Sunday, October 31, 2010

For all the Saints: Ellen's Cookies

Friends and family love these cookies. I witnessed my husband's enthusiastic response as he prepared to partake of a fresh warm cookie today. They are full of candy pieces (harvest colors this time) and chocolate chips, combined with a hint of peanut butter. Evolving over time, I finally have found the formula that results in soft, flavorful, morsel-filled cookies. So, although not from Grandma's cookbook, it seemed necessary to enter them into this blog because they have become a current favorite. The harmonious marriage of the old and the new is what this journey is about.

All Saints Day is tomorrow and that was a theme of today's church service. We sang the words " for all the saints who from their labors rest" and I thought of Grandma working in kitchen and garden, now at rest. We sang about being in "mystic sweet communion" and I thought of feeling her spirit and feeling her presence when I read from her scrawled recipes and stained pages. Honoring tradition is a way of honoring the saints in our lives. My own wall of fame is full of saints: Julian of Norwich, Saint Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Ghandi, and St. Therese. We would do well to honor the gift for doing the extraordinary into our current culture. Information comes to us know at rapid fire speed but the ancient writings of the saints contain a wisdom and a depth that we need- likely more we need the latest twitter posting of a contemporary.

So, with reverence for the old and gratefulness for the new, I offer you my special cookie recipe. I hope you like them!

Ellen's cookies
10 T margarine
1/2 cup smooth organic peanut butter
2/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 T pure vanilla

Mix all these ingredients until smooth.

Add 2 eggs and continue mixing.

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Mix dry ingredients into above mixture. When well blended, add 1 cup chocolate chips and 3/4 cup M&M candies.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. These are so delicious right from the oven!

Happy All Saints Day!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Not Talking Turkey: Mock Turkey

Wow! November is almost here which for many of us, causes our minds to turn to turkey. Or, mock turkey as the case may be. There is a recipe in the Mennonite Community Cookbook by that very name. The endorsement at the bottom of the recipe says, "This dish actually tastes like turkey." That it does. Or at least like turkey stuffing. I remember Grandma making it for us once when we went to visit her and subsequently my mom added it to her "occasional" list of recipes. You know, not the regular list of go to recipes but the ones pulled out occasionally. So, I remembered this recipe and prepared it last evening for dinner. It was satisfying and it tasted as I remember Grandma's dish.

Thinking turkey and making mock turkey led me to think of the phrase talking turkey and it happens that I have a story about that. I think of it every November since it happened and I retell it if someone will listen. In 2005, I was going through a divorce and it was a rough time. Most of the time the pain felt so intense that it seemed as though I wasn't wearing skin. Small words of kindness and the slightest signs of hope kept me going. My faith led me to be grateful each day for small blessings and large gifts like breath and grace. It was a time when I didn't feel I had much to give and with the holidays approaching, I felt rather depressed. But,alas, being a Mennonite means you believe you are genetically equipped to go forth and serve no matter what the circumstances. Despair, who cares? Put on your sensible shoes and go do some good for the world.

So, I heard there was going to be a dinner for the homeless in our community and it was to be served at a church in town. I called the pastor, whom I shall call Reverend Zeal. He has a good heart and a call to lead the church of Relentless Evangelism. When I picked up the phone to make this call I had no idea what I was in for. Hello, Reverend Zeal. My name is Ellen and I heard that your church is serving a Thanksgiving meal for the homeless. I would like to help prepare or serve some food if you need it. Ellen? Ellen? Where are you from Ellen? North Newton, sir. Ahh Ellen, do you believe in our wonderful, sweet, sweet Jesus, Ellen? Yes, yes I do. Why Ellen, why, do you believe in our wonderful sweet, loving Jesus? Well... (because answered prayers are the only thing keeping me from going over the edge didn't seem like a good response) ...because He is wonderful? Now, I do love Jesus and I would like to know if you need some help with your Thanksgiving meal. I could help serve or bring some food. I would just like to help in some way. Ahhh, Ellen, can you give a testimony? We need a testimony. Well, Reverend Zeal, these days I am going through a bit of crisis and just trying to hang on. I do want to share and I really just want to serve some turkey. Well, Ellen what we need is a TESTIMONY! I am not just TALKING TURKEY here, Can you give us a real Jesus testimony? That is what people need- a TESTIMONY! ( I am starting to think I will just stay home on Thanksgiving.) Reverend, I would be very happy to come and talk to people and try to share some hope one -on -one but could I please just serve some turkey? Well, Ellen we really need some testimonies but I suppose you could just bring a potato dish. (Clearly, he was disappointed.) Okay, thank you Reverend, goodbye. Exhausted, I hung up the phone. I was looking for signs and this seemed to a good one that perhaps this year, I was allowed to stay home and be healed. Sometimes we have to show ourselves the kindness we offer so readily to others.

So, I share with you now the recipe for mock turkey... perhaps for times when you aren't talking turkey!

1 loaf stale bread
1 quart milk
1 carrot, grated
1 onion, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 dash of pepper
1 lb ground sausage
1 tsp poulty seasoning

Remove crust from load of bread;tear apart and moisten with milk. Add meat, chopped vegetables and seasoning.
Mix together well and place in a buttered baking dish. (9x13 is about right)
Bake at 350 for 1 and 1/2 hours.

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

Take good care,

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Mennonite tries Methodist: Chicken and Noodles

Recently the big downtown food event of the year was happening in our quaint little village . Taste of Newton, kickoff to the Bethel College Fall Festival, closes down the main streets in the heart of the town and becomes a feeding frenzy of sorts. Churches, clubs, businesses, and organizations set up booths and sell their culinary specialities.There is also some local entertainment, singers, dancers, etc. but let's not kid ourselves, it is all about the food. Newtonians turn out for this event. They try ethnic foods, barbecue, and even fried food served in state fair type trailers. They see old friends and stop to laugh, talk and hold their stomachs while they compare their eating adventures. It is a great time.

In my mind I had already decided that my dinner of choice would involve a reach across the denominational aisle for a Methodist main dish ( chicken and noodles) and a Presbyterian dessert (apple dumplings). These two things have been my favorite for the last 8 years or so that I attended. But it was not to be so. I eagerly approached the spot where the chicken and noodles table is usually stationed and I found a big empty patch of pavement. I was so disappointed. Stubbornly I made the rounds hoping maybe they had just chosen a new location but my search was in vain. There was not a bowl of Methodist chicken and noodles to be found. Not to worry, I found plenty to eat anyway but there was a hole in my heart where a bowl of chicken and noodles should have found its place.

What do we do when there is a hole in our hearts? Well, we can try to fill that place with something else, we can try to distract ourselves with banalities temporal or we can deny that we are missing anything. Sometimes, we have to just wait and hope for what we are missing. Occasionally we realize what we have been missing has been there all along. And sometimes, as in the case of my chicken and noodles cavity, we have to take care of the need ourselves. And so, armed with a lovely plump locally raised chicken from Prairie Harvest and some Amish noodles from the grocery store, I cooked up a Mennonite batch of Methodist fare. It took a while, but it was wonderful.

Here is the recipe I used. It is modified from the Mennonite Community Cookbook.

Chicken and Noodles
1 plump locally raised chicken
1 lb package of noodles (I prefer the ones that say Amish on the package!)
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 T butter
4 T flour
2 cups milk
3 cups chicken broth

Cook chicken in water until tender and remove meat from the bones. Cut into pieces.
Boil noodles in salt water according to package directions.
Drain the noodles with warm water.
Make a thin white sauce with the butter, flour and milk.
Add chopped chicken and noodles to broth. Stir in white sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.

These were sooo good! Almost as good as the Methodist version although I still hope they come back to next Taste of Newton. If not, at least I know I don't have to go without- thanks to Grandma's cookbook.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

I Like These: Sourdough Apple Wheat Rolls

I picked up my phone the other day and saw that I had a text message. It was one line from my daughter Emily at 8:07 AM: I like these rolls. That was it, and I knew which rolls she meant. It made my morning brighter, knowing she enjoyed them and was gathering sustenance for her day from something I had made.

But about the likable rolls.. they require sourdough if you know how or where to get yourself some of that. I used my mother's sourdough which has been around for a half-century or more I assume. Being a teacher, mother, wife and dog owner I feel I have plenty to nurture so I steer clear of most things that need tending, even if you can keep it in tupperware with a lid on it. Sourdough still needs to be fed, stirred and coddled from time to time. But every now and again, I get hungry for these rolls so I borrow some sourdough to make them. They are hearty and delicious!

I should say they are not from grandma's cookbook. They are a recipe I copied somewhere when I was a new bride. I carried the recipe from home to home on a piece of paper torn from a yellow legal pad. There are very few things I still make from those early years, but this is one. I have carried forth my grandma's tradition of hunting and gathering recipes. And someday, when my nest feels too empty, I will adopt some sourdough from the mother ship and bring it home, put it in a nice cozy bowl and give it my tender loving care.

Sourdough Apple Wheat Rolls
Bring 1/2 cup sourdough starter to room temperature. In mixing bowl combine 1 and 1/2cups unbleached all purpose flour, 1 package yeast, 1/2 cup wheat germ, and 1/4 tsp baking soda. Heat 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 cup butter or margarine, 1 T honey and 3/4 tsp salt until warm. Add milk mixture to the flour mixture;stir in one beaten egg, 3/4 cup apple butter and the sourdough. Beat at low speed until blended. Add 1 and 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour and then enough white flour to make a semi-stiff dough. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and put in a greased blow, turn once. Cover and let rise for 15 minutes. Shape into 24 two-inch balls. Place on greased baking sheets. Cover;let rise until double. Brush tops with milk or melted butter. Bake in a 375 oven for 15-18 minutes. Makes 24.