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Country Cousin

Resolutions...

Hi Folks!

Christmas has come and gone, and 2013 is tapping us on the shoulder. It’s time to get those New Year’s resolutions drawn up. If you’re smart, you’ll write a list, but you won’t show that list to anyone else, and you won’t tell anybody either. That way, nobody will know if you try and fail, but if you succeed you can boast a bit!

MORE ON RESOLUTIONS

Incidentally, if you fail to live up to your New Year’s resolutions you’re not alone. Surveys show the majority of folks fail to achieve what they’ve promised themselves, but they keep trying any way. Some of them make the same resolutions every year.

My cousins used to resolve to not wear hip boots to bed, and guess what? They succeeded every year,

Who invented New Year’s Resolutions and where did they begin anyway?

Historians tell us people have always associated new years with a fresh start. Even in the most ancient traditions, it was a custom to make improvements at such times. In the ancient world of Babylon, for example, people made promises to do better starting at their new year, which was the spring equinox.

Really, that has always seemed more reasonable to me, too, as Spring does seem to mark new beginnings.

Anyway in ancient Babylon one common resolution was to give back something one had borrowed in the past year. Not a bad idea!

Lots of folks in more modern days resolved not have their houses cleaned and all their bills paid up to date so they could start with a fresh slate when the New Year rolled in.

In Rome, the New Year began on January 1 according to the Julian Calendar invented by Caesar in 46 BC. Janus was the god of the New Year, and so the month of January was named after him. Janus had two faces: one looked back on the past and the other into the future. The Romans worshipped him as a symbol of endings and new beginnings. During the holiday, they would do things that would hopefully kick off their year to a good start. They would make up with people they quarreled with and exchange gifts. Out of vanity, the Roman emperors kept on tampering with their calendar until it became more and more inaccurate. But even when the dates shifted, the practices stayed the same.

New Year celebrations were also held in ancient China, based on their lunar calendar, which measures dates by moon cycles rather than the sun.

The Chinese blamed bad luck on malicious spirits, and so they spent their New Year celebration lighting firecrackers to scare them off.

Most New Year’s Resolutions today are secular, but some are more spiritual, for example resolving to resume the practice of daily morning and evening prayers or attending church services every Sunday.

Devout Jews are expected to look back on their behavior during the past year as a motivation to do better in the coming years, and that’s a good idea for all of us.

PREDICTIONS

The year 2012 is all but gone, and so is the fateful date of 12/21/12, and we’re all still here. Well, most of us, anyway. So much for predictions. Anyway, 10 years ago an Internet wag made a few predictions about life 35 years in the future. Ran them in 2003, and suggested holding on to a copy you’ll know if any of them are right!

Okay, if you save it you might not be around to read it, but your kids can make fun of it.

Any way, let’s see if “progress” has been made toward any of them:

Predictions included:

“Spotted Owl plague threatens Western North America crops and livestock;

“Castro finally dies at age 112; Cuban cigars can now be imported legally but President Chelsea Clinton has banned all smoking;

“White minority in USA demands civil rights and reparations;

“New California law requires that all nail clippers, kitchen knives, screwdrivers and baseball bats be registered by January 2036.

This got me to thinking, so here are a few additions:

Madison considers adopting the new California law;

Now that smoking has been nearly eradicated the new health tax laws have raised the price of candy bars to $10 each and cola drinks are $25. Nevertheless, efforts to wipe out obesity remain unsuccessful. Politicians are considering a special tax on each pound of overweight.

Mosquito named state bird of Wisconsin, all mosquito habitat is strictly protected, swatting is prohibited, and only non-toxic repellent and bug spray can be used;

Marinette County forests are found only in history books and enough gypsy moths still exist to eat all attempts at regrowth. The few specimen trees that survived the gypsy moth attack of 2002-4 are carefully protected. Politicians nostalgically recall the days those now extinct forests added $2 million a year to county revenues. The moths were finally stopped by an aggressive spraying program in western Minnesota so colored leaves can still be seen in some forested areas there;

The world is running out of plastic substitutes for wood;

Ecologists have managed to eliminate all power dams, nuclear power plants and fossil-fuel power plants. Due to shortage of solar power, television sets and home computers can be on only from 7 to 10 p.m. each night. Nationwide blackouts go into effect from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. nightly, and no home is allowed more than 3 light bulbs.

Computer chips embedded into the brain of each person enable government monitors to track movements of all individuals. They also sound an alarm and generate intense pain whenever violent thoughts occur;

Gasoline powered cars are prohibited except for law enforcement. All private citizens are required to live within walking distance of their place of employment.

Guess what? There has been “progress” made toward some of the less desirable predictions. Sometimes things get a little scary.

Any of you have predictions for year 2048?

DOG NAMED TAX

It’s tax time again. Property tax bills arrived in the mail last week, and very shortly income tax documents will be delivered. My American Legion Auxiliary friend Joyce E. Endres says she once had a dog named Tax. He was a foundling that just came to stay. “I opened the door and income Tax,” she said. She also claims if you get if you crossed a 1776 patriot with a small curly haired dog you’d get a Yankee Poodle. (Sorry, Joyce, just had to do it!)

COOKIN’ TIME

There are so many good things to do with leftover ham that it’s hard to see a problem with using it up. Our problem is, we never have enough. Naturally we’ve had ham and eggs for breakfast.

Use the bone for bean or split pea soup. Grind meat with sweet pickles or better yet, bread and butter pickles and add add mayo and a squirt or two of salad mustard to taste for ham salad sandwiches. Mix the ham salad sandwich filling with mashed egg yolks to stuff deviled eggs for the New Year’s table. Use dice for chef salads or slices for grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. Chop or slice and then freeze to use in potato salad, scrambled eggs, omelets, to top baked potatoes, add to potato soup, or make scalloped or au gratin potatoes. Now, here’s food for thought: Ham and eggs are all in a day’s work for a chicken, but a lifetime commitment for a pig.

EASY SAUSAGE BALLS

1 pound bulk breakfast sausage, hot or mild

3 cups packaged biscuit mix (like Bisquick)

2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

Combine all ingredients and shape into balls the size of walnuts. Bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Makes about 5 dozen. If you prefer to make ahead, bake first then defrost and reheat at 350 degrees at party time. Serve with mustard or catsup dips if desired, or dip in heated nacho cheese sauce.

ITALIAN SEAFOOD PORTOBELLOS

It’s a tradition in our daughter in law’s family to eat seafood or fish on New Year’s eve to help them get swimmingly through the new year. In any case, these little appetizers could do just that. They’re a delicious addition to any buffet or snack tray for your New Year celebration. Make ahead and bake just before serving. Recipe fills 25 to 30 mushroom caps.

25-30 medium portobello mushrooms (about 1-1/2 pounds)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

8 ounces) imitation crab meat

1 package (5 ounces) frozen cooked salad shrimp, thawed

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

1 pound Italian sausage, like Johnsonville All Natural

Ground Italian

1 egg

Remove stems from mushrooms; chop stems and set aside. Place mushroom caps on waxed paper, bottom side up. Mist or brush caps with oil; sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder. In a food processor, combine the crab meat, shrimp, cheeses, garlic, pepper and mushroom stems. Pulse for 10-15 seconds until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl. Crumble sausage over crab meat mixture. Add egg; mix just until combined. Spoon into mushroom caps. Place in greased shallow baking pans. Pre-heat oven and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into filling reads 160 degrees.

IRISH CREAM

If the raw eggs worry you, use the packaged imitation version, but be sure not to get the kind with garlic flavoring, which I almost did. Haven’t tried it yet, but will work on a milder version using a package of French Vanilla flavor instant pudding with milk, less condensed milk and and skip the eggs. It works for some desserts.

1 3/4 cups Irish whiskey

1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup heavy cream

4 eggs

2 Tbs. chocolate syrup

2 teaspoons instant coffee

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Combine all ingredients in blender and give it a whirr. If you don’t have a blender any more, beat thoroughly with a wire whisk. Pour into a well washed fifth bottle and cap. Keeps refrigerated up to 1 month. Stir or shake before serving and serve over ice, if desired. Also great added to hot coffee.

IRISH CREAM ICED CAPPUCCINO

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/2 cup instant coffee granules

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar or equal amount artificial sweetener (12

packets)

6 cups fat-free or whole milk

1/2 cup liquid Irish cream coffee creamer or flavor of choice (Use Irish Cream from the recipe above for an alcoholic version)

Ice cubes

Whisk together cocoa, instant coffee and water in a large saucepan until smooth. Bring to boiling over medium heat, whisking constantly. Boil, whisking constantly, 2 minutes. Remove mixture from heat. Stir in sugar or sweetener. Cool slightly. Whisk in milk and creamer. Refrigerate, covered, at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. Serve over ice cubes.

STRAWBERRY PRETZEL CHEESE CAKE

This pretty and delicious cross between salad and dessert makes a delightful addition to any Holiday buffet with its bright red color and incomparable flavor. The slight saltiness of the crust brings out the best in the rest of the torte.

PRETZEL CRUST:

2 cups pretzels (crushed)

3 tablespoons sugar

3/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix pretzels, butter and sugar together. Press into a greased 9x13 pan and bake about 8 minutes. Be careful not to burn it. Let cool thoroughly.

FILLING:

1 package cream cheese (8 ounces), room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 containers frozen whipped topping (9 ounces)

Beat cream cheese, vanilla and sugar together until smooth, then fold in one container of whipped topping. Spread over the cooled crust.

TOPPING:

2 packages strawberry Jell-O

2 cups boiling water

2 packages frozen strawberries (10 ounces each), partly

thawed

Red and green jelly candies, for garnish

Dissolve Jell-O in the boiling water. Stir at least 1 minute. Let it cool slightly, then stir in the strawberries, which should have been sitting out to thaw slightly. Stir several times as they finish thawing and chill the Jell-O mixture. Let sit about 10 to 15 minutes or until it starts to thicken slightly. Pour over the cream cheese layer. Refrigerate until it sets up, at least 2 hours. This can be made the night before. If you want to fuss, pile the second container of whipped topping in a circle on top of the filling to make a snowy wreath. Shape the jelly candies into green leaves and red berries and decorate the cream circle with them.

Thought for the Week: Happy New Year everyone! As we proceed into this New Year, let us pray not to be sheltered from dangers and troubles, but to face them with courage and wisdom and by doing so, grow into better human beings. That said, Lord, I’d really rather not have the troubles if that’s okay with You.

(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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