What God Provides

by Sister Hannah

The Sisters’ culinary adventures in Cameroon continue, as does God’s provision and protection.

Menus this week included pitas and refried beans (from two different cultures, introduced to a third). Pitas were made over a wood fire. I’d cooked and seasoned the beans and had help mashing them. So that was dinner. However, some preferred marmalade on their pitas, so we had lots of beans left.

Next day I re-worked the beans into a soup to go over rice, but only two of us chose that option for lunch. More left-overs (sigh). And I went on to dinner preparation.

Later, four young neighborhood children who often drop by for a meal showed up, and I groaned inwardly; as we just had enough for us for dinner, I didn’t think we could give them any of it. Then I remembered the soup. Would they eat such a strange soup? One postulant thought so, and ladeled it into four bowls for them.

Soon I heard the children laughing—they had eaten and their appreciation was expressed as they enjoyed a satisfied feeling. I had tears as I sensed their grateful hearts. O, wait and see what God provides. And the licked-clean bowls stacked outside the kitchen door said a terrifically simple, “Amen!”

Ringing on

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!

Tower ringers at the Church of the Transfiguration, Orleans, MA

Hearts that Welcome

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.


Dinner Rolls: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

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
2 eggs
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.


Hot Chicken Salad Puffs: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

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.

Cream Puffs
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.

Spring Easter Salad: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

I wanted to come up with an interesting Easter salad. Something fresh and springy, yellow like sunshine and light green. Suddenly the idea came….an Easter egg salad!

A flavorful deviled egg nested in Boston Bibb lettuce with some tender spring asparagus and avocado, sprinkled with finely chopped chives and crumbled egg yolk…..that’s the look. Then, showered with a Fresh Lemon vinaigrette dressing …that’s the taste. I took a chance and gave it a try…It was a success!

Spring Easter Salad

Deviled Eggs
1 dozen hard boiled eggs
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon minced onion or shallot
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper 

Peel the eggs. Using a sharp knife, slice each egg in half, lengthwise. Gently remove the yolk halves and place in a small mixing bowl. Using a fork, mash up the yolks and add mustard, mayonnaise, onion, Tabasco, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Spoon egg yolk mixture into the egg white halves. Sprinkle with paprika, if you wish.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon Thyme
Onion Salt
In a jar or a bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, thyme, onion salt to taste and pepper. Store, covered, in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature. Shake or stir before serving.
Arrange on individual plates with other ingredients or on a large platter for a buffet table.

History in the Present

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.

Fudge Frosting: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

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!

Fudge Frosting

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.

Chestnut Stuffing: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

Last month Elements Theater Company presented two memorable weekends of Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol in our church. Favorable comments were made about each little detail of the production, including one delightful feature that added much to my own enjoyment of the experience. This was the roasting of chestnuts out in the cold night air over an open fire in the church atrium before and after each performance.

 I think of Christmas time as chestnut season and since childhood chestnuts, along with pomegranates, have to me always been as essential as holly and ivy to its celebration. Not only did we enjoy eating the nuts warm out of the shell, but at our house they were always considered a necessary ingredient to our holiday stuffing. That’s what made it so special and different from the stuffing we had the rest of the year.

The combination of sausage, chestnuts, apples and savory herbs still remains in my memory as a most extraordinary culinary Christmas experience. But there’s no reason it can’t be enjoyed, even after the holidays while chestnuts are still available. Here’s my  suggestion for a cold winters night……stuff a nice crown or loin of pork and roast it for an unexpected, out of the ordinary dinner. I guarantee you rave reviews.

Chestnut Stuffing

1 pound crumbled sausage meat
4 ounces butter
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 quarts bread, cut or torn into 1-inch cubes
4 ounces chicken stock
4 ounces cider
1 cup diced apples
1 pound roasted, peeled, and cleaned chestnuts cut into quarters
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put sausage meat and butter into a hot casserole. Add onions and celery and cook until soft, but not brown. Remove from heat and add marjoram and thyme. In a bowl combine bread, vegetables, hot stock, cider, apples and chestnuts. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Place in covered baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or stuff into roast. Add a sprinkling of pomegranate at serving time for a touch of color and extra flavor.



Calypso Dips: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

by Gourmet Nun

I did something very enjoyable today that I haven’t done in a while. I dipped into an old recipe box and pulled out a former favorite….one I hadn’t made in years. As much as I enjoy trying new recipes, I get pleasure out of going back and reviving old ones, so today it was like opening a Christmas card from an old friend that I hadn’t been in touch with for some time and recalling memories from the past.

As I started measuring ingredients, a stream of familiar faces came to my mind’s eye while I recalled using this recipe for many Bethany guests, retreatants and teas, and sometimes for Christmas gift giving. In this particular case, the “old friend” in my recipe box happened to be a little fun cookie called a Calypso Dip which was very popular in its day. Much of its appeal comes from its novel shape and unexpected flavors, just a little different from the usual cookie. Give it a try and you might decide to add to your own collection of Holiday goodies.

Calypso Dip Cookie

Sift together:
2          cups flour
½         teaspoon baking powder
½         teaspoon salt

½         cup butter.  Gradually add ¾ c firmly packed brown sugar, creaming well.

Add to butter mixture:
¼         cup cream
¼         teaspoon maple flavoring

 Blend in dry ingredients.Chill dough for at least 1 hour.Shape into sticks 3”x ½ “ long.Bake in oven 375 ˚ degrees on un-greased cookie sheets, 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Dip one end into frosting then into ¾ cup chopped nuts.

Melt ½ cup chocolate chips, 2 Tablespoons sugar, 2 Tablespoons water and ½ teaspoon rum flavoring in the top of a double boiler over boiling water.