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Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Roasted Tomato Pesto

Most Lents, God does a far better job than I do of picking penances for me. Take this year for example. I thought I’d do the usual no sweets, get to daily Mass more, and go light on Facebook before noon. He laughed and said, “How about bridesmaids’ dresses?”

Seriously.

Trying to find bridesmaids dresses for my postpartum, nursing, 30-something, moms of many bridesmaids, all of whom have completely different body types (and who happen to currently reside in Michigan, Illinois, and Washington State respectively) has been the bane of my existence these past four weeks. Throw in the comments of my (otherwise very supportive) mother, who is less than fond of my color selection, and this Lent almost has me recalling with wistful fondness my “vegan, Mormon, celiac on a diet” Lent.

Almost. Because if that were this Lent, I wouldn’t be eating today’s meatless Friday recipe.

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Simple Lentil Dhal

It is one of the great ironies of the culinary world. Few things on earth are as tasty and hearty as a simple Indian Dhal. But few thing things on earth are also as unappetizing looking as a simple Indian Dhal.

In theory, I knew this. But I was so excited to share this tasty vegetarian recipe with you this week, that I completely forgot about its less than photogenic qualities…until it came time for Dhal’s photoshoot.

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Meatless Fridays, Week 1: Simple Cauliflower & Gruyere Tart

It’s now officially Lent, and I am having a good, old-fashioned case of Catholic guilt.

I’m feeling guilty about not posting enough on the blog. I’m feeling guilty about posting anything on the blog when I really should be working on the new book. And today, I’m especially feeling guilty about posting pretty close-ups of food. Somehow, it doesn’t feel very penitential. Lenten fasting and all that.

To moderately assuage my guilt, I’m going to try to only post photos of meatless meals during Lent. To help with Friday dinner planning, of course.

Although, again, even with the lack of meat, “penitential” isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind when I think about this cauliflower and gruyere tart.

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Good Riddance: Four Steps to a Clutter-free(ish) Home

Apologies for the month-long posting break. I had the best intentions about coming back from Christmas and immediately wrapping up the Catholic Home series. But first there was some reading I needed to do (for the new book on food and faith I’m writing). And then, this happened.

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Needless to say, I’ve been a bit distracted.

We’ve set the date for July 1—this July 1—five months and four days from today. Not like I’m counting or anything.

This means in the next five months, I have a wedding to plan, a book to write, two ghosting projects to edit, and Guilder to frame for it. So, we’ll see how much blogging gets done. I’ll try, though. I’ll try.

In the meantime, I want to bring my most loved and most hated series of blogs to a quick end. Because I want to take more pictures of food.

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Keeping the Clutter At Bay: The Not So Magical Art of Knowing Thyself

Today, we’re beginning my wrap-up of the Catholic Home series with a little tough love. Because someone out there— maybe you, maybe not you—needs it.

My friend Jess is not one of those people. She has five small children under the age of nine, and lives in a 1,000 square foot home with no basement, no attic,  very few closets (and a very nice husband who is a little clutter prone). She does a fantastic job of keeping her family’s possessions to a minimum. But clutter still builds up. There are simply too many people (including that very nice husband) in too small of a space. No amount of decluttering will change that.

If, like her, you are living with a passel of children in a truly tiny home, with a spouse who doesn’t share your hatred of clutter, you should probably stop reading this blog right now and friend her on Facebook so you can commiserate. Your lot in life is hard, and today’s blog will probably just annoy you.

If, however, you are like most of America and simply have too much damned stuff, read on.

Some stuff, of course, isn’t damned. Some stuff is necessary. Some stuff is beautiful. Some stuff brings joy, beauty, and light to our lives, reminding us of God, our family, our friends, and days past.

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How I Do Advent: Extreme Entertaining

Once upon a time, I had visions of Advent activities dancing through my head— visions of Jesse Trees, sweet little wreaths hung from dining room chandeliers, and rows of tiny shoes left out by the fireside for Saint Nicholas to fill. Those visions, however, went hand in hand with visions of a house overflowing with babies. Since the latter visions haven’t come to pass, neither have the former.

As most single Catholic woman will tell you, come Advent, it’s easy to feel left out in the cold. So many of the Church’s loveliest traditions for the domestic church are traditions best enjoyed in the company of children. Or at least another person. So, what’s a liturgically minded gal to do?

Borrow other people’s children, of course.

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A Window to God: Five (Affordable) Ways to Bring Beauty into Your Catholic Home

Everything is all sixes and sevens around here this week, with me preparing for my annual Christmas Tree Decorating Party. This Saturday, a few dozen children and a few dozen more adults will show up in their fanciest attire to hang ornaments on my Christmas Tree, eat tiny appetizers off silver trays, and drink cocktails carefully crafted by my friend Dave. This madness has been going on for over 15 years now, and every year it gets bigger. Because I am crazy.

I’ll blog all about the party next week. This week, however, I’m returning to our ongoing theme: The Catholic Home.

Up this week: the Catholic home should be beautiful.

First Things First

Before I start talking about slipcovers and wall décor, I’ll insert the necessary qualifications…for my personal safety if nothing else.

The most important thing that can be said about cultivating beauty in the Catholic home is that the most beautiful things in your house will never be things you can buy. They won’t really be things at all. Rather, the most beautiful things in your home will be the love between you and your spouse, the children who sleep under your roof, and the faith you witness to every day through the love you give and the life you live.

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Deck the Hall…With Traveling Graces

So…sacramentals.

This is the easy one. Yay! Hurrah! Special treat for me! No hate mail today! Or maybe not. I said that last week about the “personal” post and soon found both my pretty house and my virtue maligned. Alas, such is the life of a Catholic blogger.

Anyhow, for the sane Catholic set, selling sacramentals isn’t hard. We love our statues, crucifixes, and Divine Mercy images. We know they belong in our homes….and outside too. Nothing says, “A Catholic Lives Here,” like a Marian grotto in the front yard…or the back yard if there’s no good spot for one in the front.

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I’ll admit though, this need wasn’t always evident to me.

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Favorite Thanksgiving Side Dishes

I am currently persona non grata in my corner of Steubenville. Not because of any advice I’ve been dishing out as of late, but rather because of what I won’t be dishing out next week: Thanksgiving Dinner.

For years, mostly because of the hassle of traveling 1280 miles, roundtrip, on Thanksgiving weekend, I’ve stayed in Steubenville for the holiday and opened my home to whomever didn’t have one that day. One year, that number was as large as 25. Another year, it was as small as four.

A few special friends, however, have always been around the table, and those are the ones  less than pleased about Chris and I going to my parents this Thanksgiving. (His family gets us for Christmas).

I’m looking forward to being with all my nieces and nephews next week, but I have to admit, I’m a little sad too. There’s no holiday I like better than Thanksgiving, and (in all humility) there’s also no meal I cook better than Thanksgiving Dinner. People have flown across the country for my mashed potatoes and stuffing. Some of those people also are under the impression that my gravy is a beverage. (“Just because something has brandy in it,” I tell them, “doesn’t  mean you can drink it.” They never listen.)

It’s not only the company or food that makes Thanksgiving special for me,  though. It’s also the chance to pull out all the decorating stops and set the most elegant table I can muster. In grad school, that wasn’t much. But here’s what we did last year.

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