Sunday, December 27, 2009



from etail), 18th century; Neapolitan
Th From the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Eighteenth century Neapolitan creche donated in 1964 by Loretta Hines Howard. froMuseof Art, New York
eee Neapolitan
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
of Loretta Hines Howard, 1964

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Our Lady of Guadalupe by Fr.Jose Luis Guerrero

There are many good books available on Our Lady of Guadalupe for both children and adults. Fr. Lovasik, Tomie de Paolo, Ernestine Nobisso are a few of the many children's authors who have written books that retell the story of the Blessed Virgin's appearance to a Mexican Indian, Juan Diego, in 1531. Dr. Warren Carroll, Carl Anderson, and Francis Mary are among authors who have given in depth accounts for adults on the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego.

Our Lady Of Guadalupe by Fr. Jose Luis Guerrero is a booklet based on the "El Nican Mopohua" written in Nahuatl in 1556 by Antonio Valeriano, a native writer. The "El Nican Mopohua" was the first written account to give information on Juan Diego and the apparitions. Fr. Guerrero who is a priest at the Basilica of Guadalupe has degrees in both Theology and Canon Law. He draws on this Nahuatlan account with its descriptions of signs and symbols important to the Indian culture to show how God communicated to the Indians by infusing the Blessed Mother's appearances with symbols of great meaning to them. The author explains in this small booklet the significance of various symbols and associations and what they meant to the Indians. He shows how God by using their symbols in speaking to them enabled countless Indians to embrace the Catholic faith through the appearances of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The booklet is put out by Liguori and may be found at Catholic shops or on line at  To celebrate this great appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the conversion of so many of the Indians in Mexico, a recipe for Sopaipillas is given.


(Fried Bread Puffs) Level: Moderate – Adult Supervision
These dough puffs popular in Mexico are often found in a variety of geometric shapes. You can cut them out in the shape of stars to represent the stars on Our Lady of Guadalupe’s mantle, or use your imagination to form other shapes.
PREP: 15 minutes CHILL: 30 minutes FRY: 20 minutes
2 tablespoons lard or shortening /pastry cutter
2 cups all-purpose flour /medium-sized bowl
2 teaspoons baking powder/measuring spoons
1 teaspoon salt /fork
2/3 cup lukewarm water /candy/frying thermometer
Vegetable oil for frying/ large frying pan
Cinnamon and sugar, confectionary sugar, /rolling pin
Or honey /floured surface
Caramel Syrup Recipe /roll of paper towels
3 cups of water /paper bag/serving plate
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar /saucepan
¼ teaspoon anise seeds
1. Add flour, baking powder and salt into one medium-size bowl.
2. Cut shortening into flour mixture completely
with a pastry cutter.
3. Sprinkle in water, 1 tbsp. at a time, tossing with fork
until all flour is moist and dough almost
cleans sides of bowl. Gather dough into a ball.
Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.
4. Place frying pan on burner. Set heat on medium high.
Fill oil to about 1 ½ inches.
Heat to 400 degrees. Check with thermometer frequently.
5. While oil is heating, roll dough on
lightly floured surface into rectangles, 12 X 10 inches.
Cut into rectangles, 3 X 2 inches.
Fry 3 or 4 rectangles at a time until puffed and golden.
Turning once, about 2 minutes on each side.
Or roll dough into circles and
cut stars out by hand with cookie cutters. Repeat. Fry.
6. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar,
toss in a paper bag with confections’ sugar,
or drizzle with caramel syrup.
Carmel Syrup – Put all ingredients in saucepan.
Turn heat to medium.
stir until sugar has melted. Bring to boil quickly.
Let boil for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and cool. Drizzle over puffs.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mexican Treat - St. Juan Diego, Dec. 9

St. Juan Diego is a recent addition to the universal calendar of Advent saints. He was beatified on May 6, 1990 and canonized in July of 2002. Born in 1474 in what is now part of Mexico City, he came from the Chichimeca people. Poor in material goods, he was a gentle and virtuous man.
When Juan Diego was fifty years old he became a Catholic. He was instructed in the faith by Spanish missionaries. In 1531 seven years later, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him several times requesting a chapel be built in Mexico City to introduce her Son to the Indians of Mexico. Juan Diego's mission was to take this request to Bishop Zumarraga and persuade him to build the chapel. Twice Juan Diego approached the bishop with the request and was put off. The third time the mother of Our Lord gave Juan Diego a sign that the bishop had required to indicate the request was authentic and not a figment of Juan Diego's imagination. Beautiful roses from the hills of Tepeyac were to be given to the Bishop. Placed in his tilma (poncho) with great care Juan Diego brought them to Bishop Zumarraga. When he opened his tilma the roses spilled out. The bishop was amazed at roses in the month of December, but he was even more amazed at the picture of the Blessed Mother appearing on Juan Diego's tilma. These two signs along with a third one, the healing of Juan Diego's dying uncle, convinced the bishop that the Mother of God had indeed appeared to Juan Diego.
In the weeks following the miracles, the chapel was built and completed. The Indians of Mexico came to view the miraculous image of Mary hanging on the tilma in the chapel. A great number were converted to the Catholic faith. Juan Diego was granted permission by the bishop to become the caretaker of the chapel and the tilma with the miraculous image. He continued in this capacity until his death in 1548. Today the miraculous image hangs in the cathedral in Mexico City for all to see. Juan Diego through his responsiveness and perseverance to the Blessed Mother's request helped bring Jesus and the Catholic faith to the Mexican people.
If you are looking for a book, St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe by Josephine Nobisso or The Lady of Guadalupe by Tomie dePaola retell the story for young readers.

Here is a treat from Mexico to celebrate Juan Diego's feast day. To busy to bake? Buy some
churros or bunuelos to celebrate the feast! A cup of Mexican hot chocolate would be tasty, too!

4 cups of milk
1 Abuelita Tablet (can be found in Hispanic Food section of store)
sugar to taste

Warm milk and add Abuelita tablet. Let tablet dissolve.Transfer to blender and blend thoroughly. Pour into cups.



Friday, December 4, 2009

Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8

Cookies for Mary! Aren't they just beautiful? Wouldn't you say they are fit for a Queen?

The feast of the Immaculate Conception occurs in the first half of Advent. On this day we honor Mary, Jesus' mother, for being conceived without Original Sin. We say Mary was immaculately conceived. What does that mean? It means from the beginning of her life, Mary had not the slightest trace of sin in her soul. Her soul was full of grace. She didn't have to wait to be baptized like the rest of us in order to receive God's life within her. The Immaculate Conception was a special gift to Mary because God had chosen her to be the mother of his Son. From the beginning Mary had a heart full of love - love for God and love for each one of us. What better way to honor Mary and celebrate her special day than by making heart shape cookies and decorating them? Sharing a few with others will capture the true spirit of this great Mother!

Here is an excellent sugar cookie recipe taken from Tasha Tudor's wonderful Christmas book, Take Joy! This recipe makes about 5 dozen cookies. You can make a dozen or two and freeze the remaining dough for later. If you are pressed for time you can buy sugar cookie dough or any one of your favorite varieties. The dough is rolled out and then cut with heart-shaped cookie cutters. After baking you can decorate to your heart's content.


PREP: 20 minutes CHILL: 1 hour or more BAKE: 8 - 10 min.
4 sticks of real unsalted butter 1 large mixing bowl
2 eggs measuring spoons
5 cups all-purpose flour measuring cups
2 cups of sugar 1 small bowl
A pinch of salt rolling pin
1 tablespoon vanilla heart-shaped cookie cutters
1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in clean rolling surface
3 tablespoons of milk
Frosting or icing
Decorations: colored sprinkles, colored sugars, candies, candy flowers, candy ribbons, etc.
*May use ready-made dough instead.

DIRECTIONS YIELD: 5 – 6 dozen cookies
1 Soften butter to room temperature. (Microwave on 5 seconds. Check to see if butter is softened. Repeat until just softened.)
2 Dissolve 1 teaspoon baking soda in 3 tablespoons milk.
3 Mix butter, eggs, flour, sugar, salt, vanilla, dissolved soda and milk in a large bowl with hands until the dough is smooth. The dough does not seem to be adversely effected by handling. Form dough into a ball, dust with flour and chill thoroughly before using.
4 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
5 Break c hilled dough into convenient sized pieces. Take only the amount you want to bake for today. Add a bit more flour for ease in rolling out.
6  dust the surface with flour. Place dough the size of an adult fist on surface. Roll out as thin as possible. Cut out with heart-shaped cookie cutters. Dust with colored sugar if desired. Blue would be pretty. You may way to make one or two very large cookies, also. Heart-shaped cookie cutters come in all sizes!
7  Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees until light brown about 12 minutes.
8 Cool on a rack.
9 Decorate with frosting, pipe icing around the edges or drizzle chocolate, add sprinkles, and any tasty decorations that you like. Candied roses would be a nice touch.

Monday, November 30, 2009

More St Nicholas Treats!

Align LeftThis week and next many homes, parishes, and schools will have St. Nicholas parties and a visit from St. Nicholas to the children. Treats will be left secretly in empty shoes placed outside classrooms, on back decks, or in an out of the way hall.
 The children will pad around in stocking feet playing games, making homemade bishops' mitres, and decorating cookies. Collections will be taken for those less fortunate. At the end of the party, peals of delight will be heard when their shoes are discovered full of goodies and a holy card of St. Nicholas.
As you plan your party here are two more recipes, one very traditional and one contemporary to add to your collection. I have included a traditional prayer to St. Nicholas also at the end of this post.

(Spicy Cookie Balls)
Here is a tasty, traditional treat children in the Netherlands look for from St. Nicholas on his feast!
PREP: 20 minutes BAKE: 15 – 20 minutes
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground anise seed
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon diced candied orange rind
medium-size mixing bowl
large spoon
measuring cups
measuring spoons
cookie sheets (2)
airtight container

DIRECTIONS: 350 degree oven YIELD: 60 small cookies
1 Sift flour with baking powder and spices. Add remaining ingredients and combine until mixture forms a dough.
2 With floured hands, form the dough into about 60 ½ inch balls and place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes, until they are light brown. Cool. Enjoy.
3 Store in an airtight container.

This recipe can be prepared in the home or in a school or CCD class that has access to a kitchen. It can be baked in a few short minutes. Be creative and try different kinds of refrigerated cookie dough and candy bars. It is sure to be a great hit!
PREP: 5 – 10 minutes BAKE: 10 – 12 minutes
1 roll of refrigerated cookie dough
Oatmeal slice and bake or other varieties
(May use dough in tubs also)
2 chocolate-covered caramel-nougat
candy bars
2 cookie sheets
fork or cookie edger
wire rack
1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2 Slice refrigerated cookie dough into ¼ -inch thick slices or use dough from tub and approximate the same size.
3 Cut each candy bar into 10 equal slices.
4 Place half the cookie slices 2 inches apart on 2 ungreased cookie sheets.
5Put a slice of candy on each. Top with remaining cookie slices.
6 Press edges together with tines of fork or cookie edger, carefully sealing all edges of the cookies.
7 Bake 10 – to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
8 Cool slightly on cookie sheets until firm. Remove to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 20 treats.

Prayer to St. Nicholas
Heavenly Father, as Christmas draws near we commemorate the feast day of your beloved Bishop
and Saint, Nicholas. We love and honor his memory because of his tender concern for children and the
poor. We thank you for the merriment that his feast has brought down all the centuries. We ask you from
the bottom of our hearts to help us to remember, on this his feast day, that we should try to retain the
innocence of childhood and a sincere faith in you all our lives. Show us, too, how to share the good
things that we have with others, and to imitate St. Nicholas in generosity and goodwill. We ask him to
pray, for us from his place in Heaven.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

St. Nicholas Cookies - Speculaas

St. Nicholas feast day is on December 6. The recipe I am going to give you
can be used to make molded cookies. Here are some examples of St. Nicholas boards. The board on the left is sold at Hobi Picture Cookie Molds, Belleville, Illinois. The web address is

You certainly don't have to own a board to make Speculaas cookies, but it is fun and very authentic if you do! The St. Nicholas Center that I mentioned in my last post sells mitre cookie cutters very reasonably,
A mitre is the head piece that a bishop wears. I have with much enjoyment watched many children decorate and then eat mitre cookies on the feast of St. Nicholas that were cut out from Speculaas dough, baked and iced.* If you don't have time to order a mitre cookie cutter, you may make your own! Cut out your own mitre shape after the dough is rolled out, either making a pattern on a piece of paper and then tracing the outline on the dough or freehand if you are adept at drawing. I have included an address to a page that has a picture of a bright, red cardboard mitre. You may find it helpful if you decide to make your own pattern for a mitre cookie, The average size of a mitre cookie is 3 1/2" high by 2 1/2" wide. You may want to enlarge them a bit. I do encourage you to explore the St. Nicholas Center site because they offer a variety of St. Nicholas cookie cutters in their shop. After you make and bake some of these delicious spice cookies, be sure to share some with others - just like St. Nicholas!  See adaptation below for a quick fix.*

Speculaas Cookie Recipe
found in 
A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz  

PREP:25 minutes 
CHILL:3 hours or freeze 20 minutes 
BAKE:10 – 12 minutes

DECORATE:10 – 15 minutes 
YIELD: 3 dozen cookies

2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
grated rind of one lemon
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Optional Icing (see below)
electric mixer
large spoon or rubber spatula
wax paper or plastic wrap
cookie cutters, cookie molds, or wooden board of St. Nicholas
large cookie sheets
wire racks
clean paint brushes for decorating

DIRECTIONS: YIELD: 3 dozen cookies
1 In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Stir in the eggs one at a time, blending thoroughly after each addition. Stir in the lemon rind.
2 Sift the spices and salt with the flour and baking powder, and stir gradually into the butter mixture. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill for several hours or overnight. (If you are in a hurry, start the chilling proves in the freezer: leave the dough in the freezer for about 20 minutes.)
3 On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch. If you are going to make large figures – over about 6 inches – you might roll out the dough a little thicker, to about ¼ inch: the figures will be less fragile. Cut out with cookies cutters, or with a sharp knife. This dough can also be used with your St. Nicholas mold or board. Follow the directions you received with your mold or board to form and bake. Hint: chill the board and you will find the dough comes out more readily!
4 Place the cookies on a lightly buttered baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, or until set and lightly browned. Large or thick cookies will take somewhat longer and yield less than the 3 dozen listed. If you like your cookies soft, remove them from the oven when they are just set – the longer the baking time, the firmer the cookies. Move from baking sheets to wire racks and let cool. Decorate. An icing recipe is given below.
In small containers, place about 1/3 cup of powdered sugar in each one. Add a little bit of water and a drop or two of lemon juice or use egg white. Stir. Add a small amount of food coloring and stir until the consistency is fluid enough to paint with, but will not run all over the cookie. Apply with small paint brushes or a decorating tube. You can really let your creative imagination takeover and decorate these as fancy or as simply as you and your children like. (You can also use ready made frosting and add food coloring.)
*Adaptation: Use a refrigerated gingerbread or spice cookie dough as a substitute for making the cookies from scratch. You can cut them out and decorate them just like the ones from the recipe. Follow the directions for baking on the container or package.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra - December 6

The Feast of St. Nicholas is one of great fun and inspiration because St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children and was known for his generosity to the needy. His feast is situated at the beginning of the Advent Season as we prepare to celebrate the great feast of the birth of Jesus on December 25th. What better saint than the patron of children and lover of the poor to help us to prepare for Jesus' birthday?
St. Nicholas was born in 280 A.D. in southwestern Turkey. Very little is known about him as he left no writings. However many legends exist and numerous churches, hospitals, monasteries, and chapels were dedicated in honor of him throughout Christendom. It is held that he was born of wealthy parents who died when he was about sixteen, leaving him with their fortune. He was inspired to give his wealth away to those in need. There are many stories about St. Nicholas helping others with money e.g., three young girls without dowries, also miraculous interventions, e.g., saving sailors from drowning, and even physical healings, e.g., restoring three school boys from death.
Nicholas became a priest and later a bishop of Myra. His reputation for love and concern for others spread far and wide. Italian sailors stopped in the port city where St. Nicholas was bishop. They came to know and love him and carried stories of his goodness and holiness back to Italy and Western Europe. St. Nicholas died on December 6 about 343 A.D. and was buried in Myra. Pilgrims visited his burial site and told of a wonderful fragrance that was given off. Many miracles were attributed to prayers directed to the intercession of St Nicholas. Love of St. Nicholas multiplied after his death throughout the Mediterranean. On May 9, 1087, his relics were taken to Bari, Italy by Italian sailors for fear that the Moslem inhabitants would desecrate them. To this day they remain in the cathedral in Bari.

Love of St. Nicholas grew in Italy, Germany, Holland, France, Russia, Ireland and England after the translation of his relics. Parties to celebrate his feast were given. Children put out their shoes in the hopes of receiving small treats, collections were taken up for the poor by young boys dressed as Bishop Nicholas, and all sorts of goodies were baked and eaten! Between the 12th and 15th centuries, St. Nicholas was the most popular religious figure painted after Jesus and the Blessed Mother. He was known and loved as the first gift bringer to children.
In the sixteenth century most of the lovely celebrations and parties came to an end with the Protestant Reformation. Celebrations of saints' feasts were suppressed in the public square. Only Holland managed to retain the celebration of St. Nicholas' feast day, but even there he is honored only as a folk figure not reverenced as a holy bishop. The tradition of honoring St. Nicholas always remained strong in the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Greek Orthodox Church. They were not affected by the influence of the Protestant Reformation. Today we see a return in honoring and celebrating St. Nicholas feast day in Roman Catholic households in the United States.
In future posts I will share ways to celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas - recipes for cookies, ideas for parties, prayers, and more. There is an excellent web site:  that is the premier site for promoting love and devotion to St. Nicholas. Check it out, you won't be disappointed.