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.

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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Rating: 5
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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!

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Upside Down Pear ​Ginger ​Cake

I’ve heard it said that the sense of smell is the earliest and strongest to develop in humans. I remember once at a restaurant there was a special on oysters that came from the town where I grew up. I splurged and ordered them just for fun. When they arrived and the fresh, salty smell wafted up to me, tears came to my eyes along with so many wonderful memories of my childhood there on the water.

I think it’s the same for many of us at Christmas. There are certain scents that transport you directly into this season of celebration and joy. Take ginger for instance! I love baking days here at the Community — as you cross the common, in addition to the beautiful lights and wreaths and garland, the smells drifting from the kitchen put smiles on everyone’s faces. It actually seems like another way to spread the good news: Christmas is coming! Jesus is on his way, and we’re getting ready — with Ginger Cake!

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Upside Down Pear ​Ginger ​Cake
SERVINGS
8 - 10people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
60minutes
PREP TIME
25minutes
READY IN
1hour, 25 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Start with your ingredients at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9" springform pan​ or ​a cake pan that's at least 2½ inches deep.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar; mix well and pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Tilt the pan a little from side to side to help the mixture spread all the way to the edge.
  3. Arrange the sliced pears side-by-side over this brown sugar mixture, making sure that they cover the entire bottom of the pan. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well with a whisk until airy and fully combined. Set aside.
  5. In the bowl of your stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment, beat the the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add the eggs and beat again until pale and airy.
  7. Incorporate the apple sauce and molasses, mix until well combined, and then add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just incorporated, no more.
  8. Pour over the pears and spread all the way to the edge.
  9. Place a piece of aluminium foil under or around your pan to catch any eventual leakage and bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  10. Let the cake cool for 10 to 15 minutes or until it's cool enough to be handled safely then flip it onto a rimmed cake plate.
  11. Serve warm, garnished with vanilla ice cream, chopped nuts and a drizzle of honey or caramel sauce, if desired.

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Tasty Pumpkin Rolls

Our Convent bakers are always thinking ahead and experimenting — their thoughts and ideas are often very innovative! This week they were totally into Thanksgiving and enjoying it thoroughly. They assured me that I would be pleased with the final outcome of their efforts and how right they were! I had heard pumpkin being mentioned so I was expecting a pumpkin dessert of some sort. Instead they produced the tastiest dinner rolls which could not have pleased me more — whimsical little pumpkin-shaped creations, each complete with its own stem. I can’t wait to see the smiles on every person as they gather around the table this year.

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Tasty Pumpkin Rolls
SERVINGS
2dozen
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
dozen
COOK TIME
12-15 minutes
PREP TIME
40min + rising
READY IN
approx. 2hours

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Sprinkle with sugar; let stand for 5 minutes. Add milk, brown sugar, pumpkin, butter, salt, spices and 2 cups flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down.
  2. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 24 evenly-sized pieces. Working a few at a time, roll each piece of dough into a 12-inch rope on an un-floured surface. Before shaping, lightly dust ropes with flour, and then, with floured hands, turn each one into a pumpkin.
  3. Create a small loop in the rope with a long tail on one side and a short tail on the other. Wrap the long tail around the edge of the loop 2-to-3 times. Hold the remaining end of the long tail on the bottom-side of the loop with a finger to keep it from unraveling as you continue to work. Wrap the other tail around the edge of the loop, tucking it through the center of the loop.
  4. Pinch both of the ends together where they meet on the bottom side of the loop. If you’re not happy with the look of any of the rolls, simply set them aside for about 10 to 15 minutes and reshape. Place finished rolls on parchment lined baking sheets. Cover rolls loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for about 10 minutes.
  5. Just before baking, brush rolls with an egg wash for a shiny look or butter for a matte finish. Insert a sliced pecan into the center of each roll, pressing so the pecan touches the pan. In an oven preheated to 400° F, bake rolls for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time. Rolls should be golden brown and gently firm to the touch. If not serving right away, shorten the baking time by several minutes and finish baking right before eating.

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Caramelized Pear Upside-Down Cake

This week at Villa Via Sacra (Mount Tabor Centre for Art and Spirituality), we’ve been hosting Gabriel V Brass Ensemble as they participate in a-two week musical exchange with the world renowned Gomalan Brass Quintet. It’s always a great privilege and joy to “be in the background” serving these groups as they work hard to perfect their art, learning and discussing the music and seeking to bring it alive through both their personal and corporate vision. Music is a wonderful communicator — even though these groups speak two totally different languages, communicating has not been a problem at all. If you are in Tuscany, following the week of study with Gomalan Gabriel V will present a free concert at the Duomo di San Cristoforo in Barga, Italy on Oct. 6 at 21,00. We hope to see you there!

Benedictine hospitality is at the heart of our mission, and we enjoy “spoiling” the artists with great food as they work tirelessly at their art day after day. Pears are in abundance now in Italy, so I made this wonderful cake for lunch yesterday. It’s quick and easy to throw together, and the moistness of the pears doubled with the homemade caramel just begs to be eaten with a big dollop of whipped cream sprinkled with nutmeg.

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Caramelized Pear Upside-Down Cake
SERVINGS
8people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
45 minutes
PREP TIME
20 minutes
READY IN
1 hour 5 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter the sides of a 9-inch round pan with removable sides (like a cheesecake pan).
  2. Combine the butter, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small saucepan and heat to boiling, then remove from heat. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Arrange the pears over the butter mixture and press down.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until very smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle in the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt, and beat 10 seconds. Pour in the milk and beat just until the batter is evenly moistened, about 1 minute. Pour the batter over the pears, then carefully lift the pan and bang back down on the counter once or twice to release any air bubbles.
  5. Bake approximately 45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Run a knife along the outer edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Place a plate over the cake, then flip it over to invert the cake onto the pan. Let the cake cool completely before serving.
  6. Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream sprinkled with nutmeg. Thank you to "Living Well Spending Less" for this wonderful recipe!

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Raspberry Peach Upside-down Cake

Every year after school is out, our young community teenage girls have a 3-week “summer camp” with several of our Sisters. This year they went to New Hampshire for the event.
They were very excited and eagerly looking forward to the many activities ahead of them: lots of time out of doors, hiking, swimming, boating and gardening. I knew that nature crafts would be a part of their learning experiences, and also that there would be indoor activities such as housekeeping and of course, some cooking. I made them promise me that they would surprise me by making something new and different from any of their old standbys. They did not let me down, but kept their promise and came up with this scrumptious, raspberry peach upside down cake, inspired by a raspberry picking event that none of us knew would be happening before they went to camp. I could not have been more pleased!
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Raspberry Peach Upside-down Cake
SERVINGS
10-12people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
50-55minutes
PREP TIME
30 minutes
READY IN
80-85 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Slice peaches. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside.
  3. Place 6 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat until melted then add brown sugar and cook until both are combined and melted, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Approximately 8-10 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  4. Arrange peach slices in a circular pattern (overlapping if needed) in skillet on top of sugar. Add raspberries in areas not covered with peaches. Set aside.
  5. Cream together vanilla, 6 tablespoons butter and 1 cup sugar until creamy. Add eggs and beat until the yellow disappears. Add sour cream and blend.
  6. On low speed, add flour mixture and beat just until combined stopping to scrape the sides a few times. Pour batter onto peaches and smooth out to the edges.
  7. Bake 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  8. Run a knife around the edges to release and invert onto a cake plate allowing the cake to cool another 10 minutes. Serve with fresh whipped cream.

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