Amish Woman Serves Delicious Meals In Her Panama Home

Laundry hanging in the background on a typical wash day at the Burkholder home on Weeks Road in Panama. Photos by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

I love visiting my friend, Cindy Burkholder, an Old Order Amish woman, who lives in Panama, New York, with her husband, David and six of her eight children. I first met Cindy when she was living in Sherman, while taking part in one of the dinners she serves at her home. In 2012, she called about an ad for a family-style dinner business for sale in the bi-monthly Amish newspaper. The business was purchased because she had three daughters she “wanted to keep busy.” The sellers took her under their wing and taught her the ins and outs of running the business on the two or three occasions that she went to help with their dishes and with the dinners.

In the beginning the business was set up in a building built next to their house by her husband. It was constructed especially for preparing and serving dinners, but after two years the family relocated to Panama where a very large room was added to their new home for the same purpose.

All baking is done on the morning of the day the dinner is to be served with the afternoon set aside for preparation of the remainder of the delicious meal. Her older daughters serve the food, while 7-year-old Irene and 9-year-old Sarah stand off to the side hoping one of the “English” will give them a smile.

Diners get a glimpse of an Amish family while partaking of a typical Amish wedding dinner consisting of comfort food that likely surpasses any Thanksgiving meal experienced. Groups have the option of one or two meat choices when reservations are called in. I recommend the turkey and stuffing and the flavorful, tender roast beef. Chicken, ham and meatloaf are additional options. All meals include real mashed potatoes, gravy, creamed peas, creamy plate salad, date pudding, bread served with butter and jam, choice of pie and coffee, tea or water. All dishes are made from scratch with real butter.

In the past, groups of 12 or more were required with 50 being the maximum (with a second seating available, if necessary) but starting this year on the third Friday of each month from May-November open seating is available for any number of people. Open seating is at 5:30 with a reservation and the meat choices are turkey and roast beef for $20 per person. On all other days an option of one meat for $16 is available and reservations can be made for any time after 4 PM. Bread, jam and salad dressing used in the plate salad is available to purchase at the dinners. Ten varieties of whole pies may be ordered when making reservations. Dinners are served every day but Sunday.

These Monster Cookies May be made with chocolate chips or M & Ms.

Various groups have held dinner meetings, showers, etc. and a ladies’ quilting group comes one night during weekend retreats. With Chautauqua Institution just 16 miles away, guests have attended the meals from as far away as Canada, Montana and Spain.

The grandmother of one began her cooking journey at the age of 12, while helping an ailing grandmother who loved across the road. The older woman gave the young girl cooking advice and tips. She taught her the secret of making rich chicken gravy by mixing in two egg yolks at the time the thickener is added.

“We did farming and believe me, I spent a lot of time in the barn.”

She likes to cook which is a plus considering Amish families invite 600 or more people to their children’s weddings, with about 50 per cent attending. Sarah and Irene are excited to be invited to the wedding of their teacher who is marrying soon. Although this particular woman is choosing to discontinue teaching, it is a common misconception that Amish women can no longer teach after marriage. Some Amish women have been known to teach after they became grandmothers. Amish children learn to speak English at school and must speak it throughout their school day, including during recess.

Mrs. Burkholder would rather work in the barn than sew. The family home is surrounded by a beautifully manicured lawn, which she and the girls maintain with helpful guidance from one of the daughters who works at a greenhouse. The fieldstone wall built by her husband is a focal point along with weed-free flower and vegetable gardens. A raised bed supplies peppermint for tea.

Preparation time is reduced by using cake mix in this Rhubarb Dessert.

Below are seven of the recipes Mrs. Burkholder serves her family.

“My family loves Haystacks and they are quick to make,” she says. “I like to make the Chicken Dip Sunday night to serve for dinner.”

Those wishing to participate in the next open seating for any number of persons on Friday, June 15, should call on or before Tuesday. Reservations may be made by calling 782-3069. Be sure to let the phone ring as it is not located in the house. The Burkholder home is located at 348 Weeks Road, Panama, New York.


Ritz crackers, crushed

Delicious Amish dinners are served family-style at the Burkholder home. Reservations must be made by calling 782-3069.

Cooked white rice, fluffed with fork

1 lb ground beef, browned and drained

1 qt pizza sauce

Lettuce, bite size pieces

Tomatoes, diced

These Monster Cookies May be made with chocolate chips or M & Ms.

Doritos, crushed

1 can Cheddar cheese soup

Taco sauce, optional

Combine pizza sauce with ground beef. On each plate, layer desired amount of crackers, rice, ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes and Doritos. Pour cheddar cheese soup over all. Serve with taco sauce.

Rhubarb Dessert

4 c sliced rhubarb

1-3 oz pkg strawberry gelatin

§ c sugar

1 white or yellow cake mix

1 stick butter, melted

1 c cold water

Spread rhubarb in 9″ x 13″ pan. Sprinkle gelatin and sugar over rhubarb and then sprinkle dry cake mix over all. Drizzle with butter. Pour water over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Raspberry Cheese Bars

2 c flour

1 ¢ c oatmeal

§ c brown sugar

1 c butter

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

14 oz sweetened condensed milk

™ c lemon juice

Red raspberry or favorite pie filling

Combine flour, oatmeal and brown sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly. Reserve 1 cup for topping and press the rest into a 9″ x 13″ pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. While crust is baking, combine cream cheese, milk and lemon juice. Spread over crust. Top with pie filling. Sprinkle with remaining crust mixture. Bake an additional 20 minutes.

Vegetable Pizza

2-8 oz pkgs refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

1 c salad dressing

16 oz sour cream

1 pkg dry ranch dressing mix

2 T milk

Fresh vegetables of choice

Shredded cheddar cheese

Roll out roll dough on jelly roll pan. Bake according to package directions. Cool. In a bowl, combine salad dressing, sour cream and dressing mix. Spread on cooled crust. Top with your favorite vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and cucumber. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

Chicken Dip

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

10 oz pre-cooked chicken breast, cut in bite size pieces

¢ c salsa or hot sauce

¢ c ranch dressing

2 c co-jack cheese

Tortilla chips

Spread cream cheese in shallow 1 qt baking dish. Layer chicken, salsa and dressing. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm with chips.

Monster Cookies

1 c butter

2 c sugar

2 c brown sugar

6 eggs

1 T vanilla

2 c peanut butter

1 ¢ c flour

7 c oatmeal

4 tsp soda

1 pkg chocolate chips or M & Ms

Combine butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla and peanut butter. Add flour, oatmeal and soda. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly brown.

Shepherd’s Pie

Mashed potatoes

Sour cream

1 Dry Ranch dressing packet

Ground beef


1 can cream of mushroom soup


Velveeta cheese, cubed

Combine potatoes with sour cream and dressing packet. Brown ground beef and onion. Drain. Cover bottom of roaster pan with meat. Add soup and milk. Cover with cheese. Top with potato mixture. Top with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until heated through.


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