Country Cousin - Brrrrrrr......
Enough of winter already! We've had our white Christmas, and in the first three days of 2017 and the final week of 2016 we've had a taste of just about everything winter can throw at us. The snow and cold can go away any time now! Doesn't sound like that's likely to happen any time soon, though.
Where, oh where, is Global Warming when we need it?
Apparently, any break in the weather will be some time coming. After a fine morning on Tuesday, Jan. 2, with perfect packy snow and temperatures mild enough to get out and play in it, the mercury dipped, winds whipped, and brutal cold set in.
Tuesday night and Wednesday morning saw wind chills of 15 below, and it felt a lot colder. Wind chills of 20 below and real temps of five below are predicted for Thursday, with day time highs of maybe 10 above. The forecast for Friday, Saturday and Sunday does not sound much better.
Stoke up the fire, brew up some hot chocolate, and settle in. It's too nasty outside to go anywhere we don't absolutely need to.
At least we have cars with heaters. Imagine in the old days when folks depended on horses and sleighs (often open ones) to get around in winter!
This is the season for New Year's resolutions - or the breaking of them. Friend who pledged to trim down by exercising says she didn't make it to the gym again today. That makes 1,500 days in a row. However, she has the problem solved. Decided to quit calling the bathroom the "John" and renamed it the "Jim". Says she feels so much better saying "I went to the Jim this morning," and it's the truth.
Christmas Season is all but over.
Here in TIMESland we don't really celebrate Epiphany, the Feast of the three Wise Men and/or the presentation of Christ at the Temple, but in some countries they do.
In Merrie Olde England and numerous other countries of the world, Epiphany, otherwise known as Twelfth Night, was a day for revelry and merriment, in contrast to Christmas, which was more of a solemn, religious holiday. Epiphany is the 12th day of Christmas. It falls on January 6 and marks the official end to the festive season for many Christians.
The traditional Yule log was kept lit until the Twelfth Night in order to bring blessings and good fortune throughout the upcoming year. (Bet it helped keep their castles and cottages warm, too.)
A favorite Christmas carol commemorates gifts of partridges, French hens and golden rings in the Olde English observance of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
The ancient Christian feast day of Epiphany is significant in some Christian denominations as a celebration of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, as well as a more general celebration of His birth. The six Sundays which follow Epiphany are known as the time of manifestation of the Divinity of Christ.
The official Biblical version of the visit of the three kings is written in Matthew 2:1-9: "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."
"When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'"
"Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also." When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was."
The magi's visit to Herod led indirectly to that evil king's murder of all boy children in Bethlehem and the Holy Family's flight into Egypt, but that is a whole other story.
Incidentally, a young Sunday school student said he knew all about that flight into Egypt. Said Pontius was the name of the fellow flying the plane.
GIFTS OF THE MAGI
Christians began celebrating the Epiphany in the 4th century, associating it with the visit of the Wise Men to Jesus. The three kings - named Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar - are said to represent Europe, Arabia and Africa respectively, and their visit to the Christ Child signified that He was a Savior for Gentiles as well as Jews. Their symbolic gifts were gold (representing His royalty) frankincense (representing His Divine Birth, and myrrh (representing His mortality). The three Kings
In many nations today a /traditional type of yeast raised fruit bread or cake is served at Epiphany. The special "cake" has a statue of a baby, a gold crown or some other trinket representing Christ hidden inside.
In parts of Mexico the special "cake" is known as Rosca de reyes. Whoever finds the small statue of a baby Jesus hidden inside their slice is supposed to host a party on Candlemas, which comes in February. In other places, finding the trinket signifies good luck for the coming year.
A little research shows lots of nations around the world have celebrations related to water on or about the day of Epiphany. According to Greek Orthodox Church traditions, a priest will bless the waters by throwing a cross into it as worshippers try to retrieve it. In Bulgaria Eastern Orthodox priests throw a cross into the sea and men dive in - competing to get to it first. In Prague, there is a traditional Three Kings swim to commemorate Epiphany Day at the Vltava River.
Here in Wisconsin and Michigan's frozen northlands, some hardy souls take part in a "polar plunge" on or about New Year's Day, which is very near Epiphany. They dive right into the icy waters of Lake Michigan or whatever other lake or flowage is handy and not too ice covered. They do this to raise money for good causes, or just to prove they can.
There's one planned at Victory Beach in Menominee at noon on Saturday, Jan. 28. At 10 a.m. that day there will be outhouse races at the Menominee Marina.
Not all traditions are ancient. In Venice, Italy, a traditional regatta that started as a joke in the late 1970s has been incorporated in the celebrations of Epiphany Day.
In New York, El Museo del Barrio has celebrated and promoted the Three Kings' Day tradition with an annual parade for more than three decades. Thousands take part in the procession featuring camels, colorful puppets and floats.
STAR OF BETHLEHEM
Wrote a few weeks about the Star of Bethlehem and wondered if its appearance was recorded in any astronomical records.
Reader Sandy Witzmann responded with the information that a CD available at the library shows what the Magi may have seen on that night 2,000 years ago. Haven't had a chance to see it yet, but hope to do just that.
Some scholars think the "star" that led the wise men to Bethlehem, the manger and then finally to Herod was a comet, an object traditionally connected with important events in history, such as the birth of kings. Others think it was a miracle, plain and simple, and perhaps only visible to the Magi. Records of comet sightings do not match up with dates of the Lord's birth.
SEASON FOR SOUPS
Leftover soup will last up to 3 days in the fridge or a month or more in the freezer. Follow these steps on how to freeze and store soup and you'll be set all winter long!
First, cool the soup quickly. Refrigerators and freezers cannot do this quickly enough to be food safe if you've made a big batch. Speed up the cooling process by placing the pot of soup in a snow bank or a bath of ice water in the sink. Stir soup often to help release the heat.
Second, package the soup in gallon or quart size zip-top plastic freezer bags. To fill, place bag in a bowl that's small enough for you to turn down the bag over the outside of the bowl. Ladle soup into each bag, then let out any excess air and seal. Label and date the bags.
Third, to freeze, lay the bags flat in a single layer in the freezer. To be safe in case there's leakage, lay in a clean pan to freeze. When frozen, stack the bags to save space.
To reheat, thaw the soup over night in fridge. Reheat chowders over low heat; gumbo, stew, and other hearty soups over medium-low. Stir occasionally.
If you haven't planned ahead and are reheating the soup direct from the freezer, put into a microwave safe bowl and zap for a minute or so. Let it sit another minute, stir and repeat until the soup is as hot as you want it.
The new year signals a time of new beginnings for most of us, and for most of us in this land prone to chubbiness, it is also a time for starting new diets. Good thing we do that once in a while, or who knows just how "pleasingly plump" most of us would be by now. Probably so plump we couldn't waddle without assistance!
CABBAGE SOUP RECIPE
6 large green onions, sliced (or a cup or so of chopped regular onions)
10 ounces or so of mushrooms, sliced
1 or 2 cans of tomatoes, diced, whole, or stewed
1 48-ounce can V-8 or tomato juice
2 large green peppers, diced
1 bunch celery, sliced
1 head cabbage, diced
1 package dry onion soup mix
8 cups water, or more
Diced or cubed leftover meat
Additional herbs and seasonings of your choice, if needed
Spray a soup kettle with cooking spray and add the mushrooms and green onions. Brown very gently. Do not allow them to burn. Add the tomatoes and juice. Cut green pepper in half and remove seeds, stem and membrane. Then cut the green pepper, cabbage and celery into bite size pieces and add them to the pot. Use about 12 cups of water (or 8 cups and the V8 juice), cover and put on a low heat and cook for about 2 hours. Taste and correct seasonings to taste. Add beef or chicken bouillon cubes, any herbs you wish, and salt and pepper if needed. If you like a spicy soup, add Tabasco, curry or cayenne pepper to taste. Cool quickly and refrigerate. Heat only as much at a time as you need. Keeps for at least a week in the fridge, and freezes well.
SOUP KITCHEN SPECIAL
You can't eat any cheaper than this, even at the old time soup kitchen. Trim down your food budget and your hips with one easy recipe. Plan to make this next time you cook a roast of any kind, including chicken, or if you've purchased a rotisserie chicken. Go ahead and make gravy from the pan drippings. Eat what you want, then add the rest to the soup. Before slicing and serving the meat, trim off all the fat, skin, bones and gristle, if there are any. If not, the soup isn't free. Save the recipe for another time when there are scraps to salvage. Boil together the bones, fat and other trimmings for at least an hour. Strain, then refrigerate overnight so the fat comes to the top and hardens. When it's time to make the soup, get rid of the fat. The dog will love you for it. Use the broth that settles below it toward the quart called for in the recipe below. Add water and bouillon cubes if necessary. When everything is done add chunks of the leftover meat, and there's your bonus meal.
1 quart beef broth (left from the roast combined with water or add canned broth if necessary)
1 cup tomato sauce (or two cups vegetable juice)
1/2 cup minced onion
1 cup cabbage, chopped
2 cups vegetables of your choice (celery, green beans, potatoes, carrots, summer squash, etc. are all good)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, thyme or oregano (or mixed)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup uncooked small pasta shells or noodles, optional
1 cup leftover meat, cut into bite size pieces or shredded
In a large pan bring everything but the pasta or noodles to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are nice and tender. Add pasta and simmer 10 minutes or until tender. Add meat and heat through. Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed. This is good with garlic bread. Also with peanut butter or grilled cheese sandwiches. This can easily be put in a crockpot on low around lunch time and be ready by supper. Add the noodles or pasta during the last half hour if you're using them, but then the low carb benefit is gone.
SPICY POTATO CHOWDER
Have a bit of ham left over from the holidays? Use it to spruce up this tasty and warming soup.
1/4 cup butter
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 poblano peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 (20 ounce) package refrigerated Southwestern-style hash brown potatoes
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 (14 ounce) cans chicken broth
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 (12-ounce) package fresh broccoli florets
Sautéed chopped ham
Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add bell pepper and next three ingredients, and sauté 4 to 5 minutes or until tender. Add potatoes and cumin, and sauté 5 minutes or until browned and tender. Gradually stir in broth, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 25 minutes. Add broccoli florets for last 15 minutes or so. Whisk together flour broth and milk and stir into the potato mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for five minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat to low. Add cheeses, and cook, stirring constantly, until cheeses melt and mixture is thoroughly heated. Stir in chopped ham, or saute ham bits and use it top each bowl as the soup is served.
POLISH KING CAKE
In case you want to celebrate Twelfth Night on Jan. 6, and aren't sick of Christmas goodies, here's a Polish version of the traditional Epiphany or Twelfth Night King Cake.
2 cups plus 3 tablespoons flour
1.4 ounces fresh yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon lukewarm milk
7 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1/2 tsp salt
1 chopped lemon
1/2 tsp cardamom
2 eggs, 1 separated
1/2 cup raisins, soaked in rum
1 cup chopped, mixed, dried fruit
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup red candied cherries, halved
Put 3/4 of all flour into a bowl, make a hole in the middle, put the yeast into it and mix it with a pinch of sugar and some of the lukewarm milk. Dust the mixture with flour, cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes. Add the melted butter, salt, lemon, cardamom, egg, egg white, remaining milk and flour to the flour and yeast mixture. Knead dough till smooth. When the dough begins to form a ball, stir in raisins and mixed, dried fruit. Form dough into a log. Cut off 1/4 of the log, divide the 1/4 into 4 equal parts and form balls from each. Divide the remaining log into 4 parts and form balls from each. Grease well a springform pan with a central tube. Place dough into the pan, alternating large and small dough balls. (Haven't tried, but do think the cake/sweet bread would be good if each ball were rolled lightly in a cinnamon/sugar mixture before putting into the pan. Cover the pan and let rise in a warm place. Brush the dough with the beaten yolk and place in preheated oven (350 degrees) for approximately 30 minutes. Cool cake thoroughly before removing from pan.
For frosting, mix the powdered sugar with lemon juice to an icing consistency (not too liquid). Ice the cake and decorate with the candied cherries. In Germany, a small gold crown made of foil is placed in the middle of the cake.
The Country Cousin
Thought for the week: Lord, let this New Year be a time of new and wonderful beginnings for each of us personally and for our nation as a whole. Please guide our hearts and help us to return to You and Your ways. 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 email@example.com.)
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