Food Post; pizza, soup, and pretty dishes

Forgive the unoriginal title.

I made white pizza for supper. (Vegetarian recipe, but could add some crumbles of bacon. This recipe is really versatile.)

You should definitely try it! There are multiple steps, but it is still quite simple and oh-so-tasty!

I served it with leftover corn-poblano-potato soup, (vegan recipe) and fresh strawberries we bought from a friend in 4-H.

This blue dish was a gift to me as a young teenager. I know this makes me sound old-fashioned and, well, just old, but when we were young, we always had planning for marriage and family in our forefront. Many gifts I received were given with the idea that one day I would use them in a home of my own. This is one of them. I still treasure this gift, but more so, the friend who gave it to me. I think of her every time I use it.

Here’s what it looks like empty.

May your memories be warm, your dishes filled with goodness, and your friendships sweet.

Potpourri: no, yes, hope, food

Happy New Year!

Our family continues to heal from a grueling last half of 2017, but we are certainly here with more hope and peace than we’ve had in a long time. There are still remnants of illnesses, but overall we are much healthier now too!

I have been learning a lot about self care and setting realistic boundaries for what I can and can’t do. This work empowered me to say no to two seemingly great opportunities to serve our denomination and local church district. I love our denomination, but the heart of my ministry has always been with the local grief community outside the context of church and denomination.

Saying no in turn allowed me to say yes to more with the non-profit my husband and I founded to provide non-clinical peer support for those grieving the death of a child. Just a few days of laser focus on that work and multiple doors are opening that will guide us into the future. Our non-profit turns ten years old this year! Lots to celebrate, even though the work is related to much grief and sadness. I have been contemplating how many people I’ve come to love and cherish that I would likely have never learned to know outside of our deepest sorrow and greatest pain.

This has long been one of my guiding quotes.

In my personal work and soul care, I’ve also been having some fun trying to reconcile the multiple and diverse streams of culture and influence in my DNA. My dad is from an Eastern European immigrant family, Mom from generations of horse and buggy Mennonites in which faith I was raised and colors my understanding of God. Learning more about my whole identity has been fun, but I’ve also been reminded that my true identity is a child of God and the ultimate “Home” I long for is being at home with God.

As always, I’ve been enjoying making some great food! I’m posting some on my recipe blog, The Cultured Country Cook. My purpose for the blog is simply to share great recipes. I’m not a fancy food photographer, but we sure do eat good around here. I was thinking this evening, I sure hope there’s a kitchen in heaven, cooking and baking and enjoying good food are some of my life’s greatest pleasures. Simultaneously I pondered how my husband might hope there’s NOT a kitchen in heaven since he usually ends up doing the dishes.

I read through English veterinarian James Herriot’s books last year, so one evening I made roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, Yorkshire pudding, and creamed peas. I had read some chapters and paragraphs aloud to the family and we had a great time with that meal, recalling specific stories from his books.

We’ve had extremely cold temperatures here the past few days so tonight’s comfort food was cheese ravioli with mushrooms and browned butter, a simple spinach salad with strawberries, oranges, a drizzle of olive oil and a fresh-squeezed lime. Dessert was a homemade maple walnut pound cake with light maple cream cheese icing and homemade coffee custard. I had subscribed to the emeals menu planner several years ago, but haven’t used the recipes a whole lot. Tonight’s ravioli and last night’s Spanish Chicken Soup were both from emeals. I’m hoping to utilize that more!

I made cinnamon rolls for the pediatrician’s office who care so wonderfully for our children.

And a “poop emoji” cake by request for some friends who knew I had made one as a joke for Our son’s birthday last fall.

I continue to work out what it means to be fully present in my life and the invitations to be are all around me, if my eyes and heart are willing to see.

I’ve been delighting in the following words from Bob Goff in Love Does: Discover a secretly incredible life in an ordinary world.

“There is only one invitation it would kill me to refuse, yet I’m tempted to turn it down all the time. I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does. It doesn’t come in an envelope. It’s ushered in by a sunrise, the sound of a bird, or the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen. It’s the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day. Nobody turns down an invitation to the White House, but I’ve seen plenty of people turn down an invitation to fully live.

Turning down this invitation comes in lots of flavors. It looks like numbing yourself or distracting yourself or seeing something really beautiful as normal. It can also look like refusing to forgive or not being grateful or getting wrapped around the axle with fear or envy. I think every day God sends us an invitation to live and sometimes we forget to show up or get head-faked into thinking we haven’t really been invited. But you see, we have been invited — every day, all over again”

People might choose to turn down invitations to the White House these days, but I refuse to decline this invitation to fully live. May it be so. Amen.

Potpourri 

I use this title repeatedly for posts that contain snippets and snapshots of my life at the moment. 


I tried to take the day off today since I haven’t had one in quite a while. This afternoon the children and I weeded the garden until I broke the hoe. Then we raked and swept the bare dirt under our big maple tree for summer play time. I started a fire in the pit and called a family circle time with the children. (The husband wasn’t home from work yet.) We talked about our day; what we liked and didn’t like and about how we could better support each other. I wondered what the world would be like if we took more time for circles like these. My heart is most at home in the mountains (or even our backyard) around a campfire, so for me it seems such an easy solution for everyone to get along. 🙂


As we were weeding, one of the children exclaimed, “You mean weeds have roots?!” I explained that weeds and good plants all have roots, so we need to be careful what we allow to grow in our garden. I couldn’t help but mentally relate that to our lives. Whatever seeds we allow to take root will be what flourishes. Roots of bitterness can grow deep. So can roots of gratitude. What seeds are we nurturing?


I had other plans for supper, but the baby refused to let me put her down. (A combination of how busy I’ve been and having to come indoors.) Last evening I deboned BBQ chicken from church, added brown rice and corn and cooked it in my new electric pressure cooker. It was fabulous. This evening I simply “creamed” the leftovers with milk and sour cream and added some smoked paprika. I wanted to make Indian Fry Bread, but I couldn’t with one hand so I separated leftover hotdog buns from a party we’d had, spread about a half teaspoon of mayo on each one, sprinkled some garlic powder, topped with shredded cheese and broiled to toast. I felt guilty at first. I’ve never done something like that with hotdog buns before, but it was a huge hit with the children. Certainly not the most nutritious meal to grace our table, but it was tasty, our tummies were sufficiently full, we used a number of leftovers, and the baby didn’t have to cry while I cooked. #simplesupperscore


I posted this photo on my Facebook page earlier, but it bears repeating. Really folks, a little kindness goes a long way. As I said on the post, it is easy to be kind to those who are kind to us. The real test is being kind to those who are not. I’ve prayed for special grace from others as I’ve gone through difficult times and perhaps responded or acted in ways that were less than stellar and I need to remember to extend that same grace to others. We truly seldom know the battles others are facing and a random act of kindness and a simple gesture of grace can give someone a boost when they most need it. 


I’ve been reading lots of books while I write my own. Now that our annual Sadie Rose 5K is behind us for another year, I am devoted to finishing my book. 

Screen free week activities and insights 

From Monday morning to last evening, Friday, our family participated in a mostly screen free week; no TV, iPad, video games, etc, with the exception of what my husband and I had to use for work. While we monitor our children’s screen time to what we feel like is a fair amount, we still felt like going screen free for a week would be a good experiment. 

I couldn’t wait until the end of the week to share with you our warm glowing stories of family domestication perfection. While some of that most definitely occurred, I realized quickly that screen time can also diffuse sibling rivalry. I found myself diffusing them instead, which of course is part of mom’s job description. 🙂

I didn’t take many pictures because I didn’t want my phone in my own hand while reminding the children we were “screen free.” 

Some of our activities this week included newspaper reading, story telling contests that included real-life accounts from mine and Lee’s childhood and hilarious home-spun tales from the littles. Most of the stories were told in our basement with only oil lamps and candles to set the aura. 

We shared multiple kitchen adventures which included two “hit” nights where all five of us absolutely loved the meals! Both were simple and inexpensive. The one was using pancetta I’d bought at Aldi’s (a wonderful discount grocery store) tossed with cooked whole wheat spaghetti, peas, and a cream sauce with half and half and stone ground mustard. 


The second was this copycat Panera Bread broccoli cheese soup. The only things I did differently was decrease the amount of butter significantly and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. We literally devoured this soup!

I’ve been allowing the two older children to help with supervised peeling and chopping, mixing and stirring. Through this, our 5-year-old daughter found that she loves cooked beets! If I would have just put them in her plate and told her to try them, she would have wrinkles her nose. 

The children also made chocolate-dipped goodies all on their own. 


A lot of sugar here, I recognize that, but with limited sweets overall we still allow them to enjoy these treats occasionally. 

Between our two school-aged children, they were recognized in their school for Character Counts, Kids for Kindness, and ten stars on their “caught being good” fish! We don’t always get it right, but those moments sure do encourage us! 

We played instruments and learned new songs and chords on the guitar, mandolin, and ukulele. They drew lots of pictures and folded multiple paper airplanes. We practiced running for our annual Sadie Rose 5K this weekend. 


Unfortunately I’m dealing with some serious heel pain and this run put me out of commission for an entire evening. I went to bed to read about 7:30 and stayed there until 6 the next morning. I don’t know the last time that had happened!

We had delightful clouds for picture imagination. 


Our son took this picture of Papaw’s dog leaping through the air. 🙂

Overall, it was definitely a good decision for our family and something we will do more often perhaps by day or weekend. It’s good to be back in touch, though, too. 

Have a great weekend!

Favorite Buttermilk Pancakes or Plant-based Pancakes… with a twist 

I’m a little late for Valentine’s Day planning. Most of you probably have your dinner planned. I had a nice menu prepared in my head, but ran out of time in my day. So I turned to our family’s favorite “busy day” supper; pancakes. 

Only we wanted red heart pancakes. Did you know puréed beets turn Pancakes a beautiful red and the children (and adults) will never guess they’re eating vegetables! 

Without further ado, here’s my all-time favorite pancake recipe with buttermilk and vegan options. 

Pancakes

1 cup flour (I often use whole wheat)

2 Tablespoons sugar (can use Sucanat, raw sugar, or maple syrup)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons oil (this is where I use puréed beets)

1 cup buttermilk (can use plant milk)

1 egg (or one tablespoon flax meal with 2 Tablespoons water. 

Add a little extra puréed beets if you want them brighter. 

Method: Mix and pour batter on griddle. Turn once. 

Topping options are endless! Strawberries, chocolate chips, whipped cream or coconut cream, nuts, sprinkles, etc.




Enjoy. 

Fifty-two soups, breads, and treats 

With bonus plant-based chocolate chip cookie recipe. A family favorite in our house!

My mother-in-law gave me a book a while back, “Twelve Months of Monastery Soups.” 


She also gave me a January/February 2017 Food Network Magazine with recipes for cupcakes for each month of the year. 

These two books were part of the inspiration behind my “Fifty-two soups, breads, and treats” idea. The bread idea came about when my brother-in-law gave me a bread machine for Christmas. Although I often make our own homemade bread, this machine makes it possible to have a nice fresh loaf ready right at dinnertime. 

We love soups around here. I love that they can be hearty and healthy at the same time. I also appreciate their versatility and how easily they can come together just with leftovers from the fridge or odds and ends from the pantry. 

So with the inspirations mentioned above and the ongoing effort to do more with less, I thought it would be fun to have one night a week for a whole year with soup, bread, and a simple treat for supper. 

I often look at the ingredients I have on hand and then peruse Pinterest for ideas. Since I’m usually working from scratch without having shopped for a specific recipe, I supplement and interchange ingredients as needed. 

This week I made my own version of this chicken and wild rice soup, using leftover BBQ chicken from a fundraiser. I didn’t have all the exact ingredients on hand, but the substitutes were still delicious and the children loved it! 


I also made this vegan Irish Stout Vegetable Stew, from my emeals menu.

I had made basic white bread a few days before and didn’t make any fresh bread on soup day. 

I did, however, whip up a batch of our favorite “healthy” chocolate chip cookies. 


I have served these cookies to many adults and children who had no idea they were considered “Whole Foods/plant based” and they raved and raved about them. Let me know if you try them and what you think. 

Lunchbox Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe by Isa Chandra Moskowitz 

Forks Over Knives Cookbook

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup almond butter

1/2 cup dry sweetener (Sucanat or raw sugar)

1 Tablespoon ground flax seed

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1&1/3 cups oat flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sorghum flour or whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup grain sweetened chocolate chips 

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Mix together applesauce almond butter, dry sweetener, and ground flaxseed. Once smooth, mix in vanilla. Add in the oat flour, baking soda, and salt and mix well. Add the sorghum or whole wheat pastry flour and chocolate chips and mix well. 

Drop spoonfuls into prepared baking sheets and flatten a bit so they resemble thick discs. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. 

Facebook Food; dill pickle soup and grilled cheese dippers

Life has been unusually busy for us these past few weeks as we continue to adjust to a new foster placement and maintain our already hectic schedule. 

These are the days I find the morning coffee I didn’t get to drink in the microwave in late afternoon. 


The days I am thankful that an old top entertains four children for long periods of time. 


I am thankful for friends who lend helping hands in so many ways, whether it be for our children, our non-profit, or for our larger community. 

These are the days that pass so quickly, but that I will one day miss and long to re-experience. 

In the meantime, I sit with our littles as they drift off to sleep. To stay awake myself, I read articles and often scroll through Facebook to catch up on friends and the rest of the world. I’ve been saving recipe links my friends have shared on Facebook. Tonight I made a combo of two I was most excited about, dill pickle soup and grilled cheese dippers.

The original recipe for the soup can be found here.  

Since we eat a mostly Whole Foods plant based diet, I adapted the recipe, but I can assure you the original would taste quite fantastic as well! Here’s the recipe with my changes. The whole family loved it! 

Dill Pickle Soup

5 cups vegetable stock

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small-ish pieces

4 medium carrots, washed but unpeeled, chopped small

1 cup chopped baby dill pickles 

(I skipped the butter altogether)

1 cup all purpose flour

1&1/4 cup unsweetened unflavored plant-based milk

1&3/4 cup dill pickle juice

Old Bay seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

Method: Pour the vegetable stock into a large pot and add the potatoes and carrots. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Add chopped dill pickles. Mix the plant-based milk and flour in a gravy shaker and shake well. Pour into soup pot, stirring continuously and vigorously. This will thicken quickly. 

Add dill pickle juice and seasonings. Cook and stir another five minutes. 


Fabulous!!!!! 

The other recipe I was excited to try was the grilled cheese dippers. I know that these grilled cheese include dairy, but we are not a teetotaler Whole Foods plant based family. You can also substitute vegan cheese and butter for these if you’d prefer. I want to try the tomato soup included in the post, but haven’t yet. Grilled cheese and homemade tomato soup have long been one of my favorite fall suppers. 

The recipe for the grilled cheese dippers can be found here. 


I’d love to know if you try these either with the original recipes or my adaptations and what you think. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did. 

“Sick Soup” and Turmeric Tea

Or “On the mend spiced red lentil-kale soup.” 


With cold and flu season on the horizon you will want to keep these ingredients for the soup and the tea handy! This is our family’s favorite “sick soup.” It’s a little spicy for the kiddos so adjust seasonings according to taste. It is also a good preventative from even getting the crud. 

The recipe is from “The Oh She Glows Cookbook” by Angela Liddon. 


On the mend spiced red lentil-kale soup

1 teaspoon coconut or olive oil

1 sweet onion, diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

3 stalks celery, dived

1 bay leaf

1&1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4-1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juices

5-6 cups vegetable broth (more as needed)

1 cup uncooked red Lentils, rinsed and drained

Salt and pepper to taste

2 handfuls destemmed kale leaves or spinach (I’ve used both)
Method: In large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5-6 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and celery, season with salt and sauté a few minutes more making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. 

Add the bay leaf, cumin, chili powder, coriander, paprika, and cayenne and stir to combine. Sauté a few more minutes until fragrant. 

Stir in tomatoes with juices, the veggie broth, and Lentils. Bring mixture to boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes until Lentils are tender and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper. Discard bay leaf. 

Stir in kale and cook for a few more minutes until kale has wilted. Serve immediately. (I like to make a double batch and freeze half.)


Turmeric Tea

In a saucepan, bring four cups of water to a boil. Add 2 inches of sliced fresh turmeric root OR 1 teaspoon ground turmeric. I also add about 1 inch of fresh sliced ginger root. (You can leave the peel on both roots.)

Summer for about 10-15 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh or cheesecloth. 

Enjoy as is or add raw honey to taste. 


Here is a link to the health benefits of Tumeric tea. Turmeric Tea Benefits  

Stay well, my friends, and enjoy! 

Herbed lentils and rice, African influenced spinach, and apple cake

I try to vary my recipe sources to keep cooking fun, but sometimes for something different I make a whole meal using recipes from one cookbook. Tonight was one of those nights. 

I used a personal favorite, Mennonite Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley (Phyllis Pellman Good and Kate Good.) Besides being filled with delicious choices, one of the pictures inserted is actually my family’s very own horse and buggy! 


That picture was taken by our local celebrity photographer, Allen Litten. He knows our family well, but had no idea that was our buggy until we told him. We have that same picture framed. That was our beloved horse, Charger, bringing mom home from church one fall day. He was a faithful steed. I’m almost weepy thinking of him as I write this. I got my first car at 18 years old, but until that time my mode of transportation was horse and buggy, bicycle, or walking. 

Now you know why this cookbook ranks high on my list of favs. 

The first recipe is a family favorite. 

Herbed Lentils and Rice

Submitted by Leanna Yoder Keim 

She included this recipe note


Herbed Lentils and Rice

2&2/3 cups chicken, beef, veggie broth, or water (I used veggie broth)

3/4 cup dry brown lentils 

1/2 cup brown rice

3/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed basil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed thyme

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded (optional for vegans)

Paprika (preferably smoked)

Method: mix together broth, lentils, rice, onion, wine, basil, salt, thyme, garlic powder, and pepper. Pour into 1&1/2 quart greased casserole dish. 

Bake covered at 350 degrees for 1&1/2hours. (If omitting cheese, test at this point to make sure lentils and rice are cooked and if so, the casserole is done. If adding cheese, remove the cover, sprinkle cheese over casserole, then sprinkle paprika on top. Return to oven for another 15 minutes or so until cheese is melted. 

This is a dish every single person in our household enjoys, which makes it that much better! 


(I left cheese off the one end for those who don’t eat cheese, but the rice got a little dry without the cover on.)

Next was a brand new recipe, but was such a hit it will become standard fare as well! 

African-Influenced Spinach

Submitted by Edith Shenk 

2 Tablespoons butter (I just used veggie broth, no butter, adding a tablespoon at a time so the onions didn’t stick.)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 medium tomato, chopped

1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter

2-10 ounce packages frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, or 1&1/2 pounds fresh spinach, lightly steamed and drained

Salt to taste

Nutmeg

Method: In frying pan, sauté onion in butter, veggie broth, or water, cooking until soft 

Stir in tomato and cook for 5 minutes

Stir in peanut butter and salt. Cook for a few minutes until sauce forms. 

Stir in spinach, heat through, but do not overcook. Pour into serving dish and sprinkle with nutmeg. 


I promise this is FAR more appetizing than it looks. My husband said he could eat the entire dish in one setting. I said the same thing. The nutmeg is a MUST to finish it off. 

Lastly, we splurged with “Elsie’s Fresh Apple Cake.” I know the Elsie that submitted the recipe. Our 5-year-old daughter’s name is Elsie, so when we came across this recipe she really wanted to make it. I’m glad she did! She put all the ingredients into the mixing bowl for me. We healthified it a bit so I will include those notes as we go along. 

Elsie’s Fresh Apple Cake 

Submitted by Elsie Rohrer Terry

1 Cup oil (I used 1 cup unsweetened pear sauce I’d made this summer, I’m sure unsweetened applesauce would be great too.)

2 eggs (I used eggs, but vegans could use ground flax meal/water)

2 cups sugar (I cut it to 1&1/2 cups and used raw sugar)

1 teaspoon vanilla 

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon salt 

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

2&1/2 cups flour (I used 1 cup oat flour)

3 cups peeled, chopped fresh apples

1 cup chopped nuts

1 cup flake coconut (I used unsweetened)

I also added 2 Tablespoons ground flax meal

Method: Mix together oil (or pear or applesauce), eggs, and sugar and beat well. 

Add vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, and beat well. 

Add 1 cup flour (this is where I used pat flour) and mix well. 

Fold in apples, nuts, and coconut. Add rest of flour (and ground flax meal if using) and stir well. Pour into greased and floured tube pan. 

Bake at 325 degrees for 1&1/2 hours or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 

Elsie’s note says this is a great breakfast cake or a satisfying dessert. We loved it for dessert this evening and the kiddos are excited that it is on the breakfast menu for tomorrow morning. It was a huge hit. 

Let me know if you make any of these recipes and what you think!