As we head into the cold, long days of winter, I find myself craving comfort food that warms every part of you. A bowl of steaming stew, perfect buttery mashed potatoes or even a simple bowl of spaghetti Bolognese can fill the bill on any particular day.
I found lamb shanks on sale at the store this week and was delighted to pair them with this ossobuco style recipe for the ultimate comfort food. Usually made with veal, lamb is a nice change and the succulent meat falls off the bone when made overnight in your slow cooker. The word literally means hollow-bone and refers to the middle part of the hind shank, which has tender meat around the marrowbone. Served with risotto or polenta, ossobuco makes a delicious and satisfying meal.
Cut through the tendon that connects the meat to the bone at the bottom of the shank -this will allow the meat to bunch up nicely. Season the shanks generously with salt and pepper.
Heat a large frying cast iron skillet or heavy fry pan over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and brown the shanks a couple at a time, turning until dark brown all over (browning creates a great depth of flavor you get once they’re cooked). Set the shanks aside in a slow cooker.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the 3 Tbsp. olive oil, butter, onions, carrot, celery and garlic to the same frying pan. Cook, stirring, for 10 minutes until the vegetables are golden and soft.
Turn up the heat to high, add the wine, bring to a rapid simmer and let it bubble for 30 seconds or so to burn off the alcohol.
Add the tomato paste, thyme, rosemary, stock, tomatoes, bay leaves and sugar to the pan and stir to combine. Pour or spoon carefully over the shanks. Cover with the lid and cook in the slow cooker on low for 6 hrs., spooning liquid over the shanks every now and then. The meat should be almost falling off the bone by the end.
Gently remove the shanks using tongs or a large spoon (careful as they will be very delicate) and set aside in a dish covered in foil.
Put the cooking into a large saucepan, add the butter to the sauce and boil for about 10 minutes to reduce slightly, or until it’ a nice pouring sauce. You may need to add 2-3 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup cold water to thicken it up. Season to taste with salt and cracked pepper.
Serve the shanks over creamy mashed potatoes, polenta or risotto alongside steamed green vegetables. Pour the sauce generously over the top. Sprinkle with parsley and lemon zest if you like.
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
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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.
As our choir was preparing for our Lenten concert program this past week, we reminded ourselves that the English word Lent is a shortened form of Old Englishlen(c)ten, which means ‘spring’. This means that Lent refers to ideas of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection and regrowth.
What could be more spring-like than a warm tart and sweet lemon soufflé? As I was preparing this dessert as a gift for a friend, I looked out into our snow-covered yard imagining crocuses budding their heads out of the frozen earth as a promise of what lies ahead.
A soufflé will work the best if all of your ingredients are at room temperature before beginning.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and place rack in the center of the oven. Butter and dust with sugar six – 1 cup ramekins or other heatproof bowls or a six cup soufflé dish.
Set aside 2 tablespoons of the sugar to use when whipping the egg whites. Place the remaining sugar in a medium sized bowl. Add the lemon zest to the sugar. With the beater attachment, grind the lemon zest into the sugar, creating a fragrant, slightly yellow tinged sugar.
Working the zest into the sugar will release lots of the essential oils in the zest, creating a super lemony batter.
In the bowl of your electric mixer or with a hand mixer, cream the lemony sugar and softened butter. Add the three egg yolks, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour and salt and beat until combined (do not over mix)
With the mixer on low speed, gradually pour in the lemon juice and milk. Set aside while you beat the egg whites.
In a clean bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold the egg whites into the batter, in three additions, mixing only until incorporated.
Carefully pour (or use a ladle) the batter into the prepared ramekins. (The batter does not rise much during baking so you can fill the ramekins almost to the rim.)
Place the ramekins or soufflé dish in a larger baking pan. Boil a tea pot of water to create a water bath. (A water bath is used to provide temperature protection for the eggs.)
Place the basting pan with the souffle inside into the oven, carefully pulling the oven rack out a bit. Carefully pour in enough hot water so that the water is halfway up the sides of the ramekins or soufflé dish, and carefully slide the rack back into the oven.
Bake for about 40 – 45 minutes or until the sponge cakes are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake portion comes out clean. Be careful not to insert the toothpick into the lemon sauce at the bottom of the ramekins. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and cool slightly before serving.
This dessert can be served warm or at room temperature. Dust the tops of the puddings with confectioners sugar and dress with a dollop of whipped cream and fresh berries or lemon slices.
Crepes are one of my favorite foods and can be quite versatile. Used for dessert, they can be filled with a variety of ingredients: chocolate, Nutella, mascarpone to name a few. Or served at breakfast with ricotta cheese and just a touch of sweetness. At lunch or dinner, they can be filled with spinach, chicken and mushroom cream sauce, or thinly sliced ham and a lightly scrambled egg or even an herbed cream cheese with smoked salmon and sliced radish. Any way you serve them, they are delightful, and light on carbohydrates.
I was cleaning out our coal stoves, and discovered an old cast-iron crepe pan. I couldn’t resist! Passion took over and I set about cleaning it up, trying out recipes, and finding something that I wanted to share. This simple breakfast crepe will be a nice change on the weekend, when you want to do something a little more special for your family.
Blessed New Year!
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Crepes with Lemon Ricotta Filling
Makes about 6 8-inch crêpes, recipe can be doubled as needed
Place the flour, milk, eggs, salt, and melted butter (and optional sugar and vanilla) in a blender and blend for about 20 seconds until batter is smooth. Alternatively, whisk everything together in a bowl until thoroughly combined and frothy.
Cover the bowl and let the batter sit for at least 1/2 hour on the counter or overnight in the refrigerator.
Before cooking the crêpes, assemble everything you'll need by your stove top: the batter, the pan, the oil and pastry brush and a spatula. If your bowl doesn't have a pour spout, have a ladle or 1/4-cup measuring cup handy.
Place the pan over medium heat and brush your pan with oil to coat the bottom. Let it sit on the flame for a minute to get hot. Pour in about ¼-1/3 cup of batter. Immediately, pick up the pan and swirl it to coax the batter into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
When the crêpe has browned slightly on the bottom, carefully work a spatula underneath it and flip. Cook the second side briefly, just to set the batter.
Tilt the pan and loosen the crêpe, then slide it onto the cooling rack or wax paper
Continue making crêpes with the rest of the batter, brushing more oil on the pan as needed to keep the crêpes from sticking.
If not eating the crêpes immediately, stack them one on top of the other as they cool. If they seem sticky, place a square of wax paper or parchment between them. Place the stack in a sealable plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for a few months.
Lemon Ricotta Filling
Whip all of the above ingredients together in a mixer until smooth and creamy. If using cream cheese, whip this first until creamy and then add the other ingredients
Spoon about 2 Tbsp of the filling into one of the “corners” of the crepes and fold into ¼’s
Arrange on plate and sprinkle with mixed berries and powdered sugar to serve, or serve with homemade blueberry sauce (below).
Homemade Blueberry Sauce
In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine sugar, water, cornstarch,
and lemon juice.
Whisk until blended, then add blueberries.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until juice is clear and sauce is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
In many European countries Epiphany is celebrated as a National Holiday. Last year, I was blessed to be serving at Via Sacra in Italy where I learned about the magical Christian legend of La Befana, an important character in the Christmas festivities. The story of La Befana has been in Italian tradition since the XIII century. The legend tells that la Befana was approached by the Three Wise Men who asked her to lead them to the stable where the baby Jesus lay in a manger. La Befana was too busy sweeping her house, so she declined the offer to go with them. Soon she realized that she had made a mistake, so she gathered up a bag full of gifts and set off alone, flying on her broom in search of the baby Jesus. Though she followed the same star as the Magi, she was unable to find the stable. Undaunted, la Befana continues to travel the world to this day, searching every house for the Christ child, leaving gifts. On January 6, the first day of Epiphany, Italian children search their stockings for gifts from La Befana as a sign that they have been good that year.
Celebrate Epiphany with us by baking Dreikönigskuchen (A Cake for Three Kings) a specialty sweet roll found in bakeries all over Liechtenstein at this time of year!
In the bowl of a standing mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and add sugar – wait about 5 min until the yeast starts to work. Add the rest of the ingredients, starting with the liquids and going to solid, adding the flour last. Add the flour 1 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and it springs back to the touch. You may not need all the flour.
Once a soft, smooth ball forms, set it aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 1/2 hours. Be sure to cover it and place in a warm spot.
Divide the dough into 8 Pieces, one a little larger than the rest.
Roll each piece into a ball and arrange the 7 smaller balls around the slightly larger one on a sheet pan, forming a flower. Poke an almond into the bottom of one of the rolls. Let rise another 30 minutes, then brush with the egg wash.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F. Prepare the glaze by mixing the apricot jelly with a tablespoon of hot water.
Bake the rolls for 30-40 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Brush with several coats of apricot glaze and sprinkle with the coarse sugar. It’ll sparkle in the sunlight, like a beautiful jewel
Next, add a real crown. You can make one out of a brown paper bag or, if you happen to have one of these laying around…
Let a lucky someone find the almond and be royalty for the day! Serve it with a big cup of tea or coffee and … an epiphany or two.
Our Monastic Bake Shop opens for Advent, just in time for people to select delicious home-baked goods for their Christmas table. One of the favorite sweet breads that people return for is the lovely St. Lucia Bread. A rich, dense dough filled with citron, saffron and almonds, and decorated like a wreath, has been a long-standing tradition for our Bakeshop, started by one of our own Sisters, Sr. Lucia.
Traditionally, when we make our first profession as Sisters, we also take on a new name – symbolizing our new life wedded to Christ. Sr. Lucia became a novice in early December. When she was preparing to take her vows, she prayed about what her new name should be. One of the Sisters told her that she had an idea of a name for her. The Sister next to her said, “Now don’t overwhelm our new novice with another big decision!” But she couldn’t bear the suspense, and she told her the name: Lucia. A bit later, a different Sister mentioned that she had received a name for her, and it was the same one! She decided to learn more about who St Lucia was, only to discover that her feast day was celebrated on December 13th — the exact day that the name had been suggested to her! She couldn’t deny that God was speaking. It turns out that her middle name had been Lucille after her maternal grandmother, and years later it was discovered that her actual given name had been Lucia!