Sisters birthdays are a special day of celebration in our Convent. Much prayer and discussion goes into the place setting at the table, the beautiful word that is specially picked just for her and then a few carefully and lovingly wrapped gifts (which are usually a few treat foods that she rarely gets). The Sister gets to choose her dinner entree and dessert from a menu. It’s really such fun – some sisters take up to a week deciding what they’re going to ask for on their special day. This past week, I had the great fun of cooking for one such occasion. I made my signature shrimp dish – a little like a scampi, but made richer by the fettucine tossed with cream and parmesan. The fresh lemon in this recipe is a must – don’t skip it. The Sister slowly savored her meal, a smile emanating after every bite. What a blessing it is to bless others – that’s what I love so much about the gift of cooking.
Stella's Shrimp and Fettuccine
- Boil salted water for pasta
- Meanwhile, sauté ¼ c. diced onion and crushed garlic clove until translucent over medium low heat. Watch carefully so you don't burn the garlic. Add chopped basil leaves and chopped tomato – lightly toss, sauté and remove from heat and into a dish to hold.
- Cook your pasta and when finished, toss with 4 Tbsp. butter, warmed heavy cream and 1/2 cup fresh parmesan until you have an “Alfredo” – add onion salt and fresh ground pepper - seasoning to taste.
- Quickly sauté your shrimp in butter, once golden on both sides, add white wine and juice of one lemon. Simmer slightly and then add the tomato mixture back to the pan and combine - season to taste.
- Serve fettuccine with the shrimp tossed over – sprinkle with the lemon rind, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.
Last week some unexpected changes in the convent work areas resulted in a brand new kitchen staff with fresh new ideas and increased emphasis on healthy wholesome meals that will be simpler and require less preparation time. The two cooks assigned to the first new meal had no advanced time to plan a menu or select a recipe, and were simply told to use chicken breasts, rice pilaf, two vegetables and pantry ingredients of choice.
Dinnertime found the sisters enjoying a bright colorful delightfully seasoned meal with a different look and flavor than our usual chicken dinners. Low in fat yet surprisingly full of flavor this cheerful meal was a promise of very good things to come out of our convent kitchen, and we eagerly look forward to our meals as a result of this change!
Fast and Easy Weekday Chicken
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F)
- Sautee onion and garlic in a pan over medium heat until the onions become translucent.
- Add tomatoes and olives to the pan and stir together, and transfer into an oven-safe pan.
- Place the chicken breasts on top of the olive and tomato mixture.
- Mix salt, paprika, cumin and pepper in a separate bowl and sprinkle over chicken.
- Bake the chicken in the oven until juices run clear, 25-30 minutes.
- Serve warm and garnish with fresh parsley.
Every time our lace making sister comes home from Belgium, one of the first things she’s eager to do is cook something from her adopted homeland for all the sisters here at home. Not only does she want to introduce us to Flemish cooking, she also wants to be able to share the response of the sisters “here” with those “back there.”
This time, she’s chosen to make Flemish Beef stew, a simple stew with a unique flavor provided by one key ingredient, which is beer. Frequently when referring to this meal it will be said “The better the beer the better the stew.” Now beer is not something we regularly have on hand in the convent, but only when its given to us as a gift for some celebratory occasion, but our determined sister would not be put off by lack of one ingredient, even though it be the most important one in the recipe. She is known for having everything fall into place at the right moment regardless of the odds. So it was no surprise to anyone when a 6 pack of Stella Artois appeared on the kitchen counter. Without skipping a beat, she continued working on her stew while quietly throughout the convent sisters could be heard quietly chanting “The better the beer, the better the stew.”
- Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half the beef and brown on all sides, turning frequently, about 5 minutes
- Transfer to a slow cooker and drain any fat from the pan.
- Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and brown the remaining geef and add to the slow cooker.
- Add mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until they give off their liquid (5-7 minutes).
- Sprinkle flour over the mushrooms and cook for half a minute. Add beer and bring to a boil, whisking constantly to reduce foaming, until thickened and bubbliing, about 3 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture to the beef in the slow cooker.
- Add carrots, onion, garlic, mustard, caraway seeds, salt, pepper and bay leaf to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on low until the beef is very tender, about 8 hrs.
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.
Honey Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Grilled Vegetables
- Marinate chicken with pesto, garlic, red pepper flakes, lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt at least 1 hour, or overnight for best results.
- Mix oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and 1/4 tsp salt in a small bowl.
- Heat a grill over medium-high, be sure grates are clean and well oiled to prevent sticking.
- Brush oil on each side of the vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper
- 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.
- 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.
- Transfer the chicken to a platter with the vegetables and pour the balsamic dressing over everything and serve.
Most of the sisters enjoy having falafels whenever they are put on the menu, but we have one sister who absolutely loves them. Just mention the word…her eyes light up, her face beams, and she’s ready to reach for the garbanzos to whip some up! “How did you acquire such a passion for them?” I asked. This was her reply:
“Picture,” she said “a dusty winding street in the heart of Jerusalem that leads to an intriguing shop. The walls are covered with hand-woven rugs, and the atmosphere is alive and warm with people sitting all around on the floor on cushions sipping mugs of tea and eating falafels. Here it was that I first fell in love with them.”
Well, you may not be able to go all the way to the Holy Land to become acquainted with this food, but you may learn to love it yourself by trying out this simple recipe right here at home as so many of us have!
- Blend together egg, onion, cumin, salt and pepper and fresh parsley.
- In a separate bowl, coarsely mash the cooked garbanzo beans, leaving some whole.
- Add egg mixture to garbanzo beans. Stir in ½ cup panko crumbs, and chill for 10 minutes.
- Remove garbanzo beans from the refrigerator and form into a ball, using about 1 tablespoon per ball. Roll in remaining panko crumbs.
- Fill a deep sided skillet with 1 inch of oil, and heat over a medium-high heat.
- Gently drop the falafel balls into the oil and fry until golden, turning occasionally for about 6 minutes. Remove falafel balls from oil and set on a paper towel to drain.
- Serve in a pita pocket with shredded cabbage or lettuce and a savory dressing, top a garden salad, or just eat it plain alongside vegetables, and enjoy!
Here’s a tasty and classy recipe that we served to our guest in Bethany tonight. The prep time is minimal. You can make the marinade ahead, add the steak tips, seal in a zip lock bag and freeze until ready to use (skip to step 2). We recommend buying steak tips when they are on sale. All of us love comfort food, and this is the perfect recipe for a busy family. The marinade is also our new favorite for steaks and grilling as we head towards summer – a teriyaki kind of flavor. We got rave reviews from our guest, so give it a try!
Beef Tips with Mushrooms and Sherry
- In a shallow bowl, make the marinade by combining soy sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, onion, ginger and pepper. Coat beef tips with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hrs.
- Remove steak tips from marinade and pat meat dry. Reserve marinade.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with oil. When oil is hot and begins to smoke, add the beef and brown 3 min. on each side. Do not overcook. Remove when evenly deep brown and reserve on a plate.
- Add remaining 3 Tbsp. olive oil to skillet, heat until oil ripples then add mushrooms and brown 7-8 min. Add garlic after 5 to 6 min. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper and cook a few minutes more.
- Add sherry, reduce 1 minute. Add 1 cup of reserved marinade (strained). Reduce heat and cook, reducing liquid until thickened.
- Add beef tips, their juices and mushrooms to the pan, cook for 2 min. Serve with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables on the side.