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.
Spring on the Cape is at its peak this week, with trees budding, boats going back into the water, gardens being cultivated, summer cottages being opened and the pungent smell of salt water filling the air. Clamming licenses are being renewed, and fishermen are painting and repairing their boats – it’s an exciting time to live on Cape Cod!
The beauty and stillness that I found as I walked along the harbor boardwalk yesterday was palpable. “It’s time to make chowder”, I thought to myself. A visit to Cape Cod just isn’t complete without a steaming bowl of chowder. If you can’t get to the beach this summer, try this recipe to bring the beach to you!
- Place the salt pork or bacon in a heavy 5 quart sauce pan and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is brown and crisp (don’t burn!). Remove the bacon bits w/ a slotted spoon and reserve.
- Add the onion, celery, bay leaf and thyme to the drippings and sauté until they are wilted and golden.
- Add the flour and cook for about 1 minute, then add the potatoes and clam juice (both the bottle juice and the liquid reserved from the clams). Set the kettle over medium high heat and bring to a rapid simmer, then reduce the heat and cook for 15-20 min until the potatoes are tender.
- Remove the bay leaf. Stir in the cream and heat, uncovered, without allowing the mixture to boil.
- When the mixture is hot, add the clams and the bacon bits and cook for another 5 minutes without boiling. Season with kosher salt and pepper, to taste.
- Serve immediately, putting a pat of butter on the top of each bowl of chowder w/ a small piece of bacon and a sprinkling of paprika to garnish. Don’t forget the chowder crackers!
If you are trying during Lent – as many households are! – to make your meals simpler, less indulgent, and more in keeping with the Lenten spirit, you will want to consider adding these crispy baked seafood patties to your menu. Last week at the convent we made these with tuna, but any seafood of choice (such as salmon or crabmeat) would lend itself perfectly to this recipe. High in taste and low in fat, these golden little cakes made a very satisfying, yet healthy meal which we all thoroughly enjoyed. For the sake of those who prefer a little touch of decadence we offered a modified version of tartar sauce to dress them up a bit. However most of us found them delicious without any added enhancement. Once you try them I’m sure you will agree they should not be reserved just for Lent, but enjoyed all through the liturgical year.
Crispy Baked Seafood Patties
- Mix together and shape into patties.
- Place on lightly greased baking pan.
- Cook at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown on both sides, about 20 minutes.
- Combine together ingredients for sauce.
“Ooh” I gasped under my breath as the waiter deftly lowered my plate, carefully centering it in front of me. Before I could gain my composure he had swept away with an enthusiastic injunction to me to “enjoy”.
I had been taken to lunch by a friend who was convinced that I would love the fabulous salmon salad this restaurant was known for. This was years ago just when blackened salmon was just becoming a new sensation. Although I’d heard of it, I’d never yet seen it, nor was I at all expecting my salmon at this lunch to be blackened, but here it was before me…..and very black indeed..
Determined to make this a positive experience for the sake of my friend I bravely, though skeptically, took my first taste, and with that taste I became a fan. Now, years later I now have developed my own version, somewhat modified but very flavorful. I highly recommend it to all salmon lovers, especially at this season of the year.
- Heat oven to 400° Fahrenheit.
- In a shallow bowl, combine the paprika, cayenne, thyme, teaspoon of the onion salt.
- In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt 2 ½ tablespoons of the butter. Add the lemon juice.
- Working with 1 salmon fillet at a time, dip the top and bottom halves first in the lemon butter, then in the spices.
- Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the salmon until blackened to your liking about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to the oven for 8 minutes.
I happen to be one of these people who have a natural love for vegetables and never had to be coaxed or made to eat them – I realize that this is not the case with everyone. Just recently I overheard two mothers talking about this. One was telling the other that the only way she can get vegetables into the family diet is to blend them into spaghetti sauce. Of course a good Bolognese sauce already has carrots, onions, and celery in it. I suppose one could slip a little green vegetable in if they were careful not to overdo it.
The other mother maintained that her trick was to always serve them with tasty dips and sauces. I would like to offer another suggestion that works especially well with broccoli, the widely acclaimed miracle food, medically proven to be a nutritional super star. Hidden within each stalk and floweret is a powerful substance effective in lowering cholesterol and preventing cancer and contributing to overall health in general.
Try my Broccoli Bake and see for yourself if you don’t immediately feel stronger, healthier and more satisfied than you ever have after eating this nutrient rich vegetable!
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Beat egg whites until soft peaks form.
- Fold in mayonnaise.
- Stir in cheese, parsley, and lemon peel.
- Arrange cooked broccoli in oven-proof serving dish.
- Pour melted butter over broccoli.
- Top with egg white mixture.
- Sprinkle with paprika.
- Bake 5 minutes or until puffy and lightly browned.