The view from this convent window encompasses the convent orchard, the cutting garden and some of the Community vineyards.
At the end of each row of grapevines stands a robust clump of rhubarb which has just reached its peak… a rich and beautiful sight to behold! Sisters were out picking it this morning and now it is being prepared for the Oblate retreat dinner dessert.
When our “Oblate family” members return for retreats we always try to “welcome them home” with their favorite foods. This golden buttery crusted dessert has been one of their favorites for years, and since their spring retreat is always at this same time each year when rhubarb is at its prime they always look forward to having it.
The vibrant combination of rhubarb, fresh oranges and coconut produces one of those desserts that keeps tempting the eater to have just a little bit more. This is a mouthwatering flavor that makes no apology for being old fashioned – because it’s old fashioned goodness at its very best!
Buttery Crusted Orange Rhubarb Betty
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Combine sugar, flour, salt and ½ teaspoon orange peel.
- Stir in fruits.
- Add 3 cups bread cubes and ¼ cup butter.
- Mix together and put into a 9 inch x 13 inch baking dish.
- Mix the remaining ½ teaspoon orange peel, 1 cup bread cubes, the remaining ¼ cup butter and coconut.
- Sprinkle on top.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until tender.
- This recipe may be frozen for use later.
Recently four of our young sisters were invited to a neighbor’s house in our community for a special dinner. The next day when I asked, “So how was the dinner?”
the response was, “Phenomenal!” That didn’t surprise me knowing that the menu had featured a choice tenderloin of beef, which they all liked and
we rarely have at the Convent. What did surprise and amuse me was that each of them individually wanted to tell me about one special dish
that had put the meal “over the top” and sent it “out of the park.”
This was a savory bread pudding that included leeks, fresh mushrooms, Gruyere cheese, pancetta, and sherry. Well then, why wouldn’t that
impress anyone as a phenomenal dish? And because our brave leeks are still holding their own out in the garden, why shouldn’t we give
it a try here at home? Well, we did, and sure enough it scored a home run with the whole sisterhood. Why not try it yourself and see
what kind of a rating it gets at your house?
Phenomenal Savory Bread Pudding
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Spread the bread cubes on a sheet pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large (12-inch) sauté pan over medium heat.
- Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes, until starting to brown. Stir in the leeks and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until the leeks are tender.
- Stir in the mushrooms, sherry, 1 tablespoon onion salt and 11/2 teaspoons pepper and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until most of the liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Off the heat, stir in the parsley.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, chicken stock and 1 cup of the Gruyere.
- Add the bread cubes and mushroom mixture, stirring well to combine. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the liquid.
- Stir well and pour into a 2 1/2-to-3-quart gratin dish (13 x 9 x 2 inches). Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Gruyere and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top is browned and the custard is set. Serve hot.
“No matter what their age from the youngest to the oldest” everyone
in the Community of Jesus gathers together for Saturday morning beehive,
a time to busily work on everything that needs doing in the community that week.
Each is assigned a job he or she is capable of doing.
Last Saturday while I was in the convent yard I heard excited shouts and
squeals of fun and laughter coming from the apple orchard. Although we
still have not reached peak apple season we have an abundance of
drops each day and we never waste any of them. That day the nursery school
kids were having a contest to see who could gather the most.
The two sisters responsible for child care had cleverly come up with a way
for them to be useful while at the same time learn a lesson in good stewardship
of God’s gifts to us.
Their mission accomplished, the little wagon full of drops were drawn to
the convent kitchen where they were magically transformed into a
favorite old fashioned dessert that everyone without exception enjoyed
at the coffee hour break…..that is EVERYONE no matter what their age
from the youngest to the oldest!
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a shallow 8” x 8” baking dish.
- Place half the bread cubes in the prepared baking dish. Mix the remaining cubes with 2 tablespoons of melted butter and set aside.
- Stir together the apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, water, orange juice, orange rind and the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter. Mix until sugar is dissolved. Pour over the bread cubes in the dish and then top with the reserved bread cubes.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 45 minutes covered with foil at 400 degrees Fahrenheit then uncovered 10 minutes or so until golden brown. Serve warm or cold.
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
Last month Elements Theater Company presented two memorable weekends of Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol in our church. Favorable comments were made about each little detail of the production, including one delightful feature that added much to my own enjoyment of the experience. This was the roasting of chestnuts out in the cold night air over an open fire in the church atrium before and after each performance.
I think of Christmas time as chestnut season and since childhood chestnuts, along with pomegranates, have to me always been as essential as holly and ivy to its celebration. Not only did we enjoy eating the nuts warm out of the shell, but at our house they were always considered a necessary ingredient to our holiday stuffing. That’s what made it so special and different from the stuffing we had the rest of the year.
The combination of sausage, chestnuts, apples and savory herbs still remains in my memory as a most extraordinary culinary Christmas experience. But there’s no reason it can’t be enjoyed, even after the holidays while chestnuts are still available. Here’s my suggestion for a cold winters night……stuff a nice crown or loin of pork and roast it for an unexpected, out of the ordinary dinner. I guarantee you rave reviews.
- Put sausage meat and butter into a hot casserole.
- Add onions and celery and cook until soft, but not brown.
- Remove from heat and add marjoram and thyme.
- In a bowl combine bread, vegetables, hot stock, cider, apples and chestnuts.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
- Place in covered baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or stuff into roast.
- Add a sprinkling of pomegranate at serving time for a touch of color and extra flavor.