Monday, October 22, 2012

A Farmer's Daughter: Recipes from a Mennonite Kitchen

I really think that I would like Dawn Stoltzfus if I met her.  She is a down-to-earth person who seems to enjoy cooking and spending time with her family.  Her upbringing on a farm in Ohio with fresh ingredients makes me jealous.  I grew up in Los Angeles with 6 million people and lots of concrete.  I didn't see my first tomato plant until I was 29 years old.  I tended my first garden when I moved to TX that same year.  It was a joy to have fresh produce and see the fruit of my labor.  I imagine that is what Dawn's upbringing was like most of the time.  She must have really enjoyed the fresh milk and clean air of living on a farm.  Ahh....I can just imagine it. 

When I first received this cookbook I took the time to read through many of the recipes.  While doing this I came across all of Dawn's notes to the reader.  I really enjoyed reading her little vignettes about her family and about her faith.  Again, I think that I would really enjoy getting to know Dawn.  I actually think that I enjoyed reading her "food for thought" section more than I enjoyed reading the cookbook.

The cookbook is organized into sections like most cookbooks (Appetizers, Main entrees, breakfast and breads, etc).  It contains easy-to-read recipes.  Many of the recipes contain fresh ingredients and seem commonplace for life on a farm (Amish Fried Dressing, Brown Butter Green Beans, Farmer's BLT, Amish Peanut Butter, Honey Corn Bread).  There are several recipes, however, that seem out-of-place for a cookbook titled, "A Farmer's Daughter: Recipes from a Mennonite Kitchen."  There are several modern-day recipes that she must have picked up after leaving the farm.  These recipes seem oddly placed in this cookbook (i.e. Slow cooker Thai chicken, Moroccan Chicken Kebabs, Chicken Curry, Black beans and rice, Thai Turkey Roll-ups).  The author has traveled to France and she also includes some of these recipes in her book.  It feels as though about 1/3 of the book is made up of recipes from her life on the farm and the other recipes are things that she just enjoys cooking.  This would be ok except for the fact that the cookbook is touted as a Mennonite kitchen cookbook.

I cooked three of the recipes from the cookbook (Angel Biscuits, Buttermilk Ranch Dressing, Slow Cooker Thai Chicken). Here is my review of each of them:

ANGEL BISCUITS - definitely my favorite recipe out of the three that I cooked.  These were simple to make and tasted delicious.  A fast recipe that uses yeast but has no rising time.  I loved the use of yeast without the wait.  Very good. (I've included a picture of the biscuits in the photo section of this listing).

BUTTERMILK RANCH DRESSING - My least favorite recipe.  The recipe called for paprika which made for an odd taste in the dressing.  I have made many different versions of homemade ranch dressing and this one just didn't taste good to me.  The addition of garlic salt instead of fresh garlic seemed odd to me.  I think the author was trying to make things easy on the cook by allowing either dried or fresh herbs but dried herbs taste awful in dressings. 

SLOW COOKER THAI CHICKEN - I have made curried chicken many times and was excited to try a slow cooker version of a dish that I really love.  I was disappointed though in both the addition of peanut butter to this recipe (odd for a Thai curry dish) and the lack of "real flavor" to this dish.  It probably needed more salt and more fresh spices.  I also added more vegetables to the recipe since this recipe only called for red bell pepper, onions and frozen peas.  I added yellow bell pepper and broccoli to beef it up but it still fell flat.  I really wanted to love this recipe but it needs more depth.  It closely resembles a panang curry (minus the peanut butter which is more "African" when added to a dish like this) but doesn't have the intense flavors found in that dish.

The index at the back of the book does not break down the recipes by ingredient but instead just alphabetically lists the recipe name (which makes the index useless in my opinion since you can't just look up an ingredient that you have on hand and then find a recipe to make).

I give this cookbook a 2.5 out of 3.  The Mennonite Farm recipes look good, however, they do not make up the bulk of this cookbook.  This is definitely a compilation of recipes that the author enjoys with some Mennonite recipes dispersed throughout.  Still, I really like the author and loved her writing-style and her stories. 

Available October 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Life with Lily

I have enjoyed reading these little vignettes with my two daughters (aged 6 and 3).  I have found the stories to be simple and fun.  My girls think that Lily is a curious and sweet child.  I especially enjoy Lily's honesty as she faces each situation.  She responds as a child and that is part of the joy of this series.  I enjoy her reactions to the people that she encounters along the way.  I also appreciate the special relationship that she has with her mother and her family.  

I wish that there was a little more depth to the characters and that the style of writing was a bit deeper.  This is just a preference but I just thought that I would mention it in case anyone is hoping for deep character development in this series.  I'm not sure that you will find deep reflection or introspection in these characters.  I do think the series would have been more interesting if Lily was the narrator of the series.  This is simple and light reading but very fun for children.

Available October 2012  at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.