There used to be angels.

In my hometown there is a Byzantine Catholic Church.  It has a sprawling front lawn through which a path and Stations of the Cross wind.  When my husband and I lived in this town, we would sometimes walk there and walk the stations with our son (who was 2-3 at the time).  He loved the little bridges that cross over a tiny stream.

Last week we were driving through this town early one morning, as we do twice per week when my children go to be with my mom while I work for the morning.  I sometimes point out the life-size Crucifix as we pass by, saying something really spiritually inspiring like, “Look, there’s the Crucifix…with the Blessed Mother and John standing by the Cross.”  Last week I said that as we passed by.

My son responded simply, “There used to be angels.”

Immediately I thought that, when he was younger, he had thought the statues of the Blessed Mother and John standing by the Cross were angels.  Now that he is 5 he sees that they are not but still thinks he remembers angels.

“Where were the angels?” I asked.

“Above Jesus.”

My “rational” explanation melted away.  This is a boy who recalls details of events when he was two without prodding.

So there used to be angels.  Or maybe there just are angels, but only the little ones have eyes to see them.  If our 2 year-old daughter could understand the conversation and respond, we just might hear, “What do you mean ‘used to be’?  They’re right there.”

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Simple Hummus

Talk about cheap and easy!

Drain and rinse 3 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and dump them in your food processor. Add 2 cloves pealed garlic,  the juice of one lemon, a few shakes of Tabasco sauce, 1-2 teaspoons dried basil, salt & pepper and olive oil. Process until smooth, drizzling in olive oil as needed until the hummus is smooth. Adjust ingredients to taste.

I’m serving this tonight (with a big bowl of sliced carrots) for dinner alongside sausage sandwiches.

The best & easiest bread ever

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It really is!  This recipe has transformed making homemade bread from a once-in-a-blue-moon event (that I really wanted to do more often) into a multiple-times-per-week-without-blinking-an-eye phenomenon. 🙂

You can find the original recipe and helpful video here, but below is a simplified version:

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups warm water

Method:

Mix together the flour, yeast and salt with a fork in a medium bowl.  Pour in the warm water and mix together until combined.  The dough will be sticky or sometimes even soggy.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8-24 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, set your oven to 450 degrees and place a high-sided, oven-proof dish or dutch oven (preferably that has a lid) into the oven to heat up.  I use this.  Dump out the dough onto a well-floured surface and fold in the edges until your dough has something of a shape…but don’t worry if it doesn’t.  Most of the time mine is so soft it’s hard to handle, but it doesn’t matter!  Let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes while your dish and oven heat.

After the rest time, remove your dish from the oven and spray it with cooking spray or butter it (I use butter, but be careful as the dish is extremely hot).  Place your dough in the greased dish, cover the dish and place in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue baking for anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes.  This will depend on your particular oven.  The recipe says 10-15 minutes but I have to leave mine in for 20.  It will be crackly on top and browned.  Move the bread to a cooling rack and let it sit for 15 minutes or more before slicing.

 

Chocolate Cream Pie

Again from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book.  I made this for Easter and it was absolutely delicious.  I used my regular butter pie crust but the recipe uses a chocolate cookie crust.

Filling

2 1/2 cups half-and-half

1/3 cup sugar

pinch salt

6 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons cornstarch

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine (I omitted this and simply used chocolate chips for all the chocolate)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

Bring half-and-half, 3 tablespoons sugar, and salt to simmer in medium saucepan, stirring occasionally.

As half-and-half mixture begins to simmer, whisk egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining sugar in medium bowl until smooth.  Slowly whisk 1 cup of simmering half-and-half mixture into yolk mixture to temper, then slowly whisk tempered yolk mixture back into remaining half-and-half mixture.  Reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking vigorously, until mixture is thickened and few bubbles burst on surface, about 30 seconds.  Off heat, whisk in butter, semisweet chocolate, and unsweetened chocolate until completely smooth and melted, then stir in vanilla.

Pour warm filling into baked and cooled pie crust.  Lay sheet of plastic wrap directly on surface of filling and refrigerate pie until filling is chilled and set, about 4 hours.

For the topping:

Once pie is chilled, use stand mixer fitted with whisk to whip cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute.  Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes.  Spread whipped cream attractively over pie and serve immediately.

 

 

 

Quick Cinnamon Buns

For Sunday mornings, from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book.  They really are easy.

Quick Cinnamon Buns

Filling

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Dough

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups buttermilk (I made this by adding slightly more than a tablespoon of white vinegar to milk.)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Icing

2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons buttermilk

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

(Instead of this icing I mixed together confectioners’ sugar and almond milk.)

My own simplified directions:

Mix together all ingredients for filling and set aside.

Mix together dry dough ingredients in a medium bowl and buttermilk and melted butter in a separate bowl.  Mix together just until a rough dough forms (I had to add flour for the right consistency).  Knead the dough briefly.

Pat out dough into a 9 by 12 inch rectangle.  Spread melted butter all over the rectangle, leaving a 1/2 inch border dry.  Pour filling mixture onto the dough and spread evenly, patting it down gently into dough.  Roll dough from the long side tightly into a cylinder.  Pinch the edge closed.  Cut the cylinder into 8 pieces and place these pieces, cut side down, into a buttered non-stick cake pan (or an 8, 9 or 10 inch pie plate or casserole dish would work, too).  Brush or drizzle melted butter on top.  Bake at 425 degrees in the middle of the oven until cinnamon buns begin to turn golden brown.  Transfer to wire wrack and let cool slightly before drizzling icing over the top.

 

Graces of the Holy Rosary

The “Meditation of the Day” from the Magnificat for Wednesday, October 7, 2015. By Father Raymond P. Lawrence

Graces of the Holy Rosary

Monsignor Hugh Benson, in one of his early novels, gave us a beautiful explanation of the rosary.  An old nun is trying to make the devotion clear to a young Protestant girl.  The enquirer asks:

“How can prayers said over and over again like that be any good?”

Mistress Margaret was silent for a moment.

“I saw young Mrs. Martin last week,” she said, “with her little girl in her lap.  She had her arms around her mother’s neck, and was being rocked to and fro; and every time she rocked she said ‘Oh, mother.’”

“But, then,” said Isabel, after a moment’s silence, “she was only a child.”  “’Except ye become as little children –‘” quoted Mistress Margaret softly –“you see, my Isabel, we are nothing more than children with God and his Blessed Mother.  To say, ‘Hail Mary, Hail Mary,’ is the best way of telling her how much we love her.  And, then, this string of beads is like our Lady’s girdle, and her children love to finger it, and whisper to her.  And then we say our Our Fathers too; and all the while we are talking, she is showing us pictures of her dear Child, and we look at all the great things he did for us, one by one; and then we turn the page and begin again.”

Those who have profited most from the rosary are the ones who have thus understood it.  With hearts full of love they have rested close by the side of our heavenly Mother; and, whispering words of endearment to her, they have gazed the while at those wonderful pictures which the changing mysteries recall, seeing always something new and beautiful.  And when they have come to the end of the picture-book, with the insatiable interest of a child, they have gone back to the beginning and turned every page over again.

joy

Joy seems to be the key to everything.  Joy in the Faith, joy in parenting which leads to the Faith, joy in the family which attracts others to the Faith – making the family truly missionary.  Joy, not happiness.  Joy with peace which faces every day, every situation, every trial in faith, saying, “Jesus, I trust in You.”

Joy is a gift and not something I fabricate within myself.  So joy must come from communion, a communion with Love.