Yucca and Easter

My trip to Devine last week was great. For the first time, I got to meet my newest great-grandson, who is a whole two months old, of course, he is totally precious, and I held him to my heart’s content. He’s a good baby, the only time I heard him cry was when he was hungry!
This coming Sunday is Easter. It is a little later than usual, being in April rather than sometime in mid-March. I will be part of the holiday in Devine and part here at home as I have a few family members coming in. Saturday, I got out the boxes of Easter decorations and placed some here and there in the house. My dining room table is cute, not as decorated as in the past when I had an “Easter Tree” in the middle of the table with flowers and lots of plastic eggs hanging from it, but for a “do it now” job, it looks good!
Spring is really here, not only according to the wildflowers blooming along the roadsides, but also according to the calendar! The bluebonnets have appeared in all of their glory and in various places they are really thick and beautiful. The roadsides around this area are absolutely gorgeous, and the flowers are really profuse. Unfortunately, I do not have any in my own field, as that portion was always cultivated, so I just have coastal mixed with a few weeds, a few wine cups and a patch of buttercups!
On my trip to Devine last week, I noticed that there weren’t very many bluebonnets, mostly white prickly poppy, along with the beautiful magenta ones here and there, wild mustard and lots of yellow rapeseed, and purple mallow, that is also called winecup, (which I just learned from my Victoria paper).
One thing that I have noticed this year, maybe more than some others is the yucca is blooming profusely. In traveling back and forth from Yoakum to Cuero and Victoria, as well as a couple of towns in the opposite direction, I have noticed several yuccas that are out in open fields, and some have as many as four and five ‘branches’ all bearing flowers that are creamy white to ivory in color. The yucca plant is pollinated only by a moth called simply ‘yucca moth’.
The yucca is basically a desert tree that grows primarily in the southwestern United States, and it is related to the Joshua tree. It is called by many names, including Yucca, Spanish Dagger, Spanish Bayonet, Dagger Plant and Candlestick Plant. According to a map of the United States that accompanied the article concerning yucca, yucca will grow in the western parts of Washington, Oregon, all of California, parts of Nevada and New Mexico, all of Texas except the panhandle area and on through the southern part of Oklahoma, through all of the southern United States from Louisiana through Florida and up into Virginia and the Carolinas and beyond up the eastern coast line states, including Delaware and southern New Jersey.
The yucca, (which is what I am going to call it for this article for simplicity), has sharp pointed dark green leaves, that are generally 2½ feet long and sometimes more and about two to 2½-inches wide at the centermost area. Some varieties have smooth edges on the leaves and others have very rough, edges. If you use them for landscaping, they should never be placed anywhere near a walkway because of these leaves with their sharp points. Even though the plant is considered a shrub, it can grow from six feet to sixteen feet tall. The ones in the wild seem to be about ten feet tall.
The yucca belongs to the Agave family and yucca is actually the genus name and there are over 50 varieties of this plant. Historical use has it that the Native Americans used the soapy leaves and roots for numerous conditions, including boiling the roots or leaves and making poultices and baths for skin conditions. Sprains, joint inflammation and bleeding were also believed to be helped when treated with a poultice or washing with a bath made of yucca.
We only have the rest of this week to need meatless dishes, but here are a couple of shrimp recipes to help you get through it.
Cajun Style Shrimp Skewers
¾ cup cooking oil
1 finely chopped medium sweet onion
2 Tbs. Cajun seasoning
6 minced garlic cloves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely minced
2 pounds, large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
In a small bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Place the shrimp in a resealable plastic bag, add one-half of the marinade, seal bag, turn to coat shrimp and place in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. (Cover and refrigerate remaining marinade to be used later for basting).
Drain and discard marinade, thread shrimp onto eight (8) metal or wooden skewers that you have soaked. (If you use 2 skewers to thread the shrimp on, they will be easy to turn on the grill or in the oven*). Grill over medium heat for 2 to 4 minutes on each side until the shrimp turn pink. Baste once while cooking, *I would have to bake these in the oven or under the broiler until they just turn pink. My thought would be 350º to 375º.
Shrimp Tostadas
1 pound cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined (you can use the ready-to-eat shrimp now available)
1 can (14 ½ ounces) diced tomatoes, drained well
1 cup diced sweet onion
1 can (4 ounces) diced green chiles (whatever heat you prefer)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tbs. cooking oil
3 Tbs. lime juice
1 can (16-ounces) refried beans, warmed
10 tostada shells
2½ cups shredded lettuce
Combine shrimp, tomatoes, onions, chiles, cilantro, cooking oil and lime juice in a medium bowl; mix together to combine, cover and set aside.
Spread about 2 tablespoons of refried beans on each tostada shell, top with ¼ cup lettuce and ½ cup of the shrimp mixture. Makes 10 single servings.
Now, here’s the dessert I will be making for Easter. I don’t think there are any of the men in my family that don’t like Carrot Cake. It is frequently requested for birthdays!
Carrot Cake
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ cup sugar
1½ oil
4 eggs
2 cups finely shredded carrots (a food processor works great)
1 can (8½-oz) crushed pineapple, in juice, drained
½ cup chopped nuts
1 can (3½-oz) flaked coconut
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add oil and eggs to this mixture and mix well. Add carrots, pineapple, coconut and nuts. Pour into 10×12 pan or a Bundt pan and bake at 350ºF for 35 to 40 minutes or until done. A Bundt pan will need about 45 to 50 minutes baking time.
Remove from oven and cool either in the pan or remove from pan and place on a cake rack to cool completely. For Bundt pan, cool about 5 minutes in the pan and then remove. Cool completely and frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
½ cup butter or margarine
1 block (8-oz) cream cheese
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
Using electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese together until fluffy and light, gradually add sugar, beating just until creamy. If it is too stiff, add a few drops of milk until of spreading consistency.