to the Lord’s Easter.”

Changes in food routine always makes for an increase in interesting conversation at our house during mealtimes. It’s a great chance to work on the various whys of this liturgical season.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Now, the only reason I’m about to tell you how to make a grilled cheese sandwich is that, once upon a time, not so long ago, I didn’t know how to make them either. Really and truly. So here goes: butter two pieces of bread (butter goes on the outside of the sandwich). Put cheese on the inside, non-buttered part. Set a pan to medium and place the sandwich on the heated pan. After a long, long time, flip. You’ll know it’ll be time to flip when the bottom of the sandwich is a nice, toasted golden brown. When you flip, all the cheese will fall out and the entire thing will fall apart. At least this is what happened to me the first few times. Take a deep breath, reconstruct the sandwich and try again.

We’re experiencing a nice lull in our Saying Grace efforts. The second youngest child has finally come to grips the fact that “Dinner time!” does not mean a desperate run to the table where we will immediately stuff our faces with whatever is within reach, edible or not. She has finally (grudgingly) accepted that we will sit still without touching anything, say Grace, then wait until she is served. This acceptance always takes longer than I remember — months of perseverance, tears and drama. But the day does come. Meanwhile, our youngest (four months old) sits blissfully unaware in his bouncy chair, waiting for the day when he too will be able to make a mad dash to the table at dinner time.

Our usual Grace is this:

Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts,
which we are about to receive
from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

but sometimes when we’re feeling musical, we do this one:

Oh, the Lord is good to me,
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need
The sun, and the rain, and the apple seed.
The Lord is good to me.
Johnny Appleseed [CLAP]
Amen!

FRIDAY NO-MEAT MEAL IDEA
Tuna cups! I have to admit that I Googled this, just so that I could give you a more official recipe (I couldn’t find one). I also have to admit that I only started making this in 2009, when my husband asked, “Why don’t we have tuna cups?” and I replied, “What are tuna cups?” Basically, crustless bread is stuffed into muffin tins and toasted a bit in the oven to form the “cups”. Then, tuna salad (mayonnaise, tuna, maybe minced celery) is spooned into the toasted bread cups, topped with grated cheese, and placed back into the oven just to melt the cheese. Highly popular. (Update: One can of tuna with a reasonable amount of mayonnaise and one stalk of celery fills six cups.)

Macaroni and Cheese… from scratch! This is a pretty forgiving recipe, and all sorts of portions can be fiddled with without messing up the final result. Lots of Fridays in Lent to experiment with.

Ingredients
5 cups cooked macaroni (8 ounces raw)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 pepper, or to taste
2 cups milk
3/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Preparation
Melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir in flour. Stir in salt. Pour in milk, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove from heat. Add cheese, stirring until melted. In a baking dish, mix macaroni and cheese sauce. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs (or crushed crackers) and extra cheese, if desired. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 20 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

What is this?

Here a volunteer parishoner at St. Clement shares her personal experiences as her young family tries to keep the Catholic faith alive in their homes, living out the promises of their Baptism. Thank you for stopping in and be sure to share some of your stories as well!

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