Food for a Barn Raising {Amish Family Recipes}

Mennonite Community Cookbook | Amish Family Recipes |

What exactly is the “Mennonite Community Cookbook“? There are two answers to that question.

First, the Mennonite Community Cookbook was the food bible of sorts in our home kitchen, where my talented mama taught me how to cook. It’s the first cookbook we referenced when looking for a traditional Amish recipe, and it was the standard for our family’s Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. My mother has a hardback edition, and she gave me the copy depicted in the photo when I set up my kitchen as a young married woman.

Grandma Lydia's Good Dishes

My Grandma Lydia’s “Good Dishes”, used for entertaining. {Photo Credit Kathryn Dienner

And next, this cookbook (initially published in 1950), was the first comprehensive gathering of Amish and Mennonite recipes. Its collection is “a compilation of over 1,100 recipes, chosen from more than 5000 recipes sent in from Mennonite communities in the United States and Canada”, a gathering and organizing of hundreds of hand-written, traditional recipes passed down through the generations. It’s truly a treasure.

Although I’m not Amish, I come from a beautiful heritage of Antibaptist, Amish and Mennonite ancestors. My blog is named after my two, Amish grandmothers, Lydia Esh, and Barbra Glick-Dienner. Last year during the #write31days challenge, I shared stories and lessons from my Amish family, that I wanted to be sure are not lost to my daughters. It was such a special experience that I decided to continue in the same vein this October. As this cookbook is an important part of the Amish-Mennonite culture, naturally I decided it was a great starting point for this month’s writing!

This is day 7 of the #write31days challenge, and I had scheduled “Cup Cheese” for today’s post. Unfortunately the cheese process didn’t get my memo ;-), and is taking longer than planned. So I thought I’d share a fun recipe of sorts from the “Miscellaneous” section of the Mennonite Community Cookbook.

Thank you for following along with my cooking and writing journey this month. I am thoroughly enjoying every post! So, with no further ado, here’s the recipe for today: Food for a Barn Raising, “enough food for 175 men”.

Mennonite Community Cookbook | Amish Family Recipes |

Food for a Barn Raising {Amish Family Recipes}

Yield: Enough food for 175 men

Food for a Barn Raising {Amish Family Recipes}

(Photo of my Grandpa Esh's Amish barn, in Morgantown, Pa. Circa 1970


  • 115 lemon pies
  • 500 fat cakes (doughnuts)
  • 15 large cakes
  • 3 gallons applesauce
  • 3 gallons rice pudding
  • 3 gallons cornstarch pudding
  • 16 chickens
  • 3 hams
  • 50 pounds roast beef
  • 300 light rolls
  • 16 loaves bread
  • Red beet pickle and pickled eggs
  • Cucumber pickle
  • 6 pounds dired prunes, stewed
  • 1 large crock stewed raisins
  • 5 gallon stone jar white potatoes and the same amount of sweet potatoes


  1. "This bit of information was found in a quaint, old handwritten recipe book from Great-grandmother's day...As many of us know, a "barn raising" was quite an event during those early years. When a new barn was built, all the fiends and neighbors came on the specified day to help put up the framework of the barn. This policy is still carried out in some communities where neighbors are neighborly. Homemakers of our day will no doubt be astounded at all the food consumed in one day. What is more difficult to believe is that it was all made in Great-grandmother's kitchen." ~ Mary Emma Showalter, author of the Mennonite Community Cookbook


Recipe source: Mennonite Community Cookbook, Herald Press

Interesting link: Amish Barn Raising Time-lapse Video

Oven Baked Buffalo Wings {for the whole family}

Baked Buffalo Wings

Oven Baked Buffalo Wings is a main dish that every person in our family enjoys! The recipe source is one of my favorite cookbooks; Nourishing Traditions. I modified Sally Fallon’s “Sesame Buffalo Wings” recipe, as several people around our table aren’t fans of sesame seeds. It’s best to prep this dish either several hours or the night before you plan to bake it. There is no frying involved, but the marinade causes a delicious crispy outside, while the chicken remains tender and moist under the skin. Yummy!

Nourishing Traditions

Did you know eating chicken off the bones is an excellent way to get skeletal-healthy nutrients into your diet? So, eat your Buffalo Wings friends; they’re great for your joints! (But stick with the baked version – your body will thank you.) So, with no further ado, here’s the recipe!

Baked Chicken Wings

  • 24 chicken wings, separated at the joints (Trader Joe’s is a great source!)
  • 1/2 cup naturally fermented soy sauce (I use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, available online or at many grocery stores)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • Juice and grated rind of 2 (large) lemons
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Cayenne Pepper – desired amount (the more, the spicier!)
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter

Mix soy sauce, vinegar, honey, lemon juice & rind and all the seasonings. Marinate buffalo wings in the mixture several hours or overnight. Remove from mixture and pat dry. Place in stainless steel baking pan, brush with butter and bake at 350 degrees about 1 1/4 hours. These are also great re-heated!


~Justina Dee

The Reality of Loving the Orphan

sadnessThe reality is hard to take.

Here she is, in our home. A little girl who only weeks ago was in an orphanage.

Challenges, disorders, obstacles, complexities…I was not naive. I knew we would face all of them. And that working through them would take a long, long time.  I thought I could enter into her tumultuous world and fix things.  I thought that I could save the day. Be her hero. Show her the love she so desperately needed, and everything would be OK.

But I found out I was wrong.

When you see a little one – not on a photograph, promotional video, Facebook photo, but in real-life, flesh and blood – sobbing and full of bitter despair, curled up in the fetal position, shutting her ears to your words, unwilling even to be held or loved in her moment of complete and utter brokenness, you are forever changed.

When you see a fatherless child lashing out against your love. Telling you that all she wants is to go home to her mother (from whom she was taken), while her eyes are blazing with anger and pain, you realize that loving an orphan is much more complex than it seems.

When you see an abandoned orphan with a past full of complicated problems –  far greater than any you’ve ever faced, you realize how ill-equipped you are.

And it’s a humbling experience.

You see, this whole “caring for the orphan” thing is a process that not only changes the orphan,  it changes me.

Caring for an orphan has caused me to examine my true motives. Are they simply a whimsical desire to make a difference in the world, or a heartfelt conviction that will carry us both through the dark storms we will undoubtedly face? Is my love for this child an idealistic and shifty notion, or built on a solid and firm foundation that will not move when it is shaken and challenged?

When this sweetheart abrubtly shifts to a child who is lashing out, things suddenly look very ugly and your blood pressure goes higher than you ever dreamed possible, what will cause you to stay calm, and love her anyway?

I’m convinced more than ever that the only way that Love will save the day,  is when it is  a selfless Love. The kind of love Jesus demonstrated to me. When I display a steadfast and unrelenting Love, such as my Heavenly Father has lavished upon me.

No amount of preparation, knowledge, compassion, efforts, do-good actions, resolve, ideals, personal discipline, patience, or earthly wisdom can possibly fill the emptiness and deep void, make right the colossal hurt and injustice, repair the broken places, or restore light and life, where hope has been dashed in the heart of an orphan.

I cannot fix it.

But Jesus can.

And He will. I can personally testify to the fact that Jesus changes an orphan’s life. (And in the process, also changes mine.)

By His might and power alone, I am called to be His hands and His feet, in this world that is longing for the day that He will return and make all things right.

It’s time for all of us to move from a place of FEELING sorry for these little ones, into that messy thing called LOVING the orphan.

And I’m learning there’s much more to this thing called LOVE, than I ever imagined.

Thank you for sharing the journey with me,

Justina Dee



Click here to read an update on our adoption

Defender or Assailant of the Helpless {which one are you raising your child to be}


Parents (and any other influential adults in a child’s life) shape and mold the outlook and view on humankind, of these future grown-ups. What are we teaching our children? Talk is cheap. Our actions lead, and make deep impressions that will never leave the minds and hearts of our young ones.

My husband, daughter and I are blessed to be surrounded by a family and community of people who are choosing to be helpers and defenders, and in turn, are raising their children to be the same. These people inspire us every single day.

This morning I heard the story of a waiter who stood up for a special needs child named “Milo”. Milo’s family was eating at a restaurant, in this waiters section. The father of another family being waited on by this particular gentleman asked to be moved to a table away from Milo. When the waiter heard the father making derogatory remarks about his young friend Milo (to his family seated with him at the table), the waiter asked him to leave the restaurant.

The news story made me think of the contrast of  people who raised this waiter to stand up for children like Milo vs. those who influenced the man who made such hateful remarks against a young boy with special needs.  My husband and I want to be the kind of parents who raise defenders, not assailants of the helpless.

We believe that in order to bring up brave children who will choose to come to the aid of the helpless (instead of join the mocking crowd, or cower away in fear), we must illustrate and demonstrate compassion in our own lives. We can talk all we like about helping others, we can read about it. We can even pray about it. But none of that means anything until we ACT upon what we say we believe. We must lead by example. The eyes of our children are always watching us.

I’m confident that many humanitarians, missionaries and compassionate leaders had parents or close mentors who strongly influenced their views of humanity. Here is a little background on four heroes who rallied around the cause of those in desperate need. (And I’m certain there are countless more like them)!

Martin Luther King Jr.

“The King children grew up in a secure and loving environment. Martin Sr. was more the disciplinarian, while his wife’s gentleness easily balanced out the father’s more strict hand. Though they undoubtedly tried, Martin Jr.’s parents couldn’t shield him completely from racism. Martin Luther King Sr. fought against racial prejudice, not just because his race suffered, but because he considered racism and segregation to be an affront to God’s will. He strongly discouraged any sense of class superiority in his children which left a lasting impression on Martin Jr.”

Mother Teresa

“It was her family’s generosity, care for the poor and the less fortunate, that made a great impact on young Mother Teresa’s life. By age 12, she had made up her mind; she realized that her vocation was aiding the poor.”

Amy Carmichael

“Her parents were deeply devoted to Christ and raised their children to love and serve God.”

Corrie ten Boom

“Mama’s love had always been the kind that acted itself out with soup pot and sewing basket. But now that these things were taken away, the love seemed as whole as before. She sat in her chair at the window and loved us. She loved the people she saw in the street– and beyond: her love took in the city, the land of Holland, the world. And so I learned that love is larger than the walls which shut it in.”

I pray that we will grow to be more like Jesus, who revealed the Loving, Helping, Defending and Just Character of God, when He walked here on earth 2000 years ago. The Bible says “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless”. May we be people who are loving and caring for “the least of these”.  May we teach our children what PURE and right “religion” looks like, through the use of our talents, time and resources. Let us raise men and women who are gentle defenders of the weak, helpless, and hurting people in our world.

~ Justina Dee


The Story of Milo’s Waiter

Martin Luther King Jr,

Calcutta’s Mother Teresa,

Amy Carmichael

Story of Amy Carmichael’s mother

Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

Biblical references:

Deuteronomy 10:18

Matthew 9:35-36

Matthew 25:35-40

James 1:27

Isaiah 42:3