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Country Cousin

Wedding Cakes...

Hi Folks!

Hard to believe. It’s already half past June. Another year more than half gone. Saturday, June 21, is the official first day of Summer, and it’s about time. This Global Warming had our furnace running most nights last week, even with the thermostat set below 60 degrees.

However, we have had some fine days, or at least partly fine days, when it wasn’t raining. Guess our ground water needed replenishing, and that surely has been happening! Wonder if the Great Lakes will threaten to run over again in the next few years?

Meanwhile, our mosquito population is still thriving. The new hatch seems to include some tiny particularly annoying varieties with really bad stings. I’ll take the bigger ones any day. At least they’re easier to swat!

OLD MAIDS DAY

When we were kids, my two favorite girl cousins and I decreed June 21 to be Old Maids Day, and we remembered that for several years running. We’d decorate a twig tree and dance around it, while declaring how much we hated boys.

The three of us were going to grow up and live together as a trio of happy old maids.

At a later stage in our lives, we put on our own Family Circus on the First Day of Summer for a few years, with a lot of help from Aunt Martha, who came up with ideas, sewed costumes, and helped us make props.

I, as the smallest and scrawniest, was designated Fat Lady, and duly stuffed with pillows to create the illusion.

In lieu of a tightrope, we showed off our skills by walking across a bar made of 1” pipe hung between two trees, about five feet above the ground. I think our parents had to be braver than we were to watch, but they did. And they applauded too. Fortunately, we never had a mishap. That came when I was trying to fly, but that’s another story.

For our Circus, we swung from ropes, demonstrated cartwheels, back bends, walking on hands, crab walking, hanging by one knee and two knees and skin the cat. When he got a little older, Cousin Ray demonstrated the wonders of electricity. We had musical backup and we sang and we danced. it was all part of the show. I believe we got the family dog, Buster, involved sometimes too.

One year, because of an aunt whose religion forbade entertainment on the Sabbath, we couldn’t have our Circus on the designated June 21 date. Aunt Martha consoled us by deciding we could do our show on the Fourth of July. She reminded us the weather was more likely to be warm enough by then anyway. Must have been a year a lot like this one!

WEDDING CAKES

June is the traditional month for weddings, and wedding cakes are part of the tradition.

According to the Old Farmers Almanac, the wedding cake was originally lots of little wheat cakes that were broken over the bride’s head for good luck and fertility. Somewhere along the line they started throwing rice instead and now that has been discouraged because it wasn’t good for the birds. But rice would be a lot less messy than cake crumbs!

Anyway, in Elizabethan times, small spiced cakes were given to wedding guests to toss over the bride’s head. The remaining cakes were piled high on a table at the reception, and the couple kissed over the stack and tried not to knock it down. The report doesn’t say if the guests then ate the cakes, but it seems a sure bet that they did.

Sometime in the 1660s, French pastry chefs for King Charles II iced the pile of cakes, and some believe the tiers on today’s wedding cakes evolved from that early custom.

Others say the “three-tier” wedding cake is based on the unusual shape of the spire of Saint Bride’s Church in London.

The custom of saving the top layer of cake for the newlyweds to share on their first anniversary has been a tradition for many years, and still is today. Certainly is much more satisfactory now that we have home freezers. Probably that’s why for many years the top layer, called by some the Groom’s Cake, was a fruitcake. If kept doused in brandy, fruit cakes tend to hold up very well.

THE PLEDGE

Went to a wedding once where the bride and groom pledged to “love, honor and cherish as long as we both want to.”

You’re right. Their wedding cake’s top layer lasted longer than their marriage!

Marriage is tough sometimes, and you need to stick through the rough spots to get to the good ones. The best thing a bride and groom can do for one another is love and believe. If your loved one has faith in you, you’ll do anything to live up to it. An ideal marriage is one in which the bride and groom help one another to be the best person each of them can be, and work to achieve the dreams they dream together.

ON MARRIAGE

Not everyone stays enthusiastic about marriage. Guy down the street claims love is blind, but marriage is an eye opener. Says marriage is when a guy loses his Bachelor’s Degree. Says in the first year, the husband speaks and the wife listens. In the second year, the wife speaks and the man listens. After the third year, they both speak, and the whole neighborhood listens.

ON THE SOAP BOX

TRAVELS IN STYLE


Lots of us are hoping we can afford a vacation this summer, although we may have to walk if the fuel prices shoot up as projected thanks to the renewed fighting in the Mideast.

But there’s at least one family in the US that doesn’t need to worry about the cost of its vacations.

According to Judicial Watch, we taxpayers, forced to count our own pennies, spent nearly $16 million to fly the Obama family “to, from and around” Hawaii and Africa in 2013-2014.

The vacation to Honolulu cost $7,781,361.30 for the flight alone, 36.9 hours at $210,877 per hour. That was $3,695,006 more than the flight to Hawaii for the 2012-2013 Christmas holiday.

Seems our President gave the First Lady an extended vacation on Maui with Oprah Winfrey as a gift in advance of her 50th birthday, so she flew home separately. Not commercial, either. Gee. Maybe for that price she’d have preferred the money???

The rest of the Obamas’ $16 million travel expenses came from their June 27 to July 3 trip last year to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.

Realize travel for the First Family is not cheap, and realize for reasons of security they cannot fly commercial, but certainly do wonder if they couldn’t manage to either economize just a little bit, or not travel quite so much?

A MEMORIAL

A heart wrenching statue showing an American soldier mourning a lost comrade while a small Iraqi girl offers comfort was made in Iraq a few years ago by an artist named Kalat from the remains of some statues honoring Saddam Hussein. That part about an e-mail concerning its history is true.

It is also true that the statue stood outside the Iraqi palace when it was home to the United States 4th Infantry Division and is now at the Division’s memorial museum in Fort Hood, Tex.

However, according to Snopes, there is no truth to a story that was widely circulated on the web concerning the statue’s creation.

Kalat made the statue for love of money, not for love of the United States Army. He was well paid by men of the Division. Kalat also was not forced to make the busts of Hussein. He made them for money too. All in a day’s work.

It would have been so much better if the original story had been true. But it is still a beautiful statue, and still is a fitting tribute from the men of the 4th Infantry Division for the comrades who lost their lives in Iraq.

Maybe some of our political leaders should look at that memorial and others like it before they decide the victory those brave men won wasn’t worth preserving.

Now we’re sending other men over there to die. Too bad we didn’t keep enough men there in the first place to protect the peace that was so dearly won.

The world will never be safe for freedom while bullies think they can get away with killing anyone who disagrees with their so-called religious beliefs.

How often do we need to learn that lesson?

COOKIN’ TIME

The chilly days we’re still having now and then are good times to bake treats for warmer busier days, perhaps when the clan gathers for the Fourth of July or other events. Today’s quick bread recipes use some seasonal fruit to good advantage, and if there’s a loaf in the freezer, setting out a treat for unexpected guests is no problem at all. Just keep some butter and cream cheese on hand to go with it.

BEER CAN CHICKEN

Remember good old Beer Can Chicken? Here’s a new variation, with Cola Barbecue Sauce.

1 (12-ounce) can beer

1 cup hickory wood chips

2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

2 teaspoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 (4-pound) whole chicken

Cooking spray

Sauce:

1/2 cup cola

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon instant onion flakes

1/2 teaspoon instant minced garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons steak sauce (such as A-1)

1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Open beer can; drink half. Carefully pierce top of beer can with “church-key” can opener several times; set aside. Soak wood chips in water for an hour. Combine salt, sugar, paprika, and pepper; set aside. Remove giblets and neck from chicken and save for soup another time. (Freeze until you have enough for a batch.) Rinse chicken with cold water; pat dry. Trim excess fat. Starting at neck cavity, loosen skin from breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers, gently pushing between skin and meat. Rub 2 teaspoons of the spice mixture under loosened skin, 2 teaspoons in the body cavity, and 2 teaspoons on the outside over the skin. Slowly add remaining spice mixture to beer can (salt will make beer foam). Set aside until the grill is ready. To prepare grill for indirect grilling, place a disposable aluminum foil pan in center of grill that has a cover. Arrange charcoal around foil pan; heat to medium heat. Drain wood chips. Place half of wood chips on hot coals. Coat grill rack with cooking spray. Holding chicken upright with the body cavity facing down, insert beer can into cavity. Place chicken on grill rack over drip pan. Spread legs out to form a tripod to support it. Cover and grill 2 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into meaty portion of thigh registers 180. Add remaining wood chips after 1 hour and charcoal as needed. Lift chicken slightly using tongs; place spatula under can. Carefully lift chicken and can; place on a cutting board. Let stand 5 minutes. Gently lift chicken using tongs or insulated rubber gloves; carefully twist can and remove from cavity. Discard can.

While the chicken cooks, or even the day before, prepare sauce by combining cola and remaining ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 6 minutes. Cool. Serve with chicken.

BLUEBERRY BANANA BREAD

Almost more like a cake than a bread. Be sure to serve this with cream cheese, in honor of June Dairy Month!

1 3/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

1 cup mashed ripe banana (2 or 3)

1 cup blueberries

2/3 cup walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9X5-inch loaf pan. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Beat the butter in a large bowl until creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the flour mixture alternately with the bananas, beating after each addition until smooth. Fold in blueberries and nuts. Spread batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out almost clean, about 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool slightly, then remove from pan and cool completely on a baking rack.

STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM BREAD

To keep strawberries fresh longer, leave the caps on when you wash them. When you do wash them, do it quickly, swishing the berries through the water without letting them soak, and drain thoroughly. Remove the caps when you’re ready to slice and sugar the berries or otherwise use them in a recipe. Serving fresh whole berries? Consider letting the individual eaters remove the caps themselves. For this recipe, do not use frozen strawberries, only fresh! You can also use blueberries.

1/2 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar (for a sweeter bread)

2 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-3/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/4 cups sliced fresh strawberries (or blueberries)

3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted, divided (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add sour cream and vanilla; mix well. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; stir into creamed mixture just until moistened. Fold in strawberries and 1/2 cup nuts. Pour into a greased 8x4-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with remaining nuts. Bake at 350 for 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

OLD-FASHIONED WEDDING CAKE

Makes 12 to 16 servings. No wedding to celebrate? Make the cake anyway, and decorate it with red and blue berries and maybe little flags on a stick and a fake firecracker - or at least a red candle - on top. Viola! You’ve got a lovely Fourth of July cake.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened

3 cups sugar

4 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon butter flavoring

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

6 egg whites

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Pour in buttermilk and begin mixing slowly. Continue to mix until well blended. Add flavorings and stir. In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the cake batter. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 F, then lower heat to 300F and bake for about 25 minutes longer, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove cakes from oven and cool on racks. After 10 minutes, remove from pans and continue cooling on racks.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Spread frosting between cooled layers and on top and sides of cake. You don’t need a wedding to enjoy this cake!

Thought for the Week: Not sure who said this first, but it’s worth pondering:

“I believe in the sun even if it isn’t shining.

“I believe in Love even when I am alone.

“I believe in God even when He is silent.”

(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 715-291-9002 or e-mail shirleyprudhommechickadee@yahoo. com.)

COUNTRY COUSIN


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