Ring In The New Year With Tasty, Easy Cherry Bread

Serve up your Cherry Bread on an Epicurean Cutting Board! Learn more at Lehmans.com or at Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

Serve up your Cherry Bread on an Epicurean Cutting Board! Learn more at Lehmans.com or at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

One of my favorite “must haves” for the holiday season is Cherry Bread.  This has been on my family table since I first remember having special foods for the holidays.  The bread is much like a banana bread–a super easy quick bread, but with a punch.

Instead of bananas (of course), you use maraschino cherries and cherry juice.  The color is a beautiful pink with the red cherries peeping through.  You can use walnut if you like the crunchiness in the bread.  I, personally, do not; since I started making the bread, I have not put the walnuts in.  My daughters don’t miss them as they have had my recipe since they were little.  My husband prefers the walnuts but since I haven’t put them in “forever,” I think he’s forgotten they “should” be in the bread!

Breads bake up evenly and brown beautifully in Lehman's enamelware loaf pan. Available now at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

Breads bake up evenly and brown beautifully in Lehman’s enamelware loaf pan. Available now at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

My bread has become a tradition for gifts.  Many people expect a loaf of Cherry Bread in their gift boxes.  I even have a friend who lives in Oregon who talks about my bread often.  I think I should probably send her a loaf this winter, if it stays cold enough!

Excuse me …. I have to go cut myself a slice of bread, as talking about it makes me hungry for it.  My favorite way is a nice slice with butter on it.  You eat it anyway you like and enjoy the New Year with a great new recipe!

Cherry Nut Bread

½ cup shortening or butter
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 small bottle of maraschino cherries, chopped
½ cup of cherry juice
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup walnuts, chopped

Mix shortening (butter), eggs and sugar.  Add cherry juice and mix.  Add flour and dry ingredients and mix.  Add vanilla.  Mix all well.  Add chopped cherries and walnuts, mix lightly.  Bake in bread or loaf pan at 350° for 45-50 minutes.  Check with toothpick to see if done.

mini loaf pansThis can be made in a bread loaf pan or in 4 mini-loaf pans.  If you do like I do and buy a large jar of cherries, then use between ½ and 1 cup of chopped cherries instead of the “small bottle.”

New Year, New Hours At Kidron Store

We encourage you to help anywhere you can during this time of need.

Store hours change on Tuesday, January 2!


Faithful blog readers: please put this on your calendars!

Starting on 1/2/13, the hours for our Kidron store will be:

Monday – Thursday
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Friday – Saturday
9:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.

Why do we change hours for the store in the winter? Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, we’re simply not as busy. Second, here in the country, darkness falls early. Our friends and associates can be home earlier in the evenings, which is safer when many of them may be walking, biking or using other, non-auto modes of transport.
We’re looking forward to seeing you in Kidron soon!

“Boxing Week”: Share And Remember

sweaterbox108957824In England, and many current and former British territories, December 26 is known as Boxing Day, where the more fortunate box up gently used items and donate them to the less fortunate. (Back in Victorian times, the very wealthy didn’t even have to leave the house–they just had the staff carry things from upstairs to downstairs for distribution!)

In our family, though, the tradition lasted a week. And that wasn’t because we were wealthy, had a big house–nor did we packrat a lot of stuff!

If new came in, old/not often used went out. For instance, if I got new pajamas for Christmas, I had to choose an older set ‘for the box’. The house my parents built was small, so there wasn’t room for much duplication. Mom’s goal was to clear out by New Year’s Eve, by which time things were donated to our church, shelters or community organizations (like MCC here in Kidron) that would distribute to the less fortunate. Although Mom appreciated the work that Goodwill and Salvation Army do in the community, she didn’t want the recipients to have to pay for clothes, toys or housewares. About the only thing we kids didn’t have to pitch in were books.

As we got older, it got easier to decide what stayed and what went that week after Christmas. Now I find I do it almost automatically, after slacking off in my early married years.

Plain and Happy Living Book

Get more ideas for simple living with Plain and Happy Living, available at Lehmans.com and Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Think about paring down though January 6, the celebration of Epiphany, when the Wise Men visited and gave gifts to the infant Jesus, with no thought of return. Gather your own ‘gifts’, things that will help those less fortunate. Even the simplest thing to you can be deeply appreciated by someone who has very little.

Even when things were tight when I was a child, Mom reminded me that we had what many folks didn’t: a full pantry packed with preserved foods from our garden, a warm place to sleep every night, and a close family who cared. I can still hear her voice now, urging me to ‘go through that closet one more time’, to make sure I’ve sorted, chosen and tidied up the things I’ve chosen to donate this year. I hope that you choose to make this process a post-Christmas tradition in your family too.

Quilt Barns Add Color To Travel Landscape

This is the time of year where we start planning in earnest. Everywhere, folks are planning gardens, planning big projects, planning trips.

If you love country traveling, keep an eye out for quilt barns. We have lots of them here in Ohio, where the “Clothesline of Quilts in Appalachia” project was started by Donna Sue Groves in Adams County, Ohio. (American Quilt Barns has a great interview with her on their new website.) Generally, the traditional quilt patterns are painted onto sheets of plywood (the quilt ‘squares’), and mounted on the barns, which are often called quilt barns.

Kris Platz-Crawford of Montana Threads.

Kris Platz-Crawford.

Near Missoula, Montana, Kris Crawford is spearheading an effort to use the quilt squares to bring attention to her area’s historic barns. In cooperation with other folks in her area, Crawford’s developed the Threads of Montana History initiative, which is a grassroots historical preservation project that focuses on the Target Range, Orchard and O’Brien Creek homes, all in the area where she lives.  There are fifteen sites that feature different quilt patterns that are painted directly on the barns. Block patterns are chosen by the families that own the barns. Crawford and her volunteers often customize the art too.

Glenn Homestead, Joseph's Coat Square. Photo courtesy Kris-Platz-Crawford.

Glenn Homestead, Joseph’s Coat Square. Photo courtesy Kris-Platz-Crawford.

Crawford’s goal: A quilt in every county! She’d love to have at least one barn in every county in the state of Montana sporting a quilt design.

If you’d like to liven up the looks of your barn, shed, or house, it’s easy to do–pick up a quilting book, and start looking for patterns that appeal to you. If you’d rather start small, maybe with a birdhouse or a mailbox, consider a more basic book like Quilting Basics. It clearly diagrams patterns, and will get you started, either with fabric or paint!

A Pig of One’s Own: Using Everything But The Squeal

On a recent early morning, Bruce and our neighbor, Tom rounded up the four pigs we raise together, loaded them onto the back of the pick-up and hauled them to another neighbor’s barn for butchering. It’s always a chore to convince a boar who weighs considerably more than you do to go someplace he doesn’t want to go. Continue reading

Keeping Community Is Important This Season

We seem to have been adopted by a family of endangered and protected native red squirrels who have decided that our peanut feeder is just the best kind of dining out.  They vie with the great tits and finches for the peanuts. They are super entertainment value as they do acrobatic turns and eat upside down, or chase each other through the trees.

Given the expense of peanuts, the squirrel’s diet is outstripping the budget line item for the little deaf dog’s special GM free, gluten free, organic-for-dogs-with-sensitive-skin-and-delicate-digestions diet, we were really excited to see that you can grow peanuts in Ireland.

As part of a global inclusiveness initiative, the Organic Centre here is giving courses on how to grow peanuts, lentils and chickpeas – Third World staples which would have seemed impossible to grow in Ireland a few years ago.  So we will be off to the course and living in hope that we can become self-sufficient in squirrel food next year.

Taking the course also underlines the importance of getting out and about as the days get darker and we draw in towards the hearth.  Country living can be isolating, especially in the winter months.  It is important that no matter how self-sufficient you want to become, remember you really are part of a larger world.  Getting out and meeting people is vital, especially in farming communities which have been hit by the economic downturn.

One line item in the family time budget that is sacrosanct is choir.  Last spring we linked up with some neighbours and decided that we would car-share and join the One Voice Choir in Enniskillen.  Choir singing is especially good for us according to some psychological studies.  It’s not just the singing that gets our endorphins going, what is important is that we are engaging in a communal activity.  All that working on four and five part harmony is really good for the mind, body and spirit.  It’s not all earnest and po-faced.  We laugh a lot at choir especially when we try to coordinate singing with some simple choreography!   We manage to make Dennis blush at least once every evening. Susie likes to get in a hug or two.  It’s a social event as much as a communal activity.

What is unique about this choir is that it has no religious or sectarian affiliation.  In Ireland, which has been heavily identified along religious lines in the recent past, this is a rare but welcome opportunity for ‘cross-community’ interaction. The facilitator, Valerie Whitworth, runs groups in Manorhamilton in the Republic of Ireland and three other choirs in Counties Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh.  And we all get the opportunity to join together for at least a couple of concerts each year.  Last June the concert was a fundraiser for Water Aid.  Later this month, singers from the Northern Ireland choirs are turning out at the Leitrim group’s fundraiser for their choir.

No matter how self-sufficient or independent we may wish to be there is always the need to reach out and be connected.  As I type this, I have one eye on the red squirrel doing its form of exotic yoga to eat the last of the peanuts in the feeder.  Between the introduction of the American gray squirrel, mink, native pine martins and domestic cats, they have hard work hanging onto the thread so their species doesn’t fall out of the web of this one world. It makes me realize all need one another, as much as my choral members all need one another to put together a good performance.  In this winter season, make a little extra effort to stay connected to your local and greater communities.

Sweet ‘n Salty: Saltine “Cookies” Recipe

This recipe is a favorite in my family. It’s simple to make – no flour or lots of mixing. Plus, it Saltine Cookieswill please the chocolate lovers in any crowd. The secret ingredient? Saltine crackers.

Years ago when my mom first made these for Christmas, my whole family was a little skeptical. These “cookies” were not the traditional cut-out cookies we were used to eating during the holidays. After one bite, we were convinced: these cookies are delicious!

Continue reading

Here We Go A-Caroling!

Traditional carols sung as the Mennonites have sung them for centuries. Perfect for a quiet family Christmas gathering. At Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

Traditional carols sung as the Mennonites have sung them for centuries. Perfect for a quiet family Christmas gathering. At Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Our guest blogger Jacquline hosts the Deep Roots At Home blog too—it’s a wonderful compilation of recipes, personal stories and uplifiting content that’s appealing to folks looking to live a traditional lifestyle.

Recently, her daughter chimed in, with a listing of wonderful Christmas music. Now, we have our own Mennonite Hour Singers A Cappella Christmas CD, but this list certainly covers all the bases!

This Christmas, instead of filling your mind with songs like, “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” and “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer“, why not add a touch of nostalgia and joyful toe-tapping music to your festivities? Bring out the epic, the madrigal, the joyful, and the majestic in replacement for the jazzy, shallow Christmas music of today.

Today, I will be sharing a sampler of our favorite Christmas music. The best memories of Christmas with family are those times cuddled on the couch reading the Christmas story, smelling the aromas of turkey and scones in the oven, and listening to the timeless classics that have been sung throughout the ages.

winter“Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence“ is one of our family’s favorite Christmas hymns. Written in the 4th century AD, this is an ancient chant of Eucharistic devotion based on words from Habakkuk 2:20, “Let all the earth keep silence before him.” This song is from O Come All Ye Faithful, a beautiful hardcover book of the stories behind great Christmas carols and an accompanying CD by John MacArthur, Joni Eareckson Tada, and the Wolgemuths.

Growing up, some of my fondest memories are centered around Christmas music by Mannheim Steamroller. “Fum, Fum, Fum” is one of my favorites, and reminds me of the joys of family celebration, games,  laughter, and reunited family members.

My Mother and I agree that our favorite Christmas carol is “What Child Is This” (also known as “Greensleeves”), and we love the madrigal experience that Mannheim Steamroller creates on their album A Fresh Aire Christmas.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, written in the mid 1700′s, was mentioned in Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol in 1843. The version we love sung by Joni Eareckson Tada on her album Whiter Than Snow. Scrooge, however, felt differently about the song, according to Dickens:

 “…at the first sound of — ‘God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay!’— Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singers fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.”

One snowy December, my Mother and I were driving home after a grocery run. A song on the radio was so beautiful that it took our breath away. We hurried to find paper and pen to jot down the information when it was given at the end of the song: Selah’s “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” their album Rose of Bethlehem.

winterDietz29“Joy Has Dawned” is a modern Christmas carol by Keith and Kristyn Getty, some of my favorite artists. Their hymns are always so full of truth with a masterful melody and musical quality. Unlike most Christmas albums that are filled with the same Christmas carols just sung in a different way,  Joy! An Irish Christmas has many new Christmas carols written by the Gettys. These are sure to become favorites!

Probably my favorite Christmas album is The Promise by Michael Card. My first memory is of my mother singing his lullabies to me. Michael Card has such a depth of theology in his music, and the accompanying harmonies and rich sounds added together give these pieces almost hymn-like quality.

Check out Jacquline’s blog here http://www.deeprootsathome.com/christmas-memories-in-music-part-2/ and read Christmas Memories in Music 2 for even more great seasonal music.

Quick Bar Cookie Great for Last-Minute Parties

This shows a double batch of chip bars.    The Chip Bar batter is stiff! Use a spatula (got mine at Lehman's in Kidron!) and a sheet pan. This shows a double batch.

This shows a double batch of chip bars.
The Chip Bar batter is stiff! Use a spatula (got mine at Lehman’s in Kidron!) and a cookie sheet. This shows a double batch, in a half-sheet pan.

There are a few recipes that just tell you it’s Christmas. In our family, we always knew when we were going to a Christmas party, and what kind it was by what we were baking.

When Mom made Holiday Squares and Chip Bars, we knew it was going to be informal and casual, and, most importantly, there would be other kids there too.

If you need a quick bar cookie, you can’t go wrong with Chip Bars. The ingredients are simple, and you probably have most, if not all of them in your pantry right now. They keep well, so you can bake a batch the night before, if need be. Just store in an airtight container or wrap tightly in plastic wrap or foil after they’re completely cool. That will keep the crunchy cakey-ness intact. Continue reading