Monday, August 27, 2012

Heritage around the table...

An abundance of food has passed through the house in the last few days along with a large company of extended relatives.

Daddy's father, Charles Lenz, passed away before any of us six Lenz children were born, so we relish any opportunity to hear about him.

His brother, Uncle John, along with around fifty cousins and aunts and uncles, came here for a family reunion on Saturday.  

The food gathered together for the day was plentiful and, of course, as varied as it was delicious.  The company was even better and stories were told and memories recalled in like abundance.  

I love the way one picture evokes a thousand memories.  Uncle John was asked to identify everyone in this photograph and as soon as he saw it, although he didn't speak all the words, you could see the day come back to him with almost more strength and vividness than yesterday's hours.  Our Grandpa Charlie was the youngest in the family...that little guy with his dog Pal in the middle.  The day the picture was taken, their mother rounded them up for hair cuts out on the drive (three of these were cousins, so no-one missed out on the fun).  As soon as Uncle John started describing, I was smelling the warm dusty summer air and hearing the laughter and the snip of the scissors...seeing the reflections of loved faces in his eyes.  There was a general burst of delighted laughter as he recalled how the dog Pal taught our Grandpa Charlie how to walk by pulling him around the house by the arm.  The gift of these memories stored up is a precious treasure of history.  For us they are a heritage of rare glimpses of the hand of God reaching into our mundane, human moments to touch them with the divine gift of meaning and continuity.  It was a privilege to read the pages of remembrance and enjoy the fellowship of family camaraderie.

Last Tuesday's meal came again out of the wonderful abundance from our garden.  Stuffed peppers with cole slaw and, yes, more beans!

In the busy rush of preparation for the family gathering, an easy and speedy recipe like this is ideal.

And yes, everything but the cheese on this plate was produced on our farm!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

On the Subject of Food...

As summer progresses the supply from our garden only increases thanks to our Creator's abundant providence! We never cease to be amazed at the amount of food on our plates that comes from our own garden or was raised on our farm and produced by our own hands. Daddy regularly asks the question, "Where did this come from?" From our garden, from the woods, from the deer the boys harvested last fall, etc. We are blessed to often see first hand how God feeds His children.
Green beans and zucchini are particularly productive right now.  Mama finds new ways to prepare the latter fruit so we haven't tired of it, yet.
Simply fried in olive oil and seasoned with fresh herbs, tomatoes and pepper this time...

Beef Stroganoff, Green Beans and Cabbage Salad:
Actually, the meat was venison, I believe; it was deliciously tender. The sauce is quite simple... fry about 6 oz. of bacon, brown a few pounds of sliced meat, garlic, onion and salt in the bacon grease, add 3 rounded tablespoons flour, a few tablespoons tomato sauce, a cup of beef broth, a tablespoon or worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon paprika and simmer a few minutes. Just before serving, add 1 cup of sour cream and a tablespoon of parsley. 
Of course, green beans cooked till just tender with butter and salt are unbeatable, to quote a favorite cook book, and cabbage, carrots and lettuce with sesame oil and rice vinegar add the essential uncooked element.

Mama revived an old family tradition last week, serving the invariable midwest "tuna salad" (updated with mangoes this time :o) ) on a lettuce leaf.  She remembers her grandma insisted serving salads on a lettuce leaf as part of the dinner presentation on the family farm in Nebraska. 

Em and I were inspired by a picture on the front of King Arthur's Baker's Catalogue. As an aside, checking the mail when you're hungry is generally a torturous ordeal at our house and not recommended... :o) We compiled our own version of Turkey Avocado Strawberry Sandwiches, fruit and salsa for a picnic.  The zesty, lemon dressing on the sandwiches added a lively tang to the turkey and avocado while the strawberries and spinach were sweetness and crunch, respectively.

And now for tradition's sake, we'll finish with the last course; desert!
On a typical summer's night the Lenz family can usually be found outdoors finishing projects till well after dark. After a particularly long day, we will occasionally (not so often it becomes common which is the essential secret to preserving the value of any delicacy) treat ourselves to this most rare and wonderful of all foods, chocolate.
Of course, it must be prepared properly... melted in butter and and brown sugar and whisked in thick, fresh cream, with a small optional float of ice cream for glorious contrast.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The "mere memories" of Rome's last generation...

A chilling and all too applicable reminder to our generation:

Even after Rome fell many were unable to believe that is fall was more than a temporary set-back.  In southern France, the gentleman bishop, Sidonius, lived the life of a Roman of the old order, with a villa in the hills, a library, a dinning room with a fireplace, baths, and hunting parties, as well as dinner parties.  Although the barbarians were destroying cities and ravaging the countryside throughout the whole Western Empire, Sidonius could not believe that Rome was finished.  As he wrote to a friend, "Providence I doubt not will grant a happy issue to our prayers and under new blessings of peace we shall look back upon these terrors as mere memories."  Soon after Sudonius' death, his own villa was burned and the easy cultured life he knew was gone.  Providence, as always, had moved not in terms of man's wishes, but in terms of the unfailing law of God."
~R.J. Rushdoony, A Christian Survey of World History 

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Tuesday Kitchen...

Our family has been away from home two weekends in a row; re-enacting the War Between the States...and cooking over an open fire.  Culinary endeavors of this kind are unique adventures for the palate...we dine on historical American food staples flavored with fresh air and more than a little camp-fire smoke.  One "period-correct" viand that invariably meets the hearty approval of the whole camp (especially after a battle in the heat) is watermelon.
In between sojourns into the 1860s, I managed to cook some old favorites while touching them with new flare that freshened the sameness.

Daddy came in one afternoon with a bag of peaches and requested a peach pie.  I couldn't resist his confidence in our ability to master one of his favorites, or the opportunity to try a new addition.
I made Grandma's enigmatical, yet unrivaled crust recipe, but used our lard for the shortening this time.
Peach MANGO Pie turned out to be a grand success.  It was a bit sweet, so I will be cutting back on the sugar even more than I usually do, but the overall result was delicious.

Another standby around here is of course chicken.  Inventing new ways to dress it up is always inspiring, but if time is an especially precious commodity, the crock-pot is a good resort.  
I used a marinade from a Grilled Island Chicken recipe as a kind of rub and ran the same ingredients/flavors over into the steamed fresh green beans.

 Since I couldn't bring myself to make our Zucchini hot dish yet again with that tenacious and ever-abundant vegetable, I tried a new zucchini dish (again from Mel's Kitchen that blog!) Cheesy Zucchini Rice.  It was a hit as far as the family was concerned, although I discovered that it does not improve upon acquaintance after a trip to the fridge and reheating, so don't make enough for leftovers.  The secret is that, while the rice is hot enough to melt the cheese, the zucchini is fresh and uncooked, yielding a varying and exciting texture.

Crisp salad is a good start to any meal, and my favorite summer foods are avocado and cilantro, so into the fresh lettuce they go and dinner is served!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Smattering of Culinary Endeavors...

Chipotle Dinner: A Lenz family favorite
Crock Pot Roasted Chicken with Brown Rice, Black Beans, Salsa, Sour Cream and Tortilla Chips (for crunch). Everyone's plate looks a little different every meal. We season with a variety of different spices and herbs each time. This time the theme was thyme (in the chicken and rice).

Tomatoes on French Bread, topped with a spices/rice vinegar/sesame oil mixture and broiled in the oven for a few moments. We discovered a new feature on our oven last week. It can sense flame and immediately turns off, refusing to be pacified until we switch the breaker. This way, when your broiled sandwiches start on fire you only lose the top half!

Soup thickened slightly with cream cheese...
Emily used whole chickens for her caprese so I used the carcasses the next day to make chicken soup. I explored the garden and found broccoli, green beans, new potatoes, onions and carrots to add to the delicious chicken stock. And garlic, mounds of garlic cloves. :o)

Ukraine for Sunday potluck:
Lenz's version of Pilaf and Cabbage Salad:

Our favorite Spaghetti Sauce:
It is essentially, with a few variations, a pound of venison burger, 3 onions, a green pepper, 6 cloves of garlic, 2 quarts of canned tomatoes, 12 oz. tomato paste, 1 T. salt, 1/2 t. pepper, 1/8 cup stevia (stevia comes from the sweet leaves of a plant in the mint family, you could replace with sugar) 1/8 cup basil, 1/8 cup parsley, 1 T. Oregano, and 2 t. Thyme.

This last meal consists of "Pain Perdu" or French Toast; a common meal prepared in the South during the 1860's.  "Spent" bread is soaked in a slightly sweet egg and milk mixture, fried in oil on a skillet over the fire and topped with strawberries and a dash of powdered sugar.

Obviously, the setting in the pictures here does not represent a typical American kitchen. We were reenacting the War Between the States in Boscobel, WI last weekend.

Blessings on all of your culinary endeavors!