The other day someone asked me about our Convent meals. “Who decides what you eat?” was one of the questions. It just so happens that at this particular time we are doing something a little different than usual about our menus.
Each week a different sister is asked to submit a suggested menu for approval. This has been quite successful. It is a help to the chef and an almost sure guarantee that there will be variety in our meals. For instance yesterday we were totally surprised to be served potato latkes for lunch, something we have not had in a long time and never for our noon meal. The genuine cheers of delight and energy in the food line were a joy to all. We are not sure how long this method of meal planning will last but for the time being everyone is enjoying it.
- Finely grate potatoes with onion into a large bowl. Drain off any excess liquid.
- Mix in egg, salt, black pepper and bacon bits. Add enough flour to make mixture thick, about 2 to 4 tablespoons all together.
- Turn oven to low, about 200 degrees F (95 degrees C).
- Heat 1/4 inch oil in the bottom of a heavy skillet over medium high heat.
- Drop two or three 1/4 cup mounds into hot oil, and flatten to make 1/2 inch thick pancakes.
- Fry, turning once, until golden brown.
- Transfer to paper towel lined plates to drain, and keep warm in low oven until serving time.
- Repeat until all potato mixture is used.
Last week in honor of Chinese New Year, a lovely case of fresh baby bok choy — straight from Chinatown — was delivered to our Convent door, a generous gift from the parents of one of our Sisters. In the middle of winter, it’s a real treat to add fresh and tasty vegetables to our dinner. Baby Bok Choy is the tender rendition of a Chinese cabbage and a great source of beta carotene, which has been scientifically proven to act as a dietary antioxidant. Its name is derived from the Chinese name for “soup spoon” because of the shape of its leaves. Baby Bok Choy requires delicate cooking and is a wonderful accompaniment to fish, tofu, pork and poultry. We hope you enjoy this as much as we did!
- Slice baby bok choy in 1/2 lengthwise and place in a large bowl of cold water to soak.
- Using a large non-stick fry pan, melt the butter and add the smashed garlic. Move around in the pan to infuse the butter, but don't let it burn.
- Place the bok choy, cut side down in the pan and saute until golden.
- Add the white wine and sugar and reduce until almost all the liquid is gone.
- Flip the bok choy over and add the broth.
- 6. Continue to cook until almost all the liquid is absorbed.
- Serve the bok choy with the thickened broth spooned over it, and garnish with sliced green onions.
Thirty some years ago, before today’s current interest in food and cooking, a group of young men attending a culinary institute in Connecticut asked to schedule a retreat at Bethany. None of them were known to us except for one, but it took no time for all of us to feel at home with each other. I have fond memories of that experience.
I was of course pleased that they appreciated the food prepared for them, in particular a chicken dish which we served for many retreats back then and which they unanimously praised. It was my version of a recipe adapted from an old homemaker’s paperback of prizewinners. It still amuses me to remember these “professional chefs in the making” as they left, each of them clutching a copy of this recipe from a housewife’s collection of favorites, and featuring a bottle of store bought salad dressing.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place chicken, skin side up, in baking pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with margarine; broil until brown.
- Combine salad dressing, peaches, cherries, onion and chili sauce; spoon over chicken.
- Bake for 1 hour or until chicken is tender. Serve over hot cooked rice or noodles.
This week’s recipe was inspired by an Asian guest that we were hosting for lunch at our guest house. As a novice learning to cook, I was always taught by the Sisters to really think about the person that I was cooking for: What would they like to eat? What would bless them? Subtle subtext here: it’s not about what I like to cook, or what blesses ME! So a gluten-free, colorful Thai soup came to mind — a recipe that I squirreled away awhile ago in hopes that some time I would have the opportunity to make it. I made a few adaptions which resulted in the recipe below.
As I was chopping, I noticed that all of the ingredients were vibrant shades of green, so I dubbed them the liturgical ingredients of ‘ordinary time’. We rounded this lunch off with a delicate spinach and spring mix salad topped with avocado, fresh strawberries and candied almonds, and pita crisps. The dessert was a homemade Mango and Vanilla Panna Cotta — a recipe that I hope to share in future weeks!
** This recipe was adapted from Once Upon a Chef **
Thai Chicken, Spinach and Rice Noodle Soup
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup shallot(s) thinly sliced, from 1-2 large shallots or red onion
- 1 tbsp. ginger minced, fresh, about a 1" piece, peeled
- 2 tbsp. curry paste Thai green
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 can coconut milk (13.5 fl oz), unsweetened
- 1 tbsp. fish sauce
- 4 packed tsp. brown sugar light or dark
- 2 tbsp. lime juice fresh, from 2 limes
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric
- For Serving
- 4 oz. rice noodles thin
- 2 cups chicken cooked, shredded, from a rotisserie or roast chicken
- 4 handfuls spinach baby, stems removed
- 1 handful cilantro fresh, chopped
- 3 scallion(s) thinly sliced
- Sriracha sauce
- Lime wedges
- Heat the oil in a medium soup pot over medium-low heat.
- Add the shallots and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the green curry paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute more.
- Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, and turmeric; bring to a gentle simmer. Continue simmering, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions. If not using immediately, let them sit in a bowl of cold water.
- When ready to serve, taste the soup and adjust the seasoning.
- Gently reheat the noodles in the microwave, if necessary (remove from water first!).
- Place baby spinach in the bottom of the serving bowl, place the rice noodles and shredded chicken on top and ladle the hot broth over top and sprinkle with cilantro and scallions.
- Serve with a lime wedge for garnish.
Years ago, there was a collaboration between all the cooks in the Community, resulting in a lovely little cook book, “Recipes that Bear Repeating.” The creation of this book was a true labor of love. For months, recipes were written out, exchanged, and “tested” in all the households. Many notes and conversations later, such as “What do you mean by one can? What size can?” or “What does ‘until done’ mean? We need a time estimate!”, this treasury of favorites was pulled together and printed, including traditions for holidays and special occasions from the Community. This Marinade for Steaks and Chops is definitely an All-Star from the book! Right now, at Priory Books & Gifts if you buy one of the Sisters’ hand-made aprons, you get a copy of your own for free! Don’t miss out on this little treasure.
Marinade for Steaks and Chops
- Combine all ingredients and mix well.
- Cover meat with marinade and chill for several hours. Turn meat several times to allow the flavor to penetrate more evenly. If stronger flavor is desired, refrigerate overnight.
- Let meat come to room temperature before cooking.
- It may be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for two weeks or in the freezer indefinitely.
As a youngster I loved the story of the spoiled young prince who traveled far and wide in search of the best tasting food in the world. Coming upon a woodchopper in the forest who assured him he could give him that food, he agreed to spend the day working with him. At the close of the day the woodchopper handed the prince a chunk of coarse crusty bread which the tired, famished prince eagerly consumed. Beaming with satisfaction he loudly proclaimed, “At last, I have found the best food in the world!
On the morning of the 9th day of Christmas, without any effort or searching abroad for it, I found the best cookie in the world! It was a scrumptious little chocolate peanut butter creation on a little plate on my desk with an attached note signed, “from a Christmas angel”… I felt just like the spoiled young prince.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Ball Cookies
- Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, beat the brownie mix, butter, cream cheese, and egg. The dough will be a little sticky.
- Scoop the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet, making about 24 cookies.
- Smooth the edges of each to form a round cookie.
- In a separate bowl, mix the powdered sugar and the peanut butter until it is completely combined.
- Form the mixture into about 1 inch balls. Make sure you have one ball for each cookie. Set aside.
- Bake for the cookie dough 12 minutes, keeping an eye out to make sure the cookies doesn't overcook or undercook.
- As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, press a peanut butter ball lightly into the center of each cookie.
- The peanut butter mixture will soften slightly, but that is OK. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Melt the chocolate chips in a microwavable bowl for 45 seconds. Stir the chocolate and melt for additional 15 seconds or until the chocolate is completely melted.
- Spoon about 1/2 a tablespoon of melted chocolate on top of each cookie so it covers the peanut butter ball.
- Let the chocolate set. Store in an airtight container.