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.