Isn’t it interesting that at the same time we are ending the calendar year, we begin the church year? My type A personality brain says — couldn’t we have coordinated this better?
But as I think about our decorating this past weekend, hanging lights from the huge tree in front of the Convent, stringing garland along the walkways, making baked goods for the gift shop or putting candles in windows, it strikes me that logic and coordination are not what this season is about.
Our human minds tell us the year is closing, things are ending, darkness is prevalent and sleep is the order of the day. Into this bursts the new Liturgical year, with light enough to illuminate the world, and cries “Sleepers Wake!” And we leave off endings and begin again.
It was a snowy afternoon, and our bookstore was empty, so I took advantage of the quietness to peruse the book-shelves looking for some inspiration. I stumbled across a tiny book called The Human Condition, by Thomas Keating.
“Where are you?” The book begins by quoting God’s question to Adam and Eve after they had eaten from the forbidden tree and tried to hide from God. Keating points out that “This marvelous story of creation is not just about Adam and Eve. It is really about us. It is a revelation of where we are. The same question is addressed to every generation, time, and person. At every moment of our lives, God is asking us, ‘Where are you? Why are you hiding?’ All the questions that are fundamental to human happiness arise when we ask ourselves this excruciating question.”
Every day I wrestle to ask God “Where are you, God?” — in this painful situation, in this unresolved relationship, in this loneliness I feel inside…..I mutter “where are you, now, God?” But maybe I’m asking the wrong question. The Genesis story reminds me God is always first looking for me. I think Keating is quite right: the difficult question we need to face, is “where am I?”
This has been a busy month in the kitchen; Advent is a time we sell a lot of baked goods in the gift shop. The first weekend we always have plated teas in the guesthouse and a service of Advent Lessons and Carols. We enjoy making Bourbon cakes, Strawberry rhubarb pies, cranberry bread, ginger spice cookies, chocolate fudge, English toffee, orange rolls, St Lucia bread, to name a few. We make a lot of these on Saturday mornings when we have our Community work time and kitchen helpers aged 6 to 70. There is a dedicated group of younger girls who help out on a regular basis, and I just love their enthusiasm; they will do anything they are asked to do from washing dishes to crimping pie crusts to making jam. I am happy to encourage our future chefs! I think one of their favorite things was helping make the candy for the gift shop. The white chocolate Oreo peppermint bark is the prettiest and quite delicious; I have included that recipe here so you can make it to enjoy over the holidays. A Blessed Christmas!
Prepare a 10×15 baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil. By hand, break up the cookies, each into four chunks. Unwrap the candies and put them in a ziplock bag. Pound them with a meat mallet until crushed, but still keeping some chunks. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler, making sure that no steam or water gets into the chocolate mixture. Stir frequently. Once melted, add 1 teaspoon. of peppermint extract and mix well. Pour the chocolate mixture onto the sheet pan and spread to an even layer with a spatula – about ¼” thickness. Sprinkle with the broken Oreos and press them down into the chocolate slightly. Sprinkle with peppermint candy. Leave at room temperature to harden then break into desired pieces for bark. This can be packaged into clear bags with bows for a lovely Christmas gifts! Yield apprx. 1½ pounds
Important: Do not refrigerate the candy – leave in a cool, dry place.
This is a busy time of year for us in Paraclete House Kitchen. We are in the process of making baked goods and preserves for the holiday season, some of which will also be for sale in Priory Gifts. Most Saturdays there are about fourteen people of all ages in the kitchen — from 5 years to 80+ years — making jams, chutneys, baking loaves of bread, cookies, pies, and cakes, as well as putting together mid-morning snack for the 200 other people out working on various projects around the community. We have of course been making a lot of things with our plentiful apple harvest; caramel apple pies, apple harvest jam, and my favorite, apple carrot chutney. This is a delicious accompaniment to roast pork, ham, or chicken, and is also wonderful for ham and cheese sandwiches. It’s especially good with cheese on a cracker or mixed into a spread.
Apple Carrot Chutney
3 Tablespoons canola oil 6 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and cubed (about 6 cups) 5 big carrots, coarsely grated (about 4 cups) 3 cups brown sugar 1 cup cider vinegar 2 cups of water 1 cup raisins 1/3 cup minced fresh ginger peel and juice of one orange 1/2 teaspoon each of allspice, ground cloves, nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
In a heavy pot, saute carrots in canola oil until almost tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add in all the other ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about one hour until slightly thick, stirring frequently. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and seal, or transfer into a container and store in the refrigerator. Makes about 5 cups.