Tuesday, September 30, 2014

La Luna Cooks Mrs. Yoder: Lazy Wife Cake

Perhaps I should have called the last La Luna Cooks Mrs. Yoder entry "Mortally Wounded." The project has come to an end (well, or shifted gears, really). Almost since the beginning, I have questioned whether that particular cookbook was a good one to cook all the way through. The recipes are incredibly repetitious. There are a whole lot of recipes that call for canning or pressure cooking, neither of which I was prepared to do. I was constantly having to cut the quantities significantly and, truth to tell, the math was a mite hard for me sometimes. It's one thing to halve a recipe. It's another to reduce something made to feed an entire congregation. And, to be completely honest, I just didn't love the food. Some of it was pretty good, to be sure, and there are still recipes I want to make from that cookbook. I didn't want to be a quitter, especially not so shortly after beginning. But to continue making food I was lukewarm about, food which wasn't particularly healthy in the first place, with so many of the ingredients being either processed or simply full or carbs and fat, seemed not only an unpleasant task, but irresponsible.

However, I need to blog about one last recipe adventure before moving on to the new cookbook. Last week, I made a recipe called Lazy Wife Cake. To me, a lazy wife cake would mean one purchased at the bakery and brought home. Or, at the very least, one from a mix. A lot of women of my acquaintance, frankly, consider themselves pretty enterprising if they do a cake from a box. This cake, however, is all from scratch. It's what I have often seen referred to as a "wacky cake," with vinegar in the mix. The vinegar didn't make me nervous, although the very small amount of cocoa powder for which the recipe called did, just a little.

The recipe calls for the baker to mix the dry ingredients (No Spoons! Forks Only!---Anyone know why this would be the preferred method?) and put them in a pan (size was not specified, so I went hunting for other "Lazy Wife Cake" recipes online and determined that an 8x8 pan would suffice), then to make little wells in the mixture for the liquid ingredients. Although my oil overflowed its hole, all was well and the resultant cake was lovely and lofty. It was a humble cake, fairly light and not terribly rich.

Because I am terribly picky about cake, I took one bite and decided that it wasn't worth the calories for me. My wife thought it was tasty and it apparently got rave reviews at her plant, where I sent the rest of it, so I think lots of folks would really dig it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

What I'm Cooking, October 2014


-Changua (Colombian bread soup) with chèvre salad and good, crusty bread (my favorite is Pugliese)

-Veggie cheese pie, steamed broccoli, green salad, roasted pears with almond crunch

-Out for sushi in memory of my friend, Paul, on what would have been his 44th birthday

-Scrambled eggs, sweet & spicy bacon, smoked cheddar muffins, fruit

-Shrimp scampi with artichokes & basil, capellini, garlic bread, strawberry salad with balsamic-cardamom dressing

-Greek potato, zucchini, & bean stew, cheese & basil scones, fruit, mocha pie

-Sloppy joes, corn, green salad

-Warm lentils with spinach, salad, fruit, crusty bread

-Chili, cornbread, apples with caramel dip

-Chicken tagine with preserved lemons & olives, Moroccan salad, Moroccan bread

-Sausage & rice casserole, lima beans, green salad

-Vietnamese or Chinese out in memory of my grandmom, on what would have been her 93rd birthday

Special lunch treat for myself:

-Sesame brown rice & cabbage

Friday Drinks & Nibbles: 

-Bagna cauda & Fish Eye cocktails

-Artichoke nibbles & hot toddies

Special Treat for a Visitor:

-Gingersnap palmiers

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Welcoming Fall with Pumpkin Waffles

I always like to welcome Fall with some kind of seasonally appropriate meal for dinner. I have a convoluted (and somewhat silly---but it works) method of deciding dinner menus, involving rolling dice and counting by sevens. You may think I'm kidding, but I am absolutely not. I mean, there is still a lot of deciding I do of my own free will---it's not all up to fate. I was inspired by my mom and the method helps me plan in a way that utilizes all my cookbooks. Anyway, the dice and the sevens landed on pumpkin waffles for this year's first dinner of autumn and I was delighted! To me, this breakfast for dinner captures the essence of fall dining as well as any pot of chili. I am, of course, definitely thrilled it's chili season. But last night, we really enjoyed our waffles, me with warm maple syrup, my sweet wife with her preferred Mrs. Butterworth. I love that we are able to accommodate everyone's food particularities in our house.

Another particularity is that she loves maple bacon & maple sausage. I pretty much hate sweet and meat together. So, she is often longing for maple breakfast meat, but giving it up because I don't like it. Me, I adore pepper bacon. But, I usually defer to her preference for plain bacon because, well, who's going to complain about bacon? (unless it has maple---but I digress) So, last night, when we were strolling the meat section of our local grocery, she encouraged me to get pepper bacon and I encouraged her to get maple sausage. Then, she hit upon a brilliant solution! I can't believe we didn't think of it sooner. Get both, make enough of each for one person, and freeze the rest!

I'd intended to add fruit to the meal, so at least something would be healthy. That didn't happen. Ah, well. I got lots of good root veggies at lunch with my friend, Frank's, fabulous pork & root veggie stew with cider & curry.

Welcome Fall Pumpkin Waffles
1 c. flour
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
About 1/4 tsp. nutmeg (I grate mine directly into the bowl, so I am just guessing)
2 eggs, separated
3/4 c. milk (skim is fine)
1/2 stick butter, melted (you could probably reduce this with no disruption to the recipe)
1/4 c. pumpkin (I might add more next time; I'm putting the rest of the can in oatmeal)
Cooking spray
Maple syrup (or whatever your preferred waffle topping is)

Preheat waffle iron. Mix the dry ingredients together. Whisk egg yolks with milk, butter, and pumpkin. Combine with dry ingredients. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into batter. Spray waffle iron with cooking spray. Add 1/2-3/4 c. batter per waffle & cook until browned & crisp. Makes 4 Belgian waffles. These freeze well. To re-heat, just pop them in the toaster. The recipe also happily doubles, although I would only use 3 eggs when doubling, rather than 4. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

La Luna Cooks Mrs. Yoder: Back on the Horse with Red Ribbon Punch & Barbecued Hamburgers

I almost called this post "Bloodied, but Unbowed." That lemony peanut butter pie knocked the wind from my sails, for sure, and last Wednesday over coffee, friends tried to talk me into dropping the project. I was just about to cave, too, but my wife begged me to continue. It's a good thing I'm not being paid for this project, because I am completely unable to talk myself into making 18 different sauerkraut recipes. But, I gave myself permission to skip anything too repetitious (the 42 "taco salad" recipes that vary only slightly, perhaps) and permission to revise recipes, rather than cooking them as written, if something sounds quite wrong.

After skipping the entire week last week, I talked myself into jumping back into the game over the weekend. I made Red Ribbon Punch for my annual Fall Harvest Game Night (along with hot mulled cider for folks who just couldn't bring themselves to consume all that sugar and artificial coloring). The punch is not at all what I would expect the Amish to serve as punch. I would think their punch would consist largely of real fruit juices, mixed together, not a punch brimming with artificiality. But no. What I served was very reminiscent of the sort of punch I encountered regularly (albeit somewhat watered down) at church as a child in the 1970s, gussied up for partying. We never had the sherbet sort of punch at Vacation Bible School, but the vibrant color and super-sweet flavor of this punch was right on. I have to admit, I do like that sort of punch on occasion. My favorite punch, though, will always be the punch they served at coffee hour when I was a kid & now serve only for special receptions. It has become my go-to punch for my birthday & is our traditional Christmas tree decking beverage, as well. I call it Westminster Punch because that was the name of my childhood church.

Westminster Punch
1 12-oz. can frozen lemonade (preferably pink)
1 12-oz. can frozen limeade
2 qt. pineapple juice
2 liters ginger ale
Small box sweetened, frozen strawberries (more, if you like)

Mix everything together and stir to melt the frozen juices.

Getting back to the Red Ribbon Punch, let me just say right now that it would probably not be allowed in most churches now. For one, most churches ban anything bright red because it will likely stain the carpet. Secondly, more parents are vocal about their children not being fed so much sugar or artificial anything. However, it's a fun retro drink to serve, if impossible to find the exact ingredients. I'm not entirely sure Hawaiian Punch still exists. I haven't seen it in years. Honestly, though, I haven't looked for it in years. When I was a little kid, I loved the red kind and I especially thought the opening of the can with a puncture in either side was cool. I was a weird little kid. Red Kool Aid, though, seems to be essentially the same thing. Because I couldn't find Faygo orange pineapple soda, I subbed pineapple orange juice for the pineapple juice called for and used plain old orange soda. It was fun to do a punch, not least because I got to use my mother-in-law's beautiful vintage punch bowl with polka dots etched into bowl & cups. it looked festive indeed! I must also tell you that it paired pretty nicely with vodka. Ahem. Probably not what Miss Troyer intended when she included the recipe. But, perhaps okay during the rumspringa. 

I had planned to make a caramelized onion meatloaf for Sunday dinner with the kids. However, my Wild Mango Queens bookstore outing was a success and we stayed far too long over appetizers and drinks at Bar Louie. So, short on time, I turned to the Amish for a good alternative. I'd planned to have scallion mashed potatoes and corn with our meatloaf, so I went ahead with those to go with the barbecued hamburgers from the Amish cookbook. I wasn't sure how the oven-baked burgers, with their strong, ketchup-y, vinegar-y sauce would go over. I was especially worried that my wife would object to them. However, she and I both really liked them. Bubbles isn't much for red meat, but she ate half of hers, and Pie isn't usually much of a sauce guy, but he cheerfully ate his with half the sauce scraped off. I only made 2 modifications. One was to use 96% lean burger, which I am fairly certain is not part of the Amish repertoire (I could be wrong). The other was to sub a tablespoon of brown sugar for half the white sugar the recipe called for. Next time, I think I will make it with all brown sugar. It probably doesn't matter that much, but I think it would add a little more depth to the flavor.  There will definitely be a next time! Oh, and those scallion mashed potatoes were heaven.

Scallion Mashed Potatoes
1 1/2 lb. small red potatoes, quartered
2 tbsp. butter (you can use less, certainly---the original recipe called for a whole stick!)
1/4 c. heavy cream (or more, as needed---you can sub skim milk)
1 bunch scallions, sliced 
Salt & pepper

Cook the potatoes in boiling water (salted, if you like) until fork-tender. Drain. Meanwhile, heat butter and cream together. Mash into the cooked potatoes, adding more cream/milk, as needed, for desired consistency. Stir in scallions and seasonings. Serves 6-8.

Goulash, Johnny Marzetti, American Chop Suey

When I was a kid, I loved going to eat at my grandparents' house. While we ate well at my house, my mom and stepdad were vegetarian and the pizzas we ordered came from a little hippie place that offered whole wheat crust and all kinds of vegetables like bamboo shoots on their pizzas. So, dinner at my grandparents' house was a chance for me to eat like mainstream Middle America. One of my grandmom's dishes, called "goulash" in our family and "Johnny Marzetti" in my wife's family, seems to have been popular in most mainstream houses. The noodle and ground beef dish is easy to make and feeds a bunch of people for not much money. What's more, it's terrific comfort food!  As fall arrives in the Northern Hemisphere, it's all about the comfort food. So, I offer you this version of the classic dish. Feel free to post your family's favorite way to eat it in the comments section. I'm always up for trying different versions.

Johnny Marzetti's American Goulash Suey
3 tbsp. butter (or, as I did, sub 1 of olive oil or use cooking spray)
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground beef (I use 94%-96% lean)
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
Salt & pepper
15 oz. can diced tomatoes
15 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2-2/3 c. tomato juice or V8
Pinch sugar (this lessens the acidity of the tomato, they say)
1 lb. macaroni (or whatever small pasta shape you have on hand---whole grain is good, too)

Heat butter/oil in large pot. Add onion & pepper and cook until softened, 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute. Add ground beef and brown it. Add seasonings, tomatoes, sauce, and sugar. Simmer while you cook the pasta al dente & drain it. Add pasta. If your wife is cheese-addicted, add lots and lots of that. Or serve it at the table so people can add or not add cheese, as their tastebuds and heart condition dictate. Lowfat cheese is good, too, because you're not relying on it to melt. Serves 8 & freezes well. 

Last Supper of Summer

Although I squawk about the coming cold, I really do love the change of seasons and Autumn is one of my favorites. I am sorry to say goodbye to Summer, with all the lovely produce and the warm weather, but I'm excited about this new season, too. I am all excited about creating my October dinner menus & have already picked my First Rainy Day of Fall soup for the year. Tonight, in honor of the Autumnal Equinox, I am making pumpkin waffles for our first fall dinner. Last night, for the final supper of summer, I thought a salad was appropriate, so we had a chicken piccata salad with roasted kale and fresh blackberries. I picked up a mini pie from Achatz, a Michigan 4 Berry pie. I had tried their cherry pie before and been unimpressed, but a friend was singing their praises the other day, so I decided to try again. I remain unimpressed. Grand Traverse Pie Company's pie, on the other hand, is dangerous for me to have in the house!

The original salad recipe is Rachael Ray's, but I've tinkered with it a little bit. You could probably do a very successful vegetarian version with fried or baked tofu or vegetarian "chicken" & veggie broth instead of chicken broth. You can also lessen the amount of olive oil in the salad and grill or broil the chicken instead of breading without destroying the meal. Low sodium broth is a good idea, too. I almost always use that instead of the regular sort.

Chicken Piccata Salad
1 1/2 lb. small red potatoes, quartered
12 oz. green beans, halved
1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. olive oil
3-4 tbsp. capers
Chopped parsley
Juice & zest of 1/2 lemon
Salt & pepper
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c. flour
2 chicken breast cutlets (the fancy, thin sort you usually see with chicken piccata)
1/4 c. chicken broth
Splash of dry white wine

Cook the potatoes until they are almost tender, but still firm. Set aside in a colander with a slotted spoon and add the green beans to the same water. Cook a couple minutes, then drain. Cool veggies slightly. Whisk together 1/4 c. olive oil, 1-2 tbsp. capers, 3-4 tablespoons chopped parsley, lemon zest, and half the lemon juice. Add the vegetables, along with salt & pepper to taste. Toss gently. Season the flour with a little salt & pepper. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil. Dredge the chicken in the flour, then dip in egg. Dredge once more in flour, then fry until it is golden brown and cooked through. Remove from skillet and cut into strips. Put broth and wine in skillet and deglaze the pan. Add 2 tbsp. capers, 2 tbsp. parsley, rest of lemon juice. Put salad in 2 shallow bowls or on 2 plates. Top with chicken and drizzle with sauce. Serves 2, with lots of potato-green bean salad left for the next day's lunch. Or 4, if you add a couple more chicken cutlets. 

My default kale recipe is raw Tuscan Kale Salad, but when the weather gets cooler, sometimes it's nice to have warm kale, instead. Plus, this stuff is completely addictive. Completely. Again, you can cut the olive oil by half. Just make sure to toss the kale well so that it all gets a hint of oil. 

Roasted Kale
1 big bunch curly kale
2 tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Tear kale leaves into bite-size pieces (if you hate throwing away the stems, they can be added to a pot of veggie trimmings you are simmering to make broth---if you don't want to make it right away, just keep a gallon zipper freezer bag in your freezer and toss various veggie ends in until the bag is full). Toss with the other ingredients. Let sit 5-10 minutes. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast 2 minutes. Stir and roast another 2 minutes. Serves 4. Or 2 kale-greedy people.

If you want to make dessert of the blackberries, they are excellent with a dollop of dulce de leche. You can usually find this Latin caramel confection in the grocery, but if you can't, you can also make it by removing the label of a can of sweetened, condensed milk, lowering it carefully with tongs into a pan full of boiling water, and letting it boil, on its side so that it can roll, for 3 hours. Make sure there is always plenty of boiling water in the pan, as lots of water around the can prevents it from overheating and bursting open. If you see the level of water dropping, simply add more boiling water. When the 3 hours is up, you will need to exercise still a bit more restraint, as it's extremely important to allow the contents of the can to cool to room temperature before you open the can. If you skip this cooling step, you could get an eyeful of burning milk caramel as it geysers out from the can. Anyway, at the end of the 3 hours, remove the can carefully with tongs from the water and ALLOW TO COOL to room temp. It is superb, once cooled, but if you hurt yourself making it, you will not enjoy it nearly as much as you will if you are patient.

Friday, September 12, 2014

La Luna Cooks For Uppity Book Women: Split Pea Soup & Oatmeal Chip Cookies

Last Friday night at this time, I was just slipping a batch of Amish-style oatmeal chip cookies into the oven so I could arrive at book group with them still warm. I had a pot of split pea soup bubbling on the stove, ready to be tipped into the crockpot for the trip down the road.

The cookies were part of the La Luna Cooks Mrs. Yoder project, just what I happened to be making for the day. The split pea soup was chosen very deliberately, based on the book we discussed. Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief is set in Hitler's Germany. It's a wonderful book, full of pain and death and luminous, beautiful life. The mama character is constantly serving pea soup, cobbled together from scarce rations. Therefore, it was the natural choice. We also got to enjoy chocolate chip cookies brought by Brenda & Sue's gazpacho.

Since there have been requests for these recipes, here they are:

Split Pea Soup for Saukerls
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 & 1/2 tsp. salt
A good grinding pepper
3 carrots, peeled & diced
3 potatoes, diced but not peeled
1 lb. dried split peas
64 oz. chicken stock

In a soup pot, sauté onions, garlic, oregano, salt, & pepper in olive oil until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the rest and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook on medium-low about an hour or until split peas are tender. You will want to stir fairly frequently so the bottom doesn't burn. Adjust seasonings. Serves 6.

Oatmeal Chip Cookies
3/4 c. butter
1 & 1/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 c. flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. oatmeal
1 c. nuts (I used chopped pecans)
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix butter and sugar together. Add eggs, flour, cream of tartar, soda, & salt. Finally, add oatmeal, chocolate chips, & butterscotch chips. Drop by tablespoons onto greased cookie sheets. Bake about 10 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

La Luna Cooks Mrs. Yoder: Taco Salad & Apple Pudding

Tonight, I finally reached a more substantial section of the cookbook, after spending last week in the breads and desserts world (which wasn't, by any means, a bad place). Taco salad is the first entry in the "Salads" section. Jeannene is ecstatic to have arrived at a savory dish, although she's equally excited that much of the section consists of Jell-o salad in various permutations. I'm a bit of a Jell-o purist and, despite my weird adoration of strawberry pretzel salad, I tend only to tolerate the addition of fruit to my Jell-o. No marshmallows, no cool whip, no whipped cream, no nuts, and, for the love of all that is holy, no celery or other vegetable matter! But, I somehow ended up loving pretzel salad, so maybe ribbon salad, Under The Sea Salad, and 7-Up salad won't be as abhorrent as I fear. I do have a lot of food rules, don't I?

In addition to the taco salad, I needed to make up for missing Monday's recipe, apple pudding. The two don't seem very much to go together, but today's rainy weather allows admirably for apple pudding, which is infinitely more like cake, with a brown sugar sauce thickened with fruit pectin. But more on that in a moment.

Every taco salad I've ever eaten or seen has come in a crispy corn tortilla shell, with varying amounts of lettuce, shredded cheese, and chopped tomatoes accompanying a mound of taco meat. This was a little different, more akin, as Jeannene observed, to a walking taco in a pan instead of in a Fritos bag. One of my favorite things about Boot's PeeWee football games, for which we had to arise wretchedly early on a Saturday morning and which we often spent out in the mist and rain and cold, was when it was time for lunch & we could get walking tacos & more coffee from the concession stand. The only things better were getting to extrovert with other football moms and the grin on Boot's face when he excitedly asked if we saw him [insert technically detailed football term for a play here, which will sound as understandable as Greek to me]---& of course, as far as he needed to know, we had. All of us moms. Every single play. Never distracted by chatting. Not once. Completely following the game. Yeah. That's it. (Have y'all seen the meme featuring Maria Von Trapp, twirling around in the mountains, with the words, "This is me not giving a [expletive variable but here deleted] about football season" yet?)

Anyway, this taco salad is basically taco meat with a bunch of onion, tomato, kidney beans, cheddar cheese, and crushed Doritos added. Well, crushed Doritos was my interpretation of Mrs. Weaver & Mrs. Yoder's "taco flavored chips." I guess Chili Cheese Fritos would have worked, as well. When it came to the addition of shredded lettuce, meant to be mixed into the whole bunch, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Once lettuce, particularly shredded lettuce, has gotten warm and soggy, it nauseates me. Therefore, I left it out & allowed Jeannene to do as she pleased (mixing it in, of course---she is quite the food mixer and especially delights in corn mixed into mashed potatoes with gravy). I put my meat mixture on top of the lettuce and liked it just fine because the lettuce remained cool and crisp. I liked it quite a bit actually, although I wouldn't want to eat huge quantities of it purely for health reasons, even though I used the leanest ground beef available. I did end up adding more spices. The recipe called only for a packet of taco seasoning, but it tasted bland, so I added some chili & cumin.

The only thing I couldn't stomach was the dressing. It was like taco dessert, but not nearly so delicious as a Choco-Taco (which I don't like much, but am willing to eat on occasion). Horrifyingly sweet---1/4 c. sugar to 4 oz. Thousand Island dressing with a little taco sauce and a little seasoning. I could probably have nightmares about it pretty easily, really. I did try a tiny smidge on a corner of my meal and it was better on the food than when sampled plain, but still appalling. Jeannene didn't think it was as bad as I did, but she did opt for sour cream instead of dressing. I thought it was just fine plain.

In fact, it was rather a bad night for sauces. Perhaps I erred in using Can-Jel fruit pectin for the "clear jel" called for in the recipe? Since I am not a canner---not even sure if I've ever participated in such a thing---I didn't know exactly what I was looking for. The sauce called for only water, brown sugar, a weensy bit of salt, and the aforementioned thickening agent. Unfortunately, although I did mix the pectin with water as directed, something occurred. Not only did the sauce not thicken, but when I tasted the watery result, it was tart, like I'd added lemon juice and vinegar, both.

The "pudding" itself was delicious, however, a sort of blondie with apples & pecans. A perfect autumnal dish, I would absolutely make it again and would happily serve it to company just as I served it tonight, with a little round of good quality vanilla bean ice cream or, better yet, Salted Caramel from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream (they do ship---http://jenis.com). I had hoped to drizzle a smidge of Treat Dream's caramel sauce over the top (www.treatdream.com---they're not Jeni's, but if you're in SE Michigan, they're definitely worth a stop), but could not find it in the fridge. Perhaps it looked tasty to our youngest? Really, though, all this treat needs is the ice cream. Or, it could be eaten out of hand for a casual accompanying sweet in a lunchbox or picnic basket.

Monday's dinner, hot chicken salad, was edible but not, in my opinion, good enough for me to post the recipe here. Hot chicken salad should not, in my opinion, be just like cold chicken salad that's been heated. This was. If, however, I do find my good hot chicken salad recipe, I will post it. Last night, we were invited to dinner at a new friend's house. She is an enthusiastic fan of sauces and dips from Robert Rothschild Farm in Urbana, Ohio (www.robertrothschild.com). I can testify from previous experience to the deliciousness of their artichoke dip and their raspberry sauce, but didn't know they made spaghetti sauce until Brenda mentioned it. We had the roasted portabella & roma tomato sauce and it was definitely yummy, with a definite bit of heat to it, almost a hint of Cajun flavor, even. Brenda had said she didn't want to have it until they had company because it was so special & I felt so honored that we were chosen. I love going to dinner at other people's houses because I get to have things I wouldn't ordinarily think to make. It's always a real treat, especially with such congenial company.

I get to look forward to congenial company tomorrow night, as well, when we join several folks from Jeannene's plant at a hog roast given by Mulefoot Gastropub (a terrific new restaurant in Imlay City, Michigan, named after the heirloom breed of pigs that is their focus---website at www.themulefoot.com) as a fundraiser for the Stone Soup Food Pantry. Not only do we get delicious roast pork, but they will be sampling new menu items as passed appetizers and there's going to be live music! Should be a roaring good time!

So, I will need to catch up on last night's peanut butter pie assignment and tomorrow' s barbecued hamburgers. Perhaps Sunday when we have the kids over for Sunday dinner, which is our new tradition, now that Pie and Bubbles live close enough to visit for dinner. This first Sunday, Jeannene made an old-fashioned roast with wonderful veggies, a big salad, and fruit kebabs. My contribution, in order to stay out of her way in the kitchen, was to pick up a strawberry pie & a cherry pie from a new grocery we discovered, Papa Joe's in Rochester.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Bacon & Egg Salad Sandwiches

My wife usually doesn't dig it when I make egg salad. She never eats it on purpose and when she sees it on the menu, she groans. I really like it. Perhaps I should just make it for myself during the day while she's at work, but I just have to make it for supper every now and again. There is actually a backstory to her eschewal of egg salad. You see, back when she was young, her older brother used to mow the lawn barefoot. Then, he would come inside and sit at the kitchen table, clipping his toenails. Some people would be totally skeeved out by his even clipping them in a common area of the house, but the kitchen table??? But it gets worse. When he was done, he would just leave them there on the  table! Blech.

Now, if you have ever had teenaged sons, you will not be surprised that such a thing could happen. However, you might be surprised at what finally happened. If you have siblings and grew up in a household like Jeannene's, though, you might not be so surprised. As siblings do, Jeannene and her brother who is closest to her in age got tired of Jeff's gross, green toenail clippings on the table. I don't imagine her mom was too thrilled, either. So, the time came when retribution became inevitable. Joel & Jeannene decided to be sweet and make egg salad for lunch. However, they weren't so sweet, after all, because they put his toenail clippings in the egg salad and fed it to him!!! He never noticed.

If you ever come have egg salad at our home, I promise we won't serve it with any body parts in it. And, if you aren't too revolted by this story ever to eat egg salad again, this is a pretty awesome sandwich! Even Jeannene loves it.

Bacon & Egg Salad Sandwiches
8 slices bacon
8 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1/3 c. mayonnaise
1 tsp. chopped fresh dill
Salt & pepper
12 slices pumpernickel, toasted
Romaine or red leaf lettuce
Tomato slices

Cook the bacon crisp. Mix eggs, mayo, dill, salt, & pepper. Make sandwiches, with bacon, on toast. If you're like me, you'll want your sandwich cut in half diagonally. Serves 4.

Rosemary, Ham, & Manchego Scones

I love scones. They are one of my wife's favorite things ever. That said, I am forever complaining about the lack of savory scones in shops that sell them. We often stop for coffee as we head out for errands or church on weekends. Jeannene has a (sweet) scone or a house made granola bar or some other such breakfast. I am often stumped as to what I might eat because I am very seldom a sweet breakfast sort of person and few coffee places have plain croissants worth eating. Without a little something substantial to start my day, I can get cranky or start feeling bad fairly quickly. There must be a reason it's hard to find quick breakfast foods in coffee shops, but I can't figure it out. Probably, it has to do with the fact that I'm kind of a weirdo about breakfast! Anyway, I discovered a Rachael Ray recipe for scones that is perfect for my needs, although it doesn't solve the "what to get at a coffee shop" conundrum.  I can't imagine that other folks wouldn't also find them completely swoony. This is my version & it makes 4 large or 8 small scones. Vegetarians won't even miss the ham, if left out.

Rosemary, Ham, & Manchego Scones
1 small box Bisquick (the 5-8 serving size)
3 tbsp. finely-chopped rosemary
1/2 c. heavy cream
A pinch of salt
1/8 lb. ham, chopped
1/4 c. shredded manchego cheese
1 tbsp. orange zest (cut up the orange for a fruit side dish!)
2 tsp. sugar (Don't omit this. I was tempted to, but it's an important counterpoint)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together everything but sugar, being careful not to overwork the dough. Shape into 4 large or 8 small mounds on an ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle evenly with sugar and bake 10-12 minutes for large scones or 7-8 minutes for small ones.

Mixed Greens with Goat Cheese Rounds & Grapefruit Balsamic

This wonderful salad is my version of Alice Waters' Goat Cheese Salad. For years, I've wanted to make a salad with baked or fried goat cheese rounds, but for some odd reason, it's seemed intimidating to me. Perhaps I was afraid the cheese would melt and ooze all over the place? Anyway, I am past that fear now and this is a salad that's terrific to serve guests to give them a little something special. By the way, if you are unfamiliar with Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, I would urge you to educate yourself. Alice Waters is one of my food heroes, a pioneer of the movement back toward using fresh, local foods that are in season and are sustainably produced. Chez Panisse, her Berkeley restaurant, is on my foodie bucket list. If you want to treat yourself to a new cookbook, her The Art of Simple Food is a good choice.

Mixed Greens with Goat Cheese Rounds & Grapefruit Balsamic
1/2 c. good quality olive oil
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf, crumbled
4 oz. goat cheese, cut into 4 rounds 
1/2 c. breadcrumbs/panko
2 tbsp. grapefruit balsamic
Salt & pepper
6 c. mixed greens

Marinate cheese in 1/4 c. oil with thyme & bay leaf for 2-12 hours. Place on a small baking sheet and chill thoroughly. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease a small baking dish with the oil from the marinade. Coat the chilled goat cheese rounds in crumbs. Bake 5 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown. Whisk 1/4 c. oil with grapefruit balsamic. Season with salt & pepper. Toss with greens to coat. Divide greens among 4 salad plates, topping each salad with a goat cheese round. Serves 4. (This is also good with added dried cherries and walnuts)

Salmagundi Casserole

As fall arrives in the Northern Hemisphere, my thoughts begin to turn to casseroles that will stick to our ribs and keep us warm. In a rainy, chill Michigan April, this casserole did the trick admirably and I believe it will be a cold weather staple in our house. It only needs a big, gorgeous salad and a loaf of warm bread to make a wonderful meal. The spices will make your house smell completely homey. Serves 4-6.

Salmagundi Casserole
1 c. rice
1 tbsp. oil
1 onion, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground beef (I use the extra-lean)
16 oz. tomato sauce
1 1/2 c. corn
1 c. chicken broth

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread rice evenly in the bottom of a greased 13x9 baking pan. Heat oil in a pot. Cook the onion, green pepper, and salt in the oil until tender, 5-7 minutes. Add spices and cook until fragrant, just a minute or two. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Add beef and cook until browned. Add tomato sauce, corn, and broth. Bring to a simmer. Carefully pour over the top of the rice. Cover tightly with foil and bake 35-40 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving. 

Toasted Almond Shakes

If you are the sort who likes to drink your dessert, this milkshake for grown folks is for you! It's nutty and rich, perfect for summer's fade into fall. My older boy would say it's a girl's drink. Me, I say it's for anyone who has a sweet tooth. But it is pretty perfect for a group of girlfriends to enjoy together.

Toasted Almond Shake
2 oz. Kahlúa
2 oz. Amaretto
 2 pints vanilla or coffee ice cream, softened a bit

Put everything in the blend and whirl it together until it's smooth. Serves 4. 

Curried Beef Skewers

In the summer, my dear wife loves to grill, especially when she has tunes going and can dance as she makes dinner. I am not so much for actually using the grill, but I like to prep food to go on it. This is a favorite of mine. You can make these as an appetizer or they can serve as a main course, with rice and cucumber salad. As a main course, they serve 4-6 people.

Curried Beef Skewers
1/4 c. curry powder
1/2 c. peanut oil
2 lb. filet of beef, cut into 1" cubes

Toast the curry in a dry skillet on very low heat for about 10 minutes. Place in a bowl and allow to cool. Add oil and stir to a smooth paste. Add beef and toss to coat well. Refrigerate overnight (or at least a few hours). When ready to grill, bring to room temperature and preheat the grill (or broiler, if need be). Thread onto skewers (if you're using wooden skewers, you'll want to soak them overnight), placing about 3 cubes on each. Grill or broil until medium-rare, a minute or two per side. Season to taste with salt. 

Chunky Corn Chowder with Ham

I just love corn chowder, although I'm not a big fan of the kind that seems to be fashionable currently, that's full of red peppers. This version makes carnivores happier than the vegetarian version I make more often. If you do make this without the ham, it will be perfectly lovely, too. Throw some corn muffins in the oven, serve with some fruit on the side. This serves 4.

Chunky Corn Chowder with Ham
6 oz. diced ham
1/2 c. diced onion
1 c. diced potatoes
1 c. water or chicken broth
2 c. corn (if you're making it in summer, use sweet corn cut off the ear)
12 oz. evaporated milk (skim is fine)
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
4 oz. shredded Cheddar (2% is fine)
Salt & pepper

Mix ham, onion, potatoes, and water/broth in a pot. Cook about 10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients. Heat through, making sure cheese is melted. 

Chocolate Caramel Bread Pudding

How many of you will complain if I tell you to eat the whole dessert in one day? I thought not many. Seriously, you wouldn't have to eat it all, but it does get a little weepy when left overnight, so it's a great dessert to make when you're having company to dinner. My wife loves bread pudding, but is always disappointed in restaurants, where there are invariably raisins in it. Of those, she is not a fan. So, I like to try different versions of it on her. This one is yummy and definitely different. I got the recipe from my friend, Kristal, who uses cinnamon chips in her version. I was unable to find those when I was getting ready to make this, so I subbed caramel chips and a new dish was born.

Chocolate Caramel Bread Pudding
8 oz. French bread, crust cut off
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1/2 c. caramel chips
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 3/4 c. milk
1 c. half & half
50 Hershey Kisses
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. caramel chips
1/2 c. half & half
1 c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2 qt. baking dish. Cube enough of the bread to make 6 cups. Toss with butter. Mix sugar and cocoa together. Toss with bread cubes. Add 1/2 c. caramel chips. Put in baking dish. Heat milk and 1 c. half and half just until bubbles form around the edges. Remove from heat. Add Hershey Kisses and stir until melted and incorporated into a smooth mixture. Gradually add to eggs (if you add it too quickly, it will give you chocolate scrambled eggs). Pour over bread cubes in pan. Bake 30-35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for about an hour. Melt 1 c. caramel chips with 1/2 c. half & half. Add powdered sugar, stirring to incorporate completely. Serve warm with bread pudding. Serves 10-12. 

Lemon Vinaigrette Asparagus with Goat Cheese

This post should actually have been written in May, so it's just a catch-up. I can't remember what the meal was that night, but this made a good side dish. Personally, I would probably omit the cheese if I was making it again, but that's just me. Jeannene liked it with the cheese.

Lemon Vinaigrette Asparagus with Goat Cheese
2 lb. asparagus, trimmed
Juice & zest of 1 lemon
 1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
1/3 c. crumbled goat cheese

Steam asparagus until crisp-tender. Mix lemon juice with oil, salt, & pepper. Drizzle over the asparagus. Sprinkle with cheese and garnish with zest. Serves 4-6.

Muffuletta Pizza

The first time I ever had that classic New Orleans sandwich, the muffuletta, I was working as a cashier at Sunshine Grocery in Nashville. The store had a wonderful deli that offered all kinds of sandwiches and other lunch possibilities. We were allowed, for our lunch, to choose any cold foods in the store, including any pre-made sandwiches from the deli. During the summer, one of my favorite lunches was fruit, bread, and brie cheese. However, one day, I sampled a muffuletta (ours were all vegetarian) and loved it! I've been a fan of the sandwich ever since.

When my sweetie got home from work yesterday, she'd not really eaten lunch. I told her that "I had a cookie" doesn't count. So, in honor of our honeymoon in New Orleans coming up, I whipped up a muffuletta pizza. With a green salad and some fresh fruit (we've been pretty partial to melon this summer), it's a simple & yummy meal. If you're vegetarian, you can just leave out the meats---and maybe add some extra olives! And if you have olive haters, well, perhaps make one for them with just the cheese & meats.

Muffuletta Pizza
1/2 c. finely chopped celery    
1/4 c. chopped Castelvetrano olives (you can use regular green olives, as well)
1/4 c. capers
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz. diced ham
3 oz. diced salami
2 c. mozzarella
Pre-baked pizza crust (I used a thin crust this time)

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix everything but the crust together. Spread on the crust and bake 13-15 minutes. Serves 4-6.

Friday, September 05, 2014

La Luna Cooks Mrs. Yoder: Oatmeal Chip Cookies

You wouldn't think it to look at me, but I am actually pretty dang picky about cookies. Cake, too, for that matter. When I saw that my first recipe in the cookies section would be oatmeal chip, I thought, "Oh, no! Yuck! Well, good, I won't want to overindulge." Normally, I completely abhor oatmeal cookies with anything but raisins in them. Well, dried cranberries are acceptable. They are not supposed to have nuts, though, in my food rule-ology. They are most certainly not supposed to have chocolate chips, much less butterscotch chips, too. For some people, that would sound like food of the gods. For me, it sounded like a waste of good oatmeal, good nuts (which I mostly prefer in savory dishes---I make a killer batch of rosemary mixed nuts---but dislike nuts in brownies or chocolate chip cookies), good chocolate, and good butterscotch.

However, I had agreed to make everything. I knew Jeannene would likely love them and the day of making them fell on an Uppity Book Women night. That's my book group. So, I figured they'd be pretty easy to pawn off. The second loaf of last night's cake has gone to friends across the 4-lane and I hoped I could get rid of a bunch of these pretty easily, too. Jeannene is just delighted with this project because it gets me to make treats I wouldn't ordinarily make. Flourless chocolate cake, yes. Plain old brownies, yes. Apple crisp with a streusel type topping, yes. Even oatmeal raisin cookies---but the raisins give my darling the heebies. But never oatmeal chip cookies in my ordinary food universe.

This is the first recipe of this project that was relatively no-brainer for me. It makes a bunch. I'd say 3 or 4 dozen. I could tell you for sure, but I haven't baked the rest of the dough. I wanted them to be still warm for the Uppitys, so I waited until the very last possible minute, baked 2 dozen, stuck the rest in the fridge for later (perhaps the new neighbors' welcome gift?), and hit the door. There wasn't one thing in the recipe that I didn't already have in the house. I always have a bounty of chocolate chips, nuts, and so forth. I seldom use cream of tartar in my normal cooking life, but I did have it on hand, fairly recently purchased for something special. I also tend to keep butterscotch chips on hand so Jeannene can make worm balls if she gets the notion. Oh, the rest of you might call those "haystacks." You know, those chow mein noodle, peanut butter, butterscotch concoctions. They were a favorite family Christmas recipe when she was growing up, something they did together each year. They weren't part of mine and I looked askance at them my whole life---until Jeannene made them our first Christmas together. Oops, they're actually really yummy. I didn't need to know that.

Since Mrs. Hershberger (not the same Mrs. Hershberger of last night's hickory nut cake) didn't specify the nut variety, I went for pecans again. It was either that, peanuts, pistachios, or slivered almonds. I might try them again with salted peanuts. That'd be interesting. But the pecans were good. The directions were fairly well complete, although there was, again, no cooking time. Having baked cookies since I was a wee thing with my mama and my grandmom, though, I knew that a good number of cookie recipes bake for 9-11 minutes. So, I set Grandma Sadie's timer for 10 minutes and they came out perfectly. Admittedly, I kind of dropped them by tablespoon instead of the prescribed teaspoon. But they looked lovely, all puffy and browned, when they were done. I hate when my chocolate chip cookies are puffy like that, but this was right for the sturdy sort of cookie they are.

I'd snitched a little dough before popping them into the oven---I know, I know, I could be paralyzed for life or even die of salmonella poisoning. I know that in this day & age, we are absolutely not allowed to eat raw cookie dough. But I've been doing it since I was a little kid and I figure I might as well keep doing it. There are enough risky behaviors I don't indulge in that I figure I can toss back a smidgeon of raw egg in cookie dough every now and then. I have promised my wife that I won't eat pre-packaged cookie dough raw, but she did not extract the same promise regarding from-scratch dough. I figure I'm grandfathered in. Anyway, I was astounded to discover that the dough actually tasted good. Not just not revolting, but good. Huh. How about that? And when the cookies came out of the oven, they smelled good. I exercised admirable restraint in not actually eating one until I opened the container at book group (okay, it doesn't really count as restraint when you're simply not tempted). I'd managed to get them there still warm. Brenda didn't even want us to eat her cookies after she saw mine. I thought that was completely silly, as she'd brought my absolute favorite, plain old chocolate chip, so I brought one home for later. Jeannene ate I don't know how many and had no room for Sue's gazpacho (although she did have a nice, big helping of my split pea soup). I had the one and was perfectly happy---and I managed to give most of them away. Jeannene will be happy to see, though, that there are still a few left for her snack at work tomorrow.

I really liked the butterscotch-y undertones and I found that I didn't object to the wide variety of ingredients. Normally, I don't like cookies with a bunch of different flavors, but these were pretty good. I wouldn't make them on purpose for me, but for people who do like ingredient overload, they would probably be the bomb diggity.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

La Luna Cooks Mrs. Yoder: Hickory Nut Cake

Another "thank goodness for Google" night in the kitchen! Going to make the cake tonight, I had whipped up a gorgeous meringue, all shining, glossy white, to fold into the dry ingredients. Next, I began to mix the dry ingredients for my cake. But, "where on earth has my baking powder got to?" Hmm. So, I quick looked up a sub for baking powder. Baking soda plus cream of tartar plus cornstarch? Okay, I can definitely do that! I have that big ol' yellow tub of Argo & I know I saw cream of tartar 2 days ago.

Except, the big yellow tub was nowhere to be found. I dismantled the baking shelf. I rummaged through the staples shelf. I scanned the other shelves. I pulled out the cake decorating shelf and the auxiliary spice shelf. I managed to spill most of an opened box of stelline all over the pantry floor. Now, baking powder and cornstarch are things I am never without in my kitchen. When I start to get low, just like I do with garlic or olive oil, I put them on the grocery list right away. However, something has happened. So, I searched "baking powder subs" again and discovered that I could use 1/4 tsp. baking soda and 1 tsp. vinegar for each tsp. of baking powder. Whew! I definitely had those on hand.

The other little funkiness with this recipe, requiring substitution, was that hickory nuts are not so easy to come by for us suburbanites. Had we been at my mama's, it would have been another matter altogether. In fact, she even mentioned on the phone today that I could just put off this cake until she could get some hickory nuts to me. It appears, however, that pecans are a sort of hickory nut. Apparently, hickories are more intensely flavored, with a higher note. My mom mentioned that her friend, Robin, has grafted hickory onto pecan trees (or vice versa) and was interested to know that they are related. I wonder what those nuts are like. Anyway, my hickory nut cake became pecan cake.

And then there was the question of whether to use vanilla or maple flavoring and how much of that? The recipe only calls for an unspecified amount of either vanilla or maple. I chose maple, since it seemed a nice compliment for the nuts. Since I usually toss about 2 tsp. of vanilla into a batter, that's what I chose for the maple. It added a lovely nutty color to the lily white batter. Oh, incidentally, I am very proud of myself for actually using cake flour. I am a lazy baker and usually just use all-purpose flour for everything. It is, after all, "all-purpose." But I happened to have a box of King Arthur cake flour knocking about the kitchen. I had a terrible fear, as I was mixing up the batter, that I would discover that King Arthur really is hands-down much more awesome than any other flour and that cake flour really does make a difference.

Before I could discover whether that was true, however, there was the problem of baking. Mrs. Hershberger does give the baking temp (350), but doesn't specify a time. As for pans, well, you have a couple of options, either loaf or layer pans. How many of each, she doesn't say. So, I greased 2 loaf pans and divided the batter between them. It filled them halfway, which seemed about right. As for baking time, I checked them when Grandma Sadie's kitchen timer told me it had been 25 minutes. The top was beginning to get a pale toasty brown, but I could tell pulling the rack out that it was still a little squidgy. The toothpick test confirmed that, so I slid them back in for another 10 minutes.

My pecan cake turned out to be beautiful, almost the same light brown as pecan shells, with tiny, airy bubbles all over the top. The flavor is light, with a very subtle hint of maple and delicate flecks of nut throughout. The texture, likewise, is fairly delicate. I think it would be perfect with afternoon tea, probably something fairly assertive, like Earl Grey, for contrast.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

What I Am Cooking, September 2014

In case you need some inspiration, here are the dinners I have planned for September, along with a few other things:

Lemon-mint chicken, lemon cappellini, parmesan almond green beans, cinnamon applesauce, wheat oatmeal bread

Muffuletta pizza, green salad, fruit, hickory nut cake

Split pea soup & oatmeal chip cookies (for my book group potluck)

Ghivetch (Romanian summer vegetable stew), rolls, fruit

Hot chicken salad, cucumber & onion salad, fruit, apple pudding

Taco salad, green salad, fruit salad

BBQ hamburgers (the rest to be chosen by my sweetheart)

Steak Diane, Boursin potatoes, green salad, minted strawberries with white wine

Chicken paella, green salad, fruit

Pizza (with sauce from scratch), green salad, fruit

Caramelized onion meatloaf, scallion mashed potatoes, peas, 2-hour buns

Cheesy chili dog bake & pumpkin spread with gingersnaps (for our Game Night potluck)

Chicken piccata salad, sautéed kale with garlic, shallots, & capers, fruit, lazy wife cake

Pumpkin waffles, bacon, fruit, date cookies

Marinated flank steak, Italian potato salad, green salad with basil dressing, eggnog pie

Ratatoûille, pear harvest salad, rolls

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn, salad

Cream of broccoli soup (for my First Rainy Day of Fall tradition)

Peanut butter pie

Eggs Benedict

Bean with bacon soup

Amish breakfast cereal


Red ribbon punch

Rhubarb crunch


Roasted curly kale

Fruit with dip

Apples in maple syrup

Veggies with cucumber dip & amaretto slush for Friday Cocktail Hour

Italian Deviled Eggs & green apple martinis for FCH

Garlic pretzels & Blue Christmases for FCH

La Luna Cooks Mrs. Yoder: Wheat Oatmeal Bread

Recipe #1 was really fun to make & has made the house smell wondrous! It's fortunate that I know a little about bread-baking, though, because the instructions did not include to grease the loaf pans. I suspect that step is fairly important, although perhaps not. I am glad I did because my loaves, which are a little misshapen and puffy, slid right out of the pans with no sticking issues. The recipe said it makes "3 or 4 loaves," an imprecision that drives me a little nuts, given that loaf size dictates baking time. I suspect I will have to learn to live with imprecision with this cookbook!

I intended to cut the recipe in half so that I would only have one or two loaves. I was doing just fine until the time came to put in the water. At that moment, I utterly forgot I was halving the recipe and put 3 cups of water in with the other ingredients. I then came to the instruction to knead the dough. I took off my wedding rings and stuck my hands into the glop. I thought, "Surely, this isn't right!" Then, I remembered. I remembered carefully halving everything else. Oops! So, I doubled the other ingredients, bloomed some more yeast in warm water, and thought, "Well, since I omitted the lecithin, I will go ahead & add an egg." A Google search had informed me that egg makes a good sub for lecithin, as both are emulsifiers. I also figured that, since the other lecithin recipe says it's optional, it wouldn't be the end of the world if I left it out. I think the combination of the egg and the robust molasses made for a really rich color, so I'm glad I used the egg.

With the proper amount of everything, the dough was just right for kneading. I was a little worried that it wouldn't rise well, but it rose beautifully. The second rising went much more quickly than I had expected and the loaves were pretty big going into the oven. Then, the wait & the luscious smell of freshly baked bread wafting up to the bedroom as I read my sweetheart to sleep. And, just now, the thumping on the bottoms of the loaves, the eyeballing of the color, the popping the loaves back in for just a few more minutes. I suspect I should have divided the dough into 4 even balls, like you do with cookie dough, before forming the loaves. I didn't even think of it & Mrs. Weaver, whose recipe it is, didn't suggest it. Ah, well.

I ended up thumping & returning to the oven more times than I would have expected, but the piece the process yielded up for my midnight snack was delicious. An end piece, it was crunchy on the outside and tender inside. With a smidge bit of apple butter, it was especially tasty.  I would definitely make this one again. We'll be sending one loaf to Jeannene's plant to be shared there and I'll take one to the neighbor who kept my flowers yesterday when the delivery person got no answer at our place. Hopefully, she's not a bread expert! The third loaf will remain at home, for sandwiches and toast. I may need to buy some more apple butter.

La Luna Cooks Mrs. Yoder: A Beginning

Over the weekend, the wife and I were at a bed & breakfast near Amish country and picked up a new cookbook, to add to the bajillion others clamoring for shelf space in our home. It's a small press publication out of Holmes County, Ohio, and we bought it along with such items as butter flavoring and cheese popcorn seasoning and alphabet pasta and cupcake polka dots and locally made salami. As we looked through it in our B&B room, I idly said that it'd be fun to cook right through it, as with Julie & Julia. Jeannene thought the idea was brilliant and we decided to do it---maybe even blog about it. So here I am before you, vowing to cook right through Cooking with the Horse & Buggy People: a Collection of Over 600 Favorite Amish Recipes from the Heart of Holmes County.

Immediately after I decided to do this, though, I realized there was a significant problem. 331 bread (many of them sweet breads), cake, cookie, pie, and other dessert recipes before we even get to salads (the majority of which involve Jell-o or Cool Whip or both). Hmm. Well. So, I instead decided to cook through the book by making the first thing in the "Breads" section on day 1, the first thing in the "Cakes" section on day 2, and so forth. There is also the problem of the entire canning section, when I am not at all a canner. I plan to skip that section altogether, punking out in a way that Julie would never have allowed herself to do. I am also skipping the "Home Remedies & Preparing Wild Game" section because I am not at all committed enough to do fried frog legs (although I have eaten them), roasted rabbit (because Thumper), or roasted grouse (because, where the heck does one obtain grouse when one is not a hunter?). I might brave the roasted goose, if I get to feeling particularly ambitious.

I have also looked at a number of the recipes in the sections I am doing and have decided I am probably not going to be pressure cooking, although friends assure me that while old-fashioned pressure cookers=scary, new-fangled ones="hot damn"! Then, there comes the incessant calling for "oleo." Very few of these recipes call for actual butter. And I am not going to be incorporating margarine into my cooking. Therefore, I will be subbing butter when I see "oleo." There will be some other substitutions along the way, I am sure, although I will go along with Velveeta. In fact, the bread recipe I am due to make today calls for a tablespoon of lecithin. Well, since the only other recipe I see calling for lecithin, also a bread recipe, says it's optional, I don't want to buy it. After doing a bit of research, I have discovered that egg yolk can be subbed, so that's how I'm going to try it. I have to say, I am rather surprised by how very many processed foods are in the cookbook. I kind of assumed it would be a great deal more from scratchy than it is.

Still other recipes have the problem of being, um, a little vague. Here is a recipe, from the "Cookies" section, for "Patties":
2 eggs
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
1 c. flour (or more)
Stir eggs well with fork and add sugar. Add flour and milk alternately. A smooth batter is important.

That's the entire recipe. Yup. All of it. Oh, Mrs. Barkman, what on earth do I do next with your patties? My guess would be that I drop the batter on cookie sheets & bake them. We'll see what happens when I get to those. Most of the others don't have any cooking times or guidelines for what it should look like/feel like when done. I will do my best with those. I am not a baker.

So, this week's recipes are:
Today-Wheat oatmeal bread (I am afraid of bread-making. I suspect that by the end of this project, I will not be. I plan to channel my mother, who loves making bread, as I learn.)
Tomorrow-Hickory Nut Cake (If I can't find hickory nuts, I have learned that pecans are a sort of hickory nut. Too bad I don't live closer to my ma, whose home is called Hickory Hill due to all the hickories there. Walking around their yard, you have to be careful not to twist an ankle on all the nuts!)
Friday-Oatmeal chip cookies

I am giving myself weekends off. I suspect I will need them! We will also likely be giving away a decent portion of the food, since there are only two of us. I am certain friends, neighbors, kids, & co-workers won't mind having some bread or pie turn up.