Waking up on these cold, crisp fall mornings with frost on the ground, my alarm clock begs to be put on snooze for those last 5 minutes of shut-eye. But in Convent life, that’s not what we’re called to; instead, a quick prayer of thanks to God, and our feet hit the cool ground as we dress for Lauds. I sometimes imagine God smiling at our groans, the creaks in our bones, and the selfish moments we want to steal for ourselves before spending time with Him. I’ve recently experienced the transparent love that God has for me and I think these waking moments are no different! After Lauds, we have a silent breakfast together in our refectory. Silence is essential to our spiritual life because it allows us time to listen to God’s voice preparing us for the day, and not our own. I have to admit that I battle doing my own mental checklist during this time; fragile as we are, God smiles!
The change of season also brings its own collection of recipes, both old and new. Warm custards and puddings, soups and stews, root vegetables, apples and pears. I particularly love rice pudding, and this old fashioned recipe (so similar to the one that my grandmother used to make) is lovely to enjoy warm for breakfast or with whipped cream for a cold evening’s dessert.
Preheat the oven to 300 F and grease a 9x13" glass pyrex pan or 8 cup ovenproof dish with butter.
Rinse the rice under cold water and place in the dish.
Place the cream, milk, sugar, and a generous grating (or 1 tsp) of nutmeg in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla beans into the milk mixture (if using) or add the vanilla.
Heat gently until almost simmering, then remove from the heat and pour over the rice, stirring well.
Dot the butter over the top and place in the oven for 1 1/2 hrs, stirring after the first 30 min. At this stage, you can add an extra grating of nutmeg if you like.
If the pudding still seems very runny, return to the oven, checking every 10 min., until it is loosely creamy but not runny (the rice should be cooked, but the liquid will continue to be absorbed once you take it out of the oven).
When the pudding is golden brown on top and has a soft,creamy texture, remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 min. before serving.
Every year after school is out, our young community teenage girls have a 3-week “summer camp” with several of our Sisters. This year they went to New Hampshire for the event.
They were very excited and eagerly looking forward to the many activities ahead of them: lots of time out of doors, hiking, swimming, boating and gardening. I knew that nature crafts would be a part of their learning experiences, and also that there would be indoor activities such as housekeeping and of course, some cooking. I made them promise me that they would surprise me by making something new and different from any of their old standbys. They did not let me down, but kept their promise and came up with this scrumptious, raspberry peach upside down cake, inspired by a raspberry picking event that none of us knew would be happening before they went to camp. I could not have been more pleased!
Slice peaches. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside.
Place 6 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat until melted then add brown sugar and cook until both are combined and melted, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Approximately 8-10 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Arrange peach slices in a circular pattern (overlapping if needed) in skillet on top of sugar. Add raspberries in areas not covered with peaches. Set aside.
Cream together vanilla, 6 tablespoons butter and 1 cup sugar until creamy. Add eggs and beat until the yellow disappears. Add sour cream and blend.
On low speed, add flour mixture and beat just until combined stopping to scrape the sides a few times. Pour batter onto peaches and smooth out to the edges.
Bake 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Run a knife around the edges to release and invert onto a cake plate allowing the cake to cool another 10 minutes.
Serve with fresh whipped cream.
One of my favorite breakfast recipes is a special Swedish crepe called Plattar. I asked Sr.Madeleine, who is currently studying lace making in Brugge, Belgium, how this came to be one of their family recipes, a recipe she makes for her two daughter’s birthdays every year. This is what she wrote me.
“Swedish Plattar is a recipe from a collection of Swedish recipes celebrating the seasons of the year. The author of the recipe remembers her mother preparing these recipes to remind her family of the goodness of God. Personally, when I was young I had not learned to cook or bake; I too, like the writer, wanted to both cook for my young family and to emphasize the love of God and His goodness. Swedish plattar was by far the biggest hit! I made it regularly every Saturday morning for my family, standing patiently beside the electric frying pan (popular in those days) until many Swedish Plattar were made and the the hungry mouths of all were filled. Swedish Plattar takes time to fry, so the making is a labor of love (due to the sheer volume of the batter, and the number you need to fill someone up!). The smudges and dribbles on the page make the recipe easy to find in the cookbook, and also attest to its perennial popularity. My daughters and I are all three nuns now and they as well as I continue the practice of making Swedish plattar for celebrations of God and His goodness.”
Apple Fritters… crunchy, sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth on the outside, cinnamon-y dough with apple chunks on the inside. I can’t think of a better use for our apple drops that we are collecting in the early hours of the morning. A delightful early morning treat to pair with a steaming cup of coffee on a crisp fall morning.
Pour oil into a cast iron or other heavy duty skillet so that it is approximately 1 ½” deep. Heat oil on medium high. Oil is ready when dough floats to top. (don’t let it get too hot or the fritters will burn!)—do a little tester with the dough to be sure the oil is hot enough.
Prepare the glaze by stirring the milk (or half and half) and sifted powdered sugar together in a small bowl—you want it to be a fairly thick glaze.
Prepare the fritter by combining the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Stir in milk, vanilla and egg until just combined (add enough milk to make a thick batter).
Fold in apple chunks
Carefully add dough to the oil in heaping tablespoons. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes, then flip. Cook another 1-2 minutes, until both sides are browned.
Transfer briefly to paper towels to absorb excess oil, then transfer to cooling rack.
Drizzle glaze over the apple fritters while they are still warm. Wait approximately 3 minutes for glaze to harden, then flip fritters and drizzle glaze over the other side.
Best served warm. Enjoy!
September is season unto itself on Cape Cod. As many of our visitors return home to school and work, there is a quieter spirit. Yet the air is warm, gardens are full, the beaches are less crowded and the sunsets are beautiful. We are enjoying the best month of the year here. There is still lots of outdoor living to be done before the crispness comes with days of shorter daylight. Thought this recipe for one of the best and freshest tasting gelatos might be just the thing for some of those late summer warm nights.
It’s strawberry season on Cape Cod! If you take a walk around the community, you’ll see an abundance of perky little red berries peeping out from under their lazy green foliage in many of our gardens. If we can get to them before the deer and rabbits, then we are bound to have some scrumptious desserts here in the Convent, which is a rare and welcome treat!
Summer on Cape Cod usually conjures up images of days at the beach followed by ice cream and sunsets. We are fortunate to have cream from our Jersey cows, freshly picked strawberries, and a generous donation of agave nectar, so I set out to make a creamy homemade strawberry ice cream. I found just the recipe to pull all of these together. Start it the day before as it needs to chill before transferring to your ice cream maker. Enjoy this on a hot and humid summer day and you are sure to feel refreshed!
If your strawberries aren’t already pureed, do that in a Cuisinart (I used a potato masher to leave some good chunks). Add lemon juice and set aside.
Beat eggs and egg yolk together very well. Set aside.
In a heavy pot, heat half and half and agave nectar over med-high heat until temperature is 180 F. Stir frequently.
Drizzle ½ cup of hot mixture into eggs, whisking briskly. Add another 1/2 cup in the same manner. (This keeps the eggs from scrambling).
Then, drizzle egg and cream mixture back into the pot, whisking briskly.
Turn heat down to med-low and bring to 190 F, stirring bottom constantly. To check for doneness, dip a metal spoon in the pot. Remove. Run a finger through the custard coating the spoon (like parting the 'custard sea'). If the custard stays on either side of the stripe (doesn't run in to fill the space), then it's done.
Strain into a 2 qt. bowl and add all but 1/3 cup of the strawberry puree to this.
Cool in an ice bath and then transfer to fridge overnight.
Freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. When the ice cream is done, take the remaining 1/3 cup of the strawberry sauce and swirl it directly into the finished ice cream. Freeze again, if needed, before serving.