Puff Pancake: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun
Birthdays in the convent are  quite celebratory centering a great deal around the meals. Today one of the sisters is having a birthday, so instead of eating breakfast in  silence as we normally do, there will be much laughter, chatter and  many exclamatory “Oohs” and “Aahs” as her meal is brought to her.

In this case she has selected a special puff pancake filled with fresh fruit, breathtakingly beautiful as it comes to her piping hot straight from the oven, all puffy and golden, with a whipped cream garnish and a crisp side of bacon curls.

What a happy entrance into the beginning of her new year. It’s hard to believe that so little effort could have produced something so impressive and delicious.

Puff Pancake

2 eggs

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
dash of vanilla or almond
pinch of salt

Beat eggs and milk together, Gradually stir in flour and flavorings. Pour into a buttered bake dish and bake @ 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 -15 minutes. Fill with fruit and garnish quickly. Serve immediately.


Ginger Spice Cookies: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

My mother used to make the best molasses spice cookies. They were thin and somewhat crispy, buttery and spicy. Many years ago she gave me the recipe, but unfortunately I don’t remember what special place I put it in to save it! But I came across this recipe a couple of years ago. They don’t resemble my mom’s cookies, but I must say the flavor evokes those buttery crispy spicy cookies she used to make.

Ginger spice cookies
Makes about 40 2-3 inch cookies

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 Tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon  ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, slightly firm
3/4 cup Crisco
3 cups sugar, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup dark molasses

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment. Mix together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Set aside. Mix butter on medium-low speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add shortening and continue to mix until creamy and lightened in color, about a minute longer. Add 2 cups of the sugar in four additions and continue to mix for another 2 minutes.

Lightly beat eggs and molasses together. Add to butter mixture and mix until blended. On low speed, add dry ingredients in three additions, mixing just until combined. Place reserved cup of sugar in a bowl. Form a 2 inch ball, roll in sugar and place on cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing 3 inches apart. Bake cookies for 13-15 minutes, until cracked on top but still soft. Let stand 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks.

Citrus Chicken Cutlets: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun
Last week the Food Network pronounced chicken to be currently the most popular choice of meat, and kale the most popular vegetable. I was not surprised about the chicken. I was a little  surprised about the kale, but also delighted because we still have a vibrant crop of it in our garden….healthy and wholesome as ever having survived wind, sleet, rain and snow….just like the old fashioned US Postman of the past.

I think most cooks would agree that it’s wise to always have a supply of chicken on hand, especially boneless breasts. They have saved many a chef from disaster in a time of crisis or emergency.

My recipe is one I concocted on the spur of the moment when I was suddenly called on to produce an unscheduled and completely unexpected  meal in a very short period of time, using only what was on hand, and available from the freezer, fridge, and pantry.  To my surprise and delight it was a success that received many compliments, while no one eating it ever knew the circumstances under which it came to be.

Citrus Chicken Cutlets on a chiffonade of garlic-sautéed Kale 

6 boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 orange, thinly sliced
1/4 cup orange juice concentrate
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon prepared horseradish 
1 teaspoon onion salt
Brown chicken in butter and oil. Remove and set aside in warm oven. Add thinly sliced onion to pan of chicken drippings and simmer slightly. Remove onions and add to chicken. Next stir remaining ingredients into pan of chicken drippings and simmer all  together into a sauce. Leave sauce in pan. Remove from heat.
1 pound  fresh kale
1 crushed clove garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
salt to taste
Cut kale into long thin strips and sauté in oil with garlic. Cover and simmer until tender, adding water as needed. Add salt to taste. Place chicken and onion slices in pan of  sauce heating thoroughly until chicken is completely cooked but still tender and juicy.  Serve on top of kale, pouring pan sauce over all and garnishing as desired.

Recipes from a Monastery Kitchen

French Toast Caramel Individual Souffles
Today was another beautiful snowy day. I love the snow. I also love the smell of something cinnamon baking, especially on a snowy day. And I have an affinity for small ramekin-sized servings of breakfast, dessert, or whatever. So today I thought it would be fun to try out an individual french toast souffle. It was so easy! Perfect to serve to friends or family on a wintry morning.

1/2 loaf day old French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 eggs
1cup milk
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Pinch salt

6 ramekins, buttered

In a small saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, and syrup and simmer until the mixture thickens.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk  cinnamon, and salt. Pour the brown sugar mixture into the buttered ramekins. Evenly distribute the bread cubes over the brown sugar mixture. Pour the egg mixture over the bread, evenly coating it. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, bring ramekins to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the souffles for about 25 minutes. Then increase heat to 375 degrees F and bake another 15 minutes more. Remove from oven. Can be eaten right from the ramekin with additional syrup or inverted onto a plate with a drizzle of syrup and your own choice of toppings.

Potato Leek Soup: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

Nothing warms the heart quite like a piping hot cup of homemade soup with lunch on a nippy winter’s day. Lately, we’ve had lots of both……nippy winter days and hot cups of soup. Until you start making homemade soups you never realize how easy it is and what fun it can be coming up with the next new soup du jour to surprise and satisfy your hungry eaters.

Two days ago, I made one of my simplest and most favorite…..potato leek. We happen to still have a generous number of leeks in our gardens so they are available to us most of the winter, but if you are not as fortunate, onions can just as easily be substituted.  The flavor will just be a little more intense, since leeks are slightly milder in taste.

Last night we had a large amount of leftover broccoli from dinner. This morning I put the broccoli thru the blender and combined it with my leftover potato leek soup, adding some crumbled blue cheese and we enjoyed a zesty new taste treat today at lunch.  Use your imagination, and see what you come up with. There’s no end to the variations you can develop on the simple theme of Potato Leek soup.

Potato Leek Soup 
4 teaspoons butter
1 onion, chopped
3 leaks, sliced (rinse well before using)
2 potatoes, cut into ¾ inch cubes
3 ½ cups vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, add onion, leeks and potatoes, and sauté gently for 2-3 minutes, until soft but not brown. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Remove soup from the heat and let cool slightly. Transfer to a food processor or blender, in batches if necessary, and process to puree. Return soup to the rinsed-out pan and reheat gently. Add salt and pepper as desired.



Apple Cranberry Bread: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

by Gourmet Nun

Today I am looking out on a winter wonderland! We are in the midst of a blizzard that has dumped an amazing amount of snow as far as the eye can see. One of those days to sit by the fire with a hot cup of tea and a slice of warm Apple cranberry bread.

We still have apples in the refrigerator from our fall harvest which are in surprisingly good shape – the one I munched on while making this bread wasn’t fresh from the tree, but still crisp and sweet. We also were given a large quantity of cranberries from a local bog, so it seemed like a good use of the two to put them together in a quick bread. We are always looking for different morning snack ideas to serve at our community work time break.  I tried a couple of different recipes and actually left the peels on the Apple’s to give the breads a little more texture. Here is one variety that I thought the most flavorful and moist.

Apple cranberry bread
Makes one loaf

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 egg
1 cup shredded or finely chopped apple (about 1 medium) 
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped cranberries
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Optional glaze
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 Tablespoons half and half or milk

Heat oven to 350 degree F. Grease bottom only of an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan.

In large bowl, mix 3/4 cup sugar, the oil and egg. Stir in apple, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir in cranberries. Spoon batter into pan. In small bowl, mix 1 Tablespoon sugar and the cinnamon; sprinkle over batter.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack before slicing.  

For glaze, combine confectioners sugar and half and half or milk, drizzle over bread.



Skewered Lamb Kebabs: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

by Gourmet Nun

Last week lamb was on sale (something that does not occur too often), so I happily took advantage of it and bought a nice leg. In general, most people either really like this meat or do not like it at all. Few seem to be neutral about it, mainly, I think, because of its distinctive flavor, which is precisely what makes it appeal to lamb lovers.

I myself prefer it simply roasted or broiled, but for the sake of those whom I knew would like it a little more dressed up I decided to make colorful kabobs with a few favorite vegetables and serve it with Greek rice, the way my father always prepared it.

Skewered Lamb Kebabs: Souvlaki Arnisio and Greek Rice

4-5       pounds lamb, cut in 1 inch cubes
1          eggplant
1          zucchini
1          yellow squash
12        cherry tomatoes         
12        small onions

1          cup olive oil
1          teaspoon Greek oregano (dried)
1          teaspoon rosemary, crushed
2          bay leaves, crushed

2          cloves crushed garlic
¼         cup port or red wine

2          cups white rice
¼         cup chopped fresh parsley
¼         cup chopped fresh mint
2          cloves crushed garlic
1          teaspoons salt
¼         cup each of oil and butter
4          cups water

The first step is to marinate the lamb preferably overnight, if possible, then cube the vegetables and add to the marinade for whatever length of time is convenient. Arrange both meat and vegetables on skewers that have been soaked in water for at least 1 hour. Broil for 12 to 15 minutes or until browned and to desired doneness, turning frequently.

Prepare rice well in advance. Saute rice in oil and butter. Add salt, parsley, mint, garlic and water. Cover and simmer on low heat untill all liquid is absorbed and rice is thoroughly cooked, adding additional water if needed. The earlier the rice is cooked, the more flavorful it will be when served.







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.



Spicy Almonds: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

by Gourmet Nun

I hope all of you had a very blessed and happy Christmas. Ours was a quiet celebration with reflection on what Christmas really means. But of course we had wonderful food to help us do just that. And the season continues as we face the new year and the celebration that goes with it. My favorite party is appetizers; small savory bites and wonderful hot cheesy dips. One great dish to prepare that everyone loves is spiced nuts. I love sweet and spicy, but decided to try out some spicy ones. They are easy and delicious and you can adjust the heat according to taste.

Spicy almonds

1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 cups natural almonds
Kosher salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a saucepan combine all ingredients except almonds and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for about 3 minutes. Pour over almonds and combine well. Pour almond mixture onto a pan lined with parchment and cook in oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt to taste. Let cool. Enjoy!