life update

In December, my Knights of Columbus council elected me Grand Knight. Since then, life has been a little crazier than usual.

I still plan to finish the “Love” article series, but haven’t had a chance to get the rest of it out. While browsing my local Catholic book store, I found Pope Benedict’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) and want to read that before continuing with that series.

My weight loss plan is not gone, and I have not gone up. I just haven’t dropped as much as I’d have liked. I’m at 229.8lbs as of today. By the end of May I plan to drop to 225lbs or lower–the final goal being between 190lbs and 200lbs. It seems that it is getting harder to drop weight as I get lighter and lighter. My workout has also changed a few times–I’m due for a workout update soon.

I have also retried my gardening attempts this year–last year was not a good year to try it out. Something about setting a record for most days over 100 in recorded history.

I have several other interesting articles planned; hopefully, I will be able to get those written (or at least started) this summer!

Happy Easter!

Have a happy and blessed Easter season!

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I will try to get my current article series finished and posted soon. Things beyond my control have prevented me from finishing it thus far, but I’m pretty sure I can get it done this week. Thanks for your patience!

love the sinner, hate the sin

Introduction

I recently attended a Catholic Men’s Conference, and one of the topics was love. In today’s society, it is not seen as a manly trait to consider topics such as love. In today’s society it unfortunately seems that to be manly requires one to be a womanizing philanderer with little to no moral compass. Hedonism and relativism seem to rule the perception of manliness.

This got me thinking about a variety of topics, but one phrase that kept coming back was “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I’ve never personally liked that phrase. My parents always told me not to hate anything. Therefore, I am hesitant to truly hate anything.

After thinking about the phrase some more, I’ve realized that there is a lot to unpack in it. In that simple 6 word phrase, you can actually learn everything you need to know about how to treat your fellow man.

In this series, I will present three primary topics: “What is love?”, “I am called to love?” and “I am my brother’s keeper?”

While my point of view is undoubtedly Catholic and I lean on St. Thomas Aquinas’ heavily, I have done my best to incorporate non-Catholic philosophers below. For example, I have found that Aristotle’s writings on several of these topics are most excellent.

What is love?

No, really, what is it?

Aristotle writes that to love is “wishing for [them] what you believe to be good things, not for your own sake but for [that person’s].” (Rhetoric ii, 4) Technically he calls this philia, which can be translated in a number of ways. In Greek, philia is a broad term of friendship, and includes love. Aristotle later writes:

[Love] has various forms—comradeship, intimacy, kinship, and so on.

Things that cause [love] are: doing kindness; doing them unasked; and not proclaiming the fact when they are done, which shows that they were done for our own sake and not for some other reason.

According to St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

Combined with the writings of Aristotle, we see that love is not about the giver—it is receiver. Love often requires sacrifice from the giver to the receiver. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) It becomes apparent that love will at some point require one to freely sacrifice for the sake of another. Love, however, is not just sacrifice. To truly love is to wish and to do good things for another person, not taking into account one’s own desires. Furthermore, all true friendships are based in love.

What is good?

If love is wishing and doing good things for another person, it would help to know what is good. Contrary to what many would have you believe: not everything that feels good is good for them, and not everything that feels bad is bad them.

I must start with the basis that it is possible to know the truth about things. Aristotle takes this as a given when he writes that “we have to start with the known, and ‘known’ has two meanings: there are things known to us, and things known absolutely.” (Ethics i, 4) Furthermore, he states that: “it is our duty to give first place to truth.” (Ethics i, 6) I may write an article on truth later, but for now it must wait.

There are two definitions of good. The first, most commonly used definition, states that it is plain and obvious what is good. Good brings pleasure, wealth, honor, etc. The problem with this definition is that it changes. When a person is under stress, they will change their definition to include stability. Some people think that being constantly entertained and not having to think is good. Some people think that good health is the only good. A better definition is needed. A person cannot wish good things for someone if what is good constantly changes!

The second definition of good is that which brings us closer to our final goal. It is not easy to always define what is good, because many people do not realize what their final goal is. Mankind does have a final goal, to be with our Creator after our earthly life is complete. (That sentence alone can probably spawn half a dozen articles.) The tricky part is determining what we must do to be with our Creator. Luckily, because we are able to determine the truth, we can figure this out.

This is where the Catholic Church comes into the picture—it has done a lot of this work for us. The church has had a lot of people with a lot of time to think. The church says that to be with our Creator, we must become like our Creator. We can do this by living the virtuous life, because “the goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.” (CCC 1803) The four cardinal virtues are prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. (1805) They are the basis for morally good acts (1804) We can strengthen virtue through education, good acts and perseverance through hardship. (1839) The three other virtues—faith, hope and charity—are theological virtues. These are virtues that we use to relate to God and inform us on how to live morally. (1813)

Summary

To sum it all up: to love is to wish and to do good things for others. Good things and actions are those which lead to a life strong in the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, faith, hope and charity.

In two weeks: I am called to love?

Bibliography

The following sources were consulted but not directly referenced while writing this article.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 3 “Life in Christ”, Section 1 “Man’s Vocation: Life in the Spirit”, Chapter 1 “The Dignity of the Human Person”:

· Article 5 “The Morality of the Passions”

· Article 7 “The Virtues”

Common Nonsense: 25 Fallacies About Life … Refuted, Rev. Cliff Ermatinger, L.C.

Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas, I-II, 18; 26, 4. http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2.htm

hardcore Lent 2.0

This year, I’m doing “hardcore” Lent again. One of the best things about it is that I have to get out of my comfort zone of veggies and protein for meals.

So far this year, I have plans to try several new things, including:
• Tabbouleh
• Tomato & Lentil Soup
• Shrimp Pho

I’ve already made the Tabbouleh, and later this week I’ll be making the pho. Stay tuned for recipes!

italian style lamb meatballs

1/3 lb of delicious meaty tastinessI like big meatballs.

I don’t want tiny meatballs that sit, dwarfed, atop a pile of spaghetti. I want meatballs that stand on their own—that don’t need a base of spaghetti to fill you up. I don’t even want spaghetti with my meatballs—that means that I’m just eating filler.

So, without further dramatization, I present my recipe for big meatballs. This time I made them with lamb, but they’re pretty much the same with any meat. The main difference is the spices, and even then not much…

I use dried herbs. Purists will probably insist on fresh. Fresh is fine if you get excited about mincing herbs and go through them before they go bad. Otherwise: dried is close enough.

I cook these in a tasty tomato sauce, so you get a bonus recipe here: zesty tomato sauce!

We need to make the tomato sauce first.

Tomato Sauce:

  • 2tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (14.5oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (6oz) tomato paste
  • 1/2cup veggie/chicken/whatever stock (or water)
  • 2tbsp each: dried oregano, dried parsley
  • 1/2tbsp dried thyme
  • 1tsp sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon
  • 1tbsp Tabasco-type sauce

Step 1: Fry the garlic for about a minute in the nice, hot EV Olive Oil.

Step 2: Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste and stock.

Step 3: Add the herbs, sugar, salt and pepper.

Step 4: Squeeze all that tasty juice out of the lemon and into the sauce.

Step 5: Add the Tabasco. You could also add dried chili flakes or something else spicy. We’re really just doing this to give the sauce one last kick in the pants.

Step 6: Stir it all up. (I hope you felt inclined to stir as you added things, but it should be OK either way.) Set it to simmer while you prep the meatballs.

Meatballs:

  • 1lb of ground lamb
  • 1 egg
  • 8 Ritz-style crackers, crushed up into tiny bits
  • 2tbsp dried basil
  • 1tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2tsp curry powder (yes, really: curry powder)
  • salt
  • pepper

Step 1: Put it all in a big bowl and get dirty mixing it up with your hands!

Step 2: Fashion 3 MASSIVE 1/3lb meatballs. I said I like them big and I meant it. They may be just as tasty small, if you are so inclined.

Step 3: Place these meatballs gingerly in the tomato sauce, which should be slightly bubbly by now. If the sauce doesn’t cover the meatballs, add some water so that it does. Stir things up a little bit, but be careful not to destroy your works of art.

Step 4: Put a lid on the pan, and let it all simmer 20 minutes.

Step 5: EAT YOUR MEATBALLS. Make sure to ladle copious amounts of sauce on them. I had green beans (you just heat them…) on the side and creamy leek soup as an appetizer with my meatballs.

This should feed 3 hungry people, or 1 massive beast of a hungry person.

crema di porri–creamy leek soup

creamy and leekyThis is an Italian recipe for leek soup. I’ll be honest, I got it off another website and didn’t change it much. But my recipe has a picture and much more lively text.

Ingredients:

  • 3 average, ordinary, whatever your grocer sells, leeks
  • 2tbsp Olive Oil (Extra Virgin or Pure)
  • 2tbsp flour
  • 1 box (32oz) of veggie stock—if you get broth don’t add any more salt!
  • 1tbsp ground cumin
  • salt
  • 2c milk (I like 2%)
  • parsley, chopped (a nice sized pile)
  • parmesan cheese (don’t get pre-shredded—it shreds fast and easy and tastes better when you buy a wedge)

Step 1: Clean and chop the leeks. Leeks are somewhat annoying to clean. They are grown by piling sand/dirt up around them so they tend to have lots of dirt in the leaves. The easiest way is to cut the tops off about 1/2 inch below where the leaves all join together and then cut about 1/2 inch off the bottom (that’s just to get rid of the roots). Then cut some slits through about 12 of the remaining leek from the middle to the greener end. Open it up and you should see the dirt. Wash the crap out of these things. In fact, if you can, soak these for a while before proceeding. It’s worth it not to get yummy sand in your soup.

Chopping these things is easy. I just slice them. Since we quartered the thing earlier when cleaning it, it works out nicely.

Step 2: Heat up the Olive Oil in a big pot. (OK, maybe a medium pot works, but my pot is big.)

Step 3: When the Olive Oil is nice and hot (if it’s smoking it’s too hot) add the chopped leeks and fry them for a minute or two—just long enough to show those leeks you mean business.

Step 4: Add the flour and stir it up really good. You want the leeks to be thoroughly coated with flour so that it won’t make clumps when you…

veggie stock--it's unsaltedStep 5: Add the veggie stock. Stir while you add it to prevent flour clumps. I use this stuff:

Step 6: Wait 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally. You want a simmer here. NO BOILING!

Step 7: Remove the pot from the heat and add the milk. Stir while you do this.

Step 8: If you want to blend it, this is where you would do it. I’m lazy, so I didn’t.

Step 9: Put the pot back on the heat for 5 minutes. Remember: Simmer.

Step 10: While simmering, add the chopped parsley and a bunch of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Step 11: Scoop it out into bowls and eat up!

This can serve 5 or 6 as a first course and 3ish as a main.

abbacchio brodettato

Abbacchio Brodettato is a Roman recipe for lamb. I made this the week after Easter. It was fantastic, and rather easy to cook. I got the recipe from about.com. In fact, I pretty much followed the recipe closely enough that it’s not really worth me rewriting it here. Instead, I present pictures of the process.

I also made some potatoes. They were pretty simple: quarter a bunch of potatoes, put them in a bowl. Put some Olive Oil in the bowl. Chop up some herbs (Rosemary, Thyme, anything savory really) and put them in too. After mixing it all together, put them in an aluminum foil packet and bake it for 20-30 minutes.

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lemon butter cookies

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I found this recipe in a cookbook I own, and I didn’t make many changes to it. The cookies came out nicely. They aren’t hard, but they aren’t chewy—the best way to describe it is crumbly.

lemon disassembly in pictures

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Ingredients:

  • 1 c. butter (softened)
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • peel of one lemon, finely shredded
  • 2 c. flour
  • powdered sugar (if desired)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the butter into a big bowl and mix it for 30 seconds to a minute on medium.

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Add the sugar to the bowl and beat it in.

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Add the lemon peel and then ad the flour in thirds. It will not seem very doughy, but just beat it until the flour is somewhat mixed in. At the point, mix it a bit with your hands or a spatula.

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Make little balls of dough (just grab some of the stuff in the bowl and roll it in your hands). I like to flatten them. The original recipe did not include that step, but I think they’re better when flattened.

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Bake them for about 15 minutes, or until the sides are just getting golden. Let them sit for about 5 minutes and transfer them to a wire rack or some other cooling surface. At this point, you can optionally sift powdered sugar onto the cookies. (The powdered sugar is definitely worth it!)

recipe for “hardcore” lent–koshari

DSCF2095I was watching No Reservations a few weeks back. It was the episode where Bourdain visited Egypt. There were several dishes on that episode that meet the requirements of "my “hardcore” Lent. One of these was a dish called Fül—it consists of mashed up fava beans and several other ingredients. I will post the recipe for it when I get it worked out.

The second dish was a dish called koshari. I based my recipe off of a recipe I found online. I made a few modifications, but kept it mostly the same.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 3/4 cup uncooked rice (white)
  • 3/4 cup brown lentils
  • 1 cup shell macaroni (elbow macaroni works too)
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (at least) dried work too, if you feel like cooking them
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp Sambal Oelek
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • vegetable oil
  • water (at last 4 cups)

The first day

I cooked the chickpeas the day before everything else. I bought them dry, because dried chickpeas are cheaper. Cooking them is simple. I soaked them in lots of while I was at work and running errands for a total of about 12 hours. I then drained the water. I then simmered the chickpeas in plenty of new and salted water for a little over two hours. When they were finished, I drained them and put them in the fridge.

Cooking the koshari (the second day)

In a saucepan, put the lentils in plenty of water and bring it to a boil. (Make sure it is salted.) Once the water starts boiling, drop the heat to medium-low and simmer the lentils for 25 minutes. Drain the lentils after they’re done cooking.

Add the lentils back to the saucepan, add at least four cups of water and the rice (and a little salt). Bring the water to a boil, drop the heat and simmer again. This time, simmer the rice and lentils for 20 minutes.

At this point, cook the macaroni according to the package directions. You will want to cook it until tender, not al dente.

In a skillet (or a saucepan), heat about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil until it shimmers. Add the garlic to the oil. After a minute or so, add the tomatoes, cumin, sambal and vinegar to the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil. Once it boils, drop the heat and simmer the sauce until everything is ready. Make sure to crush the tomatoes well when stirring the sauce occasionally.

In yet another skillet, heat some more oil. (You’ll want maybe 3 or 4 tbsp this time.) Once it’s ready, add the sliced onions and brown them. Once they are brown add some water and continue cooking the onions. You’ll want to repeat this a few times until the onions are caramelized.

At this point, you should have five separate dishes. These are traditionally layered in the following order: rice/lentil mix, macaroni, spicy tomato sauce, chickpeas and finally onions.

Enjoy!