Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"It's a broad noodle."

Almost every month, Mother of Ken's church, St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Iola, Kansas, hosts a community dinner. They serve everything from spaghetti to such southeast Kansas delicacies as ham and beans and chicken and noodles. The chicken and noodle dinner (sometimes referred to in that part of the world as a "feed") is probably the most popular because they make the noodles from scratch and have some of the best potatoes around.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a fan of chicken and noodles nor is Mother of Ken. Father of Ken, on the other hand, loves this dish. Mother of Ken is still supportive of the noodle making efforts, even though she doesn't eat them. When chicken and noodles are on the menu for the community dinner, members of the church participate in "Noodle School" after church on the Sunday before the dinner, which is usually held on Wednesday evening. When they started this a few years ago, experienced noodle makers taught the others how to make them and it is still called "Noodle School" even though everyone knows what they are doing now. Having never participated in "Noodle School," I don't know all of the steps, but I do know that Mother of Ken is in charge of cutting the noodles and I think that Father of Ken is in charge of rolling out the dough. I'm sure they will correct me if I am wrong. This is a picture of the noodles drying on tables:

It takes a lot of noodles to feed all of the people who come to these dinners. They are open to the community and the church does not charge anyone to eat. They do accept free will offerings and all of the money that they receive is used to purchase food for anyone in the community that needs it. Iola is a small community that suffered a lot of damage from flooding a few summers ago and much of the local economy relies on agriculture and manufacturing jobs, which means that people are feeling the effects of the national economic situation. So, there is a lot of need in the community, especially now.

These community dinners have grown quite a bit since they started several years ago and the most recent chicken and noodle dinner was no different. Mother of Ken reports that they had ten roasters full of chicken and noodles, 100 pounds of potatoes, 8 gallons of green beans, and 24 pies and they ran out of everything but noodles. A lot of people come to the church to eat, others pick up orders to take home, some (especially older people) have their dinner delivered, and lots of people purchase extra chicken and noodles to take home and freeze for later.

I wish that I had more pictures to show you, but the picture of the noodles drying will have to suffice. There are acts of kindness like this happening all over the country right now as people suffer from the economic downturn and various natural disasters and I'm glad to be able to tell all of you gentle readers about the people at St. Timothy's in Iola and their commitment to making sure that no one in their community goes hungry.

In addition to the community dinners, they also run a backpack program to provide food for school children over the weekend. There were kids who did not have anything to eat between school lunch on Friday and school breakfast on Monday, so the people of St. Timothy's put together packages of food that teachers can slip into the children's backpacks as they leave school on Friday.

To all of my gentle readers, please consider supporting your local food pantry, food bank, or any other program that provides food to those in need. Every little bit helps, so when you are doing your grocery shopping, buy some extra food to give to someone in need. As one of the women of St. Timothy's always says, "If you need it, they need it."

One last note--St. Timothy's has published a cookbook that includes contributions from parishioners and relatives and friends of parishioners (including me). The cookbook just happens to include the recipe for St. Timothy's famous potatoes, which they serve with the chicken and noodles, among other things. If you are interested in ordering a cookbook, I could probably coax Mother of Ken to send one to you. The cost is $10 plus shipping--just leave a comment with your e-mail address and I'll be in touch.

Blister in the Sun

The other day, I made Mother of Ken's barbecued beef brisket along with an interesting new side dish that you will see later in this post.

First, the barbecue sauce. The ingredients are:
1/2 c. ketchup

1/2 c. apple cider or juice
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
1/4 c. brown sugar

I just mix everything in a large measuring cup, starting with the ketchup:
Apple juice:

Cider vinegar:

Worcestershire sauce:

Brown sugar:


The next step is to heat some oil in a pan (in this case, my "roasterette"):

And then brown the brisket (seasoned with salt and pepper) in the oil:

Once the brisket is browned, I add one chopped yellow onion and pour the sauce over everything:

This should cook at 325 degrees for about 2 1/2 hours and about an hour before it is done, I add carrots (this is optional, but it is one of my favorite parts of the meal):

While the brisket finished cooking, I started working on one of the side dishes. I found a package of sunchokes at the grocery store last weekend and decided to try them. These are the chokes of the sunflower and they are supposed to be like a cross between a potato, a jicama, and an artichoke with a nutty flavor. You prepare them like you would a root vegetable--steam, boil, saute, roast, whatever you want.

This is what they look like:

I peeled a few and cut them into pieces of equal size:

I cooked mine in some olive oil with salt and pepper and they were tender in about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, the brisket was finished:

After taking the meat out to rest, I simmered the sauce until it thickened slightly:

(I also removed the carrots and some of the onions first, putting them in a separate bowl.)

My dinner: cinnamon applesauce, sunchokes with salt and pepper, barbecued beef brisket, and carrots and onions. This was really good and I'll be eating some version of this again tonight, probably with steamed sunchokes. The sunchokes were nutty and firm in texture and I definitely liked them. I still love potatoes more, but these are a nice change and it is always fun to try new things.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Longest Time, Part II

After lunch, Kenna and I went on a walk around the neighborhood.

One of our stops was the park behind our house. If you walk to the edge of the park, you can see the waterfall. We can see the top of the waterfall from the house, but this view is prettier:

Our house is the brown one in the background:

Kenna was exhausted when we got home:

The Longest Time, Part I

I have been waiting for spring for the longest time. I think it is finally starting to make an appearance, which isn't to say that we won't still have snow and ten degree temperatures at night for the next month or so--this is central New York. My first clue was seeing a bunch of ducks in the creek one morning this week:

I don't like to be close to ducks, so it is good that the creek is much lower than my yard because they stay in the water or on the opposite bank. These ducks were having a very good time splashing around and playing, even though it was pretty early in the morning.

This has been one of those weeks that started crazy and got progressively worse with things to do and demands on my time, none of which I mind, but by the time the end of the week came, I was ready for some comfort food.

When we were in college, my friend Tricia's mom used to send baked ziti back with her for us to eat on Sunday nights. I have fond memories of devouring baked ziti in the third floor lounge of Coblentz Hall with my friends, knowing that everyone else was suffering through the Sunday night offerings in the dining hall downstairs. Since I don't eat meat on Fridays during Lent, I decided that baked penne would be the perfect thing for dinner.

Earlier in my college career, before I became friends with Tricia, I started a cooking club with some friends who lived in my dorm. Mother of Ken sent me placemats and napkins and Grambi sent money for slow cooker and we were set. We used to make all kinds of crazy things for dinner on Saturday nights using pots and pans and kitchen implements that we all contributed. Some of the girls' mothers lived close enough to send ingredients, so we would work with what we had and also go to the grocery store behind our dorm as well as raid the dining hall for things like salad dressing and vegetables from the salad bar. We often made red sauce using the vegetables that we gathered from the dining hall and the sauce that I made last night reminded me of my college cooking club days.

I chopped some carrot, onion, baby brown button mushrooms, and zucchini:

And sauteed the vegetables in a little olive oil for five minutes or so--until they were tender.

Then I added grape tomatoes and one clove of minced garlic and cooked for another few minutes.

When everything cooked down a little, it looked like this:

At that point, I added jarred marinara sauce (I ran out of homemade) and heated everything through:

In the meantime, I cooked Barilla Plus penne (not ziti) just slightly less than the recommended time. When it was almost done, I drained the pasta and divided it into two oven safe dishes:

I added sauce to each dish and mixed it with the pasta:

And then I added shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese to the tops of both dishes.

I wrapped one of these in foil and put it in the refrigerator for later and baked the other at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes, until the cheese was melted and browned:

While the baked penne was in the oven, I made a Cosmopolitan. When I worked in retail, I would often be so frazzled by the time I was done working on Saturdays that I would come home and make one of these. It is a really nice way to end the week and start your weekend.

I use the cap of my shaker to measure, starting with one cap full of vodka:

Two caps full of cranberry juice:

The juice of one lime:

A splash of Cointreau:

And a splash (or a little more) of grenadine:

Shake everything with a lot of ice and then pour it into a chilled martini glass:

This made enough for the equivalent of about two Cosmopolitans, but I put it all into my glass immediately. You just have to be a little careful as you start to drink that you don't spill too much. I really needed this:

On Saturday mornings, I usually try to make something special for breakfast. I am always excited when I start to see strawberries in the stores because I know that I can make one of my favorite spring/early summer creations--fresh strawberry muffins.

This is a recipe that I got from Grambi several years ago:

1/2 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk (this time, I used 1/4 c. milk and 1/4 c. lemon juice)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. chopped strawberries
I started with the butter, sugar, and egg:

Cream the butter and sugar together for about 5 minutes:

Then add the egg and beat until the mixture is smooth:

The dry ingredients are next:

Add about a third of the dry ingredients at a time, alternating with the milk and lemon juice (the vanilla goes it at the very end):

Last, fold in the strawberries:

Here, they are ready to go into the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Just out of the oven:

This was a very nice breakfast, along with my Puerto Rican coffee and orange juice:

These muffins taste like strawberry shortcake--they are so good. Try them and you won't be disappointed. I really liked the substitution of lemon juice for half of the milk, too.

Kenna and I were out in the yard this morning and noticed that our very first flower of the spring has arrived:

Finally, spring is here. In our neighborhood, it is like people have come alive again after six months of hibernating. My neighbors are mowing their lawns, trimming trees, and taking walks in the sun. Kenna and I are headed out for a walk later today, too--pictures to come soon...