Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wonder and Awe: Flying Franks

The picture shows Flying Franks. In the Mennonite Community Cookbook, they are featured in a recipe called Frankfurter Quails. I wasn't really connecting with the bird reference so I renamed them something that seemed more fitting. At any rate, in the picture that is cheese and bacon you see stuffed in and wrapped around those bun length franks. After a stint under the broiler, I stuffed them, redemptively, into a whole wheat bun. Could this be anything but fun?

I was drawn to these because I do remember my mom making them on occasion and I remember getting very excited when she did. There was something about hot dogs for supper that made me feel lighter. Casseroles are serious, a pot roast is downright grave... but hot dogs? There must be a party brewin'. At least to my young mind it was that way.

I have been nostalgic lately about the youthful sense of wonder. I realize I miss one of the really great things about parenting young children and that is the privilege of reliving the fun of simple things with them: stepping in pudddles, seeing a butterfly emerge from a cocoon, licking ice cream cones, eating hot dogs around a campfire. I have tried to keep my sense of wonder and I am thrilled that my last name is Awe now. It was an easy name to claim. I believe wonder and awe keep us grateful, hopeful, and easier to be around.

As I eat my flying frank, I wonder at the marvel of fun and joy and adventure.
Here is how you make them... I did it in twelves, pick any number that suits your fancy or your family.

12 bun length franks
12 slices of bacon
12 slices of sharp cheddar cheese

Cut a slit down the length of the frankfurters. Stuff the cheese slice inside them. Wrap them with the bacon (I precooked the bacon for 1 minute first) and then secure the bacon with toothpicks. Broil them for 5-6 minutes. Insert into whole wheat buns and marvel at the fun.
This recipe adapted from Frankfurter Quails in the Mennonite Community Cookbook.

Wishing you a child's sense of wonder and awe,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lent and Potato Soup

For Lent, something light is in order. The recipe I share today might be a good Ash Wednesday or Lenten Friday meal. But first, a few thoughts. One thing I appreciate about the Catholic faith is the observance of the liturgical seasons. The observances are intentional and reverent in many cases. With the different seasons are practices that can add to the meaning of the holy days. I like the names, Lent, Advent, and the Season of Ordinary Time. The appellation "ordinary time" indicates that although it may be ordinary, it should be noticed.

Funny way to start a Mennonite cooking blog entry? Well, I am rather eclectic in many things, no less my faith expressions. I think the way I was raised has something to do with that. When I was young, we sang, Jesus loves the Little Children, and He's got the whole world in His hands and I always knew deep down that my family and my faith community believed each word was true. If we are all God's children, it seems to follow that individual and varied practices, petitions, and prayers are all worthy. That works for me. Nearer my God to Thee, and I will take it almost any way you serve it.

At my school I am the Mennonite who loves Mass, I have been touched by Baptist altar calls, I love the quietness of traditional Quaker services, African American spirituals move me to tears, and I wish I could be a better Buddhist-like person. When I was thinking about this, I remembered my grandma's first question upon learning when I had a new boyfriend. "Is he Mennonite?" If the answer was no, we moved down the flow chart, "Does he go to church?" It never bothered me, these questions. At the time, I didn't really know for sure who I was and I mostly cared if my boyfriends were cute. I appreciate that Grandma let me know what she thought was important. I know better now who I am, a pilgrim with deep Mennonite roots, a learner with an open heart and a seeking spirit, so thankful that every road honestly followed leads to God.

So, here you are- a recipe for potato soup which is a rather eclectic mix in itself, combines a couple of recipes, none enough to give credit. A melting pot if you will...

Crock Pot Potato Soup
4 russet potatoes, cut into small cubes
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 stalks of celery, cut into small pieces
28 ounces of chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups fat free half and half

Bread, cut into small cubes
2 T butter or margarine

Combine first eight ingredients in a crock pot. Cook on high for 3 hours or until vegetables are tender. stir together half and half and flour. Pour into soup. Cover and cook 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Brown diced bread cubes in butter. Add to the soup just before serving.

Bless us O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord.

Many Blessings,

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love and Graham Cracker Fluff

Oh my goodness, this is great stuff! I am, I confess, prone to hyperbole, but please believe me when I tell you that Graham Cracker Fluff is amazing. It is a lightly sweet, fluffy pudding surrounded by the perfect chewiness of graham cracker crumbs. Thanks to our friend Sylvester Graham once again. By the way, per his recommendation, I am making sincere attempts to have cheerful conversations at mealtimes.

My cousin Beckie recommended this recipe and also provided the idea of making a design on top. In honor of this holiday of love, I chose a heart design. Well... the heart is a bit bedraggled now because we dove right into this dessert and found it hard to stop! I am so glad I tried it and I encourage you to try it too.

Before I tasted this fluffy delight, I was thinking that I might write about love in its more quotidian forms. That is, the everyday forms of love that our family and friends show us and that we can take for granted until we don't have them. The hello hugs, goodbye wishes, morning coffee, clean-up duties, oil changes, and so on. On such daily events does our sense of lovedness rest at times and I wanted to acknowledge their significance. However, when I tasted Graham Cracker Fluff, I was reminded of those times when love just knocks our socks off. (I told you it is good!) Aren't we glad for those times too? The miracle of birth, hearing the words "I love you" from someone who makes our heart sing, being forgiven, seeing the outpouring of a community for its homeless members, a really beautiful musical performance, and so many more moments which stir our senses and fill our hearts to full and overflowing.

Quotidian acts of love, knockin' your socks off love, and mostly the love which is shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5) are all reasons to smile and feel warmth on this cold and windy Valentines Day.

Here is the recipe for Graham Cracker Fluff.
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar,
2/3 cup milk
1 package gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 egg whites
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
3 T melted butter
3 T sugar
12 graham crackers
Beat egg yolks and add sugar and milk. Cook over low heat until slightly thickened. Soak gelatin in the cold water.
Pour hot mixture over softened gelatin and stir until smooth.
Chill until slightly thickened.
Beat the whipping cream and vanilla together and add this with the stiffly beaten egg whites to chilled mixture.
Combine melted butter, crushed graham crackers and sugar to make crumbs.
Sprinkly half of crumbs in bottom of serving dish.
Add mixture and top with remaining crumbs( this is your chance to be creative, make your beloved's countenance maybe?)
Let chill in refrigerator until set. It doesn't take long.

So, go ahead, knock someone's socks off with a bit of fluff!
Happy Valentines Day,

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ready for Anything: Zwiebach

Zwiebach. There is nothing quite like it. I was unfamiliar to this type of bread until I went to college in Hillsboro. At freshmen orientation, we could sign up for two mini-courses. I signed up for water skiing and Mennonite cooking. Water skiing got rained out but Mennonite cooking stops for no weather pattern! A bunch of freshmen crowded into Katie Warkentin's house where she got us all involved in making zwiebach and verenika. This was very much a participatory course and we rolled, pinched, browned, and baked until happily, we were able to partake of the fruits of our efforts. It was all delicious. Zwiebach and verenika are typical to this area and they quickly became some of my favorites as there were plenty of opportunities to enjoy them.

Tonight I will host my youngest daughter's basketball team for dinner. Twelve hungry young ladies, straight from practice, seeking fortification for their upcoming game, will descend upon our kitchen. What to make? I thought about what another Mennonite woman told me a few months ago as we were discussing meal preparations for a homeless shelter dinner. She said, "When I have a dozen zwiebach in my freezer, I feel like I'm ready for anything." I tend to agree. I think many women in this region keep a bag of zwiebach available as ballast for any obligation to feed the masses. We always want to be ready to show our Midwestern Mennonite hospitality. Somehow, to give someone zwiebach, is to care for them. Tonight, on the table for the Lady Railers, there will be zwieback.

Years after my mini-course when I was a young mother, I tried to make my first batch of zwiebach on my own. They came out quite hard, more like zwiebricks! I told my friend Donna Jost about this, and she took me under her more experienced wing. "Come over" she said, "we'll make them together." We did and they turned out very well. While working alongside her, I discovered what I had done wrong. I had failed to knead the dough long enough and I had worked in too much flour. The dough should be manageable but just a bit sticky. The yeast, like the love in our hearts, must be worked through and through until it becomes part of everything around it. And so, thankfully, friendship saved my zwiebach.

Here is the recipe:
2 cups scalded milk
1 cup warm water
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup shortening (I used half margarine and half shortening)
1 egg
1 package of yeast
8-10 cups of four (I use right around 9)

Scald milk, add shortening, salt and 4 T sugar. Put yeast in a small bowl, add 2 tsp sugar and 1 cup lukewarm water. Set in a warm place until spongy.
Add yeast mixture and beaten egg to lukewarm milk.
Mix well and stir in flour gradually. Knead dough until very soft and smoooth. (Like I said you want it to be just a little sticky so they don't get heavy. I love the way the dough feels when it is just right-supple and satiny, like my babies when they were brand new or the shiny top of my husband's bald head!)
Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk.
Pinch off small balls of dough the size of a small egg.
Place these 1 inch apart on greased pan. Put a slighty smaller ball on top of the bottom ball. Press down with thumb. (It springs right back up, no worries)
Let rise until double in bulk. Bake at 420 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

They turn out like a partial snowman. I always, always pull them apart and eat one ball at a time. It is so much more fun that way.

This recipe is adapted from the Mennonite Community Cookbook (1950).

May you also feel ready for anything!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Love of Learning: Warm Graham Muffins

I work in a wonderful school and the little part of it that I am responsible for managing is called "The Learning Lab." One day I took a little boy down there for the first time and he looked at the sign, read it aloud, and brightly declared, "I want to learn something!" Wow! It was one of those moments that affirmed my life's vocation as a teacher.

I could also relate to him. Part of my heritage (the world that lives in me) that I deeply appreciate is that I come from people who loved to learn. Grandma's cookbook (as well as her copy of the Bible) is full of handwritten notes and clippings that show she was a hunter-gatherer of information. One of my favorite stories about her husband, my Grandpa Yutzy, was that he refused to teach my mother to milk cows. He said that she was to go to college, to be a teacher. And indeed she did. She is an amazing woman, my mother. She is a voracious reader, not just smart, but also wise. She has spent her lifetime learning.

When I picked up Grandma's cookbook on that cold day in December and decided to use it for a travel guide of sorts, I knew there would be a lot to learn. For instance, I can't wait to find out what a huckleberry is. I happened upon a recipe for graham muffins which called for graham flour. I figured graham flour was something I could surely find at Prairie Harvest in downtown Newton. But I was wrong. They do not carry it. However, Carol at Prairie Harvest did a bit of research and told me that graham flour is really wheat flour but coarsely ground and less processed. She found a substitute mix for me that I could use in place of the ground flour. For each cup of graham flour, one can use 2/3 cup white flour, slightly less than 1/3 cup wheat bran and 1 and 1/2 tsp wheat germ.

I did a bit more research on my own and found that graham flour is named after Sylvester Graham, an early 19th century health reformer. He had strong ideas about healthy eating, advocated the use of whole wheat flours, and this is my favorite part- recommended that people get enough sleep (oh yes!), eat 3 meals a day 6 hours apart, wear loose clothing (I adore him now) and practice cheerfulness at mealtimes. I may have to get a T-shirt with his picture and the phrase, "Proud to be a Grahamite" Who can argue with these practices?

These muffins are really good. They have a grahamy kind of flavor, you know what I mean. They are delectable- especially warm, right from the oven, with butter and honey.

Graham Muffins
1 cup graham flour (I used the aforementioned mix)
1 cup white flour
4 tsp baking powder (oh yes, they will RISE)
1 tsp salt
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
4 Tablespoons brown sugar
4 Tablespoons melted margarine

Measure and sift dry ingredients together. (I have discovered that sifting is very relaxing. Hard to be shifting when you are sifting.)
Beat egg. Add sugar, milk and melted butter.
Combine with dry ingredients and pour into greased muffin tins.
Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

This recipe is adapted from "Graham Muffins" in the Mennonite Community Cookbook

Wishing you cheerful meals and delicious muffins,