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.

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