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!”
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- 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.
- 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.
- Serve the ribs with Creamy Polenta, spooning the sauce on top, and garnishing with parsley.
- Spray the insert of a slow cooker with cooking spray (for easier clean up) and preheat on high.
- 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.
- 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.
One of my favorite breakfast recipes is a special Swedish crepe called Plattar. I asked Sr.Madeleine, who is currently studying lace making in Brugge, Belgium, how this came to be one of their family recipes, a recipe she makes for her two daughter’s birthdays every year. This is what she wrote me.
“Swedish Plattar is a recipe from a collection of Swedish recipes celebrating the seasons of the year. The author of the recipe remembers her mother preparing these recipes to remind her family of the goodness of God. Personally, when I was young I had not learned to cook or bake; I too, like the writer, wanted to both cook for my young family and to emphasize the love of God and His goodness. Swedish plattar was by far the biggest hit! I made it regularly every Saturday morning for my family, standing patiently beside the electric frying pan (popular in those days) until many Swedish Plattar were made and the the hungry mouths of all were filled. Swedish Plattar takes time to fry, so the making is a labor of love (due to the sheer volume of the batter, and the number you need to fill someone up!). The smudges and dribbles on the page make the recipe easy to find in the cookbook, and also attest to its perennial popularity. My daughters and I are all three nuns now and they as well as I continue the practice of making Swedish plattar for celebrations of God and His goodness.”
- Beat the eggs add the milk, then the flour and whisk well. Add the melted butter, sugar, salt and vanilla and whisk.
- Let the batter stand for two hours or overnight
- Preheat a griddle to 325 degrees and brush with butter
- When the skillet is hot, drop in two - three tablespoons of batter for each pancake – about 4” in diameter
- Cook until golden on one side, and then flip to the other side (about 2 min. on each side)
- When golden, fold into thirds and remove to a plate and continue with the rest of the batter.
- The pancakes can be kept warm in a low oven. One recipe makes 30 - 4” pancakes.
Serve with the jam and a sprinkling of powdered sugar. Fresh fruit on the side makes a lovely presentation.
September is season unto itself on Cape Cod. As many of our visitors return home to school and work, there is a quieter spirit. Yet the air is warm, gardens are full, the beaches are less crowded and the sunsets are beautiful. We are enjoying the best month of the year here. There is still lots of outdoor living to be done before the crispness comes with days of shorter daylight. Thought this recipe for one of the best and freshest tasting gelatos might be just the thing for some of those late summer warm nights.
End of Summer Fresh Lemon Gelato
- In a bowl, using a hand mixer combine creams and sugar until sugar dissolves
- Stir in vanilla, lemon juice and zest and salt
- Refrigerate the mixture for at least 2 hours
- Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's directions.
- Serve in a hollowed out lemon half for a stunning presentation.
It’s strawberry season on Cape Cod! If you take a walk around the community, you’ll see an abundance of perky little red berries peeping out from under their lazy green foliage in many of our gardens. If we can get to them before the deer and rabbits, then we are bound to have some scrumptious desserts here in the Convent, which is a rare and welcome treat!
Summer on Cape Cod usually conjures up images of days at the beach followed by ice cream and sunsets. We are fortunate to have cream from our Jersey cows, freshly picked strawberries, and a generous donation of agave nectar, so I set out to make a creamy homemade strawberry ice cream. I found just the recipe to pull all of these together. Start it the day before as it needs to chill before transferring to your ice cream maker. Enjoy this on a hot and humid summer day and you are sure to feel refreshed!
Homemade Strawberry Agave Ice Cream
- If your strawberries aren’t already pureed, do that in a Cuisinart (I used a potato masher to leave some good chunks). Add lemon juice and set aside.
- Beat eggs and egg yolk together very well. Set aside.
- In a heavy pot, heat half and half and agave nectar over med-high heat until temperature is 180 F. Stir frequently.
- Drizzle ½ cup of hot mixture into eggs, whisking briskly. Add another 1/2 cup in the same manner. (This keeps the eggs from scrambling).
- Then, drizzle egg and cream mixture back into the pot, whisking briskly.
- Turn heat down to med-low and bring to 190 F, stirring bottom constantly. To check for doneness, dip a metal spoon in the pot. Remove. Run a finger through the custard coating the spoon (like parting the 'custard sea'). If the custard stays on either side of the stripe (doesn't run in to fill the space), then it's done.
- Strain into a 2 qt. bowl and add all but 1/3 cup of the strawberry puree to this.
- Cool in an ice bath and then transfer to fridge overnight.
- Freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. When the ice cream is done, take the remaining 1/3 cup of the strawberry sauce and swirl it directly into the finished ice cream. Freeze again, if needed, before serving.
Twenty six of our community young people who belong to our WinterPercussion Ensemble just returned from two intense tech weeks of preparation for the final competition they will be participating in in Dayton, Ohio in April. They have been practicing and working hard towards this starting last fall. When they rehearse, they use up enormous amounts of energy and work up huge appetites.
Two sisters went with them to cook and keep them properly fed. The meals are hearty and nourishing, starting with breakfast which needs to be full of protein. This ham and egg dish is one of their favorites. I like to believe that their excellent performance and high ratings are, in part, due to this most excellent breakfast.
Many people like to also serve this for lunch and or for a light supper with a salad or vegetable accompanying it.
Cheesy Hashbrown Ham and Eggs
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Gently press the drained hash browns between paper towels to dry them as best as possible. In a 9-inch pie plate, toss the hash browns with the melted butter into the plate. Press them into the bottom and up the sides to form a crust. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown and starting to crisp.
- Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. When the hash brown crust is ready pour the egg mixture over it and return to the oven.
- Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for about 30 minutes until the quiche is light golden brown on top and puffed.
Today I am looking out on a winter wonderland! We are in the midst of a blizzard that has dumped an amazing amount of snow as far as the eye can see. One of those days to sit by the fire with a hot cup of tea and a slice of warm Apple cranberry bread.
We still have apples in the refrigerator from our fall harvest which are in surprisingly good shape – the one I munched on while making this bread wasn’t fresh from the tree, but still crisp and sweet. We also were given a large quantity of cranberries from a local bog, so it seemed like a good use of the two to put them together in a quick bread. We are always looking for different morning snack ideas to serve at our community work time break. I tried a couple of different recipes and actually left the peels on the Apple’s to give the breads a little more texture. Here is one variety that I thought the most flavorful and moist.
- Heat oven to 350 degree F. Grease bottom only of an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan
- In large bowl, mix 3/4 cup sugar, the oil and egg.
- Stir in apple, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir in cranberries.
- Spoon batter into pan.
- In small bowl, mix 1 Tablespoon sugar and the cinnamon; sprinkle over batter.
- Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
- Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack before slicing.
- For glaze, combine confectioners sugar and half and half or milk, drizzle over bread.