Thursday, April 21, 2011

Resurrection Cookies

Photo courtesy of Dianne Towalski

1 cup whole pecans
1 tsp. vinegar
3 egg whites
pinch salt
1 cup sugar

zipper baggie
wooden spoon
Holy Bible

Preheat oven to 300° F.

Place the pecans in the zipper baggie and let the children beat them with the wooden spoon to break them into small pieces. (Explain that after Jesus was arrested he was beaten by the Roman soldiers.)

Read John 19:1-3.

Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1 tsp. vinegar into mixing bowl. (Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross he was given common wine, sometimes translated as vinegar, to drink.)

Read John 19:28-30.

Add the egg whites to the vinegar. (Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave his life to give us life.)

Read John 10:10-11.

Sprinkle a little salt into each child’s hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. (Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus’ followers and the bitterness of our own sin.)

Read Luke 23:27.

So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1 cup sugar. (Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because he loves us, he wants us to know that and he wants us to love him as well.)

Read John 3:16.

Beat ingredients with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. (Explain that the color white represents the purity in God’s eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus.)

Read Isaiah 1:18 and 1 John 3:1-3.

Fold in the broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto a wax paper-covered cookie sheet. (Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid.)

Read Matthew 27:57-60.

Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven off. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. (Explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed.)

Read Matthew 27:65-66.

At bedtime, discuss with the children that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. (Explain that Jesus’ followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed.)

Read John 16:20 and 22.

Photo courtesy of Dianne Towalski
On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! (On Resurrection morning, Jesus’ followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty.)

Read Matthew 28:1-9.

Rejoice. The Lord Jesus has risen! He is alive!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cookies make the story of Jesus come alive

It’s easy for children to associate Easter treats with chocolate bunnies, jelly beans and brightly colored hard-boiled eggs. But, resurrection cookies turn a simple morsel of meringue into a powerful teaching tool by blending verses from Scripture with the five ingredients throughout the preparation phase. While these tidbits can be made at any time, the process coincides ideally with the Easter story if they are made during the evening of Holy Saturday.

Sheila (Brannan) Veach, a 1983 St. Cloud (Minn.) Cathedral High School graduate now living in Chapin, S.C., started making the cookies five Easters ago with her sons Erik and Christopher after her mother Judy Brannan, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Waite Park (Minn.), mailed the recipe to her.

“I put it in my grandmother Olivia Brannan’s Bible for safekeeping,” Veach recalled. “Later my oldest son, Erik, and I looked through the readings and marked the pages in the Bible. It made the whole process easier.

“Erik was 5 at that time and Christopher was 3. Erik acted like a TV food personality as each ingredient was added to the mixture,” said Veach, a private caterer and a former executive chef and culinary instructor at the University of South Carolina in Columbia“When the cookies were in the oven, Christopher ran into another room and returned with a roll of duct tape, shouting, ‘I’ve got the tape. I’ve got the tape.’

“The hardest part was when we ‘sealed the tomb.’ They both got excited about the surprise,” she continued. “They knew what it was going to be, but they enjoyed the anticipation.

 “The boys kept getting out of bed to look at the cookies in the oven that night — they almost got caught by the Easter bunny,” she remembered. “On Easter morning the duct tape was peeled back from the oven, we read the last reading and they ate their resurrection cookies for breakfast — they called them ‘empty cookies.’ ”

Everyone’s favorite verse, she said, is from Matthew 28 when the angel rolls back the stone and announces to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary that Jesus is no longer in the tomb. Craig Veach, Sheila’s husband of 16 years, a project manager in the woodworking industry, usually reads that part with the family.

Photo courtesy of Dianne Towalski
The following year the Veaches, members of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Chapin, combined watching the movie “The Ten Commandments” with making the cookies. The meringue confections have become a part of the family’s annual Easter traditions.

Veach feels that children ages 3 to 4 aren’t too young to prepare the recipe with an adult’s assistance.

“They can crack eggs into little bowls and measure,” she suggested. “Put some vinegar in a cereal bowl and pour some salt into a little cup for them to measure from. Take the measuring spoons and cups off the ring to make it easier. Pre-measure everything and set it out in the order it will be used before starting with the readings. Allow at least an hour for the whole process.

“Reading a recipe is one thing but baking while reading Bible verses is different,” Veach concluded.

Once you’ve made the resurrection cookies — reading the Scripture and symbolically experiencing Jesus’ resurrection with your family or other youngsters — chocolate bunnies and jelly beans may never taste quite as sweet. CJK

Look for the Resurrection Cookies recipe tomorrow on Food, Faith and Fellowship.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Honduran Cornmeal Cake Soup

This Operation Rice Bowl recipe for traditional Honduran Sopa de Capirotadas — cornmeal cake soup — appeared in yesterday’s edition of The Visitor. Additionally, the newspaper featured a Catholic Relief Services worker who oversees and implements a number of development projects in Honduras, including those that focus on the needs of mothers and their children.

CRS began working in Honduras in 1959. Today the organization focuses on programs in isolated rural communities that lack the resources and infrastructure to sustain basic levels of health, sanitation, education and safe water. CJK

Honduran Cornmeal Cake Soup
(Operation Rice Bowl)

2 cups masa harina corn flour
1 1/2 cups queso blanco or mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 eggs, beaten
Photo courtesy of Operation Rice Bowl
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup tomato, chopped
1/2 cup white onion, chopped
1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup oil
5 cups water
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tbsp. masa harina corn flour
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

White rice, cooked
Lime wedges

Cornmeal Cakes
 Mix masa harina and cheese. Add eggs and 1 cup water. Mix until dough is moist and holds together. Add more water, if needed. Form dough into small patties (about 3 inches in diameter).

Heat oil. Fry patties until golden brown on each side (about 1 minute per side). Drain on paper towel.

 Fry tomato, onion and pepper in oil until tender. Add water, bouillon cube and cumin. Slowly stir in masa harina to thicken soup. Bring to boil, then lower to medium heat. Add cilantro. Add cornmeal cakes carefully, so they do not break. Simmer for 20 minutes. Serve over white rice, with lime wedges.

Yield: 4 to 5 servings

A note from Carol: Masa harina corn flour can be purchased in Hispanic markets. According to the Baking Bites website, masa harina is a very finely ground corn flour made from corn that has been dried, cooked, ground up and dried again. It has a soft texture and reconstitutes easily with water.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Honduran Plantain Cakes

This is another variation of the Honduran Plantain Turnovers featured yesterday on FFF. CJK

Honduran Plantain Cakes
(Operation Rice Bowl)

3 very ripe plantains
3 tbsp. flour
4 tbsp. butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup cooked black beans
2/3 cup vegetable oil

4 cups cooked rice

Peel and wash plantains and cut into three pieces. Boil them until soft, then drain and mash. Add flour, butter and egg and mix thoroughly.

Mash the beans with a fork. Fry them in 1 tbsp. oil for 5 minutes.

Heat remaining oil in another frying pan, add plantain mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, and spread with a fork into the shape of a small pancake. Fry 5 minutes. Place 1 teaspoon fried beans on each cake and fold. Fry the cakes, covered, 3 minutes on each side until brown. Serve with rice.

Yield: 4 servings

A note from Carol: The “very ripe” plantains needed for this recipe will be dark brown. They are sold in the fresh produce section of many supermarkets year round.

 According to Wikipedia, green plantains are firm and starchy, and resemble potatoes in flavor. Yellow plantains are softer and starchy, but sweet. Extremely ripe plantains have softer, deep yellow pulp that is much sweeter than the earlier stages of ripeness. Plantains in the yellow to black stages can be used in sweet dishes.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Honduran Plantain Turnovers

Have you had a chance to try one of the recipes from Haiti, Kenya or Indonesia during the last few weeks? This Lenten season, Food, Faith and Fellowship has featured several Operation Rice Bowl recipes from countries the organization is focusing on this year.

ORB is the Catholic Relief Services program that funds hunger and poverty projects in 40 countries around the world. During Lent, participants are urged to put money they save from eating simple, meatless meals into a symbolic “rice bowl” to be donated to CRS.

Honduras is another of the countries that ORB has chosen to feature this year. A friend and colleague, Dianne Towlaski, prepared this unusual recipe and shares her comments and photo with FFF readers today. CJK

Honduran Plantain Turnovers
(Operation Rice Bowl)

3 plantains (soft to the touch)
Photo courtesy of Dianne Towalski
1/2 cup cooked black beans
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tbsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup vegetable oil

Peel and wash plantains and cut into three pieces. Boil them until soft, then drain and mash.

Mash the beans with a fork. Add the sugar and cinnamon.  Fry bean mixture in a little oil and set aside.

Heat remaining oil in another frying pan, add plantain mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, and spread with a fork into the shape of a small pancake. Fry 3 minutes.

Place 1 tsp. fried beans on each pancake and fold, shaping into a turnover. Fry 3 minutes on each side until brown.

Yield: 4 servings

A note from Dianne: It was fun to make the plantain turnovers because I had not eaten plantains before. I found they were hard to fry without burning them a little but that added crunchiness and a little extra flavor.

A note from Carol: Plantains may look like large green bananas but, as we all know, looks can be deceiving. According to Wikipedia, plantains are firmer and lower in sugar than the fruit we call bananas. Bananas are most often eaten raw, while plantains are usually cooked or processed in some way before being consumed, unless they are very ripe. As they ripen, the green starchy fruit becomes sweeter and the color changes from green to yellow to black, resembling its banana “cousin.”

A staple food in the tropical regions of the world, unripe plantains are somewhat like potatoes, possessing a neutral flavor and texture, and are often cooked in similar ways such as steaming, boiling or frying.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Indonesian Sayur Asem

This Operation Rice Bowl recipe for Indonesian sour soup appeared in the April 1 edition of The Visitor. Additionally in that issue, the newspaper featured a Catholic Relief Services worker who addressed the critical needs surrounding agriculture in Indonesia. Some techniques that CRS staff have taught the farmers there include working with the terrain and climate, preserving water, planting both perennial and seasonal crops and terracing the land. CJK

Indonesian Sayur Asem
(Operation Rice Bowl)

3 shallots, sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced
Photo courtesy of Operation Rice Bowl
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 red chili pepper, seeded and sliced
3/4 cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
4 cups water
1 vegetable bouillon cube
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh or frozen green beans
1/2  cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup fresh or frozen spinach
1/2  lemon

Put 2 shallots, 3 garlic cloves, ginger, red chili pepper, 1/4 cup peanuts, salt and 1/2 cup water into food processor or blender and blend well.

Sauté 1 shallot and 2 garlic cloves in a pot. Add 3 1/2 cups water, bouillon cube, 1/2 cup peanuts, brown sugar and ingredients from food processor or blender. Stir to combine and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Add zucchini, green beans, corn and spinach. Cook over high heat until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Just before serving, add juice of 1/2 lemon and stir.

Yield: 4 to 5 servings

A note from Carol: This authentic recipe and the others shared by Operation Rice Bowl come from CRS personnel working in those countries.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Indonesian Spiced Rice

Have you had the opportunity to sample one of the Operation Rice Bowl recipes from Haiti or Kenya highlighted in FFF last month? My husband and I enjoyed preparing a number of them and also created the spiced rice shared today from another of ORB’s featured countries for this year — Indonesia.

The cinnamon in this recipe presented a sweet, alluring flavor that is unexpected in a simple rice dish while the tumeric, of course, turned it a tempting yellow color. It’s definitely a winning combination as far as I’m concerned! CJK

Indonesian Spiced Rice
(Operation Rice Bowl)

3 tbsp. oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers*
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups long-grain white rice, uncooked
2 14-oz. cans vegetable broth
1/3 cup water
1 bay leaf
2 green onions, chopped (optional)

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and jalapenos to the oil; stir-fry until onion is translucent. Add turmeric and cinnamon and mix in. Add rice and stir 2 minutes. Add vegetable broth, water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Garnish with chopped green onion, if desired.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

A note from Carol: I like to prepare a recipe “by the book” the first time and then do my own thing if I prepare it again. My instincts told me (even while reading the recipe) that this was way too much jalapeno pepper for my taste — and indeed it was! My husband, who puts Tabasco sauce or crushed red peppers on nearly everything he eats, thought the result was just fine. For families who do not normally eat a large quantity of hot peppers* with each meal, I recommend substituting a green or red bell pepper for the jalapenos.

A woman tends a rice field in West Timor, Indonesia. (Photo courtesy of Operation Rice Bowl)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Venezuelan Arepas

Mary Lou Janski, office manager at the St. Cloud Mission Office, was a delegate from the Diocese of St. Cloud in Minnesota who visited the Diocese of Maracay, Venezuela, in February. Members of the group for this diocesan partnership mission stayed with host families for part of their 10-day trip. The delegation visited churches, convents, shrines and schools. (Another delegate, Kate Meyer, a student at St. John’s Prep School, Collegeville, Minn., reflected on her visit to Maracay in today’s issue of The Visitor.)

Mary Lou shares an authentic recipe for the Venezuelan staple, arepas. She learned how to make these small corncakes from her host family in Maracay. In some instances this versatile form of quick bread is eaten plain or with butter. On other occasions, it is served sandwich-style with fillings. CJK

Venezuelan Arepas
(Mary Lou Janski)

Mary Lou Janski forms the dough for an arepa. 
3 cups water
1 cup P.A.N. pre-cooked white corn meal**
1 tbsp. oil
Butter, optional
Grated cheese*

Mix the water and P.A.N. together — either with your hands or with a large spoon — until smooth. There should be no lumps in the dough. Let set for 3 to 5 minutes. You may need to add more P.A.N. to achieve a firm (but not hard) consistency. If so, let it sit another 6 minutes.

Heat a griddle and pour the oil into it. Rub the oil in with a paper towel; continue to heat the griddle, and then rub the oil in again.

Wet hands. Divide dough into 4 or 5 balls. Flatten each into a cake (about 5 to 6 inches around and 1/4-inch thick). Place cakes on griddle. Pat them with wet hands to make less sticky. Cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes. Turn as needed — at least a couple times while on the griddle. Watch them carefully, so they do not burn. When the arepas are browned and a little crispy on both sides, remove from heat.

To serve, slice in half (like an English muffin), spread with butter, a filling and/or cheese, if desired. Close (like a sandwich) to eat.

*A note from Mary Lou: Arepas were served for breakfast where I was staying with Rafael Roche and his wife, Eilen. Rafael, a minister with the Diocese of Maracay, prepared them every morning and I helped a couple of times. It’s important to cook them long enough to create a browned and crunchy crust. 

Each day there was a different filling. The first time it was a seasoned beef with cheese. Other mornings we had eggs scrambled with onion, peppers and tomatoes with cheese or black beans with cheese. I heard that barbecued pork is also very good. We used a sharp white grated cheese at Rafael and Eilen’s. The warm fillings melt the cheese. Arepas are both delicious and substantial.

**A note from Carol: P.A.N. pre-cooked white corn meal can be purchased locally at Hispanic markets. An essential ingredient in Venezuelan cooking, this corn meal is ground as fine as flour.

Arepas (pronounced ah-RAY-pahs) have a long history, dating back to the indigenous inhabitants of Venezuela and Columbia. Today they are sold throughout Venezuela in areperias, restaurants that specialize in making arepas stuffed with a variety of fillings.

Mary Lou Janski, left, learns how to make arepas from Rafael Roche, right, and his wife, Eilen, her host family in Maracay, Venezuela. (Photos courtesy of Mary Lou Janski)

After the arepas are placed on the preheated and oiled griddle, Mary Lou pats them down with wet hands to make the dough less sticky.