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Since the 1970’s, we have prepared hundreds (if not thousands!) of meals here at the Community of Jesus on Cape Cod, and at our mission house, Villa Via Sacra, in Barga, Italy. We believe that food nourishes body, soul, and spirit, and that even the simplest meal, prepared with love, can change your life. At the heart of our call to kitchen and table lie the words of Saint Benedict: “Welcome all as Christ.” This premise has led us on many culinary adventures, which we now gladly share with you!

Thai Chicken, Spinach and Rice Noodle Soup

This week’s recipe was inspired by an Asian guest that we were hosting for lunch at our guest house. As a novice learning to cook, I was always taught by the Sisters to really think about the person that I was cooking for: What would they like to eat? What would bless them? Subtle subtext here: it’s not about what I like to cook, or what blesses ME! So a gluten-free, colorful Thai soup came to mind — a recipe that I squirreled away awhile ago in hopes that some time I would have the opportunity to make it. I made a few adaptions which resulted in the recipe below.

As I was chopping, I noticed that all of the ingredients were vibrant shades of green, so I dubbed them the liturgical ingredients of ‘ordinary time’. We rounded this lunch off with a delicate spinach and spring mix salad topped with avocado, fresh strawberries and candied almonds, and pita crisps. The dessert was a homemade Mango and Vanilla Panna Cotta — a recipe that I hope to share in future weeks!

** This recipe was adapted from Once Upon a Chef **

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Thai Chicken, Spinach and Rice Noodle Soup
SERVINGS
4people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
15minutes
PREP TIME
10minutes
READY IN
25minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a medium soup pot over medium-low heat.
  2. Add the shallots and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the green curry paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute more.
  4. Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, and turmeric; bring to a gentle simmer. Continue simmering, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions. If not using immediately, let them sit in a bowl of cold water.
  6. When ready to serve, taste the soup and adjust the seasoning.
  7. Gently reheat the noodles in the microwave, if necessary (remove from water first!).
  8. Place baby spinach in the bottom of the serving bowl, place the rice noodles and shredded chicken on top and ladle the hot broth over top and sprinkle with cilantro and scallions.
  9. Serve with a lime wedge for garnish.

Marinade for Steaks and Chops

Years ago, there was a collaboration between all the cooks in the Community, resulting in a lovely little cook book, “Recipes that Bear Repeating.” The creation of this book was a true labor of love. For months, recipes were written out, exchanged, and “tested” in all the households. Many notes and conversations later, such as “What do you mean by one can? What size can?” or “What does ‘until done’ mean? We need a time estimate!”, this treasury of favorites was pulled together and printed, including traditions for holidays and special occasions from the Community. This Marinade for Steaks and Chops is definitely an All-Star from the book! Right now, at Priory Books & Gifts if you buy one of the Sisters’ hand-made aprons, you get a copy of your own for free! Don’t miss out on this little treasure.

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Marinade for Steaks and Chops
SERVINGS
3 1/2cups
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
cups
COOK TIME
PREP TIME
READY IN

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients and mix well.
  2. Cover meat with marinade and chill for several hours. Turn meat several times to allow the flavor to penetrate more evenly. If stronger flavor is desired, refrigerate overnight.
  3. Let meat come to room temperature before cooking.
  4. It may be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for two weeks or in the freezer indefinitely.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ball Cookies

As a youngster I loved the story of the spoiled young prince who traveled far and wide in search of the best tasting food in the world. Coming upon a woodchopper in the forest who assured him he could give him that food, he agreed to spend the day working with him. At the close of the day the woodchopper handed the prince a chunk of coarse crusty bread which the tired, famished prince eagerly consumed. Beaming with satisfaction he loudly proclaimed, “At last, I have found the best food in the world!

On the morning of the 9th day of Christmas, without any effort or searching abroad for it, I found the best cookie in the world! It was a scrumptious little chocolate peanut butter creation on a little plate on my desk with an attached note signed, “from a Christmas angel”… I felt just like the spoiled young prince.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Ball Cookies
SERVINGS
2dozen
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
dozen
COOK TIME
24minutes
PREP TIME
30minutes
READY IN
54minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, beat the brownie mix, butter, cream cheese, and egg. The dough will be a little sticky.
  2. Scoop the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet, making about 24 cookies.
  3. Smooth the edges of each to form a round cookie.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the powdered sugar and the peanut butter until it is completely combined.
  5. Form the mixture into about 1 inch balls. Make sure you have one ball for each cookie. Set aside.
  6. Bake for the cookie dough 12 minutes, keeping an eye out to make sure the cookies doesn't overcook or undercook.
  7. As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, press a peanut butter ball lightly into the center of each cookie.
  8. The peanut butter mixture will soften slightly, but that is OK. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwavable bowl for 45 seconds. Stir the chocolate and melt for additional 15 seconds or until the chocolate is completely melted.
  10. Spoon about 1/2 a tablespoon of melted chocolate on top of each cookie so it covers the peanut butter ball.
  11. Let the chocolate set. Store in an airtight container.

Holiday Buttercrunch

At our Convent and Community each year, it is tradition for us to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas. Advent is a time of waiting and the twelve days that follow Christmas allows time for us to reflect and live the “Incarnation of Christ” as we journey towards our yearly profession of Vows on Epiphany. It’s a time of Enclosure for us when we can withdraw from the busyness of our daily lives and set aside time of quiet for Christ and community.

This Christmas, each of us cooks decided we’d make one special gift for the sisters over each of the twelve days. I chose Monday the 26th and couldn’t wait to make this decadent candy. We have lots of chocolate lovers in the Sisterhood, so I thought it might just be ‘the bomb’ and it was! With just a couple tweaks, it is now going to become my favorite holiday indulgence. I had to quadruple the recipe in order to make enough for 65 Sisters and have some extra for gifting, so it will multiply out well. This recipe is just too special to make for just “any” time of year, so save it for a special occasion.

Blessed Twelve Days of Christmas to you!

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Holiday Buttercrunch
SERVINGS
24pieces
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
pieces
COOK TIME
10-15minutes
PREP TIME
10minutes
READY IN
1hour

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a large, deep heavy-bottom saucepan, melt the butter.
  2. Stir in the salt, sugar, water, and corn syrup, and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil gently over medium heat, without stirring, until the mixture reaches hard-crack stage (300°F on an instant-read or candy thermometer). The syrup will bubble without seeming to change much for awhile, but be patient; all of a sudden it will darken, and at that point you need to take its temperature and see if it's ready, about 10 to 12 minutes. Pay attention; too long on the heat, and the syrup will burn.
  3. While the sugar mixture is gently bubbling, spread half of the toasted nuts (1 cup), in a fairly closely packed, even single layer, on a lightly greased baking sheet or 1/2 sheet pan.
  4. Top with half the chocolate chips (1 1/3 cups).
  5. When the syrup is ready, pour it quickly and evenly over the nuts and chocolate. Immediately top with the remaining chocolate (1 1/3 cups).
  6. Wait several minutes for the chips to melt, then gently, using the back of a spatula, spread the chocolate evenly and top with the remaining toasted nuts (1 cup).
  7. Allow to cool at room temperature and the chocolate will harden. When cool, break it into uneven chunks.
  8. Store cooled candy tightly wrapped; it'll stay fresh for a couple of weeks at room temperature. Freeze for longer storage.

Overnight Christmas Blueberry-Pecan French Toast

Today’s post begins a series of offerings from Guest Bloggers at the Monastery Kitchen! We hope you will be doubly blessed (as today’s author was!) by this beautiful story and recipe for a delicious Christmas breakfast.

A new friend and a great recipe: I got a Christmas miracle two-fer!
A funny thing happened on the way to the blueberries…

by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

It was two days before Christmas and I simply did not have time. I couldn’t afford a run to the grocery store and deal with the bustling crowds of last minute shoppers in the midst of all that I was doing. But I’d forgotten the butter, so I was forced to brave the cold and the crowds.

Making my way through the produce aisle, I spotted an elderly woman who was pushing her carriage slowly and seemed a bit lost. She sounded as if she were talking to herself. As I approached her, I discovered she was. I asked if she needed help.

Fumbling through her purse, she pulled out a folded piece of paper and said she was looking for fresh blueberries for a recipe she found in a magazine. I went with the woman – whose name, I learned, was Ellen — to find the tucked-away fruit. We found them, but since the fresh blueberries were not in season and were a bit expensive, Ellen decided to opt for frozen.

I began to walk with Ellen to the frozen food department on the other side of the store. We chatted along the way, and my new friend told me all about the recipe and how it is assembled in one pan on Christmas Eve to enjoy on Christmas morning. She sold me on the idea, so I grabbed a bag of frozen blueberries for my own shopping cart. Ellen and I gathered up the remaining items we both would need for the special Christmas breakfast. Before parting company, we exchanged phone numbers with the intention to chat again.

After Christmas, we spoke on the phone and compared notes about our overnight Christmas French toast and we made a date to get together.

That was several years ago. Since then, we’ve gone out for tea, watched a Christian movie at the theater, and chatted about our faith and families time and time again. I even brought Ellen a rosary from one of my visits to Rome. Though she is not Catholic, she said she appreciated it very much and began praying the rosary. Later on, she would tell me that she wasn’t sure if she was saying it just right, but that praying it brought her much comfort.

We are still friends to this day. And to think that our friendship was born in a grocery store on a blustery day when I was tempted to not leave the house! But, oh, how I marvel over God’s mysterious and wondrous ways. He arranges beautiful serendipitous encounters that can turn into meaningful faith-filled meetings and even long-term friendships. We just need to open our eyes and our hearts—and slow down a bit too.

Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle is an award-winning author and the EWTN television host of Everyday Blessings for Catholic Moms. A Catholic wife and mother of five, she was noted as one of the Top Ten Most Fascinating Catholics in 2009 by Faith & Family Live and enjoyed a decade-long friendship with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

To read more about Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, or to purchase her wonderful book “Feeding Your Family’s Soul”, follow this link!
http://www.paracletepress.com/Products/8357/feeding-your-familys-soul.aspx

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Overnight Christmas Blueberry-Pecan French Toast
SERVINGS
10people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
45-60minutes
PREP TIME
READY IN

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Coat a 9 x 13–inch baking pan with nonstick spray, and arrange baguette slices in a single layer in the dish. I usually “cheat” and make more than one layer.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, three-fourths of the brown sugar (or honey), vanilla, and nutmeg.
  3. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread.
  4. Cover and chill the mixture overnight. There will appear to be a lot of moisture when the mixture goes into the refrigerator, but most of it will all soak into the bread throughout the night.
  5. Just before baking, sprinkle the remaining quarter cup of brown sugar (or honey), the pecans, and the blueberries over the top.
  6. Bake in a 350ºF oven for about 45–60 minutes or until golden and bubbling. (Check it at 45 minutes and keep an eye on it for the remainder of the time.) It should be a light golden brown on top, and the egg mixture should be completely cooked.
  7. Serve with pure maple syrup. For an added treat, heat the syrup with extra blueberries to make blueberry-flavored syrup. You can serve this dish with fresh fruit on the side and breakfast sausage or bacon, too. Enjoy!

o-boyle-photo

Festive Christmas Cauliflower

Last week one of our convent dinners included a whole head of cauliflower covered with a flavorful cheesy topping that was most enjoyable. Eating this prompted me to begin speculating about a possible Christmas cauliflower creation that might enhance a holiday dinner table. I envisioned something a little more dressed up with a stylish bit of sparkle and festive flare.

Here is what resulted from my culinary day dreaming: One saucy Head of cauliflower steamed whole, then covered with a combination of mayonnaise, etc., adorned with a skirt of rich dark green kale that has been slightly braised in oil and stylishly fluffed out around it. This basic beginning would then be tastefully embellished with bright red jewel like roasted cherry tomatoes. Thus attired my plain head of cauliflower would be stylishly prepared to make her special appearance at a very special meal.

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Festive Christmas Cauliflower
SERVINGS
6people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
45minutes
PREP TIME
10minutes
READY IN
50minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Steam or boil cauliflower until soft but still firm about 20-25 minutes.
  2. Combine cheese, onion, pimento, and mayonnaise. Spread over cauliflower completely and place in a baking dish or pan.
  3. Put in a high oven (400 degrees) for a long as it takes to gain a nice golden glaze.
  4. Let rest a while.
  5. Toss the tomatoes with a little olive oil and lay out in a single layer on a sheet pan.
  6. Season with kosher salt and pepper.
  7. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes at 400 degrees, until tomatoes are soft.
  8. Chop kale and sauté in oil and garlic.
  9. Place cauliflower on a bed of kale. Scatter or place tomatoes around it as desired.

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couliflour