Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Few Good Books

I've been reading an eclectic but fascinating series of books lately so thought I'd share the list . . .  with one caveat; you have to send me some of your favorite books too!  Three of these were sent to me by two of my favorite readers, Father Sam and my sister, Darinda Huntley. They never steer me wrong.

These first three were all new authors for me and I will be reading more by each of them!

 Nightwoods by Charles Frazier
This is my favorite kind of novel with many layers of stories within a story.  A fairly contemporary story, the main character is an eclectic single woman who unexpectedly "inherits" two very damaged young children. I could not put this book down and my house is proof!

The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
This is a "man's" book. Historical fiction set just at the end of World War I, Lehane weaves a fascinating story of the intertwining of three characters, Babe Ruth, a good, poor black man trying to eek out a living, and an open-minded Irish cop of means. I loved this book but be warned, there is a fair amount of violence and no romance. Suffice it to say that I had a couple of nightmares in which the events of the story wound themselves into my life. It's a good read that can occupy your imagination even in your sleep.  Lehane authored a follow-up to this book, Live by Night, that I will be reading next. (By the way, this is NOT a book for teens.)

The Incredible Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
I suspect this novel is technically classified as Sci-Fi, but that part does not come into the story early. It is a completely fascinating tale of a couple of young adults who had a perfectly normal (aka challenging) upbringing. The story is built around a lemon birthday cake and the memories it conjures for the narrator. This book is a true page-turner with a very surprising ending.


A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World by Tony Horwitz.  I fell in love with this Pultizer Prize winning journalist when I was assigned Confederates in the Attic for a class on The South. (Thank you Sydney Duncan!) I love history and this is my favorite kind of history. Horwitz begins at Plymouth Rock and digs into the rich history of exploration of our country before the Pilgrims set foot on the famous rock. What results is an amazing -- and sometimes bloody-- story of Conquistadors, ne'er do wells, slaves, native peoples, priests, Vikings, tricksters and quite a few bumbling fools. I had the happy accident of spraining my ankle while reading this book so I had an excuse to neglect my family and read it!

Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales
Just as the title proclaims, St. Francis de Sales instructs the reader on how to live a devout life. Written in the form of a letter to a homemaker, it is intended for the layperson. It is a very meaty book so I could only digest a few pages at a time, but it totally reformed confession for me! And I would venture to say that although there are definitely parts of the book that would be most meaningful to Catholics, a protestant could definitley glean a lot of useful things from his writing. And at 99 cents for the kindle version, you sure aren't taking much of a gamble.

Why do Catholics Do That? by Kevin Orlin Johnson. This is an older book that I originally read while in RCIA. I decided to re-read it as part of the Year of the Faith. 14 years into my Catholic faith life, I definitely benefited from the review. Johnson does not attempt to reconstruct the Catechism (which he encourages every Catholic to read and reference) but rather gives simple explanations of some baffling practices of the faith from the artwork and icons in our church buildings to transubstantiation. Some of the things that people told me were "a mystery of the faith" are actually explained in this book. Most people would probably learn a thing or two from this book -- and since it's interestingly assembled and easy to read, you'd probably enjoy it too!

There are so many more but this ought to put something truly worthwhile in your hands for a day or two!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Eatin' Irish

Growing up, my family didn't really celebrate St. Patrick's Day -- except the pinching part. When I moved to Texas in 1978, a sweet friend invited me for St. Paddy's Day . . . and served Corned Beef and boiled cabbage.  The smell alone cured me for a while.  I'm not a big drinker and even if I were, green beer hasn't really appealed to me, so that let out the celebrations in local bars.

Only 35 years later, I decided to cook a Saint Patrick's Day feast because I may not be Irish, but I'm a foodie.  My family are fantastic eaters and we all enjoy cultural food adventures.  After extensive research, I came up with a few authentic (sounding, anyway!) dishes and one not authentic but yummy sounding desert.

Here's our feast.  Enjoy! The links to the recipes are below the photos.

Our "starter" was Guinness Rarebit.  It was very rich and should not be served with a meal!  But we did it anyway.  I cut the butter in half and do not be fooled; this makes enough sauce for may more than 4 pieces of bread.  I am freezing the leftover and will resurrect it eventually as fondue.  The leftover Guinness did not go to waste!

Homemade Pork Sausage, Colcannon, and homemade Apple Sauce.

Oh my goodness, this was delicious. I used parsley, not marjoram, in the sausage and added salt and savory and it was so delicious.  But truly, every dish was delish and we will not wait a year to have this combo again.  (That said, "full fat" sausage is an extremely rare occurrence in our home so the next time around, it will be half ground turkey or chicken breast.)  I halved the sugar in the applesauce, too.

Here it is all together on my plate.  I meant to serve English peas, too, but just plain forgot.

We topped it off with a Skinny Shamrock Shake with a secret ingredient.

[My photo is not the best because it was hot in our kitchen! ]  I avoid using food coloring in our kitchen except very rarely because I just don't think we need it. Real food is lovely, anyway.  But a Shamrock Shake just needs to be green so I followed this recipe to the tee, including the avocado.  This was so tantalizing.  I love that the fat is from avocado and not super-rich ice cream.  If you try it, be sure to add the ice because the added volume is lovely. Every one loved it and we did not tell them about the avocado.  A "must repeat" desert!

Finally,  finish off your own St. Paddy's Day with a little fun. Cheers!