Icing on the Cake
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I’m not doing a particularly good job of keeping track of which things I’ve written about in response to a comment and which were a post, so at the risk of repeating myself, I’m going to mention the More-With-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre.
The book was originally commissioned by the Mennonite Central Committee in the early 1970s as a response to global food shortages and related geopolitical issues. According to the book’s preface,
…MCC has asked each constituent household to look at its lifestyle, particularly food habits. Noting the relationship between North American overconsumption and world need, a goal has ben set to eat and spend 10 percent less.
In Mennonite communities across North America, people are responding with a kind of holy frustration. “We want to use less,” they say. “How do we begin? How do we maintain motivation in our affluent society? How do we help each other?” From questions like these the idea of compiling a cookbook was born.
The book was re-issued in 2000 as a 25th Anniversary Edition, which is the version I have.
If you’re opposed to overtly Christian messages, you’ll probably want to skip the intro sections, and you might want to skip the book altogether.
As I mentioned, I’ve been doing some research in preparation for my next project, and as part of that, I decided to take another look at the introductory sections of More-with-Less, which I had glanced at when I first got the book but hadn’t spent much time with. Some of it is a bit dated, but still has some useful stuff. And I also ran across the following, which I thought was interesting:
Here is an example of how rising affluence over the years changes our kitchen habits. My grandmother iced cakes only for birthdays. My mother iced most of her cakes, but thinly and only between the layers and on top — not on the sides. Until recently, I stirred up an ample bowlful of frosting that covered everything and left plenty of finger-lickin’s.
The Mennonites have a big missionary program, so many of the recipes are based on food from other cultures, where meat is a much smaller part of the diet. Also most of the recipes are quite flexible, almost suggestions more than recipes, with a variety of options depending on what’s in season or what’s cheap.
I frequently use the book for ideas, but I don’t necessarily follow the recipes exactly. And it seems like that’s actually how it was designed to be used. I don’t know how someone without much experience would do with it, if it would be overwhelming or if it would still be useful. But for experienced cooks, it’s a good resource.
I started thinking of it as the Something-from-Nothing Cookbook after finding a few things when cleaning out the freezer and debating whether to keep them or toss them and I decided to look in More-with-Less to see if there were any ideas. I found a recipe for chicken-cheese casserole that looked pretty good, and ended up getting 3 or 4 really good meals out of this tiny amount of food that hardly seemed worth saving. It was like the loaves and fishes, I swear.
So if any of you run across any leftover turkey or mushrooms in your freezer that hardly seem worth saving, here’s the recipe for Chicken Cheese Casserole. Give it a shot. (And feel free to adjust proportions based on what you have available and how much you need.)
Chicken Cheese Casserole
Cook and drain according to package directions
3/4 lb noodles
Saute in a skillet
5 T margarine (or butter)
1 small onion, chopped
3 T. chopped green pepper
1/ 2 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
5 T flour
Cook and stir until bubbly.
1-1/2 cup chicken broth
1-1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp dry mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Cook, stirring until thickened.
3 c. cooked chicken or turkey
Put in greased casserole dish and top with
2/3 cup shredded cheese
buttered bread crumbs
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
Mona Sauder, Wauseion, Ohio
Marjorie Geissinger, Zionsville, Pa