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.
For almost ten years, a group of us met every Monday at 6:00 am to research, study, discuss, and plan the art work for our church. To make the early morning work more palatable, I prepared breakfast for the group. I loved doing it, they loved eating it, and showered me with compliments for the food. All around it was a most pleasant experience which we still refer to from time to time. I was particularly proud of my individual omelets which I felt I’d mastered the art of making. They were perfectly golden browned on the outside, while light and moist on the inside. Everyone raved about them including Tom, our widely traveled food connoisseur.
However, twice after serving them he asked me “Do you ever make frittatas”? Well no I hadn’t, nor had I ever had any desire to. For some reason I pictured them as a heavy baked egg dish which held no appeal to me, and I am ashamed to say that I let years go by before ever trying them. However, once I did, I immediately understood the reason for Tom’s question. Now I am an avid frittata fan, and I ask you, “Do you ever make frittatas”? If not, don’t wait as long as I did to try one. Start now. You’ll be glad you did. One secret: Don’t over bake!