shakers exemplify simplicity

Shaker Village

The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing (called the Shakers) was founded in the 18th century in England as a branch of the Quakers. The sect fled to America to gain religious freedom.  Known for their communal lifestyle, pacifism, and practice of celibacy, they also established model for equality of the sexes. Shakers are famous for their simple living, food, architecture, and furniture. Their credo is, Hands to work; hearts to God.

Because they relied on evangelism alone to grow their numbers, today only one active Shaker village remains in the U.S.—Sabbathday Lake, near New Gloucester, Maine. The village grows all its own herbs and includes them in most of their dishes. I was privileged many years ago to host a Shaker exhibit at the Nylander Museum in Caribou and to take a cooking lesson from the wonderful staff of kind, gentle folks. Here are a few of the dishes they prepared, and I’ve adapted their recipes for today’s cooks.


shaker chicken tarragon
Four ingredients? How can a recipe be more simple or easy? Tarragon is a type of mint with a mellow grassy flavor that pairs perfectly with chicken or fish. That’s why this dish is so flavorful. If you buy a free-range, organic chicken, you don’t need a ton of ingredients. And you’ll actually taste the chicken! Totally worth it.

ingredients

  • One 2½ lb. free-range, organic frying chicken
  • Butter or cooking oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Dried tarragon

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300° and prepare a small roasting pan by coating inside with a small amount of butter or oil.
  2. Thoroughly wash the inside and outside of the chicken with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Rub entire outside of chicken lightly with oil or butter. Sprinkle salt in cavity and rub in. Sprinkle salt and rub all over outside of chicken. Repeat with the tarragon inside and out.
  3. Place in pan and tuck wings under. Tie legs together with cotton twine. Bake about 2 hours or till thermometer inserted in the meatiest part of the breast reads 165°. (Tent with foil if breast or legs get too brown.)
  4. Remove from oven. Cover with foil and let rest for fifteen to twenty minutes while you prepare the table. Serve in halves or quarters as needed.

shaker herb biscuits
The secret here is to not overwork the dough. Overworking develops gluten, which is fine in yeast bread, but not in biscuits. Herb biscuits can be made with any herb—totally up to you. This is great because you can make dill biscuits to serve with fish; basil and oregano to serve with Italian food; or thyme and sage to serve with pork. Measurements are given for dried herbs, but fresh herbs can be used at the ratio of 4 times fresh chopped to 1 dried (1 tsp fresh to ¼ tsp dried)

ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 3 rounded tsp baking powder
  • 3 Tbs sugar
  • 3 tsp total of any dried herb or combination: thyme, dill, basil, chervil, marjoram, sage, oregano
  • 1 tsp table salt (or 2 tsp kosher salt)
  • 6 Tbs shortening (lard or solid shortening work best)
  • 2 cups milk

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir in herbs.
  3. Cut shortening in small pieces and blend into flour mixture with fingers or a pastry blender till it is in pea-size pieces.
  4. Gradually mix in milk very gently till well mixed.
  5. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and roll to a thickness of one inch, and, if it resists stretching, allow dough to rest if necessary.
  6. Use a round cookie cutter or simply cut dough into squares. Place on greased cookie sheets
  7. Bake for 20-30 minutes till raised and browned.

TIP: Just read this the other day, and this might very well be the reason why my and many others’ biscuits fail to rise as high as they should. Apparently, if you use a cookie cutter or jar rim to cut your biscuit dough and, like most of us, TWIST the cutter, it can seal the layers and prevent the biscuits from rising! I had no idea, and intend to test this very soon with twisted and non-twisted cutting. I would imagine the same goes for cutting the dough in squares—no sawing. Just cut straight down. Write to me if you discover anything. 


dill dip
Chop up those celery sticks, baby carrots, mushrooms, and bell peppers. Here’s a wholesome veggie dip to make at home (store-bought jars of veggie dip are loaded with sugar and chemicals!) that is healthy and nutritious.

ingredients

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise or Miracle Whip®
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbs minced onion
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh parsley or ¾ tsp dried
  • 2 Tbs fresh dill weed or 1½ tsp dried dill weed
  • 1½  tsp kosher salt

directions

Mix all ingredients and place in the refrigerator for 8-24 hours before serving. A squeeze of lemon or lime juice and some rind will improve the flavor even more. Serve with prepared veggies and crackers if desired.


TIP: You can buy herb seeds at any local grocery or hardware store and start your own herb garden on your windowsill. Transplant small plants outdoors or grow in containers on your deck or dooryard steps. You can clip them as needed all summer long and cut and dry them for winter use! If you have any questions about growing or drying herbs, please write to me at stardesign@ainop.com.


PRINT THIS POST  CJ-SHAKERS-4-2016

full of beans (plus bonus recipes)!

Beans are an excellent source of fiber, protein, and minerals, are fat-free, with a low glycemic load—important to those watching their carbohydrate intake.

south point veggie chili
I named this dish after our wonderful location on Madawaska Lake. I have been making it for about twenty-five years. It is meatless, but I have served it to many guests who, after finishing the meal, swore it had meat in it! Meatless means easy on the budget, too. You’ll find it is deeply satisfying, and the secret lies in the spices and how they are carefully toasted to bring out their flavor.

Main Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs light olive oil (divided)
  • 3 cloves garlic (or use garlic powder to taste)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 sweet peppers (I use one red and one green), diced
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 8 large button mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 3 15-oz cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Seasoning Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 Tbs ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbs dark brown sugar (if your diet allows, as this one of the secrets to the great taste)
  • 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste; I use about a ½ tsp)

Directions

Place a 5-quart pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Place two tablespoons of oil and heat about a minute. Add peppers and onions and stirring often, cook till they begin to soften. Add garlic and mushrooms and stir well till coated.

Push vegetables back to form a small well and reduce heat to low. Place remaining oil in the well and add chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Stir spices in the well with a wooden spoon for a minute or so, taking care not to burn, until the mixture is aromatic. Stir in the vegetables to coat, and continue to cook for another minute or so till bubbling.

Deglaze pan by adding tomatoes and their juice, scraping up brown bits. Turn the heat up again. Add brown sugar, vinegar, salt, cayenne, carrots, and beans. Mix well, cover, and simmer, stirring often, for about a half hour or until carrots are soft.

Stir in corn. Simmer another half-hour. If too watery, set the lid off a bit to allow some to cook away, or thicken with a tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in a tablespoon of water. If too thick, add water or tomato juice. Simmer for several minutes afterward to insure the starch is thoroughly cooked and juices are clear. Make final adjustments for heat and salt. Serve with shredded Jack cheese, sour cream, pickled jalapenos, and hot flour tortillas.

white turkey or chicken chili
This stew is a welcome change from ordinary chili. Again, toasting the spices provides a rich “umami,” that indescribable, savory deliciousness missing from many dishes. This calls for boneless chicken or turkey breasts, but you can also use ground chicken or turkey if you prefer.

Main Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs olive oil (divided)
  • 2 large yellow onions, diced
  • 1½ lbs of boneless, skinless turkey, chicken breast, or thighs, cut in 1-inch chunks
  • ½ bag frozen shoe peg corn
  • 2 15-oz cans white beans (cannellini) drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • ½ small box of button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tbs lime juice
  • 1 small can green chilis
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (or garlic powder)
  • 2 Tbs cornstarch in 2 Tbs water

Seasoning Ingredients

  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp dried oregano

Directions
Pat poultry very dry with paper towels. Salt liberally and brown in 2 Tbs oil. Remove from pan, add onions, garlic, and mushrooms, and follow the directions for South Point Chili to toast spices, taking care not to burn. Deglaze with broth and lime juice, add beans, browned meat, chilis, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer till meat is cooked through. Stir in cornstarch mixture. Add corn and simmer another fifteen minutes. Pass the hot sauce, sour cream, shredded cheese, jalapenos, and warm flour tortillas.

tip of the week – cooking oils

Admit it. We don’t give much thought to cooking oils, and you probably grab whatever’s cheap or on sale like the generic “vegetable oil” or “canola.” But I’d like to put a bee in your bonnet about that choice. Do yourself a favor and buy only pure light olive or grapeseed oil for your general cooking. Both are excellent since they do not impart any strong flavors to a dish, and both are free of any controversy regarding genetically modified content.

Cheaper “vegetable” oil can be a mix of soy, corn, or canola oils and is often over-processed with no nutritional value. Light olive oil is a healthful way to provide valuable nutrients.

If you do a fair amount of high heat frying, like French fries, fried chicken, and the like, choose peanut or safflower oil. They stand up well of sustained heat and will not smoke at higher temperatures.

Although a popular TV “chef” uses it for everything, extra-virgin olive oil is much more expensive and has a strong flavor. It also has a low smoking temperature so it isn’t suitable for everyday frying. Reserve it for dishes that require that deep, “olivey” flavor like salad dressing, Italian sauces and the like. Happy cooking!

bonus recipes
These recipes are not included on my newspaper column because of space constraints. Checking my blog every week will reward you with several more meal ideas and handy tips.

three-bean salad
This classic salad is so easy to make, you’ll never go back to buying that stuff in a jar. This is a tasty dish that even kids will eat, and you can keep a container of three-bean in your ‘fridge year round. This is a nice accompaniment to any meal and is an easy fix for potluck suppers—just double or triple the amounts. When fresh beans are available, you can use them, but they’ll have to be cooked tender-crisp before you can use them in this recipe.

  • 1 can cut green string beans (Blue Lake variety is best)
  • 1 can cut wax beans
  • 1 16-oz dark or light red kidney beans
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2/3 cup sugar (or substitute of your choice)
  • 1/3 cup light olive or grapeseed oil (Reduce or eliminate if you are restricting fats)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pepper to taste

Drain and rinse all canned vegetables and place in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl place vinegar, sugar, and salt, and stir till sugar is dissolved. Add oil and whisk till emulsified. Pour over vegetables, add onion, pepper, and mix thoroughly. Place in a covered container and refrigerate 18-24 hours, mixing now and then to distribute dressing. Serve cold. Delish!

tuna & white bean salad
This is a fun lunch, but very nutritious. I prefer chunk light tuna because it has a more defined taste, but you can use whatever you like. Water-packed is best for this recipe. Serves four.

Ingredients

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ tsp salt (if you use coarse salt, increase to ½ tsp)
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • ½ sweet red pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • 1 can cannellini (white kidney) beans
  • 1 pouch or one 5-oz can chunk light tuna (or albacore—your choice), drained and flaked
  • Basil (fresh is best, but dried is fine) You can also substitute fresh parsley.
  • Lemon zest (optional but it makes a huge difference in the flavor)
  • Directions

In a small bowl, mash garlic with salt using the back of a spoon. Mix in lemon juice and pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Add lemon zest and set aside.

In a medium size bowl, toss red pepper, onion, and beans together. Add tuna and mix, tossing lightly. Mix in garlic and oil dressing and basil.

Serve at room temperature in lettuce cups or over garden greens with some crisp toasted bread or crackers.

black beans & rice
This delicious dish requires a special seasoning made by Goya. It’s available in almost any grocery store and adds an authentic Mexican touch.

  • 1 can undrained black beans (Goya brand is best quality)
  • 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 packet Goya Saizon Without Annetto
  • 1 Tbs white vinegar
  • ½ brown sugar
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • ½ cup each diced green bell pepper and diced onion
  • Prepare rice and keep steaming hot. While rice is cooking, sauté peppers and onions till soft. Stir in remaining ingredients, heat till blubbing, and pour over rice. Serve immediately.

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