There are actually two of us under the title of "Gourmet Nun!" One of us came at age 13, the other in her 30s. We have been sisters for 43 and 38 years respectively. One of use came with her mother (who felt called to this community), the other drove down in a red Carmen Ghia, leaving behind a job in a flower shop in Boston. Between us we have almost a century of cooking experience (that actually sounds kind of frightening!) having cooked since we were young. We have been in choir, wind ensemble, orchestra, painted, made quilts and both have been or are executive chefs in our events kitchen. We both love food; but especially the relationship between hospitality and the dining room, the Eucharistic table and the banquet table. Nothing makes either of us happier than a well-planned and well-executed meal that speaks of the love of God.
Being a Benedictine House, we start our day with the office of Lauds followed by Eucharist. As I left the service today, I was struck by just how many years Monasticism has existed and thrived, and how blessed I was to be a part of a living organism that has withstood the passage of time and changed the world in the process.
As I passed through our atrium, I was met with the lovely singing of birds. With the cold winter we’ve had, this promise of spring was a delight to my ears and got me itching to create a light new soup that was both colorful and tasty. I set out for the kitchen to create just that.
In a large stockpot over medium heat, sautee leeks, garlic, and thyme in the butter and olive oil until softened- about eight minutes.
Add diced potato and cook an additional 5 minutes or until the potatoes begin to take on a slightly translucent hue. Meanwhile, prepare asparagus by snapping off the ends and peeling the sides with a vegetable peeler and cut into 1" pieces.
Add broccoli florets to your stock pot and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add prepared asparagus pieces and cover with 8 cups of stock (vegetable or chicken, whichever you prefer). Stir and bring to a simmer.
Cover your pot and cook until your vegetables are tender about 10 min.
After 10 minutes, uncover the pot, turn off the heat and add the spinach. Allow to sit for an additional five minutes.
Cool slightly, and puree using an immersion blender or a countertop blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more broth to achieve the desired thickness or add some cream. Re-heat and serve. Makes 14 cups of soup.
Our corner of the world becomes pretty bleak at this time of year with bare trees, plowed under gardens and occasional winter storms that blow through.
Ever on the lookout for new recipes, this one for sweet potato, roasted chickpeas and creamy hummus sauce caught our eye: tasty, colorful and with flavors that evoke a warmer time and place, this proved to be a great way to beat the winter blues! We’ve adapted it to our tastes and feel free to do the same. Filling–and meatless–this recipe will most likely find its way back on the table right into spring.
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Baked Sweet Potato with Roasted Chickpeas and Creamy Hummus Sauce
Preheat oven to 400. Line 2 metal cookie sheets with baking paper.
Place the sweet potato halves on one cookie sheet and set aside.
Place 1 cup of chickpeas in a bowl and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Dust with salt and pepper and gently toss until lightly coated. Pour in a single layer on the second cookie sheet.
Put the potatoes and the chickpeas in the oven for roasting. Roast the chickpeas until they become a medium shade of brown, about 15 minutes. The sweet potatoes should be cooked until they are fork tender, about 45 minutes.
While the potatoes and chickpeas are roasting, prepare the hummus sauce.
Place remaining 2 cups of chickpeas in a food processor.
Place remaining 2 cups of chickpeas in a food processor and begin to process while pouring in a thin stream of olive oil. Once the chickpeas begin to become a paste, add milk, lemon juice, zest, garlic, salt and pepper. The consistency should be thin enough to drizzle on the potatoes, but still be visible (not watery).
Once the potatoes and chickpeas have finished in the oven, top the potatoes with the roasted chickpeas and drizzle them generously with the hummus sauce. For added color, garnish with fresh parsley or feta cheese and serve warm or room temperature.
When I spent time at our mission house in Italy, I fell in love with fennel. For many, this might be a vegetable you see in the grocery store and have absolutely no idea what you would do with it. It is an underutilized vegetable and during the doldrums of winter, it might just become your new favorite. It looks a bit like it might be a member of the celery family or some sort of cabbage, but instead, it’s a flowering plant of the carrot family. The flavor is subtle, slightly sweet and has hints of anise, but don’t worry, you won’t be eating a Twizzler when it is cooked correctly. It can be eaten raw – thinly sliced in a salad or slaw or carmelized and used in a soup or stew. In this simple recipe, we’ll show you how to take this lovely vegetable and transform it into a velvety and flavorful side dish.
Cut each fennel half into 3 wedges. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fennel; cook 7 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.
Add wine, stock, salt, pepper, minced garlic and thyme sprigs; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Increase heat to medium-high; cook, uncovered, 1 minute or until liquid is slightly thickened. Remove thyme sprigs from pan; discard.
Melt remaining 1 Tbsp.butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat; stir in parsley and cheese. Arrange fennel wedges on a plate and sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture.
Many years ago when terms like “special diet,” “wheat-free,” etc. were seldom being used, I was introduced to a flourless chocolate cake by a friend whose good judgment regarding food I respected. She maintained that this cake had become a favorite of many whether or not they had any food restrictions. Her husband had some serious ones, but now loved and ate it whenever it was available.
Still skeptical, I put the recipe away until another time. When I’d given up some of my opinions, I made it myself and I became an avid believer!
Grease an 8-inch spring form pan and line the bottom with parchment paper and spray the parchment when in place.
Place the one pound of chocolate in a double boiler on medium-low heat and stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted.
Immediately stir in the butter, flour, sugar, coffee granules, and salt, whisking in the egg yolks until smooth.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until they form soft peaks. Scrape the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and fold them in carefully with a rubber spatula.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, level the top, and bake for 15 minutes.
Turn the oven off and leave the cake in the oven, cracking the oven door open and allow the cake to cool in the oven for an hour.
Carefully remove the sides of the pan and slide the cake onto a flat serving plate.
Top with whipped cream, a dusting of cocoa powder, raspberries and a sprig of fresh mint for an elegant--and flourless--chocolate dessert!
I often make salmon cakes in a big batch and freeze them for later use to serve for lunch with a nice salad of tomatoes and cucumbers or even citrus and avocado. They can be eaten at room temperature or crisped up in the oven before serving – whatever your preference. This is a simple recipe where all the ingredients are mixed together and then lightly fried in some olive oil. I’ve found that using an old fashioned ice cream scoop does such an excellent job shaping your patties that you don’t even have to get your hands dirty! Just scoop the mixture directly into your skillet and pat down with your metal spatula. It’s a cost-effective recipe that can be made gluten-free as well. A great healthy way to start your year!
One of our sisters has a special interest in cooking the foods of other countries. Over time she has heard me repeat many stories of my Ukrainian mother’s experiences with food and what I learned about it through her.
Perhaps my favorite memory is that of packing our picnic boxes for our all-day blueberry picking excursions. These always contained fresh baked babka, lots of butter some fresh boiled eggs from our chickens and a little horseradish root from our garden. Today’s blog features a glorified babka bread filled with chocolate…enjoy!
Combine yeast with warm water and let stand until it begins to bubble, about 5-8 minutes.
Mix flour, sugar, yeast, and lemon zest in a mixer on a low speed until combined.
Add eggs and water, and mix on medium speed until dough comes together, 2-3 minutes. Add salt, then butter, adding a few cubes at a time, mixing until thoroughly combined. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes on medium speed, until dough is completely smooth,and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl during this step!
Place dough in a large greased bowl cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
Grease two 9x4 inch loaf pans with oil and line the bottom of each pan with waxed paper. Divide dough in half and keep one half covered in the fridge.
Filling and Baking
Whisk together powdered sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate, and butter until you have a spreadable paste.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and shape into a rectangle as wide as the pans are long.
Position dough so that a long side is closest to you and spread half of the chocolate mixture over the rectangle, leaving a ¾ inch/2 cm border all around.
Roll up the rectangle like a jellyroll, starting from the long side closest to you and ending at the other long end. Press to seal the dampened end, then use both hands to even out the roll into a uniform roll and place it on your surface seam side down.
Trim about ¾ inch/2 cm off both ends, and slice the loaf into even 1-inch segments. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for 1½ hours.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove plastic wrap and place loaves on middle rack of oven, and bake for about 25-30 minutes.
Remove from oven when done and let cool. Babka will stay fresh for 24 hours in an airtight container at room temperature or tightly wrapped--don’t place in the fridge.
Babka freezes well for up to 2 months. To thaw, leave on counter or overnight in the fridge, and leftovers make excellent bread pudding or fabulous French Toast!