Reading, Eating, Etc.

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It’s May–my favorite month. Month of mothers. Month of Mary. Month of my favorite (albeit sentimental) Marian hymn. Month my husband and I met and fell in love and later got married in. Even though the unbearable Texas heat is starting to settle in, I can’t help but be happy this month and want to pass the days sipping elderflower cordial.

Reading

Books:

The Little Oratory: finally started and finished (this was my third attempt). I found it an interesting reflection on the relationship between the physical styling of a home and the interior spiritual life of the family. Also, it’s just a generally good resource about how to cultivate prayer in the home when you’re feeling overwhelmed about all the devotions and traditions you could potentially incorporate. And it really made me want to learn and make chant a part of family prayer life.

These Beautiful Bones: such a good read. Such an accessible and needed book especially since I feel the main message teenagers take away from Theology of the Body is that it’s all about sex. Of course, that’s to be expected when it’s promulgated to an audience drowning in an over-sexualized culture. But Theology of the Body is so much more and this book is an excellent resource for anyone, Catholic or not, who wants a deeper understanding of the Christian vision of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of an incarnate God. Now, I can’t wait to read The Catholic Table.

Middlemarch: I am liking it and am expecting to love it by the end because there are glowing reviews everywhere I turn. It’s already a good cautionary tale for making big life choices (e.g. who you marry). However, it’s just so massive that every time I look at it, I want to opt for Netflix. But a few bits that I’ve especially liked so far:

“Curiously enough, his pain in the affair beforehand had consisted almost entirely in the sense that he must seem dishonourable, and sink in the opinion of the Garths…Indeed we are most of us brought up in the notion that the highest motive for not doing a wrong is something irrespective of the beings who would suffer the wrong.” 

“Mrs. Bulstrode’s naive way of conciliating piety and worldliness, the nothingness of this life and the desirability of cut glass, the consciousness at once of filthy rags and best damask…”

“It is an uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly taught and yet not to enjoy: to be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering self–never to be fully possessed by the glory we behold, never to have our consciousness rapturously transformed into the vividness of a thought, the ardour of a passion, the energy of an action, but always to be scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timid, scrupulous and dim-sighted.” Made me think of this article again.

Articles:

Concrete ways to help in tough times

A Voice from Heaven: an eloquent reflection on experiencing loss through the lens of C.S. Lewis and the Book of Revelation.

We are Travelers: I’m always thinking about Christian pilgrimage vs. secular wanderlust not only in terms of physical travel but as radically different mindsets in this journey of life.

Being Radical: Choosing to Live within the Context of Creation: I mean, basically what I was rattling on about in half of this post.

The Look of Divine Love: “’It is godlike to love the being of someone’ (Gilead, Marilynne Robinson)…We have to love with the love we have received from God. In so doing, we are transformed into another Christ, and with divine charity reigning in our hearts, we begin to see reality as God created it.” Makes my thoughts leap from G.M. Hopkins and inscape to co-inherent love to this JPII quote. Tangential mind, ya’ll.

18 Things I’ve Learned in 18 Years of Parenting: seems like solid advice. (Number 14 is super encouraging for me at this stage of life). After reading several of her posts, I really like this blogger’s no-nonsense yet still understanding attitude towards work, motherhood, and homeschooling. It probably appeals to me because I tend towards idealistic stagnation, though I really do want to be more of a doer than just a dreamer.

-I finally read Anne of Green Gables for the first time a few summers ago. I have no desire to see the new Netflix show, but I think it’s high time I finally watched the 1980s miniseries.

Eating

Asian food

All the time. It’s been my number one craving this pregnancy. Since I can’t justify takeout on a regular basis, here are a couple things I’ve been whipping up:

-Cold rice noodles with peanut lime chicken.

-Grilled peanut lime flank steak (with leftover marinade from the previous recipe) with soba noodles, broccolini, and carrots. Topped with peanuts, basil, and mint.

-Shredded chicken with bok choy, carrots, onion, and ramen noodles in miso broth.

And lots of asian-fusion meals thrown together from our meal leftovers. Plus, thank goodness for the freezer aisle at Trader Joe’s (read: scallion pancakes and pork buns). It’s getting me through my cravings in a pinch.

Desserts:

My second biggest craving, most often satiated in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or my pantry stash of chocolate chips.

this yogurt chocolate cake found in a late-night sugar-craving-crazed google search to see what I could make with what basic baking ingredients I had on hand. With an on the fly cherry sauce (frozen cherries, sugar, boiling water) and homemade whipped cream, it basically turned out to be a light and lovely version of black forest cherry gateau.

Nigella’s lemon polenta cake with a berry compote. I might have to restrain myself from making this on repeat this summer.

Summer eats:

rosemary potato pizza: basically like potato chip flatbread. Highly recommended.

fish tacos for cinco de mayo. I only used the recipe for the beer battered fish and oh yum it was good. We topped ours with mango salsa (lit. just chopped mango stirred into store-bought salsa) and a sour cream avocado spread.

-Joe made burgers on Saturday and all I’ve been saying since is, “I wish there were more burgers.” Sometimes, you just need a non-fancy burger. Just a patty all smoky and cheddar cheese all melty stuffed in a fluffy bun. I’m already coming up with our weekend grill meal plan for the rest of the summer. Fajitas up next!

-Last night, after Joe mentioned having a hankering for spaghetti and meatballs, I put a springy-summer spin on the traditional thing and made garlicky, lemony, herby pork meatballs with fusili pasta and a creamy tomato rosé sauce. It was so good, it may get its very own post.

Of course, these are the highlights. Mostly, we eat clear the fridge stuff: whatever grains, proteins (usually eggs, beans, or tofu), veggies, leftover sauces are on hand all thrown together. Since we eat this way several times a week and as it’s usually vegetarian, it makes the meals I spend a little extra time and money on even more appreciated (by me and Joe. Leo’s palate is definitively unrefined and ungrateful).

Etc.

-We are indeed expecting baby number two in fourish months. This pregnancy has been far harder than the first time. I had a sweet part time work schedule when I was pregnant with Leo which meant lots of sleeping in and napping whenever I wanted. From weeks 6-18ish this time around, my toddler was not very sympathetic to my very real need to sleep in past seven am or to the fact that his dirty diapers made me vomit without fail every time. Most mornings, I’d hand him a piece of bread for breakfast and then I’d lie on the couch and drift in and out for an hour or two while he’d play/destroy things or come over and poke my eyes. Joe got to be on the receiving end of my broken record complaints: “Next kid has to be potty trained before we even think of a third” “I’m so nauseous” “I’m so exhausted” “We need a first trimester nanny”. Thankfully, we’re past the very worst of it and we are actually very excited.

-Recent netflix binges? Father Brown forever. I know, I know. Not at all like the stories but I’m okay with that (I suppose I risk losing Catholic cred by admitting that Chesterton’s prose is not my favorite). I think for the most part the show does a good job of showing the specific and important work of a priest while also giving me my cozy mystery fix. Otherwise, Life in Pieces has me in stitches every episode. And I just finished Master of None season 2. Still pretty dismal but Aziz Ansari explores interesting ideas and I think admits, perhaps without realizing it, that so many millenials are ‘lost in the cosmos’ to steal a phrase.

-Say a prayer for my alma mater, please.

Happy feast of St. Crispin of Viterbo, St. William of Rochester, and St. Julia (among others but I liked their stories best.

 

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Reading, Eating, Etc.

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.

Notes on love and meatballs