As our State is starting to reopen the economy, part of me is going to miss this “time at home.” I’ve realized how much I’ve recognized, appreciated and enjoyed the simple things of life so much more over these last couple months. I was emailing a few of my other monastic friends across the country and we have similar stories. We’ve spent more time just being, praying the offices on behalf of the world, quieting ourselves down and trying to listen more to His voice. I hope I don’t lose what I’ve gained from this experience! I’ve also had time to do some festive cooking. This weekend I decided that our travel ban didn’t refer to in house international cuisine. So, here’s a yummy, fresh and healthy recipe that can be used to cool you down on a hot summer’s day. If you’re a vegan, substitute the shrimp with some red pepper or thinly julienned beet. It will be just as delicious. Enjoy!
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Vietnamese Shrimp and Vegetable Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Thin with warm water if desired. This recipe will make more peanut sauce than you need, so store in a clean jar in the refrigerator for another use.
Take one rice paper wrapper and dip it into warm water in a pie plate for 10 seconds to wet it and make pliable. Lay the wrapper down on a clean work surface (wooden cutting board works great here)and smooth it out with your damp hand.
Take a leaf of lettuce and tear it into large 5-inch pieces and place it along the bottom half of the wrapper (see image) Place some rice noodles on top of the lettuce followed by a couple thin slices of avocado. Place a few carrots and cucumbers beside the lettuce, 2 pieces of scallion (or more) and then your shrimp sliced in half across the middle, pink side down. If desired, add some mint, basil or cilantro.
To roll, gently fold over the left and right sides of the rice paper wrapper over the filling. Then fold the bottom part of the wrapper over the filling and gently but tightly roll up the spring roll, burrito style. Repeat steps 1 to 3
Chill until ready to use. Serve with peanut sauce or another favorite dipping sauce
The crispness of fall is all around us. This past Monday, the Sisters rose early to put our gardens to bed for the winter. It’s always bittersweet for me, as working in the earth, getting my hands dirty and seeing the fruits of our labor and God’s creative act are moments that I treasure. We decided not to put our “chef garden” to bed, as the tomatoes, chard, beets and kale are still growing, and a late crop of peas is sprouting their heads above the earth. So, as a tribute to summer, I wanted to share this wonderful recipe with you. You can use any vegetables for grilling, so don’t feel limited by the ingredients here. If you’re anything like me, your grill stays outside until it snows! Take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and enjoy.
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Honey Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Grilled Vegetables
Marinate chicken with pesto, garlic, red pepper flakes, lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt at least 1 hour, or overnight for best results.
Mix oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and 1/4 tsp salt in a small bowl.
Heat a grill over medium-high, be sure grates are clean and well oiled to prevent sticking.
Brush oil on each side of the vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper
Put vegetables on 1 large grill tray or directly on grill, and cook, turning constantly until the vegetables are cooked and golden, about 6 to 10 minutes. Set aside on a dish.
Put the chicken on the grill and cook about 4 to 5 minutes on each side until grill marks appear and the chicken is cooked through. If you prefer to finish them off in the oven, I suggest a grill pan or cast iron skillet - cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
Transfer the chicken to a platter with the vegetables and pour the balsamic dressing over everything and serve.
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.”
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.
In a large bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk and lime juice. Stir until thick and well incorporated. Set aside.
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.
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.
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.
Pour the filling into the cooled pie crust and smooth over with a spatula.
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.
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.
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 **
Last week’s Elijah concerts at the Community of Jesus were amazingly successful……..full house attendance for both nights accompanied by so many heartfelt comments of how touched and moved listeners were by the richness and beauty of the singing and music.
The brass and organ concert the following week was very different in many ways, yet equally impressive and received enthusiastic applause and compliments from the energized and invigorated audience.
Both concerts were followed by a spectacular reception of both sweet and savory specialties. Among the desserts that received the most acclaim was our favorite little fresh lime tartlet…..so appealing to the eye as well as the palette, so perfect for this time of year.
Crush the graham cracker squares in a food processor or place in a gallon size bag and roll with a rolling pin.
Add sugar and butter and mix into the crushed graham cracker.
Press 1 tablespoon graham cracker mixture into the bottom of a cupcake liner. I put 1 tablespoon in and then pressed down with 1/4 cup measuring cup. You have the option to bake this at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes so that it can harden.
In a separate bowl, mix together egg whites, condensed milk, lime juice, lime zest, and Greek yogurt. Mix well.
Fill the cupcakes about 3/4 of the way full with the mixture. Bake for 12-15 minutes and cool.
Top with whip cream and garnish with lime if desired. Store in the refrigerator.