Thursday, June 25, 2015

Dutch Oven Gathering 2015

The eight annual dutch oven gathering had fewer participates than other years but was still labeled a success.

As always there was creativity and lots of good eating in those cast iron pots.

All ages can participate -as either cooks or tasters!

The men do the cooking (and we wives don't admit how much prep work we assisted with at home) but often the wives are called for their opinion on whether a dish is finished or needs some more time on the coals.

This year Bryce won the prize for the taster's favorite with his Hawaiian Sausage Stir-fry. 

It was as good as it looks.

Other choices included marshmallow chocolate brownies.

Sticky Buns

 S'mores Dip

 Venison Stew

Nachos (I went back for seconds, and maybe thirds.)

 Macaroni and Cheese

 Upside-down Salsa Cornbread (another one that was as good as it looks.)

Plus lasagna, oatmeal cookies, angel biscuits, and more.

Thanks to the cooks who made this a fun evening.

To see past Dutch Oven Gatherings, check out these links.
2014,  20132012201120102009

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Q&A - Can I Visit a Mennonite Church?

One of the most frequent emails I receive are about visiting a Mennonite church. Maybe there are a few more of you who have wondered but didn't have the courage to ask.

Can I visit a Mennonite church?

Yes. All Mennonite churches, as far as I know, welcome visitors. When Ed and I have been traveling, we have visited several new-to-us Mennonite churches and have always been warmly welcomed.

What should I wear when I visit a Mennonite church?

Mennonites churches are meant to be places to worship God and it is expected for the audience to be dressed respectfully. But it is not expected that a visitor wear a head covering or any other special kind of clothing.

Where is the closest Mennonite church to me?

This is one of the most common questions I am asked. And in the past I have struggled to find a church in a particular region. But recently I found a handy church finder. This map shows conservative Mennonite churches around the world. You can zoom up the map to look at a particular area and click on a church button to find more information about that church. I'm so glad I found this convenient resource for the next time we are traveling and maybe this church finder can be a blessing to you.

What can I expect when I visit a Mennonite church?

Mennonite churches vary in their routines and traditions. Many of the more conservative Mennonite churches practice separate seating for the men and women - the men sitting on one side of the church and the women on the other. The music is usually acapella congregational singing, with no instrumental accompaniment and no choir or worship team. Prayer is often done while kneeling.

Typically after the service, the congregation lingers for a time of talking and fellowship. Please feel free to converse and ask questions. You may find that we are as curious about you as you are of us. We would love to hear about your spiritual journey.

You will soon find that we are not perfect. We attempt to follow the Lord in literal obedience to His Word, but at times we fail. Maybe we can together encourage each other in our walk with God.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mini Fruit Pizzas


This is another dessert my daughter made this week. (Love that she is doing more baking this summer. Her siblings are loving it too. No more excuses that Mom didn't have time to make dessert.)

The crisp sugar cookie with layer of cream cheese and fruit is a refreshing summer treat. If you don't want to make a "mini" pizza spread the cookie dough onto a pizza pan and bake. This amount of dough will make two small sized pizzas.

We only used fresh strawberries since that is what we have right now but there are many other great fruit options. Prepare several kinds of fresh fruit and allow your children to decorate their own cookie.

Mini Fruit Pizzas

Sugar Cookie Crust

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk

Cream butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and beat until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients. Chill dough for about an hour for ease in rolling.

Roll out dough on a floured counter until 1/4 inch thick. Use a biscuit cutter to cut round cookies and place on a baking sheet (or transfer a big round of dough to a pizza pan. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Cool.

Cream Cheese Layer

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz whipped topping (or 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream whipped and sweetened)

Beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Fold in whipped topping. Spread on cooled sugar cookies.

Layer on fruit.

Fruit Options

Mandarin oranges
And more

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Strawberries-and-Cream Cake

My daughter stirred up this cake last week and this recipe was added to our list of June favorites. The cake is such a lovely pink color and the cream cheese frosting is the perfect combination.

If I was serving this for guests I would have removed the cake from the pan, flipped it out onto a tray, and spread the frosting over the whole cake. It would be a lovely addition to a June ladies' luncheon.

But I was serving this just for our family and knew it would take several days to finish. I didn't want it to get soggy so I just cut individual pieces and served it with a dollop of the frosting on top. The taste is not affected either way.

Strawberries-and-Cream Cake
(Adapted from Southern Living)

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 T strawberry gelatin
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cups chopped fresh strawberries

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Add lemon juice and vanilla.

Mix dry ingredients into butter mixture with the buttermilk, stirring just until blended.

Pour batter into a greased and floured 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

Serve with strawberries-and-cream frosting.

Strawberries-and-Cream Frosting

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar, divided
2/3 cup chopped fresh strawberries
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
3 T lemon juice

Beat cream cheese and 1/3 cup sugar until smooth. Stir in strawberries.

Beat cream and juice until foamy. Add 1/3 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold cream mixture into cream cheese mixture. Use immediately.

Note: I'm sure you could omit the homemade whipped cream and substitute whipped topping if you wanted a faster dessert.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Homemade Strawberry Sherbet

I love to make homemade strawberry ice cream with fresh strawberries.

But I usually don't have cream on hand and often the season passes without ever enjoying fresh strawberry ic ecream.

I decided that sherbet might be the perfect solution. Sherbet is made with fresh fruit, sweetener, and an acid such as lemon juice. A little milk is added for some creaminess but sherbet is not as rich and creamy as ice cream. Though I typically prefer ice cream to sherbet (especially the artificial fruit flavor of many bought sherbets) homemade sherbet is the perfect way to showcase the flavor of fresh-picked fruit. I also think sherbets are more refreshing on a hot summer day than ice cream - though I don't normally turn down ice cream whatever the weather.

I can't wait to try this recipe with fresh peaches. Or raspberries.

Homemade Strawberry Sherbet
(adapted from Mother Earth News)

1 lb fresh strawberries, capped
1 T lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups milk
2/3 cups sugar OR 1/2 cup honey

Place strawberries, lemon juice, and salt in blender and blend until smooth. Warm 1 cup of milk on stove and stir in sugar until dissolved. If using honey you may omit this step and add to blender. Add milk and sugar/honey into blender with strawberries and remaining milk. You may need to blend in batches depending upon your blender size. Refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Whisk mixture again and freeze in ice cream machine. Serve at once or seal in container and store in freezer.

Makes 1 quart. For a larger ice cream machine you may double recipe.

Note: Strawberries may be replaced with equal amount of peaches or other fruit. For smoother sherbet you may strain blended fruit through a sieve.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Books for Boys (and Girls) Who Love Adventure

The past few months, Ed has been reading all sorts of great books to the children. Story time with Dad is definitely a favorite at our house.

All the stories below met the just-one-more-chapter test. Though they may have been written for boys, my girls were just as attentive. I am guessing these books are geared for ages 10-12. My children are ages 6 to 11, but my younger children have listened to chapter books for years and are accustomed to hearing books above their age range.

And even I liked to listen to these books. And if a book isn't good enough for an adult to enjoy - it isn't worth reading to a child.

Note: The first few books on this list are not from a Christian perspective.

Little Britches by Ralph Moody
Every dad should read this wonderful book to his sons. Ralph shares the lessons about hard work and honesty that he learned from his father as they move to Colorado to start their own ranch. Lots of great fun mixed in with the hard work. This book does contain some "cowboy language" which makes it a good book to read aloud so it can be edited. The first book in a great series.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
When the pilot dies of a heart attack, Brian is left alone in the Canadian wilderness with only a hatchet. A great book to imagine how one would survive alone with very few skills or tools. There were a few words in the book that Ed skipped when reading. Our children thought the sequel, Brian's Winter, was even better than Hatchet. But I don't like some of Paulsen's other books.

Call It Courage by Armstrong Perry
I remember my teacher reading this to me in 3rd or 4th grade. A classic story of a boy who faces his greatest fear, the sea, by living alone on an island. Battling a giant octopus, fighting a wild pig, and fleeing cannibals make this an exciting read. This is a story is a tale told in the South Sea Islands from before the missionaries arrived so there is mention of idol worship.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Sam runs away from New York City to begin a new life in the Catskill wilderness. How he manages to survive and thrive makes favorite reading for several generations. On the Far Side of the Mountain is the sequel which adds Sam's sister to a mystery that my children loved.

These stories were fun - but maybe not always quite realistic. In fiction it is too easy to make everything work out perfectly. Real life isn't always so neat and tidy.

So next we read several true stories. Added benefit is that these stories are God-glorifying.

Lost on a Mountain Maine by Donn Fendler
Donn became separated from his family and friends while hiking Mt Katadin in Maine. The days that followed don't show the fun side of being lost alone in the wilderness but it is a true story and well worth reading and discussing with your family.

Home on the Rock Pile by Pablo Yoder
There is never a dull moment with pet skunks, rattlesnakes, bears, and a whole houseful of children. Pablo tells stories from his boyhood when his dad moved to the mountains of Virginia to begin a mission church. These books would be appropriate for a younger age level than the others listed here.
You will want to also read the sequel, Home on the Blue Ridge.

Survivor Kid: A Practical Guide To Wilderness Survival by Denise Long
After reading the above stories, my children were ready to learn more survival tactics. This is a great nonfiction book that covers building shelters, starting fires, searching for food, navigating, and avoiding dangerous animals (including the tiny guys.) Excellent book that will have your children hoping they get lost in the woods to use their new knowledge.

The Little Book of Whittling by Chris Lubkermann
The carving skills of the boys at the Allegany Boys Camp have inspired my boys to whittle. This little book is an excellent guide for a beginning wood carver. Includes side columns with all sorts of wilderness information. Our copy is dog eared. Check out the author's other wood carving books.

And if you are looking for a good carving knife - my boys are using Flexcut knives. Endless hours of fun (plus a few band-aids.)

My First Book of Knots by Berndt Sundsten and Jan Jager
Knot tying is a perfect skill for an adventure loving child. This book is well illustrated and just a lot of fun to look through. I think my boys have at least attempted most of these knots.

Do you have any books to add to this list for the Adventure Lover?

(This post contains affiliate links.)


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