All posts by Catherine A. Hamilton

Favorite Veggie Cheeseburger

Favorite Veggie Cheeseburger

By Catherine A. Hamilton on November 9, 2018. Contributor, CatholicMom.com 

Creating a meatless burger that pleases everyone who gathers around my family table can be a challenge. So, I went to the test kitchen with one goal in mind: to make a more savory, flavor-packed veggie burger.

I started with four key ingredients: sweet potatoes, black beans, brown rice, and blue-corn tortilla chips. The toothsome legumes and grains, mixed with mashed sweet potato, mimic the heft of meat and supply ample protein.

Why use sweet potato instead of another potato or starch? This relative of Morning Glory is a rich source of fiber, and it’s packed with vitamins and minerals, including C and B vitamins, iron, calcium, selenium, and the antioxidant beta-carotene. The sweet potato produces a perfect alchemy of creamy texture and taste when blended with pulsed grains. This healthy and delicious vegetable, used in combination with plant-based proteins, is what makes my Meatless Friday meal a great choice for moms. We want to serve nutritious, low-fat but high-protein food to our families, right? So, let’s do it!

Prized veggie protein sources like black beans contain 15 grams of protein per cup. The blue-corn tortillas deliver a whopping 20% more protein than white or yellow corns (and blue corn also has lower starch and a lower glycemic index or “GI,” which is good for people with diabetes or on a weight-loss diet). Brown rice, a gluten-free fiber, provides amino acids and five grams of protein. Red onion offers savory flavor with zero sodium. Add the nutritional benefits of an egg blended into the mix for binding.

When formed and cooked, place a slice of cheese on every burger. And Voila! Served with tomato and leafy green lettuce, these veggie burgers are a completely balanced meatless meal.

A final word on zesty touches: While we all love to use simple flavorings, like the freshly chopped red onions found in this recipe, I’ve enhanced the overall flavor of these meatless patties with a dash of Worcestershire and a tiny hint of the smoke flavor for those of us who crave the grilled flavor.

Delightfully hearty and healthy, this is my new favorite veggie cheeseburger.

HANDS-ON TIME: 30 MIN — TOTAL TIME: 1 HR

INGREDIENTS:

1 large sweet potato (1 ½ cups cooked)

½ cup uncooked brown rice (1 ½ cups cooked)

1 cup canned black beans, drained

1 cup blue tortilla chips, crushed finely with a rolling pin

¼ red onion

1 egg

1 teaspoon Worcestershire

½ teaspoon chipotle hot sauce (Cholula brand)

1 drop liquid smoke (optional)

Sliced cheeses, lettuce, sliced tomatoes, pickles, burger buns, and your choice of condiments for serving.

METHOD:
  1. Add ½ cup dry brown rice and 1 ¼ cup hot water to your small sauce pan (1 ½ quart) and bring to full boil on high with lid off. Place lid on and turn heat to low, simmer for 25 minutes without removing lid. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. *See note below on cooking ahead.
  2. In the meantime, pierce sweet potato with a fork and wrap it in a clean cotton towel. Microwave for 3 minutes. Turn and microwave 3 more minutes. Turn and repeat. Remove and set aside to cool.
  3. While your potato and rice are cooking, preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil (or brush sheet with oil) and set aside.
  4. When the sweet potato is cool enough to handle, peel back the skin on the top with your fingers (or a knife), and with a spoon, scoop out the creamy sweet potato flesh. Measure 1 ½ cups of sweet potato and place it in a food processor, along with the black beans, ¾ cup of cooked brown rice, crushed blue-corn tortilla chips, red onion, and seasonings. Pulse on medium-high until it looks like a thick burger mixture. Then add a second ¾ cup of rice and pulse on low, just until it has a coarse texture similar to ground beef. Transfer mixture to large mixing bowl.
  5. To the mixing bowl, add egg and mix thoroughly (by hand or with a wooden spoon). With clean hands, form 10 patties and arrange on prepared sheet pan.

  1. Bake 20 minutes, then flip the burgers and cook 15 minutes longer. Top with cheese during the last 2 minutes. Serve immediately with your favorite buns and condiments.

* For this recipe, I often cook the rice ahead of time—in the morning or the day before. Or I use leftover rice that I’ve stored in my freezer and thawed. That way the rice is cooked and I don’t have to wait for cooking and cooling. The sweet potato can be cooked ahead too. Doing so cuts total cook time in half. One of my favorite chefs, Ina Garten, says, “The most useful thing I learned by cooking professionally is that there are a million things that you can do in advance to make cooking less stressful.” That said, I have also cooked the rice and sweet potato on the spot and put it all together at one time, starting an hour before dinnertime. Do what works for you.

Garden-Vegetable Lasagna Rollups

Garden-Vegetable Lasagna Rollups

By Catherine A. Hamilton on August 10, 2018. Contributor, CatholicMom.com

When many of us hear the word lasagna, we think of the classic combination of ground beef, marinara sauce, layers of noodles, and lots of cheese. But this meatless summertime version, inspired by food touring in Rome and my love of garden goods, rejuvenates the beloved lasagna noodle with new surroundings. Why this fresh look at an Italian favorite? My family and I eat local produce if we don’t grow it ourselves, so I try to lighten our menus with more veggies. This modern twist on lasagna uses a helping of seasonal vegetables rolled into every serving. Each tender lasagna noodle surrounds a stuffing of delicate cheese and minced summer vegetables seasoned with a pinch of herbs.

I mentioned that this recipe was inspired by food touring because my family was visiting Rome when I first became enamored with lasagna. I don’t mean the kind of lasagna we’re served in Italian restaurants in the United States. It wasn’t even my favorite lasagna recipe from Sunset’s Italian Cookbook! On every street corner in Rome I found a family owned restaurant, and of course, all the pasta sheets were handmade. What lay between the paper-thin lasagna sheets? Cheese, garlic and herbs. Yes, that’s right—no beefy Bolognese or marinara. Only delicate pasta with delicious white cheese. Heavenly!

Don’t panic! These rollups do not require handmade pasta, though I’ve made many a lasagna sheet in my day. (And you can find fresh lasagna pasta sheets in the refrigerator section of many grocery stores.) I find the rollups are easier to make with commercial dried pasta.

To my delight, the taste of this lasagna is reminiscent of meatless lasagnas we had in Rome! Buon Appetito!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 10-12 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente (soft, but not soggy)
  • 1 jar (24 oz.) of your favorite pasta sauce, divided
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil or rolled sage or Italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch of baby spinach, washed (or pre-washed baby spinach)
  • 1 lg. green bell pepper
  • 1 med. yellow summer squash (or zucchini)
  • 3 – 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 lg. egg (or two small eggs), beaten
  • 1 – 15 ounce container of Ricotta cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 1 ½ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated and divided (or Romano or Asiago)
  • 1 – 16 ounce block or ball of firm Mozzarella cheese, (not fresh mozzarella) sliced into 10 to 12 slices

(Serves 6-8)

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Boil pasta in salted water, 12-15 minutes. Rinse until cool enough to handle, and lay flat on silicone or pastry mat.
  3. Mince green pepper and summer squash and combine, or pulse in food processor until finely chopped, careful not to purée vegetables. Drain off any excess liquid.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta cheese, egg, sliced green onion (white bulbs and green tops), Parmesan, salt, and herb seasoning until evenly combined.
  5. Coat the bottom of a 9 x 13 casserole dish with oil or cooking spray and spread 1 cup of pasta sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish and set aside. (I have used a round deep-dish casserole, pictured on the cover photo, but it takes more fussing to get the rolls to stand up in the dish. If you have a 9 x 13, I recommend using it. The rollups baked in the round casserole were pretty, but not worth the extra time. Pretty or simple? You decide for yourself if it’s worth finessing the noodle.)
  6.  My method for making the rollups is to space the cooled lasagna noodles out on a large silicone mat to work with them easily. Use a spatula or spoon to portion out and spread the ricotta cheese down the middle of each noodle, followed by a layer of baby spinach leaves. Top the spinach layer lightly with one tablespoon of the grated Parmesan cheese, a pinch at a time. Using a spoon, portion out the layer of the shredded vegetables. Then use a liquid measuring cup to pour a line of sauce down the very center of each noodle.

7. Finally, roll up each noodle, cradling the rollups in both hands as you place them one at a time into the baking dish, seam side down. Using a 9 x 13 casserole, place the rolls three across and four down.

8. Once you get all the rollups in the casserole dish, having straightened them up as you go, use a spoon to replace any of the filling that may have sneaked out. Place one slice of mozzarella on top of each rollup in the baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and top each rollup with a dot of sauce. The dot of sauce is how you know where each rollup is when serving.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 40 minutes.

Suppertime Egg & Potato Pie

Suppertime Egg & Potato Pie

By Catherine A. Hamilton on May 11, 2018. Contributor, CatholicMom.com

This savory egg and potato pie is a delicious one-skillet meal, and it’s super easy to make. Just what we all need after a busy week. Right? And best of all, it uses only six ingredients that most cooks will likely have on hand—eggs, milk, cheese, potatoes, green onions, and a bell pepper. No trip to the grocery store for this meatless dish! With a cheesy, pillowing, melt-in-your-mouth texture, it is simply seasoned with green onions and bell peppers. So it’s healthy, satisfying, and colorful! If you’re looking for a crust-less egg pie that’s a family pleaser, this is the recipe you’ll want to save in your file!

For those who have dietary restrictions, the recipe is gluten-free—and can be dairy free. We have lactose intolerance in our house, and I always make this skillet pie “dairy-free.” (I prefer Daiya non-dairy cheese products for cooking, especially the “mozzarella”.) But when we have a big family gathering that includes the cheese-lover bunch, I make one with dairy and one without. Everyone’s happy!

Before we head to the kitchen, I’ll share a secret. I’m terrible about following recipes. Even when they’re my own! This simple egg pie is delightful as is, but you could add a layer of smoked salmon or smoked steelhead (8 oz. package) flaked on top the potatoes before you add your egg mixture. Other veggies also sometimes find their way into this pie—even sliced mushrooms. The point is, you can experiment with this very basic suppertime-anytime egg pie. When you have the time and feel creative, transform my recipe into your very own family favorite.

MAKES: 6 servings                               Prep: 20 min. – Skillet time: 8-10 min – Bake time: 25 min.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. russet potatoes (two medium-large), peeled and cut into 1/2 in. cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, corded and rough cut into 1/2 in. pieces
  • 5 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 7 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup 2% milk (or your favorite unsweetened non-dairy milk)
  • 1 cup grated cheese, (jack, Colby, cheddar, or non-dairy cheese)
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper (more or less to taste)

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a 10-inch ovenproof non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped potatoes and bell pepper; cook and stir until potatoes are slightly browned. Place a lid on skillet and cook on medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a splash of water or more oil if needed. In the meantime, whisk (or beat with an egg beater) eggs and milk product in medium bowl.  Fold in the green onions and cheese of your choice.
  2. Pour egg mixture evenly over potatoes and peppers. Press one ring of sliced pepper    in the center with a sprinkling of green onions. Bake for 25 minutes or until egg has risen, is lightly golden and set

 

 

Lentil Cakes with Dill-Yogurt Sauce and Fresh Greens

Lentil Cakes with Dill-Yogurt Sauce and Fresh Greens

By Catherine A. Hamilton on February 9, 2018. Contributor, CatholicMom.com
Here in the Great Northwest, where winters are long and nippy, there’s nothing like the comfort and satisfaction of hot griddle cakes. The truth is, mine is a pancake loving family for any meal year ’round, and some type of whole grain, fruit, or veggie is usually mixed into ours. Whether they’re potato pancakes, buckwheat, pumpkin, or banana, that little something extra makes an otherwise run-of-the-mill pancake a unique breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Pine nuts or pecans go into the wheat cakes, shallots or cilantro complement the potato cakes, and for lentil cakes—cilantro and dill sauce.

For this meatless meal, I felt brave as I gathered my ingredients. Then my husband asked what we were having for dinner, looked at me quizzically, and said, “Lentil cakes? Never heard of them.” I wavered, unsure if he’d like them. This was a test-kitchen first, but I quickly explained that they were sort of like crab cakes, a favorite of his. He said that if I made them, they were bound to turn out delicious. Some people call it luck, some talent, but for optimum results, I pray when I cook.

When we sat down to this delightfully mild variety of griddle cake, golden brown on the outside, tender and moist on the inside, we both became lentil cake converts!

Enjoy the natural goodness of these fancy-looking griddle cakes with your favorite greens. And freeze the leftovers.*

(Makes 16 to 18 cakes)

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced lengthwise, then roughly chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 large clove minced garlic
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 2 cups of brown or green dry lentils (or a mixture)
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp onion power
  • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cups mixed baby greens (spinach, arugula, and kale)
  • 1 TBS red wine vinegar (for the dressing)
  • 2/3 cup of plain Greek yogurt (add water to thin, approx. ¼ cup)
  • 2 TBS fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 TBS fresh dill fronds, snipped into pieces with a kitchen scissor
  • 3 TBS chopped roasted pistachios

PREPARATION

  1. In a stock pot, cover the lentils with six cups of hot water and cook until just tender, 20 -25 minutes. Add water if needed to keep lentils submerged. Remove from heat and pour into pasta colander. Leave in sink to drain.
  2. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil on medium to high, and sauté chopped onions, carrots, and crushed garlic until golden. Add enough water to cover and simmer on low until fork-tender, about seven minutes. Strain veggies in a wire mesh strainer and set aside.
  3. Place greens in salad bowl and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, whip yogurt, lemon juice snipped dill, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt with a whisk, adding enough water that the sauce is like a thick syrup and set aside. In a separate glass prep bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar to dress greens. Set aside.
  4. Pour three three quarters of the partially cooled, strained lentils into food processor, along with two eggs, oats, strained vegetables, balsamic vinegar, cilantro, remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and pepper. Pulse for 30 seconds, scrape sides, and pulse again. Add all but 1/2 cup of lentils. Pulse again. (The consistency of the batter is similar to bran or oat cookie dough, though slightly more moist). Transfer batter into medium-size bowl. Fold in remaining whole lentils. (The batter and dill-yogurt can be made the day before and kept in the refrigerator.)
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in non-stick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Spread oil evenly with a silicon pastry brush. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup for a ladle, scoop lentil batter onto heated griddle or skillet. (For smaller cakes, as shown, don’t fill the 1/4 cup measure all the way full.) Using the bottom of the measuring cup, pat the patty into a 1/2 inch thick, round cake. Make six to eight patties at a time and cook 2 ½ minutes on each side. (Keep warm in 150 degree oven on rimmed cookie sheet while frying additional patties.) Add another tablespoon of oil to skillet and cook remaining six to eight patties. Keep warm.
  6. Toss greens in salad bowl with whisked oil and vinegar.
  7. Divide lentil cakes and tossed greens equally on dinner plates as shown. Drizzle dill-yogurt sauce over lentils and sprinkle evenly with pistachios.

*Lentil cakes are far more versatile than you’d imagine. I have them for breakfast (without the dill-yogurt dressing). Just pop them in the toaster. Leftover cakes can be thawed and broiled in the oven and even topped with cheese for better-than-restaurant-style veggie burgers.

Italian Vegetable Stew (Ciambotta, or Giambotta)

Italian Vegetable Stew (Ciambotta, or Giambotta)

By Catherine A. Hamilton on November 10, 2017. Contributor, CatholicMom.com 

I love one-pot cooking, especially when healthy meets creative inside a Dutch oven or soup pot! Ciambotta, a rich and hearty Italian vegetable stew, is chock-full of harvest bounty, offering tons of nutrition and satisfaction—even without the meat.

My twist on the traditional Italian recipe usually containing eggplant changes things up for soup suppers. I omit the eggplant (hubby doesn’t like it) and get creative with the vegetables I choose, which means a “new stew” each time I make Ciambotta. I go to the refrigerator and create this Meatless Friday Meal with what’s on hand in the crisper. But for first-timers and newcomers and those who prefer to go by the book, you’ll enjoy the recipe provided. Then serve Ciambotta on its own or with crusty bread and a cheese board. It will definitely move to the top of your family’s wish list for veggie dinners this winter.

When I’ve served Ciambotta to family and friends, they’ve asked me how I keep vegetables uniformly al dente, a feat that seems challenging when making a stew. It’s simple, really, but don’t skip this step included in the recipe. To avoid the mushy-vegetable-dilemma, sauté any firm veggies—winter squash, potatoes, onions, turnip, and celery—in a small amount of oil first. By adding the zucchini and kale at the last minute, just before adding the broth, I keep the prefect tender/crisp texture.

One last thing before we head to the kitchen. This is the best-kept secret to making homemade stews and soups that have a gourmet flavor. Use the liquid from previously boiled vegetables instead of using canned broth alternatives. Instead of dumping vitamin-packed broth down the drain, I pour it into a large glass measuring cup until cool and then pop it into the freezer. That way I always have several containers of vegetable broth in the freezer ready and waiting for soups, stews, or gravies. That said, for those times when I’m out of broth, I use canned broth or bouillon. Both are quick and easy, and they work just as well when you know which brands your family likes. My go-to vegetarian bouillon is Better Than Bouillon – Seasoned Vegetable Base.

Okay, let’s start chopping those veggies. We’ll have Ciambotta in no time!

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ medium yellow onion, chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • 3 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 carrots, halved lengthwise, halved again, and chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 small turnip, diced into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 cup peeled butternut squash, diced into ½-inch pieces
  • ½ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces (in a pinch use frozen beans)
  • 1 to 2 gold potatoes, peeled and diced into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 large garlic clove, pressed or finely chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, halved again, and cut into ½-inch-thick slices
  • 1 bunch Italian kale, deveined and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp rolled dried sage
  • ½ tsp salt (or to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 can cannelloni beans
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in seasoned juice (optional) *
  • 1 ½ quarts good vegetable broth

PREPARATION

  1. On a large cutting board, beginning with the onion, chop all your vegetables into uniform sizes as indicated for ease of cooking and an attractive look. Remember that it takes a sharp, wide-blade chef’s knife and a good cutting board (wood or plastic) to chop through tough veggies like onions, carrots, and turnips—also some practice!
  2. Heat oil in a 7-to-8-quart heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions, celery, carrots, turnips, squash, green beans, potatoes and garlic.
  3. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  4. When sautéed veggies are just starting to become tender (when pierced with a fork), add zucchini, kale, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and rolled sage. Sauté one to two minutes. Additional oil may be added if the pot is too dry.
  5. Add water and stir, scraping the bottom to deglaze the pot, which loosens the little flavor-packed bits of caramelized vegetable pieces. Bring to a boil for ½ minute.
  6. Add broth, tomatoes,* and cannelloni beans. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until zucchini and kale are slightly softened, about 5 to 7 minutes, or to desired tenderness.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve with crusty bread and cheese board.

*I prefer a golden broth and omit the tomatoes half the time. Try it both ways to discover your favorite version.

What’s cooking? Find all our Meatless Friday featured recipes here. The secret to #meatless stew? Tons of veggies! @CatherineAHamil’s #recipe for #MeatlessFriday

By Catherine A. Hamilton on November 10, 2017. Contributor, CatholicMom.com 

About the author: Catherine Hamilton, a Catholic freelance writer, member of Catholic Writers Guild, and Benedictine Oblate, has articles in magazines and newspapers. Nine Days–Poems Remembering Pope John II (2015), is available on Amazon. In the year 2000, Hamilton meet Pope John Paul II in his private library while on pilgrimage. An Oregonian of Polish decent, she lives her husband of twenty-five years, and is blessed with five stepchildren and four grandsons. Visit her website at www.catherineahamilton.com and follow her on Twitter @CatherineAHamil.

Walnut Bolognese Sauce with Spaghetti

By Catherine A. Hamilton on March 31, 2017. Guest Contributor, CatholicMom.com

By the time Friday rolls around, most of us are ready for the slower pace of the weekend. And if you’re like me, no matter how much I’m craving the comfort of pasta, I shy away from recipes with the word “Bolognese” in the title. I imagine mountains of chopped vegetables and hours of simmering. At least that’s what I used to think—until I came up with this recipe.

Using a food processor instead of chopping the veggies makes prep-time for Walnut Bolognese a breeze. The best traditional sauce concepts combined with contemporary vegan cookery, this hearty meatless sauce can be served over pasta in just about 35 minutes, start to finish. The secret to getting a rich sauce more quickly is doing a really good job sautéing the walnut-veggie mixture, turning up the heat, decreasing the liquid. Browned foods taste good!

So what could be better than a quick and easy Bolognese sauce? A nutritious one. And this one is definitely that! Here is one satisfying Meatless Friday meal packed with veggies and full of healthy omegas (and antioxidants) found in nuts and mushrooms. Not to mention that my whole family loves it—even my grandsons!

Long week – low-stress ending. Let’s make Bolognese!

Walnut Bolognese Sauce with Spaghetti

Make 6-8 servings
Budget: walnut-mushroom mix – $3.73(less than ground beef) *
Prep time: 10-12 min.
Nutrition: walnuts per serving: 8.64g protein, 6% calcium, 9% iron
Cooking time: 20-25 min.

Ingredients

1 cup walnuts
1 cup pre-sliced mushrooms
1 large onion cut into 2-inch dice
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch dice (or 1 heaping cup of mini pre-cut carrots)
3 ribs celery, cut into 2-inch dice
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp each dried thyme, garlic powder, and salt
¼ cup olive oil, for the pan
2 cans diced tomato (they can be herbed)
1 cup hearty red wine
2 bay leaves
1 cup vegetable bouillon
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Method

In a food processor, pulse walnuts and mushrooms together until coarse and set aside in a bowl or on a flexible cutting mat (the texture resembles ground beef, which gives a meat-sauce mouthfeel, and kids who don’t like mushrooms won’t even know they’re in the mix.). Pulse onions, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste.

In a Dutch oven or 7 qt. sauce pan, heat oil over medium. Add the walnut-mushroom mixture, pureed veggies, salt, garlic powder, thyme. Stir. Increase heat to medium-high, stirring frequently, sautéing until all the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has becomes brown, about 10 – 15 minutes. This is where the big flavors begin to develop. (Browned food tastes good!)

Puree diced canned tomatoes in food processor. Add the tomatoes, red wine, bouillon, and bay leaves to browned veggie mixture in pot. Cook on medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce to medium and let simmer hard for 10-15 minutes with tilted lid. Taste for seasoning (it will probably need more salt) and add as needed. You may need to a splash more water (or wine), add liquid if needed to prevent scorching, but remember you want a thick rich sauce. Stir and TASTE.

Reduce heat to low. Simmer with the lid off, (stirring occasionally) while you prepare spaghetti according to package instructions. (Always salt your pasta water.)
Serve over pasta with grated cheese.

*(You can substitute walnuts for ¾ lb. of beef when you want to make traditional Bolognese.)

What’s cooking? Find all our Meatless Friday featured recipes here.The secret to #meatless Bolognese? Walnuts! @CatherineAHamil’s #recipe for #MeatlessFriday

By Catherine A. Hamilton on March 31, 2017. Guest Contributor, CatholicMom.com 

About the author: Catherine Hamilton, a Catholic freelance writer, member of Catholic Writers Guild, and Benedictine Oblate, has articles in magazines and newspapers. Nine Days–Poems Remembering Pope John II (2015), is available on Amazon. In the year 2000, Hamilton meet Pope John Paul II in his private library while on pilgrimage. An Oregonian of Polish decent, she lives her husband of twenty-five years, and is blessed with five stepchildren and four grandsons. Visit her website at www.catherineahamilton.com and follow her on Twitter @CatherineAHamil.

Summertime Taco Feed

Summer Taco Feed for Meatless Friday – with Watermelon Salsa

– © 2017 Catherine Hamilton. All rights reserved –

By Catherine A. Hamilton on August 11, 2017. Contributor, CatholicMom.com

Summertime means watermelon at my house, where the super-sized fruit becomes a condiment that turns standard meatless fare into a special hot-weather meal.

Zesty lime and watermelon salsa is a tasty summer twist on the ubiquitous tomato salsa and a perfect combination with freshly grilled fish tacos. Even for those kids (or grownups) who’d rather have meatless tacos of beans and cheese, watermelon salsa will wow them!

My first taco feed was at the church Youth Group Night when I was eleven. Back then, tacos were the classic ground beef and cheese variety, and I fell in love with them. That very weekend I made Mom, Dad, my sister, and my four brothers their first tacos. A big hit! Now you understand why I’m comfortable making tacos for a crowd of people—I’ve been doing it for 50 years.

Even though our kids are grown and away from home, they all come for dinner about once a month, and they still love my tacos. Why deviate from tradition when tacos are a healthy family reunion food?

Almost every summer during July or August, the taco feed includes fish tacos with watermelon salsa because the local watermelon is SO good. This year, my middle step-son surprised me by arriving early to help with the chopping. I prepared the slaw and corn salad, and he made the watermelon salsa. (You can make the slaw, salsa, and corn salad the day before and refrigerate.)

Once your salsa and salads are ready to go, just light up the grill for the fish, or pan fry it if you prefer. Heat your favorite beans if you have someone who doesn’t like fish, pop your tortillas in the microwave or oven, set everything out on the counter—and there’s your “Taco Feed Bar.” Family members and guests can make their own tacos. Or, for kids who are too young to make their own, you can create and place a variety of tacos on a tray for selection. Happy summer!

Summer Taco Feed for Meatless Friday – with Watermelon Salsa

Summer Taco Feed Grocery list:
1 to 2 lbs. white or black cod (or whatever white fish is available)
1 box blue taco shells (I always have a combination of pre-made shells, some crispy, some soft)
10 red or yellow corn soft taco shells
1 small to medium seedless watermelon
5 ears of corn
1 box cherry tomatoes
1 English cucumber
1 red bell pepper
1 jalapeño pepper (optional)
1 lime
1 bunch of green onions
1 bunch cilantro
1 package of chopped slaw mix (your favorite)
1 red onion
1 large avocado
1 garlic
1 small can sliced black olives
1 can of favorite beans (cannelloni, pinto beans, or refried)
12 oz. cheese white and yellow (grated)
1 bag of chips for dipping

Method for Watermelon Salsa:

2 cups coarsely chopped seedless watermelon
1 English style cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup finely cut green onions
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
2 TBP chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 lime, juiced
Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Store in Tupperware container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Use the rind for you serving bowl.

Method for corn salad side dish:
Boil 5 ears of corn. Cool in ice water. Cut from cob (or 2 1/3 cups of frozen corn, thawed)
1/4 cup red onions, finely chopped
1 large avocado, cut into 1/2-in. cubes
1 large clove garlic, pressed
1 small can sliced black olives
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Stir all ingredients gently in a serving bowl. Store in Tupperware container in the refrigerator or serving bowl until ready to serve.

Prepare chopped salad mix or pre-chopped coleslaw:
Follow package instruction. Store in Tupperware container in the refrigerator or serving bowl until ready to serve.

Preparation for tacos:

1). Heat 1 TBS olive oil in skillet or nonstick pan and add beans. Add /4 cup of red or green salsa and ½ tsp cumin (Optional). Keep warm.
2) Heat tortillas in the microwave or oven for 7 or 8 minutes. Keep Warm.
3) Grill or panfry 1 to 2 lbs. white fish. Place on a serving dish. You can flake he fish with a fork or cut filets in tacos-sized pieces.
4) Set taco shells and tortillas on tray along with plated fish, beans, grated cheese, coleslaw, and salsa for your Taco bar.
5) Set out bowls of corn salad, coleslaw, and salsa with serving spoons. Provide chips for dipping.
6) Partially fill tortilla with fish. Add a spoonful of coleslaw and top with salsa. (Fish tacos don’t have cheese, and are a great option for those who are lactose intolerant.)
7) For bean and cheese tacos, fill tortilla with beans, cheese and chopped salad (or lettuce) and salsa.

What’s cooking? Find all our Meatless Friday featured recipes and more. The secret to #meatless tacos? watermelon salsa! @CatherineAHamil’s #recipe for #MeatlessFriday @CatholicMom.com

By Catherine A. Hamilton on August 11, 2017. Contributor, CatholicMom.com 

About the author: Catherine Hamilton, a Catholic freelance writer, member of Catholic Writers Guild, and Benedictine Oblate, has articles in magazines and newspapers. Nine Days–Poems Remembering Pope John II (2015), is available on Amazon. In the year 2000, Hamilton meet Pope John Paul II in his private library while on pilgrimage. An Oregonian of Polish decent, she lives her husband of twenty-five years, and is blessed with five stepchildren and four grandsons. Visit her website at www.catherineahamilton.com and follow her on Twitter @CatherineAHamil.

A Birthday Cake for a Polish Saint: Kremówka Papieska “Papal Cream Cake”

A Birthday Cake for a Polish Saint: Kremówka Papieska “Papal Cream Cake”
BY CATHERINE A. HAMILTON

For almost a year, I’ve been planning to bake this old-world cake in celebration of Saint John Paul II’s birthday on May 18. I learned the traditional Polish Kremówka was renamed Kremówka Papieska (kreh-MOOF-kah pah-PYESS-kah), or Papal Cream Cake, when word spread that it was Pope John Paul II’s favorite cake.

As a boy growing up in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Wojtyła and his friends would save up their money for weeks to buy a slice of Kremówka at the local bakery. The rebranding of the dessert started in Wadowice during a papal visit and it caught on in Krakow. Now all across Poland the delightful cream-filled cake is known as Kremówka Papieska. And it was voted the by Poles as one of two “National Birthday Cakes.”

As usual, I started my recipe research with my go-to Polish cookbook, Polish Heritage Cookery. It contained a very old version of Kremówka, known as Carpathian Mountain Cake because of the dusting of powdered sugar on its top resembling the snow covering the Carpathian peaks. I sifted through internet cooking sites and found no end to lovely Kremówka recipes, old and new. Some cakes are round like a pie, some are square, and some rectangular. In France the lookalike patisserie item is Napoleon’s Cake, and “Krepita” is the Serbian version.

The truth? I thought I’d overcome my fear of baking years ago. But reality is reality – Kremówkas aren’t easy to make and I was afraid of failure. While one author called the version that is now “standard” for Polish bakers “simple,” another recipe writer said, “Don’t worry, the cake will squish when you cut it.” I pictured the custard insides bulging and dripping off the pie server. Don’t worry? Yes, don’t worry it will “still taste good!”

Well, I simply refuse to make a cake that isn’t both pretty in the cake dish and on the plate.

Determined, I marched to my at-home test kitchen and got to work. My goal was to find that perfect balance between maintaining the authentic Polish cream cake and inventing a way to make it easy and attractive. Here is my version of this once unknown confection, Kremówka Papieska.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For the top puff-pastry layer:

1 sheet (half of 1.1-pound package) frozen puff pastry dough, thawed
Confectioners’ sugar for finishing.

Pre-heat oven to 400 F (204 C) degrees. Roll out puff-pastry sheet on a pastry cloth. Use your 10-inch ceramic tart dish as a cutting guide for the cake top by placing it upside down on the uncooked puff pastry. Cut all the way around the tart dish with a sharp knife, cutting through the pastry to create the perfect-fit cake topper. Lift the tart dish off the puff pastry. Using a serrated steak knife, pre-scored the pastry, cutting nearly, but not all the way through the dough. Cut into 8 to12 pie-shaped pieces, depending on desired serving size.

Place the pre-scored puff pastry on a piece of parchment paper, and carefully set on top of a cooling rack. Cover pre-scored puff pastry with another piece of parchment paper, and place a second cooling rack (upside down) on top of the second piece of parchment, sandwiching the pre-scored puff pastry between the two cooling racks.

This is necessary to keep the pastry flat during the first phase of cooking but still keep it flaky. Carefully place on middle oven rack. I keep saying carefully, because during my first attempt the pastry slid off the parchment. Thank goodness it landed on the oven door (not the floor) and I rescued it! Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the top cooling rack and the top sheet of parchment from the puff pastry. Continue baking until pastry is golden and cooked throughout (about 10 to 15 additional minutes). Remove and cool pastry on cooling rack while you make your short-cake bottom layer. Reduce oven temperature to 325F (160C).

The bottom short-crust layer:

8 ounces butter
3 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons water
3 egg yolks
A pinch of salt

Coat your 10 inch ceramic tart dish with professional bakers spray (or butter) and dust with fine bread crumbs and set aside. Cut the butter into the flour and sugar mixture with a pastry blender. Beat the egg yolks into the water. Mix eggs into the flour with a wooden spoon. Mix well. Spread and press the short-crust mixture to cover the bottom and sides of baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes on 325F (160C). Remove from oven and set on cooling rack while you make your cream filling.

For the easy pastry cream:

2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
A pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons potato starch
6 large egg yolks

Combine milk, sugar, vanilla, salt, and thickening starch with egg yolks in a medium saucepan, using a whisk. Over medium heat bring the milk mixture to a boil, stirring constantly with the whisk. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to boil one minute, all the while stirring vigorously. (Use a silicon spoon to scrape the bottom from time to time to make sure the mixture isn’t sticking.)

Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Place a sheet of plastic wrap just over the top and place the sauce pan in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes. (You can place the sauce pan on a trivet or a potholder to protect your shelving.)

When the custard cream has slightly cooled, pour and spread it evenly over the short-crust layer in the tart dish.

Carefully set your completely cooled, cut-to-fit puffed pasty over the custard layer. Press down lightly. Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar. Refrigerate until completely cool and set for several hours or overnight before serving. Re-dust with confectioner’s sugar. Cut with serrated knife. Serve with or without fresh whipped cream. Refrigerate leftovers.

Happy Birthday, Saint John Paul II!
(Original sources: Polish Heritage Cookery, European Cuisine, about.com, thespruce.com, and catholiccusine.blogspot.com)

FOOD

Walnut Bolognese Sauce with Spaghetti

By the time Friday rolls around, most of us are ready for the slower pace of the weekend. And if you’re like me, no matter how much I’m craving the comfort of pasta, I shy away from recipes with the word “Bolognese” in the title. I imagine mountains of chopped vegetables and hours of simmering. At least that’s what I used to think—until I came up with this recipe.

Using a food processor instead of chopping the veggies makes prep-time for Walnut Bolognese a breeze. The best traditional sauce concepts combined with contemporary vegan cookery, this hearty meatless sauce can be served over pasta in just about 35 minutes, start to finish. The secret to getting a rich sauce more quickly is doing a really good job sautéing the walnut-veggie mixture, turning up the heat, decreasing the liquid.Browned foods taste good!

So what could be better than a quick and easy Bolognese sauce? A nutritious one. And this one is definitely that! Here is one satisfying Meatless Friday meal packed with veggies and full of healthy omegas (and antioxidants) found in nuts and mushrooms. Not to mention that my whole family loves it—even my grandsons!

Long week – low-stress ending. Let’s make Bolognese!

Make 6-8 servings Budget: walnut-mushroom mix -$3.73(less than ground beef) *
Prep time: 10-12 min. Nutrition: walnuts per serving: 8.64g protein, 6% calcium, 9% iron Cooking time: 20-25 min.

1 cup walnuts
1 cup pre-sliced mushrooms
1 large onion cut into 2-inch dice
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch dice (or 1 heaping cup of mini pre-cut carrots)
3 ribs celery, cut into 2-inch dice
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp each dried thyme, garlic powder, and salt.
¼ cup olive oil, for the pan
2 cans diced tomato (they can be herbed)
1 cup hearty red wine
2 bay leaves
1 cup vegetable bouillon
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In a food processor, pulse walnuts and mushrooms together until coarse and set aside in a bowl or on a flexible cutting mat (the texture resembles ground beef, which gives a meat-sauce mouthfeel and kids who don’t like mushrooms won’t even know they’re in the mix.). Pulse onions, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste.

In a Dutch oven or 7 qt. sauce pan, heat oil over medium. Add the walnut-mushroom mixture, pureed veggies, salt, garlic powder, thyme. Stir. Increase heat to medium-high, stirring frequently, sautéing until all the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has becomes brown, about 10 – 15 minutes. This is where the big flavors begin to develop. (Browned food tastes good!)

Puree diced canned tomatoes in food processor. Add the tomatoes, red wine, bouillon, and bay leaves to browned veggie mixture in pot. Cook on medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce to medium and let simmer hard for 10-15 minutes with tilted lid. Taste for seasoning (it will probably need more salt) and add as needed. You may need to a splash more water (or wine), add liquid if needed to prevent scorching, but remember you want a thick rich sauce. Stir and TASTE.

Reduce heat to low. Simmer with the lid off, (stirring occasionally) while you prepare spaghetti according to package instructions. (Always salt your pasta water.)

Serve over pasta with grated cheese.

*(You can substitute walnuts for ¾ lb. of beef when you want to make traditional Bolognese.)

Published March 31, 2017. In CatholicMoms.com Meatless Friday section.