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

Baked Cauliflower Pie (sformato di cavolfiore)

​With the holidays​ just​ around the corner, you might be looking for a new and unusual crowd-pleasing side dish to wow your guests. This is one of my favorite vegetable dishes, introduced to me by Tessa Kiros in her wonderful cookbook: Twelve: A Tuscan Cook Book. She introduces the readers to the twelve months of Tuscan cooking and seasonal ingredients. When I’ve served at our mission house in Tuscany, I would cook through this book and this recipe became one of our house favorites. As Tessa says, “pastry-less baked vegetable pies are very common and are made with various vegetables depending on the season, such as green beans, artichokes and spinach.” You can also use broccoli in place of cauliflower.

We just served this last night for the opening to our Gregorian Chant Retreat and received great compliments. This would make a lovely addition to your Thanksgiving table. If you want to make it gluten free, just substitute gluten free flour for all purpose flour in the the béchamel sauce.

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Baked Cauliflower Pie (sformato di cavolfiore)
SERVINGS
6servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
30-40mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
55mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 3​50 degrees/ Wash the cauliflower and trim away the hard stem. Put it into a pot of boiling salted water and boil for about 10 min. or until it has softened.
  2. Meanwhile, make the béchamel​ ​​sauce:
    1) Melt butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add shallots (if using) and sauté 2 minutes. Do not let brown.

    2) Reduce heat to low, add flour, and whisk until smooth and raw taste is cooked off, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Add bay leaf and cook until just thickened, stirring often, about 10 minutes.

    3) Stir in nutmeg and salt. Season with ground white pepper. Cool sauce slightly. Discard bay leaf before using.
  3. Drain the cauliflower and​ chop it up finely or roughly puree it. Put into a bowl and mix in the eggs, 2 cups béchamel​,​ parmesan cheese, a grating of fresh nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste, adjusting if necessary. Mix well with wooden spoon.
  4. Butter an oven dish or loaf pan and sprinkle with half of the breadcrumbs to line the pan, shaking away the excess (use gluten free breadcrumbs if making gluten free). Pour in the mixture and sprinkle the surface with the remaining breadcrumbs.
  5. Bake for 30-40 min. in the hot oven, until the top is golden and slightly crusty. Serve warm.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Ginger Bisque

As we finished harvesting all of our winter squash for the season, it only felt appropriate to take a few inside and enjoy a lovely, warm bisque that has all the flavors of fall. By roasting the squash along with all the spices and sugar in this recipe, you’ll bring alive the essential oils buried in them and caramelizing the squash at the same time—achieving a depth of flavor you can’t get by starting this on the stove top.

We are busy bustling around and getting ready for our Arts in Celebration weekend, but remembering how important it is to balance our life with the simple pleasures that God gives us. We do hope you will consider joining us over this next week to experience beauty and the arts, as we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Ginger Bisque
SERVINGS
16cups (8 servings)
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
cups (8 servings)
COOK TIME
45mins
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
1hr

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Prepare butternut squash and toss in a bowl with 6 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp Kosher salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and brown sugar
  3. Spread squash on two parchment or foil lined baking trays and roast in oven for 30 - 35 min. or until tender when pierced with a fork (stirring occasionally).
  4. While the squash is roasting, prepare your leeks and pears. Place the sliced leeks in a bowl of cold water to remove any excess dirt, then remove.
  5. Heat a large dutch oven with the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil and 1 Tbsp of butter. Saute leeks over medium heat until golden and soft. Add pears and then the roasted butternut squash, scraping all the goodness off the pan.
  6. Add the broth and bring to a simmer, cover and cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 min.
  7. Remove from heat, and puree with an immersion blender, until completely smooth.
  8. Adjust seasonings (add additional 1 tsp. salt) and cream, milk (or additional stock) to the consistency you prefer.
  9. Serve warm, enjoying the flavors of fall!

Honey Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Grilled Vegetables​

The crispness of fall is all around us. This past Monday, the Sisters rose early to put our gardens to bed for the winter. It’s always bittersweet for me, as working in the earth, getting my hands dirty and seeing the fruits of our labor and God’s creative act are moments that I treasure. We decided not to put our “chef garden” to bed, as the tomatoes, chard, beets and kale are still growing, and a late crop of peas is sprouting their heads above the earth. So, as a tribute to summer, I wanted to share this wonderful recipe with you. You can use any vegetables for grilling, so don’t feel limited by the ingredients here. If you’re anything like me, your grill stays outside until it snows! Take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and enjoy.
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Honey Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Grilled Vegetables​
SERVINGS
6servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
45mins
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
1hr

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Marinate chicken with pesto, garlic, red pepper flakes, lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt at least 1 hour, or overnight for best results.
  2. Mix oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and 1/4 tsp salt in a small bowl.
  3. Heat a grill over medium-high, be sure grates are clean and well oiled to prevent sticking.
  4. Brush oil on each side of the vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper​
  5. Put ​vegetables​ on 1 large grill tray or ​directly on grill​, and cook, turning constantly until the ​vegetables are cooked and golden, about 6 to ​10​ minutes. Set aside on a dish.
  6. ​Put the chicken on the grill and ​cook about ​4​ to ​5​ minutes on each side until grill marks appear and the chicken is cooked through​​. If you prefer to finish them off in the oven, I suggest a grill pan or cast iron skillet - cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
  7. ​Transfer ​the chicken ​to a platte​r ​with the vegetables and pour the balsamic dressing over everything​ and serve.​

Graham Cracker Apple Crisp with Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce

Many years ago, we had a cookbook from Maine that had the most extraordinary apple pie recipe. It had a layer of crushed graham crackers and caramel sauce underneath the apples. We lost that cookbook in the move to our new kitchen, but every fall when the apples are being harvested I think back to this recipe. This year, I decided to re-create it in an apple crisp. It sure took less time than making a pie, but the flavor combination was there. 
 
For gluten-free cooking, try substituting gluten-free cookies for the graham crackers and brown rice flour for the flour. I think you might be pleased.
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Graham Cracker Apple Crisp with Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
SERVINGS
9servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
30-40mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
50-60mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. ​​Lightly grease 8x8” square baking dish​
  2. Filling: Toss apples together with brown sugar, cinnamon,​ flour, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice and the melted butter.
  3. Topping: Melt butter in a medium bowl and add all other topping ingredients. Mix until crumbly and evenly mixed.
  4. Sprinkle over apples and pat down lightly. Bake at 350º for about 30-40 minutes, until apples are soft​ and the filling bubbles and the crisp is golden.​​
  5. Meanwhile make Salted Caramel Sauce​: Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a medium​ saucepan. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking it as it begins to melt. ​It's okay if the sugar begins to ​form clumps​-​ keep whisking and as it continues to cook, they will melt back down. Stop whisking once all of the sugar has melted, and swirl the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks.
  6. Continue cooking until the sugar has reached a deep amber color. It should look almost a reddish-brown, and have a slight toasted aroma. This is the point where caramel can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye. If you are using an instant-read thermometer, it will be around 350 degrees F.​ Watch this step very carefully!​
  7. Remove the caramel from the heat and add the butter all at once. Be careful, as the caramel will bubble up when the butter is added. Whisk the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted.
  8. Slowly pour the cream into the caramel. Again, be careful because the mixture will bubble up ferociously.
  9. Whisk until all of the cream has been incorporated and you have a smooth sauce. Add the fleur de sel ​or kosher salt ​and whisk to incorporate.
  10. Set the sauce aside to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then pour int​o jars. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 month.
  11. ​Serve crisp warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce.

Garden Herb Focaccia Bread

It was 45 minutes till dinnertime, and we were in pretty good shape toward getting the meal completed and served on time (barring any unforeseen circumstances). No sooner had I had this thought, than one of our number spoke up excitedly and said, “Wouldn’t it be great to add fresh baked bread to the dinner?”

“Oh NO!” was my immediate response.

Provide fresh baked bread for 63 people in 45 minutes! I felt like one of the disciples when Jesus told them to feed the hungry multitude with one little boy’s lunch! However, knowing this sister as well as I did, I knew it was no use trying to discourage her from making this happen; once her heart was set on something, nothing was apt to change it, so no one even tried. The result? Fresh baked bread in less than 45 minutes, beautifully golden on the outside and perfectly textured and filled with fresh garden herbs inside…a miracle for all!

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Garden Herb Focaccia Bread
SERVINGS
8servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
35mins
PREP TIME
10mins
READY IN
45mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Sprinkle yeast and sugar into 1/2 cup of the water; do not stir.
  3. Let stand 1-2 minutes or until the surface becomes bubbly.
  4. While yeast is bubbling, combine flour and table salt in a large bowl.
  5. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in yeast mixture and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  6. Stir with wooden spoon or mixer, and add remaining 1/4 cup.
  7. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead for 5-7 minutes, adding small spoonfuls of flour if necessary.
  8. Spread dough into a lightly greased baking pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm place (low oven, heating pad) 10-15 minutes.
  9. Let rise in a warm place- about 80-85 degrees - until doubled in bulk, about an hour.
  10. Using the end of a wooden spoon, indent the dough every 1-2 inches.
  11. Combine remaining 3 Tbsp olive oil and herbs until leaves are broken up and oil is fragrant.
  12. Pour over dough. Rub gently into surface. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
  13. Bake 10-12 minutes, in a 375 degree oven.
  14. Let cool and cut into wedges.

Note: The speed of this bread is due to the quick rising in a warm place. I like using the oven light or a heating pad. If you don't have a warm place, no problem, just let it rise more slowly on your kitchen counter.