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.
Stamping the snow off of my boots I came into the convent from the windy cold outdoors. As I shed my coat, I thought “Nothing could be more comforting than the warmth of being indoors right now.” But then I entered the refectory where I was met with something else even more comforting. It was the unmistakable aroma of one of our favorite meals, simmering in the skillet. Cooked with just the right combination of spices and seasonings, few, if any can resist this Southwestern chili especially on a chilly night like this.
As mealtime arrived the Sisters all gathered in the dining room where a glowing fire crackled in the fireplace. Each of us had a bowl of chili with our own favorite choice of toppings. Nothing could have warmed our hearts or satisfied our pallets more. We ate our meal with gladness and gave God thanks for all His many, many blessings to us.
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Make-ahead note: The flavors continue to develop as the chili sits, so go ahead and make it up to 2 days in advance and refrigerate it in a container with a tight-*fitting lid. It can also be frozen for up to 1 month.
Sauté the vegetables, ground beef, and spices, then put the mixture into the Crockpot or covered skillet along with tomatoes and kidney beans. Simmer until it’s thickened and has a nice beefy flavor, and then stir in jalapeños. We like this served with cornbread.
To use dried beans in place of canned, start with 1 cup dried beans, soaked and cooked to yield 3 cups.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and bell pepper, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.
Add the garlic, chili powder, and cumin, stir to coat the vegetables, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the ground beef and measured salt and cook, breaking the meat into small pieces, until the beef is browned, about 7 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker or covered skillet, add the diced tomatoes and their juices, tomato sauce, and beans, and stir to combine. Cover and cook on lowest possible heat until the chili thickens and the flavors meld, adding small amounts of the beer and coffee as needed to keep mixture from sticking. Stir in the jalapeños or green chiles. Taste and season with salt as needed.
Taking care of guests who are on special diets has always been a challenge that has appealed to me. We do whatever we can to accommodate the food needs of our visitors so that they can be blessed during their time here, without the distraction of having to worry about their food needs.
A few nights ago, our Bethany guest cook asked me to help her prepare a dinner for a visitor who was gluten-free and didn’t eat red meat. She had turkey cutlets, and assorted vegetables so we set about to make something that we hoped would satisfy two people, and do so in a short amount of time. This result was more than satisfying to both guests and cooks.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in pan, finely mince half the cleaned mushrooms and all the scallions. Sauté in melted butter till soft and golden adding sage, 1/4 c sherry and simmer till soft and liquid is absorbed.
Spread 1/2 mixture on each cutlet. Roll up and fasten together with toothpick if necessary.
Brown each cutlet in remaining butter. Finish cooking in 325 degrees oven about 15 minutes.
Add remaining sherry to onion mushroom mixture and simmer. Pour over cutlets after plating them.
We served these with fresh asparagus,mashed yam with a few halved mushrooms as garnish.
Saturday mornings in the community are referred to as “Weekly Beehive” time. Every Community member young and old is assigned to some task where they busily work together with others on any number of projects that need doing that week.
This week I was assigned to tea preparation. Our Friday Harborside plated teas have been a tradition since the very beginning of the Community. Many people, especially vacationers, look forward to them in the summer months and at Advent. This week’s plate includes a mini crab cake which is always popular. My job was to make the filling for one hundred of these. When I did, it tasted so good I thought, “Why just for tea why not for a main meal?” So I made a larger version that was a big hit for lunch at the Convent!
Finely chop crab meat, celery, scallions all to the same size and place in a bowl. Add mayonnaise, relish, and 1/3 cup saltines and toss together.
In a separate bowl beat egg slightly and add lemon juice and zest. Add to bowl and combine all ingredients thoroughly.
Shape into patties and carefully press on both sides into remaining saltines.
Rather than the usual method of frying the cakes, I chose to simply bake them on an un-greased pan or a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until golden.
Less work, less mess and clean up. Less fat!
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.
The Sisters have so grown to love and appreciate fresh vegetables, that if occasionally we do not have a full salad bar for lunch they actually feel deprived. Each day they look forward to new and interesting combinations of ingredients which keep the lunches from becoming dull or boring. Their enthusiasm gives incentive to the cooks to creatively come up with bright new healthy additions. One of the more popular combinations of late that has made a hit with most everyone is a crisp cauliflower creation. It’s color appeals to the eye while it’s crunch and zesty flavor pleases the palate.