Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Moroccan Chickpea and Lemon Couscous Soup

"I did not expect this to be so hot, and I did NOT expect this to be SO GOOD!"
-The seven-year-old's ringing endorsement

(Adapted from)
This came together very easily, and two out of three kids devoured it (the third is on strike from any vegetables that aren't peas or corn at the moment). The flavors are all familiar, but a bit exotic combined in this way.

·         2 Tablespoon olive oil
·         1 whole onion, chopped
·         2 whole large garlic cloves, minced
·         1 Tablespoon tomato paste
·         1 teaspoon kosher salt
·         1 teaspoon ground cumin
·         1/2 teaspoon paprika
·         1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
·         1/8 teaspoon cayenne
·         1/2 cup dry white wine
·         2 whole carrots, peeled and chopped
·         2 cups cooked chickpeas (if canned, drain and rinse)
·         4 cups vegetable broth
·         14.5 ounces diced tomatoes (1 can)
·         1 Tablespoon butter
·         1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
·         1 teaspoon lemon zest

Lemon Couscous Ingredients

·         3 cups water
·         3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
·         1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
·         1 1/2 cups dry uncooked couscous
·         1 teaspoon lemon zest
·         Fresh mint, thinly sliced, for garnish
In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, 4 minutes. Stir in garlic, tomato paste, salt, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, turmeric and cayenne pepper, cooking for 1-2 minutes. Add white wine and reduce until almost completely evaporated. Add carrots and chickpeas, stirring to combine with spices.
Add vegetable broth and diced tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
While the soup simmers, prepare the couscous. In a small saucepan, bring water, lemon juice and salt to a boil over medium high heat. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in couscous and lemon zest. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Uncover the couscous and fluff using a fork.
Once soup finishes simmering, remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, lightly puree soup, leaving it slightly chunky. Stir in butter, lemon juice and lemon zest. Top each bowl of soup with a mound of lemon couscous and sprinkle with fresh mint.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Some meatless Friday lunches

My family tries to observe meatless Fridays year-round. After a lot of peanut butter or egg salad sandwiches, I have found that the easiest way to provide an interesting Friday lunch is to either serve a meatless meal (or meatless base with meat on the side) on Thursday night as well, so as to have some leftovers to work with. Outside of Lent, we have a family Friday night pizza and a movie tradition, so Thursday often ends up as our fish night. I lack the motivation to cut up fruit at lunch time, so the kids usually have frozen berries or homemade applesauce on the side.

My kids have enjoyed

Arugula pesto pasta with broiled fish

Shrimp salad with brie

Deviled eggs, corn salad, rye bread

Tuna rice salad

Vegetable pasta salad

Vegetable stir-fry with eggs

Shrimp pasta salad, tomatoes with buttermilk dressing, goldfish in beet hummus

Imitation crab salad open face, roasted sweet potatoes, applesauce

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Effortless Entertaining: Afternoon Tea edition

When your kids want birthday cake, but your family is done with birthdays until spring?

Have a birthday party for your eldest son's hobby horse Christmas Horse III (known to his friends as simply Horse). Horse joined our family the weekend of our small town's Oktoberfest, and as such his birthday is observed as a moveable feast, the first Saturday in October. We celebrate his birthday with afternoon tea, which is both an easy and economical way to entertain. I estimate I spent about $20 on groceries- not bad for a gathering of thirty people. Since nothing save the tea is served warm, this meal lends itself well to being made ahead. If you have an older child, the two vegetable items could easily be made by them.

Cucumber Slices with cream cheese and tomato
Celery Sticks with Pimento
Deviled Eggs
Curry Chicken Salad Sandwiches
(Imitation) Crab Rolls
Scones (by Neighbor 1) with Apple Butter
Cookies (by Neighbor 2)
Never fail chocolate cake with ganache (also excellent made with coffee or red wine in place of beer)
Rooibos tea
I meant to put out a bottle of sherry, but forgot and no one seemed to find anything lacking.


This year we had 10 adults and 8 eating children in attendance. I made a dozen each of the sandwiches (2 lb chicken breasts and 2 packages imitation crab), 1 dozen deviled eggs, and 2 dozen of the cucumber slices. No one went hungry, but there were not many leftovers, either. I had one large slow cooker full of chai (could have used more) and made two pots of the rooibos tea over the course of the afternoon. The adults used bone china, but since the kids had theirs al fresco, they used tin cups from the picnic basket.

A horse is a horse, of course, of course....

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Effortless Entertaining Series

We here at PSOCL recognize the role that neighborhood gatherings play in building up the domestic church. From large baptism receptions to wedding cakes to chili or spaghetti suppers and afternoon teas, your friendly neighborhood church ladies have found ways to entertain easily and economically. Going forward, we will share the "Effortless Entertaining" series: some behind the scenes looks at family friendly social gatherings with tips about how to host your own.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Universal tomato base

When your farmers' market offerings look this:
(it was really more like 12-13 pounds...)

But your canning mojo has up and went and your canning pot is only big enough for pints and you simply can't face all that blanching...

Allow me to present: Universal Tomato Base (UTB).

By roasting the (unpeeled) tomatoes with onions and couple hot or bell peppers if desired, you end up with a freezable puree that can be the base of many easy and delicious meals that taste of the height of summer all winter long. Use as is for pasta sauce, or

Combine 3 cups UTB with:
*2 cups stock, for amazing tomato soup
*1 can evaporated milk and a pinch of Italian herbs, for even more amazing cream of tomato soup or pink sauce
*1 T each bloomed curry powder and garam masala and 1 can coconut milk for curry
*Include more hot peppers in the initial preparation for a hearty dip perfect for tortilla chips

10 pounds tomatoes, rinsed, cored, and cut in 6-8 pieces
2 pounds red onions, cut into eighths
Colored bell peppers, if you have them
3-5 jalapenos, if desired
Kosher salt, to taste (I used 2 T for each large roasting pan)
Olive oil (greasing pan plus about 1/4 cup per pan)

Preheat oven to 350. Divide produce among greased baking dishes. The tomatoes will cook down a lot, but you want them to brown a bit at the end, not steam. Season with salt and oil. Roast 2-3 hours, until tomatoes are juicy and have some spots of char. Scoop the vegetables with pan juices into the blender and puree smooth. Three cup batches fit nicely in quart bags. Cool to room temperature, then chill overnight in fridge before freezing. Ten pounds of tomatoes cooked down to 4 batches (about 12 cups)

Monday, August 28, 2017


It has been a summer of good thrifting, including an epic bag sale where I bought four sets of my eldest son's parish school uniforms at a $5 bag sale. Some recent finds...

I have been married nine years, and have had children for most of those years, and have finally embraced that I will never have a set of matching glasses. This is for the best, as it is easier to identify whose glass is whose and vintage juice glasses are ideal for small hands. These fun flower painted glasses are girly enough that no one else in the house will use them, and the smaller glasses (mostly Duralex) are for the kids. The Anchor glass ramekins have a tailored rim and are ideal for my baby, who recently started solids. The syrup jug is perfect for our weekend pancake/waffle tradition- I buy maple syrup in bulk, and had been using the creamer jug until now. $2 for the lot (half off dinerware sale). 

The clear ramekins have been so useful, I was glad to snap up some more, plus a few school related items- a set of school uniforms, a small insulated container for a lunch box, a thermos (which exploded upon washing). Add in a couple place-mats in my favorite color to save tablecloths from messy eaters and a few garments for the littles. ($4 for the lot, plus an un-planned Marie Kondo-ing of my countertops in the process of cleaning up broken glass)
Happy Apple was a favorite childhood toy of my husband, and my mother-in-law still has it for grandchildren's play. I have seen a few secondhand in the $20 range- so when I saw this one for $1, I scooped it up.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

CL Tip of the Day: Neater wafflemaking

Saturday mornings at our house are almost always Daddy-made blueberry multigrain pancakes on more relaxed mornings or overnight waffles (made with half whole-wheat flour) on days with early obligations. In either case, we scale the recipe up by a half so that we have enough both Saturday and and a pre-Mass pick-up breakfast Sunday mornings (both the pancakes and waffles reheat well in a regular toaster). In addition to setting out the baking soda (so un-caffeinated folk don't use baking powder instead) I put the waffle-iron on paper towels or newspaper for easier counter cleanup.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Home is where

 One of my favorite things about our 1883 house is that it has been home to so many good families over its 130 year history. While we had the house blessed when we moved in several years ago, it is comforting to know an aura of faith permeates the walls. Once a visiting nun realized she had been to Masses in our living room in the 1970s. And in the course of home care, we have found several historical artifacts: a shoe polish bottle from the 1880 and a lead pencil with actual lead under the floor boards; portions of a porcelain Sacred Heart holy water stoop and a World War 2 Medal for Good Conduct while working in the garden, and this most recent discovery.

While tending to the water heater, my husband found a rusted cash-box on a cellar rafter with a pamphlet and holy card of now Saint Rose Phillipine Duchesne and envelope circa 1908 that once contained a cash donation to the Franciscan Missionary Fathers. Possibly the most POD thing that has happened to anyone while putting salt in a water heater!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Letters from Sts Peter and Paul

For several years, I have wanted to incorporate Mary Reed Newland's idea* of sending each member of the household a selection from an applicable Petrine Epistle on what was then the solemnity of St Peter (now extended to St Paul as well). Not having the faith in the delivery schedule of our rural post office, I opted to use my eldest son's toy mailbox instead, which both accentuated the fact that the Epistles are letters but also that it wasn't St Peter who directly sent him the missive.

Now, with a child who is an early reader, seemed a good time to start. For my newborn, I chose 1 Peter 2, 2-3; my preschooler 1 Peter 1, 14-16; my six year old 1 Peter 2, 17; for myself 1 Peter 4, 8-9; and my husband 1 Peter 5, 2-4. This led to a fruitful discussion about the parts of the Bible and specifically the New Testament.There's no reason that this practice couldn't be extended to the Conversion of St Paul (January 25) and the Chair of Peter (February 22).

*"Summer Saints," The Year and Our Children