bookshelf with Catholic fiction titles

Gather Together: Recipes for Fellowship

The ultimate challenge in 2020 might be releasing a book about the blessings of gathering as friends … in the same week that several states restricted such gatherings to 10 or fewer — and some cities even prohibited getting together with anyone outside the household.

But we Catholics are people of hope. We know that these measures will not last forever, and we eagerly anticipate the day when we can gather outside our household or social bubble to enjoy food, fun, and fellowship.

In the meantime, there’s no point in wasting any of the wonderful recipes you’ll find in Catherine Fowler Sample’s new cookbook, Gather Together. I always recommend that you try a recipe on your family before serving it to guests — so now’s the time to taste-test these dishes, make note of any “to taste” seasoning adjustments you made, and bookmark the ones you’ll want to use when (finally!) you can invite friends over for a meal or afternoon tea.

In the Introduction, the author offers a few creative ideas for making connections with family and friends we can’t see in person:

You could make the recipes with loved ones over video chat, or plan an evening of reflection by phone based on the questions and prayer prompts. While distance makes forming community more challenging, the consistency of intentional connection can be a unique balm during uncertain times.

I firmly believe that the best kind of cookbook is one I can read like a novel or memoir. Gather Together is that kind of cookbook. Each chapter begins with a story from the author’s life, along with a spiritual reflection, a prayer for gathering, a few conversation prompts, and a soup-to-nuts themed menu for brunch, dinner, or afternoon tea. Each menu offers at least four dishes including dessert. 

Gather Together, which releases Friday, November 20, was written with both the cook’s and the guests’ needs in mind. Author Catherine Fowler Sample anticipated the possibility of substitution of certain ingredients containing dairy, as well as where in your grocery store you should look to find specialty ingredients. There are also prep-ahead tips, and along with ingredient lists for each recipe, there’s a list of kitchen equipment needed. That’s a feature I almost never find in cookbooks (and I have a big collection of cookbooks) — but whether you’re a beginner cook or very confident in the kitchen, having this list handy saves you time. When I taught my children to cook, I told them to always get everything in place (ingredients and equipment) before you start. Gather Together makes all of that easy.

If you think the cover is beautiful, wait until you see what’s on the inside of this book! Gather Together would make a wonderful engagement or wedding gift; it’s also perfect for a young person moving to his or her first apartment. But since it’s about building community as much as cooking, this cookbook is an excellent housewarming gift as well.

Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This article contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchases through these links benefit the author.
I received a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation, for this review. All opinions are my own.

Meal Planning in the Real World

Courtesy of All rights reserved.

What a surprise to wake up this morning and find that I got a mention on the latest episode of the Catholic Momcast! Thanks, Danielle and Allison!

If you’re visiting from there and are looking for the recipes, you’ll find them at my cooking website, CookAndCount.

My recipes are not “just for diabetics” but I include nutrition information with each one, so that families like mine who have someone with special nutritional needs can find out what they need to know before they cook. These are simply recipes that my family enjoys. I hope you find some new favorites among them.

Here’s a little info on how I do meal planning:

I divide a sheet of paper or page in my planner into 3 columns: type of recipe (easy, meatless, takes all day) / name of recipe (and source, if it’s not mine) / groceries needed.

Then I go through my recipes and sometimes take a peek into the recipes I’ve recently printed out from other websites (I have a whole crate of these, with folders … I may have a problem).

I ask family members if they have any requests.

Then I fill in the “name of recipe” column with the meals I want to make for the next week or two. (Sometimes I get really organized and go for a whole month, but it’s been a while.)

I categorize the recipes, so I know what I have to work from – that makes it easy to choose in the morning (or the night before) based on what the day is going to bring. If I have 3 meetings for work, I’m not going to be picking a labor-intensive “takes all day” recipe. That’s when I want to go for something quick and easy, which gets its own category on my recipe site!

Finally, I look at each recipe and take note of any ingredients I’ll need in order to make those. That becomes my shopping list.

Minus the description column, here’s my menu plan from earlier this year.

Thanks for visiting – let me know which recipes you plan to try!

Peace and all good,


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz

#WorthRevisit: Meatless Edition

During Lent, Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays as well as on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, when we also fast. Here’s how that works.

There’s more to Lenten meals, though, than fish sticks. No offense, Mrs. Paul, but you’re not our only option when it comes to feeding our family meatless meals.

Lenten Meals 2015

Your Lenten dinners don’t need to be extravagant, but there’s no reason that simple can’t also be delicious and healthy (well, as healthy as mac & cheese with crab can possibly be…)

Over at my cooking blog, Cook and Count, I’ve set up an easy link for you to access all the meatless recipes included there–and I’ve linked to the Meatless Friday recipes as well. I’ve been contributing meatless recipes to CatholicMom since 2013, when Lisa Hendey graciously let me run with the ball in the cooking department.

And for the Almsgiving part of Lent, don’t forget to put aside the money you’ve saved by serving a simple, meatless meal on Fridays and donate it to CRS Rice Bowl or other organization that serves the hungry.

Speaking of CRS Rice Bowl, you’ll find me and 4 other CatholicMom bloggers in the CRS Rice Bowl Recipe section this year, sharing our experiences of cooking their recipes with our families.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Small Success: Get Cooking!

Small Success dark blue outline 800x800Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

Here’s what’s been going on around here last week:

  • I survived that meeting I was all nervous about on Saturday. Turns out there wasn’t anything to worry about, but worrying is what I do best. The only glitch we encountered was courtesy of the fluorescent light in the meeting room that decided to flicker, then died a slow and smelly death. That put an end to the meeting very quickly and led me to call the parish business manager at home so she could get a maintenance worker to check it out (turns out, it was a ballast in the fixture and when those things go bad, they fill the room with stinky smoke). So we didn’t burn down the building.
  • My chicken chili was a hit (that was lunch at the meeting), and I got the recipe up at my poor, neglected cooking blogchicken chili blanco (3) c T
  • I also put up some new photos for the 2 things I baked this week: sesame tahini cookies (which I turned into a slice-and-bake recipe) and apple coffee cake. I’ve been working hard on getting better-quality photos for the blog and on labeling those photos with titles and my foodie Twitter handle.

slice and bake sesame tahini cookies (1) CT

apple coffee cake (12) c t

  • And I listened to some podcasts while cooking and cleaning. That’s the kind of multitasking I can get behind.

Share your Small Successes at by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

What’s for Supper? August 23-29, 2015


I’m a huge fan of meal-planning linkups, so I was all aboard when Simcha Fisher announced she’d be hosting a “What’s for Supper?” linkup each week. The best part about this linkup is that you don’t do your week-ahead meal plan, but actually your week-before plan. So you get the real thing here. Or as much of the real thing as we remember.

steak fajitas from leftovers (2)c for cook and count

SUNDAY 23: Steak fajitas and macaroni salad

piccata bites c

MONDAY 24: Chicken piccata bites, steamed spinach, rice

big batch savvy spaghetti and meatballs RHTUESDAY 25: Spaghetti. I made a big batch on Tuesday, so now I have enough in the freezer for 10 more dinners (the containers keep getting smaller as the number of people eating dinner in this house shrinks. We’re down to 3 now…)

BYO Strawberry shortcakeWEDNESDAY 26: Happy Birthday to TheDad! Big Brother came home for dinner and grilled New York strip steaks (seasoned just with salt and garlic pepper). I baked sweet potatoes and made corn on the cob. For dessert, we had “build your own strawberry shortcake” with pound cake, fresh whipped cream and sliced strawberries (and mini chocolate chips).

Hawaiian Chicken c titleTHURSDAY 27: Hawaiian chicken over rice with broccoli/cauliflower vegetable blend.

FRIDAY 28: We visited my parents. They made grilled salmon with honey mustard, corn on the cob, broccoli & cauliflower, raw carrots and celery and Caesar salad.

barbecued chicken c title

SATURDAY 29: Barbecued chicken, salad, and Trinity Rice (to use up the leftover rice from earlier in the week).

trinity rice with almonds c square

Hop on over to Simcha’s linkup and get some great ideas for your family dinners!

Cookbook Review: Around the Table with the Catholic Foodie: Middle Eastern Cuisine

When I met him at the Catholic Writers Guild Conference earlier this summer, cookbook author, podcaster and contributor Jeff Young told me that he purposely creates his recipes to feed large groups of people–that way, you’ll want to share.

Around-the-Table-with-The-Catholic-FoodieYou’ll definitely want to share the meals you make from the recipes in his cookbook, Around the Table with the Catholic Foodie: Middle Eastern Cuisine.

Don’t be intimidated by the idea of “Middle Eastern Cuisine.” Most of the ingredients in Jeff’s recipes are easy to find. One spice that might be more difficult to get locally is sumac, but you can get that online. I was fortunate to find it in a local Turkish market.

When you make Jeff’s recipes, you’ll be using real foods: fresh ingredients and no chemical substitutes. It’s a healthier way to eat, and I guarantee you that it’s more delicious too. I’ve followed Jeff’s blog for years; I think I found it when I was looking for a jambalaya recipe, but you’ll find much more than Louisiana cooking at his site. Soups, breads, pizza–it’s all there.

Jeff’s directions are clear, and he includes plenty of tips on working with certain ingredients and mixing your own spice blends. But one of my favorite things about this cookbook is the story that goes with each recipe. Stories are part of the fun around the dinner table, and they’re part of the fun of this cookbook as well. Many of these Middle-Eastern recipes originated in the Holy Land, and the first two chapters of the book are all about the family table, food in the Bible and “where food meets faith.” Don’t skip these just to get to the recipes!

sesame tahini cookies (4) FII’ve made several recipes from this cookbook so far:

  • Oven-Baked Salmon (3-ingredient easy and completely delicious)
  • Sesame Tahini Paste Cookies (pictured above)
  • Fish with Pistachios and Dill
  • Crispy Roasted Potatoes
  • Parsley Potatoes
  • Carrots with Cumin
  • Rice Pilaf
  • Lamb-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
  • Israeli Chopped Salad

Some of these recipes have made it into the regular rotation around here. All of them have been excellent, and I have a few more recipes in my meal plan for the coming weeks. (I even planted a grape vine this spring so I could get grape leaves to make one of the recipes, but I don’t have quite enough leaves to do this yet.)

Finally, I’ve given two copies of this cookbook as gifts to people I love who love cooking and trying new flavors. I’m not done trying recipes from this book and I’m also not done purchasing it as a gift.

Note: Your purchase of this cookbook through my Amazon affiliate link helps feed my cookbook habit. Thank you!

Top 10 Tuesday: Measuring Up

Top 10 TUESDAY measuring stuffIt’s #Top10Tuesday, and I’d like to share the top 10 pieces of kitchen equipment that get me through life with a diabetic child.

May I present my measuring devices:

measuring devices (1)cWhy yes, I *do* have 3 sets of measuring cups, plus one slider measuring cup, and a whole big bunch of Pyrex.

No, I’m not a professional baker. But I do like to cook and bake, and I’m always looking for the equipment that works best for me.

In the kitchen, I measure. A lot. That’s how I find out how many carbs are in the things I feed my family. Not because I think carbs are evil, but because my son needs to count them up with each meal, then take enough insulin to compensate.

So my little measuring-device problem has turned into an asset around here. Here are the ones I like the best!

For dry ingredients:

I have two sets of regular dry measuring cups. One set is mine to use for baking. The other one, with cups in different colors, stays out on the table and is used daily to measure portions at meals.

collapsible measuring cupsA set of collapsible measuring cups is great when you’re serving something like ice cream; you just turn the cup over and push the bottom to dump the ice cream into the dish. Sometimes, though, my son will just eat straight out of the measuring cup instead of grabbing another dish. He’s been known to have a couple of measuring cups sitting on his dinner plate, one filled with broccoli, another with rice. Whatever works…

Measuring spoons are another item you can’t have enough of. We have 3 sets. I love the look and feel of my metal measuring spoons, but I usually grab the plastic ones that aren’t all attached; this way I only have to wash the ones I use.

For liquids:

Emsa perfect beakerThe Emsa Perfect Beaker is fun to use. It makes you feel like a scientist in the kitchen. It’s great when you are mixing several liquids with several different types of measures (say, 1/4 cup of this and 1/3 cup of that) because you can just use this one cup, adding each one in–it’s easy to see how much of everything you have. Turn the cup around to see the different types of measures. UNfortunately, it’s plastic, so don’t use it for hot stuff.

Pyrex cupsPyrex measuring cups. I have 3 of them, in 1, 2, and 4-cup sizes. These are my workhorses, and they’re dishwasher-friendly. Barely a day goes by that I don’t use at least one of these. Since they’re glass, you can measure hot liquids in Pyrex cups, as well as melting butter in the microwave.

oxo mini beakersFor even more scientific-measuring fun, I like these Oxo Mini Beakers. It’s much easier to measure a teaspoon of liquid, such as vanilla extract, into a beaker rather than a measuring spoon.  And when kids are helping to cook or bake, these are just a lot of fun to use. I also get mileage of these when I’m setting up a mise-en-place.

pampered chef batter bowlNow let’s go to the other extreme: my 8-cup Big Batter Bowl. I got this from Pampered Chef. It’s a great bowl, comes with a lid, and is nice and heavy. It’s great for measuring or just for mixing. I’ve been known to pour an entire pot of soup, stew or sauce into this bowl to see exactly how much I get–then subtract the amount from a single serving and figure out how many servings will be in the whole batch.

Weights and Measures:

eatsmart digital scaleI use this Eat Smart Precision Pro food scale multiple times a day. It’s small enough (about the size of a paperback book) that we can even pack it in a small padded envelope and take it with us if we’re going somewhere. It is very simple to place a dish on this scale, automatically subtract the weight of the dish, then weigh the food. From the chips that go in the Kid’s lunchbox to the bowl of cantaloupe he’s having for snack, we can measure anything with this.

taylor digital scaleA little trickier to use, but still handy, is the Taylor Digital Measuring Cup and Scale. You can’t get the whole thing wet or it will kill the digital scale, so it’s hard to wash. Don’t delegate that job to the kids!

For the Sticky Stuff:

wonder cup metricI have 3 sizes of Wonder Cup measuring cups. When I need to measure solid or sticky ingredients like peanut butter, vegetable shortening, honey or molasses, these are my go-to cups! If you’re only going to get one, I recommend the 2-cup size.

Note: Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something through one of my links, it doesn’t cost YOU any extra, and it gives ME a little something I can put toward my next purchase of measuring devices.

Menu Monday 8

menu MondayLinking up with Mary Ellen Barrett’s weekly feature!

A few changeups of note from last week:

On Monday I took the night off and got Chick-Fil-A for myself and the Kid. Hubs called just before I started cooking to say he’d be so late that he and his team at work had ordered pizza.

Friday, Big Brother was supposed to come home for dinner and we were supposed to have fish. But his car (Hubs’ old 2002 Hyundai, with over 170,000 miles on it) broke down JUST before he got onto a terrifyingly busy Philadelphia highway during the afternoon rush (thank you, Guardian Angel!) I had to feed the Kid at a reasonable hour, so while Hubs rescued Big Brother, I revamped that fish plan. I needed some comfort food, plain and simple, and something that I could keep warm until the guys were home. So I cut up half a pound of swai fillets and mixed it into Barbara Mahany’s mac n cheese recipe and served that with a salad. Big Brother suggests that next time I season it with Old Bay. It was GOOD STUFF.

Grace Before MealsSaturday, BOTH the Big Kids were home for dinner, and I was a happy mom, even though the Notre Dame football game didn’t go the way I wanted it. We had steak fajitas based on Father Leo Patalinghug’s recipe. I guess I’ve changed it up enough that I can write up how I do them. I highly recommend this cookbook!

I’m not assigning days to this week’s meals. Here’s what we’re having. I have all the ingredients for all of these meals, and I’m going to pick and choose as the mood strikes.

Here’s what’s in the plan:

Miss Jill Chicken, French fries, vegetable. The Kid would eat this 5 times a week if I’d let him!

Asian wraps 1Asian turkey wraps, fried rice

Sarah Reinhard’s beef & noodles, carrots. This one needs a write-up too!

Chicken tacos, fiesta potatoes, salad

Spaghetti and meatballs, salad

Not-So-Spicy Peanut Pork, rice. I’m subbing in strips of boneless pork chops for the chicken in this recipe.

Friday is a night off: the Kid has a dinner for the youth theater company he belongs to. I have a rehearsal. Hubs will be on his own.

Menu Monday 7

menu Monday

It’s time for Menu Monday, hosted at Mary Ellen Barrett‘s corner of the Internet.

I’m still substitute-teaching, and with the “fall back” to Standard Time (can’t we just pick one and stick with it?) I’m setting up an easy plan for the next few days.

chicken pepper paprikaSUNDAY:  Chicken and Pepper Paprika over noodles. I’ll be writing this one up. Here’s a teaser photo.

MONDAY:  Chicken with Lemon and Garlic, rice, roasted asparagus.

TUESDAY:  Pork Carnitas Tacos and salad.

WEDNESDAY:  Chicken Caesar Sandwiches in the slow cooker. Our over-the-stove microwave is being replaced, since its mysterious demise when Little Brother was using it as a timer 2 weeks ago. I can put the slow cooker someplace else in the kitchen, to give the late-afternoon installation guy room to get the job done.

THURSDAY:  Spaghetti and meatballs.

FRIDAY:  Seafood Surprise. Translation:  I have 1 or 2 servings each of various fish fillets like tilapia, swai, cod and whiting. 3 of us need to eat. The surprise is what type of fish each person will get. I have a Meatless Friday fish recipe coming up at this week, so I might use that one for whatever fish I wind up cooking. That recipe will go live Friday morning at 8 or 9 AM (I’m not sure. The time change is messing up my sense of the schedule, especially since the site is based on Pacific time to start with.)

SATURDAY:  Leftovers, now that I’ll have a working microwave to warm them.