Happy Friday! Happy second night of Hanukkah! Happy solemnity of the Immaculate Conception! And happy birthday to Benny!
Here are Irene and Lucy, making sure their new baby sister Benny has a nose like she is supposed to.
Oh my oh my.
Well, here’s what we ate this week!
SATURDAY Spaghetti with sausages
Saturday is always a quick meal because of shopping and errands, but I get soooo tired of grilled cheese and sandwiches. So I convinced myself that jarred sauce with Italian sausages would be quick. It is not quick! Sausages take forever to cook! Oh well. Worth it.
SUNDAY Kids: Omelets and hash browns Adults:
This is Jordan Hall in Boston, where Damien and Clara and I went to see The Messiah as the guests of my brother and his boyfriend Jonathan, who made a completely spectacular lunch, which I forgot to take any pictures of. It was a white bean soup, a tsimmis-like dish of braised chicken and sweet potatoes with dried fruit and cinnamon, and a completely gorgeous fruit plate that looked like a living moroccan mandala or something. No pictures! I’m kicking myself. But it was all very delicious.
The Messiah was so entertaining. I’ve never sat and listened to the whole thing start to finish, and I was delighted. I’m familiar enough with it that I recognized a lot of the parts, but not enough that I knew what was coming, and it was full of surprises. He’s SO good at setting the mood with just a few bars. In this performance, they had the trumpeters pop out through a little side door, which was fun. I also don’t know what kind of trumpet that was, that had all the showy parts toward the end. It didn’t have valves and it was almost as long as a trombone, but I think it had some finger holes? He appeared to be making most of the sounds just with his mouth on the mouthpiece, though. Amazing.
I loved all the solosits. I took a while to warm up to the alto, who had a sort of Evita thing going on; but once she got up to the “He was despised, rejected” part, I was all in. I really loved how they were singing directly to the audience and emoted a lot, which you don’t always see.
And here we are!
What a treat. What a lovely evening.
The kids at home made themselves omelettes and hash browns.
MONDAY Harvest chicken salad
Damien roasted some boneless chicken thighs while I was out, and I cut them up and served them on salad greens with toasted walnuts and pecans, dried cranberries, feta cheese, green apple slices, and croutons.
Perfectly fine, not thrilling, but who needs thrills every day.
TUESDAY Gochujang chicken, rice, cucumbers
Tuesday I made some chicken with this excellent, easy recipe:
I made the sauce in the morning, and baked the chicken (it calls for wings, but I had drunsticks and a few thighs) and then re-heated the sauce and mixed it together, and it came out great. Sweet, sticky, with a little fire.
I made a big pot of rice and some plain cucumbers to go with it.
I was planning some kind of piquant Asian cucumber salad, but the chicken turned out so spicy, I thought we needed something cooling.
The soup comes together quickly enough, but I wanted some kind of bread. Beer bread is good, but we don’t keep beer in the house like we used to; and pumpkin muffins are popular, but they’re hard to make when you don’t have pumpkin in the house!
They were good! Quite sweet, so I might want to cut down the sugar next time. If they had been frosted, they would have been a pretty luxe dessert. They called for raisins, which I skipped for the kids’ sake.
So we had soup and muffins and all was well.
I just threw the cranberries in to make the picture prettier.
On Wednesday I also baked a bunch of cupcakes for Benny’s upcoming birthday; and I also made a batch of rugelach dough for upcoming Hanukkah!
THURSDAY Korean beef bowl, rice, peas
In a hurry once again, I can’t even remember why. Korean beef bowl to the rescue. I made it in the morning and kept it in the slow cooker all day; and then when I got home, I made rice in the Instant Pot and heated up some peas.
Here we see Korean beef bowl on rice with . . . it looks like string beans and asparagus. I forgot to take a picture of the actual Thursday meal.
Then on Thursday night, Benny and I got to work on the cupcakes. We just used boxed cake mix and baked the cupcakes inside ice cream cones. They come out looking pretty feeble, which is all part of the plan.
Then you get a sturdy box and cut X’s in it, and push the cones through to hold them steady. The box is helpful when you’re decorating, but absolutely vital if you’re transporting them.
So then you can decorate the tops to look like ice cream. To get a chocolate-vanilla swirl effect that really looks like ice cream, you’re supposed to get a bag of each flavor and put them inside a larger bag, and then pipe it on; but I had already maxed out my preparedness by buying even one bag. So it all got smooshed in together, and looked reasonably ice creamy. The sprinkles helped a lot.
Here’s Benny, piping away.
and here are the finished cupcakes. The big one on the right is a gluten free cupcake baked in a ramekin, rather than an ice cream cone. They probably have gluten-free ice cream cones, but again, I only have a certain amount of prepardedness in me, and I spent it on buying gluten free cake mix.
Then we put them on the washing machine, because they needed to be protected from the world’s hungriest cat, and the laundry room has a door that actually closes.
The rugelach dough has just been sitting in the fridge all this time. I will update you when something else happens.
FRIDAY Lasagna pinwheels, garlic bread, cup cakes
Friday is Benny’s actual birthday. Some of us went to Mass and then the kids went to school late, carefully toting 27 cupcakes; some of us went to Mass later and are now typing as fast as possible before it’s time to go out again!
A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can use garlic powder and powdered ginger, but fresh is better. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking to adjust to your taste.
1cupbrown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
1Tbspred pepper flakes
3-4inchesfresh ginger, minced
scallions, chopped, for garnish
sesame seeds for garnish
In a large skillet, cook ground beef, breaking it into bits, until the meat is nearly browned. Drain most of the fat and add the fresh ginger and garlic. Continue cooking until the meat is all cooked.
Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes the ground beef and stir to combine. Cook a little longer until everything is hot and saucy.
Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.
Serve with sour cream and/or apple sauce for Hanukkah or ANY TIME. Makes about 25+ latkes
6Tbspflour (substitute matzoh meal for Passover)
salt and pepper
oil for frying
Grate the potatoes. Let them sit in a colander for a while, if you can, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
Mix together the eggs, salt and pepper, and flour. Stir into the potato mixture and mix well.
Turn the oven on to 350 and put a paper-lined pan in the oven to receive the latkes and keep them warm while you're frying.
Put 1/4 to 1/2 and inch of oil in your frying pan and heat it up until a drop of batter will bubble.
Take a handful of the potato mixture, flatten it slightly, and lay it in the pan, leaving room between latkes. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, making several batches to leave room in between latkes. Fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Eat right away or keep warm in oven, but not too long.
Serve with sour cream and/or applesauce or apple slices.
One of the great benefits of having teenagers in the house (WE HAVE FOUR TEENAGERS IN THE HOUSE) is that you get constant updates on the things you do strangely, or poorly, or stupidly, or wrong. It’s pretty great.
Today, on the way to school, I was waiting for Eight O’Clock Bach to come on the radio, and they were playing some silly little French pieces with a flute, and a lot of airy runs and pointless meandering, and I said, “Ugh, could this sound more French?”
One of the kids asked in an exasperated voice, “Well, why do you listen to music you don’t like?” It seemed like the height of stupidity to them, and I can see why.
But as so often happens when I am challenged, I discover I’m not actually a complete moron, and I really do have a guiding principle for my behavior. So I said, “Because I believe in exposing myself to things that are not my favorite!”
This is absolutely true, and I think my parents deliberately raised me to think this way, especially my father. I remember going to art museums and never skipping the modern art galleries, even though they were, to put it mildly, not my father‘s favorite. We tramped through and probably obnoxiously proclaimed our opinions about the piles of lightbulbs and penis couches and whatnot; but we didn’t skip them. I also remember going to concerts of John Cage and Philip Glass, and also of less-talented composers who were heavily influenced by Cage and Glass, if you can imagine. And we would always debrief afterwards.
And sometimes we just complained, but usually we talked about why we didn’t like what we didn’t like. We talked about what people might find compelling about it, and why it wasn’t enough to make it worth it in the end, for us. And sometimes we did like it, and we talked about that, too. The key was, we didn’t encounter art that wasn’t our style just for the sake of enduring it. We really looked and really listened, and we really thought about it, and hashed it out. At least that’s how I remember it.
My kids have grown up in an era where everything is tailored to follow their tastes, and where everyone is expected to curate their own list of favorites This is considered the sensible and normal and sane thing to do. Why would you not? Why not make a playlist solely of things you enjoy, and stock your shelves with your favorite foods, and subscribe to only your most well-tested channels?
Let me be clear, this is not a moral question. There’s nothing wrong with making playlists of music you like! But it is a question of what you are doing to yourself, and what richness you may be missing, if you live your whole life this way.
And also what will happen when you come up to some unpleasant thing that you really can’t avoid, but you haven’t built up a habit of enduring.
Part of the answer is something I remember reading in C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra. Ransom, who has found himself sent as an emissary of some kind to an alien, untouched planet, is wandering around figuring out how to survive on a literally unstable landscape, and discovering which growing things are good to eat. Some of them are more to his liking than others!
He made his way gingerly towards the coast, but before he reached it he passed some bushes which carried a rich crop of oval green berries, about three times the size of almonds. He picked one and broke it in two. The flesh was dryish and bread-like, something of the same kind as a banana. It turned out to be good to eat. It did not give the orgiastic and almost alarming pleasure of the gourds, but rather the specific pleasure of plain food–the delight of munching and being nourished, a “Sober certainty of waking bliss.” A man, or at least a man like Ransom, felt he ought to say grace over it; and so he presently did. The gourds would have required rather an oratorio or a mystical meditation. But the meal had its unexpected high lights. Every now and then one struck a berry which had a bright red centre: and these were so savoury, so memorable among a thousand tastes, that he would have begun to look for them and to feed on them only, but that he was once more forbidden by that same inner adviser which had already spoken to him twice since he came to Perelandra. “Now on earth,” thought Ransom, “they’d soon discover how to breed these redhearts, and they’d cost a great deal more than the others.” Money, in fact, would provide the means of saying encore in a voice that could not be disobeyed. (Perelandra, chapter 4)
This is a slightly different phenomenon than what I was talking about. The plain berries aren’t bad; they’re just plain. Still, he has to compel himself to keep on accepting them, rather than skipping past them to get to the redhearts. He is not on earth; he’s in a different kind of place, where some things are better than others, but at least so far, everything is good.
I thought, too, of the little story of “The Magic Thread,” where a young boy is given a magic ball that is his own life, spun out in thread. When he comes upon something in his life he’d rather skip, all he has to do is tug on the thread, and he’ll instantly find himself past it.
The following day at school, Peter sat daydreaming about what he would do with his magic thread. The teacher scolded him for not concentrating on his work. If only, he thought, it was time to go home. Then he felt the silver ball in his pocket. If he pulled out a tiny bit of thread, the day would be over. Very carefully he took hold of it and tugged. Suddenly the teacher was telling everyone to pack up their books and to leave the classroom in an orderly fashion. Peter was overjoyed. He ran all the way home. How easy life would be now! All his troubles were over. From that day forth he began to pull the thread, just a little, every day.
You can imagine how this goes. He finds himself pulling on the thread of his life more and more, skipping over difficult and boring and laborious times more and more often. And it’s not only because he’s selfish or lazy: Sometimes, as he grows, he pulls on the thread to skip over the painful spells for the people he loves: The teething and trials of his babies, and the sickness of his beloved wife.
But of course as he skips and skips, he finds himself older, sicker, and more feeble, and “as soon as one trouble was solved, another seemed to grow in its place.” The more he skips, the less he finds there is to enjoy, until he finds himself at the end of his life, everyone moved away or dying or dead, the thread all pulled out. Oops.
There’s less here to consider than in the Lewis book. The “magic thread” is more of a simple “stop and smell the roses” idea, because if you don’t stop because you think there might be a thorn, you’ll miss the roses; that’s all. In Perelandra, though, there are no thorns. It’s an unfallen world, untouched as yet by death or sin. And yet Ransom still feels impelled to stop and make his way through everything that is given to him. What’s that about?
I haven’t read the book in a long time, but I believe it has to do with accepting our relationship with God: Who we are is receivers, and it is our place to accept what we are given. Either with intentional thanksgiving, or with radical acceptance of his will. The fallenness in that scene was not the existence of the plain berries; it was Ransom’s initial idea to reject them because they weren’t good enough.
One happy secret is, making your way thoughtfully and attentively through the parts you never would have chosen give so much more savor to the redhearts. It happens in little ways, like with music. Bach is always Bach and always something I want to listen to, but man, a Brandenburg Concerto is a thousand times more satisfying if you’ve just sweated your way through Trois Petites Pièces du Augusta Holmès.
And it happens in bigger ways. If I weren’t in the habit of leaving the radio on through my less-favorite parts, I think I would find it a lot harder to have teenagers in the house, with their winsome habit of telling me how weird and dumb I am all the time. The truth is that all of my kids are my favorite, and they all have dear and wonderful and compelling virtues and attributes, and I really do want to be with them. But their virtues are much easier to note and appreciate when you are in the habit of patiently enduring and accepting . . . you know, the other bits. This habit of acceptance is one of those muscles you can use to lift all kinds of loads.
So that’s why I listen to music I don’t like. As I said, it’s not a moral issue, except in that it’s the kind of thing that trains you for the times when it is a moral issue: When it’s not plain berries or subpar flute music, but it’s the suffering and sorrow and struggle that comes into every life, especially the life of someone who’s chosen to seek God. By the end of Perelandra, as I recall, Ransom is put in a place of accepting far more painful realities than eating a berry that doesn’t taste exquisite. And he does it.
The “inner adviser” that spoke to Ransom is the same one who speaks to us in our world. I hear the message, “Don’t feed on the redhearts only.” So, I try.
Church Militant’s board covered up for founder Michael Voris as he allegedly groomed male staffers while openly living a double life and paying staffers “poverty wages” while giving himself raises, according to several ex-employees who say they were fired for speaking out this week.
“The very cover-up tactics that Church Militant has railed against for 15 years are now being used against faithful former employees,” the group said in a fundraising statement.
Voris, who resigned just before Thanksgiving, is still a board member and is already planning a comeback, they said. Voris’ return to being in front of the camera was always part of the plan when he resigned for violating Church Militant’s morality clause, they said.
The group of eight Church Militant employees led by Dave Gordon say they were forced out of the organization’s Ferndale, Michigan offices on Friday, seven with police escorts. The group is now trying to raise $255,000 to “save the apostolate.”
As of Saturday morning they had raised $50.
Voris, who claims to have been cured of homosexuality, was allegedly actively pursuing homosexual encounters, including with employees, they said. Voris’ lifestyle was known to board members.
“Our band of brothers was formed in light of the recent revelations that our former CEO Michael Voris had re-embraced the homosexual lifestyle while the Board of Directors attempted to cover it up,” they said.
The group said they protested the layoff of one employee during a board meeting, and called for the board to step down. Their statement lays out their reasons as follows:
“1. Entertaining allowing Michael Voris, who seemingly groomed a former employee and lived a homosexual double life while posturing as a beacon of Christian virtue, to resume employment at Church Militant after he completes a 12-step program
Delaying naming a CEO beyond what is necessary to responsibly vet and appoint a successor
Advocating to deceive donors by putting out an official statement that Voris resigned due to health concerns
Turning on an employee for vigorously objecting to renewed Church Militant employment for Voris and to a deceptively worded statement explaining Voris’ resignation.
Failing to come up with a content plan that would ensure Church Militant’s future success.
Keeping Michael Voris on the board of directors as a nonvoting member.”
Gordon released a video in the early morning hours of Saturday, but made it private a couple of hours later.
“Guys, I’m overtired and mad and not thinking clearly. I want to think hard about whether posting that Church Militant video is in fact morally right. So I’ve put it as private for now. Will make the call tomorrow,” Gordon wrote on Twitter/X.
Viewers who watched the video while it was still public say Gordon alleges Voris was sending semi-nude photos to staffers, sent one such photo to a potential donor, invited an employee to his house while gay porn was playing on his computer, and groomed at least one male staffer. At least one such photo has been circulated on Twitter.
Gordon and the employees also accuse Voris of financial mismanagement. Gordon reportedly said they were paid poverty wages while Voris gave himself raises.
In the GiveSendGo appeal, the ex-employees say, “We have little doubt that St. Michaels Media / Church Militant will come at us with legal action. Two group members have already been contacted by Church Militant’s lawyer Kate Klaus.” Klaus is one of the attorneys who quit the legal case attempting to defend Church Militant against defamation, after Niles was caught hiding evidence during her deposition.
Gordon also said on Twitter/X that Church Militant “forgot to sign” his nondisclosure agreement, and that he has revoked consent to their lawyer.
The last of the Thanksgiving leftovers. Not spectacular sandwiches, just a split baguette with turkey, lettuce, tomato, and Swiss cheese.
Damien reheated the last of the spanakopita triangles, and even though they’re amazing when they’re piping hot fresh out of the oven the first time, they’re still pretty darn good when they’re a little soft and old and leftover. As who among us is not.
If you’re having a party in December, I do heartily recommend spanakopita triangles. They’re easy to make if you get ready made phyllo dough (what are you, crazy? of course get ready made) and they come out great if you make them ahead of time and keep them in the fridge until the guests are almost there, and then you just pop them in the oven.
I had bought a couple of of those weirdly cheap lamb breast plates several weeks ago, and threw it in the freezer, planning to make this excellent green masala curry. I also picked up a few extra lamb chops just to make sure there was enough meat.
So, but, when it was time to cook, the lamb just did not smell right. I inquired on social media, and most folks claimed lamb is supposed to smell weird. Gamey, metallic, and so on, especially if the butcher wasn’t careful and let the wool contact the meat, giving it a lanolin flavor. I just kept sniffing and sniffing it, and I wasn’t sure if it was normal-weird or rancid-weird.
Then I recalled that a few kids already had a stomach bug even before eating potentially bad meat, and I threw that meat away. No ragrets. I had been planning to make beef barley soup later in the week, so I cut up the beef I have saving and used that instead of mutton.
This is quite an easy recipe. I ground up everything in my food processor and set it to marinate with the meat in the morning. Then the only thing left to do is wake up some spices in oil (I didn’t have everything, just cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves)
and then add the meat and marinade, and let it cook.
I do prefer lamb or goat, but the beef was great. Extremely tender, and the sauce is lovely, not too spicy but very warming. I actually did quite a few substitutions: I had black cardamom instead of green; I forgot jalapeños, so I just threw some green Tobasco sauce in there; and I forgot cilantro, so I used Italian parsley and extra mint (I had some of those cubes of frozen mint I saved from before the frost). I forgot the poppy seeds, and of course it was beef instead of mutton. STILL GOOD. Indian cooking is so forgiving.
and let it rest for twenty minutes. Then you just fry each one on both sides in a hot pan, and brush it with butter or ghee
I find it helpful to keep a damp cloth by the stove to wipe the flour out of the pan in between each piece. Otherwise, it just hangs around and gets black and makes your naan taste burnt when it isn’t.
I put the naan in a pan and kept it warm in the oven, but I forgot to cover it, so some of them were a little too crisp and dry by the time it was dinner; but a lot of the were still chewy and reasonably tender. Nothing I bake really comes out very tender, but fresh hot naan is fresh hot naan!
I splurged on basmati rice and made a big pot of that. I moved the meat into a pot on the stove, and used the Instant Pot to make the basmati rice. I did a 1:1 with rinsed rice and water, taking out a bit of the water afte measuring, to compensate for what would be on the rice after rinsing it; and I cooked it for ten minutes with ten minutes of natural release before venting. And we had a lovely meal.
I want to try more Indian recipes, but the few I have are so tasty, I just keep coming back to them. Maybe next week!
MONDAY Turkey barley soup, hot pretzels
When I pulled the last turkey off the Thanksgiving bird over the weekend, I simmered the carcass all day in water with carrots, onions, and parsley, thinking it would be nice to have some good stock for later. So I figured Monday counted as later, and just pulled that out again and threw some more carrots and a bunch of barley and some mushrooms in, and we had some okay soup.
I guess I just don’t like turkey soup that much. It was fine, just nothing to write home about. I heated up some frozen hot pretzels and it was fine.
TUESDAY Ham, mashed acorn squash, green beans with cashews
The kids were a little dismayed that I had not planned their ideal dinner, which is ham, peas, and mashed potatoes, but I’m not ready to mash potatoes again yet. Instead, I mashed squash! That’ll larn ’em!
I cut two acorn squashes in half, scooped out the seeds and gunk (and I saved the seeds! My empire of saved seeds continues to expand), sprinkled them with baking soda and a little kosher salt, and put them in the Instant Pot with half a cup of water. (The reasoning behind the baking soda is that it raises the pH of the squash, which hastens and deepens the caramelization that happens when you cook it. Does this really work? Nobody knows, but it’s so easy that I’m not gonna do an experiment and risk having slightly less flavorful squash.) I cooked the squash at high pressure for like 24 minutes.
I couldn’t find the little metal trivet that keeps the food from touching the bottom, so I put some mason jar rings in there under the squash, and it worked fine. Probably raised the pH even more, who can say.
Then I scooped them out, burning myself forty-six times; and then mashed it up with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon and cloves. The recipe I usually follow
calls for nutmeg, but it had disappeared. My kitchen is like a shifting mirage, where things drift in and out of reality without regard for the fact that I am trying to get supper on the table. But the cinnamon and cloves tasted great. I love this dish.
The ham was already cooked, so Damien heated it up the oven while I went to get the kids, and then while the squash was cooking, I made some quick string beans.
I had cashews left over from the green curry, so I chopped up a bunch. I trimmed the string beans and cooked them in boiling water for like four minutes. Then I drained them and ran cold water over them until they were cool. (This is because, when they get hot enough, they will continue cooking away inside their little skins, even if you take them out of the hot water, and they get overcooked very quickly; so you need to cook them just a little and then make sure they stop cooking!)
Then I heated up some olive oil in a pan, slightly browned up the chopped-up cashews, and added the string beans back in and kept them moving until they were hot. I guess I added salt and pepper at this point.
And it was a nice little meal!
If I had to do it over, I’d cook the string beans in butter, rather than oil. They were a little greasy. But still pretty good.
WEDNESDAY Regular tacos
100% regular. I heard the kids reading the blackboard menu and commenting that “regular tacos” sounded a little suspicious, like probably I was trying a little too hard to lull them into thinking that it was going to be a normal meal, WHEN IT WASN’T. Joke’s on them: They really were just normal tacos. Everybody wins, except the taco.
THURSDAY Kentucky Hot Brown
So, in retrospect, what would have made my turkey soup better is if it had had more turkey in it. But actually I had pulled the meat off the carcass and frozen it, and then I took the meat out on Thursday to try this sandwich recipe. But because I’m the queen of making things hard on myself for no reason, preferably over the course of several days, the meat I saved was enough meat for soup, but not really enough for sandwiches. So we ended up with sub-par soup, and then I had to run out anyway and buy some chicken and roast it so we’d have enough meat for the sandwiches, which are perfect for when you have tons of leftover turkey in the house and you don’t know what to do with it, and/or you are crazy.
NEVERTHELESS, they were good sandwiches! I had some thick Italian bread which I toasted in the oven, and on top of that you put the turkey, then some sliced tomatoes, then a mornay sauce (which is just a white sauce with cheese in it. I used freshly grated parmesan, some cheddar, and a little pepper jack) with plenty of nutmeg (which had graciously appeared again), and then bacon on top of that.
You’re supposed to toast the whole thing under the broiler, but I forgot. Still good!
I made the mornay sauce in the pan that the bacon had been fried in, because fat.
FRIDAY Quesadillas I guess
I think I saw the writing on the wall (the writing saying “Mene mene you keep using up food that you meant to save for another meal, you dope!”) and, when I was making the mornay sauce, I actually hid some cheese from myself, so I would have some for the quesadillas and not have to go to the supermarket yet again. I don’t know where I hid it, but it’s gotta be in the fridge somewhere, and WHEN I FIND IT . . . I’m gonna make some quesadillas.
And that’s why they call me Kentucky Hot Brown. (They do not.)
In a big pan, melt the 1 Tbsp butter and sauté the spinach until it's soft. It will be a giant heap of greens at first, but it cooks way down and will fit in the pan when you're done!
Let the spinach cool and then squeeze out as much water as you can.
In a bowl, mix together the cooked spinach with the salt, pepper and nutmeg, and stir in the feta until it's combined. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375
Melt the stick of butter and set it aside. You'll need it handy for assembling the triangles.
Unroll the phyllo dough and cover it with a slightly damp cloth to keep it from getting brittle. Take what you need and keep the rest of the stack covered.
To assemble the triangles:
Carefully lay a phyllo dough square on your workspace, long side horizontal. Brush it with melted butter. Lay another sheet on top of it and brush that with butter.
With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into three strips.
Put a scoop of spinach mixture at the bottom of each strip. Then fold that section of dough up diagonally, enclosing the spinach, so it forms a triangle. Continue folding up to make triangles, like you'd fold a flag, until you reach the top of the dough. If you're having trouble figuring out how to fold it, here is a helpful video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVwA3i_tmKc&t=2s
If there's a bit of leftover dough on the triangle, fold it under. Lay the finished triangle on a baking sheet, seam side down. Brush with butter again.
Continue until the phyllo dough is gone. I made 18 pockets, two sheets thick, with one roll of phyllo dough, but you can change the proportions and make lots of smaller triangles if you like.
Bake about 25 minutes until golden brown. Let them sit in the pan for a moment before removing. Serve hot or cold.
“I was so nervous about having the chalice and paten in my garage,” Jaclyn Warren said.
“We have too many kids and too many cats; something’s going to happen to them,” she said.
But the precious liturgical vessels survived. They were in Warren’s home, along with a priest in full vestments holding a censer billowing smoke, because she was making sketches for a series of paintings of the North American Martyrs for a high school chapel.
The project, the brainchild of Father John Brown, who commissioned the pieces for Jesuit High School in New Orleans, will show two of the martyred laymen toward the back of the church, and then some of the saints in liturgical dress worshipping along with the congregation, with their vestments becoming more splendid the closer to the altar they are. It’s a huge project, and Warren is working feverishly in between caring for her young children, who, like everyone else in the country, keep getting sick.
Warren, a Louisiana-based liturgical painter and illustrator, said what’s more overwhelming is when she remembers where her work will be displayed.
“It plays on my nerves a little bit. It’s kind of a big deal. People are going to be looking at this for I don’t know how long, maybe after I’m dead and gone, and thinking maybe that nose doesn’t look quite right,” she laughed. “But I know the mission is so important, I can’t get hung up having an artistic crisis.”
Captivating an audience
Mainly, she tries to keep her audience in mind.
“I think of all the boys that are going to be looking at [the paintings of saints]. It’s important that they see them as a source of inspiration and strength, and not just, ‘Look at all these bald guys,’” she said.
She knows from personal experience how an off-putting depiction of a saint can stick with you for years.
“I remember growing up, I had my book of saints, and Mary Magdalene was wearing this bright pink dress and green eyeshadow, and even at 10 years old I was thinking it was so dated,” she said. She also remembers the Black saints were painted so clumsily, their skin almost looked green.
That was a missed opportunity by Catholic art. Warren grew up loving the saints, but it was despite these illustrations, not because of them; and even though she wanted to be an artist herself, nothing she saw drew her in personally. It never occurred to her that she could be the one to update those unappealing pictures.
“It had already been done. The books have been illustrated; the churches have been decorated,” she remembers thinking. She didn’t see herself as someone who could step up and answer a call.
So when she did study art in high school and then at Savannah College of Art and Design, sacred art was not on her radar.
“I thought, ‘I have to do something that’s going to sustain me. I have this talent; I’ll be a portrait artist. That will make money, and I’ll be secure,’” she said.
An artist’s struggle
But when she attended a summer program at Yale, she found herself the odd man out, ostracized because of her faith and because she made figurative art that wasn’t designed mainly to shock and titillate the viewer. She also noticed that artists who chased the cutting edge of artistic fads might have their moment of fame, but then they were just as quickly forgotten.
“I had to rethink, ‘Is being famous and well-esteemed all it’s cracked up to be?’” Warren said.
If you know of (or are) a Catholic or Catholic-friendly artist you think should be featured, please drop me a line! simchafisher at gmail dot com. I’m not always excellent about responding, but I always check out every suggestion. Thanks!
Days before a morality clause violation forced Gary Michael Voris to resign his job leading St. Michael’s Media, Voris’ attorney Richard Lehmann asked United States District Court Judge Joseph LaPlante to delay the upcoming trial in the federal defamation lawsuit.
Voris is the face of St. Michael’s Media and its news outlet, Church Militant. He started the organization almost 20 years ago, and his presence on the cruise voyage is essential, Lehmann wrote in his motion seeking a delay.
“Defendant Voris is a significant draw for participants, who register in large part to hear his presentations and have an opportunity to meet him for private conversations, meals, and other events,” Lehmann wrote.
The cruise generates substantial revenue for Voris and his organizations. Lehmann wrote that last year’s voyage garnered $128,000.
With the “Retreat at Sea” scheduled for Feb. 4 through Feb. 11, LaPlante agreed to set the trial start back to Feb. 13.
“Sometimes it takes very horrible events, even at your own hand, to surface certain things that need to be faced,” Voris said.
Lehmann declined to comment when asked how the sudden change in Voris’ employment status might impact the defamation case.
The delay of the trial date might be the last bit of good news for Voris’ defense.
Both Voris former Church Militant personality Christine Niles are now personally under court order to produce evidence de Laire claims they have been hiding since the case started in 2021. Lawyers for de Laire say the two sat on incriminating texts and emails, destroyed evidence, and even interfered with the testimony of Marc Balestrieri, the key witness who has once again disappeared, according to court records.
Niles and Voris have until Dec. 5 to file statements under oath attesting they have made good faith efforts to find and hand over the evidence or face serious sanctions, like automatically losing the case and setting up a trial for the damages they will have to pay de Laire.
“Failure to comply with this court order, or failure to make the required productions referenced above, could result in entry of a default judgment against one or more defendants,” LaPlante wrote in his Nov. 16 order.
But since they’re both out at Church Militant, it remains to be seen if Niles and Voris can even comply with LaPlante’s order. Niles resigned Nov. 9, and Voris was pushed out Nov. 21. The uncertainty creates the possibility for yet another delay in the trial. Lawyers for de Laire have repeatedly accused Voris and Church Militant of stalling in order to drive up his legal costs.
As of Nov. 22, there were no disclosures on file in the United States District Court in Concord that Niles and Voris are no longer employed at Church Militant. Interestingly, the allegedly defamatory articles about de Laire no longer appear on Church Militant’s website.
Voris and Niles resignations unexplained
Voris’ ouster from Church Militant came as a shock to his legions of fans. The controversial media mini-magnate isn’t saying why he’s no longer leading the organization, other than to get help with some sort of dark and ugly secret that’s impaired his life.
The board statement, which they call “fully transparent,” simply states Voris violated the morality clause and is seeking help for his health.
But Niles, who has been with Voris and Church Militant for almost a decade, dropped hints in a video of her own put out Tuesday night. Niles claims she resigned on Nov. 9 by bringing a damning letter to the board detailing Voris’ transgressions, but she refused in the video to say what they were.
“I’m not in the business of detraction,” Niles said.
Niles did offer that Voris seemed to have undergone a personality change in recent years, including a seeming loss of fervor for his very public faith. Voris stopped attending the mandatory Church Militant prayer sessions, she claimed, as well as committing whatever misconduct that is seemingly at the center of the sudden resignations.
Niles did say Voris’ actions have hurt and scandalized people at Church Militant.
“To say that I am heartbroken and furious is an understatement. There’s a lot of anger, there is a great deal of anger over this,” Niles said.
But why now?
The resignation mystery is unfolding as the de Laire lawsuit appears to be going poorly for Voris, with new allegations surfacing that he used Church Militant money to buy Balestrieri’s testimony with an interest-free loan, and then threatened Balestrieri when it seemed his testimony could hurt the defense.
Voris and former Church Militant writer Anita Carey were scheduled to go to trial in September in de Laire’s lawsuit. Church Militant as an entity is also a defendant in the case. Voris’ attempts to hide key facts and witnesses have already delayed the start of the trial, according to court records.
Rev. de Laire, the judicial vicar for the Manchester New Hampshire Diocese, sued Voris after Church Militant published videos and articles attacking de Laire as incompetent, emotionally unbalanced, and considered a “troublemaker” by his superiors in Rome.
Balestrieri is a canon lawyer with a penchant for secrecy. In a recent deposition under oath, Voris himself called Balestrieri “squirrelly” when it comes to matters of privacy. Since he wants to protect his image with Church officials he works with, Balestrieri is loath to have it known he has been a secret Church Militant author and source for years, Voris said.
“Marc’s great overarching concern was always being worried that his providing information — sometimes extraordinarily sensitive information — on all kinds of cases — that he was always very squirrelly about any of that being found out … He was always — for obvious reasons, because of retaliation and, you know, not viewed as trustworthy by, you know, individuals in the Church who would care about that sort of thing,” Voris testified in a recent deposition.
Lawyers for de Laire used the fact Voris hid Balestrieri as one of the arguments for a summary judgment, essentially asking for a finding by a judge instead of a jury in his favor. By the time the summary judgment question was heading for a hearing, Balestrieri had already been added to the lawsuit as a defendant and found in default.
Balestrieri repeatedly dodged process servers for months, at one point actually running into the woods to evade a server, prompting LaPlante to declare him liable for the defamation last year. Assuming the case ever gets to a jury, Balestrieri will automatically be on the hook for damages no matter what happens to Voris.
But it was the June 15 summary judgment hearing that continues to cause problems for Voris. After being unfindable for months, Balestrieri made a surprise appearance at that hearing claiming he was ready to set the record straight. The day before the hearing, Balestrieri emailed the court announcing his intention to challenge the default judgment and tell his side of the story.
“(He wished to) ‘have my day in court’ to defend myself against the false accusations of fact and claims that have been asserted by more than one party against me,” Balestrieri wrote.
This spelled trouble for Voris.
Good friends make bad loans
With the disclosure that Balestrieri is the man behind the disputed articles revealed in early 2022, a mutual panic seems to have set in, according to newly released evidence.
Voris needed Balestrieri’s sources, the people he relied on to write the articles about de Laire. At the same time, Balestrieri needed to keep his name off the lawsuit. Though Balestrieri has been named as the author in court documents filed in the spring of 2022, he was not yet named as a defendant in the lawsuit. That would happen in October of 2022 over Voris’ objections.
New evidence shows Voris not only hid that Balestrieri wrote the articles, but he hid the fact Balestrieri was heavily involved in the early days of the legal defense.
When de Laire sent Church Militant a letter demanding a retraction in January of 2019, soon after publication, the Church Militant response letter was drafted by Balestrieri, according to new evidence. Balestrieri didn’t sign the letter, though. Voris signed the response sent to de Laire’s attorneys, giving the impression he wrote the letter and not Balestrieri.
Voris would later acknowledge in his August deposition that he presumed Balestrieri had been communicating with his lawyers when they drafted the original answer to de Laire’s lawsuit.
With pressure mounting, Voris and Balestrieri had a meeting at Voris’ house in June of 2022. During the heated conversation, Voris demanded Balestrieri divulge his sources. Balestrieri was hesitant, because his sources who allegedly called de Laire’s ability, competence, mental state, and general character into question were involved in delicate canonical matters like marriage and annulment cases.
“[W]ell, you know, Marc, these are your sources and if they won’t step up, well, then you have to,” Voris said, according to his August deposition.
Voris testified that he had been “forceful” in this conversation and had raised his voice at Balestrieri.
Yet, during this contentious meeting, it was Church Militant as a corporation, not Voris personally, that loaned Balestrieri the $65,000, according to the loan agreement filed in court. The interest-free loan was to be paid back by the end of 2022, but otherwise carried no restriction.
When asked under oath, Voris said Church Militant giving Balestrieri a loan in the midst of an argument about sources was simply a “coincidence of time.”
Communications between Voris and Balestrieri since handed over indicate the canon lawyer and ghostwriter was struggling to pay medical bills for his ailing mother.
After Balestrieri was added to the lawsuit as a defendant, and the matter started to attract attention on Catholic social media, a worried Balestrieri texted Voris in November of 2022. Voris’ response was to remind Balestrieri about the loan.
“Also, you should know, that what I presume is going to be a failure to repay as agreed, we are likely going to have to lay off at least one person. You agreed to pay the $70K and so far haven’t,” Voris texted on Nov. 28 2022.
The Richmond Slaves splintered from the Still River, Massachusetts Slaves in the 1980’s over disputes about watering down founder Rev. Leonard Feeney’s message. Still River leaders sought recognition within the Church, and that meant toning down their interpretation of“No Salvation Outside The Church,” which got Feeney excommunicated.
The Richmond Slaves didn’t want recognition if it meant giving up their beliefs. The group started the St. Benedict Center with an order for men and women, as well as a school. Villarubia took over as leader around 2010.
He had been part of the Richmond Slaves efforts for accommodation with the Manchester Diocese, agreeing in 2009 to disavow the open anti-semitism in the Slaves’ prior writings. In exchange, Manchester gave the group permission to have a traditional Latin Mass celebrated, assuming they could find a priest in good standing.
But “No Salvation Outside the Church” continued to cause friction for the Slaves. Villarubia appealed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, basically arguing he and the other Richmond Slaves should be free to hold to their interpretation of the doctrine.Even after the CDF rejected this argument and considered the matter closed in 2016, the group persisted in holding to the Feeneyite message.
Unbowed, Villarubia raised money to fight the precepts in Rome. His canon lawyer? Balestrieri.
Just weeks after the precepts were issued in January of 2019, Voris was in New Hampshire interviewing Villarubia, and Church Militant published video reports and stories about the controversy and attacking de Laire as an incompetent.
Among the questionable facts Voris/Balestrieri included in their articles is the fact de Laire owns a million dollar house. The articles question how the priest could afford the luxury home.
Rev. de Laire is assigned to a parish in Manchester, and lists that address as his residence. The home, in nearby Amherst, was bought for his elderly mother. The de Laire family are heirs to a French perfume fortune, a fact seemingly missed by Voris and Balestrieri.
Balestrieri worked on getting the precepts overturned. But the appeal was rejected by Rome after Balestrieri missed the deadline.
The lawsuit against Church Militant snared Villarubia, requiring him to sit for depositions with de Laire’s lawyers. The March deposition Villarubia gave under oath this year included a missile aimed at Voris.
In June of 2022, around the time a shouting Voris gave a worried Balestrieri a $65,000 loan, Villarubia learned about Balestrieri’s authorship of the alleged defamatory articles for the first time. This obvious conflict of interest unnerved Villarubia enough that he decided to fire Balestrieri, according to the deposition. That’s when Balestrieri made a stunning claim.
“And I said this is a problem, that Michael Voris said you wrote the article and you’re our canon lawyer. And [Balestrieri] said ‘I didn’t write the article.’ He vehemently denied authorship of the article,” Villarubia said during his March deposition. “I simply thought that that should be on the record. Obviously, Marc’s chosen not to defend himself, but I have this information, and I thought that this should be part of the record.”
Villarubia further speculated Voris might have written the article with Balestrieri in a collaborative effort. Either way, the question was now open if Voris lied when he originally claimed authorship of the articles, or when he later put the onus on Balestrieri.
Voris knew Balestrieri planned to say something at the June 15 hearing, and he worried it would be a denial about writing the articles.
The hearing transcript depicts an odd scene in which Balestrieri does not appear to understand the court proceedings, does not realize he is about to be served with subpoenas to give a deposition, and refuses to give the court his address, claiming to live a “nomadic” lifestyle.
Soon, however, it is agreed during the hearing that Balestrieri will sit for a July 12 deposition with de Laire’s attorneys and answer questions under oath.
A now concerned Voris, despite claiming for months he had no way to contact Balestrieri, arranged for a staffer to send Balestrieri a text he composed with a warning.
“Marc – you are committing perjury. You know you wrote that article. What you don’t know is this morning we found proof – your digital fingerprints – all totally documented – on that article. Remember the email address – TomMoore@Churchmilitant.com.? We have all the receipts. You go through with this and we will rain down on you publicly. You are a liar, and a Welch,” Voris wrote.
Knowing what Villarubbia said about Balestrieri’s denial, Voris wanted proof that Balestrieri was the original author. So on June 15 he ordered his Church Militant team, including Niles and Chief of Staff Simon Rafe, to find the Google Drive drafts, emails, text messages, and other evidence Niles and others had previously claimed could not be found or did not exist, according to court records.
Sometime between receiving the “Welch” text and the July 12 deposition date, Balestrieri had second thoughts. On July 11 he let de Laire’s lawyers know he would not show up, and he since has gone missing again.
Lawyers for de Laire argue the “Welch” text was a clear threat to the publicity adverse Balestrieri, and the prior Nov. 28 text about the loan show Voris has been attempting to manipulate Balestrieri and his testimony.
Voris denied he was threatening Balestrieri, but insisted in his August deposition that he was concerned for the elusive canon lawyer’s soul.
“[I was] troubled he was going to perjure himself,” Voris testified. “First of all, that’s a sin to take an oath before God and then lie. It’s a mortal sin, which is in the category of pretty darn bad in Catholicism.”
But in trying to save his friend from sin, and prove he didn’t write the article himself, the new evidence Voris turned over after the June 15 hearing was a double-edged sword. It showed the court Voris had been hiding evidence, and might be hiding more.
After Balestrieri skipped his deposition, the court ordered Voris and Niles to sit for new depositions, during which more evidence that had been hidden came to light.
Deposition of a law school graduate
Niles, Church Militant’s senior investigative reporter and unofficial in-house counsel, was now fully enmeshed in the lawsuit when she sat for her Aug. 9 court-ordered deposition.
Niles provided the court in June with a signed affidavit detailing the evidence she had recently found in a Church Militant Google Drive that proves Balestrieri’s authorship. In her affidavit, Niles explained she never turned over the drafts proving Balestrieri wrote the articles because she forgot to check the Google Drive.
“In all sincerity, I forgot that he did not email me the article, but shared it through his Google Drive under his alternate email email@example.com,” Niles wrote in her affidavit.
But, Niles’ affidavit also raised a new set of problems for Church Militant.
Her signed statement made clear Niles was not Church Militant’s lawyer, in-house or any other kind. But Voris had refused, in earlier depositions, to answer questions about his conversation with Niles, citing attorney-client privilege.
Niles would need to answer questions about her work status, as well as the evidence on Balestrieri she found after June 15, evidence she and Voris had previously claimed didn’t exist.
During her Aug. 9 deposition, Niles confirmed that she graduated law school, and then clerked for a state supreme court justice for two years. Then, she gave up her law practice to be a stay-at-home mom.
Niles never argued a case in court, never represented a defendant, and when she moved to Michigan, where Church Militant is headquartered, never joined that state’s Bar Association. Niles is a licensed attorney in another state, though her status is inactive.
Around 2014, Niles turned her part-time copyediting and proofreading skills into a job at Church Militant, and moved to Michigan to launch her career. In that time, she testified, she acted as a sort of informal legal adviser, but she was never Church Militant’s attorney.
But it was her next admission that really tripped up Church Militant’s defense. When asked if she had any communication with Balestrieri in 2022 concerning the lawsuit, Niles said she had sent him at least one text. She had never turned that over doing the discovery phase because she “was never asked,” even though de Laire’s team had been seeking such communication for months.
At this point, Church Militant attorneys Kathleen Klaus and Neil Nicholson called for a short break in Niles’ deposition. When they restarted ten minutes later, the lawyer handed over pages of text messages from Nile’s phone showing that she and Balestrieri engaged in multiple conversations about the lawsuit over the course of several months.
“These text messages, in addition to testimony of Niles and Voris, show that Defendants have been working and coordinating with Balestrieri concerning information to be disclosed (or, more accurately, withheld) from Father de Laire throughout the duration of this entire litigation,” de Laire’s lawyers wrote.
Klaus and Nicholson quit the case the day after Niles’ deposition.
“Recent events that have transpired in the litigation have created an unwaivable conflict between Counsel and their clients … Counsel believes this conflict bars them from taking any further action on behalf of their clients,” Klaus and Nicholson wrote to the court.
But Randazza had a reputation for more than fighting for freedom of speech. In 2018, he pleaded guilty to violating the attorney code of ethics in Nevada in a case in which he allegedly solicited pay-offs from companies his porn production client was considering suing.
“There needs to be a little gravy for me,” Randazza emailed an opposing attorney in one lawsuit. “And it has to be more than the $5K you were talking about before. I’m looking at the cost of at least a new Carrera in retainer deposits after circulating around the adult entertainment expo this week. I’m gonna want at least used BMW money.”
Randazza has gone on to represent the likes of Alex Jones and neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin.
LaPlante ordered Randazza off the case last month after de Laire objected. It is not known why Randazza is not being allowed to represent Voris, as LaPlante’s order is under seal. The court docket states there is a new, pending ethics complaint filed against Randazza in another jurisdiction.
That leaves Lehmann as the sole attorney for Church Militant. Lehmann is well-respected in New Hampshire legal circles, but he’s no stranger to culture war skirmishes. He’s the lead attorney for a mother suing the Manchester, New Hampshire School District over her child’s social gender-transitioning. Lehmann was also on former President Donald Trump’s legal team in a failed effort to keep Trump off the New Hampshire presidential primary ballot. When LaPlante agreed to reschedule the trial to accommodate the cruise, he also noted Lehmann’s need to now get up to speed as the lead attorney.
Damien Fisher is married to Simcha Fisher, who is the owner of this site. Simcha Fisher is an independent contractor for Parable Magazine, which is owned by the Diocese of Manchester.
Welcome to the post Thanksgiving debriefing! How much butter did you go through? I think we did six pounds, but I wasn’t really keeping track. I’ll let, ahem, my body keep the score.
This year on the internet, the big fuss seemed to be that brilliant scarlet cranberry curd tart, and ube pie. (I’m sure some of you have been making these for years, but they were suddenly everywhere this year.) We’re huge cranberry fans here (the kids were snacking on raw cranberries — RAW CRANBERRIES — while working on Jesse Tree ornaments today), so even though I bought eight cans of cranberry sauce and made two dozen cranberry muffins, I knew what I had to do. And that was make some tarts.
First, a quick run-down of the rest of the week:
SATURDAY Hamburgers and chips
Damien and I went to see Moe’s directorial debut, Moriarty’s Daughters.
It was great! All of those kids (middle schoolers) were all in, and it was a complicated play, with tons of dialogue, scene changes, and choreography. Excellent work.
The kids at home had french toast casserole (torn up leftover bread soaked in a milk, egg, vanilla, and sugar batter, and then baked in a buttered casserole dish with some more sugar and cinnamon on top) and I don’t know what else, and Damien and I went to The Winchester, I mean Chili’s, after the play. I really like Chili’s. It’s cheap, the food is reliable, and it doesn’t draw as much of a “OMG Cayden, I found my stepmom’s Visa and we can get as many Berry Merry Daquiris as we want!” crowd as Applebee’s tends to. I had some kind of chipotle salad nonsense. And then we went to Walmart to get some mouse poison. THREE venues, quite an evening out for Mr. and Mrs. Fisher.
One pepperoni, one olive, and one half cheese, half garlic and roast red peppers.
On Monday evening, I suddenly realized I had promised to send in a pie for the school thing, so I made a slightly weird apple pie.
I forgot to put my name on the pie plate, so farewell to thee, pie plate.
TUESDAY Hot dogs
On Tuesday, I started Thanksgiving baking in earnest. I made a two pies and two dozen cranberry muffins.
First I made an apple pie. I made a big slab pie in a casserole dish.
The crust design was, again, a little weird. First I made a lattice crust, but with broad strips of dough, rather than narrow ones. It looked a little plain, so I added some flowers and stems and leaves, and it still looked weird, but it wasn’t the only pie on my agenda, so I had to let it go.
Then I made a pecan pie. I usually make a standard recipe with corn syrup and bourbon, but I decided to try a different one this year, because why not, from my friend Melanie. Gotta make up a proper recipe card, but in the mean time, here it is:
* 1 cup brown sugar
* 1/4 cup white sugar
* 1/2 cup butter
* 3 eggs
* 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
* 1 tablespoon milk
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 tablespoon white vinegar
* 1-2 cups chopped pecans
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, beat eggs until foamy, and stir in melted butter. Stir in the brown sugar, white sugar and the flour; mix well. Last add the milk, vanilla, vinegar and nuts.
3. Pour into an unbaked 9-in pie shell. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until done.
I sprinkled some extra pecans on top in a swirl pattern. The pie swelled up and came out with almost a crust on top, like on a baked custard. I think this is the clearest picture I have of it:
And I haven’t tried it yet! So I will have to report back soon.
I also tried a new recipe for cranberry muffins. They usually come out with a nice flavor but too dense, so I tried the Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe. She usually has good recipes for light baked goods. I didn’t realize until after I filled the muffin tins that the recipe doesn’t include walnuts! Oh well. Next time, I’ll just add walnuts in. (Unless. . . that might make them less light. . . . hmm.)
It does have an orange glaze, which I thought that was lovely. It ran over the tops and ended up soaking the bottoms of the muffins, so they were very sticky and moist on the bottom and tender and cake-like inside, with lots of bright cranberries and bits of orange peel.
She also had the tip to save out some cranberries and sprinkle them over the tops before you put it in the oven, so they are more colorful. Definitely doing it that way from now on.
WEDNESDAY Mac and cheese and kielbasa
Wednesday I made two pumpkin pies (just following the recipe on the pumpkin can, using the zoom feature on my camera so I could read the recipe on the pumpkin can) in pre-made graham cracker crusts, and two cranberry curd tarts, spanakopita, and vanilla and strawberry ice cream.
Then I put my feet up for a while, and then I made candied sweet potatoes and peeled ten pounds of white potatoes. Then I processed the last of the butternut squash from my garden
and candied some walnuts with honey and curry powder,
to make ice cream with the next day. Should have chopped them a bit more, but oh well.
The pumpkin pies turned out fine. I made one moderately fancy with some leftover pecans and some crust cut in the shape of . . . this.
I inquired on Twitter. I thought a brain hastening away was the most likely thing, but Joanne finally clued me in that they are turkeys that have been squashed in the drawer.
Now I know! Anyway, here’s the pie:
I made spanakopita with two pounds of spinach (which is a LOT of spinach) and I just straight up used a house paintbrush to apply the melted butter to the phyllo dough sheets.
I didn’t count how many I made, but the dough and the spinach and cheese filling ran out at about the same time, so that was a win!
Covered and put in the fridge for the next day.
The cranberry tarts were next. Those were fun to make, but listen to me: START EARLY. This is a pie that needs to sit around a lot before you can even put it in the fridge. I followed the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen (limitless views here)
The recipe has instructions for an almond crust, but I thought it would be pushing my luck to try so many new things; so I just bought two premade pecan crusts.
You mix the cranberries with sugar and water
take a photo for social media (mandatory), and simmer them until they all pop
then separately whisk up some egg yolk and cornstarch, and put that and the cranberry mixture into the food processor and whir it all up
I’m here to tell you that you CAN fit a double recipe of hot cranberry curd into an eight-cup food processor, but make sure your affairs are in order first.
Then you have to let it cool down to 125 degrees. This took quite some time! Then you add butter in and whir it up again, and press the mixture through a sieve
You save out a few tablespoons of the cranberry mix to be whipped up later with cream to decorate it, and you pour the rest of the cranberry mix into the crust, and let it sit at room temp for another four hours.
Then I covered it and put it in the fridge for overnight (it keeps well), and started on the ice cream, which I should have done earlier in the day, but what can one do. I made one batch of vanilla and one of strawberry
Mindful of the tip with the cranberry muffins, I saved some of the strawberries and sprinkled them on top.
Then I somewhat grumpily made some mac and cheese and kielbasa for dinner.
After dinner, I made the candied sweet potatoes using this recipe from My Forking Life, except I sliced up an orange and cooked the slices along with the sweet potatoes.
Then I peeled the white potatoes. I think it was at this point where, being a little tired, I had a little mishap with the potato peeler, which, hooray for fingernails, or else that would have ended differently. And hooray that I don’t care what my nails look like.
And THEN I processed the butternut squash. I was following this recipe from Blue Apron, which calls for curried candied pecans, but I used walnuts instead. Look, some people make a shopping list, lose it, make another shopping list, also lose that, and then just go to the supermarket and buy everything that looks more or less Thanksgiving-y, and it more or less works out. I’ll tell you, though, every time I thought I had found my list, it turned out to actually be a paper with a drawing of a cat called SNUFFLES on it. Every damn time. I will swear to you that I threw it away, but then a few hours later I would be like, hey, where’s my list? And I would find it, and then –OH NO, IT’S SNUFFLES AGAIN. This was before I cut the tip of my finger off.
This ice cream is somewhat labor intensive, because you have to process the squash and make the candied nuts, and the ice cream itself is the cooked custard type
but gosh it’s delicious. It’s sophisticated flavors and comfort food all in one.
And then I put my whole ass in bed.
Thursday! Thanksgiving itself!
Damien was in charge of the turkey, the stuffing, and the gravy. The turkey was juicy and delicious, as always. We don’t have any special tricks, just lots of basting.
and Sophia made some bacon jalapeño cheddar biscuits that turned out SCRUMPTIOUS
I’ll get her recipe when she comes home from work!
So on Thursday, all that was left for me to do was make mulled cider, bake the apple pie, cook the mashed potatoes, and bake the spanakopita, and finish making the squash nut ice cream.
I truly wish I had a second freezer and a second oven. But we just did a lot of juggling and shuffling and strategizing. I made the mulled cider in the Instant Pot (cinnamon sticks, cloves, halved clementines) and kept the mashed potatoes in the slow cooker, and I ended up bringing out hot dishes to the table as they finished baking, and it was nice!
Some of my spanakopita triangles burst open, but there were no complaints.
Everybody ate their fill and told funny stories.
But WordPress is being a bag of butts and won’t let me upload any more pictures! I’ll have to embed the rest from Facebook.
After we ate, I whipped up the cranberry-flavored whipped cream, and Clara decorated the cranberry tarts with it.
The ice cream was not my best effort. The vanilla and strawberry didn’t freeze properly in the ice cream maker, for some reason, so I put the churned ice cream in the freezer while it was still liquidy, which makes it freeze in a sort of splintery fashion. The butternut squash ice cream came out of the machine very unevenly frozen, for some reason. I think the dasher got stuck, and didn’t keep the ice cream churning, but I didn’t notice because there were so many other things making loud scronching noises at the time; so it was much more frozen in some spots than in others. The flavor was wonderful, though. It’s mellow and custardy, and the candied curried nuts give it a nice kick. I love this ice cream.
So, we had a really good day. All our kids and Moe’s girlfriend came, and just about everyone was hungry and cheerful.
We had our traditional annual fight about whether it’s traditional to watch National Treasure on Thanksgiving (it’s not, but it’s now traditional to fight about it), and ended up watching The Road to El Dorado. I made sure to point out to the kids that while Cortes is portrayed in a truly horrible light, really cruel and ravening, they shouldn’t think all Catholics are like that. Really, it’s just that all Spanish people are like that. They said okay Mama. They were so good about it that I didn’t go on my traditional “I’m sorry, HOW old is Chel?” rant.
Leftovers. Long live leftovers. I was planning to do yoga today, but I accidentally ate a bunch of pie, and I have learned that you can power through pie when you’re in downward facing dog, but it is not advisable.
And that’s my story! If you didn’t make the cranberry curd tart but you think it sounds nice, make it for Christmas! It’s so pretty and bright, very tart indeed, and it was a big hit. Some people decorate it with sugared and candied fruits, or nuts, or rosemary, or whatever you want. The scarlet and the white really lend themselves to lots of elegant designs.
And I was thinking . . . . this would be amazing as the top layer of a cheesecake. Yes it would.
The man who founded a right-wing Catholic media mini-empire was forced to resign Tuesday, telling the public that he needs to work on the ugliness inside himself.
The stunning news that Michael Voris was pushed out from Church Militant, the media outlet he started almost 20 years ago, came out Tuesday when the Church Militant board issued a statement that Voris had breached its morality clause.
In a video he released on social media Tuesday evening, Voris said in a way he’s thankful for the “dark grace” of his fall, so that he can start healing.
“Sometimes it takes very horrible events, even at your own hand, to surface certain things that need to be faced,” Voris said.
Voris’s longtime on air sidekick, Christine Niles, released her own video on Tuesday, confirming she’s the one who alerted the board to problems at Church Militant. Niles resigned on Nov. 9 with a lengthy and detailed letter to the Church Militant board about what had been going on behind the scenes, she said.
“There were lots of troubling things over the past year, but especially over that past several months, about the direction Church Militant was heading, and some of the decisions Voris was making,” Niles said.
Niles is not saying what Voris did to be pushed out of the business he started, but said there has been a distinct personality change in Voris.
“He is not the man I came to work for in 2014,” Niles said.
The one red flag Niles would share is that Voris had stopped praying with staff in the last couple of years.
“Somewhere along the line over the past several years it became less and less of a priority,” she said.
Niles reminded people watching her video that Voris himself had said many times that a lack of prayer almost always came before someone had a public fall from grace.
Voris also did not want to discuss the “ugly actions” that lead to his resignation, but said it is due to “deep, deep, deep” wounds that were too terrible for him to even consider. With whatever he’d done out in the open, at least to Church Militant board members and staff, Voris said he’s seeking professional help.
“I need to conquer these demons,” Voris said.
Voris did offer his “deepest apologies” to the people he’s hurt with his behavior.
“There is nothing I can say to make it good,” Voris said.
Niles said Voris has hurt people in Church Militant, including herself.
“To say that I am heartbroken and furious is an understatement. There’s a lot of anger, there is a great deal of anger over this,” Niles said.
She won’t judge Voris, and said she’s ready to forgive him, but the harm he has caused is real.
“That doesn’t mean though that it hasn’t hurt a lot of people, that it hasn’t scandalized a lot of people, that it hasn’t hurt a lot of good people still at Church Militant,” she said.
While some commenters called his video “tremendously moving” and “humble,” others incredulously pointed out that Voris and Niles have made a living for almost two decades out of exposing and decrying the most private details of the lives of others, in the name of investigative journalism on a crusade to expose corruption in the church; but now that a scandal is in-house, they are asking for prayer, support, and privacy.
I reached out to Simon Rafe, Voris’ longtime Church Militant factotum, this afternoon, but was told he no longer had a phone on his desk. The media company went through a round of layoffs and expense cuts this year which saw employee phones removed, among other austerity measures.
Sources have said since that Rafe, too, is out at Church Militant.
Church Militant operates under the banner of St. Michael’s Media, the non-profit apostolate Voris started. According to tax returns, St. Michael’s media has been running major deficits for years, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Part of the problem has been Voris’ media strategy, which got him sued for defamation.
Voris saw his two original lawyers on the case quit this year. His replacement lawyer, Richard Lehmann, did not respond to a request for comment. If St. Michael’s Media, and its donors, are not longer footing the bill for the legal defense, it’s unclear what will happen next.
This summer, DeLaire’s attorneys accused Voris of hiding evidence and threatening a key witness in the case. He also reportedly claimed attorney-client privilege for his conversations with Niles. While Niles is a licensed attorney, she is not a lawyer for Voris or Church Militant, according to an affidavit she signed in the case.
Voris has been no stranger to strangeness. He was forced to change the name of his news outlet from Real Catholic TV to Church Militant in 2012 after the Archdiocese of Detroit told him he didn’t have permission to use “Catholic” in the name.
In 2016, Voris outed himself as having lived as a homosexual in his 20s and 30s. Voris is now 62. At the time of his previous disclosure, Voris claimed powerful enemies within the Church were about to use his past against him.
At the end of his video, Voris said he might return to Church Militant at some point in the future, once he’s dealt with whatever he is dealing with. He asked viewers for prayers, and to continue supporting Church Militant and its 40 or so employees. He also offered advice for anyone suffering.
“If you’ve got some ugliness in your past, don’t let it control you,” Voris said.
The giant Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro sparked chatter last week when it was fitted with a projected image of a Taylor Swift T-shirt, who launched the Brazil leg of her Eras Tour on Nov. 17. The 124-foot statue of Jesus, with outstretched arms that span 92 feet, can be seen from all over the city and beyond.
These considerations are why I’m still thinking about that T-shirt on Jesus. I don’t like it. (I also don’t like it when Catholic church facades are illuminated with images, a practice that is becoming more and more popular globally.) It disturbs me when we get too casual with sacred images.
When I brought the matter up with some friends, a few of them quickly called it “blasphemy.” This is an image of Jesus, who is God, and he surely loves Taylor Swift the human woman. But he’s not a Swiftie; he’s the Lord.
I don’t think it’s blasphemy. Blasphemy, strictly speaking, entails words that maliciously or carelessly insult God. As far as I know, nobody has paid to light up the statue to look like anything that the church condemns. The sanctuary’s website invites organizations to apply to use the statue for events or displays but reminds that proposals will be evaluated for whether the values expressed are appropriate.
During the pandemic, the sanctuary lit it up to make it appear as a doctor and included messages to remain hopeful and stay home. They have lit it up to support efforts against human trafficking. But not all displays are so lofty. They also lit it up to wear a soccer shirt in support of the Flamengo team. They lit it up in honor of the region getting connected to 5G service. They also projected the national colors of various countries during the World Cup, and again during the pandemic, so that at one point, Jesus was red with five yellow stars, wrapped in the Chinese flag.
Does this still seem fine to you?
But it’s for charity, some will say. Surely Jesus can handle being decorated. It’s not really Jesus; it’s just a statue; and anyway, there’s nothing wrong with soccer or pop music, and Jesus loves the poor, and he is the divine physician, and the goal is to bring hope and comfort to people who see it.
It still sets off alarm bells for me. This has been a century of great losses, and one of the greatest has been a loss of the sense of the sacred.
Use the little bitty Lego-like parts to build three different styles of robots, which you can then control. We did have a few missing pieces in our set, but the robots still worked without them. Good for a kid with patience!
Eye-catching, elegant sturdy polished wooden hair sticks with shiny metal flowers dangling from the ends. They come in several colors and styles, and the shop also has jewelry and other items. Sophisticated and a little bit punk.
If you have to go to school, make it better by being Boba Fett. I was afraid this would be flimsy and rinky-dink, but it’s actually quite sturdy, bigger than I expected, and full of lots of little pockets and compartments.
A set of three walkie talkies so your fates or musketeers or stooges whatever you have three of at your house can keep in touch. These are real walkie talkies, not toys, and they are easy to use and clear, and they don’t gobble batteries. Very handy for people without phones, or just for fun.
Little portable moon lamp. It’s a bit smaller than the pictures in the Amazon ad make it look, but it’s still cool (and it does come in larger sizes). The remote that controls the color and settings (flash, fade, etc.) is small and maybe loseable for a young kid. Comes with a little wooden stand so it doesn’t roll off your night table, or you can carry it with you.
I was afraid these would be cheesy, but the (adult) kid who got them really enjoyed the calming, detailed activity of placing the little “diamonds” one by one with the provided tool. You stick on a corked back and they make nice coasters, or just decorations.
We got this at Walmart for $5 and my eight-year-old LOVES it. She puts it together several times a day and . . . now she knows the states. I think the list price is more like $10, so there are probably higher-quality map floor puzzles out there, but I’m including it more as an inspiration. I also adored floor puzzles at this age. Very satisfying.
Kind of a weird item, but neat. You turn it on and the satiny sand swirls around in the liquid inside the ball, making a mystical effect. You can set it so it goes continuously, or allegedly so it starts up in response to a sound, like a clap. We have not been able to get it to do the sound activation mode, but it’s still quite cool. Runs on batteries.
Everything you need to get going with little resin projects. It’s not a huge kit, but it’s handy to have everything together for beginners, and then you can buy more of what you need and branch out if the kid likes to use resin.
Weird and captivating. Lots of detail in the illustrations, lots of thought went into the descriptions. Caveat emptor, some of the fairies are a little topless, but they’re not sexy or anything, they’re just fairies. We like Brian Froud! Probably not for young kids, as some of the illustrations can be a little creepy.
We did not actually get fifteen experiments out of this, but we got quite a few, and it really hit the spot for a kid who likes science. The seven-year-old did quite a few of them on her own, and she really cherishes the rock specimens. It has plenty of informational guides to explain what you’re doing with the experiments, but you can also just mess around with them.
Really nice quality, very impressive. Fold-out Dungeon Master screen so you can make your nefarious plans in privacy. It comes with pre-printed cheat sheets that are decent, or you can use your own, and slide them into the four clear plastic pockets, and you can make notes on them with dry erase marker.
The exact one we got is sold out, but this is pretty close. Walk into a room and instantly find out who the other Lord of the Rings fans are. Comes in two styles of shirt and many different colors, from TeePublic.
You’re gonna hate me, but your kid will love this thing. It gets tons of play. It’s basically Dance Dance Revolution in a self-contained mat you can unfold and start up, and there are three different modes of play: One where you follow the moves as they light up, a Simon Says-style game, or just free mode. You can use the preset tunes or use Bluetooth to play your own music. It does have a volume control and it’s not TOO loud, and it has held up really well under lots of use. Good for parties or just dancy kids.
This is another one of those things that I don’t know if other people’s kids want, or if it’s just my kids. It comes in several colors and has held up well all year. A spring or fall jacket, so not super warm, but not flimsy.
A little bundle I put together: Beginner chain mail jewelry
A neat little device that holds your project for you while you work on it, with the help of a magnifying glass. Not 100% necessary, but it’s not expensive and it really makes a kid feel like a serious artisan when they use it. Works as described once you figure out all the various joints and nuts.
Clear, straightforward, copiously illustrated instructions for the beginner. My 11-year-old opened it up and went right to work without help.
Tackle box organizer I highly recommend some kind of bin to keep everything together! We got one at Walmart, and I think it had more compartments than this, but it did have the fold-up trays, which my kid was very impressed by.
The famous portable water filter, for the person who is always wandering off into the hills and maybe forgot a water bottle. Just a little present, but thoughtful for the right person. Currently on sale for $9.99.
We usually buy costume dresses from The Little Dress-Up Shop, which has very well-made, non-itchy, machine-washable dresses with sparkles that don’t shed; but we had a hard time finding a Merida dress in a big enough size. Or maybe it was just that we needed the fast Prime shipping? Anyway this one did the trick and the kid was delighted. A decent quality costume.
This is more than I ever expected to spend on a beanbag chair, to be honest, (we got the four-foot one for $85) but the cheaper ones from other brands are really garbagy, so you get what you pay for. It’s huge and comfortable and hasn’t gone flat in a year, and it has a comfy microsuede cover and is filled with memory foam beads. It’s big enough for a teenage boy. They come in bigger and smaller sizes, and many colors, as well as sacks in other shapes and configurations.
Sadly these wooden parakeet earrings we got are sold out, but there are many, many other animal and other cute and beautifully-crafted wooden earring designs at The Odd Giraffe. Truly outstanding customer service, and the earrings are light and comfortable.
A jolly, ridiculous card game that truly takes about ninety seconds to play one round. It’s a truly family-friendly game designed to be played by people of all ages and/or a people of assorted ages, that just about anyone can learn instantly, and that doesn’t have a lot of pieces to lose. It would make a great cheerer-upper if people are gloomy, or an ice breaker at a party of shy folks. The actions are silly but not humiliating. It really strikes the perfect balance of simplicity and entertainment value.
And that’s it! I’ll add to this if I remember more stuff. Don’t forget to check out the monster list for hundreds of other present ideas, including lots for younger kids, such as we used to have. The list is organized by category:
Little guys’ toys (besides dolls) Games and puzzles Building and tactile toys Kitchen Sciencey stuff Electronics Art and journaling supplies Jewelry, pins, accessories (+makeup, sunglasses) Music and musical instruments Crafts, kits, knitting, sewing Dolls and stuffies Outdoor and active toys Weaponry and knives Costumes Hats and hair accessories Bags and wallets Miscellaneous