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Archive for September, 2013

(Note: This post was originally published in February 2013 in the Okanagan Sunday, Kamloops This Week and Prairie Post. The time and date of the reading mentioned has come and gone. But! You can join author Astrid Blodgett on Tuesday evening, October 8 instead. You can contact the Peachland Library or Astrid, via her blog, for further information.)

 

In my grandmother’s kitchen, there were many plastic bags.

Although I never knew her to buy a loaf of bread, somehow the bread bags of other families made their way to her.

She used and reused them, washed and hung them to dry from clothespins suspended on a string over the kitchen sink.

When they’d dripped dry, she stored her own bread in them. White bread, soft as down pillows, the dough for which rose daily in an enameled bowl, covered and set on the kitchen table.

february10.foodpic.darcie     Meanwhile, Grandma would do her other baking. Cookies and doughnuts and buns and roll kuchen.

As many of these goodies as might have been for her and Grandpa, many more were for visitors who dropped by, usually unannounced. Or they were sent home with children and grandchildren.

With the homemade bread in bread bags, the twist ties long ago stripped of their red or green paper ribbons, the cream cookies were packed in one of dozens of kept ice cream buckets.

Salvaged grocery ware, after all, were Grandma’s Mennonite “Tupperware.” A thrifty measure that predated our modern “Reduce/Reuse/Recycle” movement. And one that, some twenty-plus years later, has lately served me well.

While writing and rehearsing the talk and reading I would deliver at the book launch for Mennonites Don’t Dance more than two years ago, I wanted, also, to do something special, and sweet, for readers who have followed this column for so many years.

Arriving at the downtown library an hour ahead of the event, Chefhusband and I brought in ice cream buckets stuffed with pink-frosted cream cookies, the same as my grandmother used to bake. We put on the library’s conference-sized coffee urns. And when the reading was over, we invited the sixty or so people who’d come to listen, to join us for a Mennonite treat.

On tour in Alberta a few weeks later, my mom, sister and niece did the baking, while an aunt and uncle provided the Mennonite “Tupperware” I brought to the library in Lethbridge.

Across Canada, libraries (and independent book stores) have been very good to me: The Ontario Library Association nominated Mennonites Don’t Dance for their annual Evergreen Award, while local librarians have made me feel at home among their stacks.

In the end, the honours went, last week, to Linwood Barclay who wrote The Accident (Doubleday Canada).

Today, however, I’m getting ready for another reading, at another library. This time in Peachland, on Tuesday February 12th at 7pm. A bit of a drive, but all are welcome. And there will be cream cookies, made from my grandmother’s recipe, with a twist, and carried in Mennonite “Tupperware” from my own collection.

“Your aunt says she  needs those back,” my mom said to me when she delivered the cream cookies for Lethbridge.

I’m sorry to say that when I returned them, it was minus one.

 

Mennonite “Whoopie Pies”

2 large eggs

1 cup whipping cream

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

pinch salt

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1tsp baking soda

 

Filling:

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sifted icing sugar

2 tsp cocoa powder

3 cups marshmallow “Fluff”* (store bought or homemade)

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Whisk together eggs, cream, sugar, vanilla and salt. Whisk together remaining ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet, one cup at a time, mixing to form a soft dough. Divide into two parts. Wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate to chill.

Preheat oven to 350F. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/2-inch. Cut cookies using a medium round cutter. Place 1-inch apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake 12-14 minutes (cookies should remain white, but be set in the centre). Cool completely.

Meanwhile, for filling, cream together butter, icing sugar and cocoa until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add Fluff* and vanilla. Mix until combined.

Spread undersides of cookies with filling and press together into sandwich cookies.

*Marshmallow Fluff

3 egg whites

2 cups light corn syrup

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups icing sugar

1 Tbs pure vanilla extract

 

Using the whisk attachment of an electric beater, beat egg, syrup and salt on high speed for 10 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla and beat on low to combine.

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Thank you Discovery Channel..

Without your often fine programming, it may never have wriggled into my consciousness.

It may never have hopped or jumped or flicked its way into my mind.

I may never have know that, pound for pound, grasshoppers provide more protein than chicken.

More protein, too, than beef. Than pork. Than duck, pheasant, venison and, presumably, also, buffalo, quail, ostrich, lamb or goat.

august23.foodpic.darcie    Certainly, I did already know, having grown up on the Canadian prairies, that grasshoppers are plentiful. They are inexhaustible. We could in fact sieve an entire plague off the land, even as it’s munching its way through a wheat or canola crop, and another yummy plague would simply grow up in its place.

And, because a grasshopper once flew into my mouth while I was trying to get to my grandmother in her devastated garden, I know, too, that grasshoppers come in handy bite-sized portions that are light-weight and easy for snacking. As they would be for shipping.

Given a change of consciousness on the part of Canadians, we could probably save our grasslands from grazing livestock, having taken to heart that grasshopper ranching is the future.

And for those lucky enough to have grasshoppers in their own yards, they can be eaten fresh from the garden, sizzled in oil as a popcorn substitute, dried for storage, or cooked up in thousands upon thousands of different, delectable ways, including dry roasted, tossed in a wok or (and this is my favourite idea, courtesy of one very odd blogger) hidden in Christmas fruitcake.

I know, I know. There’s the heebie jeebie effect that we in the West just can’t seem to overcome, no matter how much ketchup we splatter at the idea.

But! Let us consider that in much of Asia, grasshoppers are a symbol of good luck and abundance. Fancy varieties are even kept as cherished pets in intricate handmade cages, while the more ordinary sorts are enjoyed as street food, skewered on bamboo sticks.

And, since pestilences are scheduled to increase as we lunge towards a warmer world, Waste Not, Want Not is an concept we might as well adopt. Especially given that a wasted opportunity just so happens to be hopping around our feet.

Hopping.

Hopping and scrabbling.

Hopping, scrabbling and scratching.

And that, right there, Dear Discovery Channel, is my problem at this very moment: Roughly 0.54 grams of the ickiest creature that’s ever stood between me and my front door.

Now, with my social consciousness adjusted, do I stop and think to myself, “Oh look! An ingredient!”

Or, “There’s the garnish I was looking for?”

No, I do not.

The only thing I think is to slowly, stealthily, slip the flip flop from my foot and  SMACK!  that grasshopper into jam.

A few moments later, however, after my heart rate has knocked its way back to resting, and as I stoop to scrape crunchy-slimy, yellow-green thorax from my sole, I do feel the quickening of an idea.

Grasshopper jam.

Well, okay. Maybe I’m not quite there yet.

Peach and Grasshopper (Jalapeno) Jam

6 pounds fresh peaches (about 15)

2 fresh jalapenos, seeded and very finely diced or processed

6 cups granulated sugar

juice from 1 large lemon

1 Tbs butter

1 (1.75 oz.) package pectin

Twelve 8 ounce canning jars, lids and bands

In the bowl of a large food processor fitted with the blade attachment, puree five peaches at a time until slightly chunky. Transfer to a large pot, add jalapenos, and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.

When simmering, stir in sugar, lemon juice and pectin until sugar is thoroughly dissolved.

Continue to let the jam simmer for another 15 minutes to thicken. Add butter (to prevent foaming). If any foam does come to the surface, skim it off with a spoon and discard.

Boil jars and lids for ten minutes to sterilize. Use a funnel and ladle to fill each jar, leaving about 1/4 inch of room at the top of each jar.

Wipe each jar and top it with a lid and band.

Place jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes to process, making sure the simmering water covers the jars by at least an inch.

Remove jars and let them cool completely for 24 hours. If any jars are not sealed (lid still pops down when gently pressed), reprocess.

Store sealed jars in a cool dark pantry for up to one year.

Darcie Friesen Hossack: food columnist, author

Mennonites Don’t Dance, Thistledown Press Sept. 2010

shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize (first book, Canada and Caribbean)

Danuta Gleed Award runner-up

stories and recipes from this blog are previously published in the Okanagan Sunday, Kamloops This Week and Prairie Post

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