Honoring Our Lady with Star of the Sea Appetizers

"As sailors are guided by a star to the port, so Christians are guided to heaven by Mary."
--St. Thomas Aquinas

As mentioned before, Our Lady is known by many star titles - - Star of the Sea (Stella Maris) and Morning Star (Stella Matutina) being the most prominent. The star as a symbol of Mary is rich in meaning. Johnette Benkovic, on her Women of Grace blog mentions how the star is used to symbolize several characteristics of Mary: “her privileges, in particular her mission as Mother of the Redeemer or her holiness; her anticipatory role (forerunner, announcer) with regard to Christ; and her role as luminous and enlightening.”

The star image could be tied to any Marian feast day, but there is a very strong connection to the Assumption and the Star of the Sea title. In many places traditions associated with the sea are part of this celebration - like the blessing of fleets, blessing of the bounty of the sea, and wedding of the sea ceremony.

These appetizers combine the star shape and the products of the sea to recall Mary under this title – Our Lady, Star of the Sea.  I used Valley Lahvosh Baking Co. star shaped crackers though there are other star shaped crackers that could be used. 

I spread a smear of softened cream cheese in middle and added a lemony shrimp scampi on top. The lemon is a symbol of fidelity in love so is often associated with the Virgin Mary in Christian art.  This is the recipe I used for the Lemony Shrimp Scampi (from Pampered Chef) though I used medium shrimp and halved the other ingredients.

Another simple and last minute option would be to just pick up a prepared seafood spread or dip (like crab) and use that with the star shaped crackers.  

O God, you have willed that Mary should shine forth as the Star of the Sea and protectress for us who are tossed about on the stormy waves.

Grant that through her help and direction, we may be safe from dangers of soul and body, reaching the port of eternal happiness. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Assumption Cookies

These beautiful cookies, in honor of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven celebrated on August 15th, were submitted by LaDawn Wilson who shares, "I homeschooled six children for over twenty years. I now have three grandchildren I can bake for each week. I enjoy revolving most of my creativity around feast days and the children's birthdays." Thank you, LaDawn! 

Assumption Cookies

"The cookies are a basic sugar cookie recipe but I added lemon emulsion and poppy seeds.
I used two stamps for the fleur de lis. I like to paint directly on the stamp using AmeriColor Gels and then stamp the cookie on completely dried white glaze. Royal icing is used for the white borders and Ave Maria symbol. The tiny flowers are made from fondant."

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Sopa Estrella - Soup with Star Shaped Pasta

There are several small star shaped pastas in the variety referred to as stelline (Italian for "little stars"). It is sometimes simply packaged as pastina which is a the generic variety of of tiny pieces of pasta available in a variety of shapes. Pastina is the smallest type of pasta produced.  These pasta are common for broth based or thin soups.

August has several feast days were this tiny star shaped pasta, stelline, could be used as a symbolic reminder of a saint in a recipe.

St. Dominic (August 8) - On Monday we celebrated the feast of St. Dominic de Guzman. St. Dominic, the Spanish priest and the founder of the Dominican Order received the rosary from Our Lady and the child Jesus. It is said when St. Dominic was a baby his godmother saw a star on his forehead during the baptism, so a common attribute is a star either on the forehead or above his head.

St. Lawrence (August 10) - Wednesday is the feast of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr. Due to the timing of his feast in mid-August at the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, that annual asteroid showing is often called the "tears of St. Lawrence." So a "shower" of stars in some dish would remember this tie to St. Lawrence.

Assumption (August 15) - Our Lady is known by many star titles - - Star of the Sea (Stella Maris) and Morning Star (Stella Matutina) being the most prominent. Other titles or images include Star of the New Evangelization, Madonna della Stella, Star of Jacob, Fixed Star.  The star image could be tied to any Marian feast day, but there is a very strong connection to this feast and the Star of the Sea title. In many places traditions associated with the sea are part of this celebration - like the blessing of fleets, blessing of the bounty of the sea, and wedding of the sea.

Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12) - In the image on St. Juan Diego's tilma we see Our Lady clothed in a mantle of blue with 46 stars.

Epiphany (January 6) - And of course we associate a star with the visit of the wise men who followed the Star of Bethlehem to the infant Jesus.

Our Lady of Pontmain (January 17) - Our Lady of Hope appeared to several children at Pontmain, France. They described her as surrounded by stars. "Oh, there are so many stars the Blessed Virgin will soon be gilt all over.”  Images of her under this title show he clothed in a blue mantle gilded with golden stars.

St. Thomas Aquinas (January 28) and St. Nicholas of Tolentino (September 10) both are shown with a sun/starburst on their chest in many depictions.

St. John Nepomucene (May 16), Bohemian priest and martyr for the seal of the confessional, is often shown with five stars over his head (because, on the night of his murder, five stars were seen over the spot where he was drowned).

This week for the feast of St. Dominic I modified a typical Spanish tomato broth sopa, using stelline pasta instead of the typical fideo to celebrate the Spanish Dominic de Guzman.

Sopa Estrella

1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup stelline pasta, uncooked
3 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Saute garlic in olive oil. Add chicken broth and tomato sauce. Bring to boil. Add dry pasta and simmer until pasta is tender. Add more liquid if desired for thinner consistency. Add salt and pepper. 

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Orecchiette "Little Ears" Pasta Ideas for Saint Days

Orecchiette from the Italian orecchia, meaning "ear", and -etta, meaning "small" is a variety of pasta from southern Italy. Its name comes from its shape, which resembles a small ear.  The ridged exterior and cup-like interior holds chunky sauces and scoops up small vegetables, making orecchiette perfect to serve with sautés. 

Last year, I posted an orecchiette recipe called tuoni e lampo which is a traditional Italian pasta dish with chickpeas. Its name, I thought, linked it well to the story of thunder and lightning associated with St. Scholastica and St. Benedict. But focusing specifically on the ear shape and its name, this pasta would be a fun one to use for a variety of saint feast days associated with ears and hearing.

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests and confessors. St. John Vianney was especially known for his gift as a confessor. He  drew thousands of penitents to line up, sometimes days in advance, to experience what many recalled as his ability to see into the deepest recesses of the soul.  For this humble priest who was known to hear confessions for up to 16 hours a day, the ear pasta seems a fitting symbol.

Some other saints who have connections associated with hearing and ears are listed here – many coming up soon in September.

  • St. Francis de Sales (January 24)  -  He was known as powerful confessor during the Counter-Reformation. His masterpiece of the spiritual life, Introduction to the Devout Life includes the well-known, “How To Make A General Confession.”   He is the patron of the deaf and hearing impaired.  
  • St. Benedict (July 11) St. Benedict in his rule begins the Prologue with these words: "Listen carefully, my son, to the master's instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart." 
  • St. Alphonsus Liguori (August 1) – He is a patron of confessors and wrote much on the sacrament of confession. 
  • St. John Vianney (August 4) – He was known for hearing confessions up to 16 hours per day and is a patron of confessors. 
  • St. John Chysostom (September 13) – An early Church Father, he interpreted the epistles of St. Paul. He is often depicted in iconography with St. Paul whispering into his ear. His ear is incorrupt. 
  • St. Cornelius  (September 16) – Pope St. Cornelius is a patron of hearing ailments due to his name coming from the Latin for horn, and in art is usually shown holding a horn, the type that was used in the Middle Ages to rally troops in battle. These horns had a similar shape as the ear horns that hard-of-hearing people once used to amplify sounds. By this process, he became the patron of ear ailments.
  • St. Pio of Pietrelcina (September 23) – Confession was his primary activity of the day. He was known for reading souls in the confessional.

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Seasonal Candy Available Now - For OLoGuadalupe Later

I have always really loved this Our Lady of Guadalupe treat idea from Tiffany at Family at the Foot of the Cross.  These Hershey Kisses she recommends in blue foil with white stars were generally only available in a military tribute promotion in the past and are hard to find.  So when I saw a local store carrying a variety of Hershey candies in summer seasonal assortments (think 4th of July) I was thrilled. There were several different Hershey brands (Kiss, Miniature, and Reese's) packaged in blue foil with white/silver stars. There are quite reminiscent of the blue mantle and stars on the OL of Guadalupe image. So if these are available where you are too, this summer, it would be a good time to buy some to save for her feast day in December.

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St. Anne Thimble & Thread Pasta in Chicken Noodle Soup

There are two types of pasta I found whose names are associated with sewing in some way – ditalini and filini.

Ditalini is short tube pasta which means “little thimble.” It is a common soup pasta, typically found in minestrone.  I found it fun that this pasta is also sometimes called Ave Maria or Pater noster, as that was about the amount of time it needed to cook the pasta – the time it would take to say that prayer.  Filini is a very thin, small cut strand pasta. The name in Italian literally means “small strands” (or threads).  These are best for light, broth based soups or cooking with rice.  In the United States we usually find it packaged as fideo. 

Today, July 26, is the memorial of St. Anne and St. Joachim the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Since St. Anne is the patron of sewing and seamstresses, it would be fitting to make something using the “sewing” named pastas – “Thimbles and Threads”.

St. Clare of Assisi is the patroness of embroidery and needlework. Assisi is known for its beautiful needlework and embroidery and “Assisi embroidery” is a distinct type of cross-stitch.  Clare would have learned this skill herself as a girl. So her feast day, August 11 would be another opportunity to make this dish as well. And since the BVM is a patron of sewing as well, so any of her feast days, I would include, too.

Since they are both soup pastas I was looking for a broth based soup to use a combo of these two pastas and I decided on chicken noodle – a basic staple soup associated with comfort and healing.

Chicken Noodle Soup

½ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped onions
4 cans chicken broth
½ pound cooked chicken, chopped
1 cup diced carrots
½ t. basil
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ cup of pasta

In large pot sauté onion and celery in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add broth, chicken, and herbs/spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add dry pasta when close to serving. Needs to cook for 5-8 minutes until tender. Serve.

St. Anne, pray for us!

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Bacon and Chocolate on the Feast of St. James

"James was the brother of John and a son of Zebedee. He traditionally preached in Spain after working in Jerusalem. James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa. He is the only apostle whose death is recorded in scripture (Acts 12:2). His shield shows a scallop (or cockle) shell, a symbol of pilgrimage by sea, and the sword of martyrdom. Sometimes three shells are shown without a sword. St. James' the Greater's Day is July 25." (source)

Our oldest daughter baked Madeleines again today to celebrate her bacon-loving older brother's nameday! She adapted the recipe found in We Love Madeleines. Happy Feast of St. James!

Bacon and Chocolate

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pans
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and kept warm, plus more for greasing the pans
  • 8 oz dark chocolate
  • 3 strips of bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled into small pieces

You will also need two Madeleine Pans.


Into a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, maple syrup, brown sugar, and orange zest until thoroughly blended. Add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the melted butter and mix until just incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. 

Position one rack in the upper quarter of the oven and another in the center and preheat to 400˚F. Generously grease two madeleine pans with melted butter and dust with flour, tapping out any excess.

Spoon or pipe the batter into the prepared pans, filling each mold about two-thirds full, and bake, staggering the pans so that the top is not directly over the lower one, for 4 minutes. Then rotate the pans from front to back and upper to lower, reduce the heat to 350˚F, and bake until the edges are golden brown, about 5 minutes more. 

Let the madeleines rest in the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto the rack and let cool. 

Meanwhile, in a double boiler over simmering water (we just used the "melt chocolate" setting on our microwave), melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat. 

Dip each madeleine into the chocolate, sprinkle with the crumbled bacon. Let set on a sheet of wax paper. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

St. James the Greater, pray for us! 
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