French Onion Soup

Recently a friend drove me to a medical appointment. As we left to return home she asked, “How about lunch?” This had not been in the plans but it was lunchtime and a nice suggestion so I said, “Sure.” The next question was what did we feel like having: a burger, a taco, pizza, Chinese? None of them moved either of us, so I offered another idea, “Further on there is a nice little French bakery that serves lunch, if you wouldn’t mind driving an extra bit.”

Within minutes both of us were savoring the richest flavored onion soup out of individual black wrought iron pots overflowing with melted cheese and boasting a gorgeous golden crusted crouton. Almost simultaneously, we both had the same thought: Why don’t I ever make this at home? Within days she made it for her family and the convent sisters served it for two different retreats. In each case it met with overwhelmingly positive responses.

How long has it been since you served French onion soup?

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French Onion Soup
SERVINGS
6people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
1hour, 45 minutes
PREP TIME
20minutes
READY IN
2hours, 5 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a heavy-bottomed pan, slowly brown the onions and garlic in butter and sugar until the onions are golden brown, about 30 minutes.
  2. Add flour and cook, stirring for 2 or 3 minutes.
  3. Add the wine and cook for 2 or 3 minutes.
  4. Add stock or consommé and water, and simmer partially covered for 1 hour.
  5. To serve, place a small slice of French bread on top of each bowl, and cover generously with Swiss cheese and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, then bake covered at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, then uncover and bake another 10 minutes.

Hearty Beef Stew

All the convent sisters continue to work on preparations for Spirit of America Band’s participation in the Dubai workshops at the end of this month. Whether or not they play an instrument or are even going on the trip themselves every sister is very involved and supportive of the endeavor in whatever way they are able to contribute.

Last week the emphasis was on sewing. All who could helped with the job of fitting, altering and adjusting each uniform. This week when the participants from all over the country come together for rehearsal, we will be feeding about 200 people for the entire weekend; so much help will be needed in Paraclete House Kitchen. One of the meals that has hit the spot with most of the group and received a lot of praise is this hearty beef stew that not only provides them with needed energy but also satisfies their taste buds in a special way.

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Hearty Beef Stew
SERVINGS
8people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
8hours
PREP TIME
35minutes
READY IN
8hours, 35 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Place in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.
  2. Add half of beef to skillet; cook, turning to brown on all sides, about 8 minutes.
  3. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high.
  4. Repeat procedure with remaining beef.
  5. Add wine to skillet; scrape to loosen browned bits from bottom of pan.
  6. Bring wine to a boil, and cook 1 minute.
  7. Add to slow cooker.
  8. Stir in tomato paste, salt, pepper, carrots, garlic, celery, onions, and 2 cups beef stock.
  9. Add thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
  10. Cover and cook on LOW until beef is tender, 7 1/2 to 8 hours.
  11. Whisk together flour and remaining 1/2 cup stock.
  12. Add flour mixture and to slow cooker.
  13. Increase heat to HIGH; cover and cook until bubbly and thickened, about 5 minutes.
  14. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
  15. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Butternut, Sweet Potato and Apple Soup

As we enjoy these cool crisp days, my taste buds long for a creamy soup to warm my body. This soup is a treasure. The smell of it is a potpourri to scent your entire house! It has become our favorite soup for the season. Recently, we served this as the first course to the luncheon we hosted pre-performance for Elements Theater Company’s performance of “All My Sons”. We received so many recipe requests, we thought we should share it. We are filled with gratitude for each of you. Happy Thanksgiving and a blessed Advent!

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Butternut, Sweet Potato and Apple Soup
SERVINGS
6-8
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
COOK TIME
45minutes
PREP TIME
30minutes
READY IN
1 1/4hours

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat until soft and translucent.
  2. Add the butternut squash, sweet potatoes, chicken broth, salt and pepper to pot. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes or more.
  3. Turn off the heat. Add the diced apple and purée the soup with a handheld immersion blender until very smooth and creamy. Pour the blended soup into a clean pot.
  4. Add the honey, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg and heavy cream and stir. Bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If you like a sweeter soup, add more honey.

Note: This soup thickens as it cools. If necessary, add a bit of cream to thin it back to desired consistency.

With thanks to Once Upon a Chef for inspiration of this recipe!

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Vegan Curried Chickpea, Coconut and Kale Soup

This past weekend, I was a joy-filled member of the cooking team for our remarkable and award-winning marching band, Spirit of America. The band is embarking on a very exciting groundbreaking opportunity to travel to Dubai this January (2017) to assist in starting the first marching field band in the United Arab Emirates!
Over the past few months, they’ve had 4 rehearsals together to pull off this enormous project — creating a field show with 150 people from all over the United States!  One thing we knew for sure, they needed to be fed well! My job was to cook for those with special diets. It was fun to spoil them and experiment with recipes that were gluten free, lactose free and vegan! When the weekend was over, it got me to thinking about creating more healthy recipes that we could add to our diet. This soup is high in fiber and packed with flavor, especially if you like the tastes of curry and coconut.
For more info about our band, click here (link: http://spiritofamericaband.org/).
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Vegan Curried Chickpea, Coconut and Kale Soup
SERVINGS
6people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
10minutes
PREP TIME
15minutes
READY IN
1/2hour

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. First, sauté the onion in 2 Tbsp of olive oil until softened.
  2. Combine all ingredients​, except the lemon zest and juice, ​in a blender and puree until completely smooth.
  3. Pour soup into a medium pot and heat on medium-high. Allow soup to simmer for 10 min, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the lemon zest and juice.
  5. Adjust seasonings to your liking and add fresh cracked pepper.
  6. Serve and garnish with the extra garbanzo beans and fresh kale​.

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Hearty Italian Chicken and Autumn Harvest Veggie Stew

Every now and then when our convent dinner is some kind of a one dish meal, Sisters like to have it served right from the big skillet in which it has been cooked. This is especially so as the weather becomes cooler. When we are a little chilled around the edges nothing comforts one as much as a piping hot bowl of savory soup or stew. Today was such a day, cool, wet and rainy out of doors. Warm, dry and welcoming inside, with the aroma of a tasty combination of the day’s harvested vegetables.

Our convent chef has been eager to make a hearty chicken stew with an Italian twist. Using the last of our autumn garden vegetables she produced a most flavorful dish and chose to serve it from the skillet, which gave everyone a warm comforting sense of generously being cared for in a special way. A along with some crusty home baked bread and a beautiful kale salad we shared a dinner which magically lifted our spirits and pleased us all.

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Hearty Italian Chicken and Autumn Harvest Veggie Stew
SERVINGS
4as a hearty entree, or 6 small bowls
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
as a hearty entree, or 6 small bowls
COOK TIME
80minutes, approx.
PREP TIME
45minutes
READY IN
1 hour 35 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Place the split chicken breasts on the baking sheet, and drizzle them with a little oil, and a couple of good pinches of salt and pepper.
  3. Cut the tops off of the heads of garlic, drizzle each head with a little oil, plus a pinch of salt and pepper, and wrap each head in a small piece of foil; place on the baking sheet next to the chicken.
  4. Roast the chicken, along with the garlic, for 45 minutes; then allow both to cool until they can be handled.
  5. Once they are cooled, shred the chicken, and set it aside; then, squeeze the roasted garlic from the papers, and using your knife or a fork, make the cloves into a paste; set the paste aside for a moment.
  6. Place a medium-large pot over medium to medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 2-3 tablespoons of the oil, plus add in the tablespoon of butter; once melted together, add in the onion and allow it sweat for about 3-4 minutes, until translucent and softened.
  7. To the onion add the roasted garlic “paste”, and stir it in to combine.
  8. Next, add in the diced carrots, parsnips, celery and butternut squash and stir to combine; add in the Italian seasoning, plus a pinch or two of salt and black pepper, and the red pepper flakes, and stir to incorporate.
  9. Add in the tomato paste and stir, and allow it to cook with the vegetables for about 2-3 minutes, or until the “raw” flavor of it is cooked out of it.
  10. Next, add in the chicken stock and stir, cover with a lid and simmer very gently on low for about 20-22 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender.
  11. Turn off the heat, if using; add in the kale and stir to incorporate it, and allow it wilt into the soup for a few minutes; then, finish the soup by adding in the shredded chicken, the basil and the parsley (also, check your seasoning at this point to see if any additional salt/pepper is needed).
  12. To serve, add about ¼ cup or so of cooked gnocchi to your bowl, and ladle some of the stew over top; garnish with some grated Parmesan, if desired, and serve with warm bread.

Crispy Baked Seafood PattiesVegetable and Lentil Soup from a Monastery Kitchen

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Beautiful zucchini and yellow summer squash continue to come in from the gardens every day, and while they do it would be a shame not to have a nice stuffed zucchini boat meal before the season slips by. This is what last night’s convent cook thought as she prepared to make our dinner. She wanted to do something a little different from what we usually do and she turned out a meal that brought applause from the entire sisterhood even though we have had quite a few zucchini meals this summer. Using a combination of sweet and hot Italian sausage and a generous mixture of favorite Italian cheeses she succeeded in satisfying even the most discriminating pallet that evening.

The two things, I think, that put this dish over the top was the combination of cheeses (she used Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, Asiago and Gorgonzola) any of which give a distinctive taste, and then the generous use of fresh garden herbs like basil, oregano and Italian parsley.

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Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats
SERVINGS
2people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
25-30 minutes
PREP TIME
15 minutes
READY IN
40-45 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Blanch the zucchini in a large pot of boiling water, 7 minutes, then place in cold water 5 minutes. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise, then scoop out all but ¼ inch of flesh. Brown the sausage in a small skillet, breaking the pieces into small bits, 5 to 6 minutes, then remove the meat from the skillet.
  3. In the same skillet, on medium heat, add the onion and sauté until soft. Add garlic and sauté 1 additional minute (add a little bit of olive oil if the pan is dry). Add the meat back to the skillet along with the cream cheese, zucchini pulp and bread crumbs and stir until the cheese has melted. Taste and add salt and pepper or other seasonings as desired; fresh basil, oregano and parsley are nice.
  4. Place the zucchini boats on a small sheet pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then fill with the meat mixture. Top with tomato halves and grated cheese.
  5. Place in oven and bake 25-30 minutes until the cheese melts and starts to brown. Garnish with basil.

zuc-tomatos