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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Country Cousin

Haunting...

Hi Folks!

Winter is back, but look on the bright side. The calendars say Spring will be here in just nine weeks!

Meanwhile, the Global Warming enthusiasts may have something new to think about. Out in Southern California citrus groves are threatened by frost, and some cities are facing all-time record low temperatures.

ABOUT FACE!

Remember a couple of decades ago when medical experts were telling us that coffee would kill us, and we should avoid it at all costs?

Am proud and happy to report that my family and I ignored that advice.

Studies now are showing that folks who drink two to three cups of coffee a day enjoy longer and healthier lives, partly due to the antioxidants in the beverage.

They really don’t say much about a pot or two a day, but a friend who consulted physicians at the famed Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. was told years ago, when anti-coffee was still a fad, that if coffee didn’t bother her digestion or keep her awake at night, enjoy! If it started to bother her, then quit.

Good advice then, and good advice today, except that other factors can enter into it.

Long, long ago I began having gall bladder attacks after holiday meals. Was blaming it on turkey. Then, happened to drink coffee from one of those large aluminum percolator pots at an event where I ate nothing, and got the same type of attack - twisting sword sensation through the side. Realized that at home for large holiday meals we brewed our coffee in the same type of pot.

Since then, have avoided drinking coffee made in aluminum utensils, and never had another attack.

Our family has many milk allergies, so found an article about another family that almost institutionalized a child due to what turned out to be a severe milk/dairy allergy.

The youngster was totally unmanageable, given to violent temper tantrums, and getting large enough to be dangerous. Doctors were advising the parents to send him to live in a suitable institution for his own good and the safety of his brothers and sisters. Finally they gave in and made the appointment.

As a farewell before he was due to leave, they went on a family camping trip. The weather was hot, the ice gave out, and all the milk they had along soured.

Almost miraculously, after two days the youngster’s behavior became normal. The parents were amazed. They put off the institution and made appointments instead with some doctors who did some new tests and discovered that dairy products made the boy’s brain swell, which brought on the violent reactions.

At the time the article was written the youngster was avoiding dairy products, living at home, attending regular classes in school and generally doing well.

Recently read about a brain disease, adult hydrocephalus, that mimics the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Senior Dementia, but is in fact caused by extra spinal fluid in the brain. According to the article, misdiagnosis is common. It’s a good idea to ask for the tests specifically.

Moral of these stories is, don’t settle for the first answer to health problems. It isn’t always that obvious!

ON THE SOAP BOX

Most of us have read about how 5,000 years ago, Moses promised the children of Israel, Pick up your shovels, mount your asses and camels and I will lead you to the promised land. That evolved over the years, until today, Congress has stolen your shovel, taxed your donkeys and your camels, and mortgaged the Promised Land.

Fellow who passed that along said things are bad and getting worse. He got terribly depressed thinking about all the taxes and regulations, the Obama Health Care plan, the uncertain future of Social Security, stock market crashes, joblessness, everything manufactured in China, and now threats to take away the weapons we might someday need to protect ourselves against government tyrants.

Finally he called a suicide prevention hotline.

Says he had to press 1 for English.

Then he was connected to a call center in Pakistan.

When I told them I was suicidal, he said, they got all excited and asked if I could drive a truck!

They didn’t offer him an airplane.

His depression still hasn’t improved.

TIMES DON’T CHANGE - MUCH

According to a joke book printed back in 1939, the town fathers were busy debating whether they should keep up good roads and pay for them by fining motorists for speeding, or let the roads go back to mud holes and then charge for hauling vehicles out.

Lady at a busy city intersection marveled to her companion about how a single police officer could dam the flow of traffic.

Yeah, that’s something, the gentleman with her agreed, but his cussing is nothing compared to the language some of those drivers use!

Back seat driving appears to have been a real problem. Remember, that was back in the day when few women actually had driver’s licenses, so that was the only kind of driving they could do. There were predictions in those days, generally made by men, that in years to come, when the auto was perfected, the back seat driver would be confined in a sound proof enclosure. They were wrong.

However, at least one motorist claimed he was never, ever bothered by a back seat driver. He drove a hearse.

HAUNTING EXPERIENCE

That reminds me of a story Dad used to tell of his days as a young man growing up in Middle Inlet. He had a most unusual back seat driver.

Although Dad had a fear of ghosts, haunts and the like, his need for money overcame his superstitions. He accepted a part-time job assisting the cemetery caretaker, who lived nearby.

The job involved digging graves on the day before a burial, and sometimes driving the coffin, with the body inside, by horse-drawn wagon to the cemetery where the caretaker or undertaker would meet him for the interment. Sometimes the bodies, inside the caskets that had been chosen for their final resting place, were shipped from distant cities, in which case they might arrive by rail on one day and be delivered to the cemetery for burial on the next.

Now, this caretaker was known to tip a few from time to time. One night, with a fresh new casket already on the wagon, he proceeded to get more than slightly inebriated. So much so that he couldn’t make it into his house. So, with the logic drunks too often use, he opened the coffin and climbed in for a nap that lasted all night. Now, that casket was to be dropped off at the funeral home the following morning, and a body was to be picked up and delivered to the cemetery for burial.

Dad knew he was to go to the cemetery and open the grave, so early the next morning he prepared to do just that. Carefully avoiding a direct look at the casket, he harnessed the team, tossed his shovels aboard, and hopped onto the wagon for the short drive to the cemetery.

Well, just as they drove through the cemetery gates, the jostling woke the caretaker, who sat up and moaned.

Dad always claimed he departed the wagon and the cemetery without touching the ground. He never did go back to that job.

BAKED ON CHEESE

An old friend called the other day to ask if there’s a quick and easy way to get baked or melted-on cheese off dishes. There a couple of ways, but both do require soaking, preferably overnight, so they’re not quick, but they are easy.

Get your dish hot. Make a paste of baking soda and water, apply to the plate and let cool. Then put the dish in another pan of hot water and scrub.

An even easier way is to save used fabric softener sheets from the laundry and use them with warm, soapy water for scrubbing the gunked-up items. To get baked on cheese to let go, prepare some hot, soapy water, add a half cup of salt and drop in as many of the used softener sheets as you feel are needed and swish them around. Let sit over night. Next morning the cheese should wipe right off.

COOKIN’ TIME

There’s nothing much better on a cold winter’s day than coming home to a hot soup and sandwich meal, and nothing much easier to put on the table in short order either. Canned soups have become somewhat expensive lately for those who are feeding a hungry family, but we can make our own soups with surprisingly little effort. With most of our budgets in a bind, we appreciate finding new ways to feed our families at less cost. Today’s recipes fill the bill on all counts.

ULTIMATE GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH

Mix up the filling in advance and keep in fridge until needed, for meals or after school snacks. Makes six to eight substantial sandwiches, depending on size of the bread. Goes perfectly with Cream of Tomato Soup, preferably homemade.

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

12 slices Texas toast thick bread

1/2 cup butter, or more, softened

Stir all ingredients except bread and butter together in a medium bowl, one with a good cover if you’re making it in advance. Lay one slice of bread on work surface for each sandwich, and on it put about half a cup of filling. Put another slice of bread on top of the filling and butter the top side. Put the sandwich, buttered side down, in frying pan or on griddle, and then butter what now has become the top side. Toast over medium/low heat until the first side turns a deep golden brown, then flip over and repeat for the other side, except turn the heat up a little. You want it to start out slowly, so the filling gets a chance to melt before the outside gets too brown.

MOM’S CREAM OF TOMATO SOUP

This easy, nutritious and very inexpensive soup is almost exactly like the Tomato Soup my mother used to make, only hers used homemade tomato juice from the well stocked shelves in the basement. That, along with grilled cheese sandwiches, was pretty standard Friday fare for us. It can also be made almost exactly the same way, but without the onion, and it’s still good.

2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, chopped

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 quart tomato juice

salt to taste

3 cups cold milk

In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, saut onions in butter until translucent. Do not let them brown. Remove from heat. Stir in the flour so that no lumps remain, then stir in the cold milk until no lumps remain. Return to the heat and add salt to taste. (Pepper too, if you want.) Stirring constantly, bring to a good rolling boil and boil for a few minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Let cool 10 minutes then whisk or stir in the tomato juice a little at a time. Reheat until simmering, but do not let it come back to a boil.

WINTER VEGETABLE AND BEAN SOUP

Stir some homemade pesto into this Italian-style soup for an extra flavor treat, but it’s good without it too.

Pesto

2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup drained canned diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, peeled

Puree all ingredients in processor. Season with salt and pepper. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Also good as a dip with chunks of warm Italian bread.

Soup

If you aren’t using the pesto, add a teaspoon or so of crushed dried basil shortly before the soup is done. This soup is loaded with carbs, and it isn’t exactly cheap if you use the pesto, but it is good!

1 large leek, both white and green parts, rinsed and chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

1 cup potato, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons water

8 cups canned vegetable broth

1/2 cup orzo (rice-shaped pasta)

1 can cut green beans, about 15 ounces

1 can cannellini (white kidney beans), about 15 ounces

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, about 1 teaspoon per

serving

Combine first 4 ingredients in heavy large pot. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until vegetables are almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add broth; bring to boil. Stir in orzo; boil uncovered until orzo is almost tender, stirring often, about 12 minutes. Add green beans, juice and all. Reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in cannelloni beans and crushed red pepper, and possibly basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until heated through, about 3 minutes. Put a teaspoon or so of pesto in each soup bowl, ladle in hot soup, and swirl to blend. Top each bowl with about a tablespoon of freshly grated Parmesan. Pass extra pesto for those who like a stronger flavor.

PUMPKIN PIELETS

Easy, inexpensive and a good way to sneak another vegetable into the meal.

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

2 eggs

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 can pumpkin, 15 ounces

1 can evaporated milk, 12 fluid ounces

18 baking cups, cupcake size

18 vanilla wafers

Mix sugar, salt and spice in a bowl. Add eggs and beat slightly. Stir in corn syrup, pumpkin and evaporated milk until smooth. Put baking cups into 18 muffin pans and place a vanilla wafer in each. Fill each two-thirds full of pumpkin mixture. Bake at 300 degrees F for 25 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5 minutes; remove. Cool a minimum of 1 hour before serving. Garnish as desired. Whipped cream is best.

Thought for the Week: Lord, it seems like I’m always asking You for favors. When I pray, I ask You for advice, but then don’t really listen for Your answers. Help me to pray with an open mind. Help me to not only hear Your answers, but to understand and accept them, whether I like them or not. 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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