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Country Cousin

Thank God For Dads!...

Don't forget Dad! Father's Day is Sunday, June 19, and he deserves some very special recognition. Don't just give him a standard pair of socks or whatever....he'd probably appreciate some of your time and attention a whole lot more than anything you could buy.

DAIRY BREAKFAST

Mark your calendar, tie a string to your finger or whatever. The Marinette County June Dairy Month Breakfast at the Farm is coming up on Sunday, June 26 and it's always far too good to forget.

SUMMER IS COMING

Summer officially arrives on the evening of Monday, June 20, but we've already had a little of it. Very little. We did, however, enjoy some very fine days, hot enough that some of us were complaining about the unaccustomed heat. Didn't last long. A storm blew in and the heat blew out.

Officially, the Summer Solstice happens when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole and its northernmost point. This by no means likely to be the hottest day of the year. That comes later, after the Sun gets a chance to do its full warm-up job.

According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, "The word "solstice' is from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), reflecting the fact that the Sun appears to stop at this time (and again at the winter solstice).

"In temperate regions, the Sun is higher in the sky throughout the day, and its rays strike Earth at a more direct angle, causing the efficient warming we call summer," the Almanac says.

MIDSUMMER'S DAY

I always thought that Midsummer's Day (or eve) were the same as the official first day of summer, but turns out I was wrong. Friday, June 24 is Midsummer Day, which traditionally is the midpoint of the growing season at our latitude, halfway between planting and harvesting.

In Sweden, people celebrate the Summer Solstice by eating the first strawberries of the season.

In ancient Egypt, summer was the start of the new year. The rising of the star Sirius roughly coincided with the summer solstice and the annual flooding of the Nile River.

Folklore has it that if it rains on Midsummer's Eve, the filbert crops will be spoiled. Guess that would also apply to hazel nuts.

Old belief also is that If there are many falling stars during a clear summer evening, expect thunder. If there are none, expect fine weather.

My mom's old saying, "Rain before seven, sun by eleven," seems to be holding true this year. Talking about seven in the morning, not in the evening, of course.

Regardless of the lore, every year it seems more and more like once summer officially gets here it's at least half gone. Sort of like having someone bring you home an ice cream cone on a hot day. Either they eat half of it or the heat gets it. Either way, it's half gone before you get it.

JUNE WEDDINGS

June itself is named for the Roman goddess Juno, patroness of marriage and the well-being of women, so that may be one reason for the old June wedding tradition. Am told that in merrie Olde England and other far north nations, couples got married in June because it finally got warm enough for everyone to shed their smelly winter garb and bathe in the fresh waters of Spring so they could be sweetly scented on their wedding day. Also, flowers for decorations were pretty much at their peak.

Today, weddings in September and October seem to be more popular. Makes sense. We can bathe year round now. Thank Goodness!

TAKE THE STING OUT

Bugs are out in force, particularly the stinging varieties. Rubbing cider vinegar on your skin will help repel insects without adding toxins. People say if you take in enough cider vinegar by putting it on foods you eat, you'll develop a body odor that will repel insects, including black flies. Wonder just how much that is?

Onions are said to take the sting out of insect bites. They contain flavonoids, which promote healing, as well as sulfur, which breaks down the venom and pulls out the toxin from bites, thereby reducing inflammation.

If you're stung by a bee, wasp, or hornet, cut a fresh slice of onion. Put it over the bite and leave it there for 30 minutes to an hour. Maybe you could tape it on.

You can also grate the onion to release more juice, in which case you put the juice on the affected area, tape a piece of gauze over it, and leave for 15 minutes.

The stronger the onion, the more effective this is said to be, so stick to red and yellow onions and avoid the sweet ones, since they have less sulfur.

DADDY'S POEM

Came across this lovely anonymous poem, just in time for Father's Day. Don't know if the story it tells is fact or fable, but it does tear at the heart.

It's too long to print entirely, but here's the main part.

A little girl was preparing to attend her school's Daddy's Day program. She was wearing her Daddy's favorite dress, and her hair was fixed the way he liked it. Problem was that her Daddy wouldn't be with her. Her Mom was afraid other kids would not understand.

But the little girl went to school, Eager to tell them all.

About a dad she never sees, A dad who never calls.

There were daddies lined along the wall, For everyone to meet.

Children squirmed impatiently, Anxious in their seats.

At last the teacher called her name, Every child turned to stare.

Each of them was searching, For a man who wasn't there.

"Where's her daddy at?" She heard a boy call out.

"She probably doesn't have one," Another student dared to shout.

From somewhere near the back, She heard a daddy say,

"Looks like another deadbeat dad, Couldn't waste his day."

The words did not offend her, As she smiled up at her Mom.

And looked back at her teacher, who told her to go on..

"My Daddy couldn't be here, Because he lives so far away.

But I know he wishes he could be, Since this is such a special day.

And though you cannot meet him, I wanted you to know

All about my daddy, And how much he loves me so.

He loved to tell me stories, Taught me to ride my bike;

He surprised me with pink roses, Taught me to fly a kite.

And though you cannot see him. I'm not standing here alone.

"Cause my daddy's always with me, Even though we are apart;

I know because he told me, He'll forever be in my heart" ...

And there among the crowd of dads, Her mother stood in tears,

Proudly watched the daughter, Who was wise beyond her years...

"I love my daddy very much, He's my shining star.

And if he could, he'd be here, But Heaven is just too far.

You see he was a soldier, He died just this past year,

When a bomb hit his convoy. And so he can't be here.

But sometimes when I close my eyes, It's like he never went away."

And then she closed her eyes, And saw him there that day.

And her mother witnessed with surprise

A room full of daddies and children, All starting to close their eyes.

Who knows what they saw before them; Who knows what they felt inside.

Perhaps for just a second, They saw him at her side.

"I know you're with me, Daddy," The little girl called out.

What happened next made believers, Of those once filled with doubt.

No one could explain it, For their eyes had all been closed.

But there on the desk beside her, Was a lovely bright pink rose.

All in the room were blessed that day, By the love of her shining star.

And given the gift of believing, That heaven is never too far.

Did this really happen? We'll probably never know. Could it have happened? Of course. With God, all things are possible.

COOKIN' TIME

Summer, Father's Day, asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries. How many more reasons do we need to enjoy the flavors of the season?

ASIAN PORK PACKETS

This is pretty much a meal in itself, except for dessert. These can be made ahead, so Mom can do the work in the house. Then Dad can handle grill duties and bask in the compliments. This recipe makes four servings. If there are more people, you need to make more packets. They can be cooked on the grill or in the oven, and can be made ahead and frozen, which means they're perfect portable fare for a camping trip. Make with chicken tenders or boneless, skinless chicken breast halves if you prefer. Talk about versatile! Serve with cooked rice and more sauce.

1 pound pork tenderloin, sliced in 1-inch pieces

2 cups broccoli florets

2 cups thinly sliced carrots

1 can (8 oz.) sliced water chestnuts, drained

1 medium red bell pepper, cut in strips

2 green onions, sliced

1/4 cup sweet and sour sauce

2 teaspoons spicy stir-fry sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

Preheat oven to 450 degrees or grill to medium-high. Center one-fourth of pork slices, broccoli, carrots, water chestnuts, bell pepper and onions evenly on a sheet of aluminum foil. Mix sweet and sour sauce, stir fry sauce, sesame oil and ginger in a small bowl; spoon evenly over pork and vegetables. Bring up foil sides. Double fold top and ends to seal packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside. Repeat to make four packets. Bake 20 to 22 minutes in oven or grill for 15 to 16 minutes in covered grill, till pork reaches 160 degrees and vegetables are crisp-tender. (Over cooking can make pork tenderloin get tough.) Serve with rice and more sauce, if desired.

If freezing, place packets in plastic freezer bags and label with permanent marker. Freeze till ready to thaw and cook. Thaw frozen packets in refrigerator for 10 to 12 hours and then cook as instructed above.

A cooking tip from Reynolds, the folks who came up with this recipe: If there's no time to thaw the packets, you can cook them from the frozen state. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove frozen packets from plastic bag and place on baking sheet. Bake 40 to 45 minutes till pork reaches 160F and vegetables are crisp-tender.

BAKED PARMESAN ASPARAGUS

Enjoyed lunch with my little sister-in-law last week, and she served this wonderful asparagus. It's too easy, and so good she really wouldn't have needed to serve anything else. But she did.

Don't really need a recipe, but here it is anyway.

Asparagus spears, as many as you want

Olive oil, as much as you need

Parmesan cheese, grated, enough to coat

Low sided cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 4325 degrees. Lightly coat the cookie sheet with olive oil. Clean asparagus and select tender spears of approximately the same size. Roll each asparagus spear in olive oil until it's lightly coated all over, and then roll it in Parmesan cheese. No need to be too fussy, but get it pretty much coated all over too. Place on cookie sheet and bake 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until it's done as you like it.

BAKED RHUBARB PUDDING

Very, very easy. Serves 8.

1 cup flour

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons shortening

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup milk

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups water, boiling

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups rhubarb, diced

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the shortening until well blended. In a large bowl, combine the egg, milk and 1 1/2 cups sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Pour the batter into a well greased 9X9 baking dish. Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar. Stir well to dissolve the sugar and add the rhubarb. (Taste. Our rhubarb seems very sour this year, and you might want to add a bit more sugar.) Allow this topping to rest for 2 minutes and then pour it over the cake batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes until cake is set. You'll end up with cake and sauce. Enjoy warm, or chilled, with or without whipped cream or ice cream.

STRAWBERRY PRETZEL TORTE

Takes about 20 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to bake, but you do need to allow chilling time. Makes 12 to 16 servings

2 cups crushed pretzels (about 8 ounces)

3/4 cup butter, melted

3 tablespoons sugar

FILLING:

2 cups whipped topping (or 1 cup real cream, whipped and lightly sweetened)

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

TOPPING:

2 packages (3 ounces each) strawberry gelatin

2 cups boiling water

2 packages (16 ounces each) fresh or about 2 pounds frozen sweetened sliced strawberries, thawed

Additional whipped cream or whipped topping, optional

Combine the pretzels, butter and sugar. Press into an ungreased 13x9-inch. baking dish. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. For the filling, in a small bowl, beat whipped topping, cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Spread over pretzel crust. Refrigerate until chilled. For topping, dissolve gelatin in boiling water in a large bowl. (If you're using fresh strawberries, add 1/2 cup sugar to the sliced berries and let sit for half an hour or so to draw out the juice before you proceed.) Stir in strawberries with syrup; chill until partially set. Carefully spoon over filling. Chill for 4-6 hours or until firm. Cut into squares; serve with whipped topping if desired, or better yet, real whipped cream.

STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM CUPS

These little frozen confections would be a treat any time, but might be a particularly addition to the menu for a bridal or baby shower. Easy, easy easy to make.

2 cups powdered sugar

4-6 large fresh strawberries

1 cup white chocolate chips, divided

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Pink sprinkles (optional)

Melt half a cup each of the white and regular chocolate chips in microwave-safe bowls, stirring at 30-second intervals. Spoon about a tablespoon of melted chocolate into each cupcake liner and brush up the sides about halfway. Freeze for 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, purée the strawberries in a small food processor or blender and melt the remaining half cup of the white chocolate chips. Combine the powdered sugar, strawberries, and white chocolate chips and let rest in the freezer. Take filled liners out of freezer and spoon about a tablespoon of the strawberry mixture into each cup. Melt the remaining half cup of white chocolate chips (or half a cup of regular chocolate ones) and seal the top of each little cupcake with a cap of chocolate. Sprinkle with sprinkles if desired. Return to freezer for five minutes or more and serve. (They should sit out of the freezer a bit before being eaten.)

Thought for the week: It takes diversity to make the world go round. We need optimists to invent the airplane, and pessimists to come up with the idea for a parachute.

(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 shirleyprudhommechickadee@yahoo.com.)

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