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Country Cousin

Happy Spring!

Hi Folks!

Seems safe to assume that the false starts are over and Spring has arrived at last! Despite the fine start we had, it seems to have taken forever. Enjoy! Rejoice! The spring is sprung, the grass is riz... No need to wonder where the birdies iz...They’re flying and chirping all over, celebrating their return home and the start of their spring nesting season. Happy homemaking to all our fine feathered friends, and happy Spring to everyone!

ASCENSION DAY

Ascension Day, the day Jesus ascended into Heaven to take His place at the right hand of His Father, comes 40 days after Easter each year. It marks the end of the Easter season, the final blow to Satan’s grip. The official birth date of Christianity comes 10 days later, on the Feast of Pentecost.

Here in the United States, as in Canada, England and a few others, Ascension Day is a Holy Day of Obligation for some faiths, but unlike many other Christian nations in the world, it is not a public holiday.

Ascension Day is one of the earliest Christian festivals dating back to the year 68. According to the New Testament in the Bible, Jesus Christ met several times with His disciples during the 40 days after His resurrection to instruct them on how to carry out His teachings. It is believed that on the 40th day He took them to the Mount of Olives, where they watched as He ascended to heaven.

Ascension Day celebrations in some countries include processions symbolizing Christ’s entry into heaven and even chasing a “devil” through the streets and dunking it in a pond or burning it in effigy symbolic of the Messiah’s triumph over the devil when He opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.

An English superstition is that eggs laid on Ascension Day are said to never go bad and will guarantee good luck for a household if placed in the roof.

In Devon, it was an ancient belief that the clouds always formed into the familiar Christian image of a lamb on Ascension Day. If the weather is sunny on Ascension Day, the summer will be long and hot. If it rains on the day, crops will do badly and livestock will suffer from disease. According to Welsh superstition, it is unlucky to do any work on Ascension Day.

In Portugal, Ascension Day is associated with wishes for peace and prosperity. Traditionally, in rural communities, people make bouquets from olive branches and sheaves of wheat with poppies and daisies. The olive and wheat are symbolic of abundant harvest; the poppy stands for peace and the daisy for money. Wheat is kept in the house throughout the coming year as a symbol of prosperity.

For the most part, here in the United States, Ascension Day comes and goes with little notice, except that Catholics are required to attend Mass.

How little we celebrate the great gifts God and His Holy Son gave us, including the opening of Heaven so that some day we too may go there.

GROWIN’ THINGS

The peas we planted on Good Friday are up nicely and we’ve had a few meals of asparagus, so Spring must really be here. The rhubarb we transplanted survived the winter, but the roses we planted on the south side of the house last spring and then failed to mulch over winter did not. Guess it’s true that relatively mild weather alone was not enough to save them. The roots needed to be protected from repeated freezing and thawing over winter, and they were not. A sad lesson learned for next year.

FAIR SHARE

We hear so much these days about the wealthy not paying their fair share in income taxes. Guess there’s a question in my mind as to how great a percentage is fair. Our payments to our government should have some relation to the services we get, by way of providing roads, law enforcement, national security, etc. Does it cost more for the government to provide these services to the rich than it does for the poor?

At what level would taking from the rich so their money can be given to the poor stop being taxation and become confiscation?

Certainly there are some abuses and some unfair use of tax loop holes, but often wealthy individuals and corporations keep their taxable income down by making huge investments in business development and expansion, and by giving part of their money to charity.

Granted if those investments are successful their income increases accordingly. But business expansions also provide jobs for everyone, and if large enough, help balance our nation’s trade deficit by bringing income from overseas into our country. Income taxes are also paid by the corporations before profits are divvied up to shareholders, so investors pay taxes on two fronts.

The very wealthy generally establish charities and foundations to which they make hefty contributions so they, and not the government, can decide where their money goes and who it helps.

Is that so bad?

WAYS TO SAVE

Budget getting you down? Tawra Kellam, editor of LivingOnADime.com, offers more than a few tips for saving money on the grocery bill. Says she feeds her family of six on $400 a month, and does it without using coupons.

One of her tricks is to cut down on trips to the store. Says if she’s out of something, she simply uses what she has instead. It won’t kill the kids to go a day or two without milk. She buys milk when it’s on sale and freezes the excess. Says if you thaw the frozen milk and give it a shake, and it’s good as new.

If she’s out of bread she makes cornbread or muffins. If out of fresh veggies, she uses canned or frozen instead.

She shops clearance sections, and says if the meat’s not on sale they don’t eat it. Says she can buy soup bones with enough meat on them to make a great vegetable stew for under $2.

She asks when things will go on sale and buys then. At one of the stores she frequents, things like meat and produce are marked down each morning, so that’s when she shops. At another, things are marked down in the evening, so that’s the time to find the best deals.

She also stresses portion control and avoiding waste as major weapons in her personal war against poverty.

Another suggestion for those who love to cook is to economize and have some fun at the same time by making your own homemade seasonings. These mixes would make great wedding or shower gifts. Buy some decorative containers, fill them with your own private spice mixes, then make a label for each with your private “brand name” plus an ingredient list, and present them for use in the new bride’s kitchen. For an added touch, attach a personal recipe or two using them as ingredients. Seasoning collections also make great gifts for young graduates ready to move to a new job and set up housekeeping in their own apartment for the first time.

Kellam has a few recipes to start with, and then adjust to your own family’s preference:

SEASONED SALT

Kellam says she uses this one in almost every meal she cooks. Saves much time having everything in one shaker!

8 tablespoon salt

3 tablespoon pepper

1/2 tablespoon onion powder

1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container.

TACO SEASONING

6 teaspoon chili powder

4 1/2 teaspoon cumin

5 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon oregano

3 teaspoon onion powder

2 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container. One teaspoon of homemade taco seasoning equals two teaspoons of store-bought.

ITALIAN SEASONING

1/4 cup dried basil

2 tablespoons dried marjoram

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons dried coriander

2 tablespoons dried thyme

2 tablespoons dried rosemary

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon sugar

Combine all the ingredients. Store in an airtight container in a cool dark place for up to 3 months.

CAJUN SEASONING

1 tablespoon paprika

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3/4 teaspoon white pepper

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves, dried

1/2 teaspoon oregano, dried

Combine ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container.

FAJITA SEASONING

Add some red pepper if you like it hotter.

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 1/2 -3 teaspoons chili powder (vary according to how spicy you like it)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin

ALL PURPOSE SEASONING

3 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons dried parsley

2 teaspoon onion powder

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon celery salt

Mix all ingredients together and store in an air tight container. Use on hamburgers, steak, chicken, fish and vegetables.

BEER BUTT CHICKEN

With chicken perhaps the most economical meat available today, and barbecue season finally here again, thought you might appreciate a reprint of the recipe for Beer Butt Chicken. It’s been so long since we’ve had it that I’d almost forgotten about it. How could I do a thing like that???

1 chicken, whole, about 4 pounds

4 teaspoons chicken season (try Montreal Seasoning, Paul Prudhomme’s Chicken Magic, any brand of Adobo seasoning, or the rub recipe below)

1 can beer

1/4 onion

1 or 2 cloves garlic

1 stalk celery

Bottled barbecue sauce, optional

DRY RUB

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon savory or oregano

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoons sea salt, ground

1 teaspoon dry yellow mustard

BASTING SPRAY

2/3 cup apple cider

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

4 ounces warm beer

Be sure your grill has a high enough lid to cook the chicken standing upright. Mix the rub in a small bowl until it’s well incorporated. Wash, dry and season the chicken generously inside and out with the rub. Work the mixture well into the skin and under the skin wherever possible. Tuck the wing tips back so the chicken looks kind of like an angry school teacher, hands on hips. Do this the night before if you think of it, or at least let the seasoned bird sit at room temperature while you light the coals and let them get to a medium heat, which should take 20 to 30 minutes.

If you did put it in the fridge overnight, let it sit, covered, at room temperature for half an hour or so anyway, just to take the chill off. Now, open a 12-ounce can of your favorite beer. Pour about a third of the contents (4 ounces) into a spray bottle, add the cider, olive oil, and vinegar and set aside. (If you don’t have a nice clean spray bottle, use a bowl and a basting brush or even a crumpled up piece of wax paper. Pour about four more ounces of the beer into a glass, which leaves about four ounces in the can. Drink the beer in the glass while you peel the onion and garlic and wash the celery and cut them up small enough to fit through the opening in the can. (If you’re fixing a lot of chickens, you could need help with the drinking part. Otherwise you’ll probably end up needing help with everything else.) Anyway, stuff the pieces of onion, garlic, and celery into the can with the beer that remains there. Add Worcestershire sauce or liquid smoke to the can if you like, but it’s not necessary. (This is not Kosher, but if you’re an adamant teetotaler, use a can of fruit juice, cola or wine instead of beer. Just don’t tell anybody!)

Arrange the hot coals into a circle, so the chicken isn’t sitting directly over them. Replace the grid. Hopefully there is an opening around the grid large enough to add coals intermittently while the bird cooks, because you should add six to eight coals every half hour. Now fit the can into the chicken’s body cavity and place the chicken, can and all, upright on the grill so the can and legs form a sort of tripod to keep the bird upright. The chicken should look like it’s sitting on the can with its legs resting on the grill. Some people put a small potato or carrot into the neck opening of the chicken to keep the steam inside. Cover the grill and cook for 1 1/2 to two hours or more, until it tests done and turns a rich, golden brown. Keep adding coals if you didn’t use enough to start with. Spray or baste the roasting chicken occasionally with the mixture in the spray bottle. When the chicken is cooked enough, a meat thermometer inserted at the thickest part of the thigh should reach 180 degrees, a leg will move easily, or juices will run clear when meat is pierced with a fork.

Carefully remove chicken from the grill, preferably using clean oven mitts. Put in roasting pan or platter with a rim and let sit at least 10 minutes, still upright. Then carefully remove the can from the chicken or the chicken from the can. (Be careful, because the can and its contents are very hot.) If you want to serve the chicken with barbecue sauce, go ahead. I prefer it without. Or, put 1 cup barbecue sauce in a small saucepan, pour in 2/3 cup of the beer/seasoning mixture and simmer 15 to 20 minutes until it gets thick again and serve with the chicken. Give the chicken one more spritz or brushing of the basting spray just before serving, and then carve.

While you’re roasting the chicken might as well throw vegetable packets or baked potatoes on the grill too so you can enjoy them with the meal at almost no extra cost and very little extra work.

This beer steamed method of cooking chicken does two things: first, it helps drain off the fat as the chicken cooks, and second, the beverage steams, seasons and tenderizes the the chicken from the inside while the outside browns with radiant charcoal heat.

The Country Cousin

Thought for the Week: On Ascension Day, may our thoughts turn toward heaven, where Jesus went 2,000 years ago to prepare a place for all of us. We can never deserve the wonders waiting there, but if we keep trying, that is enough for Him. Lord, help us resist the temptations that surround us on Earth, enjoy and share the good gifts our Father God has given us to use during our lifetimes here, and cherish the promise of eternal springtime with Him in the great hereafter. Amen.


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