Country CousinIssue Date: May 13, 2020
Maybe Spring really is here. Our spell of frosty nights and chilly days appears to be over, at least for now. No night-time frosts are predicted in the near future, and by this time next week the weathermen are predicting temperatures in the upper 70s.
Even though there has been little rain during the past week, didn't get much done out in the yard.
It was too darn cold!
Glad to hear that beautiful Spring apparently has ended her self-isolation and is finally ready to get busy doing her essential job - which is making things grow and bloom. She let Old Man Winter stay on the job far too long this year!
Won't be long now before mushrooms and asparagus come popping up and rhubarb stalks get big enough to pick. Dandelion greens too!
NO LILACS YET
Back in the days before global warming...Oops...Climate change, the lilacs in Crivitz were just bursting into bloom in mid-May when we'd come up from Appleton, where they were just finishing. Wouldn't think that 80 miles would make such a difference but it did, and still does. Must be that meridian line.
But back to the lilacs...and the asparagus...and the morels...and the rhubarb...
They haven't shown up yet. Maybe the coming warm spell will hurry them along.
WALKING ON WATER
Fishing season is over, and even in these social distancing times, folks are allowed to dangle their bait in hopes of catching that lunker trout or walleye.
Heard that recently, since they aren't allowed to hold services, a priest, monk and rabbi went on a fishing trip together. They came to a spot where there were high banks on one side of the stream, so they decided cross it and fish from the other side.
The water looked deep and rough, and the priest was a bit leery. However, the monk and rabbi stepped boldly out and walked across, barely getting their feet wet. The monk thanked the Lord for getting him to the other side safely, and so did the rabbi.
The priest, not wanting to be shamed, prayed: "Lord, I also have great faith, but I'm afraid of water. That river is awfully deep. This is really hard. Please give me the courage to do it!"
Hearing the prayer, and watching the fear as the priest attempted to step out, the monk poked the rabbi and whispered, "Think we ought to tell him where the big rocks are?"
Never did hear the end of that story. Wonder if the priest ever made it to the other side.
THANK YOU, BIRD
The five-year-old was eagerly awaiting the birth of a baby brother. Mom had told her the stork would bring him in about two months.
Having just moved back to this area, they stopped at her uncle's home to meet her brand new baby boy cousin for the first time. The girl was enchanted, and so was her mom.
When they were on the porch preparing to leave the little girl looked up at the sky and said to the invisible stork, "Thanks, bird, for bringing our baby."
But when Mom started going down the steps, she tugged at her jacket.
"Mom. We're forgetting our baby. Can't we take him with us?"
Mom had to explain they were still waiting for that bird to bring their baby. This one belonged to her aunt and uncle.
Planning a garden? Maybe you should consider companion planting.
The Old Farmer's Almanac notes that we often think of gardens as places that should be symmetrical, well-tended, planned, and tame, but then asks:
"What if a garden were irregular, unfenced, arbitrary, and unkempt?" and then goes on to explain that this seemingly chaotic approach to gardening isn't as outlandish as it sounds.
Long before Europeans came to North America, the original Native Americans cultivated a broad array of crops, including corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash and potatoes. Unlike the neat rows of European gardens, their native plots appeared to be randomly arranged.
The article explains that these "chaotic" gardens made sense for a number of reasons.
Plant diversity, unlike monoculture cropping, discourages and diverts insects. Beans, corn, and squash plants work well together. Beans add nitrogen to the soil, corn stands as a trellis for climbing beans and squash to cling to, and squash leaves serve as a living mulch, to retain moisture and limit weed growth, protecting themselves and the plants around them.
When it came time to harvest, the original Americans seldom harvested an entire plant. They believed in leaving enough roots or tubers on nutritious edible perennials and annuals to regrow or self-seed. Fruit, seeds, and greens were plentiful in their seasons, and root crops held their place underground in Earth's natural storage cupboard, ready to be dug up when needed.
ON THE SOAP BOX
LISTEN TO THE EXPERTS
We're constantly being told that we must listen to the "experts," even when they're issuing decrees that defy common sense.
Wonder how many people died because the "experts" decreed that ventilators were the best way to treat those with the worst coronavirus symptoms? Some of the more recent studies have shown that most of the poor suffering coronavirus victims they used ventilators on died anyway.
The studies don't mention the pain of knowing that your loved one died inhumanely - alone and without the comforting presence of loved ones. And those loved ones were denied the comfort of bidding a farewell to the most important person in their lives. But maybe, if that death was as agonizing as we imagine, it's better that way. Watching someone struggle for breath is not a pretty sight.
The problem seems to be that this disease is too new, and the experts really don't know enough about it to be experts yet.
Anyway, buried at the bottom of a recent news report is information that an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 30 found that only one in seven patients older than 70 who were placed in a ventilator survived, and the survival rate was only 36 percent for those under age 70 who were placed on ventilators.
The articles didn't mention if the survival rate was just as dismal for those who were not placed on ventilators.
That study came out just before President Donald Trump yielded to pressure from "a bi-partisan chorus of state governors and members of Congress" who were calling on him to exercise his authority and force U.S. companies to produce the ventilators.
One of the national news media articles does mention that fact, and admits that subsequent medical studies raised questions about the effectiveness of ventilators, but spoiled the appearance of fairness but adding, in a semi-derogatory tone, reference to Trump's "buying spree," that has now led to what appears to be an over-supply of the ventilators.
No mater what our President does, they won't allow him to win. If people die, it's his fault because he didn't issue strict enough orders. If they live, but go bankrupt, it's his fault because he didn't open things up fast enough.
Incidentally, internet postings by experts whose opinions disagree with the accepted party line regularly disappear, not only from the web, but from private phones where owners had placed them in "save" files. All gone. Happened to me, and to others in my circle of friends and family last week, too many to be an accident.
The fact that someone appears to be stealing our right to be informed is far more frightening than the coronavirus!
And as to being informed, am told that no one is doing tests to determine what percentage of the population has already had coronavirus and developed antibodies without being all that sick! That's the big missing piece of the puzzle we all need to be sure that returning life to normal is safe.
INSTANT POT ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP
Soup is always good for body and soul, and can be made ahead to be enjoyed whenever you're hungry. Meatballs, pasta, and cheese get together in this marvelous soup. You can do it in a regular soup kettle if you have no instant pot, just cook it a bit longer.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 cups no-salt-added chicken broth
20 Italian meatballs, home made or purchased
1/2 cup pastina pasta
6 ounces baby spinach
4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Turn on a multi-functional pressure cooker or Instant Pot i(if you have one) and select the Sauté function. Pour in oil and heat until hot. Add carrots, celery, and red onion; cook until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with parsley, basil, and pepper. Pour in chicken broth and add meatballs. Close and lock the lid. Close the valve and select the Soup function according to manufacturer's instructions; set timer for 3 minutes. Allow 10 to 15 minutes for pressure to build. Release pressure carefully using the quick-release method according to manufacturer's instructions, about 5 minutes. Unlock and remove the lid. Add pastina and stir to combine. Replace the lid. Close the valve and select the Soup function according to manufacturer's instructions; set timer for 3 minutes. Allow 10 to 15 minutes for pressure to build.
Release pressure carefully using the quick-release method according to manufacturer's instructions, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and stir. Let soup sit for 5 minutes so pasta will be fully cooked and spinach will be wilted. Season with salt to taste. Ladle into bowls and top with Parmesan cheese.
If you have no pressure pot, sauté carrots, celery and onion in oil as above in a large heavy bottomed regular soup kettle or saucepan and then add the parsley, basil, pepper, chicken broth and meatballs. Bring to a boil on high heat, then turn down heat and simmer for an hour or so. Season with more salt and pepper if desired, and serve topped with Parmesan cheese.
GRILLED TURKEY BURGERS
If beef is in short supply, substitute these great turkey burgers for your family cook-out. You can also cook indoors on a grill pan, or in a frying pan with a mixture of vegetable oil and butter. In fact, enjoy them even if beef isn't hard to come by.
1 pond ground turkey
1/2 cup crushed cheese-flavored Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped onion or 1 teaspoon dried minced onion
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
Optional: Buns, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomatoes and sliced or chopped raw onion for serving
Preheat grill to medium and brush with oil. Wash and sanitize your hands and rinse well, or put on a new pair of rubber gloves. using your hands, mix together all ingredients except the optional ones and shape into four patties. Cook about six minutes per side, or until instant thermometer reads 165 degrees. While the patties cook, butter and toast the buns. Serve patties on the buns, topped with lettuce, tomato and onion, or ketchup and mustard if you prefer. (I also like the patties topped with a thin slice of jellied cranberry sauce, but then I'm known to be a bit weird when it comes to food.)
EASY APPPLE CREAM CHEESE DANISH
This is easy already, but if you want to make it really, really easy, add some cinnamon and lemon juice to canned apple pie filling and use that instead of preparing fresh apples. Won't be as good, but still will be well worth eating. (PS. No one ever needs to know that you didn't make the whole thing from scratch if you take care to hide the crescent roll container and the apple pie can if you used that. Erma Bombeck used to suggest scattering some flour around the kitchen and on yourself to make it look like you'd been working really, really hard.) Let the kids make this themselves with just a bit of supervision and you'll be giving them something to be proud of. Even a 5-year-old can do it if you're helping! You could also make this with blueberry pie filling.
1 package of 8 crescent rolls
CREAM CHEEESE FILLING:
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons butter
3 apples, peeled and diced
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 to 4 tablespoons water
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Dash salt (optional)
2 to 3 tablespoons water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a jelly roll pan or line it with parchment paper and set aside. Mix cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla until smooth and set aside. In a medium pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add apples, flour, sugar, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons water and cook until apples are soft, about 7 minutes. Add more water one tablespoon at a time if the apple mixture gets too thick. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Place crescent roll dough on prepared jelly roll pan, making a rectangle. Use a rolling pin to seal seams and thin dough out slightly. Make 2-inch diagonal cuts about an inch apart on the long sides of the dough, cutting in toward the center, but leaving at least 4 inches down the middle uncut, because that's where you're going to put the filling. Spread the cream cheese filling in the uncut center of the dough and spread the apple filling on top of the cream cheese filling. Pull the top and bottom of dough over filling and then pull the cut slices of dough in toward the center from alternating sides, creating a braided look. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for at least 20 minutes. Then make the frosting by mixing powdered sugar and salt with vanilla and water in a small bowl until smooth. Add additional water if needed to get to desired consistency. Drizzle over warm Danish. Serve slightly warm, at room temperature or cold.
STRAWBERRY RHUBARB CUSTARD PIE
Rhubarb may not be quite ready yet, but the time is coming soon. And in today's world, fresh strawberries are always available at the grocery store, so be prepared to enjoy.
1 (9 inch) unbaked deep pie crust
3 cups rhubarb, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 cup fresh strawberries, quartered
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter, diced
3 tablespoons strawberry jam
1/4 teaspoon water
Optional: whipped cream, for serving
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rolled-out pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate snd crimp the edges to stand up a bit. Whisk eggs, sugar, milk, flour, and nutmeg together in a bowl and then stir in the rhubarb and strawberries. Scatter diced butter evenly over the top of the filling. Place the pie on a parchment lined baking sheet to avoid boil-over cleaning problems. Bake about 1 hour, turning halfway through, until the rhubarb is tender and custard is set. Meanwhile, mix the strawberry jam and water in a small bowl. Heat in the microwave until warm, about 15 seconds. When it comes out of the oven, glaze the top of the hot pie with the jam mixture and let cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Top with whipped cream at serving time if you wish.
Thought for the week: Lord, as Memorial Day approaches without the events we would hold to honor veterans in normal years, let us remember to not dishonor their memories by giving up the freedoms they fought and died to preserve for us. 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 715-291-9002 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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