The Sisters of St. Francis of the Providence of God have proven that big trees grow from little acorns.
During Christmas season 2007, the sisters decided to stage a lasagna dinner to raise funds for their ministries at their Motherhouse in Whitehall. The event proved a success, and they were encouraged to add a haluski takeout on Ash Wednesday the following year.
To keep the momentum going, they began selling soup in 2009. Sales grew from 100 quarts sold each soup day to 350 in 2010, when the Motherhouse began selling it every other month. This year, they decided to offer three different selections each month, and sales went up to 600 quarts sold in September.
Building on their past successes, they plan to offer their best-selling Italian wedding soup, along with acorn squash soup, haluski, a traditional East European cabbage and noodle dish, and another favorite, chili, at their monthly soup takeout fundraiser Wednesday.
The soups are prepared by Johnson and Wales Culinary Arts School graduate Doug Brannock, 52, of Saxonburg. Mr. Brannock is a certified executive chef employed by Aladdin Foods.
"I like to make my soups as healthy as possible," Mr. Brannock said. "I don't believe in adding salt, try to stay as gluten free as possible, flavor with a paste base and fresh herbs and use skim milk in the cream soups. I never open a can and always use fresh."
Each month, the sisters sell 200 to 300 quarts of Mr. Brannock's wedding soup. Many buy several quarts and freeze some for later. This summer the chef introduced two cold soups, a gazpacho and a beet soup using a recipe provided by Sister Francine, one of the nuns. On the agenda is a possible Greek avgolemono soup -- a mix of rice or orzo in a chicken broth flavored with lemon and egg.
"I like to test out new soups with the sisters before I offer them to the public," Mr. Brannock said.
All of the soups, haluski and chili sell for $5 a quart and come with two rolls and butter. The meals are served in eco-friendly takeout containers.
To make his haluski, Mr. Brannock purchases thick Kluski noodles with a good consistency and texture and adds cooked savoy cabbage, onion, butter and garlic.
Those wanting soup need to place orders by Monday by calling 412-885-7232. The orders can be picked up from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Sisters' Motherhouse, 3603 McRoberts Road, Whitehall.
Soup patrons looking for unique gifts may also visit the Sisters' Gift Shoppe in the Motherhouse, which is open during soup pick-up. The shop is open from 1 to 3 p.m. daily and from 3 to 6 p.m. on soup day.
Franciscan Blend fair trade coffee is also available at the front desk at the Motherhouse and sells for $9.99 for 12 ounces. All proceeds from soup, coffee and craft sales benefit the sisters.
Founded in 1922, the Sisters of St. Francis is a congregation of Catholic religious women in the U.S. and Brazil.
The sisters' local ministries include the Franciscan Child Day Care Center and the Franciscan Spirit and Life Center, a retreat facility. Every other month the center hosts a healing and holiness service. The next one is scheduled for Nov.21. Details: 412-885-7232.
Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.