I had another great week traveling around Ohio opening up new counties to the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library.
This week I travelled northeast, and through Amish country. I visited Tuscarawas and Holmes counties last fall to talk to Rotary clubs and other community leaders about how we could get the Imagination Library started in their counties. So it was great to go there on Monday to actually open up these counties to all children under five!
It’s always a beautiful drive through this part of Ohio. In September, I stopped at Belden Brick Company and got to see the really cool 100-year-old bee hive kilns that some of the bricks are still made in. But on Monday we went to the library where lots of county leaders and children gathered to officially open up the Imagination Library and start signing kids up. It was a great event and I loved reading to the kids!
From there we went to Holmes County, the heart of Amish country. We went to the local elementary school and I visited with many kids eating lunch in the cafeteria. I then talked with six of their Kindergarten teachers about how important they think this will be for their kids to have books in the home before they start school. From there we went to Orville in Wayne County where we kicked off the Imagination Library countywide with Tim Smucker at the beautiful Heartland Community Center full of adorable kids and community leaders who worked to make this happen.
I spent the rest of the week preparing for the next counties that we’ll launch, but today I am going to do some cooking! Tonight our daughter Jill is having her annual neighborhood fundraiser to help the Becky DeWine School in Haiti. Her neighbors are wonderful people and they come together to raise money to help buy food and school supplies for these children who live in the poorest, most desperate place in this hemisphere. Jill and Bill and their kids have been there to help Father Tom with the school. Jill always makes lots of delicious food for this event. I am going to make rice and beans, which really is the staple of what the Haitian kids eat at school. They generally get a very large bowl of rice and beans with a flavorful sauce on top that usually contains a little chicken or fish, and lots of onions, peppers, and whatever vegetables are available. For most of these kids, it is the only meal they eat each day.
I am also going to make one dessert, and I think I’ll try a recipe I received last night. We had a lovely dinner at the home of our friends Mary Ann and Michael. Mary Ann and I talked a lot about books, but also about kids and food since she is an expert on children’s nutrition. We talked about soup — how great it is to make this time of year and how you can really “clean out your refrigerator” using the last bits of vegetables to create good, healthy soups that are a little different every time. Her husband Michael shared a favorite recipe for peanut butter pie that he wanted to make but didn’t — he joked he was afraid to serve me a pie! The recipe looks delicious — it has a chocolate crust — and easy! So I’m going to make it to take to Jill’s house tonight.
While I was in Amish country I couldn’t help but think of all the wonderful Amish cooks and restaurants in the area, even though we didn’t have time to stop and eat. I thought I would share a recipe my friend Elaine Straley, who loved visiting Amish country, gave me many years ago. Amish Barn Soup appeared in one of my early cookbooks and I’ve had a lot of requests for it over the years. For me it’s really a pantry dish — I can always have the ingredients on hand. Even though it calls for bouillon cubes and frozen broccoli, I usually use my homemade broth that I make and freeze plus fresh broccoli. It’s a great Sunday night supper recipe for when friends or family stop by.
Amish Barn Soup
3/4 cup chopped onions
3 tablespoons butter
Add and bring to boil:
6 cups water
6 to 8 bouillon cubes
(or homemade broth)
Add and cook 3 minutes:
8 ounces noodles
Add and cook until tender:
2 10-ounce packages frozen broccoli (or fresh broccoli)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 cups milk
1 pound cubed Velveeta cheese
Heat until cheese melts. Serve with corn bread.
Peanut Butter Pie
adapted from Samantha Seneviratne’s recipe, New York Times
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie pan. Whisk together sugar, cocoa, flour and salt. Add melted butter and stir well with fork until crumbs are evenly moistened. Put crumbs in pie pan and press evenly into sides and bottom, about 1/4 inch thick. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until set. Cool on a rack.
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
1 8-ounce package cream cheese (room temperature)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
Whip the cream to stiff peaks with electric mixer. Set aside. In another large bowl, beat peanut butter, cream cheese, sugar salt and vanilla on medium speed until fluffy. Fold in whipped cream with large spatula. Put filling into chilled pie crust and chill 4 hours until set.
If desired, you can make a chocolate topping:
2 ounces chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter
Melt in glass bowl in microwave (short bursts, stirring often). Put in small plastic bowl. Cut off 1/8 inch corner. Drizzle the chocolate over the top to make decorative pattern. Or — add chocolate curls, whipped cream dollops, or maybe even a candy buckeye!
Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.