Sunday, February 27, 2011

Confetti Capellini

It's been snowing all weekend. (sigh)

Don't get me wrong. I love snow days - waking up to whiteness and silence, watching the snow fall, being mesmerized by the starry perfection of each tiny snowflake.

But after a while you can only take so much whiteness and so much silence. So last night I decided to bring some noise into the day by having my brother over for dinner and making some colourful pasta.

I first saw this recipe for Confetti Spaghetti in a book called The Recipe Club. The original recipe calls for carrots, zucchini, olives, peppers, and ham. I didn't have zucchini and olives last night; I did have the rest of the ingredients along with cauliflower. And I didn't have spaghetti so I used capellini, which cooks faster anyway. The beauty of pasta dishes is that they are so flexible and forgiving. Use a whole red pepper if you don't have all the colours; use broccoli instead of cauliflower if you want more green. To use a favourite phrase of the late, great James Barber, "You use what you've got."

adapted from The Recipe Club
Serves 4 as a first course or 2 as a main course.

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup onion, minced
1/2 cup carrots, cut into a small dice
1/4 cup each of red, yellow, green, orange peppers, cut into a small dice
1/2 cup cauliflower or broccoli
1/2 cup cooked ham, cut into a small dice
2 cups of your favourite red pasta sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
400 grams of capellini, cooked according to package directions
parmesan cheese, grated

Heat the olive oil in a small pot and saute the garlic and onions until soft and fragrant. Add all the diced veggies and ham and mix well. Cook for about five minutes.

Add the pasta sauce and mix well. Cook until heated through. Season to taste. Stir in heavy cream, if using.

Serve over capellini sprinkled with parmesan.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Channelling my inner Nancy Drew

I grew up on good, old-and-yet-perpetually-young Nancy Drew. I just couldn't get enough of those hard-bound editions - you know, the ones with the illustrated front covers and yellow backs, and spine-tingling titles like The Secret of the Old Clock and The Hidden Staircase.

Screen shot of Google search of images of Nancy Drew books

I guess what I liked most about Nancy was her tenacity - once she set out to find out something, she never stopped until she solved the mystery.

A recurring mystery in my life was whatever happened to my childhood friend Candice, whose family relocated to the States when we were in elementary school. We wrote back and forth for a while, but (as is often the case) we eventually lost touch.

I always wondered what happened to her, so recently I decided to put my inner Nancy Drew to work, along with something Nancy never had: Google. One little byte of information led to another, and to make a long story short, a few weeks ago Candice and I had our first conversation in twenty five years.

My dad says that I’m in the wrong profession, that I should be a detective – which is very gratifying. Nancy would be proud.

But even more rewarding is the feeling that I’ve recovered another missing piece of my childhood, a touchstone to a time when making friends was as easy as knocking on someone’s door and asking her to come out and play.

Finding a message from Candice in my inbox is a lot like opening my door and finding her there again. A short and sweet “Hello, how is your week going?” goes a long way towards bridging twenty five years and a few thousand miles. I’m so touched that she takes the time to do this, in the midst of her work and wedding plans.

In our busy and complicated adult world, it’s a real blessing to be reminded of the things that we knew when we were children: that friends always have time for friends, that many of life’s mysteries actually have simple answers, and that we can build - and rebuild - beautiful things, one building block at a time. Saying “Hi, how are you?” can make someone’s day; it can bring someone far away a little closer; it can even make a whole new friend. Try it and see.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's time for a new springtime of hope for women.

This is a sneak preview of a story which will be running in an upcoming edition of the BC Catholic.
Over a hundred women gathered at the Italian Cultural Centre the evening of February 18 to attend a her-storical event: the launch of the ENDOW project in the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

ENDOW (Education on the Nature and Dignity of Women) is an initiative of a group of women from the Archdiocese of Denver who came to know and love the teachings of Pope John Paul II through regular, informal study sessions on this topic.

“A group of women were starting to read John Paull II’s writings,” explains Terry Polakovic. “We’d never heard of them before, and we loved them. We kept on saying to ourselves, if we love them this much, surely there are other women out there who would love them just as much.

“And so our Archbishop, Charles Chaput, gave us his blessing to start this organization.”

ENDOW offers tools to provide women with solid doctrinal formation using study materials based on the writings of Pope John Paul II, Thomas Aquinas, Edith Stein, and other great Catholic thinkers. Study groups are led by trained facilitators from within the diocese. To accommodate women’s busy schedules, the groups meet according to the members’ availability. There is no homework involved.

From its 2003 start in Denver, ENDOW has spread throughout the United States from Alabama to Wyoming, as well as to a few cities in Canada, mainly in Alberta.

"When Archbishop Miller asked me to start ENDOW here in Vancouver," says Michele Smillie of the archdiocesan Respect Life Office, "I jumped at the chance."

Michele Smillie welcoming participants to the ENDOW launch.
The dignity and vocation of women is a subject dear to Smillie's heart, ever since she read Mulieris Dignitatem. She says that the words of Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter on women brought tears to her eyes.

“John Paul had a great understanding of the feminine genius and used stories from Scripture to show the interaction between Jesus and the women in his life and the women whom he came in contact with.

“It was as if John Paul understood a woman’s heart.”

Helping girls and women to know who they are before God, Smillie believes, is the only real solution to what she calls the "big picture problems": the sex trade, pornography, abortion – just to name a few.

"We need to ransom femininity from misunderstanding, misconception, and abuse," agrees Archbishop Miller.

In his address at the ENDOW launch, he reminded the gathering that Pope John Paul II always referred to the "anthropological question" - attributing modern ills to the fact that people have lost the sense of who they are.

“We are created male and female in God's image,” Miller said. “Therefore men and woman are equal but different, each with unique gifts.

Archbishop Michael Miller talking like an Italian, with expressive hands.
“The differences between men and women are not accidental. Masculinity and femininity are not subsets to being human: rather, they are the essence of who we are.”

An impoverishment of humanity, Miller said, has resulted from bypassing the role of women in society.

“Inadequate consideration of the condition of women in history has led to an instability in society. There is among human beings a lack of peace, inordinate competition.

“We need to correct our scale of values and give equal importance to the gifts of men and women. Historically, there has been more appreciation of men's abilities in the outer world and not enough of women's gifts in the order of love, in the home and rearing of human beings,” Miller observed.

“One of women’s unique gifts is precisely their capacity for accepting others simply for who they are, not for their abilities or their usefulness.”

ENDOW, in Smillie’s view, is a timely and effective way to help women discover, develop, and explore all the possibilities of their God-given femininity.

“ENDOW gives women a chance to talk to each other, to teach and support and build each other up.” This fellowship, Smillie hopes and believes, will lead to a greater love of God and of one another, and to a joyful and faith-filled enrichment of women’s lives which in turn builds up their families and communities, the Church, and society at large.

ENDOW study guides are designed for women of all ages and walks of life, including girls in middle and high school. For a complete list of all the current ENDOW materials available, please click here.

ENDOW requires all small study groups to have a trained facilitator. There will be a facilitator training workshop on April 16 (venue to be announced). For more information please contact the Respect Life Office at 604-683-0281 or

If you don't live in Vancouver and are interested in attending or starting ENDOW sessions in your city, click here.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Pork and mango curry

Food is a lot like friendship: once in a while you hit on a combination of seemingly disparate ingredients that go together perfectly. In this recipe, the slighty spicy masala is balanced by the sweetness of the mango, and the cucumber salad is a good counterpoint to the richness of the pork and coconut milk. On the whole, a super-satisfying dish that's easy enough to make on a weeknight. Enjoy!

Serves 2.
1 large pork shoulder butt steak, cut into cubes
4 shallots, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced
1 tablespoon masala or curry powder
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 cup cocounut milk
1 cup mango chunks

In a medium skillet, heat the oil and saute the shallots, garlic and ginger until soft and lightly golden. Add the masala and mix in well; cook for about half a minute until fragrant. Add the pork and cook until evenly browned. Stir in the coconut milk. Cover partially and simmer until the pork is cooked through and tender, about half an hour. Add the mango chunks and allow them to heat through before serving.

Serve with steamed jasmine rice and Japanese cucumbers, sliced and mixed with a bit of salt, pepper, sugar and apple cider vinegar. (Put together the salad and let sit at room temperature for about half an hour before serving.)


Sunday, February 13, 2011

"When in doubt, go for chocolate"

I saw Christine Gambito a.k.a. the Happyslip girl demonstrate this recipe in a video and was instantly taken by this simple, easy, pretty treat. Christine makes a good point - who doesn't love the juicy, sweet lusciousness of chocolate-dipped strawberries? And yet how many of us have actually tried to make some? They make a great gift or dessert, on Valentine's Day or any day. I'll be taking these to the office tomorrow and will definitely be making them for any potlucks that come up this spring.

Watch Christine make them here (the actual procedure starts at 2:05) or read on for the recipe.

Adapted from Christine Gambito, "Emergency Chocolate"

6 ounces (170 grams) semi-sweet or dark chocolate wafers
3 ounces (84 grams) white chocolate
1 pound (about half a kilo) ripe strawberries

Wash the strawberries and pat them dry with a paper towel. Keep the leaves on, as they will be useful for gripping while dipping.

Lay a sheet of wax paper on the kitchen counter.

Melt the dark chocolate in a baine-marie (heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water). Make sure that no water splashes into the chocolate. Alternatively, you can microwave the chocolate thirty seconds at a time until melted.

Stir the melted chocolate until smooth. Then start dipping the strawberries. Lay each dipped strawberry on the wax paper. Allow the chocolate to cool and harden.

Melt the white chocolate using the same method for the dark chocolate. Dip a fork into the melted white chocolate and drizzle over the strawberries.

Allow to cool. Store in a covered container in the fridge until ready to serve.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

The places I've called home

So it looks like I'll be moving at the end of next month.

My brother and I completely lucked out on a three-bedroom suite near Central Park (that's Vancouver, not New York). Although I'm sad to leave my lovely roomie, I'm looking forward to living with family again. I'm also looking forward to the shorter commute to work, and eventually, school. And my brother is definitely looking forward to eating home-cooked meals again.

Moving for me is always a curious mix of emotions: a reluctance to leave blended with an eagerness to move on. And just now, as I start getting ready for the wrench of pulling up roots once again, I can't help but think of all the other places where I've lived over the years.

A while ago, a very thoughtful friend of mine drove out to my last home in the Philippines and took a few photos to show me how it looks now. Here are the photos to start off this little series on the places I've called home.

The gate used to be brown, and there's a big bush covering the garden wall now. But thankfully the house itself is still white stucco with a red roof.

A lovely new addition is the tile set into the garden wall, painted with an image of the Holy Family. My family was very happy here so it's comforting to think the house is still blessed and protected. And another nice this shot there's a rainbow across the garden gate.


Friday, February 04, 2011

Family matters

The main reason I started this blog was to emphasize the importance of family. We all need family - people who are connected to us by blood or other ties. And at no moment do we need family more than at the end of life, especially when that end involves pain and suffering.

My father was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease fourteen years ago and tonight he is giving testimony at the euthanasia hearings in Montreal. He believes, as I do, that the love of family is the most effective relief for suffering. Below is the text of what he will say.

My dad may not be able to stand straight any longer, but because of him, today and every day I walk tall.

I’ve had Parkinson’s Disease since 14 yrs ago at age 42; shortly thereafter I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, a form of arthritis that among other things, fused most of the upper vertebrae of my spinal column. Last summer I had an MI—otherwise known as a heart attack.

I know the physical pain and the mental suffering that go with those medical conditions: the feeling of not being useful anymore, the humbling reality of not being able to do the activities of daily living, the prospect of getting worse (especially with chronic and degenerative diseases) and being a continued burden on the family.

That said, I empathize with those who are in terminal stages and in severe pain. They face hard choices and at times are alone in their plight or feel they have lost or are going to lose their dignity and have become intolerable burdens for their families. But perhaps, a different outlook is needed to find meaning behind all this pain and suffering, a more positive outlook that I believe has already helped others to look at death in a new light and discover that euthanasia is not the only alternative to preserve one’s dignity.

These medical conditions are blessings rather than punishment. The pain and suffering are opportunities we get for offering them up for the intentions of our loved ones and friends.

Let me explain: It is a basic human instinct to help anyone in need, more so if the one in trouble is a loved one. The help can be either material or non-material, sometimes both. A non-material help can be just simply good wishes and keeping in mind the one in need of help. Whatever form it takes, helping someone requires giving up or offering up something of value because we have empathy, the desire to be united with the one who is in need. Even if we are disabled, and perhaps because we are disabled, we can be of much help to those in need by offering up for them the things we have that are valuable: our pain and suffering, the sense of isolation and desperation—and the greater the pain and suffering, the more valuable and effective our offering up becomes.

We can become an inspiration for our family and friends. Remember John Paul II - who also had Parkinson's - and was universally acknowledged by the world which witnessed the last minutes of his life still doing his work for which he had great passion. Perhaps having the courage and the strength to live to the end without resorting to euthanasia would be the best legacy we can bequeath to our family. This is genuine dignity.

To all my fellow disabled, we should not feel useless and unwanted, for we are the treasures of humanity: treasures that are valuable and irreplaceable. We should not allow ourselves to be discarded like objects that have no practical value at all, that have outlived their usefulness and have become instead an unacceptable burden for others. We are the treasures of humanity which remind the world that despite the fragility of human nature and its inevitable mortality, the dignity of every human being is based on his or her right to be of service to others precisely through their pains and suffering offered up for the needs and welfare of their family and friends. 

Related Posts with Thumbnails