Slow Cooker Loaded Potato Soup

This past week, ​​we did a pot-luck lunch at Paraclete Press to celebrate the ​s​eason and get our company decorated for Christmas. Several of us brought crock pots of goodness to the table – each excited to try someone else’s creation. I think this one received the most ooh’s and aaah’s, as it was completely emptied by the end of lunch and given back to me, clean as a whistle as if begging for more. This is such a great recipe – so easy to make the night before, let the crock pot do the magic during the night and finish it off in the morning. ​This is a perfect recipe to pull out over the holidays when you want to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with friends and family. Blessed Advent!​

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Slow Cooker Loaded Potato Soup
SERVINGS
8 servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
8hrs
PREP TIME
25mins
READY IN
8 hrs25 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Add diced potatoes, diced onion, minced garlic,​ ​10 slices of chopped cooked bacon, parsley and chicken broth to the slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper. Stir and cook for 6-8 hours on low or on high for 3-4 hours, until the potatoes are fork tender.
  2. Once the soup has cooked, make the béchamel sauce. Add butter to a medium saucepan over medium heat and melt, whisk in the flour until completely combined and gradually add in the half and half or heavy cream (or milk, whatever you prefer). Whisk until smooth. Over low heat, let the mixture cook until it starts to simmer, stirring occasionally.
  3. Immediately add the​ béchamel ​to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
  4. Using a potato masher, mash about 3/4 of the potatoes​ until you reach the desired consistency for your soup.​​​
  5. Stir in ​2 cups ​shredded cheddar cheese and ​1/2 cup ​sour cream. Stir well, until fully combined and creamy. Taste for seasoning, ad​just​ salt and pepper to taste. ​If you want to thin the soup a bit, you can add more milk, cream or chicken broth. ​Continue cooking the soup on low for 30 minutes or on high for 15 minutes.​ Serve warm with the toppings of your choice. ​

O​ptional ​T​oppings:​ chopped scallions or chives, shredded cheddar cheese​, sour cream and ​bacon

Leg of Lamb with Anchovies (Gigot d’Agneau aux Anchois)

When I was preparing for my first time to serve at Mount Tabor Center for Art and Spirituality in Barga, Italy, I knew that I needed to immerse myself in learning all I could about Tuscan cooking. Cooking “Italian” had always been one of my favorite methods, but come to find out, there are many different regions in Italy with vastly different cooking styles. I searched the internet for articles, recipes and cookbooks and came up with a real gem – The Twelve by Tessa Kiros, which is twelve months of Tuscan cooking. She organizes the book according to the months and the fruits, vegetables and meats that are available and in season. This is the great thing about Tuscany – there is what there is – you cook what is in season. You learn to appreciate and savor the flavors.

So, this cookbook became my bible of sorts and I cooked my way through it in the three months I was there, and then again, when I went back for another three months. Every recipe was unique, simple and thoughtful, not to mention the beautiful photography and lessons she taught about seasonal cooking.

So, as we were looking towards our grand opening, I knew that I needed a little help to put together truly Tuscan meals for such a special event. That’s when I started my correspondence with Tessa. She was happy to give me input, suggestions, and even serving ideas. It was a joy to learn from such a great master.

Her travels have taken her all over the world. She was born in London to a Finnish mother and Greek-Cypriot father. She has worked in restaurants and with families in London, Sydney, Mexico and Athens – and chose to work with people who really inspired her. They were mentors in her journey through the world of food. On a trip to Italy to study the language and food, she met her husband, and together they have two beautiful daughters.
In 2016 she won the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Book of the Year in food and travel.

Tessa is delighted to be sharing this recipe for Easter with us from her new cookbook ‘Provence to Pondicherry‘ published by Quadrille, Gigot d’Agneau aux Anchois (Leg of Lamb with Anchovies). Photo courtesy of Manos Chadzikonstantis.

“I have such a lovely memory of eating this deep in the countryside one sunny day, under a huge tree that provided shade for the masses…It is good served with a potato gratin or a vegetable tian. Braised artichokes are also very good served either as as starter to this or one side.”

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Leg of Lamb with Anchovies
SERVINGS
6servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
75minutes
PREP TIME
READY IN

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the garlic, anchovies, rosemary and thyme leaves with 2 T. of the oil. Drizzle 3 T. of the oil into the base of a not too large roasting pan that will fit the lamb and tomatoes.
  2. Make 3 incisions, about 3/4 in. deep, on each side of the lamb. Stuff the herb mixture into the incisions and rub all over the lamb. Rub the surface with a little salt (not too much as the anchovies are salty) and a generous grinding of pepper, then put the lamb in the baking dish, presentation side down.
  3. Surround the lamb with the tomatoes. Lightly sprinkle them with salt and pepper and drizzle with the last tablespoon of oil. Roast for 30-40 minutes until the lamb is golden and the tomatoes are starting to look gooey.
  4. Turn the lamb over, move the tomatoes around if necessary and check that nothing is burning. Add 1/2 c. of the wine, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and roast for a further 30 minutes.
  5. Add the remaining wine to ensure that the sauce around the lamb is jammy and tomatoes are not blackening and roast for a final 10-15 minutes. The cooking time will depend on how well done you want the lamb, and on the size of the leg of lamb. I like this dish with the meat cooked through, and with a jammy, gooey sauce.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Transfer the lamb and tomatoes to a platter and serve warm.

Stuffed Cabbage

A young newlywed couple from Russia came to Bethany for an extended stay. Alexi, the groom, was delighted to discover that an old friend and former mentor from Russia was unexpectedly going to be near enough to spend some time with him while he was in the States. He immediately extended an invitation to him and his friends for dinner – a real, Russian meal that he himself would prepare for them.

The day of the planned dinner Alexi felt ill and was unable to do any cooking. With his permission I prepared a meal that I thought would be close to what he would have made, and I felt one of the dishes should be stuffed cabbage. I prepared them as I remembered my Ukrainian mother always preparing them.

By dinnertime Alexi was well enough to join his guests and no mention was made of his not feeling well earlier. Everyone enjoyed dinner and Maestro Serge was particularly taken with the stuffed cabbage. “This,” he said to me, “is authentic.” Then he added, “A real Russian can always discern whether or not the Russian food he has been served was prepared by a real Russian.”

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Stuffed Cabbage
SERVINGS
4-6people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
1hour
PREP TIME
30minutes
READY IN
1hour, 30 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cut up tomatoes and simmer with olive oil, onion salt, oregano and sugar until reduced to 1 cup or 8 ounces of sauce. Can be done while preparing cabbage.
  2. Leave cabbage whole, but cut around the stem, and parboil for 5 minutes; let steep for another 5 minutes.
  3. Remove cabbage from water and drain; separate cabbage leaves. Chop the small inside leaves and the core and use to line a Dutch oven.
  4. Combine all the stuffing ingredients and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Place 1 tablespoon stuffing on each of the larger cabbage leaves, fold ends of leaves over the stuffing, and roll leaves.
  6. Arrange the stuffed cabbage leaves in rows in Dutch oven; sprinkle each layer with olive oil, tomato sauce, and crushed bay leaf.
  7. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper; add remaining tomato sauce, beef broth and enough water to cover.
  8. Place a plate on top of cabbage rolls, and simmer over low heat for 1 hour. If using cooked rice cut final cooking time in half.
  9. Serve the cabbage rolls with the pot sauce poured over them.

Braised Pork Ribs

Saturdays in the Community call for a lot of physical participation, especially for our band members — 20 of which are sisters. Morning Beehive, the weekly time when all Community members gather to work together on whatever jobs need most to be done, starts at 8 am and continues until noon, with a half hour coffee break at 10 am.

Following lunch our convent band sisters pack up and take off with the rest of the band for a full afternoon of serious rehearsal often requiring considerable concentration as well as physical activity.

Everyone knows that when the band comes home they will come home very hungry and be looking forward to a substantial dinner. That’s why we always plan a hearty meal for that evening for all of us.

This week’s Saturday night dinner cook chose to do pork ribs with creamy polenta, chard, yellow squash and salad, but instead of grilling the ribs as we often do she surprised everyone by choosing to braise them…and…the result? Not a rib leftover and she has now been branded “Best Saturday night convent dinner cook!”

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Braised Pork Ribs
SERVINGS
4people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
2hours
PREP TIME
50minutes
READY IN
2hours, 50 min

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Pat the ribs dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and brown the ribs on all sides, working in batches if needed. Remove the ribs and set aside. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the Dutch oven and reduce the heat to medium. Add the carrots, celery, onions and some salt and pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, to remove the raw flavor, about 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and wine, and then add the red pepper flakes and bay leaves.
  3. Add the ribs back to the pan and add enough stock to reach halfway up the sides of the ribs. Bring the pan to a simmer, cover and place in the oven. Braise until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. During the last half hour, uncover to allow the liquid to reduce and the pork to brown. Remove ½ of the veggies and blend to a thick puree- return to pan juices to thicken the sauce.
  4. Serve the ribs with Creamy Polenta, spooning the sauce on top, and garnishing with parsley.
Creamy Polenta
  1. Spray the insert of a slow cooker with cooking spray (for easier clean up) and preheat on high.
  2. In a medium saucepan, add 1 cup of the half-and-half, the milk, 1 tablespoon of the butter and the polenta. Season with salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly to keep the mixture lump-free. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the mixture into the slow cooker and cook on high for 2 hours, stirring once or twice per hour.
  3. Once you are ready to serve, open the slow cooker and whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, the remaining 1/3 cup half-and-half and the Parmesan. Salt and pepper conservatively since the polenta will be served with a robustly salted dish.

Garlic Parmesan Zucchini and Tomato Bake

This is a glorious time of the year for garden lovers. 5:30 am finds sisters weeding, tilling the soil and harvesting “fresh from the earth” vegetables. We have been enjoying beautiful varieties of lettuce, scallions, snow peas and chard for a while, and now zucchini and yellow squash are rapidly rolling in every day.

One of our enterprising Sisters turned out a quick and easy way to prepare a zucchini dish that met with lots of happy responses from the Sisters at last night’s dinner. Who would not love their vegetables prepared like this? Beautiful to behold! Scrumptious to eat! You absolutely must give this prize winner a try and there could not be a more perfect time to do it than right now.

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Garlic Parmesan Zucchini and Tomato Bake
SERVINGS
4-6people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
35 minutes
PREP TIME
15-20minutes
READY IN
50-55minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and spray 8 x 8 or 9 x 11 baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Sauté onions in 1/2 c oil. Add sautéed onions and the additional 1/2 c oil to the rest of the ingredients, except fresh basil or parsley, and mix well before baking.
  3. Transfer to a prepared baking dish and bake uncovered for 35 minutes. Check for doneness with a fork or knife after 25 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven, garnish with fresh basil or parsley and serve hot/warm.

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Crunchy Tofu Noodle Salad

Meals at the Convent are planned and prepared by the Convent kitchen staff for each day of the week—except Sundays, when rotating groups take turns making dinner. This gives Sisters who don’t normally cook an opportunity to do so, and to select a favorite dish they particularly enjoy. Often these meals turn out to be “fun” or ethnic in nature, such as last night when an abundance of chopping, chatter and laughter resulted in a tasty, colorful Thai meal enjoyed by all.

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Crunchy Tofu Noodle Salad
SERVINGS
6people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
30minutes
PREP TIME
15-20minutes
READY IN
45-50minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Cut tofu into chunks about 1” square or ½” strips. Marinate in soy sauce and fry in oil in a sautee pan until slightly brown and semi firm or line sheet pan with aluminum foil, coat with a layer of oil and cook tofu at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until brown and semi firm.
  3. Meanwhile, bring another large pot of salted water to a boil, add the sugar snap peas, return to a boil, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp tender. Lift the sugar snap peas from the water with a slotted spoon and immerse them in a bowl of ice water. Drain.
  4. For the dressing, whisk together the vegetable oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds and peanut butter in a medium bowl.
  5. Combine the spaghetti, sugar snap peas, peppers, scallions, fried tofu in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the spaghetti mixture. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and the parsley and toss together.