Thursday, July 28, 2016

Put a Lid on It: Savory Pies for Many Occassions

... including just lunch.

It started with a chicken pot pie, delivered to our doorstep on a cold winter's night while we snuggled our newborn and delighted in our toddler. One was baked that day for dinner, the other tucked away in our already over-filled freezer, a sign that while we hoped for an easy baby, we prepared for the worst.

(As an easy baby was, in fact, had, many, many scones were made on those days that dinner was provided by pre-baby labor, keeping cooking and baking in the routine.)

It continued in March, during my husband's last spring break ever, for his feast day celebration (also the most-oft celebrated saint day in the United States), with the appropriate beer featured in the inner portion of the pie- and, of course, drunk with dinner. The crust was scored in a cross-fashion, as instructed by my Irish-loving uncle to ensure authenticity, with three marks on either side for each member of the holy family.

A series of quiches followed, all using Martha's double crust recipe, filled with fresh spinach, leftover roasted broccoli or cauliflower, shredded cheese (cheddar or Aldi gouda for a decadent treat!), and whatever else I had on hand, like cubes of Easter ham and roast chicken. Very vegetable quiche: paired with salad, the perfect delicious yet nutrient-dense lunch for a nursing mama.

Then there was what would have been my crowning glory, had I known how to properly prepare an artichoke: Marcella Hazan's Artichoke Ricotta Torte, from The Essentials of Italian Cooking, for a decadent yet meatless Friday night dinner. Instead, we were left with a deliciously flaky crust, paired with tough artichoke leaves, leaving promise for the future.

Finally, last night a Ham, Cheese, and Spinach pie! Delicious (and well worth making a ham just for the leftovers it yields).

What is it that makes a flaky crust elevate any old meal?

(In case you missed it, I linked to a few of my latest columns:Living in the Present, On Routine and God's Presence, and on meatless Fridays)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On My Nightstand

My mom's biographer of Fr. Stanley Rother, an Oklahoma farm boy turned Guatemalan martyr, The Shepherd Who Didn't Run
Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth

Well, that last one was on my nightstand before the whole childbirth thing happened. 

Now that one's gone (helpful as it was.)

And I'm left with a stack of books I desperately want to read. 

Instead, I'm:
- nursing the baby
- reading Hoppity Hop to the toddler
- planning what to make some day/getting into food writing/scouring Smitten Kitchen archives (while nursing the baby)
- actually making decadence like scones while eating dinner out of our friends' and neighbors' generosity and, later, our freezer
- trying to keep up with the news without becoming depressed
- searching the internet for something edifying to read (while nursing the baby)
- cleaning my house
- as always, writing my column (on mercy and failing at Lent and forgiveness)
- celebrating Easter! (while nursing the baby)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Domestic Pursuits

The last, oh, nine months or so, I've been mentally and physically preoccupied with domestic pursuits (right after completing this long article on beauty). For the first few months, I was all too physically engaged with gestation, but then my time cleared up and my mind turned towards preparing our home for our new family member. This involved re-arranging, de-cluttering, and beautifying our home, as well as preparing for Christmas extra early.

We were lucky enough to "inherit" a new bed. We were able to move the furniture around, getting rid of a set of shelving, and make the room look nicer (without buying a thing). Similarly, with help from a friend, I re-arranged the existing furniture in the living room; it opened up the space physically and mentally, making me feel like our small house had more possibilities than I thought.

Some of my favorite newborn clothes: I can't believe we will soon have another baby this small!

Aldi flowers
As usual, my domestic pursuits involved food: delicious squash soup, crock pot pulled pork for the freezer, Christmas morning cinnamon rolls saved for Christmas morning, granola and pecan linzer cookies for gifting, Cinnamon Roll braided bread, Moroccan chicken, and so much more.... mostly waffles!

Waffles of all varieties to eat on those hazy post-partum mornings when you need something substantial right now.

Squash soup!

Cinnamon Roll Braided Bread, with pecans instead of raisins (I live in the South and need protein!)

Our Christmas tree!
Non-Santa presents bought and wrapped very early

Friday, December 4, 2015

Job, Advent, and Suffering

Last year's Tree

What we've done for Advent: 

1. Set up our advent wreath... today 

(We were at my parent's for an extended thanksgiving that included an ice storm and a power outage at our house until Tuesday night)

2. Set up our nativity, with Mary and Joseph journeying on the coffee table; the Magi are coming from the East!

3. Re-read parts of Joseph Ratzinger's advent homilies, collected as What it Means to Be a Christian

4. Wrote my advent column!

            Terrorist attack iconic Paris, leaving the Western world mourning for the victims, their families, and our collective safety and security. The news hits hard amidst a daily life of relative peace and joy, bringing to the forefront the horror and evil present in this world, leading us to ask, “Why?” Governments, think-tanks, pyschologists, and friends may answer this “why,” but their answers don’t suffice. It isn’t really to them that what we ask. Instead, our question is addressed, consciously or not, to the source of all meaning.

Read the rest here (or here, if you prefer your news sources to be Texan).  

And my November column, on beauty in the everyday.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


            When I first held my daughter, I was overwhelmed with the awe and gratitude common to new mothers. Who was this tiny person that was given to me to love? Where did she come from, and what will she become? Will her blue eyes stay blue? Will she be a reader, an athlete, a kind friend?
            This profound sense of wonder, which we experience at the birth of a child, paradoxically brings us back to our own childhood, when our experience of the world is illuminated by the miracle of existence. We see this amazement as the child grows: her whole body enlivens at backyard rabbits, the long, soft branches of a willow tree, and a visit from her grandfather. The child’s way of relating to the whole world differs greatly from the adult’s; it is imbued with wonder and awe, aware of the whole world as a gift.

Read the rest here

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Unhappy with your health insurance?

Due to the popularity and interest this attracted on Facebook, I'm taking a break from my regularly scheduled programming (i.e., re-posting my Millenials column...) to add a few details about the health care cost-sharing program we joined last January, in time for anyone to drop their health insurance during the open enrollment month of October.*

Unhappy with your health insurance? A year ago, so were we: we paid thousands and thousands of dollars for the birth of our child, on top of high monthly premiums. We dropped our health insurance and joined Samaritan Ministries, a cost-sharing program. We pay our monthly share to an actual person with a medical need- one month everyone even paid less because there were more shares than needs! We just finished receiving the money for the upcoming birth of our second child (which we will pay to the midwife and hospital); this time, we will pay $0 and have a much lower monthly payment.

Here’s how the need sharing process works in a nutshell:
Each member commits to sending a set “Share” amount each month. These “Shares” are sent directly through the mail from one household to another, to the members with “Needs”. Samaritan Ministries uses a database that randomly matches Shares to Needs, so that the Sharing is coordinated and Shares go to the appropriate members with Needs.

A few basic facts:
- Routine medical care is not "publishable," meaning that other members are not required to send money; we pay out-of-pocket for pediatrician visits, vaccines, etc.
- Anything under $300 is also not "publishable." However, a publishable need encompasses all related expenses to a specific medical condition.  For example, ultrasounds, labs, midwife/doctor visits, hospital costs, etc are all part of a maternity need. Even if one of these things is under $300, it is bundled with the others to count and is then published. 
- Pre-existing conditions are covered in a limited manner; certain things are publishable after some time; maternity care is publishable up to the amount you've contributed by the birth of the child
- Anything not "publishable" can be put in the newsletter as "special need." Each month, Samaritan suggests members send $20 to a specific special need, and distribute this suggestion such that the need would be almost entirely covered if every did so. It is not, however, required to do so.
- It is faith-based. All similar but not faith-based programs were shut down by "Obamacare." None meet the required criteria for health insurance; this still exists because of a religious exemption.
- There is not an age requirement
- Sometimes people send you thank you cards for helping them with their medical need!
- Members have the responsibility to collect and send bills as well as negotiate an uninsured/cash price with the health care provider.  So far, we have had no trouble getting prices reduced for paying in cash, but there is a service to help members do this if the provider won't negotiate with the member
- The other members who send you money know why they are sending it to you - this means they send prayers and sweet notes. It also means they know you are having a baby/had a kidney stone/have cancer (whatever your need is). With the transparency, some privacy is lost. This does not bother me but it is worth stating.

 I'm mostly making this PSA because I hate to see people robbed blind by insurance companies- there is another way!- but if you join please put us down as a referral. It costs you nothing but saves us money. Email me for more details, and check out their website:

*You may be able to drop more quickly; we were not in a position to do so as it was tied to my husband's job-  I found out after the fact that the birth of a child makes someone eligible to drop insurance without finishing out the year.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Imagination & Empathy

            As a child, I consumed stories voraciously: tales of children on the prairie, runaways hidden in a museum, and siblings who find another world behind thick fur coats. Like most children, I was encouraged in this habit and other ways of cultivating my imagination, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that one of the benefits of imagination became clear: the importance of imagination in cultivating empathy, even for those who have very different lives than ours. 

Read the rest here.