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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Country Cousin

Taxes...



Hi Folks!

Hey Fellas! Where have you hidden our Global Warming? We want it back!

Remember last year at this time? We had seen sunshine! Often! Blue skies, too. We were mowing our lawns for the second or third time of the season. Snow was long gone. There were flowers blooming outdoors . A few had even bloomed in March. We were worried about drought, and rightly so.

Was starting to believe last year that Global Warming might be more than a figment of some imaginations, that perhaps it was more than a theory designed to win Nobel Peace Prizes for people who didn’t deserve them and speaking engagements to meetings in exotic locales for people who didn’t know what they were talking about.

But no. Once again, as usual, the old farmers were right. Everything is a cycle.

This year we’re still shoveling snow, still getting stuck in the mud, still wearing gloves and winter coats. And it’s nearly half past April.

Weather is fickle. We humans are so puny in the whole scheme of things that nothing we do is going to change the climate on a world wide scale unless God wants it to happen.

Last year was actually wondering if that might be just what He had in mind. After all, He promised never again to destroy the world by a flood, but never heard that He promised not to cook this old Earth and everyone on it.

MOVING ON

Weather or not, the calendar moves on even if Winter refuses to budge. Income Tax filing deadline - April 15 - is coming on fast.

The season for Bridal Showers is starting, and June weddings aren’t far behind. Graduation parties are only about six weeks away.

IT IS REALLY SPRING

Noted last week that the first frozen robins of the season had been spotted in TIMESland, but now we know for sure Spring has really sprung. Never mind the remains of that white blanket on the ground. Means nothing. It’s spring.

Son Tom spotted the first mosquito of the season on Friday!

And I was stuck in the driveway three times over the weekend.

SPEAKING OF TAXES

Speaking of income taxes, time is getting short, but there are numerous options for free filing on the web, in addition to Turbo Tax and the free Wisconsin and IRS sites. According to NAPS, a national news clipping service, TaxACT offers a free tax return checklist at www.taxact.com/checklist. You can prepare, print and e-file federal returns free with Tax Act Free Federal Edition, same site.

Or if you prefer, NAPS advises that free, individualized tax preparation is available to low and moderate income taxpayers, particularly those aged 60 and older, from the volunteer-based AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program. Learn more at www.aarp.org/findtaxhelp or call 888-227-7669.

If you can’t get your taxes done by April 15, pay whatever amount you think is due and file an automatic extension request to avoid penalties.

Incidentally, do send money. As an unknown commentator remarked, “It would be nice if we could all pay our taxes with a smile, but normally cash is required.”

GRIN AND BEAR IT

Nobody likes paying taxes, but those who will get refunds, especially if they didn’t pay anything in the first place, don’t mind filing them. The rest of us do, but we find ways to laugh about it anyway.

This is not a new problem. Mark Twain once said he’d never use profanity if it weren’t for house rent and taxes.

J. Paul Getty advised, “If you get up early, work late, and pay your taxes, you will get ahead — if you strike oil.”

NO ESCAPE

Maybe there really is no escape. One unidentified comedian remarked that the wages of sin are death, but by the time taxes are taken out, it’s just sort of a tired feeling. The income tax, property tax, and sales tax get you coming and going, and then the inheritance tax gets you after you’ve gone.

ON THE DEFICIT

Our national deficit is horrendous, and getting worse, but once again we find a way to laugh through our tears. Sam Ewing says, the government deficit is the difference between the amount of money the government spends and the amount it has the nerve to collect.

Worries about the national debt aren’t new either. It was Herbert Hoover who said many years ago, “Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.” Hey! He was talking about us. And now we’re passing that inheritance along to our children.

WEIGHTY SUBJECTS

If you’re like me, you suffer a major culture shock the first time you dress in light weight summer garb and then look in the mirror. The really, really bad thought is you might want to wear a swim suit in about two months.

Those lucky bears sleep all winter, get rid of their wrinkles, and lose all the pounds they put on in fall. Then they wake up and get to eat all summer. Not so with humans. Most of us put on pounds during the semi-hibernation of winter. Spring means it’s time to turn into losers, at least for a while.

Getting out of shape over winter is bad enough, but the rest isn’t pretty either. Skin gets dried out from over heated rooms, hair is duller, eyes bulge from too much TV, and bodies show all kinds of effects from spending winter on the couch.

Time to reform. Start a daily exercise regimen slowly. Can’t walk much outdoors yet, at least in the country, but can touch toes, do windmills, lift mini weights and ride an exercycle if you have one. Better yet, find a place with live music and go dancing. Or turn on the radio and dance at home.

Swear off carbs for a while. Baste the old bod with moisturizing lotion. Give yourself a facial. And go on the Cabbage Soup Diet for a week or two. Works like a spring tonic to brighten the complexion, shrink the waistline, and boost energy levels. And it doesn’t cost much.

CABBAGE SOUP

Eat as much as you want, but at least three times a day, once before each meal. No snacking other than the soup. There are different rules, but what has worked for me is to add browned hamburger to the soup, with pan drippings if it’s quite lean, on the third and sixth days. Eat beef, eggs, or other protein foods with the soup on Day Seven, and then start over again if you need to go another round.

1 Green Pepper

1 Large Onion, chopped

1 package dry onion soup mix

1 big green head of cabbage

1 package frozen chopped spinach

48 ounces V-8 Juice

4 cups water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

Cut vegetables, including the cabbage, into small pieces. Saut the onion in the olive oil for two minutes, then add the celery and peppers and saut for 4 minutes more. Add the water, V-8 juice, onion soup mix, hot sauce and tomatoes. Bring the whole mixture (which now includes everything but the spinach and cabbage) to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and continue cooking for about 30 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook another 20 minutes, and then add the spinach and cook 10 minutes more.

GUN CONTROL



We keep hearing demands from misguided politicians for more gun control laws. Of course, their arguments are more heated in the wake of a mass shooting incident.

Now we hear about multiple stabbings on a Texas university campus by a disgruntled student wielding an Exacto knife!

Wonder if there will be a great hue and cry for knife control laws? Maybe some Congressmen will demand that stores sell knives without blades, or pass a law requiring a background check before you can buy a knife, especially one with pointy tip - like a paring knife or a French chef’s knife.

By the way - Where has all the ammunition gone? Nobody seems to have any to sell. They don’t need laws. Just cut off supply.

COOKIN’ TIME

Chill winds blow, but appetites want fresh flavors and new treats. Still cool enough to make a warming bowl of soup a treat.

MEXICAN CHICKEN SOUP

The original recipe for this deliciously different south of the border soup called for things like boniato (a type of sweet potato), yucca root (seems to be a cross between a white and sweet potato) and malanga, another south American root vegetable. On advice of a famed chef, those hard to find ingredients are replaced with sweet potatoes, white potatoes, parsnips and carrots.

2 pounds diced chicken, cooked or not

2 tablespoons salad oil

2 quarts chicken stock

1 cup diced onion

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (or 1 teaspoon crumbled,

dried cilantro)

1 cup diced peeled sweet potatoes

1 cup peeled diced regular potatoes

1 cup diced or sliced parsnips

1/2 cup sliced or diced carrots

1/2 cup sliced and diced celery

Juice of one lime

1/4 cup small uncooked pasta (alphabets)

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste

Dash red or cayenne pepper, or to taste

Cut the chicken into small 1-inch cubes, and prepare the vegetables. Heat the oil in a large soup kettle and add onions, celery, garlic and thyme. (Sprinkle in some black pepper, too.) Cook for about two minutes, so the onions get translucent but not brown. Add the chicken pieces and let them start to brown just a little. (If you’re using raw chicken, white meat works best. Otherwise cook it a little longer.) Add everything else, except the lime juice and the pasta. Give it a good stir, bring back to a boil and simmer about 30 minutes over medium heat. (Longer doesn’t hurt.) Add the pasta and cook another five to seven minutes, then add the lime juice and as much salt and pepper as you feel it needs. Good with corn bread, especially the kind made with bacon, cheese and green chilies.

CHEESY BACON CORNBREAD

Recipe serves 12, and needs to be cooked in a large cast iron skillet, or a heavy stainless one with an oven-proof handle.

5 slices bacon

3 cups flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup white sugar

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup milk

1 cup buttermilk (or add 2 tablespoons white vinegar to

scant cup whole milk)

1 cup butter, melted

3 extra large eggs, lightly beaten

8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese

1 small can diced jalapeno peppers

Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk milk, buttermilk, butter, eggs and peppers in another bowl; stir milk mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Batter will be slightly lumpy. Fold in Cheddar cheese. Allow batter to rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. While the batter rests,turn oven to 350 degrees to preheat. Fry the bacon in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until crisp and evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Do not let the drippings burn. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, and leave the bacon grease in the skillet. Put the skillet into the oven to keep it hot. Crumble the bacon, and if it won’t crumble, cut it into dice. Take skillet from the oven, pour in the batter, and sprinkle the bacon all over the top, gently pressing it into the batter. Bake about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for maybe 10 minutes before serving.

BREAKFAST GRANOLA

Anyone following a high-fiber diet would do well to try this recipe for a breakfast staple that’s high in flavor, fiber and nutrition. Unlike some of the versions you buy, this granola is made entirely of good natural ingredients. Olive oil and oatmeal are both recognized as being beneficial to the heart. Recipe comes courtesy of Barb Johnston, who says she has this granola or a fruitless variation every morning for breakfast, and she still makes it herself. At age 97 she remains independent, healthy, alert and slim, so she must be doing something right. Mrs. Johnston said she generally leaves the dried fruit out, and eats it with applesauce, rhubarb sauce, sweetened peaches or strawberries or other fruit juice instead of milk. The kids will probably love eating the granola dry, as a finger food.

8 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey/2 cup each almonds, walnuts and pecans (I’d use sliced almonds and chopped nuts, but the recipe doesn’t specify them)

1/2 cup each raisins, craisins or whatever other dried fruit you want (or none)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine oatmeal, oil, vanilla and honey. Lightly oil a baking sheet with either cooking spray or olive oil. Combine the oats, oil, vanilla and honey. Mix well and spread in a single layer on the prepared balking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, and stir in the nuts. Bake 20 more minutes stirring and turning every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheet. Stir in the dried fruits. Store in an air tight container. Serve with milk, or fruit sauce or juice.

BLUEBERRY TORTE

Co-worker Dick Tessier and his wife Judy were kind enough to share this recipe for one of his favorite desserts. Fresh blueberries won’t be available for a while yet, but we can savor the flavor without the hard work in this luscious creamy torte. It uses dry Dream Whip packets rather than the prepared frozen whipped topping, and yes, for those who haven’t used it for years, the product is still available.

Crust:

2 cups crushed graham crackers

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13”X9” pan with buttery flavored cooking spray. Mix together the crust ingredients. Reserve a half cup or so of crumbs and press the remainder evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Filling:

2 packages Dream Whip

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup powdered sugar

8 ounce package cream cheese

2 cans blueberry pie filling

Beat the Dream Whip, milk and vanilla together until thick enough for soft peaks to form. Then add the half cup powdered sugar. When that is beaten in well beat in the cream cheese a little at a time until the entire mixture is smooth and thick. Spread half of this mixture on the cooled graham cracker crust, and on top of that put the blueberry pie filling. Top with the rest of the cream cheese mixture, and sprinkle the reserved graham cracker crumbs. Cover and chill well before slicing into wedges or squares to serve.

Thought for the week:

Keep smiling and people will wonder what you’ve been up to. Laugh at yourself, make others laugh with you, and you’ll always have friends. As actress Salma Hayek once said, “Life is tough, but if you have the ability to laugh at it you have the ability to enjoy it.”

(This column is written by Shirley Prudhomme of Crivitz. Views expressed are her own and are in no way intended to be an official statement of the opinions of Peshtigo Times editors and publishers. She may be contacted by phone at 715-927-5034 or by e-mail at shirleyprudhommechickadee@yahoo. com.)

COUNTRY COUSIN


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