Sunday, December 09, 2007

I am alive.....

It has been too long since I've posted a note here. Life never seems to get less busy. The Compassion Garden is done, it is snowy outside and I am spending my days baking bread. My thoughts turn to cooking and so I thought I would update this blog.

A year ago, a friend gave me a subscription to Nutrition Action. I love the newsletter! It has such important information and good advice. They recently recommended the instant multi grain cereal called Simple Harvest. I love multi grain things and actually went to check it out at the grocery store. It was about $3.50, so I didn't buy any. Instead I bought some 10-grain hot cereal at the Amish store. Later that day I went to our local outlet store and wouldn't you know......they had a huge stock of Simple Harvest: brown sugar and pecan; vanilla, almond and honey and apple and cinnamon....a package of 8 for $1.50. It was still more expensive than the less processed grains from the Amish, but it was reasonable enough for me to try. It is an instant cereal you just add hot water to or put in the microwave. So I bought some and was quite pleased. Nutrition Action did not steer me wrong.

It is a bit sweet like they said, so the second time I used it I mixed it with the other 10-grain cereal I bought from the Amish. I made it like I do steel cut oats: 1 cup of grain placed in 4 cups of boiling water, turn off the heat and let sit overnight. The next morning I place a serving in the microwave for a minute and it is ready to eat. I store the rest in the fridge and heat it up most mornings. I thought I would share my latest local "find" thanks to Nutrition Action!

It is once again bread season around our home. I love December just for the bread making. I wish I had the discipline to bake bread every week and not just sporadically through the year like I normally do. Baking 10 loaves everyday these days to deliver to people in our meeting makes me love a month I usually hate. I hate the commercialization of Christmas. Maybe that is why I like making and baking bread. It has little to do with shopping and presents. It has everything to do with friends and fellowship and sharing life through the breaking of bread. I will be making cinnamon rolls on Saturday Dec. 22 for those who want to join me at the church. My tradition is to serve cinnamon rolls after meeting for worship on the Sunday before Christmas. Those who join me to help make cinnamon rolls get to take a pan home for their families.....a fair trade?

That is it for now......

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Small Farms,Small Farmers, and Angel Food

Tony and Marsha helping me celebrate my 52nd birthday.

Okay, Tony isn’t small. He’s way over 6 feet tall. And his farm isn’t exactly small, but in this day and age, it is considered a small family farm.

Several thoughts running through my mind crashed together today and it is time to post a blog. I’ve been thinking about the cow Tony is growing for me 5 miles from my home that will soon be slaughtered (photo soon….of the cow and not the slaughter….). Several weeks ago as I shopped at the local Aldi’s store (which, by the way, has decided not to close – leaving Walmart with some competition) a customer brought back a package of hamburger. I was an aisle away from this woman when I smelled the bad meat. I listened to the customer and the clerk talk about how they couldn’t understand how the meat looked so good yet smelled so putrid. I thought about interrupting with comments on the use of preservatives and additives…..but I remained silent and overwhelmed by the smell. I’m thankful for my “small” farmer feeding a cow and providing me with meat that has no additives and preservatives. And that it all is happening within a 10 mile radius of where I live and where I will cook the meat.

These last few months I’ve been hearing a lot about Angel Food Ministry. More and more churches in our area are becoming involved in bringing groceries from Georgia into our community. For $25 (cash or food stamps) people can order a medium size box of frozen and fresh food that would feed a family of 4 for a week or a single elderly person for a month. Included in this month’s box is chicken and stuffing bake dinner, hamburger steaks, lasagna dinner, breaded frying chicken, philly steak portions, popcorn chicken, hot dogs, bean soup, mac and cheese, steak cut fries, peas and carrots, turnip greens, sliced pears, pineapple chunks, peanut butter, waffles and a dessert. I am told the groceries sell for a retail value of up to $50.

I’ve been uneasy about this ministry. I priced similar items at our local Aldi’s store and Angel Tree does save you money. But, in a world where most of our food travels 1,800 to 2,000 miles to reach our tables, in a world where our local grocery stores cannot survive, and in a world where we are nutritionally bankrupt because of chemicals additives and highly processed food, I wonder about the wisdom of encouraging the use of the Angel Food ministry. The food comes from hundreds of miles outside our community, most of it is processed food, and it is competition for our local grocery stores (not that I don’t want Walmart to have competition!) I understand many people in our community need access to cheap, good food. But they don’t need access or encouragement to cheap processed, chemically laden foods, nor foods that discourage us from supporting local businesses or farmers. If we as a Christian community desire to meet the needs of those in our community who struggle, are there better ways, more holistic/Christian ways to meet those needs?

A place to start is Bread for the World. The focus for its current letter writing campaign is small farms. This year the US Congress will renew the farm bill for another 5 years. The current bill should be improved to provide better and broader support for U.S. farmers, strengthen communities in rural America, help hungry people in this country afford a sufficient and nutritious diet, and support the efforts of small-scale farmers in developing countries to sell their crops and feed their families—all things that the current farm bill falls short of doing. Our monthly Bread for the World group will write letters to our congressmen asking for their support in creating a bill that cares for small farmers like Tony and those who live with food insecurity in America and around the world.

I am concerned that the ministry to the food insecure through a warehouse 600 miles away could do harm. That it could put the local independent grocery store out of business. That it could keep us from developing local ways to acquire and share good, healthy affordable food. That it could discourage people from using or growing for local farmers markets. That we will be tempted to avoid the hard work of finding local, lasting ways to provide relief for those in our communities who struggle with food insecurity. Hungry people are important to God and should be important to our congress, to our local churches, and to our small farmers. Tony spends his life growing food a few miles from my home to feed people. I somehow feel it could be disrespectful to order food from Georgia or to encourage anyone else to do so in light of that fact.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Snow Day!!!

It started snowing early this morning and by 7 AM we had a blizzard warning. This photo was taken at 3:30 PM and by 5 PM 13 inches of snow had fallen. We expect it to keep snowing until way past midnight and the prediction is that tomorrow will be worse with blowing snow. What a day! I’ve had time to clean the fridge and pantry, do some website stuff, and get these two recipes typed (see previous post). I thank God for the day at home, but mostly for the day at home with the luxury of electricity, food, and heat. I am humbled by these gifts when many are without.


This salad was introduced to me by our friend, Stan, this past month when we were visiting in the Northwest. Stan and his wife have been one of my greatest inspirations for cooking for almost 30 years. They taught us how to make bread, to garden, to make salads, and most of all, to offer hospitality with flair. I admire them greatly and am thankful for their mentorship in all things, especially service and ministry.

I like this salad for several reasons. It is low fat with no dressing, it keeps well for several days in the fridge, and most of all, it reminds me of a fresh chutney I made for grilled tilapia in Uganda. You are free to use whatever amounts of veggies you have on hand, if you like something particularly well, add more, but please include the jicima, pineapple, peppers, cilantro and ginger…..they are the flavor and texture base for this large, wonderful salad. Try it, you’ll love it. To date, I’ve not indulged in the grape tomatoes in the salad…..I just can’t imagine tomatoes and pineapple together, but Stan insists the tomatoes are perfect. I’ll give in soon.

1 or 2 Jicimas (Mexican potato) peeled, and sliced into matchsticks
A yellow, red and green pepper, diced or cut into matchsticks
sugar peapods
carrots, diced, matchsticks, or I use a peeler to make thin slices
fresh cilantro leaves
1 fresh pineapple, peeled and diced
1 bag of Spring Mix lettuce
1 cup craisins
2 inches of fresh gingerroot, finely diced
celery, diced
grape tomatoes

This salad made two very large bowls. As I wrote, it keeps well in the fridge for several days and actually the flavors intensify as it sits.

I divided the ingredients into two batches: 1 batch with jicima, peppers, pineapple, craisins, and gingerroot, and another batch with the spring mix, carrots, pea pods, celery, and cilantro leaves. I stored the two batches separtely. I wanted to use the salad for 2 different meals and mixed the salad together ½ at a time before each meal. Mix batches together several hours before the meal. Other ingredients that have been added: avocados and apples.

Salt-rising bread

Salt-rising bread is one of the oldest breads in this country. It has an unusual flavor and a very smooth texture. It is a remarkable bread that many people love and many buy on a regular basis. A bakery in Muncie makes salt-rising bread every week on Wednesday and Friday.

It is an unpredictable bread. But it is a worthy recipe,so give it a try.

To keep the starter at a steady temperature, which the recipe requires, leave it in an electric oven with the light on--this will provide just enough warmth--or in a gas oven with the pilot light on.

The foam that forms may not be one, two, or three inches in thickness, but if it FOAMS at all make the loaf and see what happens. Good luck!

For the salt-rising starter:
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 medium potato, peeled and sliced thin
2 tablespoons white or yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix the starter ingredients and pour into a 2-quart jar or a deep bowl that has been rinsed well with hot water. Cover with a lid or plate. Put the jar into a larger bowl or pan and surround with boiling water. Cover the large bowl with plastic or a towel, and cover this with three or four towels or a blanket. It should stand at a temperature of 100 degrees when the mixture is finally foaming. The electric oven turned to warm will provide the right temperature, and so will a gas range with a pilot light on. In either case, let the starter stand about 12 hours, or until the top is covered with 1/2 to 1 inch of foam. Sometimes it will take longer to foam, even 24 hours, but continue to keep it warm.

Liquid from starter (above)
1/2 cup warm water (100 to 115 degrees, approximately)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup undiluted evaporated milk or 1/2 cup lukewarm whole milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose or hard-wheat flour

Let the liquid from the potato starter drip through a strainer into a mixing bowl, and then pour the warm water through the potatoes, pressing out as much liquid as possible. Discard the potatoes.

Add to the drained liquid the soda, milk, melted butter, and salt, mixing well.
Stir in 2 cups of the flour and beat until very smooth. Stir in the remaining flour, a cup at a time, until a soft dough is formed, using up to 4 1/2 cups.
Put a cup of flour on the bread board and turn the dough onto it. Sprinkle a little of the flour on top of the dough and knead lightly for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the dough is smooth but still soft.

Divide the dough and shape into two loaves (this bread does not have a rising between the kneading and the shaping).

Place in well-buttered bread pans, brush the top of each loaf with melted butter, cover, and place in a warm, draft-free place to rise until doubled in bulk. (This will take longer than regular bread--as long as 4 to 5 hours, maybe more.)

Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the loaves shrink from the sides of the pans. Remove from pans to cool.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

An Old Fashioned Church Supper......

“Chicken, dumplings, gravy, salt rising bread and every thing else good to eat.”

On Friday evening, Feb. 9, 2007, Anna Crumley-Effinger, an Earlham senior, presented a paper she wrote for a class on Indiana Yearly Meeting church architecture. Her focus was on the Winchester Friends Meetinghouse and its history. She did an excellent job presenting her paper and created good interest in the heritage of our meetinghouse. It is the oldest church building in Winchester, and built in 1898, was one of the first Indiana Yearly Meeting meetinghouses to change from the traditional Quaker architecture to a building with a focus on a platform and Sunday School classrooms that flow into the worship area.

An old fashioned church dinner was recreated for the evening, using as the source a newspaper article reporting on a meal served by the Ladies Aid Society of Winchester Friends in March of 1905.

The menu:

Chicken and dumplings (chefs- Marcella Bolinger McHolland and Pam)
mashed potatoes (chef-Pam)
corn (chef-Pam)
green beans (chef-Pam)
bread and butter pickles (chef-Pam)
coleslaw (chef-Pam)
deviled eggs (chef-Marcella Bolinger McHolland)
salt-rising bread*(chef –Pam)
pumpkin pie (chef-Pam)
tapioca pudding (chef-Pam)

All the above, plus a 21st century salad**, for the old fashioned price of 25 cents per person. Over 40 people gathered for the evening of fellowship and to listen to Anna’s presentation. It was a great evening and I had an incredible amount of fun planning it.

Compare the above menu to the menu below that was reported in Britain's Guardian newspaper this week under the heading: The World’s Most Expensive Meal. This dinner cost $30,000 per person, not including tip:

Crème brûlée of foie gras with Tonga beans
Alain Soliveres (chef)
1990 Louis Roederer Cristal (wine)

Tartar of Kobe beef with Imperial Beluga caviar and Belons oyster
Antoine Westermann (chef)
1995 Krug Clos du Mesnil (wine)

Mousseline of pattes rouges crayfish with morel mushroom infusion
Alain Soliveres (chef)
2000 Corton-Charlemagne, Domaine Jean François Coche-Dury(wine)

Tarte Fine with scallops and black truffle
Antoine Westermann (chef)
1996 Le Montrachet, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (wine)

Lobster Osso Buczco
Jean-Michel Lorain (chef)
1985 Romanée-Conti, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (wine)

Ravioli with guinea fowl and burrata cheese, veal reduction
Annie Feolde (chef)
1961 Château Palmer (wine)

Saddle of lamb "Léonel"
Marc Meneau (chef)
1959 Château Mouton Rothschild (wine)

Sorbet "Dom Pérignon"
Supreme of pigeon en croute with cèpes mushroom sauce and cipollotti
Heinz Winkler (chef)
1961 Château Haut-Brion (wine)

Veal cheeks with Périgord truffles
Heinz Winkler (chef)
1955 Château Latour (wine)

Imperial gingerbread pyramid with caramel and salted butter ice-cream
Jean-Michel Lorain (chef)
1967 Château d'Yquem (wine)

I’m sure if I’d served wine, I would have had to charge 50 cents………

You’ve got to wonder about the world we live in today.

* Recipe for salt rising bread will be in a future post.
**Recipe for the “salad to end all salads” from my friend Stan, will also follow soon…..I made the salad because I found all the “white” in the meal overwhelming!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Bread, bread, and more bread.....

When Ron and I traveled through Holland in 1988, we visited Dutch friends we worked with in Sudan. We traveled by train and planned to make our visit quite short in order to catch the next train. Johan and Carla planned for us to stay for lunch. We hated to be a burden, but Johan insisted that it wasn’t trouble to include us and that we would be having “a typical Dutch meal: bread, bread and more bread.”

It was a wonderful meal, and a wonderful Dutch meal with cheese, meat, and butter and good hearty bread. In our carb-phobic culture, I am sad that we don’t center more of our meals on the staff of life. We tend to add it to an already full menu and rarely do we base our meal (with the exception of sandwiches) on bread. Maybe the commercial mass produced bread is not a worthy base for a decent meal.

I love bread. And I love making bread. I am happy it is finally bread baking season once again. The season started with 100 whole wheat health rolls made for the meeting’s Holiday Dinner last Sunday. Deborah asked for the recipe and it is included below. This week we’ve managed to make and deliver over 35 loaves of whole grain bread (see previous blog post for December 2005). The church smells wonderful and we are blessed with the opportunity to visit many friends this week. I won’t claim that our bread is better than commercial bread, but it is handmade with organic whole grains and natural ingredients. Our goal is to make a bread worthy of a good Dutch meal…….

Whole Wheat Health Rolls
(Based on a recipe from Living magazine)

½ c. bulgur wheat
1 c. milk, warm
1 pkg. dry yeast
½ c. honey
2 large eggs, beaten
½ c. oatmeal or 7 grain mix rolled cereal
1 ½ c. whole wheat flour
1 t. ground pepper
1 T. salt
2 ½ to 3 ½ c. flour
2 T. or more olive oil
3 T. mixed seeds (sesame, poppy seeds, flax seed)
1 T. flaky sea salt
Place bulgur in pan with 2 c. water and bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cook until bulghur is tender and water absorbed, 12-25 minutes. Let cool. In mixer bowl mix warm milk, honey and yeast. Set aside until foamy, 5-6 minutes. On low speed add eggs, oatmeal, whole wheat flour, pepper, salt, 2 T. olive oil, and cooled bulgur. Add enough flour to make a soft, sticky dough and with a hook, knead for about 3 minutes. Brush inside of bowl with olive oil and place dough in bowl, brush with more olive oil and cover with plastic, let rise until double, 1 -2 hours. Generously oil 8 inch round pans and divide dough in half, making 11 portions for each of 2 pans. Brush tops with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap to rise, 20-25 minutes. Bake 375 degrees, sprinkle tops with seeds and salt and bake until dark golden brown, 20-22 minutes. Cool for 12 minutes before removing from pan.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My favorite food in the world........

Lalibela Restaurant
Washington, DC

A trip to Washinton DC isn't complete without a meal at Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant. We discovered it on our first trip to the Annual Friends Committee on National Legislation Board Meeting in 2001. It is probably the most authnitic Ethiopian food we've had in America. The photo makes it look like a pile of mixed up food. Actually it is injera (a large, soft, spongy, slightly sour pancake used as a utensil to scoop up sauces and meat). The photo includes doro wat (chicken and an egg in a very spicy sauce), tibbs (roasted meat with onions and peppers), spicy lentils, split yellow peas, sauteed spinach, alecha (sauteed cabbage, potatoes, and carrots) and a tomato salad. Ellen, JC and Laura joined us for the meal after the worship service on Sunday in DC. It is nice to be home once again, and nice to get back to a regular routine. The focus now is Thanksgiving and it seems everywhere I look there is information about preparations for the big meal a week from today. Nothing seems to compare to a communal Ethiopian lunch with friends..........I think I've already had my Thanksgiving meal.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

When 20% off really isn't a bargain......

Empty isles at our local Marsh store. This week they are selling out everything in the store for 20% off. It will never be a bargain. 48 people are losing their job, another huge "big-box" now stands empty in Winchester, we have no place besides Walmart to buy fresh produce (I'm not sure what they sell is really "fresh"). The preprinted signs throughout the entire store that say "we value you" feel like a mockery to customers.

Grocery stores have always been an important part of my life. My grandparents owned and operated Kampus Korner grocery for many years right next to Northwest Nazarene College in Nampa, Idaho. My childhood jobs included spending time with them marking individual prices on groceries, learning how to ring up items on the ancient cash register and learning how to make change. It was a sad day when they finally closed the grocery. I now understand the loss to our nation and our culture by the closure of family owned small grocery stores and the dangers of depending on big-box stores.

As I walked through the store today talking to the employees and expressing my sadness over the loss of their jobs, I ran into other customers who were doing the same. I spent more time talking to people today than I did shopping. That is one thing I will miss the most, the opportunity to connect to our community through our local grocery store. I'm sure it will happen at Walmart, but there are many of us in this community who will not shop there. In addition to losing Marsh, I will be losing a connection to our community that brought me joy.

No matter how much I saved today on brussel sprouts, black-eyed peas, parsnips and dried will never be a bargain.