My Father's Legacy of Faith

Saturday, March 28, 2015

My Father's Legacy of Faith

My father, Andrew Stutzman, has spent the past 100 years living an exemplary life of faith and love, building a bridge for the rich grace of God to pass on to future generations who walk in his spiritual legacy. A faithful husband, loving father and life-long minister in the Mennonite church, Dad has spent the past fifty years living on his farm in the peaceful hills of Fryburg, in Holmes County, Ohio.

Andrew was born on March 25, 1915, the fourth of ten children, to D.J. and Frances Stutzman.  As part of the generation who lived through both World Wars and the Great Depression, Andy, as he was called by family and friends, carried the gritty and true-to-the-core values of hard work, honest living and a deep commitment to family. He knew what a dollar was worth - after all, he worked in a limestone quarry for 25 cents an hour. Raised by a father who was both writer and missionary Dad learned an appreciation for the Word of God at a young age and became an avid reader of heroes of the faith such as Charles Finney, D.L. Moody, and Billy Sunday.  Although his parents were Amish, he chose to become a member of the Pleasant View Mennonite Church where he met his young bride, Esther, who would be his faithful companion for nearly 74 years, until her passing in September, 2014.

The call of God was evident on my father's life with his ordination as a Deacon in 1949 followed by the double ordination of him and his brother, David, as ministers in 1954 and a subsequent church plant in the Mennonite community.  He was ordained as a Bishop in 1965 when he pioneered yet another new church as his realm of influence widened. Throughout the rest of his tenure as a Bishop, and until his retirement, he spoke in church meetings and revivals across the United States and in Canada, following the call of God in his heart. He also ministered in Guatemala, where he founded the first Mennonite mission which is still flourishing in the town of Chimaltenango, a city known for its textiles and pottery.

Andrew was known to be a fiery preacher, one who could turn from a soft-spoken, gentle and humble man into a bold, sweating, confident and shouting preacher as he paced back and forth behind the pulpit pouring his heart and soul into his preaching. He would always say he could feel the moment the Spirit of the Lord came upon him with anointing to preach the Word.

Two of Andrew’s brothers, David and Roman, also received the call of God to preach at a young age and went on to be ministers and leaders of their congregations with a lifelong dedication to preaching the Word of God - David at Sharon Conservative Mennonite Church and Roman at Martins Creek Mennonite Church.  The brothers would often gather to share stories and spiritual experiences while exhorting one another in their individual ministries.

After his retirement from farming and ministry, Andrew and Esther had a taxi cab service for the Amish in Holmes County, and their days were filled with trips throughout the local community as they provided transportation to jobs, doctor appointments, grocery stores, quiltings and even hospitals to birth babies. They formed deep friendships with the Amish and were always ready to lend a helping hand.

My father has spent a lifetime serving the Lord and giving himself to the work of the ministry. He is a man of prayer, a man of his word and shows kindness to all. The Bible is as much a part of his life as breathing, and he has memorized large portions of scripture as well as poetry.  In his younger years he loved to sing and would often sit in the evening with the Church Hymnal on his lap as he turned from song to song, singing a verse of each, and then thumbing through the well-worn pages of his Bible.

Well-respected in the community and deeply loved by all who know him, my Dad remains a shining example of a life well-lived with no regrets. On his 100th birthday, and forever, I honor this man who is my role model, father and friend.

Mom's Browned Butter Gravy

Monday, March 23, 2015

It's Monday morning but you can pretend it's Sunday with this recipe for gravy that I learned how to make while standing at my Mom's elbow during many a morning of my childhood. The creamy goodness of browned gravy made in a cast iron skillet is hard to beat.  Spooned over warm, flaky biscuits, it is practically irresistible and is only made more perfect by a fried or poached egg on top.

Mom would heat her cast iron skillet and start a generous slab of butter melting in a bubbly pool while she opened her flour canister and got the milk out of the fridge. Usually, there was leftover bacon grease in a little white mug beside the stove and a spoonful of this joined the butter.  Then came the sprinkling of flour, the constant whisking and the gradual adding of milk.  When the mixture reached a steaming bubble of yummy thickened consistency, she added a pinch of salt from the crock on the counter, a few shakes of pepper and we were ready to sit down to a marvelous breakfast of biscuits and gravy.  Or home fries and gravy. Or pancakes and gravy. Or fried mush and gravy.

Following is my basic gravy recipe, which can be dressed up in a variety of ways and served as you choose.  Enjoy!

Mom's Browned Butter Gravy

1.  Melt 1/4 cup butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  When the butter starts bubbling and releases a fragrant smell, whisk in 1/3 cup flour.  Keep whisking, and allow this butter/flour mixture to brown slightly.  Slowly add the milk (approximately 3 1/2 cups or a tad more), small streams at a time, whisking constantly.  It's important to add the milk slowly, whisking constantly, to create a smooth gravy (no lumps allowed).  This process can take up to 10 minutes - pouring, whisking, pouring, whisking, until the mixture has thickened.  Then, remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon salt, a few grinds of fresh pepper, and a chunk of butter (1 Tablespoon, approximately).  I like to add a bit of hot sauce to give the gravy just a tad bit of heat - it doesn't take much, perhaps 1/2 teaspoon.  Pour over biscuits and enjoy!

Petit Fudge Tartlets in a Peanut Butter Crust

Sunday, March 15, 2015

After three days of packing and unpacking too many dishes to count during the moving process of my cooking partner, Geneva Schlabach and her family to their new home, I came home last night with enough energy left over to whip up these easy tartlets for a late night snack. It was Pi Day, after all, and a cook's gotta cook. The reward of eating these beauties in my pj's with my tired feet propped up and a glass of wine in hand was worth the effort it took to create them.

Petite Fudge Tartlets in a Peanut Butter Crust 
1/4 cup peanut butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small squares
1 & 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold water

Using an electric mixer, beat peanut butter, brown sugar, butter and corn syrup until fairly smooth. Remove bowl from mixer. Add flour and salt. Mix with a pastry blender or fork until mixture is crumbly.  Sprinkle surface of mixture with 1 tablespoon cold water. Mix again. Repeat process, using 1 tablespoon water at a time.  The mixture will remain somewhat crumbly looking.  

Coat a tart pan (24-count) with cooking spray.  Using approximately 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of dough at a time, shape into 24 balls and press into bottom and sides of pan.

Set pan aside and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg

Place sugar, cocoa, chocolate chips, butter and milk into a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon or a whisk constantly until smooth (approximately 3 - 4 minutes).  
Remove the pan from heat and stir in the flour and egg until blended.

Pour the chocolate into the tart shells and bake for 10 - 12 minutes.  Cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For an added touch of fancy, dust the tops with confectioner's sugar.

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National Women's Day

Sunday, March 8, 2015

On this National Women's Day I am grateful for a mother who taught me a lot about life. Although raised in a Mennonite culture with clearly defined roles for women, she found ways to express her independence while maintaining a gentle and loving relationship with my father. While I am different from my mother in many ways, we share some of the same passions - she was a master pie baker, I prefer cakes and cookies. She was famous for her fried cornmeal mush with tomato gravy and I serve up eggs and crepes in fancy fashion. We both loved meringues, hers with golden peaks atop a lemon pie and mine baked with swirls of chocolate and a garnish of whipped cream. She was an expert seamstress, sewing clothes for the whole family and running a profitable business of making traditional head coverings for women across many states. I, on the other hand, would rather dig in the garden or write a story than fiddle with needle and thread. So thanks, Mom, for showing me the beautiful and uncomplicated simplicity of living life alongside a husband you loved and respected all the days of your life and for never feeling that your role was inferior to his.

Kitchen Gardens for Serious Cooks

Thursday, March 5, 2015

"Any serious cook should grow her own herbs in a kitchen garden" was a piece of advice I read recently in my current favorite cookbook, A Kitchen in France by Mimi Thorrisson.  And to that sage bit of advice I would add, "Any serious cook should grow potted herbs on her kitchen window sill to be used year-round." The flavor of freshly picked rosemary or thyme, whether sprinkled over foods as a garnish or used for cooking and baking serves as an instant enhancer to almost any dish - like this bread I mixed up on a whim with a handful of herbal sprouts tossed onto the dough before baking.

Speaking of bread, here is a delightful recipe I borrowed from Geneva Schlabach's blog for bread baked in a Dutch Oven. It really is the easiest bread recipe I have ever tried.  If you have a sturdy mixer, like a Kitchen Aid, and a Dutch Oven of sorts you are good to go!  It's the perfect thing to make when you don't have hours to spend in the kitchen, and it will keep in your pantry for several days if sealed in a plastic bag.

Dutch Oven Bread

4 1/2 cups bread flour (I use King Arthur)
2 tablespoons yeast (or two yeast packets)
2 tablespoons white or raw sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 cups very warm to hot tap water

Use the dough hook attachment for your mixer. In the bowl, put the water, yeast, sugar, salt and a sprinkling of fresh herbs.  Whisk it once or twice to get the ingredients moving, then let rest for about 7 minutes to let the yeast get nice and foamy.

Turn your oven to 400 degrees with the baking rack set on the middle level.

Get out your Dutch Oven and brush a light coat of olive oil all around the inside bottom and sides of the Dutch Oven as well as the inside of the lid.

When the yeast is foamy in the mixer, turn it on low speed and start adding the flour one cup at a time until you get to the last half cup.  Add a spoonful at a time for that last half cup of flour, because you may not need all of it.  When the dough no longer sticks to the side of the bowl you will know you have added enough flour.

Let the dough mix on low to medium low for about 7 minutes. This takes the place of hand kneading so let it mix away and do the hard work for you.

At the end of 7 minutes, remove dough from bowl and place on a floured surface, forming it into a ball.  Then place it into your Dutch Oven, garnish with more fresh herbs, cover with the lid and let it rise until double in size (maybe an hour, depending on the warmth of the room).

Bake in oven with lid on for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake an additional 5 minutes uncovered.  Then turn your oven to Broil (be careful, you have to stay there and watch it or you'll have burnt bread) for  2 - 3 minutes until the top of the bread gets a nice toasty golden color.

Remove from the oven, carefully remove from Dutch Oven, and let it cool on a baking rack.  Slice and eat!  Yum!

Store leftovers, if you're lucky to have any, in a tightly sealed plastic bag and keep for up to 3 days.  And if you still have leftovers (highly doubtful) sprinkle some crumbs outside for the winter birds. They will love you for it.