5 Tasty Menno/Amish Cooking Blogs You Won’t Want to Miss

Mennonite Community Cookbook is all about bringing people together around food and celebrating the Mennonite and Amish traditions of quality cooking. Here is a collection of Mennonite or Amish food bloggers that have inspired us in their commitment to similar goals.  In no particular order:

Hopeful1. Hopeful Things: Blogging with the intent to inspire

Who’s cooking? Hope, a stay-at-home cook from Virginia. Her commitment to her family and God shine brightly throughout her blog, as do her gifts in graphic design and photography. Read her bio here.

Why we love it: Hope has us head-over-heels in love with her stunning photos of mouthwatering dishes.

Don’t miss: Fried ham with onion gravy, a recipe that appears in Mennonite Community Cookbook. Onion and white bean gravy sounds just too good to miss!

 

Home Joys2. Home Joys

Who’s cooking? Gina, a Mennonite cook with a big family and a strong commitment to God. The blog’s attitude is summed up well in its tag line: “If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart.”

Why we love it: While food is a central component to the blog, Gina includes many helpful posts about gardening, family life, and her Mennonite background. She also includes a section filled with her favorite posts – what a great feature! Find that list here.

Don’t miss: We loved Gina’s creative use of zucchini in this zucchini crust pizza. A must try for an overflowing garden!

 

3. Jennifer Murch

Who’s cooking? Jennifer Murch, who lives with her husband John and their children on five acres near Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Why we love it: We’ve already shared Jennifer’s great story telling and cooking abilities in her guest post feature on the blog. Her sensibility and terrific photography contribute to each of her posts.

Don’t miss: Jennifer recently added a recipe for Lemon Cheesecake Morning Buns that she made on a blustery Virginia snow day. They look simply divine.

Mennonite Girls Can Cook4. Mennonite Girls Can Cook

Who’s cooking? 10 Mennonite women from across North America.

Why we love it: The step-by-step instructions of a huge array of recipes have kept this blog beloved by many. We also love that the bloggers have a strong commitment to giving back to others. Find out about their last projects, funded by 100% of the proceeds of their popular cookbooks, on their website.

Don’t miss: This recipe for stuffed peppers has us drooling! If you can’t get enough of these Mennonite cooks, check out their two stunning cookbooks here.

 

Lovina's Amish Kitchen

5. Lovina’s Amish Kitchen

Who’s cooking? Lovina Eicher, an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife and mother of eight.

Why we love it: This blog is a great resource for learning about traditional Amish cooking, with many stories and updates about Lovina’s community included.

Don’t miss: This ham and bean soup sounds perfect for a cold February day. We can’t wait to see what else Lovina has cooking!

 

We can’t have found them all – what blogs should have made our list? Let us know what you think in the comments!

 

 

Benblog image Mast is a writing intern for MennoMedia and Herald Press. He studies English and Writing Studies at Eastern Mennonite University.

The Artist Behind Mennonite Community Cookbook: Naomi Nissley

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We’ve given a lot of attention to Mary Emma Showalter in recent weeks with an article in The Mennonite about how she came to compile Mennonite Community Cookbook, our own blog post “What Would Mary Emma Say,” and ongoing tidbits on the Facebook page. Newspapers are running stories about the cookbook’s revival as well.

NaomiNissleyArtist Naomi Nissley

But a second major player in the success and look of this famous cookbook was artist Naomi Nissley.

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Both Mary Emma and Naomi were relatively young and new in their fields—in fact both were still graduate students as they worked on the book. The great part is that Naomi’s husband Alexander “Sandy” Limont is still living and happy to talk about the book, and has been most helpful in our research into the history of the book, the covers, and the artwork. I was able to ask him and Naomi’s brother some questions about Naomi’s life and process in working with Mary Emma in creating the signature look of Mennonite Community Cookbook.

Naomi went to Eastern Mennonite College for a time and her brother Lowell Nissley felt sure that was how Mary Emma was acquainted with Naomi and her artwork. He recalled that Naomi was offered the opportunity to receive royalties from sale of the book, but took a cash payment instead: likely a big mistake considering the longevity of the cookbook. But as a grad student she likely  needed the cash. He recalled Naomi as being self-depreciating but very enthusiastic about the opportunity to work on a cookbook of this scope. She couldn’t have realized at the time it would become the work for which she was most well known.

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Naomi worked in careful concert with Mary Emma, corresponding back and forth. In one case, a detailed letter from Mary Emma gave gentle nudges toward tweaking drawings to better match Mary Emma’s considerable vision and opinion.

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A grandmother, perhaps, at her spinning wheel

The drawings included the ordinary things of daily life, the quotidian (double click on any of these to get closer up),

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A woman kneading dough in a huge bin
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A grandmother at her cook stove

 

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A picnic on a farm

 

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A vegetable garden

 

and much more. Many were on-the-spot sketches drawn from Mennonite communities in central Pennsylvania.

P1060453Naomi’s professional bio includes that she dreamed of becoming an artist as a child, and studied painting and drawing at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). She enrolled at additional art and graphic schools and her work was exhibited by invitation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Yale and Rutgers Universities, and Tyler School of Fine Art, in addition to PAFA and others. She once wrote about her work, “For me art is a constant dialogue between experience and artistic creation.”

Her husband Sandy was also an illustrator and graphic designer. He worked as an art director for an ad agency for a number of years. They were married for 55 years until Naomi died in 2010 at age 91. She was a member of the Highland Presbyterian Church in Lancaster and the Germantown Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

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All of Naomi’s drawings that were used in the original 1950 cookbook are used in the 65th anniversary edition, published in February 2015.

Today I touched a bit of this history. In the humble way of an amateur blogger and photographer, I headed over to Eastern Mennonite University’s Menno Simons Historical Library, where I had made an appointment with the special collections librarian, Simone Horst, to haul out boxes of these framed and matted prints from the archives. Neither she nor I were sure when and why they were framed. Perhaps they were for a special display and celebration that happened at the Mennonite Heritage Center in Harleysville, Pa., while Naomi was still living, when she was asked to sign copies of the cookbook for those who attended.

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The drawings are even more delightful in person than reprinted in the book. Perhaps we’ll have to work on getting these intriguing glimpses into heritage and history on display somewhere again.

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We’ll continue to share more behind-the-scenes stories, photos and looks that you won’t find anywhere else. So do share this with any of your friends who are Mennonite Community Cookbook aficionados so they can sign up to receive our periodic blog posts!

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Did you ever meet Naomi Nissley? Have a copy of the cookbook signed by her?

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Don’t miss the new edition: A great gift for any fan whose own copy likely looks like this.MarianThomas

Melodie Davis, Managing Editor

Guest Blog Post from Jennifer Murch: Christmas Corn

This week, we have the honor of sharing a post by Jennifer Murch, a cook and blogger who has worked with Mary Emma’s cookbook many times throughout the years. All images and content belong to Jennifer. Find her gorgeous blog at jennifermurch.com, where this post was originally published in December of 2009. 

This past week I cooked supper for a homeless shelter. I had never done anything like this before and it semi-freaked me out. Cooking a meal for company gets me in a tizzy, but to cook a meal for 20-30 people, transport it into town, and then serve it and clean up afterwards? Whew! It about threatened to put me over the edge. (Well, okay, not really. I managed fine. But I was anxious. I’ll admit that much.)

Several years ago our town started a shelter for homeless people. This program differs from other, more common, programs in that it is the downtown churches that host the homeless, usually for a week at a time. The host church is in charge of providing the space, volunteers, and food for the guests, and last week it was our church’s turn to host. Usually people will work together to prepare different parts of the meal and then serve it. But me? Ho-ho-NO. I decided I could handle it all by myself with just—get this!—Yo-Yo Boy and Miss Beccaboo to help me out.

No wonder I get in a dither over these things; I’m forever totally over-estimating my capabilities.

But I had my reasons for being so stoic, my precious little reasons. The first was that I didn’t want to coordinate food with a whole bunch of people; many times it’s just easier to do things in my own crazy way, sink or swim, and I like being in charge. My other reason was slightly more noble: I wanted Yo-Yo and Miss Beccaboo to be central to the evening’s events because this little supper making/serving deal was to be a big part of our Christmas festivities … because in our house we don’t do Christmas gifts.

Our decision to scrap the gifts came about when Yo-Yo was two years old. He had a huge pile of gifts that year, generously given to us by different family members, and I watched, fascinated, as my little blond-haired-though-still-mostly-bald baby grabbed and tore and shrieked and grabbed for more. There was a glint in his eyes that I hadn’t seen before, and, quite honestly, it alarmed me.

Around the same time one of my friends, a woman with children much older than mine, told me about how her youngest son turned into a greedy little brat come Christmas morning. No matter how much they emphasized that Christmas was not about getting gifts, they couldn’t seem to get the point through the kid’s tough skull.

Those two incidents (and probably some others that I don’t recall) clinched the deal for me: Christmas gifts would not be a part of our holiday tradition. We would focus on other things like playing games (a huge sacrifice for me since I hate playing games), buying chickens and pigs for needy families in underdeveloped nations (via MCC or Heifer International), decorating the tree, visiting with friends and family, reading good books, and, of course, baking lots and lots of Christmas cookies.

Naturally, my nice little decision to nix gifts hasn’t been as clear-cut as I make it sound. Life never really is. Friends and family members give us Christmas gifts and we’re not so hardcore that we tear off the red and green paper and rewrap them in pastel flower prints and make the kids wait till May to open them—no, no, no, we savor each gift that comes our way.

Then there was the whole issue of Santa Claus. No matter how many times I told my kids there was no Santa Claus (come ON kids, use your heads! do you REALLY think a fat old man could squeeze down our chimney? and even if he did, how would he get out of the stove, huh? he would TOTALLY burn to a crisp if he ever tried to pull such a stunt!), they insisted he was real. Finally we just gave up and played along.

On Christmas eve the kids hang up (thumbtack, really) stockings (they have morphed from Mr. Handsome’s white tube socks to old cloth bags to the official-looking decorative stockings that I scavenged from a thrift store) on the wall by the wood stove, set out a plate of cookies for Santa, and write him a letter before going to bed. Then Mr. Handsome and I eat the cookies, write a reply letter, and fill the stockings with candy and doo-dads. Come the twenty-fifth, we blast Christmas music, gorge on candy, eat a huge platter of cookies for breakfast, play games, and read seasonally-appropriate stories. Joy and sugar highs abound.

However, now that the kids are older it was time to illustrate the second part of our no-gifts equation: that we don’t only forgo our gifts, we give gifts to others. (I don’t count choosing geese and goats from a catalogue in my category of “felt” giving; it is way too far removed for the kids to truly grasp the concept.) So one morning last week I played some of these videos for them, and then I explained that this meal I had been working on was one of our Christmas gifts and that they were going to be a part of it by coming along to help serve the food and wash the mounds of dirty dishes. They were dubiously agreeable.

Earlier Miss Beccaboo had helped me to cobble together the menu:

Me: I know I want to take baked corn. What else do you think I ought to make?
Miss B, almost without thinking: Sloppy joes, and green beans.
Me: Yes, that would be good. And I could make something with potatoes.
Miss B: And applesauce.
Me: And some sort of dessert.

But then the day before The Day, Harold, the coordinator from our church, told me that kids weren’t supposed to be present at the shelter because a number of the guests were sex offenders. “But I don’t think it would be a big deal if the older two came as long as they stayed in the kitchen and didn’t mingle with the guests,” he said.

Oh dear. Was I being foolish if I took my children? I mentioned to the kids that there was a rule that I hadn’t known about (I did not explain the reason for the rule—couldn’t quite figure that one out), and they were upset—apparently they did want to do this project. After more thought I decided it would be okay to take the kids as long as Mr. Handsome was there to be their bodyguard and ensure that they felt needed and useful (in other words, were doing their work). Then Harold called back to say that he had rounded up a couple more volunteers and that it really would be okay if the kids came, so all was set. We were still on.

Thursday morning came. I panicked that I wouldn’t have enough food (I always do this—it’s par for the course), so I turned two more pounds of burger into sloppy joes. I thawed and iced the cakes. In the afternoon I baked the potatoes and then smooshed them into a large crock pot. I heated up the sloppy joe meat and smooshed it into another large crock pot. I cooked the green beans, put them in yet another large crock pot, and drizzled browned butter over top. I made three large pans of baked corn. The kids brought jars of applesauce up from the basement. When Mr. Handsome came home, he loaded the crock pots and foil-covered pans into wash baskets; the kids cradled the cakes in their laps.

Harold met us at the door and gave us a tour of the makeshift shelter: three rooms had been filled with cots and blankets. While it felt right to see our Sunday school rooms transformed into something so basic and useful, it was also deeply disturbing. The people who would be sleeping in those beds did not have homes.

Then the guests came in and it was time to eat. I stationed myself behind the serving table and slapped burger meat into buns as fast as I could. Nelly, Harold’s wife, stood beside me dishing up the potatoes and green beans. The guests hesitated when they got to the corn, bending over to peer at it more closely and inquiring as to what in the world it was.

“That is baked corn,” I said, my bossy-mother instincts taking over. “It’s good. You’ll like it. You must try it.” I must have been pretty convincing because almost everyone obediently scooped a bit of corn onto their plates.

One man asked, “Is that an old Mennonite recipe?”

“Why, yes!” I exclaimed, totally surprised. He went on to tell me that back during the Civil War the Mennonites ate a lot of what they called corn pudding, something similar to my baked corn recipe.

Almost everyone came back for seconds, and some came back for thirds and fourths. They loved the potatoes and meat, but the thing they commented about the most was the corn. “That corn is good,” they said, mystified. I crowed triumphantly, “I told you you’d like it! Eat more, there’s still another pan back.” And they did. One woman even requested a bowl so she could fill it with corn for a snack later on.

And that, my dears, is what I call the ultimate compliment: when people, total strangers, mind you, taste the food just to be polite (or to get me off their backs) and then actually hoard it for later. How gratifying.

Baked corn, anyone? And, Merry Christmas.

Baked Corn
Adapted from the Mennonite Community Cookbook by Mary Emma Showalter

2 tablespoons butter 
1 ½ tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper
1 cup milk
2 cups corn (frozen, fresh, or canned)
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, add the flour and stir well. Immediately (the pan is still on the burner and you don’t want the roux to scorch) whisk in the milk and stir till it bubbles and has thickened a bit. Add the salt, sugar, and corn and heat through. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly whisk in the beaten eggs (the corn is hot and can cook the eggs if you’re not careful—no one wants bits of scrambled eggs in their baked corn).

Pour the corn into a greased, square (8 x 8) glass pan. Grind a bit of black pepper over the top. Bake the corn in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until set, the top is puffy in spots and has a couple (little) cracks, and the edges are lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4-6 side servings

 

Jennifer Murch lives with her husband John and their children on five acres near Harrisonburg, Virginia, where she (kinda-sorta-maybe) homeschools the kids, gardens, bakes, and reads. You can find more of her musings and lots of recipes on her blog jennifermurch.com.

An Invitation to the Table


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The spread at the rehearsal dinner for my brother’s wedding in 2013.

The release of the Mennonite Community Cookbook Monday got me thinking about my own background in Mennonite cooking. My grandparents’ house, just a mile away from where I grew up in Goshen, Indiana, has been an extension of home for as long as I can remember, and at the center of our home is food.

While Dad could whip up a mean stir fry and Mom was famous for her oatmeal dinner rolls and chocolate crinkle cookies, through my childhood it was Grandma and Grandpa Mast who were at the center of my food universe. They have helped with rehearsal dinner salads and roasts for my brother and cousins’ weddings, baked muffins for open houses, and hosted countless “Tuesday-night dinners” for anyone in town. Their hospitality and cooking abilities are both traditions I hope to maintain.

I have always regarded Grandpa as the king of breakfast. I can’t recall him breaking a yolk on an over-egg, even as he stacked it on a pile of Canadian sausages and pepper-potato hash. Whenever I’m back in town, I find my way over for a breakfast at some point, and I’m never disappointed.

My family enjoying our new aprons, made by my loving grandparents (front and center.)
My family enjoying our new aprons, made by my loving grandparents (front and center.)

Grandma can often be found in the kitchen as well, up to her elbows in her latest culinary project. She cans and bakes with as much ease as most of us breathe, and her basement pantry and freezer stores are testaments to her prowess: pickle jars, homemade ketchup, and canned peaches line the walls while frozen strawberries, blueberries or some extra gingerbread men saved for a surprise visit from a great-grandchild threaten to overflow the freezer.

My grandparents stick to some of the traditional Amish or Mennonite recipes which they grew up with, both coming from the Amish church. They also try new flavors and recipes from their favorite cooking magazines and shows. They have a shelf full of cookbooks that always seems to grow as more folks continue to experiment with and share their favorite recipes.

As a kid, it was easy to take this kind of culinary mastery for granted, as it was all I knew. And while it’s always a blessing to have great food to share, the best part of cooking is the community it builds, which is what Mennonite Community Cookbook is all about – creating family dinners, church potluck meals, or a gift of Christmas cookies. Food is about the relationships it helps create.

My brother and his wife after their engagement announcement.
My brother and his wife and raspberry cream pie (!) after their engagement announcement.

Looking at my brothers and me, it’s easy to see how this tradition of food and community has affected us, both in work and in relation to each other. Our best memories are formed around the table, with fork and spoon in hand.

In the coming weeks, we will share a number of stories, from both our blog writers and guest posts from others that involve Mennonite cooking and community. If you have interest in contributing, tell us your stories in the comments or send us an email about a blog contribution. You can also leave your story via voicemail using the tab on the right side of the page. If you’re interested in purchasing the Mennonite Community Cookbook, check out this link.    

Benblog image Mast is a writing intern for MennoMedia and Herald Press. He studies English and Writing Studies at Eastern Mennonite University.