Thursday, April 24, 2014

On Feeding People

I have made lots of food this last week.  After all these years, I sort of like cooking but I don't love it, and I still feel a sense of, "Wow, did I actually pull this off?" when a big meal comes together and I remember to get the meat out of the oven and the salad out of the fridge.

I like to make food that is:
a. from scratch
b. reasonably simple
c. solid and filling
d. reasonably affordable
e. tasty, but I don't shoot for exquisite
I tend to make the kinds of recipes your grandma could have made blindfolded.

You won't find me adding Mediterranean figs or Dead Sea Salt or che guevara cheese*.

I've also learned: Don't explain and apologize for the lumpy mashed potatoes or the almost-burned buns.

Sunday was Easter which calls for a big dinner, but we had only two children at home which makes it feel a bit silly to make ham and mashed potatoes and gravy and corn and dinner rolls and carrot cake.  So we invited eight other people.  Frances brought a tossed salad.  I had two big hams in the oven all morning, and the mashed potatoes in a Crock Pot.

Everything was yummy if I say so myself.

Here's my go-to dinner roll/butterhorn recipe.  Some people don't like all the fiddly steps at different times but I like that part of it.  Less overwhelming the day of.

The night before:
Dissolve 1 T. yeast
and 1 T. sugar
in 1 cup warm water
Cream together: 3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 t. salt
1/2 cup sugar
Add yeast mixture.
Add 4 1/2 cups white flour
[Or 2 cups whole wheat/ 2 1/2 cups white]
Mix well.
Set in the fridge overnight.
The morning of:
Divide dough in two.
Roll each chunk into a circle on the counter.
Brush with melted butter if you have time.
Cut each circle like a pizza, into 16 wedges.
Roll up each wedge, starting with the wide end.
Set on a greased cookie sheet.
Go to church. And Sunday school.
Visit a while afterwards.
Come home from church.
Bake the buns at 350 for 15 minutes.

Variation for when the youth group comes over: when you roll out and cut the dough, lay 3 slices of pepperoni and 1/2 a mozzarella cheese stick on each wedge.  Roll up.  Bake.  Serve with little cups of marinara sauce.

One of our Sunday guests was Jenny's cousin and sidekick Allison, who spent the afternoon and night here in honor of Jenny's birthday on Monday.

Since the school kids bring a treat on their birthdays, Jenny and Alli decided to make monster cookies on Sunday evening to take to school Monday.
Allison and Jenny: available to clean or babysit for you, but maybe not to bake cookies.
We note that both of them are experienced bakers but it's a bit dangerous to have them work together.  "Here, you get the oatmeal!"
"Oops!  Heeheeheeheeheehee!"
"How much flour??"
 "There's no flour in this recipe!"

The first pan of monster cookies oozed like a mud flow all over the pan.  They added flour.  The second pan was almost as bad.

They gave up.  "I think the peanut butter was weird," Jenny announced confidently and a bit accusingly, because I had told them which jar to use--this slightly-old "natural" [aka "weird"] stuff.

The mixing bowl went into the fridge for me to bake up later.  We bought ice cream bars to take to school.

I finally baked the cookies today.  The dough was incredibly sticky and heavy, like a science experiment illustrating a liquid with high viscosity.  Like corn syrup.


This evening I asked Jenny, "How much corn syrup did you and Allison put into the cookie dough?"

She said, "I don't know.  Whatever the recipe said.  A cup and a half I think."

The recipe called for one and a half teaspoons.

No wonder.

Mix: 1 cup/2 sticks butter
2 1/3 c. brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
Add: 2 1/2 cups Jif-quality peanut butter
6 eggs
1 1/2 t. vanilla
Mix well.
Add 1 1/2 t. (!) light corn syrup
4 t. baking soda
Stir in: 9 cups oatmeal
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup M & Ms
Bake 12 minutes at 350.

On Tuesday it was my turn to supply a hot lunch at school.  Each mom is responsible for doing this once a year, which doesn't sound like so much until you realize it means singlehandedly feeding 50 people.  The other option is to partner with another mom and do it twice, but when we're signing up at the beginning of the year, it always sounds easier to do it once and get it over with.

So I fried up 16 pounds of hamburger to make sloppy joes, and made a big vish of potato salad, and 49 whoopie pies, and I bought potato chips at Costco and also way too many fresh veggies as it turned out, and I also made 4 gallons of iced tea, and set out pickles and sliced cheese.

"Are you going to get some other moms to help you make whoopie pies?" asked Jenny mysteriously, the day before.  I said, "Huh??"

I finally figured out she was referring to my comparison of matching the top and bottom cookies to matchmaking eligible young men and women in my life, and how I've threatened to get together with other moms  to facilitate this among our young-adult children.

I made two different batches of whoopie pie filling and I can't decide which one tastes most like the filling Ought to Taste.  Batch A used butter, powdered sugar, marshmallow creme, and vanilla.
Batch B used milk cooked with corn starch then cooled down and whipped with shortening, butter, and granulated sugar.  I think there's also an Option C out there, a recipe that involves egg whites.

My question for you, my reader experts: which one is the most authentic?

Here's the recipe for the first batch of cookies:

Mix 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 cups sugar
3 eggs
Add 1 T. vanilla
3 cups milk
Mix in:
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
6 cups flour
4 1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. salt
Scoop onto greased baking sheets.
Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.
Pair up the cookies and put filling in between.
1 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups marshmallow creme
2 t. vanilla

There were enough leftovers from the school lunch to provide supper for a widower who lives near school and also a pregnant friend's little family and also us.

Today was our monthly Girls for God Club meeting.  15 girls came.  The plan was to go tour the local pregnancy center and deliver the blankets and hats we made last month, then go back to church and make individual pizzas and fruit cobblers for our dinner.

We got back to church and it was locked up since I had forgotten to tell Paul to leave it unlocked when he went home after school.

Thankfully one of the moms came by to take her daughter to softball practice and she had a key.

So we went inside to start on the food.  The electricity was off, not a good situation with 14 hungry girls and a big bowl of rising pizza dough.

So we assembled the pizzas and took them home to bake.

Mix: 3 T. yeast
2 cups warm water
6 T. sugar
Let it sit for a few minutes, then add:
3 cups milk
6 T. oil
1 1/2 T. salt
12 cups flour
 Mix well and knead if you're ambitious.
Let it rise.
Spread into pans.
Top with pizza sauce, then grated cheese, then toppings.
Bake at 375 until the bottom is browned and the cheese is melted and the dough isn't gooey in the middle.

This is a big batch but it wasn't quite enough for all the girls to make a Wild Plum pie tin of pizza.

Meanwhile, Paul picked up sandwiches at Subway for him and Ben and Jenny, because sometimes Mennonite moms are so busy making food for everyone else that they neglect their nearest and dearest.

*yes, I made that up.

Quote of the Day:
"Do you think Jenny could feed our kitty for a few days? . . .  Oh, and the kitty's name is DD.  It stood for Dew Drop, because she was really little when we got her, and had this little dew drop shape on her nose.  Then we took her in to get her fixed and found out she's actually a boy.  So now DD stands for Daring Dude."
--a beloved neighbor


  1. Someday, when I get big, I wanna handle a week like that with as much "No-big-deal-this-was-my-week" as Dorcas Smucker!! I wanna lay on the couch and recover for a day just thinking about it!

    Ps. The recipe using egg whites is the best in my opinion...

    Pps. Please go out to eat tonight!! :)

  2. I laughed outloud when I read about the corn syrup. I could picture the dough completely! Kids are wonderful~ What in the world would we do without them?? Life would be so boring.. Thanks for the laugh!

  3. Yeah, one of those weeks where you can barely think of anything but the next foodie thing coming up! That butterhorn recipe looks amazing and I shall have to try it!
    I use the milk/cornstarch recipe for whoopie pies at home, but where I work uses an egg white one. I like mine better!
    I do hope you have had calmer days this week!

  4. I've often wondered what that little bit of corn syrup does in that monstrous batch of monster cookies. Any ideas?

  5. I agree with Jan that life would be boring with out creative bakers. When I was a teenager my brother (a year younger) and friend decided they were hungry for peanut butter cookies and so started making a quadruple batch. They got stuck at the mix the liquid into the dry ingredients because they had filled the two biggest bowls in the kitchen and there was no room in either for the mixing.
    They asked for my help and promptly left me in the kitchen alone. the cookies tasted good but I was a long time cooking them!

  6. Cooked icing is the best for whoopie family gets the idea that I only cook "good" food for other people and always ask longingly "Is that for us?"

  7. Icing for Whoopie Pies? Use the one you like the best for whatever reason - that is the beauty of cooking. :-) Being creative...

  8. I totally agree with your "I like to make food that is..." list! My feelings exactly!
    Sue R.

  9. My nearest Albertson's store offers a bakery treat identified as "WHOPPIE PIES." Don't you wish there were a Spellchek or AutoCorrect for store signs?

  10. Oh, oh....I laughed and laughed over the corn syrup. I have two teenage girls learning to cook at my house, and they've had their fair share of cooking accidents. But then, ahem, so has their mother....

    Here in Maine the filling with the fluff seems to be the most popular in whoopie pies. (But I think the one with the milk and cornstarch might be the more traditional.)

  11. For whoopie pie filling, which my PA Dutch family actually calls Gobs, we do the cooked milk (with flour) filling. We call that Poor Man's Frosting. There is nothing my children love more for dessert than a chocolate cake with that frosting. Me too for that matter.

  12. Awww, thanks, Bethany. We note that I no longer have babies. That helps.
    Twila, I have no idea what that little bit of corn syrup does but I've never had the courage to omit it.
    Loved your cooking stories and input on icings!
    And yes, anonymous, I've wanted to correct many many signs in stores!