Holiday Buttercrunch

At our Convent and Community each year, it is tradition for us to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas. Advent is a time of waiting and the twelve days that follow Christmas allows time for us to reflect and live the “Incarnation of Christ” as we journey towards our yearly profession of Vows on Epiphany. It’s a time of Enclosure for us when we can withdraw from the busyness of our daily lives and set aside time of quiet for Christ and community.

This Christmas, each of us cooks decided we’d make one special gift for the sisters over each of the twelve days. I chose Monday the 26th and couldn’t wait to make this decadent candy. We have lots of chocolate lovers in the Sisterhood, so I thought it might just be ‘the bomb’ and it was! With just a couple tweaks, it is now going to become my favorite holiday indulgence. I had to quadruple the recipe in order to make enough for 65 Sisters and have some extra for gifting, so it will multiply out well. This recipe is just too special to make for just “any” time of year, so save it for a special occasion.

Blessed Twelve Days of Christmas to you!

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Holiday Buttercrunch
SERVINGS
24pieces
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
pieces
COOK TIME
10-15minutes
PREP TIME
10minutes
READY IN
1hour

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a large, deep heavy-bottom saucepan, melt the butter.
  2. Stir in the salt, sugar, water, and corn syrup, and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil gently over medium heat, without stirring, until the mixture reaches hard-crack stage (300°F on an instant-read or candy thermometer). The syrup will bubble without seeming to change much for awhile, but be patient; all of a sudden it will darken, and at that point you need to take its temperature and see if it's ready, about 10 to 12 minutes. Pay attention; too long on the heat, and the syrup will burn.
  3. While the sugar mixture is gently bubbling, spread half of the toasted nuts (1 cup), in a fairly closely packed, even single layer, on a lightly greased baking sheet or 1/2 sheet pan.
  4. Top with half the chocolate chips (1 1/3 cups).
  5. When the syrup is ready, pour it quickly and evenly over the nuts and chocolate. Immediately top with the remaining chocolate (1 1/3 cups).
  6. Wait several minutes for the chips to melt, then gently, using the back of a spatula, spread the chocolate evenly and top with the remaining toasted nuts (1 cup).
  7. Allow to cool at room temperature and the chocolate will harden. When cool, break it into uneven chunks.
  8. Store cooled candy tightly wrapped; it'll stay fresh for a couple of weeks at room temperature. Freeze for longer storage.

Overnight Christmas Blueberry-Pecan French Toast

Today’s post begins a series of offerings from Guest Bloggers at the Monastery Kitchen! We hope you will be doubly blessed (as today’s author was!) by this beautiful story and recipe for a delicious Christmas breakfast.

A new friend and a great recipe: I got a Christmas miracle two-fer!
A funny thing happened on the way to the blueberries…

by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

It was two days before Christmas and I simply did not have time. I couldn’t afford a run to the grocery store and deal with the bustling crowds of last minute shoppers in the midst of all that I was doing. But I’d forgotten the butter, so I was forced to brave the cold and the crowds.

Making my way through the produce aisle, I spotted an elderly woman who was pushing her carriage slowly and seemed a bit lost. She sounded as if she were talking to herself. As I approached her, I discovered she was. I asked if she needed help.

Fumbling through her purse, she pulled out a folded piece of paper and said she was looking for fresh blueberries for a recipe she found in a magazine. I went with the woman – whose name, I learned, was Ellen — to find the tucked-away fruit. We found them, but since the fresh blueberries were not in season and were a bit expensive, Ellen decided to opt for frozen.

I began to walk with Ellen to the frozen food department on the other side of the store. We chatted along the way, and my new friend told me all about the recipe and how it is assembled in one pan on Christmas Eve to enjoy on Christmas morning. She sold me on the idea, so I grabbed a bag of frozen blueberries for my own shopping cart. Ellen and I gathered up the remaining items we both would need for the special Christmas breakfast. Before parting company, we exchanged phone numbers with the intention to chat again.

After Christmas, we spoke on the phone and compared notes about our overnight Christmas French toast and we made a date to get together.

That was several years ago. Since then, we’ve gone out for tea, watched a Christian movie at the theater, and chatted about our faith and families time and time again. I even brought Ellen a rosary from one of my visits to Rome. Though she is not Catholic, she said she appreciated it very much and began praying the rosary. Later on, she would tell me that she wasn’t sure if she was saying it just right, but that praying it brought her much comfort.

We are still friends to this day. And to think that our friendship was born in a grocery store on a blustery day when I was tempted to not leave the house! But, oh, how I marvel over God’s mysterious and wondrous ways. He arranges beautiful serendipitous encounters that can turn into meaningful faith-filled meetings and even long-term friendships. We just need to open our eyes and our hearts—and slow down a bit too.

Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle is an award-winning author and the EWTN television host of Everyday Blessings for Catholic Moms. A Catholic wife and mother of five, she was noted as one of the Top Ten Most Fascinating Catholics in 2009 by Faith & Family Live and enjoyed a decade-long friendship with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

To read more about Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, or to purchase her wonderful book “Feeding Your Family’s Soul”, follow this link!
http://www.paracletepress.com/Products/8357/feeding-your-familys-soul.aspx

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Overnight Christmas Blueberry-Pecan French Toast
SERVINGS
10people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
45-60minutes
PREP TIME
READY IN

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Coat a 9 x 13–inch baking pan with nonstick spray, and arrange baguette slices in a single layer in the dish. I usually “cheat” and make more than one layer.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, three-fourths of the brown sugar (or honey), vanilla, and nutmeg.
  3. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread.
  4. Cover and chill the mixture overnight. There will appear to be a lot of moisture when the mixture goes into the refrigerator, but most of it will all soak into the bread throughout the night.
  5. Just before baking, sprinkle the remaining quarter cup of brown sugar (or honey), the pecans, and the blueberries over the top.
  6. Bake in a 350ºF oven for about 45–60 minutes or until golden and bubbling. (Check it at 45 minutes and keep an eye on it for the remainder of the time.) It should be a light golden brown on top, and the egg mixture should be completely cooked.
  7. Serve with pure maple syrup. For an added treat, heat the syrup with extra blueberries to make blueberry-flavored syrup. You can serve this dish with fresh fruit on the side and breakfast sausage or bacon, too. Enjoy!

o-boyle-photo

Hummingbird Cake

I was recently introduced to this classic southern cake through one of my friends from the Deep South. I was intrigued by the name as my mom keeps a dish of grape jelly on her porch to attract hummingbirds and has regular visitors. The Hummingbird Cake is a very unusual one; it’s made with oil rather than butter, and contains more fruit than flour. The mix doesn’t need beating, is wonderful with a cream cheese frosting, and is flavored with interesting spices and pecans. Contrary to the name, there are no birds in this particular recipe! The giveaway to the Hummingbird Cake’s birthplace, however, is in the key ingredients – bananas and pineapple. It’s thought to have been invented in Jamaica, probably in the late ‘60s, and introduced to society through Southern Living magazine by a Mrs. L.H. Wiggin in 1978.

Since it’s a dessert made for ladies, we thought it would be a crowd pleasing addition to our weekly Harborside Teas. We always offer two choices of dessert, and it was fun to have a whole new recipe and an unusual one at that. It was so popular that we thought it warranted giving away the recipe. A thin slice will do you – this cake is rich!  And oh, so good…

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Hummingbird Cake
SERVINGS
12people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
25 minutes
PREP TIME
15 minutes
READY IN
1 1/2 hrs (with cooling time)

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare three 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering and lightly flouring.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Cream together the eggs, oil, vanilla extract, pineapple, mashed bananas, and finely chopped pecans in another large bowl.
  4. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Evenly divide the batter between the three prepared pans and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Turn cakes onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely before frosting with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. Cream the cream cheese with an electric mixer.
  2. Add in butter and cream together with cream cheese until light and fluffy.
  3. Add confectioners’ sugar, ½ cup at a time. After each cup has been incorporated, turn the mixer onto the highest speed setting and for about 10 seconds to lighten the frosting.
  4. Add in vanilla and cream until well-blended, light and fluffy.

cake-slice copy FullSizeRender_3full-cake copy

Fabulous Roasted Fruit Platter

This Sunday after church the sisters, along with some invited guests, enjoyed a sumptuous southern breakfast, the perfect holiday treat especially for those who have southern roots.

The menu was extensive……..baked ham, grits, sausage, bacon, buttermilk biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, sticky buns and more than anyone could sample at one sitting. My favorite of all the dishes was a fabulous fruit platter consisting of a combination of roasted fresh and dried fruits and nuts that had been coated with a rich glaze of brown sugar, butter and Calvados.

This winter fruit and nut combination was “Out of this world”…and not only for a southern breakfast, but as a wonderful accompaniment to any number of other meals, especially at this time of year.

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Fabulous Roasted Fruit Platter
SERVINGS
6-8people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
30-40mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
50-60mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cut fruit to desired size and shape. Spread out on sheet pan and brush with a little oil and cover with foil and roast about 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until softened.
  2. Uncover and sprinkle with nuts and generously brush with glaze. Return to oven uncovered at 50 degrees higher and cook until nice and golden.
  3. Sprinkle with pecan and walnut halves and serve.
Glaze
  1. To make glaze melt butter and brown sugar together until sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Add cider, cinnamon, nutmeg, and Calvados and simmer till thick enough to spread.

Notes

If dried fruit needs softening soak in warm cider to reconstitute before roasting.
We used firm pears and apples, and pineapple for fresh fruit, along
with dried figs and apricots. Craisins could also be an interesting addition.

Fantastic Apple Pecan Fantans

I seem never to tire of anything that made from apples. This fruit is delicious in all its forms…cold and crunchy, or hot and spicy baked in desserts, sautéed, or simmered into a sauce. Apples are one of the most versatile fruits that lend themselves to most any form of preparation.

I am always eager to try any new apple recipe, such as the one that follows. I have named these Fantastic Apple Pecan Fantans, and that is absolutely what they are!

With practice one can become adept at producing perfectly shaped fans. However first attempts often result in irregular shapes, which I personally prefer. No matter what shape they turn into, they taste so fantastic that shape becomes incidental. The fact that they include whole wheat flour is comforting and always makes me feel like I’m enjoying a “healthy treat!”

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Fantastic Apple Pecan Fantans
SERVINGS
1dozen
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
dozen
COOK TIME
18-20mins
PREP TIME
2 hrs25 mins
READY IN
2 hrs45 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Prepare Dough: Combine first three ingredients in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in egg, next three ingredients, and 1 1/2 cups bread flour. Beat at medium speed, using paddle attachment for one minute or until smooth. Gradually beat in whole wheat flour and enough remaining bread flour to make a soft dough.
  2. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes), sprinkling surface with bread flour as needed. Place dough in a lightly greased large bowl, turning to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place (85º Fahrenheit), free from drafts, 45 to 55 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare Filling: Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples and brown sugar, and sauté 4 to 5 minutes or until apples are crisp-tender. Cool completely (about 30 minutes).
  4. Punch dough down; turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 20- x 12-inch rectangle. Spread remaining 8 tablespoons softened butter over dough. Stir together 3/4 cup granulated sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over butter, and top with pecans and apple mixture.
  5. Cut dough into 5 (12- x 4-inch) strips; stack dough strips. Replace any apples and pecans that fall out. Cut stack into 6 (4- x 2-inch) rectangles; cut each rectangle in half crosswise to form 12 (2-inch) squares. Place stacked squares, cut sides up, into cups of a lightly greased 12-cup muffin pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place (85º Fahrenheit), free from drafts, 45 minutes to 1 hour or until rolls rise about 3/4 inch above rim of pan.
  6. Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool in pan on a wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from pan to a wire rack.
  7. Optional: Prepare Glaze: Bring 1/3 cup butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar to a boil in a 1-qt. heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly; boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; drizzle over top of warm rolls.

Cheddar/Parmesan Cheese Ball with port wine soaked craisins

Spring is officially here. It’s a lovely day, sun shiney, a bit cool, but leaves are starting to come out. I am keeping a close eye on all of the perennials I planted last fall, and almost all have come up. And of course we have been babying our vegetable seedlings in our grow-tent, which will start to go into the ground any minute now. It’s a very hopeful time of year, full of new beginnings and promise.

We have been hosting special receptions each month as a part of the celebration of our choir’s 25th anniversary. Each month I am faced with the challenge of beautiful finger food that fits in a budget, and isn’t the same every time. I often use ingredients I’ve popped into the freezer. Cheese and crackers are always a good staple. We tried out two different recipes of cheese balls, and ended up combining elements of both to make a really classy cheese ball with lots of flavor. It’s a cheddar/Parmesan with port wine-soaked craisins folded into the mixture. Really delicious, and everyone loved it!
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Cheddar/Parmesan Cheese Ball with port wine soaked craisins
SERVINGS
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
COOK TIME
PREP TIME
READY IN

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Soak craisins in port wine.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix cream cheese, sour cream, shredded cheeses, lemon zest, onion, garlic, pepper, cayenne until well combined, adding craisins at the end.
  3. Put chopped pecans on a piece of waxed paper.
  4. Remove cheese mixture from bowl, form into a ball, and roll in the chopped pecans.
  5. Can be refrigerated, but fine to serve right away.