By Faithful Friar
A few weeks ago, we had the privilege of hosting the Ringers from Trinity Church in New York City for an afternoon of ringing. Their tower is currently under construction for maintenance work, and they are using this time to travel to other towers and ring.
Whenever we have visiting ringers, we take advantage of the years of experience and helpful advice that they willingly share, and we embrace the opportunity to improve our skills. Bell ringing is an art form that takes years of practice to develop. The “subculture” of tower ringing includes a longstanding tradition of hospitality (a perfect fit with our Benedictine heritage!), and of sharing experience and instruction between bands of ringers. Taking our place in this tradition is a privilege that we gratefully treasure!
When a strong band of ringers visits, it is the perfect time to stretch our own abilities and try to ring something that is just a little bit out of our grasp of understanding. Only through these faith- and skill-building forays can we improve and build confidence in our ringing; and in keeping with our determination to do “all things to the glory of God,” we will keep at it.
We are very grateful for the fun afternoon that we spent ringing together and we look forward to the Area Meeting this week, where we will see more familiar faces!
By Sr. Nun Other
We did some fall housecleaning last night, starting with kitchen cupboards. Threw out some “lids to nowhere,” a melted turkey baster, and an old plastic measuring cup. It feels good to have dust-free, clutter-free cupboards, and a mental inventory of what’s available. I sometimes wonder what Mary’s house looked like. As Jesus’ mother, her life was always eventful, with an expectation for the unexpected. I imagine her home to be clean, orderly, and ready to welcome. But then I have a reputation for obsessive neatness. I prefer to think of it as stress avoidance. Friends with busy lives sometimes ask for advice, and it’s very basic: remove clutter, which I define as anything not necessary or beautiful. Beautiful is up to you—could be children’s art—or any number of things. To truly save time, avoid short-cuts—an oxymoron but true.
Psalm 84 tells of God’s lovely dwelling place, a place of peace and beauty that draws our weary hearts. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. “Selah.” Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
By Gourmet Nun
There is no meal so plain or so elaborate that cannot be enhanced by the addition of freshly baked homemade bread. Whether it’s a simple soup and salad lunch or a full oven rolls is guaranteed to bring exclamations of joy from the eaters. It seems to convey a sense of special care and attention that warms their hearts.
We served these beautiful, easy-to-make rolls to a retreat of ladies for lunch today and their response was absolutely overwhelming.
Very Best Dinner Rolls
1 cup warm water (between 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit)
4 teaspoons dry yeast
2 1/2 cups warm milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoon salt
7 cups flour
1/4-1/2 cups butter (reserved)
This recipe is best made in a standing mixer with a dough hook.
Dissolve the yeast in some water with a pinch of sugar and let sit for approximately 5 minutes to proof.
Add milk, sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter, salt and eggs. Mix well. Add flour as needed and mix well. Blend at medium-low speed for about 5-10 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl once or twice. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; let rise in bowl about 1 hour or till doubled.
Remove the plastic wrap and turn mixer on low to “punch down” the dough; if you wish, you can let the dough rise a second time as it makes for a more flavorful roll. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 36 rolls. The dough will be very sticky.
Place rolls, edges just touching, in a buttered 9″x13″ or 9″ round pan. Cover pan with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 30-40 minutes. Brush with reserved butter before baking or an egg wash.
Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit convection oven or 350 degrees Fahrenheit conventional oven until golden.
By Gourmet Nun
It seems we barely get cleaned up from one reception, and it’s time to prepare for another. We have many events happening on a regular basis and they almost always are accompanied by the serving of food or refreshments of one kind or another. At a recent reception we revised an old favorite that met with a great response. We served this hot chicken salad in little cream puffs and they disappeared so quickly we couldn’t keep the trays filled.
Hot Chicken Salad Puffs
4 cups chicken, cooked and diced
1 cup chopped celery
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon curry (Optional if you like)
1 teaspoon sage or poultry seasoning
3 teaspoons grated onion
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 ½ cups crushed potato chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
In a large bowl mix the chicken, celery, mayonnaise, lemon juice, onion salt, spices, onion and almonds. Transfer to the baking dish, and top with Cheddar cheese and crushed potato chips.Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until lightly browned. Fill cream puffs, arrange on platter and serve.
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into pats
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt; use 1/2 teaspoon if you are using unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups flour
4 large eggs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease (or line with parchment paper) two baking sheets.
Combine the water, butter and salt in a medium-sized saucepan, heat until the butter has melted and bring to a rolling boil. Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously until the mixture smooths out and follows the spoon around the pan; this should take less than 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture cool for 5 to 10 minutes. It will still feel hot. Transfer the dough to a mixer. Beat in the eggs one at a time; the mixture will look curdled, but when you add the last egg it should become smooth. Beat for 1 minute after adding the last egg. You will have a stiff, smooth batter.
Drop the dough by Tablespoonful’s onto the prepared sheets. Leave about 2″ between them. Bake for about 20 minutes, till they have puffed, they are medium golden brown and they look dry. Remove baked puffs from the oven and use a sharp knife to cut a slit into the side of each puff, for steam to escape; this will help prevent them from becoming soggy. Return the puffs to the oven for 5 minutes, then remove from oven and transfer to a rack to cool. Slit each puff in half around the circumference and fill with a heaping Tablespoonful of chicken salad. Replace the top.
by Renaissance Girl
Saturday morning I received an unexpected gift. I was assigned to Bethany Guest House for my morning work. (Saturday mornings we all work together on projects around the Community.) The Sister I was working with said, “a lot of what we do at Bethany goes back to Mother Cay,” and I started crying. It was completely unexpected and I still don’t fully understand why. My family arrived the year Mother Cay died, so I didn’t have the opportunity to know her very well. But her commitment to “do everything to the glory of God” has been passed down through the generations. You can feel it in Bethany. As I ironed linens, carefully cleaned shelves, and washed the beautiful pieces of china and crystal from around the world, the feeling of care and love in every detail was palpable.
I thought about the history in that space — the founding years of the Community, Bible studies, personal retreats… The walls have been infused with the joy of wedding dinners, the silent prayer of vow candidates before they make their profession, the reading of scripture, and maybe even the silent prayers of people like me, quietly washing pieces of china that each tell a story. I went home that afternoon and cleaned some things out, inspired to toss out items that had been sitting for years, and create a space to the Glory of God.
by Gourmet Nun
Who doesn’t love chocolate cake? I know I do. And I have to confess that I am very happy with a box cake mix. I have made scratch cakes and there are some that are great. But if you are in a hurry, a box chocolate cake mix does just fine. Especially if you dress it up with a homemade frosting. We recently were asked to make some desserts for a party and a chocolate cake was requested. I remembered a fudge frosting I had found in a Bon Appetit several years ago. Really simple but oh so delicious. So we baked up a fudge chocolate cake in three layers and spread this on it — everyone loved it!
3/4 cup heavy cream
6 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brandy
1 pound semisweet chocolate pieces
1 1/2 cup chilled sour cream
Bring cream, brandy and butter to simmer in a large heavy saucepan whisking until butter melts. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Add sour cream and whisk to blend. Refrigerate frosting until thick enough to spread, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
by Gourmet Nun
I love this time of year of cold and snow (not so much the sleet and rain!) All the lights on trees and houses remind us that this is the season of light while we await the coming of Light. And it’s the season of get-togethers — family, friends, businesses, and most of us have a favorite dish we like to bring to these gatherings. I have lately become enamored with homemade crackers. I had never made them before, convinced it was a big laborious floury mess, but nothing could be further from the truth! They are easy, delicious, and cost effective! I tried out several, but here is my favorite, which is wonderful with cheese, or a dip or spread, or just as it is!
Makes about 100 small, or 50 to 60 free-form crackers
2 cups flour, plus more as needed
3/4 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 Tablespoons butter, at a cool room temperature
1/2 cup hot tap water, or as needed
1/2 to 1 teaspoon herbes de provence
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
Combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse several times to combine. With the machine running, add enough hot water to form a smooth soft ball, stopping to check the texture before you add all of the water (you might not need it all). Turn the dough out onto the work surface and knead it quickly and lightly. Divide into fourths and wrap in plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes.
Use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out as thinly as possible on the work surface, re-flouring as needed. Ideally, the dough should be translucent enough so that you can see the work surface through it. Pick up and rotate dough as needed. Sprinkle dough with a little flour. Fold the dough carefully into 2 or 3 pieces, transfer it to a baking sheet and unfold it to cover the sheet. At this point you can cut the dough into squares, or bake in a sheet and break up into random pieces. Sprinkle with the herbes de provence, press in with hand. Prick each sheet or cracker several times with the tines of a fork. Bake for 6 to 10 minutes or until the crackers are golden and light brown around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely, and store in an airtight container.