Blast From the Past

On occasion, our Grace Before Meals movement will send out some “Blasts from the Past,” not only because the messages are still relevant today, but it also helps us remember how far we’ve come!  We will also take this opportunity to review some of our upcoming events and opportunities, like:


(1)  Upcoming Culinary Tours:  Join us for a culinary cruise or the Napa Valley retreat.  Call Diane George at Corporate Travel for Details… 1-800-727-1999 ex. 180 or

(2)  People are always asking us where we can find the new edition of our book.  Just go to any bookstore, or order on line at, where you can also purchase our fun and durable aprons.

(3)  Thank you for your patience as we make adjustments to our website.  We will eventually have it set up so our subscribed members can get the recipes for free!

(4)  We always value your questions and comments.  So keep them coming!  You can also stay in touch through our Grace Before Meals fan page on Facebook, and stay tuned for our post Easter announcement about going on Twitter!

(5)  And our movement continues to grow when you’re willing to share the website with family, friends, and other parishioners!  Thanks for sharing the good news about our growing movement.

Grace before Meals new cookbook is out!


Food for the Body


This April Fool’s Day, this priest isn’t fooling around!

Foolishness can either come from the world’s judgment or from God’s.  Consider this quote from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)

Basilica of St. Paul and the Saint's Tomb

(Basilica of St. Paul and the Saint’s Tomb)

The fact is, people who choose not to believe in God may consider the doctrines, practices, and disciplines of believers – and even believers themselves as “foolish.”  On the other side, people of faith can actually be foolish if they are uncharitable and dismiss people without trying to help them know God’s wisdom.

At a recent mission at St. John Neumann Church, located in picturesque Berlin, Maryland, I was edified to see so many people not fooling around with their faith.  This mission, like all my mission experiences, give me great hope, not just for the Catholic Faith, but also for the Grace Before Meals movement!

(Chef Maureen and Mr. Johnson – culinary arts instructors at City College, San Francisco.)

(Pastor, Fr. Protack addressing large crowds for every night of the mission and also at the dinner presentation.  The St. Paul Penne and Pollo Pasta Recipe will be posted soon.  Stay Tuned.)

(Expert Kitchen Helpers)

(Expert kitchen helpers.)

At this dynamic parish, the pastor has an MC program, similar to what I had at my former parish.  It’s a program that encourages young men to consider a priestly vocation by allowing them to continue altar serving beyond childhood and thus facilitating their growth as potential liturgical leaders.  These guys were smart, talented, and unafraid to grow closer to God, even though it may not be considered “cool” by young people standards.

Kenny, one of the MCs - a talented musician and golfer! He'd make a great priest!

(Kenny, one of the MCs – a talented musician and golfer!  He’d make a great priest!)

During one of the dinners, Kenny joined the priests for a fabulous meal and conversation.  It was like a Grace Before Meals episode.  We talked about vocations and how to prayerfully discern God’s will, even if people think it’s foolish.  The pastor told the story of a mother who actually said her boys would become priests only over her dead body.  As a priest, that hurts.

This unfortunate antagonism or judgment of foolishness is everywhere.  It’s true for lawyers and Hollywood stars.  Msgr. Nalty’s decision to leave a high paying job at a law firm, and Mother Dolores decision to leave acting after playing the leading female role opposite Elvis Presley were considered by many to be utterly foolish.

(Chef Bitsy offering plating and design tips for the dessert.)

(Msgr. Nalty and Mother Dolores, Holy Trinity Apostolate, Michigan.)

Our saints prove that being a “fool for Christ” is really an act of wisdom.  St. Francis of Assisi was looked down upon, even by members of his own family, because he wanted to serve God, especially in the poor.

St. Philip Neri did all sorts of tricks, which many thought were foolish, just to get people to listen to his message about God.  I wonder if he was willing to cook for them?

(Chef Bitsy offering plating and design tips for the dessert.)

(Me standing next to a cut out of St. Philip Neri in his museum room.)

You may think I’m only talking about becoming a priest, nun, or a saint!  But there’s unfortunate suspicion even among other Christian Believers!

Meet Dr. Scott Hahn, a renown Scripture Scholar who was branded a fool because he made the very difficult decision to become a Roman Catholic, even though he showed promise of being a one of the leading Presbyterian preachers.

(Recent graduate, Chef Philly offered a class on artful carving of vegetables and fruit – a highly technical discipline and art.)

(Dr. Scott Hahn.)

Recently, Dr. Hahn came to Mount St. Mary’s to give a lecture on St. Paul.  It was perfect timing because he helped explain the passage I quoted above about the “foolishness” of the Cross.  He offered so much by way of spiritual insights – a scriptural all you can eat.  Despite what many considered a foolish decision, his entry into the Catholic Church has been one of the biggest blessings for me.  I still remember hearing his personal conversion story and how it aided me in my own personal conversion and vocational discernment.  His decision couldn’t be that foolish because it helped me wise up and listen to God more in prayer.

One thing he said that stuck with me: The foolishness of God is wiser than all earthly wisdom put together.  Because God’s “foolishness” is based on His love for us.

The fact is love makes us do all sorts of foolish things.  And the Cross, which we celebrate in a unique way during Lent, seemed like the biggest failure in all of world history.  But God’s “foolishness” transformed the cross into the most powerful sign of love – a love that is willing to endure suffering for the beloved.

(These apple pastries were worth standing in front of a hot oven for hours.)

(Image of Christ, Scourged and Crowned with Thorns.)

In our modern and very information-oriented society, make sure we try not to become so smart we no longer need God or look to Him for guidance and truth.  That would be the worst trick we can play on ourselves.  It would lead to being a fool, not just one day a year, but suffering foolishness for all eternity.

This April Fool’s Day we recognize how some people choose not to believe in God because faith challenges people to do seemingly foolish things.  Some would rather spend time worrying instead of spending time in prayer. Some find it smarter to trust in the stock market than in God.  Unfortunately, many want to put their hope in a president, rather than hope in the Omniscient Lord.

But consider how worry doesn’t help us, how the stock market itself needs bailing out, and how many people in government promote foolish laws that kill unborn babies.

With such a track record of foolishness, I can honestly say that I’d gladly be a fool for Christ every day of the year.  Because ultimately, the joke won’t be on me!

Food for the Body

No Fooling with Tuna!

Some members of my ordination class

(Some of the members of my ordination class.)

A few months ago I had the pleasure of spending time with my brother priests at the Nalty Family Tree Farm in Brewton, Alabama.  It’s an annual event that gathers our ordination class (this year celebrating 10 years of priesthood) for fraternity and support.  We help each other deal with foolishness – the world’s an our own.  This year, Msgr. Nalty and I had a cook off. The secret ingredient: Yellow Fin Tuna!

He made the main course:  a sesame crusted tuna, topped with a wisabe aioli, along with a funghi porcini risotto.

I made an appetizer: a sweetened, soy-seared tuna on top of a crisp cucumber, stuffed with a rice pilaf and marinated apples.  Our friend, Fr. Bahash was the taste testing judge.  When we asked him, “Who won?”  He claimed he was the winner – since he had the job of eating these delectables!

[Here is] the recipe to my showcased tuna.  If you make this during a Friday of Lent, your family will know you’re not fooling around either!

Sweetened, Soy-seared Tuna

1 cucumber, pealed (leaving some green around the edges)

½ pound fresh tuna

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ brown sugar

1 lemon

1 bag microwavable rice pilaf

½ apple, cut into thin strips

2 tablespoons apple vinegar

¼ teaspoon salt & pepper

Fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons olive oil

Prepare cucumber cups by pealing sections of the skin off the cucumber.  Cut cucumber into 1 ½ inch circles.  Use a melon ball scoop to cut out a small bowl in the cucumber.

Prepare the rice and apple filling by heating the rice in the microwave per the instructions.  Cut the apple into thin “match stick” sized pieces.  Mix with the rice, adding vinegar, salt, and pepper.  You can also throw in some fresh cilantro with the rice as well.  Put some of the rice combination in the “bowl” of the cucumber cup.

Prepare the fish marinade by combining the soy sauce, brown sugar, and the juice of one lemon until sugar is completely dissolved.  Cut the fish so that it is shaped like a long “tube” (as much as possible).  Marinate fish for about 20 minutes in the soy, sugar, and lemon mixture.  Heat olive oil in non stick pan.  When oil reaches smoking point, carefully place fish in the pan to sear all sides.  Cook for 1-2 minutes at most on each side of the fish.  Remove and let rest before cutting into ½ inch “mini steaks” and placing on top of the cucumber cup filled with the apple flavored rice.  Top off with cilantro and some lemon for garnish.

Food for the Soul

Avoiding Foolishness, Except in Christ

Let us pray: God, loving you is the wisest thing we can do.  Serving your church is one of the best things we can do to help improve society.  Praying for guidance is the only way we will know the difference between foolishness and truth.  Help us O Lord to grow in understanding our call in life, even if others will consider us foolish.  With the prayers of the angels and saints, we ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

St. Francis statue at the mountaintop hermitage, Assisi.

(St. Francis statue at the mountaintop hermitage, Assisi.)

Grace before Meals new cookbook is out!

Ask Fr. Leo for
fatherly advice.

Any submissions may be used in
future Grace Before Meals publications.


Please forward Fr. Leo’s weekly
email blast to anyone you think would benefit. If you haven’t

signed up for the Food for the Body, Food for the Soul
weekly email blast, go here and register now.

Also please visit our blog. weekly to stay up to date
with Grace Before Meals.

Posted in Blast from the Past, Food for the Body, Food for the Soul, Food for Thought, Grace Before Meals, Past Emails | 2 Comments »

Posted March 27th, 2011 | Events, Grace Before Meals
Chef Drake and Chef Todd - Awesome chefs!

Chef Drake and Chef Todd - Awesome chefs and now good friends! That's the power of working together in the kitchen!

Great to visit with the parishes in West Milton and Troy Ohio. The people, the events, the priests, and the prayer was truly inspiring! Keep up the great work, great meals, and great examples of faith.

It was great to see so many people at church, the dinner, and the “mini-retreat!”  Thanks to the parish pastors, the organizers, and all of the new friends I met over this busy, but faithful weekend!

Inspiring Young Folk after the Big Dinner!  They're all smiling, so I guess they liked the food!

Inspiring Young Folk after the Big Dinner! They're all smiling, so I guess they liked the food!

If you were at these events, please be sure to sign up for the free weekly blasts.  Let me know what you thought of the retreat, and be sure to let the world know what you thought of the food, the Grace Before Meals message, and how even your young children enjoyed the events!  Please leave your comments below.

Posted in Events, Grace Before Meals | 2 Comments »

Posted March 24th, 2011 | Media


Catch me every Thursday during the Lenten Season on Sirius 159/XM 117 starting at 10:00pm EST.

Tonight (March 24th)  we’re talking with Fr. Sam Martin – Director of Holy Cross Seminary and House of Formation in LaCross WI, and Fr. Thaddeus McGuie – Pastor of St. Daniel the Prophet Parish is Scottsdale, AZ and a member of Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  We’ll be taking your calls, and talking about some pretty major food fight battles!

Call in and talk with me live at 888.322.8465 (888-3-Catholic) and if you have questions you’d like for me to answer for next week’s show, just leave your comments below.

This show is all about conversation so that we can bring about conversion, so join the fun, listen to the show, or drop your comments and questions below.

Posted in Media | No Comments »

Posted March 23rd, 2011 | From the Feedbag, Grace Before Meals

“From the Feedbag” will be a weekly Grace Before Meals e- Blast that answers questions or responds to comments subscribers send to us. As our movement continues to grow, we want to make sure you have a voice. We will sincerely try to answer every question or respond to every comment, even if it may take a little time. Thank you for your past contributions. We value your input and ideas. So keep sending us your questions, sharing your comments, and being blessings to our movement. E-mail at

<SPECIAL NOTE: We would like to apologize to everyone who has not been receiving any content in their eBlasts. Please bear with us as we seek to fix and adjust all technical difficulties. If you did not receive a newsletter the past two weeks,  check them out as posted on our blog. Once again, we are sorry for any problems, but the Lord will guide us on our way. Thank you.>

Last month’s letter:
Thank you for all the encouraging responses I received after I posted the e-mail exchange between Critic “J” and myself. I posted that exchange not to get sympathy, but to help people realize the importance of our movement and to make sure people continue to help spread the Grace Before Meals message to family, friends, and parishioners.

Some parishioners taking a tour and stroll in a piazza in Assisi, Italy. If you’re interested in coming on any of our tours this year, contact Diana George ( at Corporate Travel Service 1-800-727-1999 ex. 180
(Some parishioners taking a tour and stroll in a piazza in Assisi, Italy. If you’re interested in coming on any of our tours this year, contact Diana George ( at Corporate Travel Service 1-800-727-1999 ex. 180)

Please consider asking your pastor to put an announcement about Grace Before Meals in your church bulletin. Our movement is truly Good News and church’s are also always seeking ways to evangelize their parishioners.

Here’s a suggested bulletin announcement.

“Families looking for simple, fun, and inspiring ways to strengthen your relationship the way Jesus did – around the dinner table – can subscribe for free weekly messages that will bring God’s blessing to your table with delicious meals and dinner discussions. More importantly, this will help bring the blessings of family and friends around your table. Sign up for complimentary subscriptions at”

Meet Yohann, a “fan” I met in Costa Rica. He manages a fruit smoothie shop along the coast.

(Meet Yohann, a “fan” I met in Costa Rica. He manages a fruit smoothie shop along the coast.)

This Week’s Topics: Extended Family and Stepchildren

This week, I wanted to share some e-mails and my responses about family situations that deal with extended families and stepchildren. Family life is never perfect and sometimes it’s best to get another perspective, even a priest’s perspective.

Father Leo,

My 12 year-old granddaughter came to our house last week with a new hairdo. She’s had beautiful naturally curly brown blond hair since she was born. Now she came home with straight dark blackish brown. When she asked me, “how do I look”, I told her that she was crazy. Her mother said that she paid a lot of money for that hairdo. Now everyone is mad at me. In a few days we are going to go out to eat, but there will be a lot of tension How do I handle this?

“Surprised Grandmother”

Grandparents with the grandkids, July 11, 2010
(Grandparents with the grandkids, July 11, 2010)

Dear “Surprised,”
I realized you were probably very surprised to see your granddaughter’s beautifully light brown and naturally curly hair changed to dark and straight. You probably went a little far in saying“You’re crazy,” but it’s hard to control our words when we’re surprised.
To answer your immediate question, the first thing to do is to apologize to your granddaughter and her mother. Here’s a way you can say it:

“I’m so sorry I said you were ‘crazy.’ I always thought you were so beautiful just the way you are, and so I was just surprised to see you with such a different look. I will always think you are beautiful. I just believe that a natural look is so much better. I’m sure this more popular hairstyle will never change who you really are, and I hope that my ’badly spoken reaction and comment ‘ doesn’t make you think I don’t love you as my granddaughter. You will always be a beautiful gift from God.”

Hopefully this apology can help mend relationships, but there are important lessons in this exchange for everyone.

Parents with young children: please try and remind your children of their inner beauty as God’s child, before you encourage dramatic changes in their physical appearance – hairstyle, fashions, piercings, and tattoos. Also, give some advance notice before presenting the new look for your kids to family, especially to an older generation. Grandparents and older folks may not handle surprises as well as they used to.
Grandparents and seniors : Be patient with the different styles and fashions of your grandchildren or younger nieces and nephews. Generation gaps can really create problems for the family, especially if our opinions are poorly communicated. Don’t be quick to judge. If surprised by something, say so before making a “moral” judgment. Be quick to encourage the parents to do the right thing for their kids before judging the children – who are more sensitive to criticism than a mature adult. After all, grandchildren are not your children, and it’s more your role to be a loving presence and comfort if children and parents disagree. St. Ann and St. Joachim, Jesus’ grandparents aren’t even mentioned in the Scripture, but we recognize them as saints. I know my grandmother’s role was never to be another parent. But grandparents can be a prayerful presence so that parents do the right thing!

Creepy but stylish mannequin
(Creepy but “stylish” mannequin)

Hi father,

My fiancée and I overheard a conversation that her 14- year- old son had with his girlfriend. He was very lewd, bragged about selling drugs, and was totally obnoxious. We thought he might just be bragging, but there were many details about selling, etc. that made me think he’s telling the truth.

His girlfriend is a nice Catholic girl.

I want to call the father and forbid this boy (my soon to be stepson) from ever talking to her. I want to involve the police to see if he is actually selling. I asked a priest here who is a police chaplain and he said to call the police and let them sort it out. My fiancée does not want him to have a record. I cannot believe she has not acted yet.

What are your thoughts?

“Soon to be Step-Dad”

St. Joseph, the model of a saintly stepfather
(St. Joseph, the model of a saintly stepfather)

Dear “Soon to be Step-Dad,”

Regarding your question: This is a very complicated situation, because it involves unsubstantiated facts andpeople you know and love, as well as people you don’t know, like this girl and her family. It also involves the law.

First: You will want to make sure you and your fiancée are on the EXACT same page before you can really make any decisions about this situation. This won’t be easy, but you may be trying to deal with a symptom of a problem that will grow and make your marriage very difficult, namely, the rites and responsibilities of raising stepchildren.

Second: Your parish priest is correct. If you have first-hand knowledge of a crime, that must be reported. Feelings aside, getting the proper law enforcement involved can be the very thing that helps this young man. If anything, the police will question and investigate. If they find anything problematic, this young man will have to answer for his alleged criminal (or at least juvenile) activity.

Third: Your fiancée’s concern about a criminal record is a very personal one for her, I’m sure. By not intervening or confronting this situation, she may be causing more grave harm to her son and her son’s acquaintances, and particularly this young girl. You need to have a long talk with her, assuring her that your love for her is extended to her son, as your future stepson.

Fourth: I wouldn’t call this girl’s parents without first getting the facts from this young man. If she’s a really “good Catholic,” she should know better and her parents should be involved de facto. You could be opening a whole can of worms by involving other people you don’t even know about a situation that you may not have full and accurate knowledge about. But it’s always a good thing for parents of kids who are dating to get to know each other as that can help keep the relationship on the up and up.

Ultimately, your responsibility is to engage in conversation with your fiancée and your future stepson. Don’t do it as a sheriff, but as a faithful loving male presence, something this young man probably has never had.

Prior to your conversation with your future family, you need to have a sincere conversation with God . If not well resolved, this situation can lead to problems that will negatively affect any future happiness. If God is calling you to be the husband and father to these people, He will give you Grace and guidance to do the right thing, as the future spiritual head of this household.

Poster of one of my favorite family quotes in the Italian Language. The translation is: The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother!
(Poster of one of my favorite family quotes in the Italian Language. The translation is: The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother!)

What do you think these people ought to do? Do you have any comments about my responses and suggestions? Your comments will certainly help our community become better versed at handling problems. Post your comments below.

Posted in From the Feedbag, Grace Before Meals | No Comments »

Faithful Foodie Adventures is all about exciting opportunities that await us at various tables and food destinations across God’s beautiful world. Some weeks I may offer a cooking class tip, a
restaurant critique, or even some food ideas that hopefully expand faith and satisfy our culinary sensibilities. If you have any food adventure ideas, please be sure to let us know. E-mail me your ideas at

Wining, Dining and Praying!

Grapes from the vine.

Grapes from the vine.

As you may already know, I’m leading a few culinary excursions this year. We’re already set to sail for a Mediterranean Culinary Cruise on May 15-21. It’s going to be a fantastic opportunity for some of our Grace Before Meals members to just sit back and take in spectacular oceanic views and scenic port stops for day trip adventures. Yes, Grace Before Meals is going on a vacation. It’s a vacation that includes prayer, time for fellowship, and even a few cooking lessons provided by yours truly. At this point, I believe we may be all booked, but I’m sure if you call we will certainly pray that the cruise ship can find room for a few more passengers.

(Cooking for a photo shoot for Guide Posts magazine story, to come out in May 2011.)

(Cooking for a photo shoot for Guide Posts magazine story, to come out in May 2011.)

If you aren’t able to join us for this cruise opportunity, you can certainly join us for an incredibly unique retreat opportunity to be held at Napa Valley from June 5-10. We’re going to have a retreat based on a very important subject: WINE!

(St. Clement would be very proud at how we celebrated his namesake. Doesnt this spread look so naturally delicious!)

(St. Clement would be very proud at how we celebrated his namesake. Doesn't this spread look so naturally delicious!)

I realize many people may find a “retreat” from Napa Valley slightly suspicious. Can we really find God in a city known more for its high-end wine culture than for its religious shrines. However, the sites and views of the Napa Valley region are very similar to some of the Italian
monasteries where I did my retreats as a seminarian. We will be surrounded by beauty, and, yes, we will also be surrounded by holiness.

(Castello di Amorosa with a chapel where we will celebrate Mass.)

(Castello di Amorosa with a chapel where we will celebrate Mass.)

People will be surprised to find the Catholic culture’s penetration in this region. Chapels and shrines will be part of our destination, reclaiming how that area was originally founded by people of faith.

The topic of our retreat, based on the liturgical prayer at Mass, unfolds deep theology regarding the use of wine in Scripture and in our Liturgy. We will have a very thorough class on Transubstantiation (i.e., the Sacramental Grace that changes wine into the Blood of Christ). We
will uncover some of the deeper theological references about wine in the bible. We will better understand more about wine making, the distinctions of particular varietals, and we will develop a more sophisticated understanding of why wine is so important to culture, to celebration, and to faith!

(It may look like 14th century Tuscany, but it is actually 21st century Napa Valley!)

(It may look like 14th century Tuscany, but it is actually 21st century Napa Valley!)

I’ve been to Napa Valley once before. On that trip I experienced this mountainous region’s beauty that reminded me of the monastic settings in Europe. I wanted to make this same opportunity available for all of you!

We will feast on great food prepared especially for our group by celebrity chefs, including Emmy Award-wining Food Network personality, Michael Chiarello. We will also drink deeply of the fountain of truth as we approach this beautiful area with a pilgrim’s sense of a search for God. After all, when two or three are gathered in His name, He is with us – even in the midst of world class accommodations surrounded by breathtaking views and creative culinary destinations!

Wining, Dining, and Praying! That’s what sums up this unique vacation and retreat opportunity. Join us!

(Me teaching some culinary students.)

(Me teaching some culinary students.)

We have been given an extra opportunity, for a limited time, to invite a few more participants on this once in a lifetime experience. If you are interested, please call 1-800-727-1999, ex. 180 immediately, as spaces are now very limited.

Let us Pray: “Blessed are You Lord God of all creation, through Your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands, let it become for us our spiritual drink. Blessed be God forever!”

Have you ever been to Napa Valley or the wine country? What’s your favorite wine to recommend for our subscribed members? Have you ever considered why wine is so important to our liturgical prayers? What do you think about taking a retreat in Napa Valley? Do you know of any good restaurants in that area? Do you have other faithful foodie adventure ideas for us to explore and share? Check out my travel schedule and let me know if you recommend places for me to visit while I’m in that part of the world. Your comments are important to us. Please post your comments below.

Ask Fr. Leo for fatherly advice.
Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.

Posted in Faithful Foodie, Grace Before Meals, Special Religious Theme | 4 Comments »

Menu Inspiration gives subscribers exclusive access to original and inspired recipes from Fr. Leo Patalinghug, host of the movement Grace Before Meals.  If you try this recipe, let us know what you think.  If you have a special recipe that inspires the family to come together more regularly, please share it with us and our faithful foodie community.  Pictures of your food surrounded by your family and friends are always welcome!  Post your comments HERE..

“See” Food Diet Lenten Special

It’s a corny joke, but true:  I see food, I want to eat it.  That’s my diet! But on this Ash Wednesday, “Sea” food is the primary protein for our menus.

Last week’s E-Blast provided me a chance to share some insights about humility through the lens of food.  I know people who love food, like myself, have to approach food with a great sense of humility – especially since today’s Ash Wednesday “feast” begins a period of fasting and abstinence.  In fact, the entire 40-day season, leading up to the celebration of Easter, is filled with opportunities to grow in humility – through prayers, fasting, and abstinence.

(Some people give up caffeine for Lent. They complain that it almost feels like a spiritual death!)

(Some people give up caffeine for Lent. They complain that it almost feels like a spiritual "death"!)

On Fridays in particular, the day of the week that we recall the suffering Jesus endured on Good Friday, we commemorate our compassion with Him by making little sacrifices, such as not eating meat (abstaining) and fasting (i.e., having less food than normal).  There are several links to help develop a better understanding of the importance of this discipline that not only helps the body, but more importantly the spirit.

(Lenten décor at the Church of St. John the Baptist in Hot Springs, Ar.)

(Lenten décor at the Church of St. John the Baptist in Hot Springs, Ar.)

So this month’s dinner inspiration is all about Lent-friendly meals.  Now today (Ash Wednesday) and Fridays of Lent are days of fasting and abstinence.  But that doesn’t mean family’s can’t “celebrate” a family meal together.  And even though you’re technically fasting and abstaining, nowhere does it say you also must endure a flavorless meal.You just shouldn’t eat it in abundance as you would any other day.

Consider these recipes as part of your own Lenten “See” food diet.  When you see your dish, you will automatically think of God’s goodness!  These recipes are Lent Kosher, but so delicious to the eyes and palate that you may wonder if it’s okay to eat this during Lent.  Admittedly, these recipes are quite delicious, but you’re also not going out of your way to make them. And I’m glad to say these recipes follow the letter of the law (and the spirit of the law if as long as you don’t overeat) of our Lenten season.

To see the recipes and ingredients to the WONDERFUL dishes below, CREATE AN ACCOUNT for FREE on the Grace Before Meals website to have ACCESS TO ALL RECIPES and other exclusive information. And be sure to subscribe to Fr. Leo’s “Food for the Body, Food for the Soul” weekly email blastGo here and register now.

First menu:  Seafood Stew

(Beautifully steamed mussels.)

(Beautifully steamed mussels.)

Ingredients:  Serves 4
1 “bag” of mussels, debearded and cleaned
½ pound salmon fillet, cut into ¼ inch cubes
¼ pound scallops, cut into ¼ inch cubes (if large scallops)
12-15 medium-sized shrimp, deveined and shells removed
6 oz. can tomato paste
2 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 cups white wine
1 cup water
½ lime, cut into 2-3 rings
2 bay leaves
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbs fresh parsley, minced
1 -2 tsp salt
1-2 tsp pepper



Instructions:  Boil pasta according to instructions.  When cooked al dente, drain water, drizzle some olive oil, divide among the different serving bowls, and set aside.  In a large pan or pot, heat olive oil and sauté pepper flakes and garlic.  Add the mussels (get ready for a little sizzle action), white wine, water, and tomato paste.  Stir together until the liquids begin to simmer.    Add the lime, salt, pepper, and bay leaves.  As soon as mussels begin to open up, add the rest of the seafood and gently stir all together, making sure the seafood is almost completely submerged in the broth.  When shrimp turns pinkish white, the dish is finished cooking.  To serve, ladle broth over the pasta.  Distribute the seafood into each bowl.

 (Seafood boil over some fresh pasta with a touch of cream added to the broth to create a nice richness and color.)

(Seafood boil over some fresh pasta with a touch of cream added to the broth to create a nice richness and color.)

During a recent gathering for priests I made this same dish, but I also shaved a little parmesan cheese on top.  I know I broke an Italian culinary “rule” by adding cheese to seafood.  But the salty and creamy cheese provided a nice complement to the briny flavors of the broth.  I also served sautéed, grilled broccoli rabe and some crusty bread.  It was a delicious Lent-approved meal.  It was easy to make, with very little stress, but still quite flavorful.  The penitential aspect of this dish is that you’ll want to eat more, but will need to exercise moderation!

Lemon Pepper Crusted Sea Bass

(Pan-roasted potatoes boiling in a combination of water, oil, butter, herbs, and seasoning. Once water is cooked, the potato simply needs to caramelize.)

Clearly named properly. Look at that lemon!

Serves 2
Oven-safe frying pan/skillet
2 Sea Bass, scaled, gutted and fins removed
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 Tbs black pepper
4 lemon wedges
1 Tbs rosemary

Imagine how good it tastes!

Instructions:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Score the fish 2-3 times on both sides.  Season with salt and pepper inside the cavity and on the fish.  In the cavity of the fish, place lemons, garlic, and rosemary.  Drizzle olive oil over both sides of the fish.  Heat oven-safe pan over high heat.  Be sure to heat the pan until sufficiently hot.  You can test by sprinkling some water on it so that the water beads, dances, and quickly evaporates.  When sufficiently heated, carefully place the fish, searing one side for about 1-2 minutes.  Then carefully flip the fish to the other side, and transfer the entire pan to the oven for 10-12 minutes.  To test if the fish is cooked, try pulling one of the fins off the fish.  If the fin comes out completely without resistance, the fish is perfectly cooked.  Use HEAT-RESISTANT potholders and remove the pan from the oven.  Let the pan cool before transferring to your plate.  Obviously you’ll want to learn how to fillet a fish, which is why I’ve included a link to help you make a simple fish dish into deliciously beautiful art!

(Pan-seared and oven-finished lemon pepper sea bass.)

I’d serve this with a simple risotto or some of the potatoes I suggested last month.  A few greens of your choice will make this a great dish for your Lenten Friday meal.

Dish # 3:  Bruschetta topped with caramelized onions, apples and blue cheese

(Seminarians serving up pizzas each Monday night.)

(Seminarians serving up pizzas each Monday night.)

Finally, here’s a Lenten-friendly dish vegans may think is a bit decadent.  But again, it’s perfectly acceptable for Lent.  So move over cheese pizza, this veggie-inspired recipe can transform our minds and remind us that non-meat recipes can be more than a side dish.

This simple plate is definitely healthy and surprisingly simple to prepare.

Healthy and simple= good choice

Healthy and simple= good choice

Serves 4
8 pieces of ciabatta bread, lightly brushed with olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 apple, diced into 1/8-inch cubes
2 Tbs olive oil (one Tbs for the bread and 1 Tbs for sauté)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Blue cheese crumbles

(Prepping the entire meal.  The Asparagus is simply dressed with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.)

(Prepping the entire meal. The Asparagus is simply dressed with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.)

Instructions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly brush bread with olive oil.  Place bread in oven for only 2-4 minutes until golden brown.  Heat olive oil in a pan and sauté onions until translucent.  Add the apples and gently fold into the onions.  When bread is golden brown, place two pieces on each plate.  Top off with some of the onion and apple combination.  Spoon on some fresh blue cheese crumbles.  Serve with a side of oven-grilled asparagus and viola, a vegetarian’s delight!

Father in Heaven, food is Your gift.  During this season of Lent, we abstain from certain foods as a way to help us hunger for truth.  Even with delicious food eaten with moderation, help our families develop greater faith and trust.  Remind us at every meal that You feed us with the food of everlasting life!  Amen.

Do you have any Lenten Friendly recipes?  Give these recipes a try and let us know what you think!  Your critique and comments are so helpful to our movement, and they truly encourage families to do something different and bring inspiration to your family meal!  If you have a recipe that you’d like to share, please post your comments below.

Ask Fr. Leo for fatherly advice.
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Posted in Grace Before Meals, Menu Inspiration, Recipe-Fish, Recipe-Italian, Recipes, Simply Blogging, Special Religious Theme, Vegetables | 3 Comments »