Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Arroz con Pollo for St. Josemaria Escriva

Tomorrow's feast day, (June 26th), is for St. Josemaria Escriva, a Spanish priest. My background is proudly half German and half Hispanic, (approximately).  My mother, who gave me my Hispanic side, often cooks delicious dishes like enchiladas, tostadas, and refried beans. Arroz con pollo, also known as rice with chicken, was a weeknight staple and one of my favorites. This recipe comes from my Great-Grandmother Leonor Martinez who was Puerto Rican, but lived in Mexico at least when my grandpa was a little boy. I might have to ask about the details. So to me, arroz con pollo is a Mexican dish, but I did find a recipe for it in a Spanish cookbook. Of course there is a lot of intermingling of Spanish, Puerto Rican, and Mexican cuisine, especially in my family! So even though St. Josemaria Escriva is Spanish, not Puerto Rican or Mexican, I thought that sharing my family recipe for arroz con pollo would be appropriate.

 St. Josemaria Escriva founded Opus Dei, which means "Work of God." Opus Dei is an organization of laypeople and priests whose "mission is to help people turn their work and daily activities into occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society." - Opusdei.org

While sitting down to this delicious Spanish/Puerto Rican dinner, it would be a great time for a family discussion on how we can use our everyday activities to become closer to God, serve others, and improve society. One thing that I did when the poor behavior of my kindergarten students was driving me crazy was to say a prayer for the student each time I had to bend down to tie their shoes. It was small and simple, but it brought me closer to God and helped me to be a more loving and patient teacher.
The mission of Opus Dei reminds me of another organization I wrote about recently, the Apostleship of Prayer. If you're looking for great resources for prayer and offering yourself to God each day for the whole family, the Apostleship of Prayer is a wonderful place to look.  It also reminds me of St. Therese of Lisieux and her "little way." St. Teresa of Avilia's quote at the top of my blog even talks about being able to find Jesus in the pots and pans of the kitchen. Sometimes it seems like the world is so big and full of problems that we couldn't possibly make a difference unless we are doing great works, but the Church shows us that we can become holy through little things and ordinary life, and a world filled with holy people makes a big difference! What a beautiful message!

To learn more about Opus Dei, click here.
To learn more about St. Josemaria Escriva, click here.

Arroz con Pollo

2-3 chicken thighs or breasts (thighs are better!)
2 cups of rice
1/2 large onion, diced
1 large can crushed tomoates
1 jar green salad olives, drained
salt and pepper

1. Start by cooking your chicken. Place the chicken in a crock pot and cover with water. Turn the heat to low and cook until the chicken starts to fall off the bone. We usually do this overnight. *Important - don't get rid of the chicken water!

2. Shred the chicken and place in a serving bowl with the olives. In a large pot  pour in one cup of the chicken water, and the can of crushed tomatoes. Add salt and pepper and bring the liquid to a boil.

3. While the liquid boils, toast the uncooked rice in a dry pan with the onion. You want the rice to have a nice golden brown color.

4. While the rice and onions are still hot, pour them into the boiling liquid. Wait for the liquid to come back to a boil, (this shouldn't take long), then turn the heat down to low and put a lid on the pot. Let this cook for 20 minutes.

5. After 20 minutes, take the pot off the stove and let it sit for another 10 minutes with the lid on. *Important - do not open the lid! No matter how much you want to look!

6. After the ten minutes have passed, you may now open the lid and put the cooked rice into the serving bowl with the chicken and olives. Mix it all up and serve with tortillas! To eat tear pieces off a tortilla and use to scoop up the arroz. I like mine with a little hot sauce!

 This post is linked up the Catholic Bloggers Network monthly link up blitz  and the Equipping Catholic Families Saints Cele-linky

Monday, June 24, 2013

St. John the Baptist's Locusts and Honey on a Log

Happy Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist! The Bible gives us quite the image of this holy man;

 "John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey." (Mark 1:6)

 For a St. John the Baptist snack I've taken the popular kids' treat ants on a log and added a little honey and changed the name. A sweet and simple way to help remember today's saint!

Locusts and Honey on Log
My variation: Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter with Dried Blueberries.
celery sticks
peanut butter

- Spread some peanut butter on a celery stick, drizzle with honey, and add raisins. That's the classic version. Today I did a little variation and used dark chocolate peanut butter and dried blueberries.  I think that cinnamon peanut butter with dried cranberries would  be another great combo, maybe with a little maple syrup? There are lots of great ways to mix up this classic snack! If your kids need a little convincing to eat celery, like mine, you could also put this on top of a graham cracker.

And since today is about St. John the Baptist's birthday, its a great day to read the story of his birth, which can be found in Luke 1:57-66, 80

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.

When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed.

Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?”

For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Learn more about St. John the Baptist here.

This post is linked up the Catholic Bloggers Network monthly link up blitz  and the Equipping Catholic Families Saints Cele-linky

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Girly Ballet Party

The dance studio I work for hosts dance themed birthday parties, so yesterday I got another chance to bring out my girly side! Even though we danced hip hop at the party, the birthday girl requested a ballet slipper cake, and this is what I came up with. The pictures could have turned out a little better, but I was really happy with how this cake turned out, and the birthday girl loved it too.

 I made a marble cake by splitting a white cake batter in half, and adding some coco powder into one of the bowls. I then alternated batters when I poured it into the pan. After baking I froze the cake for easy frosting. I frosted with Wilton's creamy peach, and then used a toothpick to draw the picture in the frosting so I could make sure it was just right. I printed some clip art from the internet to use as a guide. I used the smallest round tip I had to do the outline in gray, which I made with Wilton's black mixed with white frosting. I then used round tips and a frosting spatula to fill in the tights and shoes with pink and white. I used a star tip to create a shell border in pink. I did something a little different for my cake board, and I really liked it. It's something that I will be doing again for sure.  I wrapped my cake board with happy birthday wrapping paper, and then covered that with waxed paper to make it food safe. With all the wrapping paper out there, the possibilities are endless!

We did another really cute craft at the party that any girl would love. We made these adorable hair accessories by simply tying on strips of colored tulle fabric to a hair tie. They looked great in the girls' hair! You can also use this technique to make a simple and fun tutu by tying larger strips of tulle to an elastic band. 

This post is linked up on Girl.Inspired. Check it out!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sidewalk Board Game Adventure!

My son and I both love board games so I thought why not make a life sized one outside where we can be the playing pieces! We can play a board game and enjoy the beautiful weather at the same time! My son was just thrilled about it and we must have played more than ten times on the first day we drew it.

For a die we used a cube shaped tissue box and wrote the numbers on the sides with a sharpie. It worked for a while, but by the end of the day it was pretty beat up and the side with the perforated part on top was coming off. If anyone has a suggestion for a more sturdy outdoor life size die please let me know!
We tossed the the one die back and forth to each other, but it would probably be more efficient if each player had their own die or spinner. That way you don't have to remember what space you are on if you have to leave the board to get the die.

Our board game was pretty simple, like one you might find in the back of a kids' magazine. Ours was summer themed with spaces like "Go Swimming! Move forward 2!" of "Get a Sunburn, Move back 2." We also had "Back to Start," "Switch Places with Another Player," and " Stuck in Traffic! Stay here until you roll a 2." Get creative as you want! I think after this one gets washed away we'll draw one that has physical tasks on the spaces like "Hop on one leg," or " Spin in a circle." If you're really ambitious and have enough space in your driveway you could even recreate your favorite board game!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Two Father's Day Cakes

With Father's Day coming up this Sunday I just thought I'd share a couple of the cakes I've made in the past.

 This first one is a mint chocolate chip, trucks in the dirt cake. Its easy to make even for somebody with no cake decorating experience because neatness is not necessary!

I made the cake using a white cake mix and adding in mint extract, chocolate chips, and green food coloring. To decorate cover the cake with chocolate frosting, crushed Oreos (I used mint Oreos), and some of your kid's toy trucks. As you can see I put a couple cookie pieces in the back of some of the trucks. Simple and fun!

This crossword puzzle cake was supposed taste like Dr. Pepper, my husbands favorite drink, but it didn't quite work out. It tasted good, but not like Dr. Pepper. Maybe now that I've found Dr. Pepper syrup by the ice cream toppings at the store I'll have to experiment with this flavor again.

For decorating nothing more is needed here than a simple round tip for writing, and whatever you want for the border if you choose to have one. The secret for a good black frosting is to mix black food coloring into chocolate frosting. If you mix into white frosting you will just get gray.

I hope this gives you some inspiration for celebrating Father's Day, and that everyone has a wonderful day this Sunday spending time with loved ones, especially the Dads!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

St. Anthony's Lost and Found Fish Cupcakes

Today is the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, patron of finding lost things. If you are familiar with this saint you may have uttered these words before; "St. Anthony, please come round. My _________ is/are lost and can't be found!"

One of the legends about St. Anthony says that he was such an eloquent preacher that even the fish would stick their heads out of the water to listen to him. I combined St. Anthony's most well known patronage with this story to come up with these adorable cupcakes. On the tray they are arranged to look like they are listening to St. Anthony, and on the inside there is a little lost fish to find when you bite into them!  I gave every cupcake a surprise inside, but you could just choose a few of them and offer a simple prize to whoever finds the lost fish.

St. Anthony Cupcakes

-blue frosting (see below)
-candy fish - I used some from the bulk section labeled "Juju Fish." Swedish fish would work well too.
-Picture of St. Anthony 

I started by baking cupcakes using a white cake mix. Before you put them in the oven stick a Juju fish into each or some of the cupcakes. After they cooled I made some simple cream cheese frosting, colored it blue and spread this over the cupcakes. The Juju fish are already so sweet, I thought a regular buttercream would be overbearing. Then I placed two Juju fish on top of each cupcake.

To create the display I printed a picture of St. Anthony onto some cardstock and taped it to the edge my serving tray. I left some extra paper on the side when I cut it out so I could fold it back for stability. I love the way these turned out!

To learn more about St. Anthony, click here. 

Simple Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8 oz package reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract 

If you leave your cream cheese out to soften, you don't even need a mixer to put it together, just a spoon!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spiritual Bouquet Cards

There was a lot of excitement this past weekend with a wedding and a graduation in the mix! There is always one gift to give that is incredibly valuable and yet completely free, and that is prayer. These beautiful spiritual bouquet cards are one way to show someone special that you are praying for them.

I found the directions for these cards at http://catholicmom.com/2013/05/06/a-spiritual-bouquet-card-craft-for-may/  The great thing about them is that with all the different images, papers, and ribbons you can use each one is special and unique! Here are how mine turned out.

This first one was for the wedding and features a picture of the wedding at Cana. I chose purple paper since purple was the wedding color. I was fortunate enough to receive a big box full of scrapbooking supplies last Christmas at a chinese auction, so I had lots of cardstock to choose from!
 In the inside pockets there is a spiritual bouquet slip which I printed from catholicmom.com. This is where you would write what prayers you are going to say for that person, or in this case the couple! There is also a packet of flower seeds for them to plant in a garden or planter in their new home! I also wrote a message from me and the family on the pocket part after I took the picture.


     This one was for the graduation. I chose an image of St. Catherine of Alexandria, as she is the patron of students and young women, and the card was for a young woman going off to college!  There are several different images of this saint out there, but this particular one seemed powerful and elegant in a special way that suited the young lady's personality.    


 I figured that a young lady going off to live in a dorm wouldn't really have a use for flower seeds, so I needed to come up with some other small token to put in the other pocket. She loves to read so I thought these simple and cute bookmarks would be just the right thing. All you do to make them is hot glue a cute button to a large paper clip. I only had silver, but colored paper clips would be great for this project.  Again I wrote a message from the family on the pocket after I took the picture.

These cards turned out so nicely and have such a wonderful element of personalization that I know I will be making more of them in the future!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Graduation Cake

Our good friend Natalie graduated high school this weekend, congratulations! I was fortunate enough to be able to decorate her cake. As usual I don't do anything too fancy, just simple borders and drawings. I do have one trick to share though. To get a decent black, mix black food coloring (I use gel), into chocolate frosting. Mixing into white will just get you gray. This came in very handy as Natalie's interests are writing, music, and theater. The thing on top is the symbol for her high school. Yes, its an M inside an atom! I probably should have done "congratulations" in blue instead of yellow, but all in all I think it turned out pretty well.
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