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Country Cousin

Old Maids...

Hi Folks!

On Friday, June 21, we celebrate what should really be one of the biggest holidays of the year - the official first day of summer, longest day of the year. Sun rises at 5:16 a.m. and sets more than 15 hours later, at 8:29 p.m. Lots of time for corn to grow on a day like that!

OLD MAID’S DAY

Back when we were kids, Yours Truly and some favorite girl cousins decided we were never going to marry. We would grow up and become Old Maids. We would all three live together. That way each of us would only have to wash dishes once every three days.

To celebrate our decision we agreed to celebrate June 21 each year as Old Maid’s Day. We actually did this for several years.

Well, two or three anyway.

We decorated a tree in honor of the event, asked their mom (my aunt) to bake us a special treat, and sang songs about old maids. Can’t remember the songs now, except one, a somewhat scandalous ditty our music teacher in a Marinette elementary school taught us, about three old maids who slept together, “in a little trundle bed.”

Next lines went:

“One old maid said to the other,

“There’s a man under our bed.

“One old maid began to holler,

“One old maid began to shout.

“One old maid said to the others,

“Shut up you fools, you’ll scare him out!”

That teacher was Miss Austin, who also taught music at the high school. She came from a community somewhat to the south but still in Wisconsin. She used to tell us that while growing up she always thought civilization ended at Green Bay, and moving here hadn’t changed her mind.

ODD INFO

Recently read that giraffes and humans have exactly the same number of neck vertebrae. The only difference is that the giraffe’s are longer.

That brings to mind another problem that most of us probably have never thought of. In a world filled with highway overpasses and low bridges, how do you transport an adult giraffe?

Normal full grown giraffes stand about 18 feet tall, and that’s without being on the back of a truck. Most highway overpasses have less than 14 feet of clearance. You can’t simply tell a giraffe to keep its head down, and their bodies won’t tolerate lying down for anything more than a few minutes.

Never would have given this much thought, but a friend of a friend has a business of raising exotic animals. He also transports them from one zoo to another, and sometimes to movie locations.

He has acquired - or had built - a special giraffe transporting truck. It has a crank down top, so when he’s approaching a low overpass he slowly lowers the top, forcing the animal to lower its head. As soon as they’re through the overpass area he raises the roof so the animal can again stand comfortably without getting a crick in its neck.

Now that, if you think about it, could be a most painful thing for a giraffe!

GROWIN’ THINGS

Now we can grow our own tonics! According to NAPSA, a national news clipping service, at least three of these superfruits-fruits that are exceptionally rich in vitamins and antioxidants-can be grown in our northern yards. They’re easy to grow, require no spraying or complicated pruning and produce pound after pound of juicy, nutritious fruit every year.

Aronia (chokecherry), a large shrub native to eastern North America, has showy white flowers in spring and blazing red leaves in autumn. Large clusters of glossy black berries - sometimes known as chokecherries because they are very sour - ripen in late summer. They can be sweetened and used in juice, jam, desserts, even wine, which makes it even easier to savor their high levels of antioxidants and vitamins. They’ve been enjoyed in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Russia for decades. Aronia tolerates winter temperatures as low as 40 below, and does best when planted where it will get at least six hours of sun each day.

Elderberry is another North American native shrub to beautify the landscape and provide bumper crops of nutritious fruits. Varieties that have been selected for ornamental foliage are especially useful for home gardeners, as they are even more attractive than plain green wild types. Some have lacy purple black foliage and large pink flowers that give way to small black berries that are very high in vitamin C; research suggests they can be effective in minimizing flu symptoms. In Europe a tonic is made from them. The flowers in spring have a wonderful perfume.

Elderberry plants survive through temperatures of 25 below, so they probably need some shelter in winter, and perhaps should be planted against a south facing wall. For the most abundant harvest, you should put at least two plants in your garden.

Goji berries are antioxidant-packed and sell for high prices at health food stores but they’re actually easy-to-grow shrubs. Also known as wolfberry, the rich purple flowers appear in early summer and are followed by gleaming red berries. The plants produce fruit continuously until autumn and never need spraying or special attention.

Though goji has been popular in China for many centuries, specially selected varieties have only recently become available in North America, from Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs.

Goji berries can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 below. They need to be grown in a sunny spot but aren’t fussy about soil and need little water or fertilizer once they’re established. They can be planted in the ground or grown in a large pot on a deck or patio. In our climate, maybe they could be hauled inside or at least wrapped up for the winter.

You can find all these plants at a garden center, in the fruits or the shrubs section. They cost between $20 and $50 depending on size.

COOKIN’ TIME

Summer and grilling just go together. Rhubarb is producing fine yields, asparagus can still be picked, strawberry time is nearly here, and before long we can start pulling radishes and green onions. Eat and enjoy.

GRILLED CHEESY VEGGIES

These packets go wonderfully with grilled steak. Or just about anything else you can do on the grill.

4 small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 pound (about 3) small beets, scrubbed, peeled and cut

into 1-inch pieces

1/2 pound baby carrots

1 large onion, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing

1/2 cup Shredded Cheddar & Monterey Jack Cheeses

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or 1/2 teaspoon crumbled

dried cilantro

1 lime, cut into quarters

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Toss vegetables with dressing. Spoon vegetables evenly on center of four sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bring up foil sides. Double fold top and ends to seal packets, leaving room for heat circulation inside. Place packets on grate of grill; cover with lid. Grill 20 minutes. Remove packets from grill. Open carefully; add 2 tablespoon cheese to each packet and reseal. Just before serving, open packets and on each sprinkle one quarter of the cilantro and squeeze juice of one lime quarter.

GRILLED SALMON STEAKS WITH ASPARAGUS AND MUSTARD SAUCE

The asparagus in this recipe makes twice what you need, so you can set aside half of it to serve with Garlic-Marinated Chicken Cutlets in the next recipe. Cool the cooked asparagus completely, then refrigerate in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag, up to 2 days.

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for grates

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

3 pounds medium-thick asparagus, trimmed

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar

4 salmon steaks (6 to 8 ounces each)

4 slices grilled bread (optional)

In a large bowl, toss asparagus with oil, minced garlic and some salt and pepper. Set aside to marinate for about half an hour. Put the salmon steaks in salt water and let sit while you make the mustard sauce, which is very easy. Simply whisk together in a small bowl the mustard, sugar, and vinegar. Divide sauce between two bowls (about 1/2 cup each); use one for basting and the other for drizzling. Set aside. Shortly before time to eat, heat the grill to high and lightly oil the grates. When the coals are hot enough, start grilling the asparagus, working in batches, if necessary. Turn occasionally, until lightly browned and tender, 4 to 8 minutes, depending on thickness of spears. Set aside. Arrange salmon steaks on a baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. With a brush, baste each side lightly with some of the mustard sauce. Grill salmon steaks, basting with sauce again, until glazed and cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer salmon to plates; drizzle with mustard sauce. Serve with half the asparagus and, if desired, grilled bread. (Refrigerate remaining asparagus for Garlic-Marinated Chicken Cutlets.) To grill the bread, just spread butter on one side of some thick sliced French or Italian bread and toast on each side, plain side first.

GARLIC MARINATED CHICKEN CUTLETS

1 1/2 pounds baby red new potatoes, quartered if large

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for grates

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped, or 2 teaspoons

dried and crumbled

Salt and pepper

1 1/2 pounds chicken cutlets ( about 12)

1 tablespoon butter

Grilled asparagus, cut on the diagonal into 1 1/2-inch pieces

( 3 cups)

Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons honey

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

You can make the vinaigrette any time. In a small bowl or jar, combine white-wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and honey for the Vinaigrette, and season generously with salt and ground pepper. Whisk or shake to combine, then add olive oil and whisk or shake again. Store in an airtight container or jar, and refrigerate, up to 2 weeks. Shake before using.

About an hour before you want to eat, heat the grill to medium. Fold two 4-foot-long sheets of aluminum foil in half to make two separate double-layer sheets. Place half the potatoes on each double layer. Form two packets by folding foil over potatoes and crimping the edges to seal. Place on grill and cook, turning over once, until potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat. Leave potatoes wrapped in foil to keep warm, preferably on one side of the grill. Raise grill to high; lightly oil grates. As soon as you put the potatoes on, make the marinade and put the chicken in it. In a large baking dish, whisk together oil, garlic, vinegar, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken and turn several times to coat. Let marinate at room temperature 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes. When the potatoes are done, lightly oil the grill grates. Take chicken from the marinade and grill until browned and cooked through. This only takes 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from grill. Cover chicken with foil to keep warm. Remove warm potatoes from foil; transfer to a medium bowl, toss with butter, and season with salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, toss asparagus with two tablespoons of the Vinaigrette. Serve the grilled chicken with potatoes and asparagus.

Too easy, and so very, very good!

CHERRY RHUBARB FREEZER JAM

8 cups fresh chopped rhubarb

4 cups sugar

1 (21 ounce) can cherry pie filling

1 (5 ounce) package cherry gelatin dessert mix

1/8 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

Place the diced rhubarb in a large bowl; pour 4 cups sugar over it and toss to coat well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In a separate bowl, mix the cherry pie filling and gelatin dessert mix. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Next day, place the rhubarb mixture in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the fruit is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in the pie filling and gelatin mixture. Bring to a medium boil, stirring until no gelatin granules remain and the mixture is completely combined. Stir in almond extract (if using). Refrigerate until completely cooled, then put into plastic containers or glass jars. Store in refrigerator of freeze.

LOWER CARB CHERRY RHUBARB JAM

1 3/4-ounce package Sure-Jell pectin labeled “For less or

no sugar needed recipes”

3 cups sugar, divided

5 cups coarsely chopped Bing cherries (from about 2

pounds fruit)

2 cups chopped rhubarb

2 1/2 cups unsweetened cherry juice*

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon butter (to prevent foaming)

Combine pectin and 1/2 cup sugar in a large pot. Stir in cherries and rhubarb, then cherry and lemon juices and butter. Bring mixture to a brisk boil over high heat, stirring often. Add remaining 2 1/2 cups sugar. Return jam to a brisk boil, stirring. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Remove from heat. Ladle jam into sterilized heatproof jars and close with lids. Let cool to room temperature, inverting jars occasionally to distribute fruit. Keeps, chilled, up to 1 month, or indefinitely in freezer. Makes eight one cup jars.

RHUBARB CUSTARD PIE BARS

Easy, quick and delicious. Makes 24 servings. double recipe and bake in a deep-sided cookie sheet to make more hungry folks happy longer. Can substitute Splenda for sugar to reduce the carb content.

Crust:

2 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup cold butter

Filling:

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup flour, scant

1 cup whipping cream

3 eggs, beaten

5 cups rhubarb pieces

Topping:

6 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup whipping cream, whipped

Combine crust ingredients and press into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Cool. For filling combine sugar and flour. Stir in whipping cream and eggs, beating well. Then stir in rhubarb. Pour over crust and bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes or until custard is set. Cool. For topping, blend the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla and then fold in the whipped cream. Spread over custard and refrigerate overnight.

Thought for the Week: Said it before, but will say it again. Need to keep reminding myself. I am only one person. I cannot do everything, but I can do some things. Lord, help me to recognize the things I can do, and give me the energy to do them. And help me to recognize the things I cannot do and quit worrying about them. 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.)

COUNTRY COUSIN


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