Simmering in the Summer.

That title sounds good, but today’s recipe takes no simmering at all.  This will be welcome during summers in less comfortable kitchens than the Loyola House Kitchen.  We like to joke that the kitchen is the coolest part of this house in midsummer – thanks to our amazing Director of Operations, Lisa, who upgraded the heating/cooling unit for us to something near miraculous.  That, plus our astonishing view, plus our wonderful co-workers PLUS the inspirational and congenial folks who make their way here from all over the world combine to make our kitchen a happy place indeed!  The recent rush of fresh produce from the farm only intensifies our joy … is there anything more wonderful than a crisp sugar snap pea just hours off the vine? Or burying your beak in a bushel of basil?

After such sweetness … a little balancing tartness.  This is my personal favourite of the dressings that we make.  Blueberries and lemons are a “gestalt” combination … the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  It is great in baking and I love it in this dressing.  I must confess though — part of my affection for this dressing is for the dramatic colour!

blueberry dressing 3

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Blueberry-Lemon Vinaigrette

Slice and remove seeds …

2 whole lemons

Put  in a cuisinart or blender, then add ….

3 T  Dijon mustard

2 c frozen blueberries

½ c white wine vinegar

½ c lemon juice

2 T sugar or honey

1 t pepper

½ t salt

(dash of Tabasco)

With machine running, add in a VERY slow stream…

1 c veg oil

With machine running, add steadily, but in a faster stream…

1 c veg oil

1 c extra virgin olive oil

1/2 c apple cider or juice

If it gets too thick – add a little more apple juice to thin it down. Remember that it will thicken up in the fridge as the olive oil gets cold.

Taste and adjust seasoning. Store in fridge.

You can substitute raspberries for a change of flavor and a different but equally dramatic colour…

We are in the midst of our busy retreat season … back to back to back eight day retreats, usually full, so not much news to report.  If you are planning to attend our third and final Taste of Diversity dinner ( A Return To Italy), I advise getting your ticket NOW.

I leave you with an amazing thing that I found in a perfectly ordinary box of mushrooms this week.  The world is full of wonders … find them and celebrate them!monster raw mushroom

And take care of each other and yourselves…<3

Squelching Happily into June.

asparagus outside1It’s here! The first of our farm’s produce has been delighting us for the past week.  Asparagus is wonderful in and of itself but also as a harbinger of everything to come in the following months.  It has been very welcome in what has been another grueling month for the kitchen.  In May we were producing meals on 30 of the 31 days which stretched our relatively small staff … and they came through valiantly!  So props and respect to Patty, Todd and Shirley and to our stalwart volunteers Virginia, Jerome, Regan and Greg.  We can’t forget Theresa who is the entire Housekeeping Department all by herself and calmly works as hard as anyone I have seen!

It’s been a month full of fascinating and wonderful people.  Well, ALL our visitors are fascinating and wonderful … but so many of our clients are here for silent, contemplative retreats that we don’t get a chance to interact with them.  They are here for a purpose – and that is not to amuse the kitchen staff!  When we get workshops and conferences with groups like the Women’s Songwriting Workshop, Guelph Community Health Care or Unitarian ministers from all over the continent who fill the house with talk and laughter, there’s a different vibe to the house.  “A change is as good as a rest”  some people say …

Asparagus (like many vegetables) is versatile and plays well with others.  After you’ve had your fill of eating it plain (steamed or roasted), you can have it as a soup, as a salad, on the BBQ or as the highlight of a quiche.  Quiche is a staple here at Loyola House.  We love it, clients love it, it’s nutritious, attractive, keeps well and especially good for using up that last little bit of whatever you had last night. We have a good source of pre-made pastry shells too, so that makes it easy to whip up.

Basic Quiche

Thaw a 9 inch unsweetened pie shell.  If you like, flute the edges – this makes it easier to serve and less likely to spill as you move it in to the oven.

Whip together …

5 large eggs

2/3 cup 10% cream

Strain this in to another bowl.  This will remove the strange gooey bits of the egg attached to the yolk (called the chalaza, in case you ever wondered).

Whisk in …

1/4 t salt

1/4 t pepper

pinch of nutmeg

dash of hot sauce (more if you like it spicy but the aim here is to have just a touch of undetectable heat to stimulate the taste buds)

Smear the bottom of the crust lightly with Dijon mustard and sprinkle with grated cheddar.  Arrange the fillings and then carefully pour the custard over all.  Sprinkle again with grated cheddar.  This will melt and produce an attractive glaze while protecting the eggs from forming a less palatable skin.  Bake at 350 until it starts to puff and the centre is completely firm – about 50 minutes.  This is one dish I like to bake on the bottom shelf of the oven to make sure the pastry is completely cooked.  Allow to sit 10 minutes before slicing.

Fillings?  well just about anything that goes with cheese!  Often we use meat – bacon or ham or chicken or sausage … even salmon.  Vegetarian is good too – broccoli, spinach, peppers, tomato, onions (caramelized or not) … and yes, asparagus!  One of my favourites is a 3 (or 4 or 5) cheese variety sprinkled with fresh chives.  Let your imagination (and your leftover shelf) be your guide.

For your gluten-free friends, this is even easier!  Simply smear a pie plate or pan with coconut oil, pour in the custard then proceed with fillings, top with cheese and bake … and proudly call it a Frittata.

kohlsparagus4

I’m back to the kitchen … trusting you to take care of yourselves and everyone around you!

PS – Thanks to Mike-the-farmer (a man of many talents) for the first evocative, lovely photo!

 

 

May Musings.

easter table2

Easter Brunch has come and gone.  We served 200 people and had just a great time!  There was a special encore appearance by Ryan – who came up from London to lend a hand … thanks, buddy!  You make service fun and easy.

Book your tickets early for next year!  We can’t accommodate many more … unless we build an addition (and add a couple of ovens!).  There’s something for every taste.muffin eggs 2Well, maybe not the above … if I tried to get my staff to make (the dis-respectfully-named)  “muffin eggs” for 200 people, I am sure I would face insurrection!

An easier recipe follows.  It was passed on to the kitchen by our Executive Director and we’ve been using it without a change.  Occasionally I will add a handful of slivered almonds for texture but it is a wonderful treat just as it is.

Father Roger’s Rice Crispy Squares for Grown-ups.  

Line an 11 x 7 inch pan with parchment paper.

Heat slowly, stirring constantly, in a large pot…

2/3 c honey

2/3 c almond butter

1 t vanilla

1 t cinnamon 

As soon as mixture is warm and well blended, stir in…

6 c whole grain rice crisps (or other cereal).

When well coated, move mixture to pan and gently press it in to all the corners (wet hands help!).  Cool completely before slicing. 

Not ideal for mid summer as it tends to get too soft and fall apart.

I do have to note that we use honey from Tuckamore Bees … who are so local that their bees harvest nectar from our land!

Enjoy the spring!  Stay dry and take care of each other!  ❤

 

 

 

 

Spice up your March!

ginger-cranberry-far2After the “blahs” of February, it’s time for some excitement!  Unexpected snowfalls, winds that will blow your cat away, the first robin spotting and perhaps a jolt of gingery, mouth-puckering cranberry sauce!  This goes well with turkey, roast pork (including our favourite – roast peameal pork loin) or even on toast.  After a few rounds of this usage, we stir whatever is left – IF there’s any left – into a Balkan-style yoghurt (locally produced, of course) for a breakfast treat full of flavour and antioxidants.  All this and it’s easy to make as well  …

GINGERY CRANBERRY SAUCE

Dice very small and place in a saucepan …

1 whole orange (yes, peel and all!)

Peel and chop as finely as you can, then add to pan …

100 g ginger (about ¼ cup chopped)

Add …

2 cup good apple cider

1 T whole cloves

1 large cinnamon stick

2.25 lb whole cranberries (about 8 cups) (frozen is fine)

Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer, lid tightly and let cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Let cool for 30 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick. Add and stir well …

1 cup raw local honey

Taste and add more honey if you like a sweeter sauce. Maple syrup is good too although the sauce will be slightly runnier.  This keeps very well in the fridge.  It would also be good for canning in small jars.

You could put the cloves in a muslin bag so they can be removed before serving but I like just crunching them up – after simmering for that long, they are perfectly edible … although the flavour just might be too intense for some people.  I wouldn’t use ground cloves, they would dull the sheen of the sauce.

ginger-cranberry-near

Things are ticking over quite nicely in the Loyola House Kitchen.  We have bid a fond “see you later” to Emily as she is now on maternity leave … and not a moment too soon!  Watch this space for news of the latest in the next LH generation.  While Emily is off remembering how to be a new mom again, we are thrilled to welcome Patty back.  She will bring her hard work, humour and skilled touch with desserts and she will keep us all in line while Emily is away!

Coming up in the next month or two are some great events … the first Taste of Diversity dinner (“What Would a Jesuit Eat”) and Easter Brunch… as well as some great retreats – tried and true favourites like the Lenten Taize as well as some newer ones like the Les Miserables retreat in mid March.  We hope to see you out here for one or more … or just for a walk and a breath of peace.  Take care of yourself and take care of those around you .  ❤

 

Out with October! We’ve got a winter to attend to.

Finally, Fall has … well … fallen.  The crops are harvested, the community gardens are turned over,  the annual 40 day retreat is drawing to a close and we put up enough Green Tomato Relish that I actually had to buy more canning jars!

In homage to our farm’s amazing root crops, I offer this salad – substantial, nutritious and satisfying – perfect for this time of year.

BEET SALAD

Use enough beets to ensure ¼ pound per person. Do not peel before cooking.

Rinse and cover well with water, then bring to a boil. Lid the pot and simmer – 35 minutes for smallish beets up to an hour for very large ones.  Drain and allow to steam off in a colander.  When cool (you can even refrigerate overnight), peel and cut up beets.  Dress with the following vinaigrette and allow to marinate at least one hour before serving.  There is no in point trying to garnish this salad with different colours of  vegetables as the beets will just stain them all a uniform red.

Note: this salad looks AMAZING using golden beets, although you might want to cut out the brown spices to let the glory of the yellow, gold and rose colours shine!

Cider Vinaigrette

(for beet salad or carrot slaw – as well as many other possibilities)

Whisk together in a large bowl ….

½ c good cider vinegar

2 Tbsp grainy Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp honey or maple syrup

½ tsp salt or to taste

¼ t pepper

½ t cinnamon and/or nutmeg and/or cloves

(¼ c apple cider reduction and/or a dash of hot sauce are both optional)

Whisk in slowly… to form an emulsion (like mayo)

½ c  oil  (I prefer to use olive or coconut oil for the health benefits, but both are solid at fridge temperature so you have to be careful to serve this salad at room temperature)

This should dress quite a bit of salad. It will also keep in the fridge almost indefinitely – although it might separate.  Go heavier on the cloves for beets and on the cinnamon for carrots.

two-beets

Welcome to the world, Hannah!  Welcome to the kitchen, Shirley!  Elaine, your recipe will be up next.

I still have a few hatches to batten down, so until next time – take care of each other!

 

 

Ginger is the new garlic …

date chew plate

I remember when you couldn’t read any health-related media without being bombarded with the incredible benefits of a diet rich in garlic. If you believed everything you read at that time, it was good for anything up to and including spontaneous decapitation.  Time – and the media frenzy – moves on … these days (apparently) you will die sickly and poor and alone if you are not munching on ginger-root every single day.

I am being sarcastic about the media … not about the health benefits!  Ginger can improve circulation, absorption of nutrients and digestion in general.  It fights inflammation (which can raise all sorts of ruckus in the body), it fights nausea, it fights colds, flus and respiratory problems.  Ginger does all this at the same time as being one of the most versatile ingredients in the entire kitchen.  I use ginger in beverages (smoothies, teas, punches, mulled drinks…), soups, stirfrys, meat marinades, salads, ice cream and baking … oooh, all sorts of baking!  I have to be physically restrained from adding ginger to every single thing I bake!  Here is one of our most popular desserts … that features a healthy dose of (you guessed it) ginger.

GINGER DATE CHEWS

Mix well …

3 c brown sugar

2 c chopped dates

1 c chopped candied ginger

finely grated zest of 1 orange

1 T baking powder – sifted

½ t each of nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon

½ t salt

2 c all purpose flour

 

Add and stir until well moistened …

8 eggs – beaten until light and strained

 

Bake in one 9 x 9 AND one 9 x 13 pan. Spray and line the bottom with parchment.

Bake about 25 minutes until just firm in the centre. Cool 10 minutes, loosen the sides with a knife and turn out onto a cooling rack.  Let cool until almost room temperature then cut into bars and roll in icing sugar.  Hide them well, from yourself as well as from others, in between serving times.

date chews closeup2

Easter brunch is now behind us.  Thanks to everyone who helped and to everyone who came out.  That was a splendid time!  Let’s do it again next year!

Thanks to Roger M.  who wrote on his Easter Retreat evaluation form that the Loyola House kitchen “puts the ‘treat’ in ‘retreat'”.   <kitchen staff collectively blushes>

Welcome to Emily and Todd who have arrived to step into the steel-toed shoes left vacant by Ryan and Michele.  We look forward to what they have to bring!

I predict that the next big health essential will be ashwagandha.  It has not quite gotten into the mainstream media yet, but when it does … you read it here first!

Take care of yourself first … so you can take care of each other.  ❤

 

 

Heavenly eggs (no devils here!)

deviled eggs2

I like deviled eggs … everyone likes deviled eggs!  They’re fun to make, they’re fun to eat. They’re fun to arrange on a platter and to garnish whimsically.  They are just the right size and they are even good for you!  These days, I am not so sure about the mayo.  Even really good mayo is not something I want to eat on a regular basis.  There are always additives and I am becoming very picky about the oils that I eat.

So I came up with an alternative that I like, that is just as much fun and that avoids the whole mayo issue.  Try it and see what you think.

HEAVENLY EGGS

Cut in half and pop the yolks into a small bowl …

6 hard boiled eggs – peeled, rinsed and dried

Mash yolks with a fork until fine and then add …

1/4 c finely diced canned tomatoes

1 T mashed avocado mixed with

1 t lime juice

1 T diced basil leaves

2 pinches of salt and a dash of hot sauce

Mix well, and mound back into the half eggs.  Arrange nicely and garnish with glee (or basil or olives or scallion brushes … )

eggs on a plate

Serve to your favourite people!

Thanks to my trainer Chelsey for the tip about the avocado … if you want ideas about nutrition – talk to a power-lifter!

We’ve had a couple of busy months at Loyola House.  Now it is time to draw a deep breath and head into the Easter season.  We are expecting some personnel changes in the kitchen; both Ryan and Michele will be pursuing exciting new paths in the near future.  Both have contributed much hard work, loyalty and interesting recipes.  While they may move on, their legacies remain and we thank you both!

Enjoy the last blustering of winter and take care of each other!