Garden Herb Focaccia Bread

It was 45 minutes till dinnertime, and we were in pretty good shape toward getting the meal completed and served on time (barring any unforeseen circumstances). No sooner had I had this thought, than one of our number spoke up excitedly and said, “Wouldn’t it be great to add fresh baked bread to the dinner?”

“Oh NO!” was my immediate response.

Provide fresh baked bread for 63 people in 45 minutes! I felt like one of the disciples when Jesus told them to feed the hungry multitude with one little boy’s lunch! However, knowing this sister as well as I did, I knew it was no use trying to discourage her from making this happen; once her heart was set on something, nothing was apt to change it, so no one even tried. The result? Fresh baked bread in less than 45 minutes, beautifully golden on the outside and perfectly textured and filled with fresh garden herbs inside…a miracle for all!

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Garden Herb Focaccia Bread
SERVINGS
8servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
35mins
PREP TIME
10mins
READY IN
45mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Sprinkle yeast and sugar into 1/2 cup of the water; do not stir.
  3. Let stand 1-2 minutes or until the surface becomes bubbly.
  4. While yeast is bubbling, combine flour and table salt in a large bowl.
  5. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in yeast mixture and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  6. Stir with wooden spoon or mixer, and add remaining 1/4 cup.
  7. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead for 5-7 minutes, adding small spoonfuls of flour if necessary.
  8. Spread dough into a lightly greased baking pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm place (low oven, heating pad) 10-15 minutes.
  9. Let rise in a warm place- about 80-85 degrees - until doubled in bulk, about an hour.
  10. Using the end of a wooden spoon, indent the dough every 1-2 inches.
  11. Combine remaining 3 Tbsp olive oil and herbs until leaves are broken up and oil is fragrant.
  12. Pour over dough. Rub gently into surface. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
  13. Bake 10-12 minutes, in a 375 degree oven.
  14. Let cool and cut into wedges.

Note: The speed of this bread is due to the quick rising in a warm place. I like using the oven light or a heating pad. If you don't have a warm place, no problem, just let it rise more slowly on your kitchen counter.

 

Savory Greek Rice

There are certain tastes and flavors that never leave our memories no matter how much time may have passed since we first experienced them. Such is the case with me and the aromatic Greek rice my mother so often made for our family when I was growing up.

As with almost all of her cooking, she seldom, if ever, referred to a recipe. She simply relied on an innate sense that never seemed to fail her. One of my favorite foods she frequently made in this manner was this garlic flavored rice. Here’s what she did: Into a favorite skillet she simply poured some olive oil, heated for a minute or so, added some dry rice, few cloves of fresh garlic, let it sizzle, then a few cups of water pinch of salt and a generous fistful of fresh chopped parsley, lowered the heat, put the lid on, and left it alone till she was ready to serve it to us.

We loved this with lamb which we often had, and also enjoyed having it as the stuffing for a whole roast chicken.

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Savory Greek Rice
SERVINGS
6-8people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
30-40mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
50-60mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in skillet until hot, add dry rice and stir until it becomes slightly golden.
  2. Add garlic cloves and let cook until softened, crush with fork; add water, and parsley.
  3. Cover tightly and let slowly simmer till desired doneness. Add pepper to taste.

Luscious Lime Tart

Above the sounds of car doors opening and closing, luggage being loaded, and 30 women exchanging “goodbyes and well wishes,” comments regarding their retreat could be overheard. They were all very positive, especially those regarding their meals. Many of these women love to cook, and are very attentive to—and appreciative of—what they are served.

From what I overheard, their final dessert was the ultimate perfection, and had made quite an impact, sending them off on a high, happy note. As I thought on all of this someone quietly appeared offering me a luscious looking lime creation garnished with a fresh mint leaf and whipped cream on a crystal clear glass dessert plate. Suddenly I was reminded of a favorite verse of scripture in the Old Testament where God in referring to prayer says: “Before they call, I will answer.”

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Luscious Lime Tart
SERVINGS
8servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
8mins
PREP TIME
40mins
READY IN
3hrs

Ingredients

Instructions

Crust:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
  2. Add graham cracker crumbs and sugar to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until blended. Transfer to a medium bowl and add coconut flakes and melted butter. Toss to combine completely. Pour the crumbs into an 8-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press the crumbs into the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until browned. Set aside to cool completely.
Filling:
  1. In a large bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk and lime juice. Stir until thick and well incorporated. Set aside.
  2. Place the gelatin in a small bowl and cover with water. Let stand two minutes to bloom. Microwave in 10-second bursts until gelatin is dissolved. Cool the gelatin to near room temperature, but do not let it set—very important.
  3. Add the whipping cream to the bowl of a stand mixer. (If you don't have a stand mixer use a large mixing bowl and a handheld mixer.) Whip the cream for one minute on a medium speed. Slowly add the sugar to the cream. Turn off the mixer and check to see that the gelatin has cooled, but not set. Add the gelatin and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Separately reserve about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of whipped topping for garnish.
  4. Spoon about 1/2 cup of whipped cream into the key lime filling and lightly stir to combine. Add the rest of the whipped cream and fold completely into the mixture, careful not to deflate the cream too much.
  5. Pour the filling into the cooled pie crust and smooth over with a spatula.
Topping:
  1. Garnish with whipped cream and thinly sliced lime as desired. Refrigerate for at least two hours for a cloud like dessert. For a frozen tart, freeze at least two hours.
  2. To serve, remove the tart from the freezer and let it sit out on the counter for 10-15 minutes to soften a little before slicing it.

Spring Citrus Mint Vinaigrette

Now that the warmer weather is definitely here, most people are wanting lighter meals and a menu that includes more salads. With this in mind we wanted to come up with a light “Warmer Weather” salad dressing. This was a first attempt that most of us felt succeeded at doing just that.

First we chose a light olive oil and a mild rice vinegar as our base. To this we added a touch of spring from our herb garden by blending in a bit of fresh mint and several tender young green scallions. Into this, a little onion salt, some frozen orange juice concentrate, and just a hint of lemon zest gave our mixture just the right touch of brightness we were hoping for.

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Spring Citrus Mint Vinaigrette
SERVINGS
1.5cups
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
cups
COOK TIME
PREP TIME
5minutes
READY IN
5minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Blend all ingredients together. Toss with your favorite salad greens and veggies.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

“Who wants to take on care of the rhubarb patch?” This question went out a few days ago to the sisterhood from the sister in charge of our vegetable gardens. Before the day was over the question had been answered, the patch had been watered, and the fertilizing process begun.
We love our rhubarb patch. We love to watch it come into fruition producing its rich beautiful leaves and stems. We love to see it harvested and prepared for the many different ways we use it.

For this year’s Easter dinner various sisters volunteered to make a variety of very special desserts. There were several decadent chocolate wonders. There were tortes and trifles piled high with tantalizing toppings. There were brand new gourmet creations anyone of which could have taken a prize, and then there were a number of humble pies. So…which dessert do you think was most requested? You’re absolutely right. It was our old-fashioned, flavorful strawberry rhubarb pie. Unfortunately, some had to go without!

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
SERVINGS
8 people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
45-50mins
PREP TIME
30mins
READY IN
1 hr20 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425° Fahrenheit.
  2. For the pie crust: Combine the salt and flour together. Cut the shortening into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter until it is about pea-size pieces.
  3. Add the water to the flour a little at a time using a fork to lightly mix it. Continue to add the water until the dough just comes together – don’t over work the dough or it will become tough.
  4. Shape the dough into a flat disk, cover it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Once it is ready divide the dough in half and roll out the bottom crust and place in a pie dish.
  5. Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, flour, and salt. Turn into the unbaked pie shell.
  6. Roll out the top crust and place over the filling. Crimp to seal edges and make a few slits along the top. Brush with egg white wash and garnish with large granule sugar.
  7. Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. Decrease temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for an additional 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling starts bubbling.

Note: Rhubarb is tart. The strawberries provide sweetness but, depending on your taste, you might want to add more sugar.

Holiday Buttercrunch

At our Convent and Community each year, it is tradition for us to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas. Advent is a time of waiting and the twelve days that follow Christmas allows time for us to reflect and live the “Incarnation of Christ” as we journey towards our yearly profession of Vows on Epiphany. It’s a time of Enclosure for us when we can withdraw from the busyness of our daily lives and set aside time of quiet for Christ and community.

This Christmas, each of us cooks decided we’d make one special gift for the sisters over each of the twelve days. I chose Monday the 26th and couldn’t wait to make this decadent candy. We have lots of chocolate lovers in the Sisterhood, so I thought it might just be ‘the bomb’ and it was! With just a couple tweaks, it is now going to become my favorite holiday indulgence. I had to quadruple the recipe in order to make enough for 65 Sisters and have some extra for gifting, so it will multiply out well. This recipe is just too special to make for just “any” time of year, so save it for a special occasion.

Blessed Twelve Days of Christmas to you!

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Holiday Buttercrunch
SERVINGS
24pieces
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
pieces
COOK TIME
10-15minutes
PREP TIME
10minutes
READY IN
1hour

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a large, deep heavy-bottom saucepan, melt the butter.
  2. Stir in the salt, sugar, water, and corn syrup, and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil gently over medium heat, without stirring, until the mixture reaches hard-crack stage (300°F on an instant-read or candy thermometer). The syrup will bubble without seeming to change much for awhile, but be patient; all of a sudden it will darken, and at that point you need to take its temperature and see if it's ready, about 10 to 12 minutes. Pay attention; too long on the heat, and the syrup will burn.
  3. While the sugar mixture is gently bubbling, spread half of the toasted nuts (1 cup), in a fairly closely packed, even single layer, on a lightly greased baking sheet or 1/2 sheet pan.
  4. Top with half the chocolate chips (1 1/3 cups).
  5. When the syrup is ready, pour it quickly and evenly over the nuts and chocolate. Immediately top with the remaining chocolate (1 1/3 cups).
  6. Wait several minutes for the chips to melt, then gently, using the back of a spatula, spread the chocolate evenly and top with the remaining toasted nuts (1 cup).
  7. Allow to cool at room temperature and the chocolate will harden. When cool, break it into uneven chunks.
  8. Store cooled candy tightly wrapped; it'll stay fresh for a couple of weeks at room temperature. Freeze for longer storage.