Caramelized Tomato Bruschetta

“Sr. Irene, you just have to taste this!” came a cry from the kitchen. One of our special event cooks had just tried out a new appetizer for an upcoming reception. I could tell from the sound of her voice she was quite happy with it.

“Be there in a minute,” I responded, unable to leave just then. The next day one of the kitchen sisters asked, “Wasn’t that new appetizer just the best?”

Oh no! How could I have forgotten? I chastened myself, vowing to get to the kitchen before the end of the day. When I finally arrived with much embarrassment and was able to locate and ravenously devour the one and only “Tasting Sample” that was left, I could only groan. The caramelized tomato bruschetta with fresh garden pesto was beyond delicious. Why oh why didn’t I get myself there the moment I was first called!

A savory twist on a summer classic, this bruschetta is a great way to enjoy both fresh garden tomatoes and basil!

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Caramelized Tomato Bruschetta
SERVINGS
8-12servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
20mins
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
35mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice the tomatoes into 1/3 inch slices, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar.
  3. Place on a cookie sheet or sheet pan and roast in the oven until tomatoes turn a light to medium brown and the sugar is visually caramelized.
  4. While tomatoes are roasting, brush the flat bread with oil and spread the pesto overtop, then sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
  5. When tomatoes are finished, carefully remove them from the pan and arrange on top of the pesto and cheese. This is a delicate process as the tomatoes are likely to fall apart after roasting.
  6. Serve with a drizzle of balsamic reduction and enjoy a taste of summer!

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Years ago, we were asked by the local Episcopal church to help them with their annual Devonshire Tea, a lovely traditional English tea served every summer in the church gardens.

The lady who for many years had been responsible for them, met with me to discuss the details. The simple menu consisted of three items: biscuits, coddled cream, and strawberry preserves. Her main concern was the size and shape of the biscuits. To ensure their correctness, she carefully sketched them on a page from her personal notebook and gave the page to me.

The biscuits’ size and shape were of utmost importance! She was certain I would make the cream perfectly, and as far as the preserves were concerned, any I chose would be fine. My choice was a vibrant colored fresh strawberry jam sometimes referred to as “freezer jam”, although none I’ve ever made stayed around long enough to reach the
freezer!

Perfect for the occasion, it met with great applause and added a most beautiful touch to this splendid event.

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Strawberry Freezer Jam
SERVINGS
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
COOK TIME
5mins
PREP TIME
10mins
READY IN
25mins (plus 24 hr setting time)

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Combine crushed strawberries with sugar, and let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. While the strawberries sit, dissolve the pectin into the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 1 minute.
  3. Remove from heat and add the salt and lemon juice to the saucepan.
  4. Stir the boiling water into the strawberries and allow to stand for 3 minutes.
  5. Pour jam into containers and let set overnight or for 24 hours.

Enjoy with coddled cream and biscuits or as an ice cream topping, in a milkshake, or on toast...the possibilities are endless!

Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes

Recently, I had the privilege and gift of studying for a week in the Essentials of Pastry Arts at the International Culinary Center in New York City. Once known as the French Culinary Center, ICC has some of the most renowned pastry chefs in the United States – such as Jacques Pepin and Jacques Torres. Their alumni are some of the most noteworthy in the food and hospitality industry. It was a week of intense learning as well as exploring an area of personal inadequacy. Give me a savory dish over a fancy rolled fondant cake anytime! But, little did I know what a week of good, concentrated study could do to boost my confidence. Leaning into our insufficiency can sometimes prove “sweet” results.

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Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes
Tip - use a digital scale to weigh these ingredients and always be sure to "tare" your scale after putting your mixing bowl on it; that is, reset the scale to "0" before you start measuring ingredients
SERVINGS
16cupcakes (approx.)
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
cupcakes (approx.)
COOK TIME
15-20mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
45-60mins

Ingredients

Instructions

Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Grease 16 cupcake tin or line with muffin papers.
  3. In a bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, salt and baking soda.
  4. Combine butter, oil, cocoa powder, and water in a bowl and whisk until warm over a bain marie.
  5. Whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk until combined; add to butter mixture.
  6. Stir liquid ingredients into the sifted flour mixture until just combined.
  7. Portion the batter into the prepared cupcake molds until 3/4 full and bake in preheated oven for 15-20 min. (Bake as soon as you fill them; otherwise, they won't rise as much in the oven.)
  8. Test the cupcakes for doneness - your finger should bounce back to the touch.
  9. Immediately unmold the cupcakes onto a cooling rack Let them cool completely before icing.
Fudge Icing:
  1. Place all ingredients for the icing in a saucepan and warm, stirring to combine.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Dip the cupcake tops by inverting into the cooled icing and then twist and place right side up on a cooling rack. Iced cupcakes are best served the day they're made. Add sprinkles on top if desired.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Mango Puree

Birthdays are joyous occasions, and with so many Sisters in the Convent, there are bound to be several birthday celebrations each month. This is especially true with what we refer to as “big birthdays”, birthdays that mark a new decade in the life of a sister. Over the weekend, we celebrated the 70th birthday of one of our sisters with a beautiful dinner for all. The meal ended with one of our most favorite desserts: Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta. While not a traditional birthday cake, this was no less festive as it also featured a delicious mango puree.

Dense, creamy and with minimal ingredients you most likely already have in your kitchen, this is a great way to mark special occasions this summer. Served chilled with fresh berries, this may well become a favorite with you and your guests!

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Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Mango Puree
SERVINGS
6-8servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
15mins, plus chilling time (overnight/6hours)
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
30mins, plus chilling time

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Place the cream in a saucepan and scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean with a knife, adding the seeds to the cream.
  2. Add the sugar and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. In a separate bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the milk and let stand until the gelatin softens, about 5 minutes.
  4. Pour the gelatin mixture into the cream and vanilla bean mixture and stir until dissolved.
  5. Add the yogurt and stir to thoroughly incorporate.
  6. Pour evenly into six to eight ramekin and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for 6 hours or overnight for the panna cotta to set.
  7. As this is chilling, prepare the mango puree by combining the fruit, sugar, lemon juice and salt in a blender or food processor. Chill in a bowl until panna cotta is ready to serve.

To Serve
Note: There are several ways to serve this dessert. As shown, we chose to chill the panna cotta at an angle and serve in a clear water goblet for a pleasing visual effect. For the more ambitious, panna cotta can be served inverted on a plate, similar to flan. Below are two methods of serving this dessert--both are equally impressive!

Inverted Method

  1. Once the panna cotta has set, place each ramekin in warm water--the water should be halfway up the sides of the ramekin.
  2. Once this has been in the water bath 1-2 minutes, put your serving plate on top of the ramekin and invert the panna cotta onto the plate.
  3. Spoon the puree over the top and garnish with fruit and fresh mint as desired.

Angled Method

  1. Before making the panna cotta, prepare the glasses you will be serving in, tilting them securely at an angle on a tray. An egg carton works well for this.
  2. When pouring panna cotta mixture, use a funnel and gently fill the tilted glasses to the desired height.
  3. Carefully transfer the tray into the refrigerator, taking care not to bump or jostle the tray, as this will leave a milky residue on the side of the glass.
  4. When fully set (6 hours or overnight) stand the glasses upright and pipe in the mango puree. Piping helps control the puree and keep it from smearing on the glass.
  5. Garnish with fruit or mint and serve.

Crispy Coconut Cookies

Today is Springtime at its best on Cape Cod— robins chirping, rabbits and squirrels scampering about, flowers blooming everywhere.

Put’s me in the mood to try a fresh new cookie recipe, and I have indeed found one! Crunchy, rich, with added coconut and a bit of almond flavoring—I ended up making a second batch, as I know they’ll be needed for upcoming events.

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Crispy Coconut Cookies
SERVINGS
3dozen (approx. 40 cookies)
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
dozen (approx. 40 cookies)
COOK TIME
12-15mins
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
30mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In mixer bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the egg and extracts.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients just until blended. Add the coconut and mix well but don't over beat.
  5. Form into balls, a little larger than walnut size, roll in sugar, flatten with the bottom of a drinking glass. Bake for 15 minutes or until just barely golden around the edges.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pudding Cake

For years, rhubarb has long been one of my favorite fruits. Always a bit of a wild child in the fruit family (since most people don’t have any idea what to do with it), I’ve loved it since I was a kid and always looked forward to my mom’s strawberry rhubarb pie – which I deemed ‘the best!’ When we moved to New England back in 1981, my great grandmother (who embodied Tasha Tudor) gave us her heirloom rhubarb plant to take with us. After 37 years, it’s still thriving in my mother’s garden!

This Mother’s Day, I decided to ‘pay it forward’ with a pie for mom and then my creative juices got going when, after delivering the pie, I left with a huge bag of freshly picked rhubarb from Grandma’s plant! So, next came this old fashioned pudding cake. Eaten warm, straight out of the dish, or with a squirt of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream, it is melt-in-your-mouth goodness that will keep you going back for more. Super simple and quick to make, it’s the perfect go-to dessert for company or to make for your family after a long day. It can be made gluten free as well. Enjoy!

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pudding Cake
SERVINGS
8servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
40-45mins
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
55-60mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cover the bottom of a buttered glass 8 or 9 inch square pan with rhubarb and strawberries.
  2. Mix 3/4 cup sugar, butter, baking powder, salt, extracts, milk and flour together and pour over fruit. Mix remaining sugar and cornstarch; sprinkle over mixture in pan. Pour boiling water over the top- this will create a wonderful pudding around the fruit in the bottom of the pan.
  3. Bake at 375°F for 40 to 45 minutes or bubbly and golden.
  4. You can see that the sugar topping creates a glaze on the top of the cake, something like a creme brulee, as well as creating the pudding at the bottom. Serve warm in a bowl with ice cream or whipped cream, or let it cool a bit, slice and invert on your plate to show off the pudding. You may also substitute a gluten free flour blend for the flour - you may need to adjust the cooking time.