Saturday, December 26, 2009

The joys of a well-stocked kitchen...

It's always a lovely treat to be in someone else's kitchen, especially when I know where everything is, and everything is (more or less) neat and tidy.  Cooking seems to come more easily (helpful), and the cook is happier (vital!)

41.  Sweet-Sour Beets, pg. 223

Akin to a dish known in some places as Harvard Beets, Sweet-Sour Beets is a lightly dressed-up version of cooked beets.  With a vinegar/sugar sauce, these beets make a nice side dish with enough personality to be recognized in its own right.

I peeled and grated about 2 1/2 c. of gold and chiogga beets (because 1 or 2 beets is a bit vague) and cooked them in the butter for about 20 minutes.  If I make these in the future, I would probably simply cook the beets whole, then peel them, and either slice, grate or chop them.  Grating the beets raw, while providing a nice presentation, does take a bit of time, and having to peel before cooking is a royal pain.

Overall:  3 out of 5  A nice, traditional dish.  Works its beet-y magic, but probably won't wow at a dinner party.

On a side note:  I just remade Cream of Cauliflower Soup, and found that by using just a cup more stock in addition to what I used for steaming the cauli. (and tonight, turnips and jerusalem artichokes) but using all the milk really makes a smooth, creamy soup.  I used a hand blender to blend the entire soup, and the result was beautiful!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas! 

Family time inevitably lends itself to much food preparation and subsequent gorging (for those of us with less self-control...)  It's exciting to see who brings what dish, and to eye which will be predictably super tasty. :)

Yesterday morning, one of my brothers showed up at my parents' house with two freshly baked loaves of Pilgrim's Bread.  His loaves were beautifully browned and rounded, and I had a hunch that restraining myself from snacking in the hours leading up to our family meal would mean the chance to snag an extra slice without feeling too guilty. :)  Needless to say, the bread was superb and I'm keeping tabs on the extra loaf in the kitchen...

A couple weeks ago, I, too, had made up this recipe (and then forgotten to write about could I?!) 

40.  Pilgrim's Bread, pg. 58

Though I was poked fun at for gushing to my siblings yesterday about how this bread "is such a good slicer", it remains absolutely true that Pilgrim's Bread is one of the best out there for slicing from my experience.  The cornmeal gives the dough more structure while not adding too much of a corny taste.  And while I had misplaced my rye flour when I made it (I really do these things happen? I'm not sure...), last night's sure dose of rye does give the loaf a more complex taste, and it would be a sad day if I missed putting it in again.  When I made my batch, in place of the rye, I used wheat germ, and it still turned out very satisfactorily.

If you're a repeat bread baker and looking for results, I recommend adding vital wheat gluten and potato starch flour to your bread doughs.  The vital wheat gluten helps the bread rise better and increases shelf life.  The potato starch flour makes a tender crumb.  Neither are essential, but both do nice things to enhance your bread.

This dough is a bit softer and lighter than the oatmeal bread, so be careful when moving the raised loaves into the oven for baking.  I, unfortunately, jarred one of mine, and it fell a bit when I put it in the oven. 

Overall: 4.4 out of 5  A great multi-grain bread that keeps its shape!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

39.  Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies, pg. 287

This page, by far, is the most disheveled in my copy of MWL, and entirely due to this recipe.  I've made this recipe many times and have rarely been disappointed (minus those few times I tried substituting applesauce for ALL the shortening, and/or using a banana instead of the eggs...remember that one, Mom? :))  This recipe brings together the best of all of the cookie world, in my opinion.  Chocolate, oats, and peanut butter.  Yum.

I almost always use all veg. shortening, though occasionally will split it with butter.  (Never have and never will use lard, as it suggests.  Sick.)  Because I like peanut butter a lot, I typically dump in a very hearty 1/4 c., probably more towards 1/3 c.  Using crunchy peanut butter does make a more dramatic entrance for the PB flavors, but for a more subtle approach, use creamy.

I'm not a huge nut-in-cookie fan, so have never tried adding extra nuts, but I'm sure making this cookie a bit more divine (for you nut fans) will not pose a hardship on your tastebuds.

Baking time seems to be a bit longer -- anywhere from 12-15 minutes from my experience.

Overall: 5 out of 5  A new classic which never fails.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

[[Another review from Amanda Maust, who lives and works in the Democratic Republic of Congo! Thanks!!]]

38.  Molasses Crinkles, pg. 290
I have been craving molasses crinkles for some time now but had been unable to find molasses anywhere in DRC.  Although I had been told it could be found in several stores and the market I was unable to actually find any.  Now I'm doubting that it really can be found.

However, a woman that lives on campus has a friend that lives near a sugar refinery and the refinery throws away molasses, which is a biproduct of the refining process.  Waste to some equals deliciousness to me!  Long story short...I procured a liter of molasses for about a buck and thus began a weekend of molasses cooking craziness.

The molasses crinkles in More With Less are wonderful and I have even given out this recipe to several people after making them here.  These are the only things I do differently with the recipe:

-I use butter instead of shortening
-Here I have omitted the ground cloves because I don't have any
-Only bake for 8 minutes if you want a chewy cookie, and I do!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Birthdays are great occasions for cooking special meals, and Husband's birthday on Saturday was no exception.  We were fortunate to have my parents visiting for the weekend, which meant more mouths to feed (a good thing in a home where I tend to make too much and then we have too many leftovers!)  The morning started with...

36.  Apple Walnut Pancakes, pg. 74

One benefit of being an employee of Lancaster Farm Fresh is the exposure to new fruits and vegetables.  One particular apple has found its way into my list of favorites -- Gold Rush.  Initially, for those of you who are like me, you may squirm at the word "Gold" when attached to an apple.  I've never been a fan of Golden Delicious apples with their grainy, supposedly sweet flesh.  But Gold Rush?  Would they be different?

After several customers at our farm stand at Lancaster's Central Market asked us to describe the apples, I decided to take a stab at educating myself with some personal experience with one.  One bite in, and I was sold.  Crisp and smooth, sweet but with a definite tang, Gold Rush were determined Tasty!

With a few on hand and a pancake breakfast needing to be made, I didn't hesitate to use them.  I'm pretty sure I've had these pancakes before with sweeter apples, and think that using a sweet-tart apple is actually the way to go.  After toasting a few pecans (subbed for walnut) in the frying pan, the batter was off and running.  Fairly standard as a mix, and as long as you don't overmix these guys turn out great, topped with maple syrup.

Overall:  4.7 out of 5  A hearty pancake that will stick to your ribs until mid-afternoon.  

Dinner inevitably began to approach, and since Husband had requested steak for his meal, I jumped at the chance to make for the accompanying dish...

37.  Mashed Potato Casserole, pg. 230

Most of us have probably had mashed potatoes baked in some fashion.  This recipe is likely very similar to whatever you're familiar with.

Opting for a more traditional approach, I nixed the entire herb and spinach section.  I like my mashed potatoes to taste like potatoes, and with a side salad we were still guaranteed to get greens in the meal.  Once the potatoes were mixed, I did top it off with feta cheese instead of cheddar, which was complimentary but not overpowering.

I would make potatoes like this every night if I could.  And they're not terrible for you if you leave the skins on....right? :)

Again, this is one of those great recipes that can be tweaked to your liking.

Overall: 5 out of 5  It's buttery, simple mashed potatoes.  That should say it all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Though our cabinets and appliances have not arrived yet (and seem to be MIA), and though our 'kitchen" is primitive by all standards (we may propose our sad case to Mennonite Disaster Service) our digestion must go on.  Thankfully, I'm not cooking over a little fire pit, but sometimes it seems just as bad... :)

The first recipe isn't even a recipe...

34.  Pg. 222  Under 'vegetable discoveries'

Having just baked off a kabocha squash (my new favorite!) with no real plan for it, I was happy to find this "throw-whatever-in" idea to use some of it.  I sauteed a yellow onion, a clove or two of garlic, and then tossed in about a half pound of mushrooms.  When all were done cooking, I dumped in a big spoonful of pumpkin (chunked, not pureed, unless you want a more soupy texture) and two cups or so of canned tomatoes with liquid.  Let it cook until hot, add either roasted peanuts or a tablespoon or two of peanut butter, and season with cumin, curry powder, and cayenne (if so inclined).  Serve!

Overall:  4.5 out of 5  Use your creative energies to turn this into Your dish! :)

35.  Chinese Meatballs, pg. 170

But Valerie!  We thought you were vegetarian!

True, I normally am.  But this is for MWL.  And it was "happy" beef from a Lancaster County cow.  Thanks, cow!

We ignored the first half of the recipe where they list what vegetables you should fry.  If you're planning on feeding 8, then, yes, you will need all the veggies.  But for the two of us, we stuck to the meat and sauce part, and paired it with rice.

The sauce, a traditional sweet and sour sauce, was simple and was whipped up while the meat was frying.  We used a small can of crushed pineapple and dumped all of it into the sauce, which produced a sweeter sauce that if you just use juice.

Tester husband recalls eating this dish growing up, which is always fun for me to have those moments rediscovering food traditions from our past.  It's an honor to watch someone encountering a food either for the first time or after many years of not having a certain dish which they had enjoyed.

Veg option:  Sub. extra firm tofu for meatballs.  Follow rest of dish as written.

Overall: 4 out of 5  Good, but time consuming if you're going to do all the veggies....

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On hiatus...

Sadly, I must take a short (Lord willing...) break from massive amounts of cooking and baking as our kitchen is seriously under siege.  We are eagerly anticipating all new cupboards and cabinets, new appliances, new wiring and plumbing, and (joyfully!!) new flooring.

A brief update on the oatmeal cookie master mix that I had made once before.  A couple days ago, it found its fateful end in the digestive tract of our dog (where have I heard this before...maybe here?)  Needless to say, that is that. :)

You may have read in The Mennonite or the Mennonite Weekly Review that this Menno. cookbook blog thing has taken off in other realms.  Here's a woman doing Simply in Season: right here.  You can check it out and I will try not to feel jealous.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Grains, grains, grains

I've just re-read the intro section to the Cereals chapter, and find that the question raised, "What is cost-effective?" is as relevant today as when MWL was originally published.  More deliberately, then, Longacre writes about price vs. nutritional value and how that affects us as consumers.  This intro has helped me re-appreciate the joys of eating simply in the morning -- oatmeal with raisins and honey is so satisfying!

I always feel that there is something uniquely sacred in eating grains (sorry if anyone reading this has gluten allergies...), a distinctly different feel than eating vegetables (also sacred).  Vegetables cleanse and add vitamins to your body, but grains fill and nourish you.

On a side note, our kitchen remodel is well on its way, and there may be a brief amount of time where cooking is impossible.  Keep checking in, though, and surely this will keep going. :)  Thanks for reading!

32.  Chapatis, pg. 84

Though not entirely what you might expect if you just ordered chapatis at an Indian restaurant recently, these little dough discs are dense and nutty-flavored.  As the note above the recipe states, they are traditionally used alongside curries and rice, but they proved a tasty dipping device for pumpkin soup.  Basically, you could use them for any meal where you might want biscuits or bread.

I lightly fried each in olive oil (instead of brushing on the margarine), with very happy results.  I can imagine putting a little bit of minced garlic in the dough (or topping the rolled chapatis with garlic) would give a sweet little kick to each bite.

Overall: 4.5 out of 5  Hearty, versatile.

33. English Muffins, pg. 67

If you're looking for flat, dry, and acidic muffins for breakfast, you're better off going to the grocery store and buying them there.

But, if you're looking for light, sweet ones, this is your recipe.  I had never made English Muffins before, and so was a bit surprised when I saw that these guys are actually fried and not baked.  If you've got time to spare and need a fun bread for a meal, these are it!

I halved the recipe which did make about 9 muffins as the recipe states.  If you're concerned about how to split the egg if you halve the recipe as well, don't.  Use the whole egg -- just adjust the flour, if needed.  I didn't need to add any extra flour to no ill effect.

The one cautionary statement I would make on these is that they need a lot of time.  Rising time alone is 2 and a half hours, and if you want to serve them fresh off the skillet, make sure to reserve your energies for watching and flipping them at the last minute.

Overall: 4.6 out of 5  Killer flavor and fun to make...if you have the time.

34.  Crunchy Granola, pg. 92

If you're on a real budget crunch (do you get it? ha!! crunch!), the sight of this recipe calling for three expensive dry ingredients might send you looking for another option.  Coconut, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds are all called for, but don't hesitate substituting other cheaper ingredients instead!  Coconut being the worst culprit, I eliminated him altogether from the line-up and dumped in some extra nuts, bran and seeds.  If you're making a lot of granola, save yourself time and money by stocking up on bulk quantities of the typical ingredients, and your average price per serving will decrease a little.

For this recipe, I decided to try using agave nectar instead of the honey or brown sugar with great results.  If you need to steer clear of honey, definitely give agave a try, though reduce the amount to just a hair under a cup.  This recipe could more accurately be called Sweet, Crunchy Granola...But it's good, of course, and turns out a real solid cruncher cereal.

Overall: 3.6 out of 5 As good as most, but a little too sweet.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

31.  Barley-Cabbage Soup, pg. 205

Ahhh, October:  The days of cabbage.  Such a lovely crop to watch grow, but the minute it hits the kitchen countertop, each head seems to double in size.  It's understandable that fermented cabbage dishes such as sauerkraut and kim chi are made in vat (or vast...) quantities.  Unfortunately, I don't have the patience for fermentation (beyond a day or two).

Aside from borscht, I've rarely had cabbage in soup.  I'm such a fan of pearl barley though, that I was pretty sure this would be a fairly successful dish up.

This recipe could use a few changes.  First, the barley really only needs to cook for about an hour, instead of the 2 written.  Check it starting at 45 minutes for doneness, and take off heat when the grains are done.  Next, for the veggies, do sauté the onions until they lightly brown before adding the cabbage.  I sautéed them with the cabbage for the same amount of time (and just until they were soft), and in the final product, I found the onions to be a bit too strong.  Cooking them longer will mellow them out a bit.  Lastly, for the white sauce, I used butter for fuller flavor.  Oil could definitely be used, and I think olive oil would even be fine.  Tweak to your needs or preference.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5  Surprisingly flavorful and hearty.

Monday, October 26, 2009

30.  Oatmeal Cookie Mix, pg. 286

Because I enjoy having some baked goods around to satisfy my sweet tooth, I figured making this mix might be a good way to have half of the mixing up completed whenever I needed to bake again.

After one attempt at baking, I am a bit disappointed at the final product.  Halving the final combination, I substituted one small banana for one egg (which has been met before with mixed results), dropped in a few chocolate chips, and then followed the rest of the recipe.  The outcome was a never-done cookie that lacked any personality.  The cookies spread out a good bit, and even after baking for over 15 minutes (versus the stated 12), were quite gooey and wouldn't stay together.

So, the verdict isn't out yet.  I think I should try it again, using egg instead of banana, and then I'll give it my final score.  Stay tuned.

Has anyone else ever tried this recipe with different results?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

29.  Cream of Cauliflower Soup, pg. 205

As I read through some of my recent posts, I'm re-reminded that fast and easy doesn't always fill a Kitchen Creator's need for making culinary delights.  I do like finding dishes which can be pulled together with what most people stock in their pantry, but trying something completely new and a bit more complicated can, at times, feel more rewarding in the end.

This recipe is not so complicated, though, and stays within the fairly simple and less-than-an-hour prep that my dishes have been lately.  It is nice to find recipes full of veggies, but aren't complex.

I modified this recipe here and there to try to create a slightly different, less-predictable end product.  First, when cooking the cauliflower, I added some turnips -- maybe a half cup or so -- in place of a small chunk of cauliflower.  After they were all done cooking, I fished out the turnips and processed them in the blender until they were smooth, hoping that they would add a little thickness to the soup.  Next, I split the sautée fat between butter and olive oil, and used about 1/2 c. (versus 1/4 c.) of diced onions.  When adding the liquids, I went light on the stock, as you're supposed to add the cauliflower water, and I was afraid if I added all the stock, the soup would be too thin.  I highly recommend adding some ground black pepper (or white if you have it on hand) towards the end of the cooking, and season with salt if needed.  I didn't have worcestershire sauce, and instead put a touch of some steak sauce and a dash of soy sauce.  To top it off when serving, add color by sprinkling grated cheddar (or other yellow) cheese on top with a pinch of parsley.

The end result was very middle-of-the-road-consistency: neither thin nor thick.  If you like a thicker soup, use a tablespoon or two more of flour, definitely blend some of the cauliflower, reduce the amount of veg/meat stock, and possibly use a higher fat milk (I used soy milk). If you like a thinner soup, follow the recipe as written.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5  Room to personalize, but its "basicness" can be pleasing to most.  Serve with salad or green veggie for a more complete color palatte.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Catching up...

After a lovely long weekend in Kansas, full of many opportunities to over-eat amazing, Mennonite soul foods, it's back to the grind. The air is officially crisp, and when we arrived back to our house last evening, the thermostat read 51.5. We had hoped not to turn on our heat until at least November, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Baking is so much more enjoyable in the fall and winter than in summer, and letting the warm oven air heat the kitchen and dining room always feels so cozy. Here are two recipes to warm you up!

27. Broccoli Rice, pg. 128

An incredibly simple recipe to pull together, with few ingredients to mess with. For color and spunk, I used a medium red onion and at the end of the sauté time, added about 3-4 oz. of fresh, sliced mushrooms. (I would imagine you could just dump a can or partial can of mushrooms in, if you like). I mixed the onions/mushrooms with the cooked broccoli and rice and put it into my baking dish. I simply poured the milk over top and then sprinkled the grated cheese on top of everything.

It turned out lovely! If you have lots of broccoli that needs to be used, this would be a great recipe to double and stick one pan in the freezer.

Overall: 4 out of 5 Tasty, fast, colorful.

28. Skillet Cabbage, pg. 225

Another easy and fast concoction. This recipe is easy to modify to meet the number of people you are serving - and odds are that if you've got a head of cabbage, the 3-4 c. this calls for will barely take care of any of it :) Slicing the carrots into coins keeps them slightly crunchy.

We tend to like our spices to be cooked into our foods (versus being simply on the surface), so I added the paprika, pepper and soy sauce just after adding the cabbage and carrots. (Since I used soy sauce, I didn't add salt.) When serving, I topped with roasted, unsalted cashews. Delicious!

Overall: 4 out of 5 Same as above.

I feel like I'm not telling much about these recipes, but they're both so simple and straight-forward, that there is not much to tell. If you like these vegetables, you will like these dishes. Period. :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Waltzing into fall, I am noticing a distinct urge to eat carbs. We have salad greens, kale, and the like stuffed into our fridge which need to be eaten...but all I want are noodles and potatoes and rice. I can't say I've necessarily been so keenly aware of this drive before (though I'm sure it's been there), and it catches me a bit off guard in my attempt to eat a well-rounded diet.

Alas, two more carby recipes!

25. Peanut Granola, pg. 93

Another theme seems to be starting -- peanut butter! I'm trying to think of new things to say about all these granolas, and I feel like I end up saying the same thing. :) I liked this granola because of the peanuty-factor, but felt it a bit heavy. I see this recipe as a more parfait-friendly or apple crisp topping granola. Alone, it might weigh you down for the day. It stays together well in clumps, which is always a plus in my book, opposed to the everyone-for-themselves, scattered granolas.

Do leave it in for at least 30 minutes. I left it in for nearly 40 before I was satisfied with its dryness.

Overall: 3.4 out of 5 Use as an accessory, not a main breakfast cereal unless you've got a strong stomach.

26. Cinnamon-topped Oatmeal Muffins, pg. 71

More oatmeal! Quite simple, with likely no need to run to the grocery, these little guys come together in a jiffy. But beware: the batter is seriously runny. I was extremely skeptical that these would turn out as I stirred everything together at how juicy it was. Since we're not huge fans of lots of raisins in baked goods, I supplemented the raisins with a small handful of chocolate chips. Next time, I might just leave all the raisins out and go straight to the chocolate, but change it as your preferences demand. Any dried fruit would be tasty, I think.

A few changes: The topping was dreadfully scant, and I would recommend doubling the topping if you want to be able to taste the cinnamon at all. Now a day old, these little guys aren't nearly as good as they were fresh out of the oven yesterday morning. I found the recipe only made 9 muffins, as opposed to the dozen stated. As these are runny to start, they may need up to 20-25 minutes to bake (versus 15 stated).

Overall: 2.6 out of 5 I've had many a better muffin. Make these only if you love SUPER moist muffins which need a lot of recipe attention when you're making them.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

24. Pot of Gold Peanut Soup, pg.217

Wow. That's all I'm saying. After two nights of this soup, I'm still not tired of it. I'm still wanting more even after I'm full. I've been my happiest in the last two days when I was eating it. Amazing. (I should stop slobbering on my keyboard now...)

To the recipe! I used about 5 oz. fresh, sautéed mushrooms (could have put in more). I had sautéed first them in about 2 T. butter, 1/2 t. cayenne pepper, and 1 1/2 t. lime juice. I nearly ate half the pan while I waited to put them in the soup. Instead of pearl barley (lost my last bag to a pack of rodents, it seems), I used wheat berries. Give these guys a little extra time to cook if you try them -- mine cooked for just over an hour before they were done. Lastly, because I didn't have broccoli on hand, I used some pre-baked delicata squash cubes for more veggieness. I tossed them in with the mushrooms for about a minute at the end of the cooking time, just to give them some kick as well. Lastly, if you're going the dried hot pepper route, if you want your soup to be spicy, cut open the peppers into halves (so they can still be removed before consumption). I neglected to do this until pretty late in the cooking game, and missed the spicy-ness I was expecting. Though lacking in color (which the broccoli would have added), I couldn't care less as I was simply overwhelmed by the tastiness factor!

Overall: 5 out of 5 Tester Husband declared this one of the best soups he's ever had. If you like peanut butter like I do (i.e. can eat tablespoon after tablespoon of it out of the jar), you're going to LOVE this recipe!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

23. Scrambled Eggs and Noodles, pg. 151

As I was skimming through the pages this morning in search of a recipe for dinner, I stumbled upon this wondrous little recipe. Without knowing that MWL had a recipe for it, I made some last week one day for lunch. I first learned about this concoction from a German housemate I had during my time in Service Adventure, and then later had it again with a Swiss girl I met in Spain. Perhaps, then, this is one of those 'old country' recipes...? :)

What a simple, hearty lunch or dinner! Comparable to rice and beans, or chapati and lentils, or a range of so many other ethnic pairs, Eggs and Noodles provides that sturdy complete protein. Hard to go wrong with this dish, easy to please, and can be cooked up in 20 minutes or so.

Overall: 4.4 out of 5

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hold on tight!

Though I may have been neglecting to write this week, that does not mean I haven't been cooking from MWL. Life was a bit busy this week with extra work, and a lot of the free time I had ended up being directed towards my 14-day free trial of Cooks Illustrated and all the AMAZING information, recipes, and videos they have. It might just be worth the 15 bucks to keep the membership. I really do recommend trying the trial, if you are interested in cooking and the way food works.

So, now, hold on tight as I try to run through the dishes I've made this week.

19. Stir-fried Broccoli, pg. 224

Having made this recipe before, I knew generally that it is a simple dish, an easy meal with rice, and fairly fast to whip together with no super-special ingredients.

I didn't measure my broccoli -- but I used one medium-sized head, with part of the stalk. I think I should have increased the amount of sauce, as not all the broccoli got some to soak up. So, perhaps, if you're guesstimating, a small head of broccoli including stalk is probably about a pound. Also, make sure to cut the stems small enough so that they fry fast and evenly, without cooking them to a mush.

For a meal, I recommend either adding cashews or peanuts at the very end of the cooking time or sautéing a bit of extra firm tofu in after the onion is done and before the broccoli.

Overall: 4 out of 5

20. Whole Wheat Rolls , pg. 64

Straight from the MCC Dining Hall, these rolls have likely pleased many taste buds. A standard, low-frills recipe that is predictable and predictably yummy.

This recipe is easy to halve, and can be whipped up in about 20 minutes, including kneading time. I think I said this before, but I tend to shy away from bread recipes that have non-fat dry milk powder and eggs in them. I like to keep my bread dairy free and I typically don't like the taste that eggs make in the dough. However, for these dinner rolls, I decided to let them be, and just go with it.

By halving the recipe, I got two nearly over-full 8" round pans full of rolls. I would probably suggest two 9" round pans. One pan, after shaping them into rolls, rolled them in cinnamon-sugar (as "easy" cinnamon rolls). The other pan, just before baking, I brushed them with an egg wash and sprinkled sesame seeds on top for a more sandwich roll approach.

Overall: 3.8 out of 5 Super tasty when fresh and eaten with a meal, but goodness wanes after the first day

21. Chunky Granola, pg. 92

Another day, another granola! Not to be confused with "Crunchy Granola" across the page, chunky granola was my latest attempt at finding the perfect granola ratios.

I don't know what it was with people in 70's and 80's, but this gol-dern powered milk is EVERYWHERE. It simply seems wrong to make milk into powder just to increase the protein in everything. I don't know. What do you all think?

Anyways, what a simple, straight-forward recipe! I liked the pre-toasting of the oats. Seems like a really good idea to let them retain their own flavor before dumping sweeteners and oils on top. I had run out of wheat germ, and so used coarsely ground whole wheat flour instead, with no ill-effects. I decreased the amount of honey to about a half cup, thinking that 2/3 c. seemed a bit much (though, looking at Crunchy Granola over there with 1 c. seems even worse...), and Tester Husband still (independently) commented on how sweet it still was. We liked the hint of vanilla.

With a short baking time, this recipe is great for an after-dinner bake without worrying about having to stay up late to stir it every so often.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5 Fairly frill-less, fast and easy to make, but just a little too sweet

22. Vegetable Chowder, pg. 200

If you're looking to make a standard veggie soup/chowder and have lots of random veggies to use up, this might just be your recipe.

I strayed for this recipe, basically just following their guidelines to create a recipe that suited what we already had. You'll want to use a longer-cooking rice (no white rice!) as it cooks for 45 minutes. I used a red rice which gave a great, nutty flavor. Veggie stock easily replaces chicken. I used a red onion, a pint of corn, and about a cup of cubed sweet potatoes as my veggies. Unless you're using salt-free bouillon, don't add the extra salt. Once everything was cooked, I added a little less than a cup of soy milk, and stirred in some cheese.

Overall: 4.3 out of 5 Very easy, very tasty, versatile, and a perfect Fall meal!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Old Faithful

I will be the first to admit that like many Americans, I am addicted to sugar. The stuff is good. And while, sure, I try to watch how much I eat of it, I tend to gravitate towards making sweets at any chance possible. Recently, I've been borrowing a "Holiday Recipes" book from my mum, with new and exciting recipes that I've never tried (but look easy enough). So, with baking from there AND trying to keep on counting down in MWL, it's always nice to have people to share these treats with, so that I don't end up eating them all myself.

18. Chocolate Chip Cookies, pg. 287

Speaking of cooking "more with more", this recipe packs in all sorts of crazy things! Well...two...I have never made a cookie that used soy flour, so I was excited to see how the taste would differ (if at all). Soy and whole wheat flours change (primarily) the taste of the cookie by giving a bit of a nutty-er, more complex taste. Though they distracted my taste buds at first (with that "pure white" smoothness), after two or three samples (from different cookies...), I found that I was enjoying the complexity. This recipe seems to blend the classic soft-batch approach with almost-healthy. So, if you have the whole wheat and soy flours on hand, I recommend you giving these cookies a try.

Per my experience at the bakery, it's best if you can make the dough a day before and let it do its thing in the fridge overnight. If you're short on time, a few hours would be sufficient in getting a prettier cookie.

Overall: 3.75 out of 5

Friday, September 25, 2009

And then some...

My goal for this week was to do at least two recipes.  I've surpassed that, and here are three more! :)
15.  Easy No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread, pg. 58

I was suspicious when I saw that name.  I don't like my bread to be easy, and I'm wary of yeast bread that doesn't need to be kneaded (ha!).  I decided to give it a whirl, anyway, and see what became of it.
Everything started out okay, the amounts were fine...I was careful to add the eggs after the warm liquids and flour mixture had been stirring for awhile (to avoid cooking the eggs).  But then came the "5-6 c. flour" part that proved a bit difficult.  I'm a bread-baker by feel, and having to tell by stirring and seeing when a dough has enough flour proved frustrating.  I put it a bit over 5 cups (to be safe), and decided just to see what happened.  An hour later, the bread was spilling out of the bowl (note: use something bigger than a 5 quart...), and looked positively sticky.  (I was already over the bread by this point).  I dumped the dough into two 9x5s, and set them to rise the stated 25-30 minutes.  By 15 minutes, the dough was spilling over the pans, and I had to spoon the extra back into the pans, and tried to lightly punch down the overflow.  I turned on the oven immediately, and when it was hot, I shoved in the pans and watched as the new overflow fell onto my pizza stone.  
The result had less-than-desireable flavors, with the eggs overpowering the normal yeasty taste.  I used one loaf to go with a spinach and artichoke dip and it fared fine as a vehicle of other-goodness, but this is not bread to be eaten by itself.  The second loaf may get made into croutons or something like that.  If anyone has made this recipe before with satisfactory results, please tell your story!
Overall: 1 out of 5

16.  Honey-Baked Lentils, pg. 106

Having made this recipe many times before, I knew what kind of yumminess I was getting into when I decided to make it for dinner last night.  A simple, make-ahead kind of dish which is mild enough to serve to your grandparents, but potentially sassy enough to serve at a dinner party :)
A couple changes I made to the recipe...I used a teaspoon of regular, sandwich mustard instead of dry.  I grated fresh ginger instead of the dry ginger as well.  I have never put in the bacon it calls for, and think it's perfectly fine without it (although I'm sure some good bacon would taste lovely in it!)  I did forget to put in that last cup of water this time, and the result was that the lentils got a little dry (though that might have also had to do with a slightly longer baking time...)

Overall: 4 out of 5  A sturdy, filling dish fit for you and yours or company!

17.  Apple Crisp, pg. 270

While I'm not a huge fan of fruit crisps in general, with the abundance of apples in Justin's shares the past couple weeks, I had to do something to get rid of them.

I used gala apples, and because they're a fairly sweet apple to begin with, reduced the amount of sugar that gets tossed with the apples.  I sprinkled in about a teaspoon of nutmeg to complement the cinnamon, which I found was just enough for you to get a hint, but not too much to overpower.  When I was mixing the crisp part, I felt like it seemed over-greasy, but once baked, the consistency was nice, and evened out the flavors.

Doubling this recipe made a very hearty 9" pan's worth, and could realistically serve up to 10.

Overall:  3 out of 5  Nothing special about it, but nothing terrible about it. :)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Now from our correspondent in the DRC...

[[ Amanda Maust, hanging out in the DRC for a year, sent me these reviews.  Thanks, Amanda!! ]]

14. Honey Baked Chicken, pg.  

-I like to make about double the sauce as this is really the best part of the dish and then I can just eat yummy sauce on rice
-They call for way too much margarine...if you use the recommended amount I feel like the chicken is swimming in a pool of grease
-I add some water to stretch the sauce and kind of in place of some of the margarine
-I use about triple the amount of curry powder recommended
-After the dish is baked I will often drain off the sauce into a separate bowl and add a little water and cornstarch to thicken it for a nice gravy consistency

[3.] Oatmeal Bread, pg. 60
-I really like this bread, I did use regular sugar in place of brown sugar which is all but in impossible to find in DRC  [valerie's note:  MWL suggests combining 1 c. white sugar with 2 T. molasses to create a brown sugar substitute, if molasses is more readily available]
-I also added an additional cup of whole wheat flour in place of one of the cups of white flour...I felt even more could have been wheat flour.
-The directions say to let the bread rise twice in a bowl and then divide in loaves and bake.  I did this but I think it would be good to allow the bread to rise in the breadpans for a while before baking...maybe that was supposed to be a no brainer but... [valerie's note: I almost always let my bread rise in their respective pans until they are almost as high as I want them to bake before turning on the oven -- about a half hour, usually.  You'll still get a little yeast jump when they start baking, so don't wait too long!]

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Greens and such

13.  Prussian Kale, pg.238

A variation on cooking greens, this recipe was extremely simple and was cooked in a relatively short amount of time.  We had some collards that we used instead of kale, which turned out fine without any noticeable ill tastes.

I found it very interesting when looking at this recipe that it called for oatmeal -- I'm not accustomed to mixing oats with vegetables.  When I thought a bit more about the origins of the recipe, it began to make more sense.  When cooked with meat, this recipe could be a main dish, and the oats provided the grain.  Whereas I would typically think of kale (or greens) recipes as going well with rice, I can imagine that the 19th century Mennos in Prussia didn't have much or any access to rice.

Ultimately, the oats gave a nutty, starchy addition to the greens, but didn't dominate the dish.  We didn't use meat in the recipe, and rather added a little bit of butter instead.  

Overall: 3 out of 5.  Average -- perhaps on the edgier side of very tame.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Almost healthy!

[[ A fine chef herself, Amanda Gross submitted the following review. Thanks, Amanda! ]]

12. Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies, pg. 289

When I heard that my baby brother (turned large, adult male) was coming to visit this weekend, I knew I'd need something yummy and caloric to hold him over between meals. My favorite cookie recipe is a slight adaptation of Whole Wheat Peanut-Butter Cookies (pg. 289). I've made this recipe several times and had to alter it from the beginning.

First off, Ms. Beachy is out of her mind to claim that this recipe yields 5 dozen. When I make them, I get just over 2 dozen of modest, mom-sized cookies (equal to one dozen large, brother-sized cookies).

If you follow the recipe directly, you will find that the result is too dry to form into cookies. I double the water at least. Depending on the creaminess of your PB , you might require more.

And who wants to eat a whole wheat cookie with out chocolate chips? I like to add two generous handfuls of chocolate chips along with a 1/3 cup of walnuts or pecans. For extra yummy cookies, use brown sugar and substitute 1/2 cup oats for 1/2 cup of the flour.

And be careful not to burn them. Place on upper racks and check frequently. The bottom of these cookies get dark fast.

Bake and enjoy.

A quick comment...

In response to the comment made on the Apple/Almond/Cranberry bread, it's true: I'm straying a bit from the concept of eating with less pomp and circumstance. I have two answers for why I might be doing this.

1. Because I have a good deal of experience baking (professionally and as an amateur), I'm probably going to be adding and subtracting here and there on those recipes. With this particular recipe, I had all the things I added on hand, and felt like the additions I made only made the bread more interesting. I'm sure this recipe tastes fine as it's written, but knowing my own personal tastes, I wanted to change it up a little.

2. I'm finding that MWL recipes are somewhat of a "middle ground" between old-style Menno. cooking (laden with fat, sugar, and refined flours) and ultra-healthy, no-fun recipes. Because I tend to prefer a slightly healthier product (especially in baked goods), I will probably always use about half whole wheat flour (or other whole grain), extra seeds or nuts, dried or fresh fruits, etc. to give the fiber/vitamin count a boost. Cooking More-with-Less could also be a journey in exploring a 'healthy' balance between superior flavour and meaningful nutrition.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Is that Fall in the air?

I love cooking and baking on rainy days. Maybe it's because I don't have to feel guilty about not being outside, or perhaps it's because good food on a "bad" day is so pleasing to the soul. So, amidst the steady rain last night, I cranked up the oven and chose:

11. Dutch Apple Bread, pg. 81

At first glance, I knew this recipe could be made a tad spunkier with little effort. First off, I tend to shrink away from using 100% white flour for products which aren't meant to be desserts. So, I split the flour between white pastry flour and a blend of coarse and finely ground whole wheat flours. I used sour unsweetened soy milk (man, was it sour!!! almost an egg-white consistency...but it still worked fine!), though orange juice would certainly give it zest. I used slivered almonds instead of walnuts, which turned out fine, and am pretty confident that using pecans would also give a great taste. Again, here's a place where personal taste matters more than the recipe. Instead of raw cranberries as the "option" listed, I used craisins, which were a nice kick in the taste buds. Once I put the dough in the pan, I dusted a mixture of ground cinnamon and raw unrefined sugar on top.

While I'm not usually a big fan of sweet breads or muffins, I liked this one because of the variety of textures (chewy, crunchy, etc.) and flavours (fruit, whole wheat, cinnamon, etc.). I was a bit surprised how simply dusting the top with cinnamon/raw sugar gave the bread a boost of character.

Overall: 3.95 out of 5

In the world of quick breads and muffins, it's pretty darn good.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

By the sweat of my brow

I braved the emotional elements, and decided to try my hand at a meaty dish. I honestly can't remember the last time I cooked meat. It is such a rare occasion that I'm usually a bit intimidated as to where to start and how to do it. (For you non-meat eaters out there, stay with me, as I think we have a tofu-friendly recipe here.)

Usually, I like to purchase meat (when we have guests, when Husband wants some grilled carne, etc.) from one of two butchers at the Lancaster Central Market. Both supply locally-raised, grass-fed products, which takes a bit of the distress off of my conscience. For those of you that don't know, I'm not typically a meat eater by choice. While I occasionally like the taste of meat, the politics, environmental factors, and health issues connected with eating meat keep me from partaking on a normal, purposeful basis. This is yet another conversation we could have, but I want to say that regardless of my chosen diet, I generally try not to judge meat eaters when they have thought through why they eat what they eat. I like thoughtful eaters, I guess.

10. Indian Chicken, pg. 186

In comparison with my experience with Extending the Table, I find that "ethnic" recipes in MWL often seem a little too...American. I definitely had my doubts about this recipe. Granted, my only real experiences with Indian foods have been in restaurants here in the States, which are surely even at least a step from authentic Indian cooking. I find this recipe to be "safe", in terms of probably appealing to the general Menno. MWL constituency who can handle a sprinkling of spice. But if you're a true Indian foodie, this recipe brings a bit of sadness with its generic "curry powder" instructions. I had foreseen this problem, and decided to take spice matters into my own hands. I went heavy on the curry powder (albeit, a generic blend from the grocery store), dumped in probably and extra teaspoon of ground cumin, a hearty dash of cayenne, and another half teaspoon or so of garam masala. (I halved the recipe, so if you're going for the full recipe, go heavier on all these spices, or add your own.) While these additions made the sauce spicier, I still felt like I was missing something. This is a recipe to play around with, and easily changed around to (hopefully) suit your tastes.

Overall: 2.8 out of 5

Indian Tofu?
If I were to make this with tofu, I would recommend freezing extra firm tofu first (to get a nice consistency), and after thawing, cube and fry in a mixture of butter (or margarine) and olive oil. Continue recipe as written, substituting veggie broth or bouillon instead of chicken.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Inspired again...

No, I've not been starving my husband the last week and a half. I've only lightly fell off my own bandwagon of eating well. Our CSA share from Lancaster Farm Fresh has been overflowing these past weeks with more produce than we can handle, and in my occasional cooking fatigue, I opt for steamed or raw veggies rather than even a simple recipe from MWL. I was also momentarily tempted by the Cook's Illustrated magazine which arrived in the mail, and had to spend some time testing those recipes.

But I'm back again, with two updates, and scheming a few more. With a kitchen remodel in it's final design stages, I'm trying to cram in some good cooking before we're kitchen-less for a few days/weeks/months.

8. Simple Granola, pg. 90

This chunky, sweet granola is a simple but hearty morning munch. Because the recipe doesn't call for loads of "extras" (like seeds or other grains), it's easily tossed together and shoved in the oven for a fairly fail-proof culinary adventure. In my opinion, it was slightly on the too-sweet side, and if I were to make it again, I suppose the honey could be reduced with a slight increase of water to maintain the dry/liquid ratio. Please use honey if you have it on hand -- corn syrup is always a no-no in my book. Do your own research on corn products, if you're interested, or call me and we can talk corn-politics.

Overall: 3.7 out of 5

9. Koinonia Granola, pg. 90

Also a sweet delight, with a more granola bar-like attitude than the Simple Granola. This one ups the ante with seeds, grapenuts, and nuts. I skipped the grapenuts (since we hadn't any on hand, and why buy cereal to make cereal? not sure...) but added a bit more of all the seeds, coconut, and nuts to make up for them. I love using cashews and macadamia nuts in granola, but if you're trying to watch saturated fat intake, it's more than acceptable to substitute other nuts without sacrificing a great deal of flavor. (Nutty Fat)

This one seemed a bit tricky as to deciphering when it was ready to come out of the oven -- it never seemed to get dry. I probably left it in a bit too long (had some burn-y sides) at 35 or 40 minutes, but the result was still quite edible. A next-time change would be to use a more shallow pan, perhaps, and see if that stops the questionable oven time.

Overall: 3.9 out of 5

My testers enjoyed both recipes, and Tester Husband enjoyed them combined, though I said I wasn't willing to make two types of granola just to make one kind... :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Death by Chocolate....Pudding!

Who knew chocolate pudding could kill?

7. Quick Chocolate Pudding, pg. 264

Aside from the fact that though the recipe states it serves 4-6, Justin and I easily polished off an entire recipe by ourselves in one sitting. Perhaps it was the fact that for the milk, I used half cream? Or...that I doubled the amount of cocoa?

I've made this recipe many times before, and I've never been dissatisfied. Minus, maybe the fact there's never enough? (and/or no leftovers) When I use soy milk, I do not add vanilla. Normally, I also do not add the margarine. Definitely didn't this time -- didn't need any more fat! :)

This recipe would make a great chocolate pie filling, though you may need more than one recipe...perhaps 1.5 times?

Overall: 5 out of 5

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My mother won't believe this...

5. Green bean soup, pg. 201

I vividly remember meals growing up where I was forced to eat green beans, much against my will. I hated those suckers more than any other vegetable (although beets may have been a close runner-up), but of course, was required to take a small spoonful of them to get my serving of vegetable for that meal...

Fortunately, our tastes buds change, and what was once torture can be turned into appreciation or even enjoyment. Sadly, I can only appreciate green beans these days, quite short of enjoying them. (Beets, however, I
do enjoy now.)

The trick, I think, is to season them so they're perceived as potentially palatable. This recipe, with its happy fat factor (use cream!), achieves this. I used purple potatoes (mainly because they were on hand), and they add such a lovely colour! In the absence of any other protein source in the meal, the hard-boiled egg does fine as a garnish, though I found it a little strange, as the textures didn't seem to mesh well.

Overall: 3.4 out of 5 (Slightly better than standard, but still somewhat dull.)

Rollkuchen, pg. 83

If you've ever met a Russian Mennonite eating watermelon on a summer day, you may have noticed a stack of fried dough. You taste one, and your mouth rejoices in -- once again -- a happy fat factor. Who knew egg, cream, flour, salt, and sugar deep fried (I did mine in soybean oil) could be so delicious? Well...I guess we could all guess that...but still! I made half 'salty' by sprinkling just a teeny bit of salt on afterwards, and half 'sweet' by dusting them with powdered sugar. Though I liked both, the ones with powdered sugar were a little too salty (simply from what was in the dough) to be dessert-like.

Overall: 4.1 out of 5

Mealwise, these two can go well together -- just watch out for the salt (mainly if you use stock in the soup)! I'm still thirsty...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


4. Baked Lentils with Cheese, pg. 106

By this time most weeks, I'm scrambling to use all the fresh vegetables Justin brings home from work on Fridays before they rot before my very eyes. I do not like watching food go to waste, nor do I like having it finishing rotting in my trash can (my poor worms can't take it all), encouraging the propagation of fruit flies...

So, this recipe was great for calling for many vegetables which are in season. Carrots, an onion, half a bell pepper, parsley...And, instead of canned tomatoes, fresh ones worked wonders! I used slices of farmer's cheese with vegetables instead of cheddar -- most any cheese could virtually create a new dish! :)

Halved, this dish is a perfect solo meal dish for two. Though it's a bit time consuming with all of the timed-additions, if you've got an hour and a half free until dinner, it's a good fit.

Lentils are one of those foods that are so versatile, I'm surprised they're not more prevalent in our cooking habits. Then again, when a friend asked last week how lentils are grown, I had no clue. Apparently, there are over 15 types, though in our standard American groceries, you're lucky to find two or three. I've used lentils as protein sources in burgers, soups, and casseroles. This recipe particularly reminds me a bit of pot roast -- the stuff our mom's used to let sit in a crockpot for hours. It's so warm and hearty, most people will probably enjoy it, even if they're leery of the idea of lentils.

This recipe is easily doctored to be spicy, lactose-free, or vegetabbly-winterized. Add cayenne powder or fresh jalapeños, omit the cheese (or substitute your favorite soya-based cheese), and add potatoes or other root vegetables and omit the green pepper.

Overall: 4 out of 5

Monday, August 31, 2009

Let's start here

Somewhat inspired by Julie Powell in Julie and Julia, I cemented my long-standing dream to cook through More With Less cookbook. The idea had been rolling around in my head for a couple years, but never had the time, drive, or fortitude to start out on the conscientious Mennonite culinary journey.

Now that I'm married (another mouth to feed!) and mostly unemployed and somewhat bored, it seems like a good time to embark...

Unlike Julie, however, I can't promise to do this in a year. I don't even know how many recipes there are in the book.

But I can promise that I will be modifying the recipes. I rarely follow recipes (aside from baked goods), and substitute what I have on hand, rather than driving all over tarnation to find an ingredient.

I am using the 25th anniversary edition, in case that makes a difference in page numbers.

The first three recipes that I have made are:

1. Honey Whole Wheat Bread, pg. 57

The very first recipe in the book! How could I not start with it? And we must get one thing straight -- I love making bread. I love kneading the bread, I love being able to leave it for awhile and coming back to a morphed creation, and I love how it smells when it's baking. In baking, unless otherwise noted, I use all organic flours, and try to use organic oils, sugars, etc.

At the risk of boring you, I will give the basics of how I treated this recipe.

I halved it, which was completely fine, and still made a huge loaf. I used regular water, but potato water would have provided a slightly smoother texture (but didn't have any on hand.)

The dough performed excellently, and raised according to the times in the recipe. Baking time was slightly longer, though this probably was dependent on oven temperature. See how beautiful it looks?

Since I needed to pick Justin up from work, I left it to continue cooling on our washing machine (a.k.a. extra countertop!). When we returned home, it was no longer there. A thief had stolen it, it seemed. A thief named Darby, with big brown eyes and wagging tail. I was positively livid. I cried. I said bad words. I didn't look at her the rest of the day. I learned my lesson: Put the dog away if you can't put the bread away.

Overall: ? out of 5

2. Peach Kuchen, pg. 280

We were having guests for dessert, and had loads of fresh, local produce lying around, begging to be used. Similar to pie, this kuchen consists of a crust and fruit filling. However, the crust is more similarly related to a graham cracker crust, and the filling had an egg/yogurt (soy in our case) topping. The crust left a lot to be desired, as it crumbled upon trying to serve it. For a 9" pie pan, I felt like it barely covered the sides, and if I made this again, would either make more or put it in a smaller pan.

Instead of just peaches as the recipes calls for, I substituted 2 pears, sliced, for two of the peaches. This also helped it to fill more fully, and stretched to serve 8 (though the recipe only says 6).

It had a nice taste, though I think using plain yogurt (instead of the vanilla soy yogurt that I bought) would have given it a bit more punch, and less sugary.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

3. Oatmeal Bread, pg. 60

I've made this recipe countless times before, often adding one thing or another to change it up a bit. Sometimes more whole wheat. Sometimes flax seeds. It's such an easy recipe to experiment on -- nearly fail-proof. I recommend it for beginners to bread-making.

This time, I needed a breakfast dish for the following day, so decided to convert them into cinnamon rolls. After the first rising, I stuck the dough (covered) into the fridge until the next morning. When I got up the next morning, I rolled the dough out into two 8" cake pans worth of cinnamon rolls, covered and stuck them in the oven under the light for about an hour. When they had raised to about the point at which I wanted them to bake, I pulled them out and turned the oven on.

They were delicious -- topped with a fairly hearty dollop of buttercream icing. We ate half the pan right way Darby was going to get any of this, if I had anything to say about it!

So we've started. I'm open to other people taking recipes that you have interest in and writing about your experience with them.

Overall: 4.88 out of 5