A Summer Harvest: The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, August 15
August 16, 2011

On August 15th we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary—when she was taken up to heaven, body and soul. This is not a new idea but a very old one dating back to at least the 5th century. On this day we honor our Blessed Mother and are filled with hope that we, too, will experience the glory of Christ’s presence in heaven as Our Lady does.

Partly because of the time of year that it is celebrated, summer harvest foods are traditional for this Feast, particularly herbs and fruit. Our menu consisted of “Assumption Salad” with oranges and dates, Stuffed Zucchini, and Baked Stuffed Apples with Butter Rum Sauce.

Assumption Salad:

We chopped up pretty red leaf lettuce and added orange slices and dried dates on top. We made a simple dressing from Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Grapefruit Juice, a little sugar, and fresh ground pepper. I got the idea for this salad from the “Morraccan Salad” recommended for the Feast of the Assumption in Brother Victor Antoine D’Avila-LaTourrette’s Sacred Feasts. I LOVE all of his cookbooks. They are meatless, seasonal, and delicious. However, because his monastery is in New York, we usually have to make alterations so that the recipe will be seasonal for us in North Florida.

Another one of my favorite, favorite cookbooks is Simply in Season. It’s great to peruse for ideas for using whatever is growing in your garden. I used Simply in Season’s Stuffed Zucchini recipe as a base and altered it according to what we had in the garden and pantry. Here’s what I came up with:

(Serves 4-5), Preheat Oven to 350

3 Zucchinis: split lengthwise and scoop the seeds out, then use a spoon to remove some of the flesh to save for the stuffing. Don’t get too close to the skin, though, because you want a sturdy shell to stuff with the other veggies and meat.

¾ lb Ground Beef

1 Onion (chopped): Cook together in a deep pan until meat is browned.

Add:

1 ½ cup Corn

Tomatoes (chopped) (we have various sizes coming in from the garden, I used a comparable amount to two medium tomatoes)

Any other Summer Veggies you have growing

2 large cloves Garlic

Chili Powder (I only used a little because our two-year-old is sensitive to spicy food, but add as much as tastes good to you!)

Fresh herbs! (We had fresh Oregano, Thyme, Sage, and Rosemary thriving in the front yard): Add all these to the pan along with the left over Zucchini you reserved. Stir it around for 5 minutes or so.

Salt and Pepper to taste

Add:

¾ cup Bread Crumbs (just use Gluten-Free bread crumbs to make the meal entirely GF!)

¼ cup Cheese, shredded (I used Mozzarella)

Add to filling and stir in. In a baking dish stuff Zucchini shells with the filling. Bake for 20 minutes, then add more shredded cheese on top. Continue baking until you think the shells are tender.

Assumption Day Baked Stuffed Apples with Butter Rum Sauce

I had aspirations to do Stuffed Pears as my friend Helen told me that they are a traditional Assumption Day food in Greece and Italy. Unfortunately, it’s just not pear season here and the ones available at the grocery store were looking pitiful. So…Stuffed Apples it is!

Preheat Oven to 350 (you can just stick these in and let them bake while you’re enjoying your salad and zucchini!)

6 Apples: Create a well in each apple by coring part way (you don’t want to core all the way to the bottom or the stuffing with fall out)

Create a filling with:

¼ – ½  cup Sucanat, depending on how sweet you want them (you can also use brown sugar, I just like baking with sweeteners that aren’t as refined)

½ cup Butter (softened)

Raisins

Dried Dates

Chopped Almonds

Cinnamon

Nutmeg

Clove

(A note on the spices: I always just spice to taste! Sorry I don’t have more precise measurements)

Just mix them together and stuff the filling into the wells you made in the apples, then stick them in the oven in a baking dish with just a little water in the bottom of the dish. Leave them in there until you think the apples are tender. I think it took close to an hour for ours to be ready.

While they’re baking, whip up a Butter Rum Sauce.

Combine in a sauce pan and bring to boil:

½ cup Sugar

½ cup Heavy Cream (We only had whole milk and that worked just fine)

¼ cup Butter

Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add 6 TBSP Rum. Drizzle this sauce over the apples when they come out of the oven.

St. Bernard’s Prayer to Mary:

We accompany thee, on this day, with our most ardent wishes to thy Son, O glorious Virgin, Queen of heaven! and follow thee from afar, O happy Virgin! Give thy mildness to the world, give of the grace thou hast found with God. Obtain by thy blessed intercession, grace for the guilty, recovery for the sick, strength for the faint-hearted, aid for those in peril! Dispense to us thy servants, who on this glorious festival-day invoke thy sweetest name, O gentlest Queen, the grace of Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord and God, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

Candlemas: The Presentation of the Lord
February 5, 2011

February 2nd is the Feast of Candlemas. It celebrates the Presentation of Christ at the Temple and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary forty days after Christmas. This is the event described in the Gospel of Luke when the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph present Jesus at the Temple and the faithful Simeon and Anna behold and recognize Jesus as the Messiah they have been waiting for.  After seeing the infant Christ he had been promised to see before death, Simeon prays the Nunc Dimittis in Luke 2:29-32:

Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised;

For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior

whom you have prepared for all the world to see,

A Light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.

February 2 is traditionally the day when candles and blessed for the coming year. We used this blessing from Meredith Gould’s The Catholic Home:

Lord Jesus Christ,

Pour forth your blessing on these candles and

sanctify them by the light of your grace.

May our hearts be illuminated by your light,

May our actions be guided by your light,

so that when our lives here are finished, we may come into the ternal presence of your redeeming light.

We pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son,

and of the Holy Spirit.

Since it’s an important day, we pulled out our china and I chose a white tablecloth to remember that Candlemas is also a remembrance of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin at the Temple. Last year we made a butternut squash polenta inspired by a Candlemas recipe in Sacred Feasts. Since we already had a beautiful butternut on hand, we decided to make it a tradition. We paired the polenta with a sausage, onion, and apple dish from another of our favorite cookbooks: Simply in Season. We used delicious local sausage from Thompson Farms.

It wasn’t my finest hour with presentation but I promise it was tasty!

We followed the meal with my Dad’s delicious pumpkin bread: