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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Country Cousin - Half Past Summer!...

Hard to believe! It's already half past summer and most of us feel like we haven't even started enjoying it yet. Picnics and festivals continue apace, so there's still lots of time for fun, for example in Coleman this coming weekend. But don't blink your eyes, or summer will be gone and you'll have missed it!

A noted national travel writer who visited Marinette County a few years ago was quite impressed. One of the articles he wrote included an observation that winters are so long and brutal here that we start celebrating when the snow melts and don't stop until after Deer Season.

He was right.

Don't you just love it?

DON'T MISS IT!

Personally managed to miss some of my favorite events this summer, and resolve that next year I will maintain a calendar to write them in when I hear about them. I don't have a smart phone to take memos for me, just a dumb one. A very, very dumb one. Sometimes it doesn't even want to make or take phone calls. Couldn't possibly be me, could it?

BEAUTY TIPS

Have written before about benefits of coconut oil, whether it's taken internally or rubbed outside on various parts of the body.

Hands and feet can take a beating during summer gardening time. Even too much washing can harm and harden the cuticles that form to protect the finger and toe nails' growth matrix. The matrix is the part of your nails that actually grows. The part at the end just gets pushed out, which is why you can cut them without pain.

While cuticles often don't feel soft, they are composed primarily of skin. It's important to keep them moisturized, clean, and nourished. Apply coconut oil on your cuticles to help soften them, keep them healthy, and reduce the risk of fungal infection. As anyone who has ever had a hangnail knows, they can be very painful.

Before putting on gardening gloves, treat your hands with a coconut oil massage, focusing on the cuticle area.

And for beautiful healthy toe nails, once a week or so rub coconut oil into your feet and toes before bed time, again paying special attention to the cuticles. Sleep that night with a pair of socks on to keep the moisturizing nail nourishing coconut oil where you put it. It won't harm the bed sheets, but it won't do them any good either, so why waste it?

While you're at it, give your face a moisturizing treatment with a light rub of coconut oil as well, and then rub your fingers through your hair if yours tends to be on the dry side.

And for lovely nails, it's a good idea, every time you wash your hands, to take a few seconds to push your cuticles back with the towel. If you do that, the cuticles never get a chance to grow up onto your fingernail where it doesn't belong. That's an old trick learned back in my Girl Scout days.

ON THE SOAP BOX

QUIT SPREADING HATE!


A decade or so this nation seemed pretty far along on the path to tolerance. Racism was certainly not gone, but except for a few bigots whose attitudes will never change, the trend was away from judging folks by the color of their skin, and more toward judging by the color of their efforts and attitudes.

Do they work for what they need and want?

Do they respect the laws and the rights of others?

Do they send their children to school ready to learn?

Do they bother to speak correct English?

Do they take personal responsibility for themselves and their families?

Do they help neighbors in times of need?

Then along came some rabble rousers whose fortunes depend on fanning the flames of hate.

Sadly, with the help of some people in high places they have been extremely successful! Racism seems stronger than ever today, only much of it has been reversed.

How can some segments of our society refuse to see that hate works both ways. If a black shoots a white because he's white, that's every bit as much a hate crime as when it is the other way around?

When people, black or white, start shooting police officers because they are police officers, that's a crime of another sort. And when they're applauded by the low life, that's anarchy of the worst kind.

When hate mongers bring the mobs into their own neighborhoods, they want protection, and certainly innocent bystanders deserve it.

But if the police officers are being shot, who will be there for them?

It takes a spectacular kind of courage to go out and face a mob when you know you are being targeted because of the color of your uniform!

Responsible public officials sould be calling for an end to this hate and violence. They should be calling shame down on those who riot and kill, whatever the color of their skin, and whatever the color of their victims.

CHEESE SAVERS

June Dairy Month is over, but wanted to pass a long these tips anyway. Being true Wisconsinites we like to keep a variety of cheese on hand for eating and cooking, especially in summer, when more folks tend to drop in.

But sometimes the cheese gets neglected a bit too long, and then worry about whether it can be salvaged or needs to be thrown out. Being cheese, it generally can be salvaged.

Experts say cheeses should be kept clean, cold and covered. Many unopened cheeses stored in the refrigerator will retain their quality even beyond the freshness date stamped on packages. Once opened, however, shelf life depends on proper storage, which in turn depends on the type of cheese you've purchased.

For instance:

*Fresh cheeses, like Cottage Cheese, Ricotta, fresh Mozzarella, and Mascarpone are high in moisture and quite perishable. They should be kept tightly sealed, cold and used within two weeks.

*Semi-soft cheeses, like Monterey Jack, Muenster, Brick and Havarti, and soft-ripened cheeses, like Brie and Camembert, once opened, are best kept wrapped first in waxed or parchment paper and then in plastic wrap. The waxed or parchment paper allows the cheese to breathe, while the plastic wrap protects against excessive moisture loss.

*Chunks of firm and hard cheeses, like Gruyere, Parmesan, Asiago, and Aged Cheddar, which have already lost much of their moisture, should be wrapped snugly in plastic wrap to minimize further moisture loss. If these varieties are purchased with a rind or wax coating intact, simply cover any cut, exposed cheese surfaces with plastic wrap and let the rind or wax protect the rest. This allows the cheese to continue to breathe and age naturally.

*Blue-veined cheeses, such as Blue and Gorgonzola, which have no protective rind, should be wrapped securely in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Exposure to air causes excessive moisture loss and encourages additional mold development.

SAVE THAT CHEESE!

If chunk cheese develops surface mold, cut off about 1/4 inch from each affected side. The remaining cheese is fine, but should be used within a few days.

Hard cheeses like Parmesan and Asiago can be grated and stored in sealed containers in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Freeze for longer storage and use directly out of the freezer.

- Regular cheese, once shredded, has more surface area exposed to air, and thus loses moisture and develops mold more readily. Wrap leftover shredded cheese tightly and use within a few days. With resealable packages, gently press as much air out of the bag as possible before resealing.

General Rule: If a cheese is hard to begin with, wrap it securely to limit its exposure to air. If a variety is moist to begin with, wrap it so that it can still "breathe" and use it soon for best quality.

SAVING AND SERVING

Beyond proper storage, a few handling and cooking guidelines will ensure that the cheeses you serve will taste and perform their best.

Most natural cheeses taste best when served at room temperature. Let sit, covered, out of refrigeration, for 30 minutes to an hour before serving.

Take out only what you think you'll consume at one sitting and leave the remainder in the fridge. Repeated temperature changes hasten deterioration.

In cooking cheese, use low heat and avoid long cooking. High heat and long cooking times make many natural cheeses tough and stringy.

To promote even melting, slice, shred, grate, cube, or dice cheese before adding as an ingredient.

Broil foods topped with cheese four to six inches from heat source.

To microwave cheese, use 30 percent (medium low) to 70 percent (medium high) power, rather than full power.

COOKIN' TIME

Blueberries are ready in some places. So are raspberries, and the blackberries are promising a bumper crop when they ripen. Weather has been absolutely perfect!

CHICKEN AND RICE PACKETS

It's still definitely the season for grilling outdoors, but some of us are actually getting tired of burgers, brats and hot dogs. Maybe even steak. If you're craving a real meal, but don't want to go indoors to cook it, try making up a few of these foil packets and enjoy the best of both worlds.

1 can (10 1/2 oz) condensed cream of chicken soup

1 1/2 cups pre-made unsalted chicken stock

3 teaspoons Montreal chicken seasoning

2 cups uncooked instant white rice

1/2 cup shredded carrot

1 cup halved, seeded and sliced mini sweet peppers

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (6 oz each)

4 slices cooked bacon, coarsely chopped

2 green onions, sliced

Heat gas or charcoal grill. Cut 4 (18x12-inch) sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Spray with cooking spray. Measure 1/2 cup of the condensed soup, and reserve it. In a 4-cup glass measuring cup, mix remaining condensed soup, the chicken stock and 1 teaspoon of the seasoning; beat with whisk to blend. Add instant rice; stir and let stand about 8 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir in carrots and peppers. Season chicken with remaining 2 teaspoons seasoning; place on center of each sheet of foil. Dividing evenly, spoon rice and vegetable mixture around each chicken breast. Divide any remaining soaking liquid over tops of breasts. Spread 2 tablespoons reserved soup over each breast; evenly top with bacon. Bring up 2 sides of foil so the edges meet. Seal edges, making tight 1/2-inch fold; fold again, allowing space for heat circulation and expansion. Fold other sides to seal. (In the old days, this was called a drugstore fold.) Place packs on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 10 minutes. Rotate packs one half turn; cook 9 to 10 minutes longer or until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (at least 165F). Remove packs from grill; cut large X across top of each pack. Carefully fold back foil, and garnish with green onions. Serve with a tossed salad, sliced tomatoes and a fruity dessert.

HOBO STEWS

This is another foil-packet meal cooked on the grill. It's based on a burger, but fills the craving for a real meal without slaving over a hot stove or heating up the kitchen.

For each person eating you'll need:

1 quarter pound burger

1 carrot

1 potato

1/2 of a large sweet onion

1 tablespoon slice of hard butter

Salt and pepper to taste

1 18x12-inch piece of foil

1 large appetite

Heat grill. Peel and slice rather thinly as many potatoes and carrots as you will need. Ditto for the onions, but maybe slice them a bit thicker. Spray the foil with buttery flavored cooking spray, but stay away from the edges. Place a slice or two of onion on the foil. Top it with the burger. Add salt and pepper, and perhaps lemon pepper or garlic salt if you like. Put potato slices on top of the burger, add some salt and pepper, then carrot slices on top of that, and then another slice or two of onion. Top it with the butter pat and then a final sprinkle of salt and pepper. Leaving room for some flattening, bring up the two long sides of foil so the edges meet. Seal edges, making tight 1/2-inch fold; fold again, allowing space for heat circulation and expansion. Fold the ends to seal. You want the packets sealed well so juices don't escape. Flatten the packets slightly. Some of the vegetables will no longer be on top of the burger, but that's fine. Put on grill, burger side down, and grill about 10 minutes, or until you can smell the onion cooking. Flip over and grill another 15 minutes. Then move to a cooler area of the grill (not over direct heat) and let sit another 10 to 15 minutes. Check to be sure burger is done and carrots are tender. If not, reseal and put back over coals for a bit. (These are quite forgiving.) Serve one packet per plate. (Hint: you need some fat in the meat to cook the potatoes correctly. If the burger is very lean or the potato very large, you might want to add two pats of butter.)

STRAWBERRY RICOTTA PANCAKES

These protein packed pancakes make a dynamite breakfast, now or any time in the year. Recipe calls for strawberries in the batter and on top, but blueberries with blueberry syrup also sound awfully good. Extra good if you spread with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before serving with the syrup and berry topping. Makes 16 pancakes.

1 cup flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup (8 ounces) Wisconsin ricotta cheese

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and diced

3 tablespoons butter, divided

Syrup and more sliced strawberries for serving

In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; mix well. Place eggs and ricotta In medium bowl; beat. Add milk and vanilla extract; mix to combine. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and whisk until combined. Gently fold in diced strawberries. Heat stovetop griddle over medium high or electric griddle to 375 degrees. (A drop of water will sort of dance on it instead of spattering when it's hot enough.) Melt 1 tablespoon butter to coat griddle surface. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto griddle for each pancake and cook until bubbles begin to form on surface, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook until golden, an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Add additional butter to griddle as necessary. To serve, top pancakes with sliced strawberries and syrup.

Thought for the Week: Abraham Lincoln once said: "I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him." Lord, help America once again be a nation we can be proud of, and help us Americans once again become the kind of people the rest of the world is proud to call friends and neighbors. But most of all, help us become the kind of people that You are proud and pleased to call Your sons and daughters. 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 shirleyprudhommechickadee@yahoo.com.)

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