Tuscan Tomato, Bread and Herb Soup: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

Tuscan Food has grown rapidly in popularity in recent years. Since opening a new house in Barga, Italy, in the heart of Tuscany, we have become quite familiar with much of the Tuscan way of life-including foods most typical of that area. This herbed Tuscan tomato bread soup has become one of our favorites. It is delicious hot, cold, or at room temperature, and it will be even more flavorful if you use home grown garden-fresh tomatoes as they come into season.

Tuscan Tomato, Bread and Herb Soup

3 pounds of tasty, ripe tomatoes
Good extra-virgin olive oil |
2 large cloves of garlic, one whole, one finely chopped or crushed
2 medium onions, very finely chopped
3 sticks celery, very finely chopped
Pinch of salt
Black pepper
Small bunch of basil, leaves only (at least 25 leaves)
1 ½  pints chicken or vegetable broth
½ loaf Italian bread, cut into small pieces

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and turn off the heat. Put the tomatoes into the water and leave for a couple of minutes. Test with a knife tip to see if the skin peels away easily. Discard water, skin the tomatoes and finely chop.

Heat ½ cup olive oil in a large pot. Add the whole clove of garlic, the onions and celery and sauté for a few minutes, until the onion is translucent, but not browning.

Add the chopped tomatoes, a pinch of salt and some black pepper, and cook gently for a couple of minutes.

Add stock and the pieces of bread. Cook, covered, for another 20 minutes on a low flame. Add more stock or hot water if necessary.

Locate the cooked garlic and squeeze it back into the dish with a garlic press. Add the raw chopped or crushed garlic and the finely chopped basil. Taste for seasoning.

You can serve this hot, at room temperature or chilled. Serve with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and raw extra virgin olive oil to swirl on top at the table.

Serves 6

The Community of Jesus

 

Botanically Speaking

By Sr. Nun Other

It’s sunflower season. Whether in a garden or a vase, they stand as uncomplicated and unpretentious sentinels of joy. An interesting fact about sunflowers: they turn their heads toward the sun, following its course each day. In so doing, they produce healthy fruit, tiny, edible seeds that burst with nutrients. I make life difficult and pursue joy as if I can earn it. What if I were to simply follow the Son each day, without question or resistance?

The Community of Jesus

Work

By Melodious Monk

Too much to do and not enough time. This seems to be modus operandi of much of our culture. We create gadgets to be more efficient, and we still find ourselves running out of time!  I find myself often bemoaning the fact that I can’t get all the “things” I’m responsible for done — the list never seems to end. It seems to grow the harder I try! The list feels like some of those trick birthday candles that never blow out no matter how much air you blow at the flame!

Do you ever ask yourself why God gives us work?  M. Basil Pennington puts forth this idea about how St. Benedict uses work to teach us lessons about God.(1) He says that having too much to do is actually a gift from God.  When we get to the end of the day, we realize we weren’t able to accomplish everything we might have wished.  And we are reminded that we are not God.  We are weak, needy people, in need of help.

Often I just get angry that I couldn’t finish everything I wanted to in the day. I try to plan better to find out how I can improve tomorrow.  But again this is a dead end.  In my own strength, I’ll still come up short. In his wisdom, Pennington is reminding me that coming up short is okay, and in fact a very good thing, even a gift from a loving God.  Why? Because it forces me to remember who God is, and allows me to choose to live in his strength, and by his grace.

[(1)  from Listen with your Heart, by M. Basil Pennigton, Ch 14]

The Community of Jesus

Rainy Morning

By Renaissance Girl

I got up early this morning and walked down to the garden. I love the hush of early morning, especially after a rain. The air has that cool, fresh tang, and everything hangs with drops of water perched on the ends of branches or suspended on petals and leaves. Everything feels refreshed — which, on a Monday morning, is much needed.

Perhaps a reminder for me that no matter where else I look for refreshment, the real Source is not the amount of sleep I get, or the moments I can steal for myself — but the Sender of Rain who knows just what to send, and when.

rose

 

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

The Universal Language

For many years, music has been referred to as the “Universal Language” — speaking from “heart to heart.” Chant certainly has that quality.

On a recent trip to Italy, I found myself meeting delightful people–their personality simply gleamed through their smile or handshake. Yet, we had no pathway to communicate verbally. I only speak a few words of Italian, and the people I met, for the most part, spoke no English. However, part of that trip included chanting both the midday Divine Office and Compline. Many of those same people attended those services, along with our group from the United States.

What happened next amazed me. We opened our mouths to chant the Office, and suddenly we were speaking the same language and we actually knew what each other was saying. The week leading to these services had been both exciting and tiring, in part because daily communication posed problems that one never even considers at home. Yet, we were united in the same language of prayer and it seemed that for those minutes we chanted, we were united through the same language and music.

This is a very important aspect of Gregorian chant and one which, if we give ourselves to it, will lift us from our daily routine and bring us together with God through sung prayer.

chant july 17

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit for photo

www.travel.justmarvelousworld.com

 

Pepperoni Parmesan Croutons: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

This is the season for salad lovers, and we have been enjoying lots of salads at the convent with the daily fresh picked lettuce, herbs, and cucumbers from our gardens.

To add interest to them I’ve come up with my own croutons. If you like crisp and crunch, and you savor the flavor of Parmesan and pepperoni you’re sure to like these.

They are simple, quick and easy to make, add great taste to your salads, and served as snacks, they disappear in no time.

Pepperoni Parmesan Croutons
4 cups of torn Italian bread about 1/2 of a loaf
¾ teaspoon mixed Italian seasonings
¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
½  cup torn pepperoni

Tear bread into bite sized pieces to equal about 4 cups. Toss with seasonings. Spread out on 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle with cheese and torn pepperoni.  Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes or until golden all over. Cool and break into pieces.

pepperoni parmesan croutons

 

 

Thoughts of Visions

By Melodious Monk

Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Word and Revelation of the Eternal Father.
Come, we pray, and take possession of our hearts.
Cleanse us from all that would make us deaf to your call or slow to obey it.
Fill our minds with the thought and our imaginations with the vision of your love,
that there may remain in us no room for any desire that is not in accord with your holy will;
For with the Father and the Holy Spirit, you are blessed for ever. Amen.
William Temple

I like this prayer. I like its hope, and its challenge. I try to imagine what it would be like to only think and be aware of God’s love. If I took the best moments I’ve ever known, the times I felt most alive, most full of purpose, most loved – can you imagine that being every moment? I find it takes courage to hang on to visions of God’s love. God’s necessary “cleansing” involves suffering and the need for faith to grow. It is far too easy, and much less work to be fearful, negative and cynical in this life. But it is also lonely and un-rewarding. I want, and need, to spend more time filling my thoughts with visions of his love.

 

Fear Not

By Renaissance Girl

Gloriae Dei Cantores gave two concerts this past weekend.  The closing piece was Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem.  It is an incredibly stirring piece — first performed in 1936. Vaughan Williams, having seen first-hand the horrors of WWI, and already feeling the tensions that would lead to WWII, set texts from scripture and the expressive poetry of Walt Whitman. The full orchestra undergirds the choir’s cries for peace and laments over the relentlessness of war.  At one point, having reached a peak with a cry of “Is there no balm in Gilead?” the music takes a sudden turn with the baritone solo coming in with the words “Oh man, greatly beloved, fear not.  Peace be unto you.”  It’s as though the tired, ragged and spent body of the pray-er is suddenly breathed over and touched by the hand of God himself.  I was surprised to learn the text is from the book of Daniel.  Daniel has just seen a vision of the destruction of his people and says literally, “My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe because of the vision.” The vision before him is of a man who touches him and says the words that Vaughn Williams set — and “he was strengthened.”  It caught me that in our brokenness and exhaustion, if we can simply turn our face to God, all it takes is a word from him to strengthen us.  In international war, or our own internal battles day after day — God calls us “greatly beloved” and bids us “Fear not.”

angel2

 

 

 

 

 

Photo By Kate Shannon

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

“But I don’t know any chant!”

Whether I’m conducting a chant training session for choir members of parish churches, choir directors, or organists, or even doing a choral anthem workshop, inevitably, someone raises their hand and states with considerable firmness and clarity, “I don’t know any chant!”  Frankly, I’m glad for the honesty because it bursts open a grand opportunity to point out to people just how much chant they “know but didn’t know.”

For instance, open the hymnal in your church pew – in ANY church and go to the Advent and Christmas hymns. Most likely, one of the first hymns you will find is O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Instantly, your participants will probably express a certain amount of joy in that “certainly, we know this.” Then, they know a chant. Keep going through the hymnal and they will continue to be surprised by just how much chant they have been singing their entire life and did not realize that it was a chant.

However, it does not stop there. Point out the fact that Hollywood is no stranger to Gregorian chant. Movies such as The Name of the Rose, The Hunchback of Notre Dame or even The Matrix employ Gregorian chant to evoke a certain mood or frame of mind.

We hear and experience chant in both its original context and unexpected places. Sometimes it takes a moment of thought and realization – better known as an “aha moment” – to understand that whether we know it or not, we are influenced by chant in whatever context it may be found. But, we do know some chant!

Chant Blog.June12.2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit for Image:http://library.umkc.edu/spec-col/chantbook/antiphon.htm

 

Baked Chicken Nuggets: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

For years I have been making what I called crispy chicken strips, the result of an idea that came to me out of the blue and one that was very successful after simply trying it out on my own without any recipe.

I used them a lot as appetizers along with chutney or sweet and sour sauce. Sometimes I top a salad with them for a nice lunch, and often I add Italian spices and grated Parmesan cheese to the crumbs and serve them with a favorite pasta and sauce for a main meal.

I liked my original idea and have been quite pleased with myself for having come up with something that tasted so good and was exclusively mine or so I thought . . . until a while ago when flipping through a friend’s recipe book and look what I found:

“Baked Chicken Nuggets” – almost identical to what I’d been making, only using bread crumbs instead.

7-8 boneless chicken breasts, uncooked
Onion salt
1 cup butter, melted
2 cups crushed saltines
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
2 Tablespoons mixed Italian spices, optional

Cut chicken into 1½ inch pieces. Season well with onion salt. Dip chicken in butter, then in crumb mixture, adding in optional Italian spices and Parmesan cheese for a Mediterranean accent if desired. Place on baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes – just until golden but still plump and juicy – not dry.

Makes 14-16.

P.S. Saltines give a much crispier crust than bread crumbs.

IMG_Baked Chicken Nuggets