Leaving the noon church service today I got into a conversation that resulted in my late arrival for lunch. As I entered the refectory I heard happy exclamations regarding the meal…”What a great lunch! I loved this…so fresh and beautiful so colorful and tasty.”
What was it they were raving about? It was a brand new crisp, crunchy tofu recipe and it was all they described it to be! Truly sensational and remarkably satisfying.
Drain tofu of excess water. Let sit 20 minutes to drain.
While waiting for tofu, mix together the first 7 ingredients and set aside.
Heat a skillet on medium with about a 1/2 inch of vegetable oil inside. While heating, slice tofu into 1/2" slices, then cut each slice into thirds. Coat each cube lightly with cornstarch using a sifter and then place into pan until browned and crispy. You may have to turn up the heat under the pan a bit. Remove from frying pan sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and set aside on paper towels.
Wipe pan clean with paper towel and add sesame oil, onions, and
chopped ginger. Cook about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add sauce mixture to pan, bring to a boil, and simmer about 2 minutes. Add tofu back to mixture, toss to coat. Top with green onions if desired.
Put the cabbage in a large bowl, with the celery, cut the skin and pulp from the oranges ...slice them into wheels (cut out any seeds) and add to the cabbage. Whisk the oil, lemon juice, balsamic and oregano and salt and pepper and pour over the cabbage.
Mix well. Let it settle then mix through a few more times so that it is completely coated. Toss prepared tofu over salad before serving.
Our Monastic Bake Shop opens for Advent, just in time for people to select delicious home-baked goods for their Christmas table. One of the favorite sweet breads that people return for is the lovely St. Lucia Bread. A rich, dense dough filled with citron, saffron and almonds, and decorated like a wreath, has been a long-standing tradition for our Bakeshop, started by one of our own Sisters, Sr. Lucia.
Traditionally, when we make our first profession as Sisters, we also take on a new name – symbolizing our new life wedded to Christ. Sr. Lucia became a novice in early December. When she was preparing to take her vows, she prayed about what her new name should be. One of the Sisters told her that she had an idea of a name for her. The Sister next to her said, “Now don’t overwhelm our new novice with another big decision!” But she couldn’t bear the suspense, and she told her the name: Lucia. A bit later, a different Sister mentioned that she had received a name for her, and it was the same one! She decided to learn more about who St Lucia was, only to discover that her feast day was celebrated on December 13th — the exact day that the name had been suggested to her! She couldn’t deny that God was speaking. It turns out that her middle name had been Lucille after her maternal grandmother, and years later it was discovered that her actual given name had been Lucia!
Some meals can be almost as enjoyable to prepare as to eat. Short ribs are an example of this, especially in cold blustery weather as we have been having this winter. Cooking them is a most pleasurable culinary experience, engaging all the senses from start to finish.
Thick well cut ribs are a joy to handle while rubbing in the seasonings. Then there is the visual thrill of watching them beautifully brown before your eyes in the sizzling hot skillet. This begins to produce a mouthwatering aroma to savor, while slowly nursing them along to desired tenderness.
As a final treat to the senses, I hear the sound of delighted exclamations from those coming to dinner whose appetites are peaked from shoveling snow out in the cold. Could anything be more heartwarming and rewarding than that? Well yes….sitting down and eating one of my most favorite meals with them!
When I got up this morning to go to Lauds, I thought I might need a jacket…wow, how things change. Last time I wrote we were in the middle of a humid heat wave. Last weekend was Transfiguration Sunday, a feast reflecting the name of our church. We always have a coffee hour after church to celebrate. I found a blueberry pie filling and wrapped that in the dough we had made the day before. They were really delicious, and moist! Of course the huge amount of frosting I drizzled on helped, but it was a very light moist cake and the filling was perfect. There were lots of compliments on this latest adventure.
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.
Friday morning is muffin day at the convent. Walking back from church to the refectory for breakfast I try to guess what kind it will be today. Our muffin baking sisters excel at so many varieties it is hard to predict which type will be next. Last week they surprised us with the best banana nut muffins I have ever tasted. We haven’t had their poppy seed or those wholesome raisin bran ones in a while, both of which are big favorites so we could be having one of those today. But as I open the convent door and get a whiff of fragrant spices I know it is neither of the above. I’ll have to guess again!
We like to do a lot of seasonal decorating in and around the convent, mainly using what is produced on our grounds and in our gardens. Oktoberfest and Thanksgiving always feature an abundance of pumpkins — but now that fall is behind us and it’s decor has been remembered, we have started decorating for Advent. What is going to happen to the leftover pumpkins, many of which were still very robust and healthy? They have been sitting in the back stairwell of the convent kitchen waiting there to find out. Well yesterday some kitchen sisters chopped, cooked and mashed them up to be frozen for future use.
Aha! Is that what I smell? Have these pumpkins been turned into a heart warming breakfast for us this morning? Yes! Indeed they have. Our resourceful muffin baking sisters have just created a prize winner. Let’s name it “The Spicy Pumpkin Streusel Muffin” — absolutely delicious! Those chubby pumpkins could not have had a happier ending.Apple Streusel Pumpkin Muffins