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!  ❤

 

 

 

 

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A bit of foolery for April.

TOD march room

Last Wednesday saw us all dressed up for the first of this year’s Taste Of Diversity dinners …

TOD march menu trialThe evening was sold out … as these dinners tend to be … and was enjoyable all around.  What could have been a stressful evening became fun with the combined efforts of our stalwart staff (Patty, Shirley and Todd) and some valiant volunteers (many thanks to Regan, Christine, Julie and Cecilia).  Oh, and I was there too …TOD march susan trialThat is what remained of a whole hip of beef from the local food heroes at Thatcher Farms ( http://www.thatcher-farms.com ) … just enough for a couple of sandwiches for staff…

TOD march appto be chased down with a healthy veggie shot!  Of course, some people like to go right to the source …TOD march toddThanks to everyone who came out and remember, there are still two more such extravaganzas this year.  Except next time … Let’s go Dutch!

Of course, I wouldn’t be allowed to escape this post without a recipe … so let’s try a very seasonal one.  Rhubarb and asparagus are the first two fresh items we get each spring – and asparagus doesn’t make a very good cake.  Once you try this cake, though, I think you will find it deserves its name …

Fabulous Rhubarb Cake

 Cream well (until light in colour and texture)  …

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

Add while still beating slowly …

1 egg

1 cup applesauce

1 T vanilla extract

zest of one orange

Mix together well …

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. soda

2 cups flour (I use half whole wheat and half all-purpose)

1 t ground ginger

1/2 t ground nutmeg

Add and toss well to coat …

1 1/2 cups raw Rhubarb cut fine

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just mixed through and no bits of flour are showing.  This can be baked in a 9×13 inch cake pan for about 30 minutes at 350 F (or until done).  We like this one in a bundt pan though and that takes a little longer to bake – maybe 50 minutes.  Remember that the cooking times are approximate – they depend on a lot of factors.  The best way to know if it is done is to gently touch the centre of the cake.  It should be as firm as the outside of the cake.  For those without Teflon fingers … insert a toothpick into the centre and make sure it comes out clean – with no wet batter sticking to it.

This is a very moist cake, so a strip of parchment paper in the bottom of the cake pan or a handful of crumb topping in the bottom of the bundt pan can save you the grief of the cake sticking and tearing.  It really doesn’t need icing – an orange glaze might be nice but I find what this cake needs most is a great deal of self-restraint!

Until next time, take care of yourself, each other and the crocuses!  ❤

Kitchen Advent-ures.

peppers-from-emily-2

Our Emily is an accomplished gardener.  This year she grew an astonishing variety of peppers and gifted me with some.  I fermented them with garlic and pink Himalayan salt and now I will have hot sauce all winter -thanks,  Em! I though I’d share a little colour (and heat) on this grey day…. especially since the recipe that I have been asked to post is for yet a another monochromatic delight.  Good for eating … but not so much for photographing.

pepper-ferment-for-blog-3

Trying to find a dessert when you don’t eat gluten OR dairy can be quite challenging!  We have come up with a few really good ones (and we’re always looking for more… hint, hint).  To the Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies and Chocolate Black Bean Cake (see previous entries) we now add …

Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

Melt together …

3/4 cup coconut oil

4 oz good, dark baking chocolate

Stir in and whisk together until smooth …

1 c mashed banana

¾ c maple syrup

1 t vanilla

1 c cocoa powder

Stir in …

5 c unsweetened, shredded coconut

¼ c chia seeds

¼ c coconut flour

Form into balls, “haystacks” , nests or your preferred  shape then refrigerate until solid. (These are best not served in the heat of summer as the coconut oil will melt and make the consistency too soft and your fingers all gooey).

These are very popular AND they pack quite a nutritional punch!  They contain protein (chia), potassium (banana), antioxidants (cocoa), lots of good fats and lots of fibre.   But still …. brown, they’re just brown ….. so here is another unrelated yet more visually satisfying photo of our Quinoa Tabbouleh with calendula petals from our kitchen herb garden.

tabbouleh-close

As we begin this holiday season, please remember the Jesuit Community of Guelph is having their annual Open House at Loyola House on Sunday, December 4, 2016 from 2 pm until 4 pm.  We’d love to see you out here!

Take good care of yourself so you can take good care of others and the world.

The Flowering of May

april TOI

The first Taste of Italy fundraising dinner has been successfully served … to a sold-out crowd as usual. This time we were celebrating the cuisine of Naples and surrounding area.  Many, many thanks to Christine Clementi for all her help, ideas and calm cheerfulness!  More thanks are due for her splendid cooking … people are still talking about her Pasta Puttanesca and a luscious Eggplant Parmesan (I think she may be after my job).  My apologies to those who were not able to attend – there are still tickets available for the June 15 and September 28 dinners, although possibly not for long!

The appetizer platter was photographed by Emily – one of our new kitchen staff treasures, who is revealing diverse unexpected and welcome talents. It featured Christine’s seasoned, roasted peppers; a tedious, sticky thing to prepare but well worth it …especially when someone else is doing it!  In homage to the abundant seafood of the area, I made a calamari salad with arugula, artichoke hearts and white beans.  Mushrooms a la Greque saluted both the amazing lemons of the area and the subtle Greek influence on culture and cuisine.  Finally olives – no platter would be complete without olives and plenty of them!

For dessert, we did a variety of  fruit and a brace of cakes; a Lemon Polenta cake and a Torta Caprese.  These were chosen to compliment each other in taste and texture.  The lemon cake was very lemony and had the pleasant grittiness of cornmeal in contrast to the decadent richness of the torte.  It is a surprisingly fun cake to make and I highly recommend it!

Torta Caprese

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Farenheit (sorry, Dad).  Grease a 10 inch spring form pan.  Line the base with a circle of parchment paper for added insurance against sticking!

Melt and allow to cool to almost room temperature …

200 g butter

In a food processor, grind …

250 g of almonds – I made sure not to grind them too fine to add interest to the texture

then …

200 g of good dark semi-sweet baking chocolate – again, don’t grind it too fine or too long lest it start to melt!

Separate 4 large eggs.  Beat the yolks until thick and quite pale with …

1 1/4 c sugar

3 T good vanilla extract

Fold together the yolk mix, butter, chocolate and almonds.

Clean the mixing bowl very well before tackling the egg whites!  Rinse with very hot water to remove all vestiges of fat and then cool. Whip egg whites until they form soft peaks, then fold them into the rest of the batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until just barely done – about 45 minutes.  Run a thin-bladed knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the edges of the cake, then let it rest in the pan for half an hour before removing to a serving plate.   This keeps well if wrapped tightly and HIDDEN VERY WELL!

I added a square of unsweetened chocolate to each recipe to give a slightly bitter edge. After such a rich meal, the last thing one would need is a too-sweet dessert and  I am still convinced that bitter will be the next new flavour fad.  You read it here first … thanks for reading and take care of yourself so you can take care of others!

pear plate

 

 

 

Honey-sweet (but nutty) – that’s us!

Image

Here at Loyola House we are gearing up to host Taste-real’s “Source It Here” event – an annual celebration of Guelph Wellington Local Food.  It is a trade-show, workshop session, networking opportunity and a wonderful place to shop and graze!  Every year I try to offer the most local products that I can – some graciously donated by participants!  For more information on this wonderful event, see http://www.guelphwellingtonlocalfood.ca/source-it-here-networking-event  This year along with the ever-popular Carrot Cake … yes, we still have Ignatian Farm carrots! … I thought we would serve Baklava as well.  Granted, phyllo pastry isn’t exactly made in our backyard but our honey is from Tuckamore Bee Co. made from bees who range and gather nectar from our property.  It doesn’t get more local than that!

I’ve been known to moan and groan about working with phyllo but it is a truly interesting and unique process making baklava.  As with everything else, once you have the basics down, you can play around with flavours, ingredients and even textures.  I have found that a finely ground filling helps the final product stick together better but I know people who prefer chunky bits of nut and (as we all know)  there’s no arguing with taste.

BAKLAVA

The evening before you bake, move 1 package of phyllo pastry from the freezer to the fridge and remove from cardboard wrapper – carefully!  If you dropped it at this point, all the sheets would shatter and you would be very sad indeed when you came to assemble everything.  Melt 2 cups of butter and return it to the fridge in a pyrex measuring cup.  This is the easy way to make ghee – when it is solid again, you simply pick up the butter and pour off the milky whey.  Then you have butter which is 100% fat and makes a nice, crisp baklava.

Process in the food processor until fine …

3 c walnuts (or other nuts)

1/3 c brown sugar

zest of one lemon and one orange

1 t each of ground ginger, ground cinnamon and ground coriander

I like to stir in 1 cup of very finely sliced apricots … I am a sucker for apricots

Heat butter and oil a 9 x 13 inch baking tin.

Unwrap phyllo and cut the sheaf of sheets in half so they will fit better into the pan.  Cover the sheets you are not working on with a damp towel.  Lay one sheet of phyllo in the pan and butter lightly with a pastry brush. If the sheets are too long, fold them over.  If they are too short, alternate sheets on either side of the pan.  You will end up with 40 layers … you don’t have to be too exact with each one!   I find it best to keep the butter hot on the stove and pour off a little at a time into a small pyrex cup.  That way you are always working with hot butter and not getting too much on your brush (and onto each sheet) at one time.

Lay down 5 more sheets, buttering each one lightly after it is placed in the pan.  Sprinkle a handful of the filling over the top.  Lay down two more sheets and then another handful of filling.  Continue like this, adjusting the size of your hands (ok, adjust the size of your “handfuls”) as necessary.  You are aiming to have all the filling gone and have 6 or 8 sheets left to make a nice cap.  Let the baklava cool somewhat and solidify.  With a very sharp knife, cut the pastry into the size of pieces you will serve … it will be too crisp to slice after it is cooked!  I like to cut this size pan into 20 squares and then to cut each square into 2 triangles.  These pieces are small – but you don’t need too much of this intense sweet!

Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes or until nicely golden all over. 

While the pastry is cooking, make the syrup.  In a stainless steel pan, mix …

1 c honey

1 c apple cider

3 T lemon juice, more lemon zest if desired (it adds a decorative touch to the top if grated finely enough)

Whole spices if desired … I use star anise – but only 1 or 2!  Bring to a boil, then simmer 10 minutes.  When the pastry comes out of the oven, pour the hot syrup over it all and let it cool uncovered.  Like many things, this is really better the next day. 

A further tip (from Father Roger – thanks!).  Instead of fussing around with zesting and then juicing lemons and throwing away half of the nutrients, you can freeze the whole lemon and grate it directly into whatever dish you are preparing.  You will get some of the bitter flavour of the pith (the white part that everyone tells you to avoid), but bitter is just another flavour and can be a good thing in something as sweet as baklava.   My mother used to tell me that that was where most of the vitamin C was …

Do be careful, though.  You need a sharp grater for this and you need to be very aware of where the lemon ends and your skin begins!  Enjoy your baking, enjoy the sunshine and the coming floods … and maybe we’ll see you next Monday at Loyola House.

 

Molasses Cookies

 

photo by Kate Hendry

I love my job. It’s not “just a job” that I have to drag myself to each day. I love creating meals. I love that we emphasize simple, comforting, and healthy food at Loyola House. I love that we nourish and positively impact so many people with our creations from the kitchen.  There is a unique relationship between cook and guest, that is difficult for me to articulate, this is maybe draft number 7, but I will try. I put my passion, love, and prayers into the food I create for you. And you trust my skills as a cook and eat what I’ve created. We may never speak to each other, but a bond is created nevertheless. I care about you as a guest at Loyola House, whether you’re here for a season or an afternoon.

On the Ignatius Jesuit Centre property in Guelph, where Loyola House is located, there is also a Jesuit cemetery. Jesuits who die in this area are buried on the property. After the burial, friends and family come to Loyola House to sit and mourn or celebrate the life of their loved one, and we provide coffee and cookies. So often I want to offer a hug, but I am shy, and they are strangers, so instead I put the hug into the food and hope it translates.

And so, with that lengthy preamble, comes the news that there will be the funeral and then the burial for Jim Webb, previous Provincial of the Jesuits of English Canada, this afternoon. I did not know Jim well, but I am saddened by his death.

When I first heard he had died, my instinct was to bake. My favourite cookies are our Molasses Cookies. I don’t even have to try to imbue them with hugs. Comfort is released with every bite. It’s a wonderful dough that can be made ahead of time and left in the fridge until fresh cookies are desired. For a chewy texture, they only need 12 minutes in a 350 F oven. Eat them slowly to savour the orange flavour – they are excellent!

Molasses cookies

Beat together until smooth – continue beating at high speed until fluffy…

1 c brown sugar

¾ c butter or becel

½ c molasses

Stir in….

1 T lemon juice

2 t vanilla extract

Finely grated zest of 2 oranges

Sift together and stir in to wet ingredients…

2 ½ c whole wheat flour

2 ½ t baking soda

1 t each of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves

2 t ginger

(1/2 t cardamom – optional)

¼ t salt

Let dough sit for at least half an hour so it is not sticky.  (If it is sticky, stir in a little more flour).  Roll into small balls and roll balls in coarse sugar.  These cookies are designed to rise and then fall, giving them their distinctive crinkled surface.

 

Date Squares

photo by Kate Hendry

It has been a busy week here at the Loyola House Kitchen, and I have finally found a few moments to post one of my favourite dessert recipes. Still on the to-do list is to photograph the pre-butterflies, which will have to wait for tomorrow as the evening light is quickly coming to a close. We had a very successful Ignatius Day dinner Tuesday night. Susan ordered local, well treated chicken and pork ribs, and worked her culinary genius to create one of the best meals I have ever eaten. To be a part of the magic is an honour indeed. A quick 24 hours later brought a new group of retreatants, and we are back into the busy swing of things!

At lunch we served Date Squares for dessert, and this is a recipe not to be missed. At the end of a retreat, the retreatants are asked to fill out an evaluation form about their stay. In the section that asks about the food, we often find comments similar to, “your food/desserts are too good. I think I gained 5 lbs!” I’m sure these date squares factor into those comments, so be warned: from experience I can tell you they are delicious, and it is hard to eat just one.  Fortunately, with the dates, whole wheat flour, oats, and spices we can be sure we are getting some nutritional value along with the comfort. They also freeze really well, so they are pretty much the perfect dessert! (I got so excited writing about these date squares that EVERY sentence in this paragraph ended with an exclamation point. I’ve edited myself down to two three, but trust me when I say these points are warranted!)

Date Squares:

(For two  12 x 20 inch pans)

3 c white flour

2 c whole wheat flour

4 c oats

4 c brown sugar

4 t baking soda

2 t salt

4 c soft butter

2 t cinnamon

1 t each of ginger, nutmeg, cloves

Mix dry ingredients and cut in butter until crumbly.  Press ½ of the mix firmly into the greased pans.

9 c chopped dates – look at them closely and remove any pits!

1 c brown sugar

2 c apple cider (or juice)

2 c coffee

1 t vanilla extract

Simmer until dates are soft and liquid is absorbed.  Spread over bottom crumb layer.  Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over top.  You want to achieve full coverage of dates and to make sure all the crumbs are anchored in the filling whilst maintaining as much fluffiness in the top layer as possible.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or longer until a nice golden brown colour.  Chill (covered) overnight before cutting.