Kitchen Prayer & Quick Irish Soda Bread

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It’s been 2521 days since I lost my son. It’s been nearly that long since I have been able to pray. Unanswered prayers asking to keep my kids safe just set me off onto a negative path. Crazy mad at God doesn’t accurately describe the feeling of losing my son in a senseless accident, but when a wise and faithful friend named Angie wrote on her FB page “faith does not protect us from our sorrow, but prayer will hold you up” it hit me. I’ve been angry too long and it is of no use. In fact the anger is a complete waste of energy that could be better spent in meditation. Putting spirituality back into my life has been a fine turning point. I thank my friends, Kare, Rebecka, Mark, Hilary and my cousin Carol who have gently nudged me forward to believe that life is better with a higher power in it. How about you?

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You know what else makes life better? Recipe videos. That’s right. If you are a visual learner as I am cookbook photos and on-line videos make cooking and baking so much easier. Today I feature a re-do of this Irish Soda Bread blog from 2016. Click on that link to get the written recipe, turn up the volume and sit back and enjoy the show.

 

Are you serving a corned beef and cabbage dinner or Beef Stew? This Irish soda bread will go great beside either. If you like Guinness check out my beef stew and boxty recipe here.  Happy St. Patrick’s, happy week, happy delicious day in the kitchen with your family.

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Memorial Day Pass It On

John Is My Heart

By Frank Schaeffer of the Washington Post

“Before my son became a Marine, I never thought much about who was defending me.  Now when I read of the war on terrorism or the coming conflict in Iraq, it cuts to my heart. When I see a picture of a member of our military who has been killed, I read his or her name very carefully. Sometimes I cry.

In 1999, when the barrel-chested Marine recruiter showed up in dress blues and bedazzled my son John, I did not stand in the way.  John was headstrong, and he seemed to understand these stern, clean men with straight backs and flawless uniforms.  I did not.  I live in the Volvo-driving, higher education-worshiping North Shore of Boston I write novels for a living. I have never served in the military.

It had been hard enough sending my two older children off to Georgetown and New York University. John’s enlisting was unexpected, so deeply unsettling.  I did not relish the prospect of answering the question, “So where is John going to college?” from the parents who were itching to tell me all about how their son or daughter was going to Harvard.  At the private high school John attended, no other students were going into the military.

“But aren’t the Marines terribly Southern?”  (Says a lot about open-mindedness in the Northeast) asked one perplexed mother while standing next to me at the brunch following graduation.  “What a waste, he was such a good student,” said another parent.  One parent (a professor at a nearby and rather famous university) spoke up at a school meeting and suggested that the school should“ carefully evaluate what went wrong.”

When John graduated from three months of boot camp on Parris Island, 3000 parents and friends were on the parade deck stands.  We parents and our Marines not only were of many races but also were representative of many economic classes. Many were poor. Some arrived crammed in the backs of pickups, others by bus.  John told me that a lot of parents could not afford the trip.

We in the audience were white and Native American.  We were Hispanic, Arab, and African American, and Asian. We were former Marines wearing the scars of battle, or at least baseball caps emblazoned with battles’ names.  We were Southern whites from Nashville and skinheads from New Jersey, black kids from Cleveland wearing ghetto rags and white ex-cons with ham-hock forearms defaced by jailhouse tattoos.  We would not have been mistaken for the educated and well-heeled parents gathered on the lawns of John’s private school a half-year before.

After graduation one new Marine told John, “Before I was a Marine, if I had ever seen you on my block I would’ve probably killed you just because you were standing there.” This was a serious statement from one of John’s good friends, a black ex-gang member from Detroit who, as John said, “would die for me now, just like I’d die for him.”

My son has connected me to my country in a way that I was too selfish and insular to experience before.  I feel closer to the waitress at our local diner than to some of my oldest friends.  She has two sons in the Corps.  They are facing the same dangers as my boy.  When the guy who fixes my car asks me how John is doing, I know he means it.  His younger brother is in the Navy.

Why were I and the other parents at my son’s private school so surprised by his choice?  During World War II, the sons and daughters of the most powerful and educated families did their bit.  If the idea of the immorality of the Vietnam War was the only reason those lucky enough to go to college dodged the draft, why did we not encourage our children to volunteer for military service once that war was done?

Have we wealthy and educated Americans all become pacifists?  Is the world a safe place?  Or have we just gotten used to having somebody else defend us?  What is the future of our democracy when the sons and daughters of the janitors at our elite universities are far more likely to be put in harm’s way than are any of the students whose dorms their parents clean?

I feel shame because it took my son’s joining the Marine Corps to make me take notice of who is defending me.  I feel hope because perhaps my son is part of a future “greatest generation.”  As the storm clouds of war gather, at least I know that I can look the men and women in uniform in the eye.  My son is one of them.  He is the best I have to offer.  John is my heart.

“Faith is not about everything turning out OK; Faith is about being OK no matter how things turn out.”
Oh, how I wish so many of our younger generations could read this article.  It makes me so sad to hear the way they talk with no respect for what their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers experienced so they can live in freedom.   Freedom has been replaced with Free-Dumb.  Please pass this on . . . .

Faith & Chicken Soup

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People who have religion and a strong faith in God are to be admired. It seems they can weather any storm, any hardship and all tragic events that come into their lives. They believe in God’s plan and that God is in control. They trust in God. They understand this world is not paradise and pain and death and dying are inevitable. They believe suffering happens for a reason. Each crisis is looked upon as a learning experience and a reminder that following in the steps of Jesus Christ brings relief and hope.

Honestly, I hate God’s plan for me and every other mother who has lost a child. As spiritual as I am I am not particularly religious. Raised by a strict Catholic mother and a father who thought the Catholic church was nothing more than a big business my upbringing was filled with catechism questions and doubts. In fact, later in life, all I ever prayed was, “Please Lord keep my children safe”, so you can imagine my current dilemma. As much as I tried to get religion, I am my father’s daughter and can’t rely on faith to help me through this.  However, William believed in God and that has helped. In his final preparations for his Afghanistan deployment he carefully packed his favorite prayers. He relied on God to get him through a crisis. He was also prepared to die believing that we would all see each other again. The thought that I will see him again warms my heart and fills me with joy. Walking in his light and being more like him–maybe that is God’s plan.

found in his fatigue pocket

found in his fatigue pocket

well used in Afghanistan; found in his wallet

well used in Afghanistan; found in his wallet

 

The weather has turned cold. Time for a comforting soup. Quinoa Chicken Chowder warms the soul while nourishing the body. It’s important to take care of oneself before, during and after the storm and an easy one-pot meal that includes all the food groups helps. Enjoy this award winning recipe. It dates back to 1997 and took first place in the Gold Kist Farms Winning Taste Recipe Contest.

Quinoa Chicken Chowder

2 tablespoons butter

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces

¼ cup uncooked quinoa

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 large onion, chopped

1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1 whole dried chipotle pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth

1 cup fresh, frozen or canned corn, drained

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

crisp tortilla chips, optional

Melt butter in Dutch oven or large stockpot over medium heat. Add chicken, quinoa, potato, onion, peppers, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until chicken is no longer pink. Add broth and corn; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa is cooked and potatoes are tender. Add milk, salt and pepper; cook until just heated through. Remove and discard chipotle pepper (or if you like it hot mince it up and add back to the soup). Stir in cilantro. Ladle soup into serving bowls and top with cheese and tortillas. Serves 4 to 6.