Labor Day weekend was great, I got to spend some time with my sister; we went to a neighboring town and got plates at their church picnic. The food was good, I still have a hard time with “picnic food” being what is called picnic stew, fried chicken (and at this church cornbread dressing), potatoes and green beans. Many of the churches also add cooked country sausage and sauerkraut to the plates. It was good, even though it wasn’t the barbecue plates that I was used to for so many years, of course, just getting to share dinner with my sister and her husband made everything just fine. On Labor Day itself, my daughter and her husband came to visit and brought me my computer. It is awesome, after several weeks of using a lap top, with its’ small monitor to have the nice large monitor. The new monitor seems gigantic and I enjoy being able to see it without the need of my glasses! Thank you so much for always taking care of me and keeping my computer in operation. I truly appreciate it.
As usual, the first Tuesday was our Auxiliary meeting, with barely enough members there to make up a quorum, but it was interesting. We have the gift shop closed for the time being and several members were either out of town or had Drs. visits. Our CEO told us we could plan on having our annual awards banquet in January, so that sounded good to us and also a couple of the members have begun purchasing “100th anniversary” type décor for our annual Christmas tree at our local museum. The year 2022 is the 100th Anniversary of our hospital and at the suggestion of one of our members, we decided to decorate it with a theme of that anniversary. Most years, there is a theme suggested by the museum that we adhere to, but, this year, we get to do whatever we would like to do and they are getting an early start. It sounds as if they were going to be doing a truly great and beautiful job.
Have you ever given a thought to the numerous different things that are unusual, but can be used for food and drink? Some of us have noticed the different fruits used to make wine, from agarita berries to peaches, plums and watermelon. We make jams and jellies out of all the above, but jams and jellies can also be made out of mesquite beans, prickly pear tunas, corn cobs, jalapeños, bell peppers or tomatoes; as well as your more common, garden variety of everyday fruits.
Prickly pear tunas make a beautiful, rich purple jelly. Corncob jelly is clear unless you use the red cobs, then it is red in color, and mesquite beans make a beautiful amber colored jelly. Jelly made from jalapenos and bell peppers make a yellowish-green jelly that is most usually served spread over a block of cream cheese and served with crackers.
This year the prickly pears look as if they could use a good dose of rain; however, the tunas are getting riper and a more beautiful purple all the time, the difference between their color last month and what it was last week is noticeable. Last month when I was in, they were just beginning to turn and this month, in most places, they are a really deep purple.
The hardest part of using prickly pear tunas is the picking. You will need gloves, a knife and a pair of kitchen tongs. (Watch out for snakes, especially the rattling kind, as they love to live in a cactus patch.) The late Barbara Hester told me many years ago that about one-half of a large paper grocery bag of tunas will give you all you need for a batch of jelly. When you get them home, wash well by holding with tongs under cold running water. To peel the fruit, lay on a cutting board, still holding with the tongs or a fork, cut both ends off, slit the skin lengthwise and lay open. The pulp can then be lifted out. Place the fruit in a large pot, barely cover with water and cook until tender, then strain through several layers of cheesecloth to get the juice. Another method, after washing is to singe off the spines, cut off the ends and place in a large pot, barely cover with water, bring to a boil and cook until soft, smashing with a potato masher as they get soft, to make the juice. Again, strain through several layers of cheesecloth to get the amount of juice you need.
Prickly Pear Jelly
5 cups juice
1 box powdered fruit pectin
5½ cups granulated sugar
Put juice in large pot, add pectin, and bring to a boil. Add sugar, all at one time, bring to rolling boil, boil hard for 1 minute, remove from heat, skim foam from top and pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.
1/3 cup finely chopped or ground jalapeño peppers
¾ cup finely chopped or ground, green bell pepper
1 ½ cups cider vinegar
51/2 cups granulated sugar
1 bottle (6-oz) liquid pectin
Cook peppers, sugar and vinegar for 10 minutes. Add pectin and boil for 1 minute more, remove from heat and pour into hot sterilized jars; top with melted paraffin, seal.
Fruit Flavored Angel Food Cake
1 box Angel food cake mix, (two-step type is best, and I like the HEB house brand best, as it beats up really nicely)
1 small box sugar-free, lime flavored gelatin
1 small box sugar-free, orange flavored gelatin
1 small box sugar-free gelatin, your choice of flavor (I like either strawberry or lemon)
Preheat oven to 350ºF according to baking directions on box of cake mix. Divide dough into 4 equal portions in separate bowls, very gently stir the lime gelatin into one portion and carefully spoon it into your Angel food cake pan. Stir orange gelatin into next portion of cake mix and very carefully place it on top of the lime gelatin, smoothing with the back of a spoon to get it level, do the same thing with a third portion using the flavor of your choice, into the fourth portion, stir the coconut extract and spoon it carefully on the batter in the pan, bake according to package directions, remove from oven, hang over a bottle until totally cool. Remove from the pan to a serving plate and frost as directed below.
1 carton (8-oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed (I used sugar-free the first time I made this because there were a couple of diabetics in the group I served to, and then the next time I used regular whipped topping)
1 small box instant vanilla pudding (either sugar free or regular)
1 can (8-oz), crushed pineapple in its own juice*
1 to 1½ cups flaked coconut
2 teaspoons coconut extract
Empty the whipped topping into a bowl and stir gently to even it out, then add the pudding mix and stir in until combined, then add the crushed pineapple and coconut, along with the coconut extract. Spread over the cake, store in the refrigerator. *One time when I served this, I used a partially drained, small can of mandarin oranges. My personal feeling is that if you use the oranges, they need to be cut in half or smaller as it was difficult to spread.