Every time our lace making sister comes home from Belgium, one of the first things she’s eager to do is cook something from her adopted homeland for all the sisters here at home. Not only does she want to introduce us to Flemish cooking, she also wants to be able to share the response of the sisters “here” with those “back there.”
This time, she’s chosen to make Flemish Beef stew, a simple stew with a unique flavor provided by one key ingredient, which is beer. Frequently when referring to this meal it will be said “The better the beer the better the stew.” Now beer is not something we regularly have on hand in the convent, but only when its given to us as a gift for some celebratory occasion, but our determined sister would not be put off by lack of one ingredient, even though it be the most important one in the recipe. She is known for having everything fall into place at the right moment regardless of the odds. So it was no surprise to anyone when a 6 pack of Stella Artois appeared on the kitchen counter. Without skipping a beat, she continued working on her stew while quietly throughout the convent sisters could be heard quietly chanting “The better the beer, the better the stew.”
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half the beef and brown on all sides, turning frequently, about 5 minutes
Transfer to a slow cooker and drain any fat from the pan.
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and brown the remaining geef and add to the slow cooker.
Add mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until they give off their liquid (5-7 minutes).
Sprinkle flour over the mushrooms and cook for half a minute. Add beer and bring to a boil, whisking constantly to reduce foaming, until thickened and bubbliing, about 3 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture to the beef in the slow cooker.
Add carrots, onion, garlic, mustard, caraway seeds, salt, pepper and bay leaf to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
Cover the slow cooker and cook on low until the beef is very tender, about 8 hrs.
Huevos Rancheros – Spanish for Ranch Eggs – has long been a favorite breakfast treat of mine. If you’re someone who likes to add a little “kick” to your food, this is the recipe for you. We recently made this for one of our small retreats – eggs, black beans, salsa and cheese sweetly nestled in a flour tortilla in one of our new pottery ramekins that we got by saving “stamps” at our local grocery store. There is nothing like eating comfort food on a cold winter’s day, and this one will warm you from the insides out. Easy to prepare for a crowd or just a few people with very little prep. We hope you enjoy this.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush six 10-ounce ramekins with 1 tablespoon oil or spray with PAM. If the tortillas aren't pliable, stack them and microwave uncovered until warm and flexible, about 20 seconds.
Brush tortillas with the olive oil or spray with PAM and gently press 1 tortilla into each cup.
Place 1 tablespoon of black beans in the bottom of each ramekin, followed by 1 tablespoon of salsa. Gently crack 1 egg into each tortilla cup atop the salsa and beans. Spoon another tablespoon of black beans over followed by a bit of salsa and chopped scallions and liberally cover each with cheese - making sure to cover the egg completely.
Bake uncovered until egg whites are set, about 15-20 minutes (yolks will still be soft inside).
Serve immediately topped with a dollop of sour cream and chopped scallions - serve tabasco on the side, if desired.
“Old Cape Cod”…home of the Cod, home of the Oyster, the Quohog and the Clam. Home of the Beach Plum and Rose Hip, and also of the Cranberry, now at the very peak of its season!
I am fortunate to have lived here for many years, and one of my most favorite sights in the late fall is that of the bright afternoon sun shining on the cranberry bogs, catching their sparkle….like beautiful gems or jewels reflecting the light as they wait to be harvested. Over my years here I have accumulated quite a collection of typical Cape Cod recipes. One of my favorites is this beautiful Cape Cod Cranberry Torte, lovely looking, luscious tasting — at any time of the year, but particularly at this snowy, winter season.
This is a guest blog from one of our Swedish Sisters
This year, it was possible to make these Swedish pepparkakor cookies a little earlier than usual. It makes me happy, and helps me remember for a moment where I came from, and that God is in charge of all the little things in our lives. It is my great-grandmother’s recipe from Tidaholm, Sweden. I don’t know why it is that cookies have become a tradition around the season of Christmas in particular, except for the fact of celebrating the most important birthday of all!! But these little cookies, for me, have always been a part of that celebration, with their trinity of spices that scent the kitchen when baked . . cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Not to mention, the smiles that come to people’s faces every single time!
Gift giving for Sisters can present a bit of a challenge since we aren’t able to simply just “go shopping” at any time. As a result, many handcrafted items and homemade food gifts are produced especially around Christmas time. Last night the convent kitchen was a veritable hub of gift making!
At the baking end of the room one sister was shaping cranberry shortbread cookies. At the stove another was cooking up the filling for egg rolls. At the opposite end of the room yet another was mixing up ingredients for her mothers’ favorite dessert, Tiramisu. After a recent visit to Italy her mother had as she herself put it “fallen in love” “with all things Italian” and this dessert was one of those things. Although not what would have occurred to me as a Christmas gift, it had made such a hit with her when she received it on her birthday, I know this will be no less thrilling to her at this special holiday.
Combine egg yolks and sugar in the top of a double boiler, over boiling water. Reduce heat to low, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and whip yolks until thick and lemon-colored and let cool.
Add Mascarpone to whipped yolks, beat until combined.
In a separate bowl, whip cream to stiff peaks.
Fold the whipped cream in the mascarpone sabayon mixture and set aside.
Mix the espresso (or strong coffee) and coffee liquor together. Dip the lady fingers into the mixture just long enough to get them wet.
Arrange the lady fingers in the bottom of a 9 inch square baking dish.
Spoon half the mascarpone cream filling over the lady fingers.
Repeat process with another layer of lady fingers add another layer of cream.
Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight and dust with cocoa before serving.
This past week, we did a pot-luck lunch at Paraclete Press to celebrate the season and get our company decorated for Christmas. Several of us brought crock pots of goodness to the table – each excited to try someone else’s creation. I think this one received the most ooh’s and aaah’s, as it was completely emptied by the end of lunch and given back to me, clean as a whistle as if begging for more. This is such a great recipe – so easy to make the night before, let the crock pot do the magic during the night and finish it off in the morning. This is a perfect recipe to pull out over the holidays when you want to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with friends and family. Blessed Advent!
Add diced potatoes, diced onion, minced garlic, 10 slices of chopped cooked bacon, parsley and chicken broth to the slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper. Stir and cook for 6-8 hours on low or on high for 3-4 hours, until the potatoes are fork tender.
Once the soup has cooked, make the béchamel sauce. Add butter to a medium saucepan over medium heat and melt, whisk in the flour until completely combined and gradually add in the half and half or heavy cream (or milk, whatever you prefer). Whisk until smooth. Over low heat, let the mixture cook until it starts to simmer, stirring occasionally.
Immediately add the béchamel to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
Using a potato masher, mash about 3/4 of the potatoes until you reach the desired consistency for your soup.
Stir in 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup sour cream. Stir well, until fully combined and creamy. Taste for seasoning, adjust salt and pepper to taste. If you want to thin the soup a bit, you can add more milk, cream or chicken broth. Continue cooking the soup on low for 30 minutes or on high for 15 minutes. Serve warm with the toppings of your choice.
Optional Toppings: chopped scallions or chives, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and bacon