Lately I have had an interest in looking at how the pioneers made it as families way back in the day of early America. Mostly my interest is in how they grew enough to feed themselves, how they made their own cleaning products, and how they cooked for a large crowd on a tight budget.
Well, since there are not too many pioneers lying around in Kansas City for me to watch, I'm a visual person, not one to absorb too much from a book, I've turned to the Amish community for visual lessons.
What have I come away with?
A few things that were a bit shocking to me at first.
The one I will discuss today is: Amish does not equal healthy. (at least not healthy the way I think Whole Foods tends to market the idea of healthy) Their kids grow up big and strong, but they are not opposed to using many forms of food that I feel are unhealthy.
I recently looked thru an Amish cook book to discover a recipe for Spam-loaf. I'm pretty sure there is something unhealthy about meat that will keep at room temperature for an indeterminate amount of time.
Then I had some Amish made beef sticks with an ingredient list that went like this: Beef, Beef Lips, Water, Beef Hearts, etc. Wow! Strangely enough I kept eating the beef sticks because they were actually good tasting.
They also have quite a gift for making sweet things, and baking in general. Yet as I walked thru their bulk grocery store recently in Windsor, MO I was shocked to see how many 'unhealthy' baking ingredients they carried, like in the fats and oils section, in the sweetener section, and the candy section. It had a better selection than most specialty grocery store in the category of odd and unusual.
So all that to say, they do not scrimp on fats and white refined sugar. As proof, I have provided one of my favorite Amish sugar cookie recipes of all time. It has been passed down from my mother to me, and they are nothing like the flavorless things you get in the grocery store. These sugar cookies are delicious even without frosting. (note: my mother is not amish, but she grew up in a community with a lot of mennonite, which are somehow related to the amish....don't ask me how it works, I'm not amish.)
Check it out: (the recipe is easily halved to make about 20 cookies.)
Amish Sugar Cookies
1 c. butter, soft
1 c. vegetable oil
1 c. white sugar
1 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 c. flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Mix first four ingredients until smooth, then add eggs one at a time, then mix in flour, salt, and tartar, then add baking soda. Last mix in the vanilla extract.
Then take heaping teaspoons full of dough and form into balls. Roll the balls in sugar and place on un-greased cookie sheet. Smash each cookie ball with a sugared glass to flatten a bit.
Bake at 350 F for 8 minutes or until edges are just sort of colored.
Removed from cookie sheet and cool on a sheet of aluminum foil on your counter top.
I will also mention that they are fabulous eaten straight from the cookie sheet while they are still warm and falling apart. Milk is another good idea.
PS, I don't waste my expensive whole wheat flour on these babies, I go with my cheapy unbleached stuff. You can't make something that is meant to be unhealthy any better by adding whole wheat flour. In the words of my husband, 'you can't polish a turd...' , as in the finished product is not meant to be pretty, or in this case, healthy. :-)