As I looked at the date on this column, I realized that exactly three months from now, Christmas not only will have been here, it will be all over but the shouting! The 24th and 25th fall on a Sunday and Monday, yikes…gonna be a tough one, guess I’d better get busy!
This week, I checked my calendar and as of today, 9-20-23, we are only three days away from the beginning of fall! The weather is a little bit cooler, and I can tell the days are already becoming a little shorter, and gosh, Christmas mania is beginning in the stores. As I mentioned last week, Hobby Lobby had lots and lots of Christmas décor displayed and it’s beginning to show up in other stores as well.
My week was pretty quiet, it was one of those weeks that you have your days mixed up because Monday was a holiday. In fact, I thought Monday was Sunday and called my daughter asking if she was making a big dinner for a friend, her reply: “No Mom, it’s Monday”, my reply was: “Oops”. The week pretty much stayed that way. Workshop on Tuesday, and then gift shop on Wednesday, and on Saturday, my sister and I went to Victoria to do a little shopping, our main stop was at Hobby Lobby as she was looking for flowers.
This past week was a fun and relaxing one for me. Since I was hostess at our bunco club, I spent part of Monday and Tuesday making some of the food that I was planning to serve. That evening, I decided to load anything that didn’t to be kept cool in my car to get a head start, so Wednesday morning all I had left to load was the stuff that went into an ice chest. It sure did save me a bunch of time that morning and I managed to get away from home by 8:30 a.m.
After last Sunday, spending time and working at the church picnic, my week was pretty quiet. Monday was my pokeno day and it was fun, our hostess served a homemade pumpkin cake that was absolutely delicious! We’ve seen a shortage of players recently, due to the fact that several have dropped out and not been permanently replaced. However, we still had a great time.
This coming week is going to be a little busier, since I have family coming in on two different days! Hopefully, we’ll be able to get some work done cleaning out a couple of storage buildings. Since I don’t have a pickup, it’s hard for me to do anything that requires stuff to be hauled off, and just maybe, we can accomplish that since they’re coming in on a weekday and staying over!
Now, let’s talk about salt, it’s something we all use frequently, sometimes too much and too frequently. When you order food in a restaurant or order take-out, do you taste the food and then add salt, or do you just grab the saltshaker and start sprinkling, think about it?
We have used salt all our lives, from everything from brushing our teeth to mixing rock salt with ice to make ice cream, to sprinkling it in and on our food; we’ve made play-dough for our kids or grandkids, and in some places spread it on the roads and sidewalks to prevent icy buildup during snow and ice storms, all without giving it much thought as to where it comes from or what we would do without it. It is almost as important in our lives as is honey!
The human body incorporates a certain percentage of salt, which plays a critical role in controlling and regulating the water content of living tissues and cells. Long before the chemistry of salt was understood, people were aware of its importance for the maintenance of life and health. Origins of salt manufacture and the salt trade appear to date back to the most primitive stages of human civilization. In Roman times, salt was used to pay the soldiers. In fact, this is where we get the word salary for payment of wages. We have all heard the old expression “not worth his salt”.
In many parts of the world, rock salt occurs in massive underground deposits, while saline lakes and salt flats on sites of former salt lake beds provide plentiful salt supplies in some countries. In some warm or tropical coastal areas, with low humidity, salt is often extracted from seawater through natural evaporation.
Sodium is widely distributed as the mineral halite. This is common salt or sodium chloride. Beds of halite in Germany have reached a depth of over 4,000 feet. Poland is said to have deposits which are 50 miles long, 20 miles wide, and 1,200 feet thick. The leading producer of salt is the United States. There are also salt mines in the Chinese People’s Republic, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. It has been estimated that the oceans contain enough salt to cover the earth to a depth of 400 feet.
The United Salt Corporation was incorporated on March 29, 1928. Magnolia Oil Company when drilling for oil on the Warren Ranch in 1906 discovered the Salt dome in Hockley, Texas. This dome is about 2.5 miles wide and is estimated to be about 5 miles deep. The salt was reached in 1930 and mining was begun in 1932 at 1,500 feet below the surface of the earth.
Another mine belonging to United Salt Corporation is located near Houston, Texas in Fort Bend County. it is the Blue Ridge facility and the salt there is nearer to the surface than at Hockley. Brine wells are used to extract the salt in brine form. It is then crystallized by the use of evaporators. Once this step is completed, the salt is dried for further processing. This salt is a high purity salt that is used in food processing and for human consumption.
Their other mine, in Carlsbad, New Mexico, was acquired in 1962. The salt there is harvested on a 2,600 acre salt lake. It is gathered from the surface of the lake after the sun has evaporated the water from the brine. The salt is then washed three times before it is produced into a variety of solar salt products. Originally, the salt at Carlsbad was primarily used for deicing roads in Western Texas and New Mexico. Today, much of the salt harvested is used in water conditioning.
Salt is very important in cooking. It is necessary to the rising process when baking. In a cookbook that came with a bread maker, it stresses the importance of not cutting back on the salt called for in the recipes or omitting it completely. In cookie recipes, one teaspoon of salt is generally called for, this can be safely decreased by half. In cake recipes, I usually use exactly what is called for. In a sauce, (such as spaghetti sauce or enchilada sauce), if you are using tomato sauce or canned tomatoes, you really need to taste and see if it is necessary to add salt. Sometimes the ingredients you use have salt in them and you don’t really need any extra. A good example of this is soy sauce, unless you purchase one labeled, low sodium, it is pretty salty. A small amount of salt added to vegetables while they are cooking enhances their flavor. Many people are now on low sodium diets. You gradually learn to eat vegetables and meats with or without salt or at least without added salt. You can purchase canned salt-free vegetables in your local grocery store. Of course, they are more expensive than regular vegetables. By now, what with regularly reading labels, you will have noticed, I am sure, how the more they remove from something, the more you have to pay for it, (i.e. salt free, caffeine free, fat free, sugar free!).
Since we’re still having warm weather, here is a taco salad you might enjoy.
Texas Taco Salad
1 pound ground beef
1 can (15-oz) Ranch Style beans, drained and rinsed
8 cups shredded lettuce
2 tomatoes, cut into small dice
3 avocados, peeled, diced, and dipped in lemon juice to prevent darkening
1 bunch green onions, sliced, including tops
1 bottle (8-oz size) Catalina style dressing
1 package shredded Cheddar cheese (1 to 1½ cups)
1 bag (8-oz size) corn chips
Brown meat, drain well on paper towels, cool slightly and set aside. Rinse and drain beans. Combine meat, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, onions, and cheese in large bowl. Pour dressing over all and toss to coat lightly. Stir in chips just before serving.
Here is a delicious sugar-free dessert to try for summertime!
1 box yellow cake mix
12 oz. diet soda (Sprite Zero® or your choice)
1 can crushed pineapple (16-oz size) (divided use)
1 large tub Cool Whip®, sugar free
1 large box of sugar-free vanilla instant pudding
Empty cake mix into large bowl, add diet soda and mix well. Then add one-half (½) can of crushed pineapple and stir well. Pour into 9×12 pan that you have lightly sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake as directed on package. While the cake is baking, mix the Cool Whip®, the remaining crushed pineapple and the pudding together and stir well. Chill thoroughly. When the cake has finished baking and has cooled, spread the Cool Whip® mixture over the top. Cut into squares to serve. Makes 12 to 15 servings.
Glaze Cheesecake Puffs
2 packages cream cheese, 8-oz each at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 can cherry pie filling
1 box vanilla wafers
Muffin tins and liners (20 to 24)
Preheat oven to 375º*. Thoroughly beat together cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Line muffin tins with liners and place 1 vanilla wafer into each liner; fill ¾ full with cheese mixture and bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool thoroughly. Spread pie filling on top of each one, dividing evenly among the cakes. Makes 20 to 24. *If your vanilla wafers seem to be browning too much, turn the temp down to 350º. Blueberry pie filling could be used for these instead of cherry.
Goodness, when I put the date up here, I realized that the month of July is gone, however, the heat continues. Today, Sunday, when I started writing this, it was over 100º in the shade.
Last week was a fun week for me! As usual on the last week of the month, I headed from my home to the Devine/Moore area for my monthly bunco game and family visiting time. This time, my youngest daughter was there, taking care of two of her precious grandsons. We had a wonderful visit together on Wednesday, and I managed to get quite a few hugs! Later, when it was time for her to go to the airport in SA to get her daughter-in-law who was coming in from CA, returning from a family emergency, I left and headed out to my other daughter’s home.
Bunco that evening was in the home of our hostess, she had some delicious food and dessert for us, and we had a great time. She’s a great hostess and her newly remodeled home is beautiful and very spacious. Oh, and I won the booby prize with a mere five games won, any prize is better than no prize, at least I got my money back.
Saturday, I spent the morning at our family center helping make noodles for our upcoming church picnic; it’s that time of year again. I know we used 47 dozen eggs and an unknown amount of flour. We will package them Monday morning, in plastic bags to sell at the picnic. There will probably be about 95 pounds of the noodles. Clear profit, as everything to make them was donated. This is a great money maker, and they all sell every time! Next Saturday, we will make the delicious cream cheese and poppy seed rolls that go into the auction. That is our other big money maker for us, lots of work, but lots of visiting and meeting a few new ladies each year.
Now, as I asked in the beginning, do you know what a caracara is? I’m sure you have seen them alongside the roadside along with the buzzards, dining on roadkill, but not known exactly what they are.
The first time I noticed a caracara, we were on our way to the deer lease, it was alongside the road with some buzzards and Sam told me it was a Mexican Eagle. Years down the line, my son told me that the actual name was caracara bird. Like the buzzard, the caracara is protected from hunting, trapping, etc. On another trip down Squirrel Creek Road, out past D’Hanis, there was one in the middle of the road taking a running start with his wings spread as he took off for the sky. It was beautiful seeing the span of the wings!
In going on-line and looking information up about this strange looking bird, I found that they are a member of the falcon family and other interesting little things, such as that in Arizona they build their nests in Saguaro cactus and actually prefer it to be one standing alone rather than in a place where there is a multitude of the cacti.
The common name “cara cara” is what South Americans called the bird and this name most probably imitates the sound the bird makes. It has also been called: Mexican Eagle, Caracara Eagle, King Buzzard, Audubon’s Caracara and Mexican Buzzard.
The original scientific name for this bird comes from poly, the Greek word for many or varied; boros, meaning gluttonous and remarks on the birds’ voracious appetite, and from the Latin word plances, which is a word Aristotle used for an eagle.
The Crested cara cara has a body length of 19 to 23 inched and a wingspan of about four feet. They weigh about one and three-fourths to three and one-half pounds.
The preferred habitat of the Crested Caracara is open lowland countryside, such as pastures, savannas, river edges and the desert. They reside in the southwestern United States and Florida as well as Central and South America.
You frequently see them feeding on carrion alone or in company of buzzards the sides of roads. I have seen them between Devine and Hondo as well as between Devine and Jourdanton and various other places between Devine and Yoakum. They will, however, take advantage of any food opportunity, by eating such things as small mammals, reptiles, turtles, fish, crab, eggs, insects, worms and nesting birds. They hunt for food themselves or take food from other birds. They also spend a great deal of time on the ground.
Crested caracaras build a massive nest from small sticks. (The first article I found concerning them was about a study in Arizona, in 1997-1998, and the folks doing the study stated that the nests were used more than once, and that they had found one the size of a Volkswagen). The nest is built in a palm tree, cactus, in a tree or on the ground. There are usually two or three eggs laid, that incubate for about a month. The fledglings can take as long as three months before they fly as independent birds.
Now, the next time you see that strange looking bird with the black and off-white plumage eating alongside the road, you will know what it is!
Now, how about a super simple, really delicious dessert? This makes up quickly, bakes only 30 minutes and serves 12 to 15; depending on the size you cut your servings.
2 cans crescent rolls
2 (8-oz) blocks cream cheese
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 stick melted butter (do not use margarine)
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon (or more if desired)
Preheat oven to 350º. Grease or spray a 9×13-in. pan and roll out 1 package of the crescent rolls on the bottom of the pan, sealing creases. Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla and spread over the dough. Roll out the second crescent roll sheet and place on top of the cream cheese mixture. Pour melted butter over the top and sprinkle with the sugar and then the cinnamon, bake for 30 minutes.(I mix my cinnamon and sugar together, as I like this better).
This chicken salad is delicious and by using a rotisserie chicken, you don’t heat up your house cooking the chicken, so, it’s perfect for this weather!
Light Chicken Salad
3 or 4 chicken breasts, cooked and diced*
1 large Granny Smith apple, chopped
2/3 cup finely diced celery
1/3 cup sweet pickle relish
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
Enough light mayonnaise to moisten**
Cook chicken breasts in water seasoned with salt and a small amount of onion and celery, cool until you can handle the meat, remove skin and bones and cut into small pieces. *In this hot weather, cheat a bit and buy a rotisserie chicken, even though you will have both light and dark meat.
Wash the apple, and cut it up, and add to the chicken, add remaining ingredients along with enough light mayonnaise to moisten. Serve with crackers, Melba toast or bread rounds. **I use regular mayonnaise, NOT salad dressing.
Have you noticed? We’ve barely had time to blink, and this year is over half gone? Time has a habit of flying by sometimes, and other times it moves with the speed of a snail. The month of July has been the same as it almost always is, hot and dry, with nearly three weeks of no measurable rainfall, and mostly just plain miserable for all of us. We’ve had more days than usual with no rain, the cracks in the ground in my yard are nearly an inch wide in some places and I do my best to stay inside as much as possible. As I am writing this, it is over 100ºF in the shade by my back door and the same in the front of the house. To the north and west, it is 110º on a thermometer that tells indoor and outdoor temperature. However, clouds are building up just a bit…hope they contain some water! (30 minutes later, it’s raining!!!)
Last week, I wrote about a neighbor that was having some problems, he is now in a safe environment and being taken care.
My week was quiet; we have so many people out with various problems concerning their health, that we’ve shortened the hours in the gift shop. Working a Wednesday afternoon, instead of Tuesday and Thursday messed with my mind! I was trying to get started on some food to take and serve for snacks, when we make noodles, but I was a week ahead of myself. This coming week, I’ll be in Devine, to play bunco and visit with family and friends, and I am so very much looking forward to it!
The information in this column is truly “Did you know” trivia! It came to me several years ago in emails, and since I received it two or three times in a row, decided to use it. I found it very interesting and decided to use it as part of my column this week, even though some of the things may no longer hold true.
In reading it, I found something that I hadn’t thought of before (yeah, I’m slow on the uptake), but maybe, accidentally, some of you haven’t thought of it either. There are seven letters of the alphabet that are not represented in our fifty states! There isn’t a state that starts with B, E, J, Q nor X, Y, Z. The letter “M” is most popular, with eight states starting with that letter, and there are eight letters that have only one state beginning with that letter. As you read it, you will find out where a couple of our favorite sodas were invented, who invented the Frisbee, why the Ice Cream Sundae was invented, where our most common and prolific brand of re-useable plastic ware was invented (not the thin stuff, we use and toss), and several more interesting facts.
A Fun Fact for Each State:
ALABAMA: Was the first place to have 9-1-1, for emergency, started in 1968.
ALASKA: One out of every 64 people has a pilot’s license.
ARIZONA: Is the only state in the continental U.S. that doesn’t follow Daylight Savings Time. (I pretty much wish Texas didn’t).
ARKANSAS: Has the only active diamond mine in the U.S.
CALIFORNIA: Its economy is so large that if it were a country, it would rank higher than seventh in the entire world.
COLORADO: In 1976 it became the only state to turn down the Winter Olympics.
CONNECTICUT: The Frisbee was invented here at Yale University.
DELAWARE: Has more scientists and engineers than any other state.
FLORIDA: At 874.3 square miles, Jacksonville is the U.S.’s largest city.
GEORGIA: It was here, in 1886, that pharmacist John Pemberton made the first vat of Coca-Cola.
HAWAII: Hawaiians live, on average, five years longer than residents in any other state.
IDAHO: TV was invented in Rigby, Idaho, in 1922.
ILLINOIS: Has a Governor in jail. One pending jail time & is the most corrupt state in the union! (These are the facts that may not be accurate).
INDIANA: Home to Santa Claus, Indiana, which gets over a half million letters to Santa every year.
IOWA: Winnebago’s get their name from Winnebago County. Also, it is the only state that begins with two vowels.
KANSAS: Liberal, Kansas, has an exact replica of the house in The Wizard of Oz.
KENTUCKY: Has more than $6 billion in gold underneath Fort Knox.
LOUISIANA: Has parishes instead of counties because they were originally Spanish church units.
MAINE: It’s so big; it covers as many square miles as the other five New England states combined.
MARYLAND: The Ouija board was created in Baltimore in 1892.
MASSACHUSETTS: The Fig Newton is named after Newton, Massachusetts.
MICHIGAN: Fremont, home to Gerber, is the baby food capital of the world.
MINNESOTA: Bloomington’s Mall of America is so big, if you spent 10 minutes in each store, you’d be there nearly four days. (Again, this may no longer be accurate).
MISSISSIPPI: President Teddy Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear here… that’s how the teddy bear got its name.
MISSOURI: Is the birthplace of the ice cream cone.
MONTANA: A sapphire from Montana is in the Crown Jewels of England.
NEBRASKA: More triplets are born here than in any other state.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Birthplace of Tupperware, invented in 1938 by Earl Tupper.
NEW JERSEY: Has the most shopping malls in one area in the world.
NEW MEXICO: Smokey the Bear was rescued from a 1950 forest fire here.
NEW YORK: Is home to the nation’s oldest cattle ranch, started in 1747 in Montauk.
NORTH CAROLINA: Home of the first Krispy Kreme doughnut.
NORTH DAKOTA: Rigby, North Dakota, is the exact geographic center of North America.
OHIO: The hot dog was invented here in 1900.
OKLAHOMA: The grounds of the state capital are covered by operating oil wells.
OREGON: Has the most ghost towns in the country. (I would have thought it would be Texas).
PENNSYLVANIA: The smiley, : ) was first used in 1980 by computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University.
RHODE ISLAND: The nation’s oldest bar, the White Horse Tavern, opened here in 1673.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Sumter County is home to the world’s largest gingko farm.
SOUTH DAKOTA: Is the only state that’s never had an earthquake.
TENNESSEE: Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry is the longest running live radio show in the world.
TEXAS: Dr. Pepper was invented in Waco back in 1885. The Hamburger was invented in Arlington, Texas in 1906.
UTAH: The first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant opened here in 1952.
VERMONT: Montpelier is the only state capital without a McDonald’s.
VIRGINIA: Home of the world’s largest office building… The Pentagon.
WASHINGTON: Seattle has twice as many college graduates as any other state.
WASHINGTON D.C.: Was the first planned capital in the world.
WEST VIRGINIA: Had the world’s first brick paved street, Summers Street, laid in Charleston in 1870.
WISCONSIN: The ice cream sundae was invented here in 1881 to get around Blue Laws prohibiting ice cream from being sold on Sundays.
WYOMING : Was the first state to allow women to vote.
Since okra seems to be growing pretty prolifically, maybe you’d like to try making a big pot of gumbo. Now, in reality, the word “gumbo” actually means okra! There are probably as many recipes for gumbo using okra as there are cooks out there making it. In the past, when I made gumbo, I used crushed tomatoes, however, using whole canned tomatoes works well also as that is what is generally used. Also, when tomatoes were in season and people had given me some, I peeled them and used fresh tomatoes.
1 to 1½ pounds fresh okra
5 thin slices bacon, (2 or 3 if you use thick sliced)
½ to 1 cup chopped onion
½ to 1 cup chopped bell pepper (color doesn’t matter here, I had only red ones on hand the other day and used that, at 5 miles from the grocery store, you’re not particular)
1 can (16-oz) tomatoes or 1 pint home canned tomatoes, or 2 cups peeled diced fresh tomatoes
1 to 2 ears fresh corn
1 tablespoon vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash and cut okra into ½-inch slices and set aside, cut the bacon crosswise into pieces and fry until crisp, remove from pan and set aside to drain; shuck the corn, removing as much silk as you can, cut from the cob and set aside.
Drain all but 3 tablespoons drippings from the pan and sauté the onions and peppers until the onions are translucent. Add the okra and sauté until heated through. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, corn, bacon and seasonings and pour this mixture into a pot and allow to simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the liquid is cooked down and the corn and okra are done. If you want to add sausage or ham, add it at this time. (Slice the sausage about ½” thick, and cut the ham into cubes). If you plan to use shrimp, (about add them about 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve the dish.
This past week was a truly fun week for me, I left for Devine fairly early on Wednesday morning and was there before noon. My great-grandson was visiting with my daughter and shared some hugs and we got into a different car and headed out to LaCoste. My other daughter had come there so we could get together and visit and I could see her two granddaughters. The one is in Texas for a summertime visit with both sets of her grandparents, as she lives in Florida. Those cousins and the boy from next door had a great time playing, running in and out of the house and even playing a couple of quiet games inside. Before they were ready to quit playing, it was time for us to head back to Devine. My daughter and I had bunco that evening and my great-grandsons’ treat was to go to Dairy Queen for supper with his Granddad! I got the impression they had a great time! Thursday, we were back in LaCoste and he got to go play with his other cousins before we all met up and went to lunch in Hondo with my son. Those kiddos sure do love their uncle, they took turns coming and talking to him or just hugging him, and maybe to steal a couple of his French fries, which he is always willing to share. Friday, we went in different directions as I wanted to visit with the other greats who live in Natalia, and my daughter had children to return to their parents to get ready to go to the river with some friends. She and I met back up later and went to a plant nursery that a friend owns, and I managed to find a couple of plants, for my yard, an ixora and a red ice plant. Will they survive? Who knows! The one will be on my front porch and the other in a bed close to my house! With this weather, anywhere from lows in the 80s to highs in triple digits, I will have to keep a close watch on them. I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe July 4th holiday!
My family used figs only for preserves as I was growing up and it was not something that I was particularly fond of. Like most kids, I liked grape much better! Of course, back then, the grape was homemade also, but boy was it good, especially in a jelly roll, or with peanut butter in a sandwich.
The fig tree in our back yard that my Dad planted not too many years after we moved into the house, was literally that, a tree. You could climb up and out on the branches to get close to the top, which was taller than Dad’s workshop, (15 or more feet tall), and you could sit or stand on the roof of Dad’s workshop when they were ready to pick. The trunk was about 12 to 15 inches in diameter and a lot of the branches were 4 to 6 inches in diameter.
There are five varieties of figs that do well in our area, Alma, Celeste, Texas Everbearing, Black Mission and Brown Turkey.
The fig belongs to the genus Ficus. There are over 600 species that are native to the widely scattered warm and tropical regions in both hemispheres. Some species are evergreen, but most lose their leaves over the winter. The leaves are broad, tough, and thick with deep lobes. (They are not only rough to the touch; they can make you itch when you are picking the figs). Ficus Carica is the common fig of commerce and the trees can grow 25 to 30 feet tall.
There are many varieties of edible figs that range in color from a deep purple, which is the Black Mission, to a beautiful brown, which is the Brown Turkey. They are also almost white in varieties such as Adriatic, Smyrna and Kadota. The Smyrna, is known as Calimyrna in California, is raised there exclusively and is the only one that needs pollination. To produce fruit the Smyrna must be insect pollinated from a wild variety of fig. The fig wasp, genus Blastophaga achieves this by laying its eggs and developing to maturity in the fruit of the wild Capri fig. The wasp then carries pollen from the flowers of this fig to the flowers of the Smyrna fig. They also lay eggs in the Smyrna fruit, but the eggs do not develop in this fruit. Pollination results in the production of seeds and therefore of edible fruit. This process is called Caprification.
In the Mediterranean region, figs grow wild. Since time immemorial, it has been cultivated as a ‘poor man’s’ food, because this nutritious fruit can be grown without irrigation. After maturity, they are picked and dried in the sun to preserve them. The earliest of Hebrew books mentions figs. Greek writers have long referred to it. Even the pyramids contain pictures of the fig plant as well as the fruit. (How many paintings by the old Masters have you seen where a fig leaf is used to cover parts of the anatomy)?
Fig plantings are mostly confined to the Mediterranean type of climate and, other than from California, the greatest portion of the World’s commercial production and trade is in dried figs originating in the Mediterranean basin. Turkey leads in commercial production and the United States is next.
The best dried figs from either area are allowed to partially dry on the tree and then drop to the ground. After they are gathered, the sun drying is completed on trays or in boxes in which they are sent to the packers. In California, some of the figs are dried by artificial heat. In Italy, the figs are picked when ripe and dried in the sun on trays.
4 pounds chopped, peeled figs
3 pounds sugar
2 large lemons
Slice one lemon into slices one-fourth-inch or less thick, set aside. Remove juice from second lemon. Combine in a bowl, figs, sugar, lemon slices and lemon juice. Set aside for about one hour, stirring occasionally. Place in a large pot and heat slowly to a boil, stirring frequently, as they scorch easily, and also spatter. Lower heat and continue cooking on medium heat until the fruit is transparent and the liquid is as thick as cool honey or molasses. Remove from heat and pour into sterilized jars and seal.
Fig preserves can also be cooked in the oven. That is how Mother cooked them for many years. There is no spattering and no scorching. Simply place all ingredients into a roasting pan, stir well, set the oven at about 250ºF to 275ºF and bake until texture is as stated above. Stir occasionally. Place in jars, etc. (I’m not sure if it’s there, but you can check on a box of Sure-Jell® to see if they have a recipe for fig preserves/jam). I quit doing any type of canning many years ago, so I’m not up on the more modern recipes and instructions. I do know, however, that you can’t go wrong if you purchase a Kerr or Ball canning book that gives you all sorts of tips, recipes and instructions. Mine are all out of date!
Mock Strawberry Jam
4 cups ripe figs
3 cups sugar
1 small box strawberry gelatin
1 box Sure-Jell®
Remove stems from figs and peel if desired. Mash figs to a pulp with your potato masher or chop finely. Mix together the fruit, sugar and gelatin, bring to a boil and cook and stir for about 15 to 20 minutes. Watch carefully as it will scorch easily. Add Sure-Jell® and boil for 2 minutes longer. (Begin timing after it comes back to a full boil). Ladle into jars and seal. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.
Even though this recipe is entitled “Mock Strawberry Jam”, you can use any berry-flavored gelatin you desire with the figs. At one time, a friend gave me some beautiful peaches that had absolutely no peach flavor. I decided that what worked with figs would work with peaches and purchased peach gelatin. It worked beautifully and gave the peaches the boost they needed.
These super hot days are about to get the best of me! I have my air conditioner on and usually at least one fan to keep the air circulating, and I stay in the house as much as possible. You would not think there would be any mosquitoes around, but I was outside seeing a friend off a while ago and now have about 10 stings to show for it! My yard looks good as the yard man and his helper were here this week and the helper managed to get all the grass out of the flower bed next to my house. My neighbor gave me several plants of a red canna lily and I got them planted when it was after 8:00 p.m., to give them a chance at growing. So far they look good.
The month of June is almost over and with it so is half of the year. The time has truly flown by, and now we get to see how quickly the rest of the year will go!
Independence Day, or July 4th, as we most usually call it, is one of the few holidays that is actually celebrated on the day upon which it falls. It is not celebrated on the nearest Monday to make for a long weekend. This year it is on a Tuesday, so that means the people who have off that day, will have only that day off. It is nice when it falls on Friday or Monday so folks have that long weekend, isn’t it? Independence Day is probably the most important secular holiday celebrated here in the United States, commemorating, as it does, the adoption by the Continental Congress of the Declaration of Independence, which announced the breaking of ties between the 13 American Colonies and England.
America celebrates July 4 as Independence Day, because it was on July 4, 1776, that members of the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence in two and one half weeks. The Declaration begins with one of the most famous sentences in the entire world.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
The original signers of the Declaration of Independence held various occupations. Twenty-four were lawyers, fourteen were farmers, nine were merchants, 4 were physicians, one was a gospel minister and last but not least, one was a manufacturer, (of what I do not know). John Hancock, who was the president of the Second continental congress, signed his name the biggest and boldest of all the signers. In fact, the term “John Hancock” has become synonymous with “signature”. How many times have you heard the term, “Just put your John Hancock, right on this line”? It is a very old term, and isn’t used as much as it was in earlier times. Congress in 1941 declared July 4th a federal legal holiday.
If you are in a place where fireworks are allowed, do not ever hold fireworks such as bottle rockets, firecrackers or anything else in your hands, this is one of the foremost causes of injuries. Also, never, under any circumstances should you fire a gun into the air. The bullet comes back down at a considerable speed and can kill on impact. A young girl in San Antonio lost her life in just that way, several years ago.
If you are planning a trip over the holiday, always remember to be careful of “the driver of the car, in the car behind the car in front of you!” In other words, pay attention to what you are doing at all times. Keep your mind on your driving, keep your hands on the wheel, and keep your eyes watching your surroundings. Be aware of what is going on in front of you, behind you (that’s what rear-view and side mirrors are for), and beside you on each side. Stay off the phone; don’t try to text and drive. If you have a call, pull over and park before talking. It is difficult to talk and drive at the same time.
Wherever you celebrate this holiday, keep as cool as possible, drink plenty of liquids (other than alcoholic), to replace body fluids lost through perspiration, and take care not to get overheated. Do not forget to protect yourself with sunscreen. A bad sunburn is one of the most miserable and uncomfortable things there is. The best cure, of course is prevention, but if you do happen to get sunburned, milk of magnesia, kept in the fridge and gently patted on, is a great antidote. Also, cooled, brewed tea patted on, or even just cloths repeatedly wrung out in cold water will help ease the burning. There are many excellent commercial products on the market, but these are all old timers, that work.
Always remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold if you go on a picnic or just have a picnic in your back yard. Keep food and drinks in separate coolers, as a cooler with drinks will be opened more frequently.
The following chicken salad is simple to make and very tasty. If you want it spicy, use a spicier picante sauce. There is no mayonnaise involved, so this keeps well.
Cinco de Mayo Chicken Salad
1/2 cup bottled chili sauce (Heinz, DelMonte)
4 tablespoons picante sauce (mild, medium or hot)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
Mix above ingredients together and set aside.
2½ to 3 cups cooked, diced chicken
4 sliced green onions (tops too)
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1 avocado, peeled and diced
Mix these ingredients together, add dressing and mix lightly until all ingredients are coated. Garnish with additional avocado, if desired. Serve with tortilla chips.
Savory Seasoned Burgers
2 pounds lean ground meat
1 teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
8 hamburger buns.
Heat grill. In medium bowl, combine all ingredients except buns; mix well. Shape mixture into 8 patties. To barbecue, place patties on gas grill over medium-high heat, or on charcoal grill 4 to 6 inches from medium-high coals. Cook 10 to 15 minutes or until meat is no longer pink, turning once. (It’s time to turn the meat when you see little dribbles down the sides of the patties.)
Serve on buns with lettuce, sliced tomato and onion, if desired.
2 cans pork & beans 15-oz size or 1 can 32-oz size
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup diced green bell pepper
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup prepared barbecue sauce
Several strips, thin-sliced bacon
Preheat oven to 350ºF. dice bacon and fry until crisp. Drain well on paper towels and set aside. In 1½ to 2 quart round casserole dish, combine beans with remaining ingredients. Mix together. Sprinkle bacon pieces on top. Bake uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes.
This past week was a fun week for the most part. Tuesday was my normal workday in our gift shop, but Wednesday morning, bright and early, I headed to Devine for my fun time with family and friends. I got to spend time with three of my little great-granddaughters, two great-grandsons, my son, my daughter and her husband, and my oldest grandson and his wife! It was a wonderful visit, and I even won at Bunco. I came home Friday afternoon, and Saturday, we were out at the park with our raffle, it was hot and dry, however, we had fans and plenty of water. None of my family got lucky, but my neighbor won the Grand Prize, so I at least get to visit it! The prize was this gorgeous outdoor living area, couch, chairs, indoor/outdoor rug for the floor, glass topped table, fire pit/bbq pit, and a few incidentals that were included! To say she was surprised when I talked to her would be to put it mildly. We are all excited for her, as she, like many others buy chances from us each time we have a raffle. As far as I know, the money we made will be used for a few more wheelchairs for the hospital! Also, I am sure that each and every one of us was glad that the rain held off until the middle of Saturday night. It was quite a storm, I get up, walk around the house and go back to bed! I can’t fix it, so no point in losing sleep.
Sunday morning, I was up early putting the finishing touches on the food that I prepared for our breakfast at church, we do this the first Sunday of each month, and this time I was one of the hostesses. We had a good crowd and most of us took home empty baking pans! That is what I love to do. After the breakfast, my friend and I went into town to the family center, and got busy making tea and coffee, and in general getting things set up for the lunch we were to have a little later. It was the 120th anniversary of Catholic Daughters of the Americas in our parish. It was a wonderful crowd, and a wonderful meal.
Wednesday, June 14, is Flag Day. Let’s all be sure to put out the flag on this day!
Have you ever wondered in what order the states came into the Union? Who actually designed the first flag? Why does it have 13 stripes? How many stars were on the first flag? Which were the original 13 states? When was Texas admitted as a state?
Legend has it that Betsy Ross, a widowed seamstress was the one who made the first flag from a sketch given her by George Washington. She is said to have changed the number of points on the stars from six to five and then made the first flag in 1776. However, history has proven that it is just that, a legend.
A second legend claims that John Hulbert designed it a full year before Betsy Ross is supposedly did. This flag had 13 stripes and 13 stars in honor of the 13 original colonies.
These colonies were: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island. They all became states between December 7, 1787 and May 29, 1790.
The First Flag Law was passed by congress on June 14, 1777, giving this country an official national flag, consisting of 13 stripes alternating red and white, and a union of 13 white stars on a blue field.
Congress on May 1, 1795, adding two stripes and two stars in recognition of Virginia and Kentucky, passed the Second Flag Law. This 15-striped, 15-star flag is the second version of the national flag.
The Star-Spangled Banner was written as a poem in the Baltimore Patriot newspaper. Frances Scot Key composed the verses while viewing the battle of Fort McHenry during the war of 1812. It became our national anthem on March 3, 1931. (This flag is in the Smithsonian Museum. It is not being restored it is being preserved. The size of this flag, 30 X 42 ft, is astounding, considering the time and place that it flew.)
The Third Flag Act was passed on April 4, 1818, and created the third official version of the flag. Navy Captain Samuel Reid proposed that the flag contain 13 stripes to represent the 13 original colonies. At that time it was decided that a star, represent ting a state, would automatically be added to the flag on the Fourth of July after ea territory was admitted. The flag in 1818 consisted of 13 stripes and 20 stars.
On July 4, 1846, the 10th official design of the Stars and Stripes was created with the addition of Texas into the United States.
June 14, 1861, was the first recorded observance of Flag Day, which was the anniversary of the First Flag Law and took place in Hartford. Connecticut. Bernard Cigrand is generally given the credit for helping to promote Flag Day.
On July 4, 1877, the centennial of the First Flag Act, the 38th star was added honoring the admission of Colorado into the Union. This created the 20th official design of the Stars and Stripes.
The entry of New Mexico and Arizona into the Union on July 4, 1912, created the 25th official design of the flag with the addition of its 47th and 48th stars honoring these two states.
From 1912 until 1959, the flag had 48 stars and 13 stripes. In that year, Alaska became the 49th state and the 16th official design of the flag was created. The following year, on July 4, 1960, Hawaii was admitted to the Union and a 50-star flag became the 27th official design. At 12:01 a.m., a 50-star flag was raised over Ft. McHenry by presidential order in honor of the victory described in the national anthem.
Here is to the red of it-
There’s not a thread of it,
No, not a shred of it, all the
Spread of it, From foot to head, but
Heroes bled for it,
Faced steel and lead for it,
Precious blood shed for it,
BATHING IT RED!
Here’s to the white of it –
Thrilled by the sight of it,
Who knows the right of it,
But feels the might of it
Through day and night?
Womanhood’s care for it
Made manhood dare for it,
Purity’s prayer for it,
KEEPS SO WHITE
Here’s to the blue of it
Beauteous view of it,
Heavenly hue of it,
Star-spangled dew of it,
Constant and true;
Diadems gleam for it,
States stand supreme for it,
Liberty’s beam for it,
BRIGHTENS THE BLUE
Here’s to the whole of it,
Stars, stripes and pole of it,
Body and Soul of it,
O, and the roll of it,
Sun shining through;
Hearts in accord for it,
Swear by the sword for it,
Thanking the Lord for it,
Red, White and Blue!
By John J. Daly