“them that works hard eats hearty!” (part 1)

369px-Amish_On_the_way_to_school_by_Gadjoboy2

In the mid 1700s, Anabaptists fled persecution in Europe, settling in Pennsylvania and 19 other states. They are now a presence in Aroostook County and other parts of Maine, and they have brilliantly colored my childhood memories. We are fortunate to have these talented folks in our midst. Known collectively as Pennsylvania Dutch, both sects, Amish and Mennonite share similar history, fashion style, and religious beliefs. The difference between them is lifestyle—Amish live off the grid and travel by horse-drawn carriage while Mennonites accept and use technology and embrace the convenience of motorized travel.

As a kid in Philadelphia I remember buying many delicious treats from the Mennonite booth at the flea market. Amish-style foods were available in all the grocery stores and bakeries. I learned how to prepare many of these dishes as a young girl. I enjoyed their humor, too—a humor they are famous for. We had plaques hanging in our home with Pennsylvania Dutch proverbs like, “We grow too soon old and too late smart,” “The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get,” and “Kissing wears out, cooking don’t.”

For the next couple of columns, I will feature food from these gentle, hardworking, devoted folks. Of course, most of the dishes derive, not from Dutch, but from German cookery (Deutsch is German for German!)—usually very simple with fewer ingredients than most other European fare. But hard work deserves good food, so these dishes do not lack richness and satisfaction!

dumplings (spaetzle)
Spaetzle is a German noodle they call dumplings . Great mixed with hot buttered whole green beans or as a side with schnitzel gravy. HINT: Dropping the batter into boiling liquid using a funnel or a metal colander will make it easier than pouring from a bowl. Batter can be thinned a bit if necessary. Cooking time is not specified so taste testing is necessary! Start testing after 3 minutes.

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt plus 2 tsp for cooking water

Prepare a large pot of salted boiling water or meat broth. In a large bowl, place flour. Add milk slowly, stirring constantly to keep mixture smooth. Add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Salt and mix well. When cooking in boiling salted water or meat broth, pour the batter from a shallow bowl, tilting it over the boiling water or broth. With a sharp knife or kitchen shears, slice off pieces of the batter into the boiling liquid. Dip blades in the liquid before each cut to prevent sticking. Remove from liquid using a slotted spoon or spider. Drain well before serving,

amish cucumber salad
If you’re on a salt-restricted diet, skip salting the cukes and onions. Or if you’re too lazy to do it, that’s okay, too. You will need to eat it all up the same day, though, because the water will leach out into the dressing over time. My Aunt Myrtle taught me how to make this. It disappears from the table quickly.

  • 2 medium cucumbers, pared and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt
  • 2 Tbs vinegar
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley or dill (optional)
  • White or black pepper

Sprinkle cukes and onion with a teaspoon of salt and let stand for a few minutes. Pat with towel or absorbent paper to remove moisture. Place cucumbers and onions in a bowl, dissolve sugar in the vinegar, add a pinch of salt and mix with sour cream. Toss thoroughly with cucumber mix to cover. Turn out to a serving dish; dust with pepper and parsley or dill. Chill. Best eaten same day.

amish red cabbage (rote kraut)

Place 4 Tbs of bacon grease in a large heavy pot. Brown one finely chopped onion till golden. Shred one 2½ lb head of red cabbage. Mix ¼ cup vinegar with ¼ cup water and 2 Tbs sugar.

Next, place cabbage in onion and grease. Pour vinegar and sugar mixture over. Salt and pepper to taste, and combine. Bring to boil over medium high heat taking care not to scorch bottom. Quarter 1 large pared, cored apple and place on top of cabbage. Lower heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Makes 10 servings.

amish scalloped spinach

  • 2 lbs fresh spinach
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 Tbs butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups bread crumbs, divided
  • ½ cup chopped bacon
  • Salt and pepper

Wash spinach and remove tough stems. Drain and cook with a little water in covered pot over moderate heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and chop finely. Add milk, beaten eggs, 1½ cups of the bread crumbs, butter, salt, pepper then mix well. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup bread crumbs and the chopped bacon, on the top. Bake in moderate oven (350 ° F) 35 minutes.

amish corn soup with rivels
Rivels are miniature dumplings dropped into soup, similar to spaetzle, to extend the volume of the meal and add taste and texture with little effort.

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen corn
  • 2 qts water
  • 1 cup rich milk
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • Parsley

Add corn to water and cook for 10 minutes. Mix egg, flour and milk together in a medium size bowl. Pour this batter through a colander, letting it drop into the boiling corn. Add butter and salt. Cook slowly in a covered pan for 3 minutes. Test for doneness. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

amish pickled beets

  • 3 lbs. whole fresh beets
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 tsp whole allspice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 pt. vinegar
  • ½ cup water

Prepare jars for canning by sterilizing in a large pot of boiling water or baking jars in the oven. See a book like Putting Food By (Hertzberg, Vaughn and Greene) for exact canning instructions. Remove greens and root strings taking care not to trim too closely or beets will “bleed” into the cooking water. Boil until tender. Cool a bit, remove skins, and cut into thin slices or chunks as desired. Tie spices in cheesecloth packet. Bring to a boil the vinegar, water, sugar, and spices. Add beets and boil 5 minutes. Pack in sterile jars and fill with hot liquid. Seal.

pennsylvania dutch red beet eggs
In high school I cleaned house every Saturday for a couple, both artists, who were of German descent. After working for a couple of hours, they would put out a spread on the kitchen table and their two children and I would enjoy these delicious beets and eggs along with thick slices of creamy Meunster cheese and dark pumpernickel bread. I still use their recipe for the beets to this day.

To make red beet eggs, thinly slice some red onions and add to hot pickled beets about two-thirds up in a large jar. Cool. Hard-boil six eggs. Remove shells and drop the eggs into the jar making sure they are totally submerged in the liquid. Refrigerate at least overnight. Longer is better. These take on a beautiful color and excellent flavor and are grand as appetizers served with crisp vegetables. They are also good sliced in sandwiches or salads.

Next time, I will post some delicious Amish and Mennonite desserts. Remember, “Eat yourself full!”

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comforting chicken and rice

Getting through all this sub-zero weather, polar vorteces, and Alberta Clippers means eating lots of comfort food. And to me, chicken and rice is the quintessential warmer-upper. These recipes are a nice diversion from the standard chicken stew. If you’ve never tried making oriental, Mexican, or Indian food, now’s your chance. These meals are super easy to make, plus their flavor profiles are not too over-the-top. And your kitchen will smell amazing!

orange glazed chicken with buttery rice

I made this last night, and what a refreshing change—so easy to put together. Sweet and savory, this dish is satisfying and delicious. This is so yummy with an oriental flair, quick and easy, and the kids will gobble it up. Serves 4, so double it for a crowd.

First, prepare the rice:

  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup basmati or jasmine rice
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ tsp salt

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Stir the rice into the butter and cook until all the rice granules are milk-white.
  2. Pour in the water. Add salt and bring to a full boil, cooking until the water boils down and is no longer visible, and pockets or holes appear in the rice when the water is gone.
  3. Turn off the heat, cover the pot with a lid, and let the rice sit for 20 minutes. Fluff, eat, and enjoy.

While the rice is sitting, prepare the chicken and broccoli:

  • 1 cup orange juice, plus the zest of one orange, divided
  • 1 Tbs grated fresh ginger or 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1½ Tbs dry sherry
  • 4 tsp maple syrup or honey
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbs lite olive oil
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts if you prefer)
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 lime
  • Salt

Directions

  1. Put the orange juice in a bowl. Add the orange zest, ginger, soy sauce, sherry, maple syrup or honey, coriander, and garlic. Mix together and set aside.
  2. Cut the chicken into 2-inch pieces and pat them dry with a paper towel. Salt lightly. Place the oil in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in a single layer and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side is golden.
  3. Pour the orange juice mixture into the pan and let simmer for 10 minutes, or until it has reduced into a thick glaze.
  4. While the orange juice mixture is simmering, fill a large saucepan with 1 inch of water. Put the broccoli in a steamer basket, and bring the water to a boil. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid, and simmer 5 minutes.
  5. When the sauce has thickened, turn the chicken and spoon the sauce over it. Squeeze lime juice over the top. Serve with buttery rice and steamed broccoli florets.

 

creamy chicken curry

This rich-tasting dish showcases traditional Indian spices without covering up the complexity of the other ingredients. You can buy tomato paste in a tube now—so convenient when small quantities are called for, and it is essential in this recipe. So is the turmeric, which is praised for its antioxidant and healing qualities.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs lite olive oil
  • 2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 tsp curry powder, divided
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1½ tsp tomato paste
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 2 tsp coarse salt (or 1 tsp plain salt)
  • 1 cup hot water (optional)

Directions

  1. In a wok or heavy cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Saute onions for 6-8 minutes or until transparent. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes.
  2. Stir in cumin, turmeric, 2 tsp of the curry powder, red pepper flakes, and half the salt. Cook stirring constantly for 1 minute till fragrant. Take care not to burn. Add tomato paste. Mix to combine.
  3. Season chicken pieces with remaining curry powder, salt, and pepper. Add to pan, and cook for about 5-6 minutes until outside is golden brown.
  4. Open the coconut milk. Pour into a bowl and use a rubber spatula to scrape all the contents from the can. Mix well to blend before pouring coconut milk into the pan. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 7 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. If sauce has cooked down, add hot water as needed.
  5. Serve hot with white rice. Pass the lime wedges.

 

cheesy chicken and yellow rice

This is so easy. All you need is a package of Goya’s flavor-packed yellow rice (in the ethnic aisle of your grocery store), a few veggies, and chicken for a truly delicious and tummy-filling dish in only 30 minutes. And because it’s one dish, you save dishwashing, too!

Ingredients

  • 1 8-oz package of Goya Yellow Rice mix
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in ¾ inch pieces
  • Goya Adobo All-Purpose Seasoning, to taste, or alternative*
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • ½ medium yellow onion, chopped
  • ½ cup shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil over medium heat. Add contents of yellow rice package, tomatoes, and 1 Tbs of the olive oil. Return to a boil, stir well, then reduce heat to low. Cook covered until water is absorbed and rice is tender.
  2. Heat remaining oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt, and fry, stirring often, till golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Add adobo seasoning and cook for a minute or two. Add peppers and onions to skillet and cook, stirring, till veggies are soft and chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes more.
  3. Remove from heat. Stir in cooked rice and mix till well combined. Mix in cheese, stirring till melted. Keep warm till serving.

* You can substitute the Goya Adobe Seasoning by adding 1 Tbs white vinegar, ½ tsp. black pepper, 1 tsp sugar, and ½ tsp table salt.

 

chicken and brown rice soup

Everyone knows brown rice is much better for you than white. But the longer cooking time can be a stumbling block for many cooks. This satisfying soup combines the savory taste of chicken, black beans, sage, and veggies that marry beautifully with the brown rice, and the hands-off, quick prep makes brown rice a smart addition to your diet. And a great low-calorie lunch.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • ¼ cup diced carrots
  • ¼ cup frozen corn
  • ¼ cup drained and rinsed black beans
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¾ cup brown rice

Directions

  1. Bring chicken broth to a boil in a large pot. Cook chicken breasts in the broth until no longer pink, about 20 minutes. Remove chicken using a slotted spoon and shred with a fork.
  2. Stir shredded chicken, celery, onions, carrots, corn, black beans, sage, pepper, salt, and bay leaf into the broth and cook till vegetables are slightly softened, about 20 minutes. Add brown rice and simmer till rice is tender, about 1 hour.

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