Recently, another Sister and I shared our borscht recipes and memories! Like any well-loved food, memories play a part in its enjoyment. Our experiences of eating borscht are different but surprisingly parallel. Sr. Monica spent two months living at a Convent in Estonia when it was still part of the USSR. She has vivid memories of being there as the coup occurred when Gorbachev was still in power. I remember it too, because I was in Poland at the time, singing with our choir, Gloriae Dei Cantores. We had no way to communicate with our Sisters in Estonia since cell phones and e-mail were unavailable to us in 1991. We relied on prayer for their safety. Often, a particular recipe is a vehicle for comfort, even solace. We have had difficult times in the past, but we know God’s love is available to us. We offer this heartwarming recipe to you, along with our prayers for a healthy spring.
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CHANGE SERVING SIZE
2poundsbeefchuck roast or stew meat (if using bone-in meat, increase poundage to 3#)
Put the meat in a crockpot with 8 cups cold water, red pepper flakes, bay leaves and 1 Tbsp salt. Set on high for 4 hours. Cook until fork tender. Remove meat and strain and reserve the broth. Set aside
While the Beef is cooking, wrap beets in foil and place in a 400 degree oven—roast for 1hr. until fork tender. Cool slightly, but while they are still warm, remove the top, bottom and skin with a pairing knife (skins should come off easily if properly cooked) and either grate or julienne the beets. Set aside.
Heat a large stockpot and add 4 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp. butter and sauté onion for 2 min. Add diced potato and sauté another 5 min or until beginning to soften. Add the grated carrot, cabbage and garlic and 2 Tbsp vinegar and sauté for 5 minutes.
Reduce heat to med/low and add the beets, 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 Tbsp tomato paste. Mix thoroughly and add the reserved strained broth and extra 2-3 cups beef broth. (I used' Better than Bouillon' Roasted Beef Base)
Simmer and cover until vegetables are tender. Add the diced, cooked Beef and 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill. Remove from heat and leave covered until flavors meld. Add 1/4 tsp pepper (If desired), and salt to taste. Adjust flavors to taste (you may want to add a bit more vinegar or sugar)
Serve warm or cold with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of fresh dill.
This year, I’ve been doing some teaching where cooking is concerned, and along with that comes learning on my part. Testing new recipes, experimenting with foods of different cultures and also trying my hand at a healthier way of cooking and eating. As I was working with a friend, we decided we’d like to try to find a recipe for a really good veggie burger. First of all, I wasn’t sure those four words really went together… “really good” and “veggie burger”. But, once again, I was wrong. This vegetable and grain-based patty is delightful. It’s bursting with flavors – we commented to each other that you could truly taste each vegetable in it and the bonus is, it’s packed with protein. Even my most lovable meat craving Sister thought it was delicious. That was a real surprise.
So, as we head into Lent, I thought this might be a good time to share this recipe. I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Make the herb mayo: In a blender, combine all the herb mayo ingredients. Blend until smooth, then transfer to a bowl.
Make the veggie burgers: In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the water and quinoa to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until the quinoa is tender and all the water is absorbed, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool. Or cook the quinoa in a rice cooker, following manufacturer directions (I used 2 cups quinoa/2 cups water). You will be using 3 cups of cooked quinoa in this recipe.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, parsley and onion, and cook, stirring often, until the veggies are tender and lightly caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes. Then add the baby spinach to wilt along with the corn. Transfer to the bowl with the 3 cups of cooked quinoa and let cool.
Once the vegetables-and-quinoa mixture has cooled, mix in the remaining veggie burger ingredients until incorporated. Form into 8 - ½ cup patties and shape. Lay out on a piece of wax paper.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook the veggie burgers until golden brown and crisp, 3 minutes per side.
To assemble: Top each veggie burger with some of the herbed mayo and top with tomato and avocado. Serve while the burger is still warm with a side of sweet potato fries.
It’s too easy to lose track of the origin of some of the many wonderful recipes that we all love–but have no idea where they came from!
One of our Sisters, known for her love for cooking and her creative culinary skills, has a great intro to one of her favorite recipes… that lives on to this day!
“My mother, who came to this country as a young girl, first obtained a job doing housework for a wealthy family on 5th Ave, N.Y. The lady of the house had a special liking for a tall, moist, three-layered cake from a nearby bakery—with a creamy custard filling, generous swirls of maple-flavored frosting and lavishly sprinkled with finely chopped walnuts. My mother soon cultivated a taste for this culinary wonder also—and developed her own recipe for the cake by taste and instinct.”
And now, through the years, it’s been passed on to us, with modifications and adjustments, and continues to be the quintessential dessert for the right occasion.
Tonight, our Convent was humming with Christmas cheer as we readied our home for Christmas. Some wrapped presents to send to families, other Sisters spent time catching up with old friends as they penned their lovely cards. In the kitchen, we turned on Bing Crosby and poured over old fashioned family recipes as we pondered which cookies we would make this year. The royal icing was prepared and crispy butter cookies were being decorated with sprinkles covering every surface. I remembered a cookie that I hadn’t baked in years and a favorite to be sure. In fact, you won’t find this anywhere else on the internet, at least I couldn’t. Cut from an old magazine, pressed onto an index card and covered in plastic, this shows how treasured this recipe is. Sometimes baking can restore wonderful memories of times past and other times it just puts a smile on your face, honey in your belly and much joy for the adventures ahead. I love Christmas. The beauty, the magic and most of all the precious gift that is awaiting us in the form of a little baby on Christmas morning.
May the season of light be yours this year. Blessed Christmas!
To make the filling: In a small saucepan, combine the apricots, sugar and water and simmer for 15-18 min. or until the liquid is reduced by half and add the rum or brandy. Let the mixture cool slightly and in a food processor or blender, puree it.
Make the shortbread cookie dough. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate standing mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and the egg, beating the mixture until it is well combined. Slowly, add the flour mixture in stages and mix until just combined, but don't over mix or your shortbread will be tough.
Form the dough into a log, wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hr. Divide the log into 4 pieces.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, place the dough in plastic wrap and roll into an 8 inch long rope - place on a parchment covered sheet pan and make a canal down the center with your finger so the log becomes a 8 x 2" rectangle with a channel in the middle.
Spread the apricot puree in the canals.
Bake the cookie sticks in a 350 degree oven for 18-20 min. until the edges are slightly golden.
Transfer to a rack and let them cool.
In a small bowl, whisk together the glaze ingredients and add just enough water to make a thick but pour-able icing - you want it to be on the thick side.
If desired, transfer the glaze to a squeeze bottle or piping bag and drizzle the icing over the cookies.
Cut the rectangles diagonally into 1" strips.
The cookies will keep in the freezer or in an airtight container for 1 week.
Since St. Lucia’s Day (or St. Lucy’s Day) is just around the corner on December 13th, we thought we’d share this special Swedish bread with you – fantastic for the Holidays. The celebration of the day comes from stories that were told by Monks who first brought Christianity to Sweden. “St Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred, killed for her faith, in 304. The most common story told about St Lucia is that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city. She would wear candles on her head, so she had both her hands free to carry things. Lucy means ‘light’ so this is a very appropriate name.” (see note below**)
December 13th was also the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, in the old ‘Julian’ Calendar and a pagan festival of lights in Sweden was turned into St. Lucia’s Day. It is now celebrated by a girl dressing in a white dress with a red sash around her waist and a crown of candles on her head. Thus, the wreath of bread dotted with candied “berries.” If you’d like you can also add small candles to the cake as well for a more festive look.