spring - Related Content

Unpredictability, overwhelming beauty coexist

Thursday, April 27th 2017 12:05 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


Sometimes we are like spring: indecisive and moody. In one moment calm breezes and blinding sunshine soak into our winter-weary bones. In the next, peals of lightning and ear-splitting thunder rumble through as rain pelts blossoming flowers and awaiting garden plots. I’m overwhelmed by scents of pungent earth, pollen-producing flowers and trees. It is a season when our renewed senses merge as if on cue from some distant stage director for the grandest play opening on the world stage.

Each new bud of life offers a gentle invitation to reflect on the ways in which we are all called into renewed being this Easter Season.


As I take in the beauty of the beginning of the daylilies in the yard, I am reminded of Jesus’ message to depend on our God who presents the flowers as teachers who don’t “toil or spin.” This, for me, is the essence of not only spring but of discernment—trust in God’s providence and stillness of heart. Discerning religious life can’t be rushed for the risk of impulsive decisions possibly destined for regret. The process must take time to unfold. We do not need to funnel our tornadic drive to get things done to the abundance of springtime storms; in the atmosphere inherently unstable. There are moments, in the lengthening light of evening, meant for sitting on the front porch and taking in the greening world around us. There is room for both unpredictability and overwhelming beauty to coexist. It is a time full of discovery and awe.


St. Rose Convent in spring (photo by Nancy Chapman)

As you ponder your own growth in this season of your discernment, take time to celebrate the new life that is emerging.

Where do you see roots taking firmer hold?

What new shoots of life are visible to you now?

Enjoying Spring Asparagus

Monday, May 15th 2023 6:00 am

Asparagus is a sure sign of spring in the upper Midwest and many home gardeners can’t give it away fast enough!  Fresh local asparagus is so delicious, all it needs is to be simmered in water and served with butter.  Below are many ways to prepare fresh asparagus.

Ways to prepare asparagus

Storage: Store asparagus, stalk side down, in a vase or jar of water like a bouquet. Loosely drape a plastic bag over the top, which will help keep tips from drying out but allow air to circulate, and put in the fridge for up to four days. If you don't have room for that, wrap the ends in a damp paper towel and put asparagus in a storage bag. For the best flavor the sooner you cook the asparagus, the better.

Peeling: Asparagus has a tough, impermeable wax cuticle skin or peel that protects it from losing moisture but it makes seasoning the spears hard for us.   Peeling the most fibrous parts of the stem and braising (see below) leads to the most tender asparagus you’ve ever had and it’s simple to do. 

Snap or Cut?  The bottom of the spear is the most fibrous.  According to America's Test Kitchen, “snapping  (the bottom) off is wasteful and unreliable. Where the spear breaks depends on where you apply force. Using a knife is better.  Cut an inch from the bottom of the spears and then check to see what remains.  It may be nice and moist looking.  If not, use your vegetable peeler to remove some of the fibrous skin at the lower end.  The picture above and some of the cooking methods below come from America's Test Kitchen and Dan Souza's short  "What's Eating Dan?" youtube video on asparagus.

  1. Raw  Using thicker spears, rinse in cool water, pat dry and use your peeler to make thin, beautiful shavings all along the length of the spear.  These shaved pieces add texture to a salad with lettuce, watercress, prosciutto and nuts in a large bowl.  Toss with a sherry vinegar vinaigrette or any oil and vinegar combination you like.
  2. Blanch  This method can be used if you plan to freeze asparagus. You can use blanched asparagus in a pasta, rice, seafood or green salad.  Add it to frittata or a potato pancake, wherever you might like a touch of green.  Blanching tenderizes the stalks and retains the bright green color.  

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil.  Carefully lower the asparagus into the boiling water.  Cook for 2–4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stems.  Using tongs or a skimmer, remove the asparagus and plunge it into iced water for at least 5 minutes.  To freeze blanched asparagus: drain, pat dry, lay the asparagus on a tray.  Freeze until frozen solid before putting in an airtight freezer bag.


  1. Saute: To sauté whole asparagus spears, add 1 to 2 T oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the prepped asparagus, a generous pinch of salt, and toss to coat the spears. Allow the stalks time to take on some color, shaking the pan occasionally for about 5 minutes.  Season with Salt and Pepper and lemon zest and juice.
  2. Grill or Oven Roast.  This brining/roasting method is good for thick spears so they can be on the grill longer without overcooking.  Seasoning evenly can be tricky, as salt bounces off the surface.  Rinse the spears clean, cut off about 1” from the bottoms. Next, poke each spear all over with a fork and drop into a brine of 4 cups water and ½ cup kosher salt.  Let soak for 45 minutes to an hour. Dry and put them on a clean grill.  Turn after about 6-7 minutes on each side.  For oven roasted asparagus, put brined (or seasoned) spears on a sheet pan. In an oven preheated to 425 degrees F, the asparagus should be perfectly roasted after about 12 to 15 minutes.  Turn half way through,  Enjoy the smell as they char.   Can be served with a dollop of lemon aioli and a sprinkle of sliced almonds.

  3. Grill or Roast in Foil: This method results in a softer, steamed asparagus stalk with no char marks or clean-up!  First rinse, trim and pat dry the asparagus.  Next, place the asparagus stalks in the center of a large piece of aluminum foil and season with oil or butter and garlic, parsley, salt to taste. Fold the two longer sides of the foil together and tightly seal them together. Then, fold the ends into themselves, sealing tightly so the oil will not seep out.   Grill the asparagus packet for 15-20 minutes depending on your desired tenderness. Flip the packet over with tongs halfway through cooking. Be careful when removing and opening the foil, as it will be hot and full of steam.

  4. Braising/Cooking in liquid  This recipe by Cook’s Illustrated Keith Dresser is a delicious way to being out the best in asparagus.  After braising in a flavorful liquid for almost 15 minutes, the spears trade their crispness for a silky tenderness and their grassy flavor for a sweet, nutty flavor and that bright green color for a subdued greenness.  Cut off the bottom inch and peel two thirds of the way up the stalk.  (Peelings can be saved to make asparagus soup!)  This prevents water loss.  Peeling and braising also leads to the most tender asparagus you’ve ever had and it’s simple to do.  Add asparagus to a wide skillet with water, broth, oil and salt.  Cover and simmer vigorously until tender about 10 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until the skillet is almost dry and asparagus is beautifully glazed.  Add a bit of lemon zest and a splash of lemon juice, chopped chives, salt and pepper.
  5. Air Fry:  Cut off the ends of the stalks and line up 2 pounds of asparagus in one layer in your air fryer.  Sprinkle with 1 T oil of your choice, ½ tsp each of garlic powder, dry parsley and salt. Sprinkle with 1/3 C of good grated parmesan.  Fry at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 7 minutes or until golden brown.  Add more parmesan, if you like!

If you would like to be notified when we share new recipes, be sure to scroll to the bottom, provide your email address, check the box confirming you are not a robot, click on a few photos to prove it and click subscribe! You will then receive an email after each new post. Remember, we're always looking for new recipes, so keep sending them to ecopact@fspa.org!

What is your favorite way to eat asparagus and other spring vegetables?


Asparagus is a sure sign of spring in the upper Midwest and many home gardeners can’t give it away fast enough!  It can also be found growing wild in some climates.  More on foraging wild asparagus below.

America’s Test Kitchen writes, “Asparagus is a perennial, which means that it returns every spring wherever it’s been planted.  It takes a few years to produce but often can be harvested every year for up to 10 years.  If asparagus is grown in a region where it can produce spears throughout the year, it grows more spindly and less vigorous with each passing year.  In colder or drier climates, it gets a chance to rest. 

“Asparagus has been revered as a vegetable since Roman times and it shows up in the oldest surviving book of recipes.  Its large native range stretches east to from Spain to central China, and north to south from Siberia to all the way down to Pakistan, but it has found adoptive homes across the world” says America’s Test Kitchen’s Den.  There are decades old debates about which town or region owns the title of Asparagus Capital of the world.  

Varieties: “Green asparagus is the most common.  Purple asparagus is a different variety which gets its color from anthocyanins, the same pigments in purple cabbage, purple grapes and purple foods of all kinds.  White asparagus is the result of a different growing method called blanching.  Soil is mounded around the spears as they grow to block sunlight.  That limits photosynthesis which keeps chlorophyll from forming.  White asparagus is particularly prized in France and Germany for its delicate flavor and tenderness. 

“Beyond color, the biggest difference between spears is usually thickness.  Some are skinny, pencil-thin, and some are thick like small sausages. You can’t leave a skinny spear in the ground longer and hope it turns into a thick spear.  It is determined by two factors: the age of the entire plant and its variety.  So which size is preferable?   If you remove the woody bottom of fat and skinny spears and taste them side by side, simply steamed, both will taste sweet, nutty and grassy.  The thick spears are more tender, have better texture because the fibrous texture takes up a larger proportion in a skinnier spear.

Foraging for "wild" asparagus:  Forager Euell Gibbons wrote of his passion for wild foods of all kinds in Stalking the Wild Asparagus.  Ashley in Practical Self - Reliance reminds us that "there’s nothing wild about wild asparagus...Asparagus is not native to the US.  It came over with European settlers.  Once garden asparagus started going to seed the birds, attracted to the bright red asparagus 'berries'" spread the seeds...  It's easier to "stalk" asparagus in  areas when it is out of season and too big to harvest.  It is often found along roadsides, at the edges of woodlands, and just about anywhere that gets good sun but a mower can’t regularly reach...Once found, you can remember those spots and look in early spring for the young stalks to poke out their heads."

Asparagus and Honey Lemon Chicken & Easter Reflections

Monday, April 15th 2024 6:00 am

4 T softened butter, preferably unsalted
2 T honey
juice of 1 lemon, divided
¼ C cornstarch or flour
salt and pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
large bunch of asparagus, about 3/4 – 1 pound, trimmed*

*To trim asparagus, cut off the bottom inch or two with a knife or simply break it off with your hands.  You may also use a vegetable peeler to peel off the tough outer skin of the lower few inches.

In a small bowl, whisk together softened butter, honey, and juice of 1/2 the lemon.  Set aside.
In a pie plate, plate or plastic bag, combine cornstarch/flour, salt and pepper.  Add chicken and coat it evenly with the seasoned flour.  Dust off excess flour. 
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt honey butter mixture then add the chicken and brown on one side, about 5-7 minutes.  Repeat on the other side and cook until chicken has cooked through and internal temperature reaches 165 degrees with a meat thermometer.
Add the asparagus to the skillet and cook until just tender. Squeeze the remainder 1/2 of the lemon onto the cooked dish.
Optional:  Slice another lemon and after the chicken and asparagus has finished cooking, "cook" the lemon to use as a garnish as shown in the photo above provided by 

For more asparagus ideas, check out the Pioneer Woman's 30 Best Asparagus Recipes to Celebrate the Spring Veggie.  Read some Asparagus Facts after the story below!

If you would like to be notified when we share new recipes, be sure to scroll to the bottom, provide your email address, check the box confirming you are not a robot, click on a few photos to prove it and click subscribe! You will then receive an email after each new post. Remember, we're always looking for new recipes, so keep sending them to ecopact@fspa.org!

This Lent and Easter has led me to pray, read and reflect about individual conversion and service.  Saint Francis on his death bed, encouraged us to ask: “What is mine to do?”  What communities of service call and guide me to act?  I am definitely passionate and active about feeding the hungry.  I can cook from scratch, eat seasonally, garden, compost, help end food insecurity by cooking for unsheltered brothers and sisters, offering to coach people in the kitchen, encouraging donations to Food Pantries and Food Banks.  I also know that charity is not enough.  When it comes to feeding the hungry, how can I become more of an advocate for systemic change and transformation?
The Resurrection season confirms these questions in me.  Jesus’ rising changes everything!  No one should be bound by suffering and death.  To me, that means one act at a time.  It means acting in community with others toward changing systems that condones hunger, war, economic insecurity, racism and environmental injustice.  How do we act with others and learn, to see with new eyes, to wake up to what is possible?  Below are some resources that encourage me.  I'm learning.  Let us encourage each other to bring the power of new life, forgiveness and systemic change that lives out the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Bread for the World an advocacy group for addressing world hunger, tells us advocacy with Congress is valuable, stating: "Federal nutrition programs provide roughly 10 times as much food assistance as private churches and charities combined."

Pax Christi USA an advocacy group for peacemakers shares an April 6th article called Easter calls us to ensure the survival of humanity by Joseph Nagle, OFM.   Pax Christi International peace movement website shares how to Pray on Sunday, Act on Monday.  

NETWORK Advocates for Justice Inspired by Catholic Sisters, is a ministry well-versed in addressing White Supremacy and other ills that call for healing changes at the national and global level.   Their website states:  "The Catholic Social Justice principle of participation calls us to inform ourselves about the issues of the day, to engage in serious conversations with our neighbors about our nation’s future, and to learn to listen to different perspectives with empathy.   This responsibility to participate means each person must be equipped with the resources needed to do so."

Franciscan Justice Circles, supported by the Franciscan Action Network, offers ways to gather with others near you in person or virtually to work for justice.  "Our times need grassroots, Franciscan inspired advocacy and action connecting Franciscan-hearted individuals through prayer, action, and advocacy in cities across the country."  There is one called "Driftless Region FSC - Western Wisconsin/SE Minnesota".

Feeding Tomorrow,  a documentary by Oliver and Simon English, directly addresses the food system and ways to transform it.  Stream it free on Hoopla (an app from many local public libraries) that provides movies to view for free.  You can also rent or buy it on Amazon Prime. Read more at FeedingTomorrow, Starting Today. My dream is to gather people from all walks of life to watch the film and later, to gather at round tables to talk about it's impact and actions to take together!  More on “Feeding Tomorrow” soon.

Asparagus Facts:
•    Asparagus is one of only 3 perennial vegetables that thrive in the upper Midwest, along with rhubarb and horseradish, a yearly reminder of hope and resurrection!
•    Asparagus seeds or more developed “crowns” take 2-3 years to produce fruit.  Patience, trust and care, gardeners!  It can even be sown in pastures and harvested from among the forage plants.
•    The edible stems or “spears” arise from underground.  Asparagus season lasts about 6-8 weeks, early May to late June in MN and WI, so corresponds to spring and even the Easter season most years!  After that, we let the leaves in the form of beautiful “ferns” grow to strengthen the plant for the next cycle of new life. Even the ferns require some care to flourish.  Info above courtesy of University of Minnesota Extension.
•    In summer, fall and winter through April, some fresh asparagus at most stores is from CA, but most is from Mexico or Peru.  This trend is tied to rising water prices in the US, the passage of NAFTA, and the unintended effects of the US War on Drugs.  Boston Organics tells us that Peruvian farmers who once grew coca for cocaine were subsidized by the U.S to switch to asparagus.  Soon Del Monte moved its processing plant there to take advantage of lower prices.
•    Soon fresh, tasty local spears can be found at your favorite farmer’s market or co-op..
•    Seasonal eaters don’t shy away from sort of “gorging” on seasonal asparagus.  It can be roasted, blanched, pan seared, added to soup, risotto, pasta dishes, an open face egg or ham sandwich, quiche or served as an appetizer wrapped in bacon or Italian ham.  The recipe below is a one skillet meal with a built-in side of asparagus!  What is your favorite spring vegetable recipe to repeat while it is in season?

'Massaged" Kale Salad with Lemon Dressing

Monday, June 19th 2023 6:00 am



¼  C olive oil
2 T fresh lemon juice, fresh is best
2 T red wine or other vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp honey or sugar

Salad:      5 C kale chopped or torn into 1' bite-sized pieces 
1-2 tsp olive oil
1/8 tsp salt

Optional Additions:
2 C broccoli chopped
½ C nuts:  sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, or chopped walnuts
¼ - ½ C shredded carrots or radishes
½ C chopped or shredded apple
¼ C sliced scallions or red onions
¼ C raisins or dried cranberries
½ C cheese (cheddar pieces or shreds, crumbled Feta, parmesan or other favorite)
Leftover cooked chicken or bacon pieces
Your favorite leftover cooked grain:  wild rice, quinoa, bulgar, brown rice


1.Combine dressing ingredients in a lidded jar or bowl.  Shake or whisk well to combine. Dip a piece of kale in the dressing.  Taste and adjust sweetener, salt, and pepper as you like.

2.Rinse kale leaves in cool water.  With one hand, hold on to the thick stem at the end and with the other hand, strip the leaves from the stem.  Compost stems or store in water to saute in a few days with spices!

3. Tear or chop dried kale into bit-sized pieces.  Spin it dry in a salad spinner OR shake dry and place in a dry kitchen towel. Massage the chopped kale with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt. Rub with your fingers until leaves look darker in color.

4.In a large bowl, combine salad ingredients. Stir or shake the dressing once more.  Pour about ? of the dressing on the salad. Toss.  Add extra dressing, as you like.  There should not be dressing “pooled” in the bottom of the bowl.

Preparing Kale:

Rinse kale leaves in cool water to remove all the dirt and dust. 

Hold on to the thick stem end and with the other hand, strip the leaves from the stem.  Discard the stems OR put in a tall container with a small amount of water and keep refrigerated to chop and saute a day or two later.

Tear or chop the dried kale into 1 inch (bite-sized) pieces. 

Spin it dry in a salad spinner OR shake dry and place in a dry kitchen towel.  Fold in the ends of the towel and hold tightly while you spin the whole thing.  The towel will absorb most of the water.

(Optional)  For a more tender raw kale salad, massage the chopped kale with a little olive oil or lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Rub with your fingers until leaves look a bit darker in color.  It really makes a difference and kids love "massaging" the greens".


This recipe for “’Massaged’ Kale Salad with Lemon Dressing” is full of nutrients, packed with flavor and may make you into a kale lover. Even kids liked it!  It can be made ahead as the hardy leaves keep well, even with dressing. 

Another recipes made with grade schoolers, it was also demonstrated with younger kids at a local school garden.  They got their hands in the bowl to massage the greens!  Helping kids of all ages grow and/or prepare vegetables and fruit encourages openness to new foods.  Don't we all enjoy getting some coaching in the garden or the kitchen?  If you are curious about a certain food or cuisine, baking bread or fixing your favorite restaurant dish, find someone to "coach" you, even if it's an online cook or a TV chef. 

The recipe and photo above come from Holly, a Canadian mom of 4 who loves to add to her site called "Spend with Pennies".  She suggests we check out how versatile kale can be, saying, "Leftover kale can be stirred into pasta, blended into pesto, and even baked into crispy kale chips, if the craving strikes! The possibilities are endless. I even love a little kale on my pizza when I have it handy."  Holly's other kale recipes include kale with rice, Mexican kale salad, kale pesto, kale chips, kale and sausage soup, and kale mango smoothies. 

Speaking of smoothies, I put blanched kale in a high speed blender with a touch of vanilla and cinnamon. I added blanched seasonal produce like squash, apples, carrots or pears for baby/toddler food my grandkids liked.

Freezing and thawing: potholes surfacing in discernment

Thursday, February 23rd 2017 12:30 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


In the last few days we have been experiencing record-setting, spring-like temperatures, welcome gifts in what are normally snowy, frozen Wisconsin winters. Yet what lies beneath the ice-free roadways are side-effects of winter’s ills (seemingly worse this year) uncovered far too soon: potholes. Cavities in the pavement big enough, it seems, to swallow, chew up and spit out the tires on my car.


Image courtesy of morguefile.com

These freezing/thawing streets on which we drive through snow and sunshine exemplify what rapid change brings, and the adaptations that even solid concrete is forced to make. Crews work diligently to fill in large stretches of encumbered roadways in between snow storms and bottomed-out temperatures, securing temporary fixes for much bigger issues: it will take more than a few shovels full of heated asphalt to really fix the breach of the once sturdy concrete.  

This process makes me wonder—in its own way, does a pothole break open greater insight to what we couldn’t see? 

Potholes can also emerge when you’ve just acclimated to navigating the already bumpy road of discernment. You may have become comfortable with your prayer routines, secured support from family and friends and be in great conversation with a community you’re interested in. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a figurative fissure appears, blocking your path ahead. Yet while a void in discernment (or even a series of them) can raise some anxiety it can actually spring forth opportunity for creativity. It may provide an opening for you to find your way around—a challenge that in earlier days would have forced you to make a U-turn. Detours may be necessary but, if you are willing to reflect and not run from a change, there are lessons each choice presents. 

Jesus showed us how to navigate such unanticipated challenges: how many times did he have to find another way to proceed with his message? His roadway of ministry was filled with angry temple officials, jealous rulers and nervous disciples, but also the growing faith of the people he encountered. 

What are the potholes that have surfaced in your discernment? 

Have you found a way around them?


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