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Country Cousin

Healthy Syrup?...

Easter, glorious Easter, has come and gone for another year. Sometime must find out how that bunny got to be part of it. Anyway, the beautiful sunshine and balmy breezes on Easter gave a taste of things to come. Simply can't wait until Spring really gets here. Calendars claim it arrived in mid-March, but temperatures surely don't bear that out. That said, there are some spring flowers out, including the incomparable arbutus. Morrell hunters in our family have been unsuccessful so far. Hope cookout weather comes soon!

SWEET AND NUTRITIOUS

Our maple syrup producing friends say this has been one of their least productive seasons so far. Some ended up with only half their usual yield. Good sap runs require warm sunny days and nights below freezing, and the weather simply didn't cooperate.

That said, friend Robert Holley from Beaver said he did not get his usual amount of syrup this year, but what he did produce was of an exceptionally high quality. It was so clear and light that he was afraid he didn't have syrup at all, but it passed all three tests for thickness, flavor and sugar content, so it was indeed a very excellent syrup.

Making maple syrup began years ago with our ancestors, but it is no job for the faint hearted. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup, and each tree will yield about 10 gallons of sap a year, so it takes four trees to make one gallon of syrup a year.

But real maple syrup is worth it.

Aside from the incomparable flavor, real maple syrup and maple sugar have health benefits you simply do not get from the imitation kind.

Researchers have shown it to benefit those with diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and have discovered 54 health benefiting polyphenol compounds, five of them unique to maple.

According to the University of Rhode Island, maple syrup may have a greater effect on the body than foods like berries,and carries the same benefits as tea, flax seed and red wine, Researchers there call it the "champion" food.

HEALTH BENEFITS

According to the folks at health.com, and others, there is nothing sappy about real maple syrup. It can boost your immune system, fight cancer, age-proof your skin, calm tummy troubles, and more. You need to look for containers that list maple syrup as the only ingredient.

Drizzling maple syrup on your oatmeal may help prevent inflammatory diseases like cancer, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's, a University of Rhode Island study found. Real maple syrup, unlike its imitation counterparts, is loaded with polyphenols, plant-based compounds that work as antioxidants, says study co-author Navindra P. Seeram, PhD. Add some blueberries to your maple-drizzled oatmeal to up its antioxidant power!

BLOAT BEATER

Consider swapping maple syrup for sugar when baking. "It's less likely to cause indigestion, gas, and bloating, compared with processed sweeteners," says Andrew Gaeddert, author of Healing Digestive Disorders. The woodsy flavor works particularly well in pound cakes, butter cookies, and coffee cakes, notes Ellen Sandbeck, author of Green Housekeeping.

Replace the sugar with the same amount of maple syrup, and reduce the amount of liquid the recipe calls for by about a half-cup.

COLD TONIC

Real maple syrup contains essential nutrients like zinc and manganese, which can help you ward off illness, a study conducted at Wayne State University in Detroit found.

Zinc keeps your level of white blood cells up, which is crucial for increasing your resistance to sickness, says naturopathic doctor Michael Murray, co-author of the Encyclopediaon Healing Foods. And manganese protects immune cells from inflammation and damage.

ANTI AGING

Maple syrup's antioxidants are also natural anti-agers. "Syrup works on the skin like any topical antioxidant, repairing environmental and free radical damage," explains June Jacobs, founder and chief executive officer of June Jacobs Spa Collection.

Try Jacobs's at-home facial scrub to fight fine lines: Stir together 1 tablespoon warm milk and 1 tablespoon maple syrup. Add 3 tablespoons finely ground oats; stir again. Massage gently onto your face, leave on for up to 20 minutes, rinse off, and follow with a moisturizer.

ON THE SOAP BOX

Coming up before Judge Jame Morrison in Marinette County's Circuit Court Branch Two on Monday, May 3 is a decision on whether not a dangerous sex offender being released from the state mental hospital can be settled into a home in either the Town of Pound or Town of Beaver, a home that would be purchased for that purpose by a "vendor" contracted through the state Department of Health.

Residents of both towns have come out very strongly against the proposal, and have been advised that sending letters to the judge and other authorities might help. For anyone who wants to fight the settlement in Marinette County, and for anyone who wants to get the law changed, now is the time to write.

The sex offender in this case is a man who served 10 years in prison followed by 10 years in the mental hospital. He is the most insidious - and perhaps most dangerous kind of offender, the type who would (and did) attempt to coerce a young boy into sexual experimentation by posing as a friend "with something to show him."

Picture this. You chose a nice residential area in a rural area to raise your family. You raise your children to be friendly, helpful and courteous to others, particularly to their elders, and more particularly to their elder neighbors.

A couple of nice old men settle into the house next door or down the street. They are not allowed to leave that home without supervision, but the youngsters maybe don't know that. Even if they are warned, they probably do not understand. Why do the rules that apply to everyone else not apply to these two nice old men?

Parents can warn against associating with them, but if a nice old man offers freshly baked cookies, for example, child just might step onto the porch to accept. If that old man is friendly and nice on several occasions the youngster might just decide his parents are just being mean, and they certainly do not understand. So he agrees not to tell them he is becoming a friend of the old neighbor. Saves trouble for both of them, you know. Then, maybe today, maybe next week, the old man invites him in to show him something interesting, and he accepts. Just how "interesting" it might be cannot be described in a family-friendly column, but it was described in the original complaint against the man being considered for settlement in the May 3 hearing.

Neighbors of the proposed homes have very right to be upset. State Rep. Jeff Mursau has pledged to try to get the law changed to prevent these types of resettlement in family communities. State Rep. John Nygren is reportedly also working on it.

We all need to get behind their efforts by writing letters, sending e-mails, making phone calls, whatever it takes. Our peaceful, friendly communities are worth protecting, and so is the innocence of our children!

RIDDLE TIME/

Speaking of kids, here are some riddles you - and they - might like.

1. When do monkeys fall from the sky?

2. What do you call a rabbit with flees?

3. What goes up when the rain goes down?

4. What month of the year is the shortest?

5. Name a bow that can't be tied.

6. Why did Cinderella get kicked off the baseball team?

See answers after "Thought for the week."

COOKIN' TIME

Springtime calls for bright spring flavors. Citrus is perfect for the season. So are quick and easy recipes that can be made ahead to get you out of the kitchen fast to enjoy the great outdoors, even if that does mean doing yard chores.

CUPCAKE BRUNCH BAKE

3 cups Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes

3 Tbsp. butter, melted

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 (12 ounces) breakfast pork sausage links

6 eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 package (8 ounces) Mexican Style Finely Shredded Four Cheese

1/4 cup chopped sweet red or green bell peppers

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine potatoes, butter and black pepper and press onto bottoms and up sides of 12 muffin pan cups sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Meanwhile, cook sausage as directed on package; drain on paper towels. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Spoon sausage into potato cups. Whisk eggs with salt and pepper until well blended. Stir in cheese and pepper, and spoon over sausage, dividing equally between the cups. Sprinkle with chives. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until centers are set. These can be made ahead and refrigerated or even frozen very nicely. They reheat very nicely in the microwave.

CORDON BLEU LASAGNE

Have leftover Easter ham? Want to serve it in a brand new way? Taste this version of lasagne and you'll be deliberately baking too much ham! If you lack leftover ham, use sliced ham from the deli instead.

1 (8 ounce) package lasagna noodles (about 9 noodles)

cup butter (1 stick)

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

teaspoon salt

teaspoon onion powder

teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups shredded Swiss cheese, divided

1 cups warm milk

2 cups meat from rotisserie chicken, diced

8 ounces ham, chopped

cup bread crumbs

1 pinch Italian seasoning, or to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in the boiling water until cooked through but firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and stir in cream cheese into hot butter until it begins to melt, about 5 minutes. It might look strange here! Don't worry. This is normal. Season with salt, onion powder, and black pepper. Whisk warm milk gradually into cream cheese until smooth; make sure to do it slowly. Stir in 1 cups of Swiss cheese. Bring the sauce to a simmer, whisking continually until cheese has melted and sauce has thickened, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove mixture from heat. Spread a thin layer of cheese sauce onto the bottom of a 9x9-inch baking dish. Arrange … of the lasagna noodles over the sauce. Tear them to fit if needed. Spread half the cooked chicken and half the ham over the noodles. Pour 1 cup sauce over chicken and ham. Repeat layers starting with half the remaining lasagna noodles, remaining chicken, remaining ham, and 1 more cup of cheese sauce. Finish by layering remaining lasagna noodles, remaining sauce, remaining cup Swiss cheese, and bread crumbs; sprinkle top with Italian seasoning. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven until casserole is bubbling, about 25 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until crumbs are browned, about 10 more minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

LEMONY BRUNCH CHEESECAKE

Celebrate the first balmy Sunday morning with this delightful brunch cake on the patio. Great to take along for a Memorial Day potluck. For a marvelous shower brunch, serve with a seasonal fresh fruit salad, pickles and olives, and an assortment of tiny sandwiches with ground bologna, tuna and egg salad fillings for a meal they'll be remembering every time the couple celebrates an anniversary.

2 packages (8 ounces each) Neufchatel or cream cheese, softened

1 container natural whole or part skim Ricotta Cheese

5 eggs, divided

3/4 cup sugar, divided

2 teaspoons zest and 3 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon

1 cup flour

3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

1/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon baking powder

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 13x9-inch glass, ceramic or enamel baking dish with cooking spray, Beat Neufchatel, ricotta, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, lemon zest and juice in large bowl with mixer until blended. Whisk remaining 3 eggs, sugar, flour, butter, milk and baking powder in separate bowl until blended. Spread 1/3 of the batter onto bottom of prepared baking dish. Cover with Neufchatel mixture, then remaining batter. Bake 45 minutes or until center is set. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving. (If baking in a metal baking pan, increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Do not keep in an aluminum pan longer than an hour or two unless it is coated.)

MOCK MIMOSAS

2 cups pineapple juice

1 packet (makes 2 quarts) classic orange flavor pre-sweetened orange flavor drink mix

1 navel orange, cut into thin slices

1 bottle club soda

Mix pineapple juice, drink mix, and orange slices in a 2 1/5 quart pitcher. Add orange slices. Just before serving, add the club soda. Serve over ice in tall glasses. Or put in punch bowl, float an ice ring, and serve in punch cups. For an alcoholic version, add vodka or orange liqueur to taste.

CHEWY MAPLE ENERGY BITES

Want to use your precious maple syrup for something other than pancakes? Try these delicious little morsels.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup maple sugar

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup canola oil

2 egg whites

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 ripe banana, mashed with a fork

Pieces of nuts and dried fruit for garnish

Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and lemon zest. In another bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the maple sugar with the canola oil and maple syrup. Add the egg whites and beat until smooth and uniform. Gradually fold in the dry ingredients. Then stir in lemon zest and banana. Drop a heaping teaspoon of thick batter onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving 2 inches of space between each. Add one or two pieces of nuts or dried fruit to center of each disc, if desired. Bake, one sheet at a time, for about 8 minutes or until the bottom of the cookies have browned.

Thought for the week: I like to think about these words from Lauren Oliver on the Resurrection and Spring: "The alchemist was dazed and dumbfounded, as the true meaning of the magic was revealed: *The dead will rise from glade to glen and ancient will be young again*. The dead had, after all, risen. From dead and dry things there was growth, and new life everywhere. And the endlessly long winter had at last turned to spring.

From life to death and back again to life. It was indeed the greatest magic in the world." How appropriate that Easter comes in Spring! Thank you, God, for providing the magic that makes up this world!

Country Cousin

Riddle answers:

1. APEril showers

2. Bugs Bunny

3. Umbrellas

4. May (only 3 letters)

5. A rainbow

6. She always ran away from the ball.



(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 by e-mail to shirleyprudhommechickadee@yahoo.com.)


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