Will we finally see spring or go to summer?

Is spring really coming? This April Fool’s joke has gone too far! Everyone is tired of the up and (mostly down!) temperatures and the snow we would have preferred to see on Christmas. There is the possibility of missing spring and going right into the high heat of summer if Mother Nature has her way. I don’t know what we did to anger her.

It is a good thing that I live in the country or my neighbors might think there is a crazy woman living here since the Christmas tree is still up. There are two reasons for that. That tree is very large and hard to put up or take down, so the Christmas balls are removed and other decorations, like artificial flowers added to the branches. The second reason is that the tree is very calming in the evening with the lights casting a soft glow in the room. It is cheaper than medicine to calm one’s nerves. As of when this is written, the Christmas balls are still on the tree, waiting to be removed when the snow stops falling. I don’t mean to be lazy, but just telling the weather that if it wants to act like December, then I will act like December, too. Sounds like a good excuse to me!

The hope is still there, though, that the flowerbeds will soon be able to look as they should soon. The worry is for the fruit and berry crops. Will the tomatoes even have enough time to ripen before Jack Frost returns; or, maybe he just intends to stay here all year. The Witten Farms of Beverly are beating him at his game, though. They have many new greenhouses in which they can produce early vegetables for our valley. Thank you, Jerry and Bonnie, for looking out for the rest of us! They have beautiful flowers planted, too, so when it finally gets warmer, take a drive up Ohio Route 60 to check out our “neck of the woods”. We have to have faith that spring really will warm us up.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a TV station that found only good news for us? The bad and ugly seems to take over the air waves, but there are good things happening, too. Of course, the pharmaceutical companies might not like it – they would lose too much income from the lower tranquilizer market! It is good to be able to know what is generally going on in the world, but we really could do without some of the constant telling of everyone’s actions and the stirring up of hatred among our people. It just feeds the minds of many who are not able to handle the knowledge and it gives the crazies bad ideas. There has always been bad things happening, but the lesser knowledge of them helps prevent others from repeating the same actions. Today, parents have a difficult job teaching the children right from wrong when the young ones see violence and wrong behavior getting all the front page news while the good happenings never seem to get any attention.

We do see good news in our local papers here in the MOV. The schools have turned out great athletes, bands, and students developing their talents in art, music and drama. FHA and 4-H are both active and great teaching activities. Our valley is a wonderful place to raise children, both for learning and becoming good citizens. Local communities do really support our young people.

Often young folks feel they aren’t “good enough “ or “not loved” or “not understood”, so they need to hear often, from the family and other folk, teachers and neighbors, how we appreciate them, love them, and are proud of them, “no matter what”. There are many more dangers to our young folks today than there were years ago. A safe and secure home atmosphere is needed more now than ever before to help them meet today’s challenges. What goes on behind closed doors in their life is an unknown to us and a smile or friendly greeting may make a big difference to them.

Make a pot of hot tea, rest a spell, and count your blessings. Thank those who protect us and pray for their safety. Pray for those who guide us to make the right decisions for our country. Hug your little ones and let your family know how important they are to you. Smile – it will lift your heart!

God Bless!

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OIL AND VINEGAR SLAW

1 medium head of cabbage, finely chopped

2 medium sweet onions, finely chopped

3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar, divided

1 cup white vinegar

3/4 cup salad oil

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon salt

Combine cabbage, onion, and 3/4 cup sugar and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let cool. Pour this dressing over the cabbage mixture and mix well. Refrigerate at least 6 hours before serving.

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SOUR CREAM COLE SLAW

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

6 cups finely shredded cabbage

Blend together all ingredients except cabbage. Pour over cabbage and mix well.

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MOM’S SWEDISH TEA RING

1 cup lukewarm milk

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 cakes compressed yeast

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup shortening

4 1/2 to 5 cups flour

2 tablespoons softened butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 cup raisins

Nuts for garnish

Candied cherries for garnish

Mix together milk, sugar and salt. Crumble in yeast and let yeast dissolve. Stir in eggs and shortening. Stir in half the flour, then the other half or as needed to make a dough. When the dough begins to leave the sides of bowl, turn it out onto a lightly floured board and knead – knead until smooth and elastic and doesn’t stick to the board. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until double in bulk, about one and one-half hours. Punch down and let rise again, until almost double, about 30 to 45 minutes. After this second rising, turn out onto floured board, round up, cover and let rest 15 minutes. Roll into a 9- x 18- inch oblong. Spread with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 1/2 cup raisins. Roll up tightly, beginning at the wide side. Seal well by pinching edges together. Place, sealed side down, in ring shape on a lightly greased baking sheet. With scissors, make cuts two-thirds of the way through the ring at one-inch intervals. Turn each section on its side. Let rise until double in bulk (35 to 40 minutes). Bake in preheated 375-degrees oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and completely baked through. Frost with simple Confectioners’ Sugar Icing while still warm and decorate with nuts and candied cherries.

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CONFECTIONERS’ SUGAR ICING

1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons warm water or milk or cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla OR lemon juice and a pinch of grated lemon rind

Combine and use to frost Tea Rings or Coffee Cakes. Spread while slightly warm.

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FRESH RHUBARD PIE

1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups cut-up rhubarb

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

Pastry for 2 crust pie

Mix together sugar, flour, and rhubarb. Pour into pie shell. Dot with butter. Add top crust and flute edges. Brush with an egg wash or cream or milk. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake in preheated 425-degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.

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HOT GERMAN POTATO SALAD

6 medium potatoes (boiled in jackets)

6 slices bacon

3/4 cup chopped onions

2 tablespoons flour

1 to 2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

3/4 cup water

1/3 cup cider vinegar

Boil potatoes whole just until tender. Do not overcook. Peel potatoes and thinly slice. Fry bacon slowly in skillet, then drain on paper towels. Saute onion in bacon fat until golden brown. Blend in flour. Sugar, salt, celery seeds and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring until smooth and bubbly. Stir in water and vinegar. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly, until thickened and clear, about 1 minute. Gently stir in potatoes and the crumbled bacon bits. Serve hot or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Then, heat thoroughly over low heat, gently stirring occasionally. NOTE: I use caraway seeds instead of celery seeds.

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CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI WITH ALFREDO SAUCE

4 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces

1 broccoli head, cut into flowerets

1 lb. pasta or fettuccine

Alfredo Sauce

Fresh parsley, chopped

Cut chicken into small chunks and brown in olive oil in a skillet. Brown half, then keep warm while second half is browned. Add all back to skillet and continue cooking over low heat until chicken is done. Meanwhile, steam broccoli in colander set in large pot with water in bottom. When cooked, remove and keep warm. Add more water to pot and cook pasta according to package instructions. When done, drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Then rinse with warm water to add warmth back in, and drain. Drizzle with olive oil and mix. Place pasta, broccoli and chicken in a large bowl. Reduce juice from chicken and add to bowl. Add Alfredo Sauce and toss lightly. Sprinkle with parsley.

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EASY ALFREDO SAUCE

2 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese

1 1/2 sticks butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

Dash nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

Garlic powder to taste

Melt butter and cream cheese in a heavy pan. Stir constantly with a wire whisk while melting. Add cream and whisk in. Add seasonings and whisk well.

NOTE: Any seasonings can be added to this easy sauce. Use for any pasta dish and season according to other ingredients.

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Patty Christopher is a longtime food columnist for the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

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