I REALIZE NOW more than ever that when
I pray to a saint, I need to have some
connection with that saint. Because I am
a mother of three children and enjoy
cooking for my family as well as friends,
I thought I would research saints who shared my
interest in food and caretaking.
I discovered some saints who not only had
some interesting commonalities with my own
life, but also had great stories to tell. While I was
becoming spiritually inspired by each saint,
each story made me think of an item of food
and, eventually, of meals I have been making
my entire adult life, as well as new ones I was
creating that were inspired, if you will, by the
What began as a quest to find a connection
during my mother’s time of illness resulted in
me finding my mother’s soul (and all the saints
she is up in heaven with) right here in my own
home, my own kitchen.
I invite you now to break bread with one of
our most beloved saints, St. Margaret of Scotland,
whose meals and generosity for the poor
inspired others. And for good measure, consider
mad St. Christine.
In 1016 the Danes took control of England.
The English royal family was in grave danger
and had no choice but to take their young children
across the turbulent sea to Hungary for
refuge. There they were welcomed to live in
the royal court of King Peter Urseolo.
This Hungarian castle offered all of the finer
things. Beautiful tapestries hung on the walls
made the castle not only more beautiful but also
warmer. Sparkling silver trays served aromatic
meals. The ladies of the court wore colorful
gowns and were covered in jewels. Aristocratic
young ladies were trained in Latin, German and
English, and taught all of the Christian virtues.
St. Margaret was born in 1045 into this royal
English family exiled in Hungary. She, too,
learned all of the finer things the court had to
teach, and she grew to be an intelligent, refined,
devout young lady. She appreciated the generosity
of the Hungarian court and fully knew her
life depended upon their kindness.
By the time she was 12, around 1056, the
political climate in England had changed. Her
great-uncle was the king and her family once
again ruled England. Margaret and her family
traveled back to England to live in the English
court and wait for the day that her own father
would become king.
The family quickly adjusted to their new life
and enjoyed feeling in control of their destiny.
Shortly after they settled, Margaret’s father fell
ill and died. And in 1066 William the Conqueror invaded England and won the throne in
the infamous Battle of Hastings.
Again, Margaret’s family was no longer safe.
So under the cover of darkness, the family
headed for their ship and made haste for Hungary.
The seas were wild and the frigid winds
were fierce. The winds took the ship up the
coast to Dunfermline, Scotland, where it landed
at what is now called St. Margaret’s Hope.
Began Change With Herself
Malcolm III, the king of Scotland, greeted the
family and took them in. Scotland and England
had been battling for years, and Malcolm could
see the benefit of an alliance with England.
Malcolm, a powerful and cunning leader, immediately
felt an attraction to Margaret. He
respected her intelligence and admired her
inner beauty as well as her delicate frame. But
he was the opposite of her. He was large, uneducated
and almost savage. He wanted her
as his bride, and with the situation her family
was in, she acquiesced.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5–10 minutes
1 (5-ounce) bag of spring greens
6 large strawberries, cleaned and sliced
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1/4 cup toasted macadamia nuts
1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles or blue cheese crumbles
When ready to serve the salad, place the greens, strawberries, avocado,
cheese and nuts in a salad bowl and drizzle dressing over the salad.
Toss to mix. (The avocados and strawberries will be fresher if sliced right
3/4 cup sweet onion, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
(mustard made with whole mustard seed)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Place onions and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into a medium
saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally so the onions
brown, but do not burn. Cook for 5–10 minutes until the onions are
soft and caramelized.
Place the onions and oil from the pan into a jar or container that
has a lid. Add the remaining oil, mustard, honey, lemon juice, salt and
pepper. Place the lid on the jar and shake well to combine.
Margaret soon found Malcolm’s inner goodness
and returned his love. At 24, she knew
this foreign land was now her country. She
wanted to make her surroundings more familiar,
so she began to bring some of the finer
things into her new court. She hung tapestries,
dressed in the latest couture and introduced
ornate silver serving items. The castle was now
a place a king could entertain the most influential
As Margaret looked around the kingdom,
she felt so much unrest and strife. She longed
for her people to get along and treat each other
with the respect Jesus taught. To incite change,
she began with herself. During Lent and Advent
she began each day before dawn praying and
attending several Masses. She fasted through the
day and then, before she would eat her one
paltry meal, she would personally feed poor
orphans who had been brought to the castle.
Before retiring to bed, she and the king would
wash the feet of some chosen poor people in the
kingdom. They then would provide them with
food and money to help the families.
Together, Margaret and Malcolm would host
large feasts for 300 of the most destitute villagers
in the kingdom. The great hall was filled with
tables set with the finest silver. The food was
delicious and bountiful. Anyone walking in
would think the feast was for the richest nobility
in the kingdom, not the poorest peasants. No
one else was allowed to attend or witness this
act of generosity. This was not a public relations
stunt to impress; it was their gift. The couple
served the food lovingly to the poor as though
they were serving Jesus himself.
As Margaret grew spiritually, she began to
affect others around her. This was the most
evident in her husband. Before Margaret’s arrival
into his life, he had never held feasts for the
poor, and wouldn’t even think of washing
someone else’s feet. As he witnessed her inner
peace grow, he began to join in her charity.
Others began to help, too.
Yield: 24 mini cakes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Prep time: 30 minutes
Preheat oven: 350° F
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
In a large bowl combine buttermilk, water, oil, peppermint extract,
sugar, egg and baking soda. Mix on low speed with mixer for 2 minutes.
Add flour and cocoa powder and mix for another 2 minutes. Divide
batter into 24 greased muffin rounds. Bake for 15 minutes. The cakes
are ready when you lightly press your finger on them and they slowly
spring back. Let the cakes sit in the pan for 5 minutes before removing
to cool completely on a wire rack.
VANILLA CREAM FILLING
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 (3.4-ounce) package of instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup whipping cream
In a large bowl mix cream cheese, pudding mix and whipping cream
for 2–3 minutes. Scoop this mixture into a large plastic zip-top storage
bag. Squeeze the cream mixture toward one corner of the bag. Cut
that corner of the bag to make a 1/2-inch opening. Set aside.
1 cup whipping cream
8 ounces high-quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
Bring cream to a slow boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate chips until the cream and
chocolate form a smooth sauce.
To assemble the cakes, slice a cupcake in half horizontally. In a circular
motion, starting on the outer edge of the bottom half of the cupcake,
squeeze the vanilla cream mixture to cover the bottom half of the
cake. Place the top half of the cake over the vanilla cream. Place the
cake on wax paper and pour about one tablespoon of ganache over
the cake. (It is easiest to put this together in assembly-line fashion. Cut
all of the cakes open first. Swirl the cream filling on the bottom halves
next. Finally, place the tops over the cream and cover with chocolate
24 mint sprigs
If desired, place a dollop of Reddi-wip on top of each cake and top
with a fresh mint sprig.
Margaret made it a custom to say grace before
and after dinner, but some of the knights left the
table immediately after finishing dinner. She
didn’t like the fact that they didn’t thank the
Lord after their meal, so she instituted the grace
cup. A bejeweled silver cup with handles on either side was filled with fine wine and placed
on the table at the end of the meal. Anyone who
stayed and said the final grace could partake of
the wine. The knights, not wanting to pass up
another glass of wine, soon began praying after
each meal. This is a tradition that continues
today in Scotland.
Slowly but surely, Margaret’s influence began
to spread. The people in her court were praying
more and becoming more generous. Now she
wanted to give all of Scotland more access to salvation.
It was common for everyday people to
go on pilgrimages to shrines and religious places.
It was the belief that at such a holy place only
good things could happen. All ills would be
healed. All prayers would be answered.
St. Margaret provided easier access to St.
Andrew’s shrine in Scotland. She had hostels
built and staffed so pilgrims would have a comfortable
place to stay and good food to eat. She
provided a boat to ferry people across the river
to the shrine. The ferry that runs there today is
called the Queensferry to honor St. Margaret.
She hosted synods where she encouraged
changes that brought the Scottish Church in
line with the Roman Church. During the Middle
Ages most people felt they were not worthy
of receiving Holy Communion. Margaret
wanted the people to experience the joy of the
Eucharist, so she suggested confession and
penance as the path to cleanse the soul and
make ready for the Eucharist. This was a radical
shift in thought for the times. People slowly
began to share her view.
In 1093, Malcolm and two of their sons went
to battle against England. Margaret was sick
and begged them not to go. Duty called, and
they went against her wishes. As she lay in bed,
feeling particularly morose, her son Edgar came
back from the battlefield. Some time passed
before he could find the words to tell his mother
that Malcolm and Edward, his older brother, had
After all of her struggles in life, this was more
than she could handle. After hearing the news,
Margaret began to pray, “Lord Jesus, who according
to the will of the Father, through the cooperation
of the Holy Ghost, hast by Thy death
given life to the world, deliver me....” With
that, on November 16, 1093, Margaret died.
Her feast day, which used to be celebrated on
June 10, is now November 16. She is the patron
saint of large families, those grieving the death
of a child, education and learning, Scotland,
widows and queens.
The impact St. Margaret had on her country is amazing. She made great changes, but she started small. So many times I think I cannot effect great change because I am not in a position to affect a lot of people. At first glance it seems obvious that, as queen, St. Margaret could impact many lives. But she didn’t mandate change; she inspired it with small actions that rippled like a drop of rain falling into a puddle.
If I take St. Margaret’s lead and start with myself, maybe my children will follow my example. My actions could have a similar ripple effect.
Today we talk so much about character. Someone once defined character as “doing the right thing when no one is looking.” St. Margaret embodied that definition. She recognized people in need and helped them because it was the right thing to do. She didn’t always parade her good acts in front of everyone. Sometimes she performed her acts of charity publicly to encourage change, but other times she acted quietly, just for God to witness.
St. Margaret's Charity Soup
Cook time: 45 minutes
Prep time: 40 minutes
Preheat oven: 350° F
1/2 pound ground sirloin
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
Put all of the ingredients into a large bowl and gently mix with your
hands. Once combined, roll into balls about the size of an acorn.
Place on a baking sheet that has sides and bake for 15 minutes. Set aside.
Time-saver: Instead of making homemade meatballs for the soup,
buy frozen meatballs. They will be a little larger, but still good.
1 batch of cooked meatballs (see previous recipe)
1 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 (32-ounce) cans chicken broth
1-1/2 cups carrots sliced into 1/2-inch coins
1 bay leaf
1 (14.5-ounce) can petite-cut tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1-1/2 cups frozen baby peas
1 bag frozen cheese tortellini
In a large soup pot, sauté onions and celery in olive oil over medium
heat for 5–10 minutes. The onions should look translucent. Add
chicken broth, carrots, bay leaf, tomatoes, meatballs and garlic. Bring
to a boil and cook on medium for 10 minutes. When the carrots are
tender, add basil, peas and tortellini. Bring to a boil again and cook
for another 7 minutes until the tortellini are cooked.
I first tasted a version of this soup when a dear
friend of mine, Christy Pucci, out of charity,
made it for my family after I gave birth to my
youngest child, Charley. My family loved it
and, while I loved the soup, too, I have to
admit I mostly loved having a break during
such a hectic time.
Now when I make this for my family (with
my own additions to Christy’s original recipe),
I always make a batch for someone else who
might need a pick-me-up. This hearty soup
honors the times when St. Margaret turned her
home into a soup kitchen to feed the needy.
Every time I use mustard seeds in recipes
(which I do in the salad dressing in this meal)
I am reminded of the parable of the mustard
seed (Mark 4:30-32) and how our deeds, small
like a mustard seed, can grow into the most marvelous
actions with faith, hope, charity and
love. The dessert is a rich, decadent dessert
worthy of a king—or 300 of the neediest people
in his kingdom!
St. Christine was a 12th-century saint who suffered
a severe epileptic seizure, and everyone
thought she was dead. At her funeral Mass, she
awoke and reportedly flew to the ceiling to flee
the scent of human sin from the people in the
Her sister and the priest talked her down from the ceiling, but Christine spent the rest of her life hiding in ovens and other places to
escape from overpowering odors.
She is now the patron saint of psychiatrists
and those with mental illnesses and—more
loosely interpreted—anyone going nuts in the
kitchen. Her feast day is July 24.
Dear St. Margaret, your actions of love, compassion
and charity were indeed like the tiny mustard
seed. They were the seemingly small and
insignificant actions of one person, yet these
acts of kindness grew in the hearts of many. May
all our actions, small and not so small, be carried
forward and spread throughout all of
Reprinted from Saints at the Dinner Table, ©
2008, B16851, St. Anthony Messenger Press,
28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202,
phone 1-800-488-0488, www.AmericanCatholic.org, $19.95, plus shipping.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Preheat oven: 350° F
1 pound frozen bread dough, thawed to room temperature
(It may take a couple of hours to thaw completely enough
to roll out.)
1 (4-ounce) tub of garlic herb cheese spread,
such as Alouette or boursin cheese
1 egg white
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
Place the dough on a greased baking sheet. Roll the dough into a large
rectangle (about 8 x 14 inches). Spread the cheese over the dough. Taking
the long edge of the dough, roll over onto itself. Keep rolling until
you meet the other side of the dough. When finished, the dough should
form a long cylindrical shape. Brush the outside of the dough with egg
white, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Cover with plastic wrap and let
rise for about 25 minutes. Bake for 25 minutes until the bread is golden