Posted by: godandchocolate | December 7, 2012

Seven Quick Takes {vol. 2}

— 1 —

I’m really incredibly bad at this blogging thing. And it’s not for lack of time. Well, I don’t think it is, anyway. No one has any time and yet plenty of others write blogs and books and I’m over here writing epic Facebook comments. I think it’s a lack of self-discipline, the inability to force myself to sit and write in one tab for more than five minutes. Or just a matter of preferring to comment on what others say, or Like or RT or whatever instead of actually developing my own train of thought. Fail.

— 2 —

There's more than one ornament on there by now, of course. I'm not *that* much of a slacker mom.

Our Jesse Tree. There’s more than one ornament on there by now, of course. I’m not *that* much of a slacker mom.

Did anyone else find it odd that there was such a big gap between Thanksgiving and Advent this year? I actually was so cognizant of the gap (i.e., was so busy judging the people chopping down Christmas trees a week before Advent began) that I had myself convinced Advent wasn’t imminent…until it was.

Then I woke up on December 2nd and realized that we still had Indian corn on our front door, pumpkins by our front and back doors, no Advent candles, and nary a Christmas/Advent decoration in sight. All my Advent prep had apparently taken place on Pinterest, not in my real life in my real house.

So within about an hour, probably less, I found some toddler-friendly Jesse tree reflections, free printable Jesse tree ornaments (the 18-month-old can color them and feel involved! yay!), and freehand cut out a tree shape from some green wrapping paper. Didn’t turn out too shabby, and apparently one-year-olds don’t judge. Everyone wins, even slacker Mommy!

— 3 —

Baby's First Maria Lactans. (c) Ignatius/Magnificat

Baby’s First Maria Lactans. (c) Ignatius/Magnificat

I have had some great finds on the toddler Catholic Christmas gift front this year. First, there were these sturdy, laminated, awesome “My Heavenly Friends” holy cards from Aquinas & More. Then the set of all four Brother Francis DVDs from Catholic Vision Video for $39.99 total. And then my random browsing at Catholic Supply yielded this gem of a find: Maite Roche’s My First Pictures of Christmas, a lovely little board book put out by Ignatius Press/Magnificat.

I was a little surprised and a LOT excited when I turned to the “Jesus” page and saw this. Look at that cradle hold with Mary helping the infant Christ to achieve a good latch (hey, even he probably needed some help)! The rest of the book also shows a pretty “attached” Mother of God…even the page that says “…and laid Him in a manger” shows the manger empty and Mary snuggling Jesus close in her arms. Love it.

More than just lactivist me getting a little giddy, I think images like these are important for children to grasp the reality of the Incarnation. As a parent of a nursing toddler I think this picture will help my kiddo understand even a wee bit more that Jesus was a real person, once a baby just like her, who nursed and was cuddled by his mommy. There are also so many more theological layers to unpack here that a board book illustration probably doesn’t seem to warrant…but that the Son of God suckled at a human mother’s breast and required her for comfort (not to mention diaper changes!) is really the amazing truth of the Incarnation in a nutshell.

— 4 —

In the past couple of weeks I have found myself taking care of two toddler girls, technically ages 1 (mine) and 2 (my friend‘s), but who are really only six months apart. Catfights and fisticuffs have ensued, but I think we have avoided lifelong trauma and serious injury thus far. Thank God and guardian angels.

It’s not the two-year-old starting most of it, either. It’s my feisty one-year-old who has palpable flashes of rage when she sees me giving her toys to another person, however much a friend. I think my daughter is not at a good age for jealousy right now, which sounds awful. I know, I know, the whole theory is that only children are selfish/jealous of others who take Mommy’s attention only because they are only children, and if they had a sibling they wouldn’t be jealous. I frankly think such counterfactuals are useless and prefer to side with, erm, child development, when I say that it is probably a good thing we didn’t have baby #2 around this stage. (No need to argue with me about it or suggest it would’ve been fine or assume you know our family-expanding intentions based on this comment, BTWs, just saying that it’s probably for the best it has worked out this way.)

— 5 —

I’m so excited to see that my midwife’s hard work is bearing fruit and her birth center is about to open. Back when we were expecting R, she was working to get it open, but state regulations kept standing in the way. Read the story to learn more about the whole process. I am just so excited to have more options for mothers and babies here in our area. Jessica is an amazing midwife with such a strong, faithful, quiet presence, and I’m so glad to see her hard work paying off!

— 6 —

Have you heard? Pope Benedict XVI is now on Twitter! He will begin tweeting, by answering questions sent to his account (@Pontifex) with the hashtag #askpontifex. I asked the Holy Father a question–have you? If you have, share your question in the comments!

The question I tweeted to the pope. One of many I have and many that were asked.

The question I tweeted to the pope. One of many I have and one of many that have been asked.

— 7 —

In a somewhat surreal turn of events following that tweet, I was contacted and interviewed by a religion reporter for USA Today. She’s running a story on the whole #askpontifex thing next week sometime. I guess we’ll see how it turns out! I’ll link here if I see it posted.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Posted by: godandchocolate | November 9, 2012

Seven Quick Takes {vol. 1}

— 1 —

The election happened. Well, America…not what I expected. But what can you do? One more lesson not to place my hope in [lame] politicians and only in Christ. We’ve found renewed zeal to focus on our family and getting involved in our local community this week, so the outcome hasn’t been all bad.

— 2 —

I must be spending too much time on Twitter (or my husband is spending not enough). But twice this week I have been cracking up at Twitter-related jokes and Dan has had absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. Just now, I introduced him to The Fail Whale.

More importantly–since I’m still giggling about it–after Wisconsin fell on Tuesday (oh, I shouldn’t use war euphemisms to describe the election, you say? and oh, here I am, talking about the election again…), still early in the evening, one of the conservatives I follow tweeted: I had to share my Twitter joy, but alas he didn’t get it. Which he contributes more to not having a lyric library in his head, but oh well.

— 3 —

I’m kind of over breastfeeding. Is that OK to say? I think so. The problem is that my daughter is not. I’ll take one for the team and continue–with all the challenges it occasionally presents, I can still see the good nursing as a toddler is doing for her–but we need to set some [more] boundaries.

I have this idea of setting a timer. Is that crazy? She only nurses before nap, bedtime, and when she wakes up in the morning (which isn’t a problem in terms of length because unlike me, she is a morning person and wants to GO GO GO!). But those sessions before sleep can stretch out and involve all sorts of acrobatics. At some point I get so uncomfortable and over it that I just say “milk went night night,” but that leads to emotional breakdowns. And I give in again anyway, after she’s worked herself up into a tizzy.

So my idea is to set a timer for, say five minutes (or maybe 10 to start? I have no idea how long our sessions are going right now!), inform her that we will nurse until the bell rings and then we will be all done nursing. I’m thinking her having some verifiable/outside “mommy says” reason for cutting off might work. Any other mothers of nursing toddlers out there?

— 4 —

Les Miserables. Christmas. That is all.

— 5 —

I vacillate daily between “I really care about the food my family eats” and “THIS IS SO COMPLICATED. No one agrees. I cannot eat anything. All food is toxic!”. It’s a problem. And in the end, I follow my belly.

Enter: the bread machine.

I got this baby at a thrift store 50% off sale for $3. Yes, you read that right. It takes zero effort to make beautiful loaves of delicious WHITE French bread.

The problem? My husband was trying to do a low(er) carb diet, and I was quickly becoming convinced I should too.

But that delicious bread! Sliced while still warm and slathered with delicious kerrygold. Mmmmm!

“Bread is bad!” shouts the demon on my shoulder. “I am the Bread of Life!” sings Jesus (OK maybe Jesus doesn’t speak to me about eating French bread, but you see how powerful its hold is on me, yes?).

So my compromise is basically to only eat bread when I make it from scratch. The first week I made bread almost daily. I’ve since cut it down to two or three times a week. I have no idea if we’ll get fat or sick because of this new bread-baking habit, and at this point I don’t care. It might be white bread, but it’s made from scratch with love and there are no funky ingredients. I eat it and enjoy it, unlike storebought whole wheat sandwich bread which, yes, our family has been eating.

— 6 —

And then today I read that if you are hypothyroid and in your childbearing years, a low carb diet might not be the best for you. So out went all guilt and I am rejoicing with Jesus!

Oh, excuse me, bread machine just beeped and today’s loaf is ready!

— 7 —

I have to write seven of these? That’s a lot.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Posted by: godandchocolate | November 8, 2012

Just blog.

I have no idea if anyone subscribes or otherwise follows this blog. Perhaps the world doesn’t need this update. I’m just letting the world know that I’ve decided to blog again.

Again? Eh, I never was very consistent with it. But I’ve decided that I need some more tangible record of thoughts, feelings, reactions, LIFE than facebook posts and status updates.

Back in the day I was more concerned with having a focused blog theme and structure. I didn’t want to be one of those mommy bloggers or personal diarists. But oh well, I’m a mommy and I want to blog. Guess that makes me a mommy blogger.

So because of who I am, themes and topics here may include (but are not limited to):

  • pertaining to God: Catholic news & views, theology, and reflections (if I’m holy, which I’m not really, or at least not holy enough to share)
  • pertaining to chocolate: recipes, links, crunchy/foodie news. I try to be “healthy” but your opinion of “healthy” and mine probably differ. I’ll try to explain as we go, OK?
  • everything else: obligatory life as a mom posts, crunchy stuff, opinionated opinions, attempts at being creative, 7 Quick Takes & {pretty, happy, funny, real}

I think that’s about it. I plan on linking up Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest, and updating the blogroll and about me. Bear with!

Posted by: godandchocolate | March 26, 2012

Have you written your birth story?

I’m guessing that most of my readers are women, with the exception of my husband and Dad (hi, guys!).

I came across this article the other day: “Rewriting Birth — Making Peace with Your Birth Story” It’s a bit of a long read, but I definitely like what it has to say and I think I’m going to take the steps it outlines to write my own. Particularly if you had a more traumatic birth, one that went entirely against your plans, etc., what she has to say over at Presence Parenting looks very helpful.

I’ve been meaning to write my birth story pretty much since my daughter has been born. (In fact, I have a draft of a post here started.) I didn’t want to write just the “gory” details, but wanted to somehow put into words how her birth affected me and how I felt about it. I don’t want to forget. Anyone else share that sentiment?

Ten months having passed since she was born, I think the “distance” from the immediate memory will help in writing it. I am SO guilty of telling the long, drawn out, accentuate the negatives birth story (I’m sure some of you have heard it.) I feel guilty about that, because a) that’s NOT how I want others to view birth, particularly non-mothers, and b) that’s NOT how I view my birth, when all is said and done. I love giving birth and can’t wait to do it again. (Well, I can, no announcements here, DAD.)

I did write a birth story haiku, inspired by Conversion Diary:

fifty-three hours–fun!

a homebirth turned Pit party

but I pushed her out!

Have you written your birth story? Or are you unlike me and would just as soon forget? Have you shared it with others or kept it to yourself?

Or if you don’t want to comment about writing birth stories…are you guilty of telling the only-gory-details version? I mean, it IS hard not to when you’ve just been through an epic experience…

(No pic for the second post in a row. I look like 53 hours of labor in all mine, or I’m half-clothed and would rather not share that in public. I think I might lose a few followers if I shared pics of my awesome placenta with its magically regenerating amniotic sac, too…)

Posted by: godandchocolate | February 28, 2012

Here I Am.

So my last post was over a year and a half ago, entitled “New Beginnings”…and it doesn’t really capture the most significant new beginning of my life: motherhood.

I’ve been thinking for months that I should get back to blogging. I’ve been thinking for months that I need to write, to have something to look back on these sweet first days, erm, months, of motherhood.

Today I looked through all 500+ photos on my phone of my daughter. She’s nine months old, now, by the way. It made me think of how tiny she was, how hard and sweet and wonderful it’s been, how much has happened, how much I’ve changed. There is a lot I want to say and a lot I want to remember, and I guess, to share.

We’ll see how I do with that. I’m inspired by a friend to get to blogging–she’s a git ‘er done type, while I’m a procrastinate and leave the drafts and craft projects and laundry piling up untouched for as long as possible type.

But I’m here. Are you?

Posted by: godandchocolate | June 11, 2010

New Beginnings

I’m not sure I have anyone checking this blog, but I wanted to post so that anyone who stops by doesn’t think I’ve abandoned it!

Since my last post in April (!!) I’ve had some things going on in my life that have kept me preoccupied and not thinking about posting–surgery and a new job, to name two.

The new job is the “new beginning” I alluded to in the title of this post. I’m blessed to have finally landed a job “in my field,” but the past two weeks have been filled with adjusting to life at work and figuring out that balance between keeping our home in order and working to earn the money our family needs. I have not yet determined whether I will post about the work I’m doing or in a way connected to my career, which is actually somewhat related to the subject of this blog.

For now, I’m working on a series of posts on NFP, Catholicism and “natural living,” that I hope to finish “soon”. If you’re hankering for something more to read, head on over to my husband’s blog, Bonum Te Esse, where he is in the middle of a series of posts on how politics ought to be oriented towards “the good,” but how so often it falls far, far short.

God bless!

Posted by: godandchocolate | April 6, 2010

April 2010 Kitchen Goals

This post is linked to Kelly the Kitchen Kop‘s monthly kitchen goals post. It’s my first time participating (I dropped the ball on February and March…whoops!) Go check out what others are doing this month to make their kitchens more natural and nourishing!

My Goals

{from flickr user juhansonin}

1. Purchase all produce and meat from our local farmers markets; purchase organic, naturally raised whenever possible and practical. I’ve been doing this for awhile with the produce (95% of the time–I made an exception for my Cutie clementines), but have only tried the meat a handful of times.

My great local farmer’s market–Sappington Farmers Market–typically does $10 off $50 every Thursday and now their Facebook page often runs 10-15% off discounts for fans. They carry great local, mostly-natural meats: Missouri Ranchers beef, Heritage Acres pork (also Missouri), and Midwestern free-range/organic/antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken. The discounts really help make the meats affordable for an apartment-dweller who doesn’t have the space for a big old freezer for a side of beef and tons of chickens! We already get all of our milk and cream (a great Missouri rBST-free brand, sold in glass, called Heartland Creamery) and free-range eggs from this farmers market, and they really offer a variety of other great products and always seem to be adding more.

I can’t wait until the other seasonal markets open up!

{from flickr user dmje - I plan to post photos of my own garden later!}

2. Start our vegetable and herb garden. I’m probably a week or two late on this already, but it’s my first attempt, ok? Our apartment complex built a great community garden this year, with raised beds and composted soil and everything, and we have a 4.5′ x 8′ plot. In the garden I plan to do roma tomatoes, two varieties of bell peppers, carrots, marigolds (to fend off pests!) and perhaps cucumbers. On our shady porch that gets a little bit of sun every day, I will do pots of herbs (basil–which I might try in the sunnier raised bed as well, depending on space; rosemary; thyme; parsley; and cilantro) and am trying a variety of romaine lettuce in a larger pot as well. I’m also going to try some flowers out there, to brighten up our patch of concrete!

This weekend we got the container soil, seeds, pots (at the dollar store! can’t beat medium-sized pots for $1 each!), peat pots for starting the seeds, gardening gloves and some bamboo stakes for the tomatoes and cukes. I might start planting later tonight or tomorrow, when it’s supposed to cool off. It’s been in the 80s here in our part of the Midwest!

Did I mention that the apartment complex, in addition to providing the raised beds in a lovely fenced area for free, is also providing all of the gardening tools, a workbench, hoses nearby, and compost bins? Awesome! If you’re in the south St. Louis County/City area and are looking for a well-managed, updated, “green” (valet recycling and a garden–doesn’t get much better than that!) apartment complex, comment or send me an email. I’ll be happy to recommend where I live privately!

3. Reexamine our use of plastics and stop using them in the microwave. Katie over at Kitchen Stewardship is hosting an eye-opening and challenging series called “Get the Junk Out!” and this week’s focus is on plastics. I’ve known for awhile that certain plastics are not good for us because they are guilty of leaching endocrine disruptors into our food and drinks (BPA has gotten a bad rap lately, and that plastic is in lots of things, from baby bottles and Nalgenes to the linings of canned foods), but I’ve honestly been nonchalant and lazy about them. Plastics are just so integrated into how I buy and store food that it’s been hard for me to imagine how I can get rid of them. This month I’m going to try.

I’m especially guilty of storing leftovers in those cheap “disposable” plastic containers and then sticking them in the microwave for lunch. But the endocrine disruption thing is really on my radar lately, as I’ve become keenly aware of how sensitive our hormones and endocrine systems are. I need to stop with the microwaving thing and make it a habit to store food in glass. I’m really at a loss as to what to do about ziploc bags, though! We use those for *everything*!

More info about why I’d do such a crazy thing as try to get rid of plastics:

Donielle @ Naturally Knocked Up: Toss the Plastic, Save Your Fertility

Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship: Food for Thought: Plastic Safety for People and the Earth

Another kitchen-related goal is to finish off my reading pile. I love our library and I love being able to log on and send a request for a book I’ve just read about online. Here’s what I have been working on and what I have lined up for the rest of the month:

  • Ratio by Michael Ruhlman. A culinary school grad, Ruhlman writes about the theory behind cooking. His goal is to “free the home cook from being chained to recipes” and he walks the reader through the ratios behind everything from breads to sauces to cookies to stocks.
  • Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck. I’m working through this one at the moment. Planck grew up eating ‘real food’ (which she defines as “old and traditional”) on her parents’ vegetable farm, where her chores involved milking the family’s cow, Mabel, and selling their produce at farmers markets in their area. Later she ventured into low-fat and vegetarian/vegan diets, which did not treat her body well, and she chronicles her journey back into ‘real food’ as she opened farmers markets in England and New York. It’s basically her food biography with a lot of research to explain the choices she made and the context in which she made them.
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Haven’t started this one yet. The tagline is “A Natural History of Four Meals,” and I’m anticipating that it will look into the history of a variety of traditional (and not-so-traditional) meals, how we came to eat them, and what impact eating these kinds of foods has on our bodies and our environment. It’s a bit intimidating and looks longer than I anticipated!
  • Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. I’ve heard this one cited by a lot of low-carb types, and I’m thinking it will be a good complement to what Planck writes about cholesterol, heart disease, and their potential dietary causes. I snagged this one after a conversation with a friend in which I stated that I tended not to think that saturated fat consumption alone causes heart disease, and that not all calories are created equal (since, you know, people were eating butter and other animal fats for millennia before the first case of heart disease was reported in 1912.)

What are your kitchen goals?

Posted by: godandchocolate | March 23, 2010

Last Night’s Dinner: Balsamic Chicken Parmesan

{photo credit:}

Mondays can be so tough for my husband at law school, and I just love making a yummy Monday night dinner. I’m not sure why, but I really think it helps to get the week started off on the right foot. Quicker dinners are for later in the week, when you’re tired and hoping that the weekend comes soon. But on Monday I find that I have renewed energy for the week ahead, and just love cooking a yummy meal!

Unfortunately, you’re going to have to take my word for it that this was a delicious dinner, as I have no photographic evidence. I know that if I have any hope of blogging about food, I really do need to get into the habit of taking photos of the beautiful meals I occasionally produce in my kitchen. Alas, I only thought about this while taking my last bite of dinner last night. I guess I’ll just have to make it again so that I can share a photo here!

This is my take on classic chicken parmesan–a fun, tasty, Italian comfort dish that I love making when I find a good deal on fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Last night I knew I didn’t want to do the classic Chicken Parmesan, served with pasta sauce and noodles…I wanted something a little more creative (and besides, I didn’t have any Prego in my pantry!). I ended up serving this with roasted broccoli and the last box of parmesan and romano cheese rice-a-roni I had in my pantry (trying to be low-carb, I only had a little rice. It’s really not that good…) The best part is that we had a couple of leftover chicken breasts from this meal which are being recreated tonight on top of a salad, and maybe with a side of baked potatoes. I love reincarnating leftovers!

So here it is, my recipe for Balsamic Chicken Parmesan.

for the chicken:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or cutlets (about 1.25 lbs)
1/2 c. flour
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. milk (optional)
1/2 c. Italian bread crumbs
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
salt, pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
for the sauce:
~2 Tbsp. shallot, minced (optional; can substitute 1 clove minced garlic)
1/3 c. white wine
1 14.5oz-can diced Italian tomatoes (I used garlic & onion flavor), drained of excess juice
salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and thyme (dried or fresh, whatever you have on hand!) to taste
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Begin balsamic reduction by placing balsamic vinegar in small saucepan over low/medium-low heat. Stir occasionally to allow it to reduce by half, or until the desired syrupy consistency is reached.
  3. Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry. Trim of excess fat/skin. Place in freezer zip bag or between pieces of waxed paper and use smooth side of meat mallet to pound to about 1/2″ thickness. Cut each breast crosswise. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place flour in dish. In separate bowl, beat egg, adding milk to thin if needed. In another dish, place bread crumbs, parmesan, basil, oregano, thyme, and pepper. Stir with fork to combine.
  5. Make an assembly line for chicken breading. First, place breast in flour, turning so that each side gets a good dusting. Then, dip floured breast into egg/milk mixture, lifting out of egg with fork so that excess drips off. Finally, coat the chicken in the bread crumb and parmesan mixture, flipping it once or twice so that the chicken is totally covered.
  6. Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter. When butter has melted add chicken. Working in batches, brown chicken on each side and set aside. When all chicken has browned, place in baking dish, cover with foil, and place in oven to finish cooking and keep warm.
  7. If pan from chicken is dry, add a little more olive oil. Brown shallot in olive oil until golden and translucent, being careful not to burn it.
  8. Deglaze the pan by adding white wine, stirring constantly. Allow wine to reduce by about half.
  9. Add drained diced tomatoes to the shallot-wine mixture. Add salt and pepper, basil, oregano, and thyme to taste. Allow the sauce to cook for a few minutes until tomatoes are cooked through and most of the liquid has evaporated.
  10. Remove chicken from oven, check to see that no pink remains in the middle. Plate chicken breast, adding a small serving of the tomato sauce on top. Finish by drizzling with a small amount of the balsamic reduction, and top with freshly grated parmesan, if desired.

Enjoy! I promise it’s not as difficult/involved to make as the long ingredients list makes it seem! If you try it, let me know what you think in the comments 🙂

Posted by: godandchocolate | March 1, 2010

Menu Plan Monday – 3.1.10

Everyone, it seems, suggests menu planning each week. It prevents wasting groceries, wasting time, ordering pizza, and that dreaded question that hits along with the hunger pangs at 4-5pm: “What’s for dinner?”

I’ve done different kinds of menu planning, and since it’s just the two of us and I like to be flexible, I typically have just made a list of dinners I feel like making that week, posted it on the fridge, and then shopped according to the list. This week I decided to do a little bit more extensive planning as I made my grocery list, so that I’d know exactly what I need. I like having fun new recipes to try on the agenda–AND the assurance that I have everything I’ll need to make them.

I’ve started shopping at two places for our food: the farmer’s market nearby (for milk/cream, eggs, fruits and veggies, cheese, and some other odds and ends that we can get locally grown, like brown rice; occasionally we’ll get meat there, but it’s just too pricey for us to use regularly) and the supermarket (I choose one of the three we have in our area based on which has the best sales on meat or other big-ticket ingredients). I’ll include recipes based on the best value items I am able to get. This week, pork tenderloin was on sale for a good price, and since two tenderloins come in one package, we’ll have it for two meals.

Basically I’ve broken it down so that I know exactly what I’m making for dinner each day, and have several options for breakfasts and lunches. I pack my husband’s lunch a few times a week, and usually only eat one other meal besides dinner myself each day, so what I have listed here is plenty for us.  And of course I have a short list of items I plan to bake–my stand mixer makes baking WAY too easy! Some days we might swap meals, just in case we’re feeling like something different. We’ll see how this goes.

Planning our meals should also be a good way to gradually make some nutritious dietary changes. Sometimes it’s too easy to just forget about veggies or a salad, but if it’s on the plan I’ll be more likely to make it! We’re far from perfect in our meals, but I’m trying to be more balanced and ‘colorful’ on the plate (i.e., we don’t often eat monster piles of spaghetti with bolognese sauce like you might think from the photo!), and just generally making small changes in the types of ingredients used.

Enough of an introduction…here’s what we’ll be eating this week. I’m linking to the recipes I use, if they are available online.


Breakfasts & Lunches

  • breakfast sandwiches (fried egg, ham/bacon, white cheddar cheese on whole wheat toast)
  • scrambled or fried eggs
  • oatmeal
  • granola + frozen fruit + plain yogurt (new one!)
  • scones
  • PB&J
  • oranges, bananas


  • bread (I’m working my way through Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day; I’ll probably just make the plain boule dough. Not sure about subbing white whole wheat flour for the all-purpose or how that might affect my bread-baking experiments at this point!)
  • dark chocolate chip scones
  • granola (I’m excited to try making my own!)

That’s all for me. Do you menu plan? How do you do it? Any tips for making the planning-shopping process go smoothly?

Posted by: godandchocolate | February 11, 2010

Lent: Don’t Give Up Chocolate!

photo credit: Felix Carroll /

I just had to post this interview I found yesterday for a self-directed Lenten retreat, written by Brother Michael Gaitley, MIC. It’s called Consoling the Heart of Jesus: A Do-it-Yourself Lenten Retreat. The selling point of this retreat, well, speaks to me:

Why not give up chocolate, and why take on Consoling the Heart of Jesus?
Giving up chocolate is easy. My retreat is even easier. OK, seriously, as soon as Ash Wednesday pops up on our radar screens, we’re all starting to feel a bit guilty because we still haven’t decided what our Lenten sacrifice is going to be. And, if you’re like me, you’ll probably still be deliberating about what you’re going to give up come Holy Week. (Laughs). So, last year, when I was pounding out one of the many “final drafts” of my book, I had the bright idea of asking my friends and family to read the retreat as their Lenten sacrifice. They loved it. They were off the hook. And they gorged themselves with chocolate all Lent long. Actually, I needed their help, because I wanted to find out if the retreat really worked.

So did it?
It did, and does. More on that later. But almost all of them wrote back to me that making the retreat was so much more effective for their spiritual growth than some arbitrary sacrifice, like giving up chocolate. With this in mind, I decided to make the release date of my book just in time for Lent, 2010, although — and this is important — this retreat is not just for Lent. It’s for anytime.

First off, Br. Michael seems to underestimate the difficulty level of giving up chocolate. EASY? Uh, someone hasn’t seen my secret stashes of chocolate in the freezer, nor have they consulted me on the main qualification of all desserts (hint: it’s dark, cacao-based, and delicious), nor have they consulted St. Teresa of Avila on the matter! I’m not sure I’m down with gorging myself all Lent long, but the concept of a more meaningful Lenten sacrifice really speaks to me. And hey, God AND chocolate is better than just God–even during Lent–right?

I’ll let Br. Michael continue.

Well, let’s stick with Lent for now since Lent is a time when we’re especially called to focus on our relationship with the Lord. So, how, exactly does your retreat work as a Lenten sacrifice?
Traditionally, Catholics make a three-fold Lenten sacrifice: (1) prayer, (2) fasting, (3) almsgiving. People who purchase this retreat and make it during Lent would fulfill their Lenten sacrifice completely. It works like this:

Prayer: My book is a do-it-yourself retreat. A retreat is time of more intensified prayer. Bingo. People who make this retreat, have fulfilled that part of their Lenten sacrifice.

Fasting: We often think of fasting in terms of bread and water, and that’s all well and good. (So long as we’re not talking chocolate.) However, fasting can also be from things like television, Internet, or whatever else we may be tempted to waste time with. So, those who make this retreat — I suggest — would “fast” from routine recreations and devote their time to the spiritual reading of the retreat.

Almsgiving: Of course, during this time of economic crisis, money is tight for most people. In fact, actually going on a real retreat — that is to say, a retreat that requires travel and accommodations — might break the bank. While my retreat is only $14.95, that’s still a sacrifice for a lot of people. But that’s kind of the point. By purchasing Consoling the Heart of Jesus, people give up money to help support the Marians in our efforts to spread the message of The Divine Mercy. So, almsgiving is covered, too — and one will even have a little money left over for jelly beans … er, I mean chocolate.

That works. Especially noting that this book is no slim volume (it’s 430 pages!), I can see the sacrificial aspect starting to come in.

Finally, Br. Michael says that his retreat blends Ignatian spirituality with the image of the Divine Mercy presented most forcefully by St. Faustina Kowalska, St. Therese of Lisieux, and, apparently Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

What does all that have to do with the title Consoling the Heart of Jesus?
Well, it’s like this: Ignatian spirituality is all about finding a most essential principle for the spiritual life, and then directing all one’s energies toward living out that principle. For the Jesuits, the congregation founded by St. Ignatius, that “most essential principle” was the greater glory of God. In other words, a Jesuit strives to direct all of his thoughts, words, and actions toward increasing the glory of God. It’s a bit different in my retreat. I adopt as the most essential principle for my retreat the same principle adopted by St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Faustina Kowalska, and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, to name a few. What did they see as the “most essential principle” of the spiritual life? Consoling Jesus. In other words, they directed all of their energies to delighting the Lord, giving Him joy, and consoling His broken Heart. Perhaps, Blessed Teresa expressed this idea most poignantly with her laser beam focus on the “thirst” of Jesus on the Cross. In other words, her most essential principle was to hear the thirst of Jesus on the Cross — not a thirst for water but a thirst for love — and to strive with all her might to “quench His thirst” by giving Him her love. Now, St. Faustina and St. Therese express the most essential principle in the same way, namely, the thirst of Jesus, but they understood quenching Jesus’ thirst, or consoling Him, to be the same as trusting Him. That’s the line my retreat follows. It focuses on consoling the Heart of Jesus by living a radical trust in His mercy. In a sense, the image of The Divine Mercy says it all with its rays of mercy and the prayer at the bottom, “Jesus, I trust in You!”

Brother Mike, I trust in Jesus, and I trust you, too. However, all of our readers might not know you. So, why should they listen to you? I mean, do you have any famous people who endorse your book?
Sure do. Do you like apples? How do you like these apples: Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, Ralph Martin, and more [see the full list].

… Oh, and my mom.

The most attractive aspect of all of this, to me at least, is that it sounds really accessible and helpful for the spiritual growth of anyone who reads it, from the poorly catechized right on up through the theologians. With a theology background myself I can often get ‘bogged down’ in theological texts–I mean to say that I too often read them through my theology lenses and don’t let it fully hit home or just be a space for reflection and growth.

I have to say, the chocolate sales pitch is an effective one. He just might get me with it. Anyone else considering making this a part of their Lenten sacrifice?

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