As our State is starting to reopen the economy, part of me is going to miss this “time at home.” I’ve realized how much I’ve recognized, appreciated and enjoyed the simple things of life so much more over these last couple months. I was emailing a few of my other monastic friends across the country and we have similar stories. We’ve spent more time just being, praying the offices on behalf of the world, quieting ourselves down and trying to listen more to His voice. I hope I don’t lose what I’ve gained from this experience! I’ve also had time to do some festive cooking. This weekend I decided that our travel ban didn’t refer to in house international cuisine. So, here’s a yummy, fresh and healthy recipe that can be used to cool you down on a hot summer’s day. If you’re a vegan, substitute the shrimp with some red pepper or thinly julienned beet. It will be just as delicious. Enjoy!
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Vietnamese Shrimp and Vegetable Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Thin with warm water if desired. This recipe will make more peanut sauce than you need, so store in a clean jar in the refrigerator for another use.
Take one rice paper wrapper and dip it into warm water in a pie plate for 10 seconds to wet it and make pliable. Lay the wrapper down on a clean work surface (wooden cutting board works great here)and smooth it out with your damp hand.
Take a leaf of lettuce and tear it into large 5-inch pieces and place it along the bottom half of the wrapper (see image) Place some rice noodles on top of the lettuce followed by a couple thin slices of avocado. Place a few carrots and cucumbers beside the lettuce, 2 pieces of scallion (or more) and then your shrimp sliced in half across the middle, pink side down. If desired, add some mint, basil or cilantro.
To roll, gently fold over the left and right sides of the rice paper wrapper over the filling. Then fold the bottom part of the wrapper over the filling and gently but tightly roll up the spring roll, burrito style. Repeat steps 1 to 3
Chill until ready to use. Serve with peanut sauce or another favorite dipping sauce
Meals at the Convent are planned and prepared by the Convent kitchen staff for each day of the week—except Sundays, when rotating groups take turns making dinner. This gives Sisters who don’t normally cook an opportunity to do so, and to select a favorite dish they particularly enjoy. Often these meals turn out to be “fun” or ethnic in nature, such as last night when an abundance of chopping, chatter and laughter resulted in a tasty, colorful Thai meal enjoyed by all.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Cut tofu into chunks about 1” square or ½” strips. Marinate in soy sauce and fry in oil in a sautee pan until slightly brown and semi firm or line sheet pan with aluminum foil, coat with a layer of oil and cook tofu at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until brown and semi firm.
Meanwhile, bring another large pot of salted water to a boil, add the sugar snap peas, return to a boil, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp tender. Lift the sugar snap peas from the water with a slotted spoon and immerse them in a bowl of ice water. Drain.
For the dressing, whisk together the vegetable oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds and peanut butter in a medium bowl.
Combine the spaghetti, sugar snap peas, peppers, scallions, fried tofu in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the spaghetti mixture. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and the parsley and toss together.
My favorite time of day is early morning especially whenever I am able to spend any of that time out in the gardens. The thrill of discovering something fresh and new poking up through the soil, opening of buds and unfolding of leaves all give me incentive for the day. It makes me expect good things to happen and encourages me to look for new life developing around me. Right now we are harvesting mostly lettuce. Big, full, beautiful leafy heads — Boston bib, Buttercrunch and several other red leaf types for variety of texture and flavor.
There is no end to the beautiful salads that can be created with these crisp tender leaves and we’ve been using them in that way for most of our meals. We also enjoy them for a main meal in the form of Asian lettuce wraps, a favorite at the convent year-round, but especially nice in this warm weather.
Now that spring is definitely here to stay we want to turn to warmer weather needs—dishes that are fresher and lighter and require less cooking. Here’s where plump tender chicken breasts can be so accommodating—offering endless possibilities. Last week one of the sisters gave a “Birthday Gift” lunch to a young community girl who loves Asian food. The result was a delicious and attractive chicken salad. That inspired me to have something similar made for the convent lunch the next day. Both versions were a success, similar in some ways, yet each quite different in others. Here’s my Basic Asian Chicken Salad that you can alter to your liking—adding to or taking away any ingredients that do or don’t appeal to you.