Notes on love and meatballs

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When I started dating my husband, I was one of those girls who is in love with love. The kind who craves and feels entitled to the most beautiful love story, the most beautiful engagement story, the most beautiful wedding, and the most beautiful babies.

But on the day my husband and I got engaged, we went to the grocery store. I don’t know why that detail always sticks out to me. I didn’t include it in when I told people our engagement story (I also didn’t include the fact that I was dreading telling my parents whom I didn’t think would be all that stoked that I was engaged at the age of twenty), but I always remember that we went to the grocery store and I was tired and from the moment we left the grocery store to the moment we pulled up at the church, I totally knew I was getting engaged.

The story I told people was all about how Joseph unintentionally chose October 12th to propose which was the Feast of Our Lady of Pilar and was just perfect and providential since in the early days of Jominika, I had prayed for our relationship at the shrine of Our Lady of Pilar in Spain. I told about how Joe liked that my ring had seven stones because it seemed a beautiful symbol: three larger gems for the theological virtues and four smaller ones for the cardinal virtues. I told about how sweetly nervous Joe was and how it reminded me of our first date. I told all the dreamy bits of our engagement story.

And yet, now I love that we went to the grocery store right before we got engaged. I love how ordinary that is when, at the time, all I wanted was the wondrously beautiful parts of love. But those things are a gift and not a right. And the ordinary things which our lives are so full of right now (read: sticky little hands and so much poop) are, in fact, part of something wondrously beautiful and larger than ourselves.

This year we attempted and failed pretty badly at saying a novena to Our Lady of Pilar. We said the prayers dutifully on days 1, 3, and 4 and missed the other six. On the actual day of our engagement anniversary, Joe got home late and went straight into CPA study mode. But I made meatballs and cranked up Dean Martin and danced around with Leo and a few times Joe snuck out of his study cave and danced around with us too. We agreed the meatballs were the very best meatballs we’d ever had and that they made for a perfect engagement-versary feast on an otherwise very ordinary day.

Sage and Ricotta Meatballs (adapted from this recipe):
-2tbs olive oil
-2lbs lean ground beef
-1 cup ricotta cheese
-2 eggs
-1/2 cup red wine
-1/2 cup bread crumbs (I toasted sandwich bread and threw it in the food processor)
-2-3tbs fresh sage chopped up (adjust for taste. I like pretty sagey meatballs.)
-2 cloves of garlic minced (I also like my food garlicky, so just use one or omit if you don’t.)
-2 teaspoons salt
-1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
-fresh grated parmesan or fontina
-tomato sauce (recipe below)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rub a 9×13-inch baking dish with olive oil.
  2. Combine the ground beef, garlic, ricotta, eggs, wine, bread crumbs, sage, salt, and red pepper flakes in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until combined well.
  3. Roll the mixture into tightly packed, round balls. Place the balls in the baking dish in close rows. (They can be touching).
  4. Roast for 20 minutes.
  5. When the meatballs are firm and fully cooked, remove them from the oven. Pour the tomato sauce over them. Sprinkle the grated cheese over that. Return the meatballs to the oven and continue roasting for another 15 minutes.

Tomato Sauce
-5 tomatoes
-4 cloves garlic minced (I may have used six or so…)
-bunch of fresh herbs chopped (I used sage since that’s what I had on hand, but basil, oregano, and rosemary would all be good)
-1 cup red wine
-1 large onion chopped
-1 stick of butter
-salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Use a knife to score the bottoms of the tomatoes with an x. Bring salted water in a medium saucepan to a boil. Add tomatoes and boil for five minutes.
  2. Remove tomatoes and pour out the water. Blend the tomatoes in a food processor or blender. (I usually chop my herbs in the food processor first and then add the tomatoes to the mixture).
  3. Heat a little olive oil in the pot. Add garlic and onions and heat until onions are translucent. Add tomato and herbs.
  4. Add red wine and butter.
  5. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted.

Some notes:

-Chop and mince everything possible in the food processor and it makes the process so much easier. With sauces and meat mixtures, you’re not looking for pretty.
-Serve with something better than barilla. That fancy imported pasta you never feel you can justify buying, a mound of hot, cheesy polenta, a bowlful of gnocchi. Just do it. It makes all the difference.
-I ended up with too much meatball meat and didn’t have any tomato sauce on hand when I pulled the leftover meat out of the freezer (which explains why the meatballs pictured above are sauce-less). I threw together some brown butter and sage for a sauce and grated a ton of cheese on top and it was almost as good. Almost.

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Notes on love and meatballs

Coffee Table Evangelization: The Catholic Catalogue

I’ve always had this problem where I get really nervous about talking about my faith with non-Catholics but at the same time I can’t keep quiet about it because it is who I am. I think I’ve gotten better with age. There was a point in my life when I stressfully felt like I had to convince people of the truth of my faith. But now, it’s more like this is a beautiful thing that informs every aspect of my life so it’s just bound to spill over into conversation wherever I am whoever I’m with.

Most of my friends growing up were not Catholic, and I remember them saying that they could never be Catholic because of all the things you would have to know.Now I think I understand. Looking from the outside in it does seem like there’s just so much seemingly superfluous stuff: all the patron saints and feast days and icons and statues and priests and nuns in strange clothes and titles of Mary (and what is it with Catholics and Mary anyway?). But at the time, the idea that there was too much to learn left me reeling. It was like saying you could never go to school because there was too much to learn. Or that you could never get married because there too much to get to know about a person. Too much to know and to love.

In college, I read Evelyn Waugh’s words on conversion and I wish I had known them before then, because it put into words those innate feelings I had:

“Conversion is like stepping across the chimney piece out of a Looking-Glass world, where everything is an absurd caricature, into the real world God made; and then begins the delicious process of exploring it limitlessly.”

And then I wish I had The Catholic Catalogue on hand. Not because I think everyone must be Catholic and must be Catholic this instant. (I think everyone should be wherever God wants them to be.) But just in case they were curious about all the seemingly superfluous stuff.

If conversion, as Evelyn Waugh makes it out to be, is the limitless exploration of a new land, The Catholic Catalogue, subtitled A Field Guide to the Daily Acts that Make Up a Catholic Life, is like a guide book for that journey.

Written by a mother-daughter team who runs a website by the same name, the book is organized in different sections titled: Smells and Bells (topics include among others: relics, oils and incense, praying the rosary, and processions), Seasons of the Church Year (describing how to keep and celebrate Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Ordinary Time as well as the various feasts within those seasons), and Seasons of Life (explaining sacraments and different vocations but also giving practical advice for things like naming a child, finding a spiritual director, and choosing a Catholic tattoo).

I think what I love most about this book is that it’s coffee table evangelization. It’s the sort of book that would have piqued my interest as a kid. I have this feeling that a good deal of imaginative, spiritual formation is actually hands off with raising children. (Maybe I think that because it keeps me from stressing about the enormous task of making sure your kids end up decent and faithful people.) It made a big deal in my childhood that there were simply good books around me. So I think exposing the natural curiosity of children to truth and goodness and beauty in indirect ways goes a long way.

The Catholic Catalogue is also perfect for newly (or not so newly) married couples trying intentionally to make their home into a domestic church. It makes for an ideal reference book in creating a rule or rhythm for living out the Christian life that’s tailored to your family’s own particular needs and devotions. The spiritual nourishment it offers makes it a beautiful gift idea for any sacrament in a person’s life.

Basically, if I know you and you have a major Catholic life event coming up, you’re probably going to receive this book from me. You’re welcome in advance.

Coffee Table Evangelization: The Catholic Catalogue

Links and life

Reading

1. I have no claims of saying anything intelligent about theology, but from what I gather, there is a lack of developed theology about marriage, which makes it all the more mysterious to me. I found this community and their vision super interesting. As far as I know, it wasn’t created by theologians, rather just regular old married people with high ideals for marital and familial love.

2. And then there’s the biology of marriage. So fascinating!

3. I loved this post from Leah Libresco about the boring, quiet rituals that sustain us spiritually. It made me think more consciously about what are the boring, quiet rituals that fill my days and reminded me of this excerpt from Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness:

“Ritual, how could we do without it? . . . Just as a husband may embrace his wife casually as he leaves for work in the mornings, and kiss her absent-mindedly in his comings and goings, still that kiss on occasion turns to rapture, a burning fire of tenderness and love.”

Eating

4. Lots of Trader Joe’s frozen Chinese food. I have a rule that if we’re going to watch an Asian film, we have to eat Asian food. In anticipation of going to see The Magnificent Seven, we finally started (and finished!) Seven Samurai.

5. Posting mainly because my mom asked for the recipe: the easiest, most versatile, and delicious buns you’ll ever make.

6. Not eating, but scheming about what my trademark food should be. Katherine’s always writing about things that have been latently brewing in my mind.

Et cetera

7. I’ve had my first Pax Paper purchases from people who don’t have any connection to me and that is thrillingly inexplicable to me! Particularly since only being able to work sloooowly in the naptime and post-bedtime cracks of my day makes me feel pretty faily at this small business thing. Pictured above are a couple Confirmation cards that I promised to have out weeks ago. They are coming!!

Happy Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary! We’re going to try to stop by our local Dominican parish, Holy Rosary, today for confession and a rosary. We’ll see if my squirmy companion cooperates.

Links and life

All the Possibilities of Pepper Broth


“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves. We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!” – Humbert Wolfe 

Except I am listening and all I hear is lawnmowers buzzing and police sirens wailing. Ah Houston. My car is still a hot box when I forget to park it in the shade and we still work up a sweat when we go for walks. But! But! There’s a hint of a breeze and I’m officially not a summertime shut-in anymore.

This dried pepper broth is a concoction of my husband’s and is just the thing to simmer on the stove when you’re pretending like the wind is howling and have got your Netflix fireplace channel roaring. Also, I don’t know about traditional Dios de los Muertos foods but I think this would be perf.

It’s warm and earthy and spicy. Drink it straight (with squeezed lime juice!) when you’re snuffling or let your imagination run wild with all its possibilities. We made tacos, soup, and enchiladas from it–a whole week’s worth of meals!

Dried Chile Pepper Broth (and bonus sauce)

olive oil
1 yellow chopped onion
5 cloves fresh peeled chopped garlic
3-4 fresh chopped tomatoes (you can cheat with the canned variety or is it really cheating is tomatoes aren’t in season?)
7-8 assorted dried peppers
1 fresh chopped jalapeno
2-3 fresh chopped habanero peppers
juice of 2 limes (or 4 key limes as pictured)
salt and pepper

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a stock pot on medium-high. Add chopped onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add tomato and cook for a few minutes more. Add chopped fresh peppers.

Fill the pot with water. (We never measure these things out but you want the pot to be pretty full.) Add dried peppers, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 1.5+hours.

Strain and reserve the broth. Remove the stems from the rehydrated dried peppers. Throw all the non-liquid remains (the peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and onion) of the broth into a blender and blend till smooth. Add a few spoons of the broth if needed to thin out a little. Thus, in addition to the broth, you’ll end up with a thick, egyptian-mud-bath-looking pepper sauce that will bless you manifold.

Add some of the broth and sauce to ground beef for tacos, use the broth as a base for tortilla soup, add Mexican chocolate to the sauce and boom! Instant mole! My computer decided to start updating in the middle of this post which made me curse and wish I had a bloody maria made with this broth so there’s another idea for you. Seriously. Endless possibilities here.

All the Possibilities of Pepper Broth