Thursday, April 20, 2017

Loaded Potato Salad

I'm going to be backtracking a bit to try to catch up on what was missed during my absence from blogging over the past month! I know I posted our Easter Sunday highlights in my last post, but would like to reflect back to a few days before to talk about our family tradition for Holy Thursday and the beginning of the Pascal Triduum.

Every year on Holy Thursday, we recreate the Last Supper of Our Lord through a bit of role-play. We make some unleavened bread, pour some grape juice (for the kids) or Port (for the adults, and read from the corresponding passages from the bible together while using the physical prompts as visuals to (hopefully) make the story more real for the little ones. Paul also gets the foot bath out and washes the feet of each member of the family, imitating the act of humility that Christ himself performed the night before his death.

This year, we thought the kids were old enough to get a little more involved in the role playing. We asked each of them to pick a disciple to play. Matthew immediately raised his hand and excitedly declared himself to be Simon Peter. When we asked Emma whom she wanted to play, she immediately replied: "Jesus!" I had to explain to a very disappointed Emma that Paul would be playing the role of Jesus in our narrative. She was very disappointed but finally picked the Apostle Matthew as her second choice. Paul dubbed Lucy the Apostle John, for she is his "beloved one." Pretty cute. And we were ready to begin.

We began with the washing of the feet. One by one, the kids sat on the chair to have their feet washed. Lucy was a little nervous at first, but after her first foot was cleaned she quickly offered her second fat foot so it obviously wasn't too displeasing to her. When it came time for Matthew's turn, he accurately remembered his role as Simon Peter and refused a foot washing.

"My feet are so dirty! I should be washing your feet! You should not wash mine Jesus!"
"But Peter," Paul (as Jesus) responded, "I have to wash your feet. It is part of the plan."
"Then WASH ALL OF ME! MY HEAD! MY SHOULDERS! MY STOMACH!" Matthew as Simon Peter declared, a bit too loudly, while writhing on the floor. At this point, Simon Peter received a little pep talk about not getting too carried away and afterwards he willingly sat to have his feet washed.

Then, Paul read from the Gospel account of the Last Supper. As he was reading about the institution of the Eucharist, Emma (or Matthew) interjected by shoving herself into Paul's lap: "I want to be Jesus!"

"You're the Apostle Matthew, Emma."
"I don't get to say anything. I want to be Jesus!"
"We are almost done, just listen and pay attention."
Paul continues to read and doesn't make it more than five words in before he interrupted by Emma once more, "Can I have some of that bread?"
"We're going to eat it in a second. Be patient."
"How about some of that wine?"

At this point, Lucy began to tire of the proceedings and left the room. Matthew declared that she was no longer the Apostle John, but Judas Iscariot.

Paul finishes reading the Gospel account, breaks the unleavened bread in pieces and offers each of us a piece. Emma quickly gobbles her piece down and then asks, "Jesus can I have another piece of your bread?"

Paul then poured the wine (or juice) into a goblet and again offered each of us a sip from the cup. When it was Emma's turn, we practically had to pry the goblet away from her lips because she was completely intent on gulping the entire drink down.

At this point, Lucy, or Judas Iscariot, waddled back into the room holding the spoils from her raid of the pantry: a bag full of Blueberry Tiny Toast cereal. "Judas!" Paul declared, "Would you betray your Lord for 30 pieces of Tiny Toast?!" Lucy just giggled and stuffed more Tiny Toast into her mouth. I guess so.

That concluded our family Last Supper. Emma and Matthew proceeded to fight over the remaining loaves of unleavened bread while Lucy continued to munch on her Tiny Toast, with Peyton lurking nearby ready to catch any stray crumbs. Even though there was a lot of laughing during our reenactment of the Last Supper, I do think little family exercises like this help make the true meaning of our religious feast days more tangible to young minds. The next day, when we headed to Church to venerate the Cross in remembrance of Christ's Passion, Matthew and Emma were both very much in awe of the proceedings. They listened to the Passion Readings and were very familiar with the story because we had gone over it multiple times previously. Shortly before it was our turn to venerate the cross, I explained in a whisper to Emma that she could touch, kiss, or bow to the cross as a sign of love and respect. She immediately whispered back to me, "I'm going to kiss Jesus' cross, Mommy!" I held her hand as we walked to the front of church and, sure enough, little Emma knelt down carefully and planted a very slow, deliberate kiss on the cross - it was unmistakable, there was true tenderness and love in her actions at that moment. As a mother, it was a moving moment to watch my child show such reverence and respect for Our Lord. I had tears in my eyes as I headed back to our pew. Our job as parents is to lead our little ones to God. It's such a gift to see that the lessons we try to instill are having an impact and bearing fruit!

Shifting gears a bit, I want to share a recipe for the potato salad we enjoyed as part of our Easter feast on Sunday. We had quite the spread - a simple meal, but filling and indulgent all the same. In addition to potato salad, we enjoyed Maple-Orange Glazed Ham, Strawberry Spinach Salad, Roasted Asparagus, Honey-Butter Rolls, and a gorgeous Coconut-Carrot Layer Cake for dessert.

But, go figure, the dish that received the most rave review from my fellow diners was the Loaded Potato Salad. Paul in particular could not stop stressing how this is the only potato salad I should ever make from now on, something that wasn't all together surprising to me considering that a whole pound of bacon went into the composition of this dish. He didn't even mind the diced raw celery and bell pepper I stirred in as well for a bit of texture - normally Paul gags at any dish with celery in it so I am forced to leave it out altogether or dice it so minutely that it really contributes next to nothing to the final product. However, in this dish, he found their presence not only acceptable, but resoundingly welcome! I have to agree with his overall consensus - this potato salad is really delicious. Again, I'm pretty sure it's the bacon!

Loaded Potato Salad
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, cut into small cubes (about 4 cups)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 (16 ounce) package bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 medium green bell pepper, finely diced

Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water until fork tender. Drain the potatoes and put in a large bowl. Drizzle the vinegar over the potatoes and toss lightly to coat. Let cool.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a skillet over medium-low heat until crisp. Remove the bacon and reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings.

Whisk together the bacon drippings, mayo, mustard, sugar, and salt.

Add the eggs, celery, onion, and green pepper to the bowl with the potatoes. Add the dressing and toss gently to coat. Stir in the bacon.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to one and all!

First of all, thank you to all those who sent emails, notes, and messages of concern during my absence from blogging over the past month. Long story short, I caught a terrible, terrible illness and it completely wiped me of all my strength and I am STILL not quite myself. Hoping to gradually get back to my normal routine, which may take some time given the fact that I still can't go about a typical morning without feeling completely drained of energy by lunchtime. This makes me so grateful for my own health and the health of my family, as I know that I will be feeling 100% better soon. So, again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your concern!

What better way to begin blogging once more than with a small recap of our joyous Easter celebration? I tried really hard this year to explain to my children that Easter Sunday is the most important day of the year because without the resurrection we would have no hope for eternal life in heaven. Because of the resurrection, we should no longer fear death for death is just a passage into a new life with Christ. This concept did not go over so well with my kids - big surprise, considering I'm not sure I've grasped it myself! They kept arguing with me that Christmas is the most important celebration and I certainly remember feeling the same way as a child. Christmas celebrations are infinitely more grand, elaborate, and drawn out than those of Easter. There are presents, stockings, mounds of cookies, twinkling lights, and beautiful decorations everywhere you turn. On Easter, we eat hard-boiled eggs and receive a basket full of Peeps and a chunk of chocolate in the shape of a rabbit. It's still fun and all that, but not quite as awe-inspiring as Christmas morning. But it really is true - without the promise of Easter there is no hope for our lives, no promise of salvation. What a sad, frightening world it would be without the promise of eternal life!

We started off our Easter morning bright and early at Mass. The kids were extremely cooperative and well behaved - the perfect Easter gift for two tired parents! The girls let me comb their hair and dress them in their new spring dresses without a fuss and Matthew picked out a dizzying tie-and-shirt combination to proudly wear. We sat in the very front row where the running water from the baptismal font and the colorful flower arrangements adorning the altar kept the kids preoccupied for at least half the Mass. Afterwards, the girls showed off their dresses to our pastor while Matthew proudly informed everyone that he picked out his own outfit (as if there was any doubt!) and we headed home to take a few family photos. It's a tradition after all.

Lucy was less than cooperative. I tried to get a sibling photo but she wasn't having any of it. It looked like she was trying to give the camera the "Vulcan salute" in our family photo.

What she really wanted to do was attack her Easter basket. Lucy is all about chocolate. That cute little chocolate bunny we got her never stood a chance. She unwrapped it immediately and bit into its ears. It was devoured in less than five minutes.

I caught her munching on the remainder of her Easter goodies in the frame of our window seat. Paul is gradually building one for the kitchen and just has the framing done and Lucy has enjoyed gathering books, toys, or whatever she is currently playing with and sitting inside it. She calls it her "house". Well, she sat in her house consuming way more sugar than she should.

Which of course led to the afternoon sugar crash...

Lucy had little to no interest in our egg hunt. The other two kids were super pumped about it. The night before, the weatherman was predicting severe thunderstorms for the entirety of Easter Sunday for our area. The kids and I prayed that the weather would be sunny and beautiful so we could do our egg hunt outside and our prayers were answered! We had beautiful weather and sunshine all day with barely a drop of rain! It was a beautiful, beautiful day!

The highlight of the day for all the kids was being able to play outside together on the trampoline! The weather has finally been nice enough for us to set it up once more. Lucy was especially thrilled since she has been begging to go jump on the "ring-around-the-rosie" as she calls it, named after her favorite game to play on it with her big sister Emma. The kids have spent hours out there jumping on it since we set it up.

The highlight of the day for Paul and me was enjoying a glass of wine after the kiddos had gone to bed and watching our Easter gift to one another: the newly released Rogue One move. Such a great film!

How was your Easter Sunday?