A convert to Catholicism, Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, restaurant critic, and cookbook author, who is passionate about every aspect of the food world—from interviewing chefs to supporting local farmers and to making the connection between food and faith
Blogging about Catholic liturgical recipes must attract a devout crowd of Catholic foodies. Imagine, for example, logging on to the website, Catholic Cuisine, on the feast day of Saint Anthony of Egypt and gazing at a plate filled with strips of cooked bacon! After reading about Saint Anthony, many would probably run to the kitchen to cook a tempting snack.
An ongoing Catholic food venture, the website was inspired by Idaho resident Jessica Gordon some years ago. Born the oldest of 12 into a faithful Catholic family, Gordon said she used to help her mother with her younger siblings. In fact, said Gordon, her mother had the older children cooking all the time, adding that she herself loved baking, which became part of her childhood. “My mother was always teaching us to cook different recipes and my parents also did everything they could to make our Catholic faith a part of our daily life,” she said.
Now herself a mother of nine and a work-at-home mom, Gordon not only continues to love to cook and collect recipes but she started blogging in 2007 with her site Shower of Roses, which features family activities, Catholic commentary, and recipe ideas to celebrate Catholic feast days and saints.
The next step seemed obvious to her: “I noted a need for an online Catholic recipe source,” she said, “and I talked to other bloggers about sharing recipes for liturgical days ... and I got friends to help contribute to it.” Gordon and her affiliates wanted to focus on how mealtime provides a perfect chance for families to be together — and she noted that it has been a great way to teach her own children about Catholicism.
“I was always searching for new ways to teach our children about the faith and mealtimes provide a perfect opportunity,” she said. She even used mealtime prep as a teaching tool: “It started out simply, and I showed them how we could add or modify a recipe to create something symbolic," she said, adding that she scoured ideas from Catholic cookbooks and even came up with making a dragon-themed vegetable platter for the feast of St. George.
And, she added, “We don't celebrate every feast day with food, but each night at the dinner table my husband will read a short story about the saint of the day after we pray together. This has been another great way to teach our children about our faith and the saints at mealtimes and something we love to do.”
Does she have a favorite recipe? There are so many fun recipes, she said. “Some of our favorites include our Cherry Cheese Candy Cane Coffee Cake for the feast of St. Nicholas, our Twelve Days of Christmas Dinner Party on Twelfth Night featuring symbolic food item for each of the Twelve days of Christmas, Candlemas Cookies with Drip Plates for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Irish Beef and Guinness Stew for the feast of St. Patrick, and Assumption Parfaits!"
Now after 13 years and with a busy life, Gordon admits that she is not as active online as before, and relies on her contributors and will always welcome more. Fortunately, she and her helpers keep the postings updated, making Catholic Cuisine website a liturgical cooking guide for the public.
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Irish Beef and Guinness Stew
Serves 6 to 8
- 2 pounds lean beef stew meat, trimmed of fat and cut into 2-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 2 large onions, peeled and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cups Guinness stout beer (or other Irish Stout)
- 2 cups carrot, cut into chunks
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 tbs fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)
Put the meat cubes in a bowl with 1 tbs of the vegetable oil. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. Toss the meat in the mixture to coat.
Heat the remaining oil in a deep pan over medium-high heat. Add the beef, and brown on all sides. Add the onions and crushed garlic. Stir the tomato paste into a small amount of water (to dilute); pour into the pan, stir to blend, cover and cook gently (reduce heat if necessary) for about 5 minutes.
Pour 1/2 cup of the beer into the pan, and as it begins to boil, scrape any bits of food from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. This adds a lot of flavor to the broth. Pour in the remaining beer and add the carrots and thyme. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley.