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Country Cousin

Roots...

Hi Folks!

Spring has finally arrived! After waiting so long, I can hardly believe that Memorial Day and the unofficial start of the summer season in Northwoods Wisconsin will be here on Monday. We’ve been enjoying warm days and balmy evenings. The full moon on Saturday night should be spectacular, unless it’s hidden by the tail ends of storms that swept across the nation last weekend. Sympathies go out to parts of the country, particularly Oklahoma, where tornadoes wreaked havoc in the past week.

So far here in TIMESland we’ve been lucky. The most severe storms have missed us. The rains came for a time on Tuesday, but the worst effect of recent weather has been a sharp increase in wood tick and mosquito populations. That we can live with. Get out the bug repellent and enjoy.

SMUDGES

Wonder how many in today’s younger generation remember when a “smudge” was the best defense against the evening mosquito onslaught? Wonder how many have even heard the word before except maybe in reference ot a smudge of dirt on their face?

Our family knew what a smudge was, and we knew it was for self defense. If we wanted to enjoy a bonfire, possibly with a cookout over hot coals, but the mosquitos were attempting mightily to drive us indoors. we’d build a smudge.

That meant banking up some coals so they wouldn’t be burning too hot, and then piling on wet weeds and grasses. Mosquitoes apparently don’t like smoke, so they’d pretty much stay away. If we turned our backs to the billowing smoke,or sat up wind from it, we could still breathe and pretend we were having fun.

Problem was that the wind usually kept shifting so we had to move to avoid that “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” syndrome. Wonder how many remember that old song, by the way.

Anyway, Grandma used to say smoke follows beauty, so we felt better about getting all smoke scented and watery-eyed. It was true, though, that the smoke helped slow down the Mosquito onslaught.

The little buzzing vampires don’t seem to be as bad in recent years as they were when we were kids. This may be just because we’re more used to it, or perhaps they don’t like adult blood as well as that from youngsters. Another possibility is that there really aren’t as many as there used to be because drought years have dried up some of the old mosquito breeding muck holes ... excuse me, wetlands.

Whatever the cause, the mosquitoes are generally worst just before and after dusk. Once full dark sets in they don’t seem to be nearly as pesky.

WATCH THE TICKS

Ticks are another issue entirely, especially now that we have deer ticks in the area as well as genuine old fashioned wood ticks. Deer ticks are harder to find. They can be as small as a pin point, and can often latch on, burrow in and eat without being detected. Make a nightly bed check routine in tick season!

I’m told the only natural enemies of ticks are peacocks and guinea hens, neither of which arrive without special invitations in this area. I’m in the market for a pair or two of each to police the yard area and reduce the tick population. Ticks are not only annoying, but can carry some serious diseases, including Lyme Disease.

MEMORIAL DAY

Memorial Day was originally created to honor the soldiers who gave their lives in the Civil War, but the meaning has been expanded in recent years to honor those we loved who have gone before us. That happened because we had no such holiday and we needed one.

However, in the rush to enjoy the pleasures of summer many of us tend to forget the reasons behind Memorial Day.

There’s no need to spend a ton of money, but we should at least pause to remember and thank those who died for the freedoms that are under such serious onslaught today.

If possible we should visit the graves of our ancestors and our personal loved ones, even if it’s only to say a small prayer and leave a spray of lilacs or a nosegay of violets.

ROOTS

Originally Decoration Day was observed on May 30. Many years later, to create an additional long weekend, the last Monday in May was designated Memorial Day.

There are several versions of how Memorial Day got started, and they may all be right.

Some historians say Memorial Day began unofficially on April 26, 1865, when Mrs. Sue Landon Vaughn, a descendant of the late President John Adams, led a few women to the cemetery in Vicksburg to decorate soldiers’ graves.

Perhaps by coincidence, in May of that same year other women in Winchester, Va. formed the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Association and on June 6 they went to the Confederate Cemetery to decorate graves with flowers.

Still other reports trace the holiday to Miss Emma Hunter, who in 1864 carried flowers to the tomb of her father, Col. James Hunter in Boalsburg, Pa. While there she met a Mrs. Meyer, whose son had also been killed in the war. The two women agreed to meet again the next year to decorate the graves, which they did, thus making the first pre-arranged Memorial Day observance in 1865. Gradually other townspeople took up the idea.

A History of the Grand Army of the Republic (a Union veterans organization) says Memorial day observances started after Adjutant-General N. P. Chapman received a letter from a Union soldier whose family roots were in Germany saying it was the custom there each spring to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers and suggested that the Grand Army adopt the idea.

Chapman relayed the suggestion to national commander, General J. A. Logan, who was so impressed that he issued an order naming May 30, 1868 “...for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of the comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion and whose bodies lie in almost every city, village or hamlet churchyard in the land. It is the purpose of the commander-in-chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept from year to year while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of the departed...let no ravages of time testify to coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided Republic.”

Wonderful words. Memorable sentiments.

Let us all continue to let no ravages of time show that we have forgotten the continuing cost in human lives of keeping our Republic free.

WASTE NOT

Fresh herbs are too precious and pricey to waste. If yours are about to go bad, just dehydrate them in the microwave. It’s easy. Wash first, then lay them on a paper towel and nuke in 10 second bursts. Once they’re dry, just cool and then crumble them into an airtight jar. They’ll last as long as dried spices from the store! Use half as much dried herb as you would fresh.

COOKIN’ TIME

It’s grilling time again. Asparagus is popping up, and rhubarb is ready for cooking. Some of today’s recipes are almost too easy, while one is a bit complicated, but not bad. Cook, eat and be happy!

BREW PUB PORK CHOPS

This works with boneless pork medallions or pork steaks as well as with chops. Just adjust cooking time accordingly. Great with the Dandelion Potatoes.

4 bone-in pork chops (1-1/2 lb.)

1 cup beer

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon

crumbled dried rosemary

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup mayonnaise (the real thing, not salad dressing)

1 Dijon or Spicy Dijon Mustard

Pinch rosemary

Mix beer, sugar, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper until sugar is dissolved; pour over chops in shallow dish or in a large enough zipper type plastic bag to hold them comfortably. Turn chops over to evenly coat both sides, and then refrigerate for at least an hour or better yet, overnight, turning after half an hour. Light coals and let them heat until medium hot. Remove chops from marinade; discard marinade. Grill chops 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until done (160F), brushing occasionally with the mayo/mustard mixture.

DANDELION POTATOES

This is almost a version of German Potato Salad. When you live close to the land as my grandparents did you learn to eat what’s available. And the results are surprisingly delicious. If you don’t feel like picking dandelion greens, use fresh spinach or other cooking greens, such as chinese cabbage or endive. If you do pick your own dandelions, do not take from roadsides where they have been contaminated with fumes and chemicals, and do not pick the jagged leaves with milky juices, just the nice smooth ones. Green onions, tops and all, can be nicely substituted for part of the regular onion.

5 pounds white potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 tablespoons butter

salt and pepper, to taste

1 pound bacon, diced

1 pound torn dandelion greens

1 medium onion, diced

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup white vinegar

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain, toss with butter, and season with salt and pepper. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Set aside the pan with the bacon grease. In a large bowl gently toss together the dandelion greens and onion.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, vinegar, and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the egg mixture into the skillet with the warm bacon grease. Mix in the diced bacon and flour, and whisk for about 1 minute, until thickened to the consistency of salad dressing. Pour at once over the dandelions and toss to coat. Serve the greens over the potatoes,or mix together before serving.

EASY RHUBARB CAKE

Quick and easy rhubarb pudding cake recipe that even rhubarb skeptics will love: Scatter 3 to 4 cups of diced rhubarb on the bottom of a lightly greased 9x13-inch pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar. Prepare a batter from a boxed white, yellow, lemon, or spice cake mix, using one less egg than the recipe calls for. Pour the batter over the rhubarb. Bake according to the instructions on the cake mix box. Let it cool slightly before cutting.

STRAWBERRY CHIFFON CAKE

There are long instructions for this cake, but it’s really quite easy to do and doesn’t take a lot of time. Serves 20, so it’s ideal for a festive celebration. Eat and enjoy!

The Cake:

1 3/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

6 egg yolks

10 strawberries, pureed in blender or food processor (about

3/4 cup)

22 drops red liquid food color

6 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

The Filling and Glaze:

1 cup chopped fresh rhubarb, or frozen drained rhubarb

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon water

1 1/2 cups quartered strawberries

1 cup whipping cream

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar until blended. Add oil, egg yolks, pureed strawberries and food color. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed about two minutes or until blended; set aside.

Wash and dry beaters. In medium bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with electric mixer on medium speed about a minute and a half, or until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 3/4 cup granulated sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of the egg white mixture into the egg yolk batter gently but thoroughly, and then fold in remaining egg white mixture.

Pour into ungreased 10-inch angel food (tube) cake pan. Tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately turn pan upside down onto heatproof bottle or funnel. Let hang about 2 hours or until cake is completely cool.

While the cake cools heat rhubarb, lemon peel, 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar and the water to boiling over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about three minutes, or until rhubarb is soft and cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for about 30 minutes. Stir in quartered strawberries.

In medium bowl, beat half a cup of the whipping cream and 1 tablespoon of the powdered sugar until stiff peaks form and then fold in half a cup of the cooled strawberry-rhubarb mixture. Put the remaining strawberry rhubarb mixture into an attactive serving bowl and set it aside in the fridge to serve later with cake slices.

Place the cooled cake top side down on a serving platter. Cut a one inch layer off the top and set it aside. Cut a tunnel about an inch deep and an inch wide into the bottom cake piece. (Discard the tunnel scraps or give them to the kids.) Fill the tunnel with the strawberry-rhubarb cream mixture and replace top of cake.

Make glaze by stirring together the remaining half cup of whipping cream and remaining powdered sugar (almost 1 1/2 cups) in a medium bowl until smooth. Spoon glaze over top of cake, letting it run down the sides. Top cake the reserved strawberry-rhubarb mixture at serving time.

RHUBARB DREAM BARS

Makes a lot of delicious bars for very little effort or outlay. And they’re so very, very good!

Crust:

2 cups flour

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 cup butter

Filling:

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups rhubarb, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour and sugar, then cut in butter until crumbs form. Press in bottom of jelly roll pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, blend eggs, sugar, flour, salt. Fold in rhubarb. Spread over crust. Bake 40-45 minutes. Cool. Cut into squares. Do refrigerate any leftovers, as this is a custard-base recipe.

Thought For the Week: Whatever you’re doing on Memorial Day, take time to bow your head, fold your hands, and offer a prayer for the souls of all the dear ones who have gone before us, especially those who fell on our nation’s battlefields wherever and whoever they may be. May God bless them, and may they know we remember and are grateful. And may we defend and protect the freedoms they fought and died for, so their deaths will not have been in vain. Amen.

(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.)

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