The other day someone asked me about our Convent meals. “Who decides what you eat?” was one of the questions. It just so happens that at this particular time we are doing something a little different than usual about our menus.
Each week a different sister is asked to submit a suggested menu for approval. This has been quite successful. It is a help to the chef and an almost sure guarantee that there will be variety in our meals. For instance yesterday we were totally surprised to be served potato latkes for lunch, something we have not had in a long time and never for our noon meal. The genuine cheers of delight and energy in the food line were a joy to all. We are not sure how long this method of meal planning will last but for the time being everyone is enjoying it.
- Finely grate potatoes with onion into a large bowl. Drain off any excess liquid.
- Mix in egg, salt, black pepper and bacon bits. Add enough flour to make mixture thick, about 2 to 4 tablespoons all together.
- Turn oven to low, about 200 degrees F (95 degrees C).
- Heat 1/4 inch oil in the bottom of a heavy skillet over medium high heat.
- Drop two or three 1/4 cup mounds into hot oil, and flatten to make 1/2 inch thick pancakes.
- Fry, turning once, until golden brown.
- Transfer to paper towel lined plates to drain, and keep warm in low oven until serving time.
- Repeat until all potato mixture is used.
As Sr.Irene mentioned last week, our gardens are just starting to burst with vegetables. This week brought in fava beans and my mom gave us a beautiful basket of her home grown kohlrabi (which immediately sent me “Google-ing” for recipes!). But the majority of our yield so far has been zucchini and yellow squash. Time to be creative with recipes!
It’s a tradition in our Convent for Sunday night dinner to be prepared by the Sisters who share a common bedroom. Our rooms sleep 6-8 sisters. We usually choose our room by lot and switch up every once in a while. That means, there is a mix of personalities and gifts in each room; younger sisters with older ones, cooks with calligraphers, night owls and early birds. Our biggest crosses can become our greatest blessings. We live in Community and that’s how we roll!
Enjoy this crispy and flavorful panini prepared by our Sunday night Sister chefs. A healthy and fun twist on the favorite BLT, this recipe subs out cold lettuce for a piece of grilled zucchini. Enjoy!
"BZT" Panini with Mozzarella, Bacon, Grilled Zucchini, and Tomato
- In a large skillet, fry bacon over medium-high heat until golden and crispy, 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
- On a baking sheet, brush zucchini strips with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a 350 degree oven until golden.
- Lay tomato slices on a paper towel-lined baking sheet to soak up liquid.
- Place ciabatta halves on a cutting board. Brush insides of loaf with olive oil. Layer bottom half with zucchini strips, bacon, mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Top with other half ciabatta. Halve loaf and brush outside with olive oil.
- Preheat a panini press. (If you don’t have a panini press, cook sandwich in a large skillet over medium-high heat with a heavy pot or pan on top to weigh it down; flip sandwich halfway through to make sure both sides get cooked evenly.) Place half of sandwich in panini grill and cook, pressing down from time to time, until golden and cheese is melty, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Repeat with remaining sandwich half, then serve cut into triangles.
- Courtesy of: www.delish.com
I have been exploring “superfoods” for a while now, wanting to incorporate some healthier eating habits into our Convent diet. We live a very active life-style within our Benedictine motto: Ora et Labora (Pray and Work). My task is to make sure we are all eating well and taking care of our bodies (since we are called to be temples of the Holy Spirit).
In my research, I learned about the wonderful nutty grain-like seed quinoa. Quinoa is native to Bolivia and a relative of swiss chard, spinach and beets. We usually think of quinoa as a grain, but it is actually the seed of a plant. It’s also a complete protein, which means it provides all nine essential amino acids necessary for good health, hence the name “essential.” Your body can’t produce these nutrients itself, so you have to get them frequently through food. Quinoa’s slow-releasing carbohydrates help to maintain blood sugar levels. It can be eaten on its own as a side dish, with a bit of butter or oil, salt and pepper, or other seasonings. Quinoa also makes a great breakfast dish mixed with dried fruit, cinnamon, milk, and maple syrup or honey. A healthy substitute for rice, it also makes a tasty pilaf.
I found and adapted this flavorful and surprising salad side dish recipe for the Sisters and everyone loved it. Last weekend we served it to our Oblates who were here on retreat, and promised that we’d share it with all of you. Enjoy!
Quinoa Salad with Pears, Bacon and Baby Spinach
- Prepare the quinoa according to the package directions. 1 cup dry quinoa should yield over 4 cups of cooked quinoa. Cool quinoa.
- In a large bowl add the cooled quinoa, diced pears, green onions, spinach and bell pepper. Reserve the crumbled bacon and toasted almonds for later.
- For the dressing: Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and pour over quinoa mixture. Toss gently. You might not want to use all of the dressing depending on how wet you want your salad so add a little at a time. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving so that the flavors can meld.
- Mix the crumbled bacon and toasted almonds into the salad just before serving, reserving a bit to garnish the top as well.
Note: To toast almonds, brown them for a couple of minutes in a skillet over medium high heat. To roast them, bake them in the oven for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees. When you smell them, they are done!
Our community hosted a retreat day recently for Deacons from a local parish. We served this wonderful sandwich combination which was inspired by the flavors of Italy. Everyone raved and took pictures. Afterwards, the retreatants told us that this place was going to become their annual quiet-day destination. (We hope it wasn’t just based on the food, but we do know it plays a special part!)
As a young sister and chef-in-training, I was taught to pray before my menu preparation. Often the Holy Spirit will nudge us to serve food that triggers memories for people; either of their childhood, their nationality, or maybe a comfort food that would bring healing in a special way. To be used by God in this way is a blessing.
As Brother Lawrence so aptly put it, “We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
Bethany Sun-dried Tomato and Turkey Panini
In Italian the word panino [pa'ni:no] is the diminutive form of pane (bread) and refers to a bread roll. Panino imbottito (stuffed panino) refers to a sandwich, but the word panino is also often used alone to refer to a sandwich in general. The plural form of "panino" in Italian is panini.
- To make the Sundried Tomato Mayonnaise, blend all ingredients together in a Cuisinart until smooth – adjust seasonings as needed
- Toast the Panini Bread
- Generously spread both sides of bread with the sundried tomato mayonnaise
- Layer the sandwich ingredients in this way:
Onion Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Red Onion, if desired
Springtime is asparagus time! When I was just a young novice one of my most favorite morning responsibilities was to check the asparagus patch. What a way to start the day! The sight of new spears shooting up through the soil was an absolute delight. Then to calculate how many would reach their full height by the end of the day was a “lifegiving” exercise.
Because their growth is so rapid and so obvious from hour to hour, it is unlike most other growing edibles except perhaps mushrooms. In any case, the sight, as well as the taste, of asparagus still pleases me to no end.
Whether it be out in the garden straight from the soil, whether it be simmered and slightly salted right out of the pot at the stove or topped with hollandaise at the dinner table, I always welcome them.
Now that they are so popular roasted I have come up with this simple version that many people seem to like ……bacon wrapped and roasted with a touch of brown sugar and crispy crumb topping.
- Heat oven to 400º Fahrenheit. In small bowl, mix bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Add parsley, lemon peel; toss well.
- Microwave bacon till fat is melted and the slices are easy to roll around the asparagus.
- Divide asparagus into 4 equal bundles. Loosely wrap each bundle with one slice of bacon. Press brown sugar onto bacon. Press crumbs onto sugared bacon. Place prepared asparagus into shallow baking dish. Brush asparagus tips with oil. Bake uncovered until bacon is crisp – 15”-20”.
It is officially Autumn. Lots of pumpkins and apples at farm-stands, color coming in the trees, leaves falling, and that nip in the air that reminds us that summer is at an end. I love fall. I love the colors, the crisp air, the clear light. And the food! Summer was great and I enjoyed all of the fresh food, but who doesn’t welcome back hot soups and stews, butternut squash, and apples? I recently was looking for a fall salad and thought apple, frisee, and endive would be a good combination. I decided to stack it! Not only does it look great, but it also tastes amazing with the crunch of apples and greens and the subtle hints of maple and bacon.
Stacked Apple Salad with Frisee and Belgian endive
- Core and thinly slice apples, place in a bowl with water and a dollop of lemon juice.
- In a small bowl combine shallots and vinegar. Set aside.
- In a heavy frying pan over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp and brown, drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 3 Tablespoons of the bacon fat and return pan to low heat.
- Remove shallots from vinegar and reserve.
- Add vinegar to hot bacon fat, whisking until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Break frisee into sprigs and mix with endive. Dress lightly with bacon fat vinegar combination, reserving some dressing to drizzle on salads.
- On salad plates arrange 2 apple slices, then some of the dressed greens and some shallot slices.
- Repeat using single apple slice, then the other components 2 times more ending with an apple slice. Drizzle with warm dressing, sprinkle with bacon and serve.