Tonight, our Convent was humming with Christmas cheer as we readied our home for Christmas. Some wrapped presents to send to families, other Sisters spent time catching up with old friends as they penned their lovely cards. In the kitchen, we turned on Bing Crosby and poured over old fashioned family recipes as we pondered which cookies we would make this year. The royal icing was prepared and crispy butter cookies were being decorated with sprinkles covering every surface. I remembered a cookie that I hadn’t baked in years and a favorite to be sure. In fact, you won’t find this anywhere else on the internet, at least I couldn’t. Cut from an old magazine, pressed onto an index card and covered in plastic, this shows how treasured this recipe is. Sometimes baking can restore wonderful memories of times past and other times it just puts a smile on your face, honey in your belly and much joy for the adventures ahead. I love Christmas. The beauty, the magic and most of all the precious gift that is awaiting us in the form of a little baby on Christmas morning.
May the season of light be yours this year. Blessed Christmas!
- To make the filling: In a small saucepan, combine the apricots, sugar and water and simmer for 15-18 min. or until the liquid is reduced by half and add the rum or brandy. Let the mixture cool slightly and in a food processor or blender, puree it.
- Make the shortbread cookie dough. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate standing mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and the egg, beating the mixture until it is well combined. Slowly, add the flour mixture in stages and mix until just combined, but don't over mix or your shortbread will be tough.
- Form the dough into a log, wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hr. Divide the log into 4 pieces.
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, place the dough in plastic wrap and roll into an 8 inch long rope - place on a parchment covered sheet pan and make a canal down the center with your finger so the log becomes a 8 x 2" rectangle with a channel in the middle.
- Spread the apricot puree in the canals.
- Bake the cookie sticks in a 350 degree oven for 18-20 min. until the edges are slightly golden.
- Transfer to a rack and let them cool.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the glaze ingredients and add just enough water to make a thick but pour-able icing - you want it to be on the thick side.
- If desired, transfer the glaze to a squeeze bottle or piping bag and drizzle the icing over the cookies.
- Cut the rectangles diagonally into 1" strips.
- The cookies will keep in the freezer or in an airtight container for 1 week.
Merry Christmas from our home to yours!
There’s a crispness to the air, a welcome relief to the humidity and heat of our 2018 Cape Cod summer! This past Saturday, our entire community joined in a “beehive” of activity as we
tackled a daunting list of tasks and projects, left in the wake of a busy summer. Digging out attic spaces, weeding gardens, scrubbing the bell tower floor, getting the barn clean and ready to house animals for winter, and cooking meals ahead for an upcoming choir recording were some of the projects accomplished last weekend. But it was also the beginning of harvest time. We culled apples and pears and gratefully recognized what a bountiful harvest it was going to be. The Sisterhood celebrated with brunch on Sunday. And since I was “in the mood,” I whipped up some ingredient-packed muffins that had all the essence of Fall – complete with cinnamon!
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Grease muffin cups with non-stick spray and line with muffin papers
- Beat eggs, oil, orange zest and vanilla in a bowl to blend
- Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together in a bowl
- Separately, mix carrots, zucchini, apple, raisins, coconut, and almonds together - add the egg and oil mixture
- Sift flour mixture into the vegetable mixture and mix all together by hand until well blended.
- Using an ice cream scoop, fill each muffin cup with one scoop of batter.
- Bake until center of muffin springs back to touch - about 20-25 min.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
Our community is blessed with two dairy cows, and we enjoy fresh milk and yogurt each week!
Sometimes we make ricotta for upscale recipes. My favorite? Fresh Ricotta Blueberry Ice cream.
Last week, after enjoying delicious fresh ricotta, ham, and melon salad, I spotted some extra ricotta and remembered a recipe for ricotta ice cream. A friend from a nearby farm with blueberry bushes had invited us to pick berries earlier in the week, so our refrigerator also had a bucket overflowing with beautiful fresh blueberries. The ricotta, blueberries, and kosher salt turned out to be a delicious combination, but of course, this basic homemade ice cream recipe can be adjusted to include your favorite ingredients. At the last minute, I decided to add lime zest to this recipe — Blueberry Lime Jam is one of the favorites from the Monastery Kitchen line, so I thought that combination would be especially tasty. It’s also the season for fresh mint, which is a lovely garnish along with fresh blueberries.
Making homemade ice cream can seem daunting, but with an ice cream maker, it’s quite easy. The ingredients directly are mixed, placed in the ice cream maker for 30 – 60 minutes, then frozen for several more hours, or overnight in the freezer. This particular recipe was made to celebrate an exciting event, and would be perfect for a summer dessert for any special occasion!
Fresh Ricotta Blueberry Ice Cream
- Lay blueberries out on a tray and place in the freezer.
- Blend ricotta, cream cheese, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt in a blender until smooth. Add lime zest & heavy cream. Blend until just combined.
- Freeze in an ice cream maker according to instructions. Blend in frozen blueberries. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.
Scoop and enjoy!
Also - nuts, candied citrus peeled or chopped chocolate can be added, as well as fresh mint and blueberries for garnish.
What shall we make for Easter Dinner dessert??? This is the question I kept asking myself all week. I have an idea, and someone else has offered me theirs, but before making the final choice, I decided to take a poll. I randomly asked six different sisters to answer this question. What immediately comes to mind when you think of choosing a most favorite Easter dessert?
Five out of six said “…something light and fluffy.” Four out of six said “…cool and creamy.” Three out of six said “…something lemony.” Two out of six said “…white or light yellow.” Interestingly enough, each of our desserts fit these descriptions, so we ingeniously combined them into one spectacular creation which we hope that many will enjoy!
Springtime Lemony Angel Food Meringue Torte
To Make the Angel Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 F and arrange an oven shelf in the bottom third of the oven. Sift the flour and 3½oz of the sugar together in a bowl and set aside.
- Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl with an electric hand whisk or mixer on a high speed for one minute until frothy. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, cream of tartar and salt and continue whisking for 2-3 minutes, or until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl. Increase the speed and add the remaining 7oz of sugar, one tablespoon at a time to form firm, but not stiff peaks.
- Sprinkle over one-third of the flour mixture and fold gently to combine. Repeat with the remaining two-thirds of the flour mixture folding gently to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.
- Transfer the batter to a 10 inch angel food cake pan. Gently run a knife through the center of the batter to remove any pockets of air. Cook for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and immediately turn upside down onto the tin’s cooling legs, or place over the neck of a wine bottle. Leave to cool for at least one hour.
Run a knife around the inner and outer edges of cake to remove it from the pan. Invert onto a plate. Carefully use a palette knife to separate the cake from the base of the pan. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
To Make the Lemon Curd:
- Mix the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest together in a large pan. Cook over a low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, making sure to stir the sides and base of the pan.
- Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Pass through a sieve into a large jug. Fill two 12 oz glass jars with the lemon curd and seal with lids. Cover the remaining curd with cling film and leave to cool.
To Make the Meringue Layers:
- Preheat oven to 275. In a mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Switch to high speed and gradually beat in the sugar until stiff and glossy peaks form and sugar is dissolved. Add the vanilla.
- Remove beater whisk and by hand, gently fold in 1/2 cup sliced almonds.
- Line two sheet pans with baking paper and trace two circles of the base of the angel food cake pan - 10" diameter on each. Divide meringue between the two circles and form into rounds - staying 1/4" within the border - they will be about 3/4" high. Sprinkle with the additional 2 Tbsp of sliced almonds.
- Bake at 275 degrees for 3-35 min. or until golden and crisp. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.
- Cut the Angel food cake in half horizontally
- On the bottom layer, spread some lemon curd, followed by cool whip, meringue layer, then the top of the angel cake spread with lemon curd, cool whip and then the top meringue layer.
One of our favorite breakfast recipes is a special Swedish crepe called Plattar. With Shrove Tuesday just around the corner, we thought it was the perfect time to share this special recipe.
I’ve always wondered why we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. After some quick research on the internet, I learned that since the 1500s, people have been making pancakes on “Shrove Tuesday” or “Fat Tuesday” as a way to use up all of the eggs, butter and fat in the home before the beginning of Lent, a time of fasting.
This recipe comes from Sr. Madeleine who is currently studying lace making in Brugge, Belgium. We asked her how this Swedish crepe 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.”
You can read more about Sr. Madeleine’s experiences in her blog Belgian Prayers and Lace.
Swedish Plattar Pancakes - Shrove Tuesday
- Beat the eggs add the milk, then the flour and whisk well. Add the melted butter, sugar, salt and vanilla and whisk.
- Let the batter stand for two hours or overnight
- Preheat a griddle to 325 degrees and brush with butter
- When the skillet is hot, drop in two - three tablespoons of batter for each pancake – about 4” in diameter
- Cook until golden on one side, and then flip to the other side (about 2 min. on each side)
- When golden, fold into thirds and remove to a plate and continue with the rest of the batter.
- The pancakes can be kept warm in a low oven. One recipe makes 30 - 4” pancakes.
Serve with the jam and a sprinkling of powdered sugar. Fresh fruit on the side makes a lovely presentation.
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.
Old Fashioned Creamy Rice Pudding
- 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.