Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stocking the Pantry for Lent and a Link up

Lent is a mere three weeks away… have you started thinking about meatless meals yet?  Are you looking for some variety in your usual Lenten dinners?  Considering eating meatless more often than just Fridays?  We already eat meatless dinners about twice a week.  My daughters and I eat meatless breakfasts and lunches about as often as we eat meat at these meals.  Even so, I’m hoping to incorporate even more meatless meals into our schedule during Lent.

You can start planning for Lent now, by stocking your pantry.  Once you have what you need, you can prepare a meatless meal any night of the week; no need to wait for Lent.  And, a meatless meal gives you the opportunity to eat several vegetables in one sitting, including some raw ones.  Read about the benefits of eating raw plant foods here.  

There are plenty of reasons to go meatless besides the Lenten sacrifice.  Conventional animal meat production uses grain, land, and water that could feed many more people than the resulting meat.  Large animal raising operations also pollute the environment, as do the large grain production operations that provide their feed.  Many food animals are confined in small spaces for their entire lives and forced to eat inappropriate diets for their species.  Also, protein from animal foods takes more time, energy, and resources to digest than plant proteins.  So, a vegetarian dinner can give your conscience and your digestive system a slight rest.

With food prices constantly rising, even fresh foods are less expensive than meat, especially if you eat what is in season.  Focusing on meatless meals and taking advantage of sales on staples to stock up the pantry will also save you money.  My suggestions focus on using staples to make quick meals that also incorporate whole grains and fresh ingredients.  Read about why I cook this way, from scratch, here.

Obviously, you can’t stock too many raw vegetables in your pantry, especially this far ahead, but there are a few that will keep: potatoes and onions.  We use these two every week, so keeping them in the pantry gives us more space in the refrigerator for the fresh stuff.

Look for some of the basic meal builders for Lent (or any time) to go on sale in the next few weeks, and stock up:
  • canned tuna and salmon
  • whole wheat pasta and marinara sauce
  • whole wheat crackers
  • dried or canned beans
  • brown rice.
You probably already have favorite meals using these ingredients, but if you are looking for new twists, check back for posts about Not So Ordinary Bean Dinners, No-Mayo Tuna Pasta Salad, Salmon Burgers, and Rice Pilaf.  

Here are other ideas for simple meatless meals using the pantry items listed above.
  • You can make a quick three course pasta meal if you have access to fresh herbs. 
  • Pasta + marinara + cheese + bread + salad. 
  • Rice + beans + salsa + cheese + tortillas.
  • Tuna + crackers + cheese + fruit.
  • Baked potato + butter + vegetable + salsa.

If you want to try something new, consider buying:
  • vegetable broth in boxes
  • jarred olives
  • tahini (ground sesame seed paste in the International foods aisle)
  • old fashioned rolled oats
  • raw nuts and seeds.
You can make a quick soup with vegetable broth, steamed vegetables, and cooked beans, rice, or pasta.  Or, cook the vegetables or rice in the broth slowly to add more flavor.  Stir in your favorite seasonings and you have an easy soup to serve with cheese or cream on top and bread or crackers on the side.

What can you do with jarred olives?  Add them to a big salad, along with the nuts and seeds for a light, but filling meal.  Or, eat them with bread and cheese for another light meal or snack.  Use the tahini to make hummus or Sesame Noodles.  Oatmeal is not just for breakfast; try it for lunch or dinner, topped with fruit, raw nuts, and seeds.

Fresh fruit can be pricey this time of year, except for citrus, which is currently in season.  Look for frozen or fruit canned in juice (not syrup) to round out your meals and salads without hiking up your grocery bill.  Natural applesauce without added sugar is another good choice.

I’m planning to write more posts with Lenten recipes soon, so come back to the blog, or to this page to find the links (Not Your Ordinary Bean Dinners and Not Your Ordinary Seafood Dinners).  Earlier this month, I wrote about preparing basic meals from dried beans.  Happy eating!  If you have recipes you want to share, send them my way.  I’m always looking for new meals to try.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Second Chance Giveaway Winner

The winner of this drawing is my friend Heather!  Contact me to collect your autographed copy of Entre la claridad.  Thank you to all the giveaway participants.  If there is enough interest in another giveaway, I will host also host one in February.  

If you have already won or purchased a copy of Entre la claridad, please send me your thoughts, reactions, reviews.  Good or bad, I’m willing to read them.

I have changed the look of the blog a little: moved some things around, added a few gadgets, and posted some new affiliations at the very bottom.  I think the sidebars look a little more organized and cleaner, even if they are a bit crowded.  

I’ve added a blog roll, listing those that include Tercets on their blog rolls.  If you want to participate in a blog roll mutual exchange, let me know.  Or, if you already list Tercets, but I have not listed your blog, tell me so.

I have been making plans for future posts.  In the works are “Stocking the Pantry for Lent,” “Not Your Ordinary Bean Dinners,” and if I can find the supplies I need, a craft for St. Valentine’s Day.  If there is anything you want to read about here, let me know.

If you want to buy Entre la claridad, it is available for $7.00 from Mouthfeel Press.  Take a look at the other books from the press while you are there; you’ll see a selection of books by innovative and talented poets in English and Spanish.  

Also, my poem “Bat Bridge” is included in the new collection of poems about the sacred by Mutabilis Press, Improbable Worlds.  Reading an anthology is a good way to familiarize yourself with poetry.  If you live in Houston, you can hear a large group of poets published in the anthology read at Brazos Bookstore on Saturday, February 25, at 2 p.m.  See the current list of future readings on my Upcoming Events page (blue bar above).

Have you liked the Entre la claridad page on Facebook?  I post notices about writing, the giveaways, and literary events there also.  Maybe I’ll make a Facebook page for Tercets one of these days. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Round-up: What Women’s Studies Students are Thinking About

Today, I asked students in my two Introduction to Women’s Studies classes to tell me what areas of our society, in their opinion, could use change or improvement in order to promote equal opportunity and to change our society for the better.  You might be surprised by some of their answers.  During our next class, I will introduce the semester long Advocacy/Activism Project, an assignment that asks them to educate others about a women’s studies related topic; today’s discussion is a pre-cursor, a way to show them that they have a wealth of topics to choose from.

If you are interested in my thoughts as a Catholic about Women’s Studies, you can read about how I see some common goals between Feminism and Catholicism, or read my thoughts about Feminism and Respect Life Month (click on the titles to link over to those posts).

Here is a list of issues and topics my students mentioned today.  Each class also chose a topic for in-depth discussion of possible solutions.  I have listed those choices two first.

  • Time to be a good parent and the negative stereotypes about the men and women who choose to parent full time.
  • Gender roles and stereotypes about women and men in the workplace, especially regarding promotions, supervisors, and workers with families.
  • The difficulties merging reproductive work (pregnancy, lactation, child rearing) with paid work in our current business climate.
  • A culture that encourages both women and men to objectify their bodies and those of others in order to “get ahead,” make money, or for entertainment.
  • Educational opportunities for women and girls, especially in math and science, and basic education and beyond for women and girls in other parts of the world.
  • Access to medical treatment, especially for women, girls, and the poor.
  • Lack of respect for women candidates and leaders in business and government.

Several topics came up in both classes, and for the two we discussed in depth, they choose to combine some of the topics that were related to each other.  I think they did a good job of analyzing some of the major problems of our society, especially from a social justice perspective.  Keep in mind that I have not yet mentioned the phrase “social justice” or suggested that women’s studies work is similar to social justice work; they are determining that themselves.  

This particular class period is very motivational for the students, as they see how real concerns from their own lives are relevant to the course.  It is also motivating for me to see that students recognize serious problems in our society.  The next step is for them to educate others about these issues for their semester project.  Here is a round-up some of the projects my students created last semester.

One of the most innovative projects encouraged college students to object to the graphic portrayal of violence against women on television by turning the program off and writing letters of complaint to broadcasters.  This student created a website that educates about the issue, and includes a page to sign a pledge to turn off such programming.  She even created a flyer with a QRC code that links to her website when scanned by a smart phone.  Read the website here.

Another student created a Facebook page to encourage debate among rap music fans about whether the lyrics in certain rap music degrade women and to educate about rap music with positive lyrics.  See the page here.

One student created a video about societal attitudes toward “Supermoms,” encouraging viewers to show gratitude toward their mothers for all they do.  This video also addresses stereotypes and recognizes the roles filled by both working and non-working mothers.  Watch it here.

Another student chose to educate Hispanic women about their high risk for heart disease by writing information, statistics, and pointers in chalk on the walkways of a park in her neighborhood.  She also passed out flyers and talked to some of the women who were walking at the park.  See a slideshow of the project here.

Every semester, students create distinctive projects like these, and other students choose more common topics like domestic violence, human trafficking, and objectification in the media or advertising.  What I enjoy about this assignment is seeing how students develop the confidence to educate others about something they feel is important; this skill will enable them to successfully convince others to take action in the future on other issues they think are important, whatever those might be.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Healthier Glass of Juice

Last week’s announcement that orange juice imported from Brazil may contain a fungicide not approved for use in the U.S., and several recent reports about the type and quantity of arsenic in apple and grape juices have me asking: Is juice safe for my children to drink?

If you haven’t heard about this issue, you can read about Dr. Oz’s tests on apple juice here, and read an article about the Consumer Reports test results on apple and grape juice here.  While most interpretations of the test results suggest the levels of contamination are below the levels of concern, as a parent, I want to know what my children might be drinking.  This is particularly important to me, since I purchase 100% juices in order to avoid the additives in “juice drinks.”  Arsenic is a known carcinogen, and the lead found in some of the tested samples can affect brain development.  The fungicide found in orange juice, carbendazim, affects reproduction in animals.

Courtesy of Consumer Reports
How are these chemicals getting into our juice?  According to Consumer Reports, in the past, arsenic was used in agricultural pesticides and as a wood preservative for decks and playground structures.  It is also released into the air during smelting and coal burning.  Lead was also used as an agricultural pesticide.  Soils, air, and water remain contaminated from previous and current practices.

I have always been concerned about the amount of juice my children drink, mostly because of its high sugar content.   Yes, juice has nutrients like vitamin C and fiber, but the sugars from the fruit are concentrated, making it sweet enough for children (and adults) to drink a lot more of it than they should.  Aside from the concerns about ingesting lots of sugar, given a choice, most children would prefer to drink juice instead of water.

My children are no exception, even though I dilute the juice they drink with water.  Doing this ensures that they are drinking water in addition to juice and that they don’t grow accustomed to sweet tasting drinks.  While my children also drink undiluted juice when others serve it to them, they are in the habit of adding water to their juice themselves when we are at home.  They take their cups to the water dispenser and top them off.

If you want to try diluting juice for your children, start off with mostly juice and a little water, then increase the water content little by little.  Stronger tasting juices, like grape, are palatable with a lot more water than juice.  Thicker juices, like orange, are the other way around.

Another way I limit their juice consumption is by serving only water with lunch.  I don’t even ask them what they want to drink when serving lunch; they get a cup of water, and they will often refill it themselves.  My older daughter takes a water bottle to school in her lunch box, and can also choose bottled water from the cafeteria line when she buys her lunch.  While she doesn’t always drink the whole bottle, she is learning that water is the drink that goes with lunch.

If you can afford to buy organic juice, that may be the best way to avoid contamination, although fields may still retain pesticide residue from many years ago.  We don’t have that many organic juice options where we shop, so for now, we have stopped buying juice made from fruit or concentrate from China, where arsenic based pesticides are still used.  We have also learned to check the packaging, as the store brand that we usually buy is sometimes sourced in China and sometimes not.  The FDA has stopped shipments of orange juice from Brazil for now, but it is worth keeping track of what happens with the tests they are conducting.  I will try to update you with another post if there is more news about this topic.

Monday, January 16, 2012

January Giveaway Winner

The winner of this drawing is my friend, Jen V., who has been reading the blog since the beginning.  Thank you, Jen for reading the blog and for participating in the drawing!  You win an autographed copy of Entre la claridad.

The next drawing, later this month, will be a second chance drawing for those who did not win this or any of the previous drawings.  Here are the entrants who have not previously won a drawing.  

Vee           Xhonané   Lauran     Martha     Michelle    Erika        Mento       Moisés       Heather   Maria V.    Sylvia       Elena        Alicia W.   Yolanda

Each of you will receive one entry in the second chance drawing!  If you wanted to participate in a previous drawing, but don’t see your name, you may have forgotten to tell me that you wanted to participate after completing the entry task.  It is a second chance for you too, if you have recently started following or subscribing, have liked the Entre la claridad page on Facebook, or have promoted the book on social media.  Let me know that you want to enter!

If you want to buy Entre la claridad, it is available for $7.00 from Mouthfeel Press.  Take a look at the other books from the press while you are there; you’ll see a selection of books by innovative and talented poets. 

If you have already read Entre la claridad, send me a short review or some reactions; I would like to post a round-up of comments in the future.  

Also, my poem “Bat Bridge” is included in the new collection of poems about the sacred by Mutabilis Press, Improbable Worlds.  Reading an anthology is a good way to familiarize yourself with poetry.  You can read about and buy that book here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

First Communion Preparation at Home

Yes, that is a picture of my First Communion Veil; my mother saved both my veil and my dress all these years.  Recently, I showed them to my daughter, as part of our home preparation for her First Communion, which she will receive this weekend.  I washed the veil and dress and my daughter even tried them on.  I offered to let her wear them, but she preferred the excitement of shopping for a new dress and veil.  Now that it is time for her to receive the Eucharist, I will put mine away again for several years until my next daughter is studying to receive communion.

You are probably wondering: why is my daughter receiving her First Communion in January?  Our parish is blessed to have over two hundred children preparing to receive First Communion this year.  In order to make sure they each get proper instruction, experience a blessed retreat, and have a shorter wait during the reconciliation service, half of the students will receive First Communion in January and half at the more traditional time, in May.  Having two groups also allows plenty of time for parents to ask questions at the required meetings and parent sacramental sessions.

At home, we have been studying the Eucharist intentionally since the summer, when we made small lapbooks for the Feast of Corpus Christi, The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  We also started attending a children’s adoration hour once per month, in addition to attending weekly adoration during the summer.  You can read my post about making the lapbook and attending children’s hour here.

During adoration, I remind my children that Jesus is there with us in the chapel, inside the monstrance.  I take them to the altar to kneel and pray to him before we leave.

I have also been instructing my daughter during mass, explaining the parts of the mass to her, and asking her to watch while the priest consecrates the bread and wine.  Both of my daughters enjoy watching the priest and deacon hold up the large host and the chalice while the bells ring, signifying the transformation into Christ’s body and blood.

We bought the new Sunday Missal before the liturgical year began, so we could practice the changes to the prayers that went into effect this year, and so she could follow along during the mass.  As I child, I liked reading the prayers and songs in the missal, and my daughter enjoys this also.  This missal also has a picture illustrating the main message of the gospel for each mass, which helps her comprehend the gospel reading.  She has asked to take the missal with her during her First Communion mass, so I know it helps her pay attention (the children receiving First Communion will sit together in the front of the church).

All of these instructional moments have been in addition to the lessons she studies in her CCE class each week.  Just last week, I found a wonderful craft that teaches about Christ’s presence in the Eucharist designed by Jennifer at the blog Catholic Inspired (formerly Crafolic).  Here is how it turned out; note how in the first picture, you see the host, and in the second you see Jesus.

You can see more images and download the coloring page and the picture of Jesus from Catholic Inspired here.  We did add one thing to the craft; my daughter wrote “Jesús es en el eucharisto,” (a mistake that should say “la eucaristía”) which means “Jesus is in the Eucharist” inside the circle that covers the picture.

Jennifer has designed a number of wonderful crafts and art projects; you can see some of them in her picture gallery, which also includes our second image from above.

We have kept the Eucharist on our minds all week.  While eating grapefruit the day after doing the craft, my daughter said the fruit looked like the Eucharist from her picture, with the host in the center and the membranes like the rays of light shining out.

Maybe you had to be there.  We are also going to color pictures that show images of Jesus inside the Eucharist from the Eucharistic Youth Movement website: you can find their entire selection of coloring pages here.  I found pictures of Jesus inside the Eucharist in the sections labeled “Jesus” and “Eucharist.”  El sitio del Movimiento Eucarístico Juvenil en español está aquí.

We are looking forward to my daughter’s big day; we will celebrate with family after mass on Saturday.  Then, on Sunday, I will take her to mass again to see a friend receive First Communion.  The children receiving this sacrament are assigned to five different masses; I think the opportunity to receive First Communion on Saturday and then to receive communion again on Sunday is a wonderful way for my daughter to start her relationship with the Eucharist.

If you have ideas or suggestions for how to keep the Eucharist in our hearts and on our minds, let me know.  I plan to continue our home education about receiving communion, so I welcome your thoughts.

Reminder: I’m giving away a copy of my new book, Entre la claridad, this week.  See this post for details on how to enter the drawing.  FYI: If you are reading this post after January 2012, this giveaway has already happened. 

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