Friday, February 26, 2010

Meatless Fridays: It's what's for dinner

Around 5:30 tonight I still wasn't sure what I wanted to make for dinner. Meat wasn't the only thing I needed to avoid. Because my daughter, Olivia, and I are vegetarian, we aren't eating seafood on Fridays either. And I've decided to take it all the way to vegan on the Fridays of Lent. So...What to feed a family of mostly omnivores when meat, seafood, cheese, eggs and anything related to animals was off the table, so to speak?

When in doubt, find something that goes on pasta. It always works in our house. So here's what I did and it turned out to be a big hit:

1 bunch broccoli rabe (rapini), rinsed
6 sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in boiling water, drained and chopped in slices
1 8-ounce container of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans, rinse and drained
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup pignolis (pine nuts), toasted (optional)
1 pound rotelle pasta (or ziti, rigatoni, whatever you like)

Bring pasta water to boil. Rinse broccoli rabe and blanch in boiling pasta water for four minutes. Lift broccoli rabe from water with handheld strainer, reserving pasta water in pot. Drain broccoli rabe and cut into bite-size pieces. Reserve. Keep pasta water boiling, and throw in pasta.

Meanwhile, in a saute pan, heat olive oil and saute garlic until it begins to sizzle. Add mushrooms and sundried tomatoes and saute for two or three minutes. Add cannellini beans and saute for two minutes. Add broccoli rabe and heat for a few minutes so the flavors can marry. If it begins to dry out, ladle in some pasta water to keep it moist. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When pasta is al dente, drain and place in serving bowl. Pour broccoli rabe-tomato-bean mixture over the top. If needed, ladle in more pasta water so the pasta is not too dry.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese (if you're not eating vegan), crushed red pepper and toasted pine nuts (if using). Note: To toast pine nuts, shake them in a dry skillet for a few minutes until fragrant but not brown.

We served our dinner with Italian bread and a side salad heavy on the arugula and "fixed" with olive oil and vinegar.

Delish! This dish is definitely a keeper. Remember, if you don't have the exact ingredients, don't be afraid to improvise. Use broccoli instead of broccoli rabe, or even kale. The best thing about this kind of pasta dinner is that you can change it up or use up whatever you have in the fridge and come up with something that looks and takes like it came from an elegant restaurant. Mangia!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Family is job #1

This week over at Fathers for Good Dennis and I tackle family life and how to keep it a priority when the world is nipping at your heels every day.

By Dennis Poust and Mary DeTurris Poust

Families in today’s world are pulled in many different directions. Talk to any parent, and you’re likely to hear a litany of scheduled events – some out of obligation, others by choice – that stretch families to the limit and leave little time for togetherness.

Sometimes what’s most needed in a family is someone willing to say “no” to one more class, one more committee, one more unnecessary time filler. We think we’re trying to do everything and be everything for our kids, but the reality is that most kids don’t want more appointments; they want more attention and more time with mom and dad. Continue reading HERE.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Leap of faith

I almost forgot. This week Dennis and I are discussing the role of faith in marriage over at Fathers for Good. Here it is...

By Dennis Poust and Mary DeTurris Poust

Married life can become so filled with obligations and stress that making time to put God at the center of our relationship can easily get lost in the daily shuffle. Sure, we may get to Mass every Sunday, and that’s vitally important, but do we get to God on a regular basis throughout the rest of our weeks, months and years?

Do we come together as a couple to pray – for strength, to give thanks, or just to listen for what God may be telling us? If God remains an integral part of our marriage and family life, suddenly all those stresses and obligations don’t seem so overwhelming. We can face anything. Here’s our take on how spirituality in marriage should work (not that we always get it right ourselves)
...Continue reading.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Signs of the Lenten season

Ash Wednesday. Possibly my all-time favorite day of the entire Church year. As many of my regular NSS readers already know, I am a Lent person. This season resonates with me in a powerful way. The three pillars of Lent -- fasting, almsgiving, prayer -- are beautiful reminders of what this season is supposed to be about. Contrary to current pop Catholic cultural views of Lent, these weeks are not meant to focus on how bad we are or how we need to deny ourselves things only to make up for how bad we are. They are not meant to be "negative." These weeks are meant to be a time for us to strip away the stuff that gets in the way of God -- whether those things are too much food, too much gossip, too much consumerism, or not enough quiet time, not enough prayer, not enough care for others. But all three things are important, all three things "positive." To think that one thing is unimportant is to miss the point of Lent.

Fasting -- whether it is a total fast from food for a brief time or a partial fast that involves giving up one thing for a set time -- helps us to loosen those earthly ties that bind us. By getting rid of even something small that tends to get too much of our attention or desire (like chocolate or coffee or red wine) we open up a little room for something or someone better to fill the void, someone like God.

God is just waiting for us, waiting for that moment when we realize that the way He fills us up is better than anything our world can provide. Fasting has lost some of its allure these days, seen as something too focused on penance and not enough on others. But it's only by getting rid of some of our external desires and acknowledging our weaknesses that we can experience the internal conversion that leads to a place where charity can really take root and grow.

And we certainly can't skip over charity (or almsgiving) because that is so critical to our lives as Christians. To skip that would be to skip over the heart of the Gospel. Too often I think we get caught up in charity as being something larger than life, something that requires too much time or too much money, perhaps time and money we can't afford to give. Charity can begin, as the cliche says, at home. Sometimes the people who most need and most deserve our kindness and care are the people we live with. If we can't be charitable and compassionate toward them, chances are we won't get very far in our other efforts out in the world. At least I think that's how it works for me.

So we can begin where we are and work our way outward, which is kind of freeing. You don't have to travel to a Third World nation or even to an inner city to begin to work on the pillar of charity. Yes, it would be nice to get there eventually, but for now, at this moment in time, you can practice charity right where you are.

Of course, you can still do you part for the poor around the world by picking up a Rice Bowl and donating money to Catholic Relief Services. Every time you give something up, whether it's a candy bar with lunch or a burger on Friday, you can put the money you would have spent into the Rice Bowl. Once again, fasting and almsgiving work together, becoming a prayer in action.

Prayer should run through everything -- through fasting, through almsgiving, through Lent, through our lives. Not just the usual vocal prayer that we are used to during Mass or before meals or as we drift off to sleep at night, but the deep prayer that brings us face to face with God, to that place where we finally listen to the whisper of the Spirit that is usually lost in the chaos of our ordinary days.

Lent. A season of repentance and renewal. A time to move forward and inward. A forty-day stretch of spiritual growth. "Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return." Those beautiful words of Genesis 3:19 are not meant to scare us or fill our days with sorrow but to energize us and fill our hearts with new hope and new strength. We can do better -- pray better, love better, be better. Today, marked with the sign of faith in ash on our foreheads, is a day to begin again and to look forward to the joy of resurrection that awaits us at the end of the journey.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Nothing says 'love' like a steaming bowl of Cioppino

After a whirlwind day that included at least one hour of panic when Noah was late returning from his winter camping trip and almost missed serving noon Mass because of it, the day ended with a quiet family dinner at home -- a Garlicky Seafood Cioppino, which turned out to be a happy experiment. Scallops, shrimp and cod swimming in a garlic-laced tomato broth on top of spaghetti. It was delicious, especially with a glass (or two) of red wine on the side.

My first Valentine's Day with Dennis was spent at the Cloisters in upper Manhattan followed by an Italian meal at Dominic's on Arthur Avenue. All these years later, minus the field trip and dinner out, Valentine's Day was perfect. And that's coming from someone who is really not a fan of Valentine's Day. That's amoré!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Entering the 'Twilight Zone' of parenting

Noah headed out on a winter camping trip tonight. The angst leading up to his departure made it clear, once again, that we have definitely entered the dreaded teenage years. And that reminded me that I had not yet posted this recent Life Lines column about this new adventure in parenting. So, without further adieu, here it is:

By Mary DeTurris Poust

Just last month, Dennis and I entered the Twilight Zone of parenting, also known as the Teenage Years. Noah, our first-born, reached the magic age on New Year’s Day, giving us the chance to ring in not only a new year but also a new era.

Fortunately for us, it hasn’t been a total baptism by fire. Noah has been kind enough to ease us into teenage life. For the past six months or so, he’s taken to glowering at us from under half-closed eyelids and responding to just about everything we say -- from “Hi, Sweetie. You look nice,” to “What happened to that permission slip?” -- in the same annoyed tone. I figure right about the time Noah starts pulling out of this semi-permanent funk, Olivia will be moving in and then Chiara right behind her. We’re looking at 15 straight years of teenage angst here, people.

Of course, not everything having to do with teen life revolves around the teen (despite what said teen thinks). A lot of what will happen in the coming years, already is happening right now, has to do with how we respond to our teen and what kinds of freedoms and limits we give him.

It’s Noah’s job to test boundaries and to pull away, even as he secretly wants our affection and attention. As I roll my eyes and sigh with exasperation every time he growls his morning greeting, I know in my heart that this is how it is meant to be. For my part, I have to do a little letting go while being careful not to leave him in a free fall. He has been very sheltered for 13 years. Now it’s time to trust that what we’ve taught him will get him through some difficult growing pains. I vaguely remember those early teen years; they were no picnic.

And so we enter into this new era together, albeit from different perspectives. As Noah wrestles with the responsibilities and decisions that come with being a teen on the way to adulthood, we wrestle with the choices and reactions that come with being adults in the midst of a new phase of parenthood. It’s uncharted territory for all of us.

Just this week, we talked to Noah about ending the piano lessons he has taken for more than five years. He just doesn’t seem that interested anymore. Rather than the simple responses we may have had as parents of a toddler or young child – time out, for example – we have to find a new way to make an impression. So we asked Noah to think about why he wants to continue lessons and why we should continue to fund them and then tell us without shrugging his shoulders or saying, “I don’t know.”

We got a two-page written response, proving that he can present quite a persuasive argument when he puts his mind to it. The three of us approached the piano problem as adults and near-adult, talking instead of lecturing (on our part) and listening instead of ignoring (on his part).

We know the next few years will be fraught with difficult decisions for all of us. There will be times when we will have to tell Noah he cannot do certain things no matter how ready he thinks he is. And, there will be times when Noah will prove that he is ready despite our fears and hesitation.

As I look ahead to the big events in Noah’s life – driving a car in only three years, graduating from high school in five – I realize that a lot of what will happen in our relationship over the next few years will hinge on my ability to accept that my baby isn’t a baby anymore and on my willingness to step back and watch him spread his wings, even as I am quietly waiting in the background, ready to catch him at a moment’s notice.

To read previous Life Lines columns, visit my website by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How fasting fuels spiritual growth, charity

Lent is just one week away. I've spoken with lots of people who say they just don't "get" the need for fasting. Check out my latest OSV story and find out why fasting is so important to our faith tradition in general and to Lent in particular.

By Mary DeTurris Poust

Fasting and abstinence were once staples of Catholic life. There was a time not so long ago when you could spot Catholics in a restaurant simply by looking at what was on their plates on a Wednesday or Friday.

But with changes in Church rules and individual mindsets, fasting slowly began to fall out of fashion. Today, in popular Catholic culture at least, fasting is often considered a quaint practice of days gone by, something that pales in comparison to doing charitable works.

And yet fasting is one of the three pillars of Lent, equal to prayer and almsgiving in the trilogy of practices for the season. In fact, fasting is woven into the fabric of many of the world’s religions — Judaism, Islam, Buddhism — in one fashion or another. Continue reading...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Venus and Mars aligned

This week at Fathers For Good, Dennis and I are discussing communication and intimacy, just in time for Valentine's Day. Here it is...

Planning for the best Valentine’s Day

By Dennis Poust and Mary DeTurris Poust

We meet. We fall in love. We do everything together and everything in sync. And then, somewhere along the way, maybe after a few years of marriage, maybe after a few children, we notice that we’ve lost our communication groove and things are not quite like a storybook romance.

We thought with St. Valentine’s Day approaching, this would be a good time to look at how married couples can foster intimacy and communication long after the honeymoon is over. As you’ll see from our separate takes below, men and women often come at this topic from very different perspectives...Continue reading.

If you missed last week's column on finances, you can find that by clicking here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

When life gives you Mondays...

OK, when I woke up this morning the only thing I was feeling was panic. Over the work ahead for the day. Over the state of the house after the all-weekend bathroom renovation kept us from doing anything else. Over upcoming events this week and long-range projects that can't be put off anymore. I ran downstairs at 6:30 a.m. to work on a column. I ran upstairs at 7 a.m. to make Olivia's lunch and check work emails. I ran here and ran there. Finally, I just stopped running. I stopped everything. And that's exactly what I needed on this crazy Monday.

Typically, when I get this busy, I figure I can't stop for even five minutes. Think of all I could accomplish in five minutes! But sometimes those five minutes of quiet or stillness or simply not running are just what we need to get us through the next eight hours or eight days. So I lit my little prayer candle, poured the last cup of coffee in the pot into my Mystic Monk mug and had a little heart-to-heart with God before eating a peaceful breakfast. Ahhhhh...That's better. Try it some Monday. Or any day that fills your heart and head with anxiety. Just stop. Do whatever it is that calms your soul -- light candles, go for a walk, take a bath, pour a cup of tea, take out a book of reflections -- and just be with God for five minutes. Suddenly the rest of the day will seem almost enjoyable. Have a great day and a great week!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The more practical side of romance

During this month of February, when all the world is aglow with red hearts and dark chocolates and sparkly diamonds, my husband, Dennis, and I will be tackling some of the real issues that married couples face as they struggle to balance practical necessities with romantic niceties. Every week this month over at Fathers For Good, an initiative of the Knights of Columbus, Dennis and I will be posting columns on different topics important to married couples. This week we tackle finances:

The trouble money can cause

By Dennis Poust and Mary DeTurris Poust

Even in homes with no serious money issues, finances can become a point of contention. Add a little economic insecurity into the mix, and you have the makings of a potential disaster. In these troubled times, there’s no doubt that money matters can turn wedded bliss into dreaded stress. Here’s our take on how finances can make or break a marriage. Continue reading...