What’s for supper? Vol. 287: In which I mislead my children about the Irish

Rather pretty photos this week! I love being able to eat dinner while the sun is up, but a close second is being able to take food photos while the sun is up. 

Here’s what we cooked this week: 

SATURDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries

Wow, Saturday seems like a long time ago. I think we had various salamis, capicola, prosciutto (Aldi prosciutto. We’re not millionaires) and provolone, with some red pesto. Looks like I was too hungry to take a photo. 

 

SUNDAY
Ina Garten’s roast chicken and vegetables

Damien made this gorgeous chicken that is absolutely packed with flavor and looks like the true feast it is.

The chicken is stuffed with lemon halves, entire heads of garlic, and sprigs of thyme,

and then you have beautiful heaps of roasted, caramelized carrots, onions, and fennel. Damien also added ten sliced potatoes.

Very moist and scrumptious. I just sat there eating fennel and carrots like a complete vegetable goblin. 

MONDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, crispy shredded Brussels sprouts

Shredded Brussels sprouts is a new-to-us thing. I preheated the oven to 425, cut the stems off two pounds of Brussels sprouts, and sliced them thinly with the food processor, then spread them in a thin layer on two large parchment paper-covered pans with olive oil, honey, salt, and lots of red pepper flakes, and chopped walnuts.

Then I forgot about them and parts of them burned a little, so I switched pans and stirred them up a bit and cooked them a bit more, and they turned out . . . pretty good.

I was hoping for something a little more crunchy, and this didn’t quite get there, but reminded me a little bit of coleslaw. Probably if I had spread it out more thinly, they would have gotten more crisp. Damien thought it was great as it was, and I did like the flavor a lot. Nice to have something new for a side dish, and I can imagine tons of variations in what you add to the Brussels sprouts. It’s also a great way to stretch a small amount of vegetables. I can imagine adding in carrots. 

TUESDAY
Mexican beef bowls 

Kind of an inelegant photo, but a very tasty meal. 

One kid said, “Wow, I never tried this food before. I just assumed it was gross. But it’s delicious!” What do you know about that. Wait till you find out I was right about everything else, too. 

There wasn’t a ton of meat, so I wanted to make sure there were plenty of other good toppings. Namely, yummy beans. I made them in the instant pot, and I thought they were quite toothsome. 

Jump to Recipe

I also sautéed up a bunch of sweet pepper and put out sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro, scallions, and skillet roasted (skillet roasted? Is that a thing) corn with Taijin seasoning, some corn chips, and a big pot of white rice. I forgot to put out the lime. wedges. The star of this meal is the wonderful gravy from the meat, and the star of the gravy is Worcestershire sauce, which I love even more now that I know it has tamarind in it.

Very rich and piquant meal. 

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WEDNESDAY
Cumin chicken with chickpeas, onion salad, homemade pita

Last time I made pita bread, I complained about what a huge amount of work it was. I think that was mostly due to the newness of the recipe (I have massive baking anxiety, and every step feels monumental), and the fact that I quadrupled it. I gathered up my courage and tried this recipe again, and it was actually very simple. You just stir up the dough and knead it well, let it rise once,

divide it, roll the pieces into rounds,

and slap them in a hot oven for threeish minutes, and hope they puff.

It takes a long time if you are making 32 of them and can only fit three on a pan, but there are far less pleasant ways to spend a morning than rolling and baking 32 pieces of pita bread. 

I did try pan frying one, and it turned out so flat and rubbery, I went back to the oven method, which was working well enough. While I was complaining about it, I apparently triggered a smart speaker command, so the next three-minute alarm that went off wasn’t just a chime; it was a perky woman’s voice saying “Three minutes the last one fried in the pan turned out really rubbery!” NOBODY ASKED YOU, PERKY KITCHEN ROBOT. 

Anyway, everybody liked the pita. Next time I will bake them right before supper, because they are divine when they are piping hot; but even several hours old, they were still nice. (The same child who was amazed the Mexican beef wasn’t disgusting complimented me on the pita, saying he loved how tough and chewy it was. I did not murder said child, because soon enough he will be eating his own cooking, and then we’ll all see what’s tough.)

The whole meal was so good.

 

The cumin chicken is super easy. You stir up a simple yogurt marinade for the chicken in the morning (I used thighs and drumsticks), and then about an hour before dinner, spread some seasoned chickpeas in a pan, nestle your chicken in it, maybe throw some onions on top, and shove it in the oven. 

The skin on this chicken is so great. The meat turns out really tender, but the best part is the skin, and it takes zero skill. 

Jump to Recipe

Also, Clara was juicing lemons for some reason, so she had some freshly-squeezed juice to spare for the onion salad, and wow, I forgot what a difference it makes over bottled.

It’s just red onions, lemon juice, chopped cilantro, and some salt and pepper, but it’s so bright and fresh, it’s really wonderful with the earthy flavors of the cumin in the chickpeas and chicken.  

Make a nice bowl of garlicky yogurt sauce,

Jump to Recipe

and it’s a perfectly balanced plate of flavors. Cool, bright, sharp, earthy, and then the sour-floury pita brings it all together.

Lovely. 

THURSDAY
Irish breakfast

Damien heroically took the three middle girls into Boston on the evening of St. Patrick’s day to see Conan Gray. They ate at one of Guy Fieri’s restaurant because if there’s one thing those kids can do, it’s commit to the bit. 

We at home continued our tradition of acknowledging we don’t really like corned beef, and we had what may or may not be an authentic Irish breakfast instead. The Irish sausage wasn’t too popular last year, so we skipped that and had bacon, thick sourdough toast, roast potatoes, fried mushrooms, baked beans, roasted tomatoes, and eggs fried in bacon grease. 

This meal gave the kids the impression that the Irish eat very well indeed. Oops.

I had some trouble getting so many different things hot at the same time, so I fudged it a bit, and the mushrooms (mushrooms, parsley, salt, bacon fat) started out well

but got a bit overcooked, and then I decided to broil the tomatoes in the oven

and long before they got any kind of char, they really collapsed. I don’t know if there’s another method of cooking sliced tomatoes so they don’t fall apart, or if that’s just how it be. They were good, just surprisingly fragile, kind of like the Ir–I’m sorry, somebody was shouting and I lost track of what I was saying. 

I’ll let this hero round out the day for us all.  

FRIDAY
Vietnamese garlic noodles

Gonna try this simple recipe from the NYT, which says it’s a San Francisco dish. Butter, lots of garlic, oyster sauce, soy sauce, spaghetti, parmesan, and scallions. How often does the NYT run a recipe using ingredients you already have! I’ll let you know how it turns out. Garlicky, I’m guessing. 

And we have St. Joseph’s day coming right up tomorrow! Although we’ll probably celebrate on Sunday, just because Saturday is always so crazy-go-nuts. Thinking of an antipasto of pickled vegetables and cheeses and cured meats,

suppli (maybe made by Lucy, since they turned out so well last time),

spaghetti and meatballs (probably made by Damien),

and Clara may make zeppole, which is the traditional St. Joseph’s Day dessert, and which I mangled pretty severely when I tried.

I would like to try pannacotta with fruit (haven’t settled on a recipe yet), just so the kitchen doesn’t forget whose kitchen it is. We just finished The Great British Baking Show and a lot of Giuseppe’s recipes seemed highly desirable to me. But that is a lot of cooks in a small kitchen, so I think today we’ll plan out who makes what when. 

This is also a lot of tasty food for the middle of Lent, but St. Joseph has been mucho helpful for our family and the least we can do for him is eat a lot. Just like the Irish. 

Instant Pot black beans

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 16-oz cans black beans with liquid
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put olive oil pot of Instant Pot. Press "saute" button. Add diced onion and minced garlic. Saute, stirring, for a few minutes until onion is soft. Press "cancel."

  2. Add beans with liquid. Add cumin, salt, and cilantro. Stir to combine. Close the lid, close the vent, and press "slow cook."

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce

A one-pan dish, but you won't want to skip the sides. Make with red onions and cilantro in lemon juice, pita bread and yogurt sauce, and pomegranates, grapes, or maybe fried eggplant. 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 32 oz full fat yogurt, preferably Greek
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp cumin, divided
  • 4-6 cans chickpeas
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 red onions, sliced thinly

For garnishes:

  • 2 red onions sliced thinly
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • a bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 32 oz Greek yogurt for dipping sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

Instructions

  1. Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Mix full fat Greek yogurt and with lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. Marinate several hours. 

    About an hour before dinner, preheat the oven to 425.

    Drain and rinse four or five 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mix them up with a few glugs of olive oil, the remaining tablespoon of cumin, salt and pepper, and two large red onions sliced thin.

    Spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then make room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken (shake or scrape the extra marinade off the chicken if it’s too gloppy). Then it goes in the oven for almost an hour. That’s it for the main part.

    The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat. Sometimes when I make this, I put the chickpeas back in the oven after we start eating, so some of them get crunchy and nutty all the way through.

Garnishes:

  1. While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:

     -Chop up some cilantro for sprinkling if people like.

     -Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper and more cilantro. 

     -Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 274: In which we all need a nap

Hey! My apologies for being absent this week. I was working on some other writing projects and then also unexpectedly got ambushed by my dining room. We didn’t end up having any guests for Thanksgiving, so I didn’t end up doing a thorough “HOLY CRAP, PEOPLE WILL FIND OUT HOW WE LIVE” cleaning of the house before Thanksgiving. But apparently the late November cleaning frenzy is baked into my system, so I ended up doing it more or less involuntarily on Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving anyway, and I couldn’t stop thinking about that can of ceiling paint I had bought, and you know how this story goes. I’ve been wanting to redo the floor, which is horrendous, but there’s no sense in doing the floor when you know the walls need painting, and what kind of lunatic would paint the walls when the ceiling is in such a state. So I painted the ceiling, and then while I had the Killz out, I just touched up the trim a little bit, and that made everything else look so dingy, I went out and bought more paint, and now my dining room is Glidden Sunbeam instead of Behr Sea Glass.

And my ceiling is Extremely White instead of Spaghetti Sauce. The floor is Still Horrendous. But it’s a small room and reasonably level, so I’m seriously eyeing some peel-and-stick tiles, for a treat. Of course once you have fresh ceiling and walls, you can’t just put everything back the way it was, so I put up so many hooks and shelves, and I threw out so many moldy backpacks, and I have a whole new theory of mitten storage, and there’s a shelf for plants that doesn’t collapse and dump soil on your head whenever you touch it, and there’s a white board with magnetic markers on the door so people can put down their schedule, and there’s a spot for mail that isn’t the table

But I never did a Thanksgiving food post. So I’ll do a separate post for the dining room. (I know some of you don’t care at all about my dining room, but some of you care very much indeed. I know this.)

Okay, here’s what we ate last week! It was all easy peasy food while I prepped for Thanksgiving, except for one meal, which was Albert Burneko’s sausage bean soup with escarole from Defector. I followed the recipe (or “recipe”) slavishly, except I couldn’t find any escarole, so I used a bunch of mixed greens. This soup was truly delightful to make. Wonderfully pungent and colorful every step of the way.

I think I’ll make it again when I can find some escarole, though, because the greens didn’t quite pull their weight, either with flavor or texture. 

Olive oil, big hunks of loose hot sausage, onions, garlic, pickled peppers and their brine, wine, greens, and cannellini beans. The final soup was incredibly hearty and warming, with a pleasantly sharp and slightly bitter tang in the broth. I served it with freshly-shredded parmesan cheese.

The kids, it goes without saying, did not appreciate it, which is why I made a bunch of buttery garlic knots out of pizza dough. 

And now for the Thanksgiving food! We ended up with mulled cider, cranberry orange muffins, cranberry sauce, parkerhouse rolls, garlic mashed potatoes, spanakopita, and two roast tequila turkeys, one with regular vegetable stuffing and one with sausage oyster stuffing, and gravy. Dessert was pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and apple pie with whipped cream or ice cream. All the recipes for all of these dishes are gathered here.

Corrie helped me make the cranberry muffins, and boy did she talk a lot.

In the background you can see the dozens of gingerbread cookies Clara made to be sold at the tree lighting ceremony to raise money for the D.C. trip we kind of forgot two of the kids will be going on. Damien took the kids out in the dark and the rain while I . . . made myself useful in some way, I’m sure. 

The muffins turned out flat and faintly sticky like they always do, and I guess I just like them that way, because I don’t feel motivated to fix it or seek out another recipe. 

The spanikopita were fab. 

Turkeys were gorgeous and the sausage oyster stuffing was to die for. 

The parkerhouse rolls were an abject failure. I haven’t made them in years and I screwed them up in at least three distinct ways. People ended up gouging out the insides and extracting a few bites of edible bread-like substance from them. 

The pies were a big hit. Well, except for the pecan pie. It tasted great — it’s a nice recipe, and is more muted and less screamingly treacly than many — but I had carefully cut out leaves and branches and arranged a lovely pecan tree, and it quietly sank into the custard and disappeared during baking. Oh well!

The other pies were more successful. Here are the pumpkin pies, with a readymade graham cracker crust and decorations made of standard pie crust dusted with powdered sugar:

I guess I was subconsciously thinking “stars and stripes,” I don’t know

and I was highly pleased with my two apple pies. I did a checkerboard one with butterflies and a fringe

and a basket weave one with leaves and other doodads:

I brushed them both with an egg white wash and sprinkled them with sugar before baking, and this is how they came out:

and

Me gusto. These were baking while we ate dinner, and when they came out of the oven, I felt much better about the parkerhouse rolls. 

Okay, on to this week! Not very many adventurous meals, but some pretty plating, anyway. 

Saturday was burgers, which Damien cooked. 

Right before I went shopping, a giant shelf tipped over and dumped all its contents all over the room, smashing glass, dumping flower vases, and scattering boxes of beads and crafts and miscellaneous junk. Damien graciously shooed me out the door and dealt with the chaos, but I think that may have been what triggered my renovation frenzy. That and Thanksgiving, plus the ongoing seasonal outerwear changeover, and . . . I don’t know, everything. More covid testing. The threat of school going remote again. Fundraising. The footprints, yes footprints, on the ceiling. Somebody Do Something. These kinds of things work out so much better when you have an understanding husband who is willing to cook dinner while you decide the solution is to make everything yellow instead of blue on the same week that we’re also doing Chanukah and the Advent wreath and the Jesse tree.  

SUNDAY
Mexican beef bowls

Also made by Damien. He swears he just followed my recipe, but they were insanely delicious. Possibly it was “someone else made dinner” effect, but he’s a very good cook. It is a good recipe, too, a lovely, zippy marinade that makes the beef very tender.

Jump to Recipe

He marinated the meat in the morning, then roasted it in the evening and sliced it, then served it with its gravy over rice with a bunch of fixings: sautéed sweet peppers, chopped cilantro, shredded cheddar, corn, sour cream, and corn chips, and some wonderful black beans. Wonderful beans, I say! 

Gosh, I love this meal.

I cannot tell you how delicious that meat is. 

MONDAY
Harvest Salad with Turkey and acorn squash

I had, like the rest of the country, a lot of leftover turkey. So I cut it up and served it over salad greens, along with a bunch of other autumnal toppings: Sliced almonds, blue cheese, dried cranberries, and dried sugared dates. I also put out feta and sunflower seeds, and I meant to cut up some green apples and red onions, but I forgot. It was pretty good. 

I roasted up a couple of acorn squashes, correcting guessing that no more than four people would want their own squash half for dinner, despite how ravishingly beautiful they are.

I cut them in half, scooped out the seeds, plunked in a blob of butter and brown sugar, and roasted it at about 400 for about 45 minutes or longer. Could have used a schpronkle of sea salt. You can mash and scoop your own little tender squashy cup right on your plate. I could easily see putting a scoop of ice cream in there, and some pralines, and serving this as a dessert. I threw some almonds and dates in there, and it was very cozy. 

TUESDAY
Pulled pork on potato buns, coleslaw, tater tots

The pulled pork turned out fantastic, and, according to tradition, I didn’t write down how I made it. I think it was a can of Sierra Nevada beer, some leftover onion, some pepproncini and brine, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and . . . maybe that’s it? In the slow cooker all day. 

It was bright and spicy and delicious. I had mine with some bottled Baby Ray or Baby Somebody sauce, and more pepproncini, because it’s cold out. 

The coleslaw was actually a little bland, but the picture was pretty, so here you go:

I made it with mayo, cider vinegar, sugar, and pepper. Couldn’t find the celery seed.

WEDNESDAY
Quesadillas and chips

 Nothing to report, except that I splurged on silly fancy red and green tortilla chips. They honestly taste a little weird, and I probably won’t do that again. 

I also sprinkled cilantro all over my quesadilla, and then it turned out to be parsley. Why did we even have parsley in the house? It was fine, just not quite the olé experience my mouth was prepared for. I drowned my sorrows in sour cream. 

THURSDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs

I guess I didn’t even take a picture. These were honestly the world’s blandest meatballs. I had put all my creative powers into rearranging the pictures on the dining room wall, and formulating new and compelling reasons why the kids should put their backpacks on the backpack hooks which I have installed for them, or at very least, please please refrain from flinging spaghetti at the freshly-painted ceiling. After dinner I fell asleep and it was like sinking into a narrow grave. Just down, down, down, and it was so black and still. In a good way! In the best way. You know the nap grave. It is good.

FRIDAY
Shrimp ramen, I guess? 

I know there is shrimp in the freezer, and all I have to do is defrost it and peel it and sauté it, and cook up some ramen, and assemble a variety of vegetables and crunchy noodles and sauces and sprouts, and then boil some eggs for the top.

Maybe . . .  I will just make scrambled eggs.

I will close with a photo of Benny offering cookies to the family. Maybe she needs a nap, too. 

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

Must be nice!

I’m reprinting this old article today because, even with all the stress and anxiety that come with the pandemic, I’m enjoying myself. My kids are all home, spring is on its way, I don’t have to spend hours every day driving, we’re drawing and reading together daily, and the family is spending more time in prayer. I’m getting a chance to teach again, and we get to set the alarm a full two hours later than normal. A lot of things are pleasant for me right now. And I feel bad about it!

This morning went poorly. I was afraid I’d sleep through the alarm, so I kept waking up; but then when the alarm did go off, I went right back to sleep, and so we were running late.

The kids’ hair was unbrushed, I forgot to pay the aftercare check again, my stomach was being weird, and the world was just generally grim, gritty, and disappointing. The last thing I wanted to do was head to my therapy appointment after the school commute, but it was on the schedule, so I dragged myself in.

It turned out to be a really good, fruitful session, and I left smiling. I checked in at home, then took myself over to the adoration chapel and made a short visit; and that was lovely, too.

The radiators hissed, the kneelers creaked, and Jesus sat quietly and watched me watching Him. I thought, a few times, that I ought to be praying better and using my time more wisely, but then I wisely just sat quietly and watched Him.

Feeling better and better, I remembered that I had set aside some extra cash to replace my torn and stained winter jacket, so I headed over to my favorite thrift stores, where I scored not only a new jacket, but a stained glass window (well, glass with a giant sticker stuck to it) of the Madonna and Child, which is possibly on the tacky side, but it’s also guaranteed to thrill my seven-year-old to the core. AND, I got a sweater, and a shirt! And a pair of earrings! And, um, some silicone cupcake holders with feet! Which we definitely need!

The cashier gave me my receipt and wished me a good day, which I was ALREADY HAVING! I felt almost guilty as I swung my loaded shopping bags into the car and headed for home, where, to my amazement, one of my teenage kids was giving the toddler a bath and patiently unsnarling her curly hair, and another was moving forward with her plans to make enchiladas for supper. Better and better and better.

Even the mail was great: A check and a wonderful book I forgot I had ordered for the kids. I couldn’t wait to read it to them when they got home.

It wasn’t until I was halfway through my lunch, which was an absolutely heavenly dish of black beans, fresh lime juice, salt, and chili powder, that I felt a shadow of unease that didn’t flit away. “Well, well, look who’s having such a nice, nice day,” said a little voice. And so I began to chide myself for how much I was enjoying this randomly wonderful Thursday.

Who was I to be sitting there in a shaft of sunlight, eating one of my favorite meals, basking in the good will of my family, not producing anything, and just reaping the fruits of all this care and attention that are showered on me?

Why did I deserve to be so happy, when other, much more virtuous and deserving people in the world are cold and unloved and running headlong into one bit of bad luck after the other?

Must be nice!” the voice sneered.  “Must be nice to have such a great life, but what makes you think you deserve it? And how long do you think it’s going to last? Beans, wow. A used shirt, gosh. You really know how to live. And you know very well that as soon as the kids come home and the bickering and rushing begins, it will all fall apart, like it always does. But sure, have another forkful of happiness. Must be nice.”

I looked down at my plate. It was just beans. It was just a shirt. Just a jacket. Just a cheap sticker on a piece of glass from the thrift store. Just a . . .

Wait. I had heard that phrase before, “must be nice.” My friend Leticia Adams, who has had ten times her share of troubles in life, said this on social media the other day:

“Today a co-worker said it must be nice to be able to take a week off work for Christmas break and instead of doing the usual thing where I act like it sucked somehow or I apologize, instead I said “yep, it is nice.” And walked away. I don’t owe anyone an explanation or an apology for my life. Welcome to 2019!”

And there it is. It is nice. My life, as of that moment, was nice, lovely, happy, joyful, full. My happiness doesn’t detract from anyone else’s. The fact that it would pass didn’t make the moment any less real.

There’s not some finite bin of pleasure in the world, and there’s no reason to feel guilty for enjoying whatever measure of it comes our way for as long as it lasts. On the contrary, when I’m happy, I’m much more apt to be generous and patient; and one cheerful person can lift the mood of an entire household. And even if my happiness didn’t do anyone else any good: I matter, too! It’s a good thing to be happy. Why wouldn’t it be?

What an insidious thought it is — a true temptation to sin — to believe that we should tamp down, moderate, or even reject our enjoyment of gifts that come into our lives. That it’s somehow holier, more mature, more responsible to try and keep a lid on joy. It isn’t. Happiness comes from God, period.

Like any other good thing, happiness can be misused. We shouldn’t cling to transient enjoyments, and we shouldn’t give ourselves permission to act badly once they’ve passed us by (as they eventually will).

We shouldn’t let our good cheer blind us to the suffering and struggles of other people; and we absolutely shouldn’t smugly believe we’re feeling good because God loves us more than He loves people who are feeling bad. All of that is dangerous nonsense.

But when things are going well for us, that is a gift from God. When God gives you something good, it would be rude to talk yourself out of receiving it with happiness, and that’s the case whether it’s a plate of beans or a quiet 20 minutes with the Lord. It IS nice. So smile, thank Him, and enjoy.

This article was originally published at The Catholic Weekly in 2019. Reprinted with permission.