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.

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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!

 

 

Sneaking Through Fe-beware-y…

‘Tis an awkward time of year, February.  We’re still in the depths of winter but the excitement of new snow has worn thin.  We overhear farmers planning the new crops which puts us in mind of spring … close enough to tantalize but still so far away. We remember what it is like to go for an invigorating walk without bundling up for 10 minutes first.  Beware the February blues!  Take extra good care of yourself and treat yourself often.

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I present to you one of our special recipes – one we bring out when we want to impress someone, when the skies have been grey for too long or when we just feel like a reward.  This was adapted from The Silver Palate cookbook – an essential, elegant and beautifully laid-out book that I highly recommend.  We have made some substitutions … local apple cider for wine, a little less garlic and sugar, apricots for excitement or even some of my Mom’s dried calendula petals for an extra special touch.  The original recipe calls for bone-in chicken pieces but we usually use slices of breast only … the sauce is complex (and slightly sticky) so it is just easier not to have to deal with bones as well.  The combination of ingredients looks outré but (trust me) when they are baked together, they work beautifully!

CHICKEN MARBELLA

For 10 servings, use…

2.5 lb chicken breast – cut into 2 oz strips

Marinate for 2 – 6 hours in …

1 T chopped garlic

3 T dried oregano

1 t each of salt, black pepper

1/3 c red wine vinegar

1/3 c olive oil

1/2 c each of prunes and apricots – sliced coarsely

1/2 c green olive, sliced

1/3 c pickled capers with some brine

6 bay leaves

1/4 c brown sugar

1 c apple cider

½ c chopped Italian parsley

Pull the chicken pieces from the marinade and arrange on parchment paper. Pour the marinade into a small pot. 

Bake chicken at 350° F until done (about 20 minutes, turning each piece over at least once so it browns evenly). As you turn the chicken, pour off any juices into the marinade pot.  When the chicken is almost done, bring marinade to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, skimming off and discarding any foam that rises.  Arrange the pieces in a serving tray and pour the hot marinade over them.  You can discard the bay leaves if you like but some people say it is good luck to be served one … as long as you don’t try and eat it!

This is also very nice served cold in the summer. Follow the above procedure and allow to cool overnight in the refrigerator.  Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

marbella-far

This year, we are proud to announce that our annual fundraising dinners are expanding their focus from “Taste of Italy” to “The Taste of Diversity” – featuring the following themes …

March 29 – “What Would a Jesuit Eat?”  – a smorgasbord of our local Jesuit community’s favourites, including a carving station with Chef Susan to cater to your Roast Beef whims.

June 13 – “Let’s Go Dutch” – an exploration of the cuisine of the Netherlands, intrepidly guided by Theresa Wright and Miriam Koopman.

November 15 – “A Return to Italy” – revisiting and reaffirming our connection to this vital nationality with the help of Christine Clementi, Maria Gazzola and others!

Mass will be at 5pm and dinner at 6pm.  $60 each dinner or $150 for all three. Space is limited and, if other years are any indication, the dinners sell out fast!  For tickets, contact 519-821-1250 x 221.  We’d love to see you here!

In the meantime, take care of yourselves.  Live in the moment but anticipate spring!  ❤

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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!

 

 

“More Soup For You!”

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It has been a hectic summer at Loyola House with retreat after retreat full … of familiar faces and friendly new faces. The farm has been showering us with delicious, nutritious and fascinating produce despite the wretched distribution of precipitation.  Our new team is settling in like they’ve been here forever.  We now are preparing to say goodbye briefly to Autumn G. who is going on maternity leave.  It’s a bittersweet occasion … we will miss her madly but are madly excited about meeting her new daughter Hannah – when she arrives!  We also look forward to working with Shirley who will be with us as Autumn adjusts to new motherhood.

Last month I promised a departing retreatant that I would post a recipe … apologies that it has taken so long!

GINGERED CARROT SOUP

Sauté until soft but not coloured….

¼ c coconut oil

2 lb carrots, peeled (or just scrubbed!) and sliced thinly

3 T grated fresh ginger

2 c diced onion

1 c sliced celery

1 T garlic

Add …

4c veg stock or water or apple cider

Cook until carrots are very soft.

Puree to desired texture … silky smooth or chunky – both have their own charm.

Season with…

salt, pepper, lemon juice. .. and maybe just a dash of hot sauce to wake up your taste buds!

Serve garnished with crème fraiche (or sour cream or yoghurt) and chopped cilantro (if desired).

We love soup.  We love to make it, we love to eat it.  We don’t always love taking pictures of it; it is often so monochromatic … so here is a memory of early summer Salade Nicoise.

nicoise 6

I am told that the Taste of Italy dinner on September 28 is sold out already!  We are looking forward hosting you all again.  If you missed out on a chance at tickets, be consoled with the knowledge that we will be doing another series of dinners next year … The Taste of Diversity!  They are such a good time and for such a good cause.

Until next time, take care of yourselves … so you can take care of others.  ❤

 

 

Nooo …. not November already!!

beets

Where did this year go … and do I say that every year?

This year we have had a stroke of luck with the recent balmy weather.  It has certainly widened the possibilities when it comes to the available produce from our organic farm.  Normally we would be down to root crops – carrots, beets, potatoes and the eternal Black Spanish Radish.  Not that I would complain, mind you, given the tremendous quality and variety of each of those items.  Above, you can behold the symphony of colours on the beet salad we made last week!

With this latest warm spell though, the farm has been offering some amazing produce … tiny perfect baby kale and tat soi, plump Napa cabbages, brilliant parsley, broccoli and the astonishingly fractal Romanesco (or broccoflower to the uninitiated).

broccoflower3

It’s been nice to stretch out the “green” season this year.  Nice, that is, for the cooks – the farmers may have other opinions! I fear it won’t last though … so let’s turn our attention to an excellent fall/winter dessert…

Sweet Potato Pie

Roast whole sweet potatoes in the oven, turning once or twice until just soft – usually an hour to an hour and a half, depending on their size.  Let cool, then peel and measure.

Puree until smooth …

2 c roasted sweet potato (you could also use pumpkin or squash … but sweet potatoes are SO GOOD!)

1 c apple cider

1/2 c brown sugar

1 T lemon juice

1/2 t each of ground cinnamon, ginger and coriander, sea salt

1/4 t each of ground nutmeg and cloves

(I like to push this mixture through a wire strainer, just to make sure it is absolutely silky.  A soup ladle makes a good “pusher.)

Beat well and strain …

3 large eggs

Add the eggs to the sweet potato mix and stir until completely incorporated.

Bake in a fluted pie shell (yes … we buy ours), no top is needed.  This will usually take about 50 minutes on the bottom shelf… the pastry should be fully cooked, and the centre of the pie filling should be just barely solid, not shiny and beginning to puff up a bit.  Serve hot or cold … with or without decadent whipped cream.

Sometimes we bake this filling in a glass pie plate without a crust so our gluten-free friends (as well as our dairy-free friends) can enjoy it.  I think it’s just as nice that way.

Brace yourselves … winter is (probably) coming…

Take care of each other!  ❤

 

Hello world, too!

Well, Kate is enjoying a couple of well-deserved days off – she is probably at the Hillside Festival right now, as are most right-thinking Guelph people – so I thought I would sneak in a post or two.  I’m susan, kitchen manager here at Loyola House.

Today I spent some time in our kitchen herb garden, something I haven’t done enough of recently.  I dead-headed our chive border, harvested some sage and tried to persuade the mint that it didn’t need to take over all the available space….  I was about to trim back the dill before it seeded itself in inappropriate places when I noticed at least 5 pre-butterflies (sounds more picturesque than caterpillars, n’est pas?).  Looking closer, I saw a sixth one writhing on the ground – which even to an indifferent entomologist such as myself didn’t seem like optimum behaviour.  It must have fallen off and was being attacked by a large red ant.  I bravely fought off the ant – which was fully 1/800th of my size and placed the caterpillar on the highest dill umbel I could find.  If it thrives, we’ll have a naming ceremony on Tuesday (when Kate gets back with her camera) and follow its progress.  I think it must be a black swallowtail.  Time will tell.

I was mainly after mint to make up a large batch of Tabbouleh for Saturday’s supper.  This group of retreatants includes several who are gluten-sensitive, so we make the salad with quinoa instead of couscous. It is tastier and more nutritious, although more expensive.  Tonight I took the extra time to rinse and toast the quinoa before cooking it, curious to see if I could detect a difference in flavour.  I do think it is worth the extra time but for heaven’s sake, no matter what the Joy of Cooking says, 2 cups of liquid to 1 cup of quinoa is TOO MUCH!  It came out gluey and the delicate structure of the grain was lost, alas.  I add really extravagant amounts of well-dried, chopped parsley and mint so that leavened the texture somewhat.  It was darn tasty though and all that chlorophyll is so good for you!  I will try it again next week and append the recipe when I get it just right.

What we did get right tonight was a wonderful batch of cookies for the gluten and dairy-free diets.  Try them, you will not believe the texture!

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Mix until smooth….

2 cups smooth peanut butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar … ok, we use organic cane sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

(optional, 1 teaspoon ground ginger)

Shape into balls of about 1 heaping tablespoon each and place 2 inches apart on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Flatten cookies with a fork – dip fork in coarse sugar in between so it doesn’t stick.

Bake at 350 F for 10 – 12 minutes or until puffed, golden and beginning to brown around the edges.  Cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes before attempting to move them.  Hide them well if you want any left tomorrow!