As many of you know, our family is planning to eat a lot of soup throughout our Lenten journey.  Sundays will remain true “feast” days, but during the rest of the week, we’ll be eating soup at our main meal…and occasionally salad and fresh fruit, to round things out.  I plan to begin our days with Fasting Bread (see recipe below)…this will serve as my morning breakfast, though I’m sure the children will use it as a supplement to theirs!  It is my sincere hope that this lighter, easier menu will not only free me from the time constraints of large meal preparation, but will also be a healthier and more economical approach…thus embracing the true spirit of Lent.  So…here’s our first week of soups.  We may see repeats, throughout the season, depending upon how popular a particular soup is, but otherwise, I’m trying to implement many new recipes, holding to simplicity, cultural diversity and affordability.   Here’s the week’s menu, beginning with Ash Wednesday, ending the Wednesday following:

Ash Wednesday

Seuppa Ou Piat

Salad and Sliced Strawberries

Thursday

Albondigas Soup

Tortilla chips, sour cream and shredded cheese

Friday

My Big Fat Greek Lentil Soup

Homemade bread and salad

Saturday

Bouillabaisse

French bread

Spiced Peaches

Sunday:  FEAST!!!

Roast Chicken de Provence

Garlic and Rosemary Potatoes

Steamed Broccoli with Lemon Butter

Fruit and/or Salad

Monday

Mexican Pork and Sweet Potato Stew

Tortilla strips and salsa

Tuesday

Chicken Corn Chowder

Cornbread

Wednesday

Chili Con Carne with Cornbread Dumplings

The Recipes:

Soup with Bread (will probably substitute the Fontina for a more affordable cheese…mozzarella…the children will prefer this!)

Seuppa ou Piat

serves: 6 servings

This might seem like an unusual dish, a pasticciata (a layered casserole) of bread and cheese that’s baked, cut into portions, and served in a bowl of hot broth. Yet the tastes and eating pleasure of seuppa ou piat will be completely familiar and welcome to anyone who loves the gratinéed crouton of French onion soup or enjoys a crispy grilled-cheese sandwich with a bowl of rich chicken broth alongside. This is a good dish for company, because you can have both the broth and the pasticiatta hot and ready to be put together when your guests come. (Chicken stock is my preference, but a savory vegetable stock or a meaty beef broth is just as good.)

ingredients
8 cups tasty chicken broth, (or clear beef or vegetable stock)
kosher salt, to taste
1 tablespoon butter, softened for the baking dish
½ pound Fontina cheese
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated, plus more for passing
18 slices Italian bread, cut 1/2 inch thick, left out to dry overnight

directions

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven, and heat to 400 degrees. Heat the broth almost to a simmer-season with salt to taste-and keep it hot. Butter the sides and bottom of a 3 quart baking dish. Shred the fontina through the larger holes of a hand grater and toss the shreds with the grana (grated hard cheese).

Arrange half of the bread slices in one layer in the baking dish. Ladle out 1 cup of broth, and drizzle it on the bread slices, slightly moistening them all. Sprinkle half of the cheese on top of the bread in an even layer.

Cover the cheese with the remaining bread slices, filling the entire surface of the dish. Moisten these slices with another cup or so of stock; top the bread with all the remaining cheese, scattered evenly.

Tent the pasticciata with a sheet of heavy aluminum foil, arching it so it doesn’t touch the cheese topping, and pressing it against the sides of the baking dish. Set the dish in the oven, and bake until heated through, about 25 minutes. Remove the foil, and continue baking for 10 minutes or more, until the top is golden brown and bubbly. Take the dish from the oven, and let it cool and set for 5 minutes or so.

To serve: Cut out large squares of pasticciata and, with a spatula, transfer them to warm shallow soup or pasta bowls. Ladle a cup of hot broth over each portion and serve immediately, passing more grated cheese at the table.

*Country Italian bread is best for this pasticciata. The width of the bread can vary since it is layered snuggly in the baking dish then cut in squares when served.

Albondigas Soup

Ground beef and sausage meatballs are simmered in a tomato and chile beef broth base. Rice and corn add starch for a hearty meal in a dish. Serve soup topped with crushed tortilla chips and shredded Mexican cheese blend. The traditional version does not include corn, so you may omit it. The meatballs may be made up to 4 hours in advance and refrigerated. You may substitute ground chicken and/or turkey, if you wish.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Ingredients:

* Meatballs:
* 1 pound chuck ground beef
* 1/2 pound pork sausage (spicy is nice)
* 1/2 cup cornmeal
* 1/4 cup cream (or milk)
* 1 large egg, lightly beaten
* 1/2 cup minced sweet onion
* 1 large clove garlic, pressed
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
* Freshly ground black pepper to taste

* Soup:
* 2 quarts beef or chicken broth (or a combination)
* 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
* 1 can (4.5 ounces) chopped mild green chiles, with liquid
* 1 cup diced sweet onion
* 2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/2 teaspoon liquid hot pepper sauce, or more to taste
* 1/3 cup long-grain white rice
* 1 cup frozen corn kernels
* 1/4 chopped fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves
* Salt and pepper to taste
* For Garnish: fresh cilantro sprigs, crushed tortilla chips, shredded Mexican cheese blend

Preparation:
Combine ground beef, pork sausage, cornmeal, cream, egg, onion, garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, and pepper with a large fork. Do not overmix. Form into small meatballs about 1 inch in diameter. Set aside. (The meatballs may be made up to 4 hours in advance and refrigerated.)

Place beef or chicken stock, tomatoes, green chiles, onion, oregano, cumin, and hot pepper sauce in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add rice, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Carefully add meatballs to the broth and simmer an additional 10 to 15 minutes until meatballs are cooked through. Add corn and cook until heated through. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. Stir in chopped cilantro leaves just before serving.

Garnish each bowl with crushed tortilla chips, a sprinkling of Mexican cheese blend, and a sprig of fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.

Yield: about 8 to 10 servings

Bouillabaisse – simplified

Ingredients:

* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
* 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
* 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
* 1 large pinch saffron, soaked in 2 tablespoons orange juice for 10 minutes (optional) (will omit…can’t afford saffron!)
* 1 strip orange zest
* 1 (14-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, in juice
* 6 cups seafood stock (sold at most fish markets) or clam juice
* Some or all of the following seafood (ask your fish seller for enough to serve 4 to 6 people): halibut, cod, tilapia, or snapper (in large chunks); shell-on large shrimp or lump crabmeat; clams or mussels
* 1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped

Directions:
1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, and fennel and saut until just brown, 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Add the saffron (if using), orange zest, tomatoes, and stock or clam juice.

3. Bring to a boil and cook until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is reduced by half, about 20 minutes.

4. Reduce heat to medium and add the fish (but not shellfish). Cook for about 2 minutes.

5. Add any clams, mussels, and shrimp. Simmer until the shells just begin to open, about 4 minutes more.

6. Add any crabmeat.

7. Cook until all shells have opened, the shrimp is pink and curled, and the fish flakes easily, about 2 minutes.

8. Serve from the pot, sprinkled with the parsley and topped with crusty bread and a dollop of rouille.

Mexican Pork and Sweet Potato Stew

Traditional Mexican flavors get a Southwestern twist in this scrumptious pork tenderloin and sweet potato stew that’s seasoned to perfection with garlic, cumin, cinnamon and cilantro.

* Active Time: 10 minutes
* Total Time: 30 minutes

Recipe Ingredients

o 1 olive oil
o 1 1⁄4 lbs pork tenderloin, cut bite-size
o 1 1⁄2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed 2 poblano chile peppers, seeded and sliced
o 1 cup chopped onion
o 1 chopped garlic
o 1⁄2 tsp ground cumin
o 1⁄4 tsp ground cinnamon
o 1 can (14 oz) reduced-
o sodium chicken broth
o 1⁄2 cup water
o 1 cup frozen corn kernels
o 1 1⁄2 cups salsa (we used Old El Paso Fresh Mexican Style Smooth Chipotle)
o Garnish: chopped cilantro, tortilla strips

Recipe Preparation

1. Heat 2 tsp of the oil in a deep nonstick skillet. pork; cook over medium-high heat 7 minutes or until browned. Transfer pork to a plate.

2. Heat remaining 1 tsp oil in skillet. Add potatoes, peppers and onion. Cover; cook 5 minutes, stirring, until peppers and onion soften slightly.

3. Stir in garlic, cumin and cinnamon; cook a few seconds until fragrant. Add broth and water; bring to a boil. corn; cover and cook 5 minutes or until vegetables soften.

4. Stir in salsa and pork; heat through. Sprinkle servings with cilantro and tortilla strips if desired.

My Big Fat Greek Lentil Soup

Back to lentils, this time Greek-style. These smooth, delicate flavors will tickle your tonsils with pleasure. This could well be what Aristotle Onassis used to enjoy on his yacht!

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups of small, brown lentil, rinsed
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
1 large carrot, peeled, halved and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
3 bay leaves
3/4 cup of pommodoro sauce (passata)…I’ll be using tomato paste with a splash of red wine…
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
8 cups of water
3 cloves of garlic, smashed + 5 cloves of garlic, minced for the end
2 Tbsp. dried oregano
salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:
1) Into a large pressure cooker, add your lentils, olive oil, onions, carrot, pepper, tomatoes, paprika, bay leaves, smashed garlic and water.
2) Close the lid; bring to a whistling boil on high heat.
3) As soon as your pressure cooker is whistling, turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 45 minutes.
4) Take off the heat, release the pressure from your pressure cooker and safely open the lid.
5) Add your 5 cloves of minced garlic, your oregano and adjust seasoning with salt or Vegeta seasoning.
6) Serve with good bread, black olives and pickled sweet peppers. Yield of six servings.

Chicken Corn Chowder

You can have this chicken corn chowder on the table in less than 30 minutes! (I’ll be doubling this one to serve my crew!)

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)
Ingredients

* 2 tablespoons butter
* 1/4 cup chopped onion
* 1/4 cup chopped celery
* 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 3 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
* 2 cups chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 breast halves)
* 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (about 3 ears)
* 1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn

Preparation

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and jalapeño; cook for 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in milk and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; cook until thick (about 5 minutes).

Chili Con Carne with Cornbread Dumplings

2 lbs. beef round steak
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 med. onion, chopped
1 sm. green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed OR 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
2 (16 oz.) cans whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 (15 oz.) can hominy, drained
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies, drained
2 (10 3/4 oz.) cans beef broth
1/3 c. pepper jelly
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper, crushed

DUMPLINGS:

1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. yellow cornmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
Dash of salt
Dash of pepper
1 egg white, beaten
2 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. cooking oil

In a small mixing bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper. In a medium mixing bowl, combine egg white, milk and oil. Add to flour mixture, stir with a fork just until combined. Trim meat and cut into small thin strips, 1 1/2 x 1/8 inches. Heat oil in 5 quart saucepot or Dutch oven. Add meat and brown evenly. Add onion, green pepper and garlic. Saute 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drop dumplings onto boiling stew. Cover and continue cooking over medium heat 30 minutes. Do not lift cover as dumplings cook.

Fasting Bread (makes three loaves)

Recipe and text source: http://www.catholicradiodramas.com

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups Stone Ground Wheat
2 1/2 cups All purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1Tbs. Sugar
3 Tbs. Active dry yeast (two packages)
2 cups Luke warm water
1/2 cup 100% pure maple syrup
1/2 cup Virgin Olive oil
1 tsp. Holy water (How could you not add this for a fasting bread?)
1 cup Oats – soaked in 1/2 cup hot water for 2 minutes
1 cup Pecan pieces – broken and skillet toasted 2 min (or Walnuts)
1 cup Dried Montmorency cherries or Golden raisins soaked 5 min in 1/4 cup hot water

Directions:
1. Combine first three dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well with a whisk.
2. Clear a small area in the center of the dry blend.
3. Add sugar, dry yeast, and the 2 cups of warm water. Let stand for 3 minutes until yeast proofs and forms bubbles. Combine with flour mixture and liquid. This will be thick but more liquid comes later.
4. Add maple syrup, olive oil and holy water. Stir mixture until well blended.
5. Add walnuts and raisins with their liquid.
6. Add soaked oats to the flour mixture.
7. Blend everything together in one bowl.
8. Turn out onto a floured board and knead by hand for 10-12 minutes adding more flour as needed to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead the dough by flattening somewhat and fold-in from the outside towards the center. Press down hard on the center. Rotate the bowl and repeat the process until smooth and elastic and forma “ball”
9. Return the “ball” to the mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil, cover and let rise 1 hour.
10. Remove to a floured board and kneed several more times as above. Cut into three equal pieces.
11. Place each piece into a loaf pan coated on all sides with olive oil. Drizzle loaf again with olive oil, cover and let rise for another hour. Olive oil produces a tasty crust.
12. Slash loaf tops and bake in the middle of a preheated 375 degree oven for 40 minutes or until brown on top and bottom. Loaf should sound hollow when tapped.
13. Remove bread from pans and cool on a rack.

QUALITY INGREDIENTS AND THEIR SYMBOLIC REFERENCES:  This marvelous bread combines pure, wholesome ingredients with symbolic references found in Sacred Scripture.

Stone Ground Wheat and Oats: Symbol of the pain of being crushed by the wheels of God’s Justice – which “grind slowly but exceedingly fine.” “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.” Jn 12: 24
White Flour – a reminder of the manna given by God to the Hebrews during their forty years in the desert as Moses led them to the promised land. Manna foreshadowed the Holy Eucharist, also the called “Bread from Heaven”. Exodus 16:35 Jn 6:41
Yeast – unifying many parts into one; a symbol of the the kingdom of heaven and of the Church. Mt 13:33
Salt – Christ said to his Apostles: “You are the salt of the earth.” Mt 5:13
Water – Giving life to all things; a symbol of baptism; cleansing. Lenten penances aid the washing away our sins. “He who drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst.” Jn 4: 14
Olive Oil – Acclaimed throughout history as a source of strength, olive oil was used by the athletes of ancient Greece to prepare for them for the contests. Mixed with wine it was found useful in healing the wounds of those injured on the battlefields of medieval Europe. Olive oil is used by the Church in the Holy Oils applied in sacramental anointing.
Pure Maple Syrup – Collected in pure form flowing from a tree; symbolic of the cross and of the sweetness of the Blood of Christ which flowed freely from the tree of his cross, the tree of life; shed so that “sins may be forgiven.” A symbol of God’s love by making this sweet nutrient a gift to be discovered.
Holy Water – A sacramental used in blessings and bringing new life in Baptism. Holy water carries a blessing just by its use and when introduced with the sign of the cross how could this not be a must an key ingredient of fasting bread for lent?
Walnuts and Pecans and Cherries – These pleasant gifts found in abundance from prolific trees are reminders of Christ’s command to go forth and “produce good fruit;” They are reminders of our own call to perform works of charity, prayer, fasting and almsgiving; the fruit of good works to be undertaken during Lent. Jn 15:16
Raisins – Made from pure grapes, raisins are the fruit of the vine; a reminder of the miracle of water changed into wine at the wedding feast in Cana; of the wine changed into the Blood of Christ at the Last Supper and at the Consecration during Mass. These serve as reminders of that mystery where wine is described as the “fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our Spiritual Drink.”

Recipe and text source: http://www.catholicradiodramas.com

I’ll post next week’s menu on Tuesday…God bless you on your Lenten journey!

Blessings,