This Southern tradition is a delicious way to guarantee prosperity in the new year
If you’re celebrating the New Year anywhere near the South, you’re probably going to be enjoying black-eyed peas in some form. If you don’t already know, you’re taking part in a tradition dating back to Civil War days. Once considered only suitable for livestock fodder and food for slaves, fields of black-eyed peas were fortunately ignored by General Sherman’s troops as they stormed the South, and became a food staple for surviving Confederates.
Since then, the humble black-eyed pea has been lovingly considered good luck in the coming year. Served as Hoppin’ John with heaping bowls of hot greens and sweet cornbread, you set the stage for a year of prosperity. Traditionally, black-eyed peas represent coins, the greens are dollars, and the cornbread, gold. Black-eyed peas eaten with stewed tomatoes represent wealth and health.
Adding a shiny penny or dime to the pot just before serving is believed to bestow an extra portion of luck to the finder. Just don’t swallow the coin or your luck may take a bad turn.
I usually serve my Hoppin’ John as a side with pulled pork and collards. A feast like that, and a few reasonably achievable New Year’s resolutions, are sure to guarantee success in the year to come.
There are many variations of the traditional Hoppin’ John, but here are my personal black-eyed pea favorites. Spread the luck around by enjoying this Southern tradition surrounded by the joy of family.
Traditional Hoppin’ John
½ pound pork sausage
1 T. vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ tsp. paprika
1 tsp. chili powder
1 15-ounce can black-eyed peas (undrained)
3 c. cooked white rice
1 T. lemon juice
In a large, heavy skillet, brown sausage in vegetable oil. Add onions, peppers, and garlic to the pan with the sausage and cook on low heat until vegetables are transparent. Pour off the grease or drain all on paper towels. Return the sausage and vegetables to the pan and add peas, rice, paprika, chili powder. and lemon juice. Simmer on low 10 minutes more; should be moist. Serves 4.
Hoppin’ John Salad
1 15-ounce canned black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/3 c. chopped onion
6 T. distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 c. cooked brown rice
2 T. water
10-oz pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 T. bacon bits or crisply fried bacon (optional)
In a large bowl, toss the black-eyed peas, rice, spinach, and onion until completely combined. In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar, water, and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss. Chill for at least two hours to let flavors blend. Sprinkle on the bacon, toss again, and serve. Serves 4.
Texas Caviar Appetizer
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can white hominy, rinsed and drained
1 8-ounce jar medium picante sauce
½ c. chopped fresh cilantro
3 T. lime juice
½ tsp. salt
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Cover and chill overnight, stirring occasionally. Serve with tortilla chips. Makes 6 cups.
Don’t wait until the power goes out to say, “I wish we had a generator.”
As published in Urban Farm Magazine, January/February 2014
With extreme weather becoming a year-round issue, people who live in rural areas, and now many urban areas, are finding out that having an emergency plan that includes a home generator is the best way to weather the storm. Before you invest in a shiny red unit, find out how much power and what features you need. Whole house types with automatic transfer to backup power have some advantages, but if your outages occur infrequently for short periods, you should be able to power everything you need with a portable, versatile, and less expensive unit.
Use an easy online load calculator to determine approximately what you will need for your comfort and safety. If you rely on a well pump, for example, you will need about 700 watts to deliver your water. Your furnace, even if it runs on gas, needs about 400 watts of electricity to fan the air into your living space. The total wattage you need should be less than the output rating of the generator.
A portable generator should never be connected directly to your home’s wiring without a transfer switch, as backfeed along power lines can injure neighbors and utility workers. Hire a master electrician to install the transfer switch to prevent dangerous backfeeding and supply proper grounding.
Depending on the type you buy, generators can burn gasoline, diesel fuel, propane, or natural gas. If you plan to use an existing gas or propane source, contact your provider to install the connection.
No matter what fuel they use, all generators need both maintenance and regular testing. If you’re not using your generator often, either run your gas tank dry or follow the instruction manual for directions on adding gasoline stabilizers to prevent condensation.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is the first risk that comes to mind with any type of fuel-burning engine. Never operate your generator in an enclosed space such as a garage or basement or where the exhaust can blow back into the house. Since carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, invest in several CO detectors and keep them in good working order.
To prevent electrocution and electrical shock injuries, install a ground fault circuit interrupter. If you must use an extension cord, make sure to use the heavy-duty type free of cut or worn insulation. Surge protectors can protect delicate equipment such as computers.
Remove combustible materials such as dry leaves from around the immediate area, and never refuel while the unit is running or hot.
A generator that is properly installed, well maintained, and protected from the weather should serve you for many years without letting you down when you need it.
As published in Back Home Magazine, Nov./Dec. 2013
Winter gives me the shivers and a strong urge to fly swiftly toward the equator, so it’s only fitting that retirees who flee the frosty northern states in winter are called “snowbirds.”
One of the few upsides of all that cold and ice is the opportunity we have to attract and observe the variety of backyard birds that choose to brave the cold with us. From the warm side of the window, a mug of hot chocolate in hand, even the smallest child can enjoy the color and habits of many types of birds and may even help you cope with the cabin fever and boredom of winter vacation.
For example, children can create special decorations to attract birds, play “I Spy” for different colors and types of birds, start a collection of photos or drawings of your winter visitors, keep a log of the types and numbers of birds you see, or observe and talk about bird behavior. Older children may even want to join in for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, an international project co-sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Kids can record their data and turn it in online or by mail.
Depending on your temperature zone, you can expect to see pairs of northern cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, tufted titmice, blue jays, goldfinches, junkos, crows, woodpeckers, and flickers.
Sharon Stiteler writes a popular birding blog and is the author of three books on birding. Her most recent is 1001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know. She says there are three key elements you need to attract a wide variety of backyard birds: food, water, and shelter.
A bird buffet
“If you choose a commercial mix, make sure you can see what you’re getting,” says Stiteler. “Many blends include fill that some birds simply refuse to eat. Black oil sunflower seeds are clearly the favorite of most birds,” says Stiteler.”
While it’s a little more expensive, creating your own mix can lessen waste and attract more birds for your buck. Nancy Castillo, co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Saratoga Springs, NY, and author of the Zen Birdfeeder blog, says that the blend you create depends on the type of birds you want to attract.
“Mix seeds in whatever proportions you can afford,” says Castillo. “Black oil sunflower is a good starter. Consider adding other foods like striped sunflower, safflower, millet, shelled sunflower, peanuts, and fruit such as raisins.”
“Peanuts and cracked corn are also popular and nutritious,” says Stiteler, but she doesn’t recommend stale bread, cookies, or potato chips on a regular basis. “These aren’t the healthiest food choices, and they also attract rodents and raccoons.”
Birds will come to your yard if you give them what they need, so don’t become discouraged if they’re a little wary of a new feeder or your homemade decorations. Birds find food by sight, so a little seed sprinkled on the ground will help them get the idea.
An open, clean water source is essential, especially when ice and snow can make fresh water harder to find.
Birdbaths are commercially available in many shapes and materials and, depending on your budget, are also available with integrated heating units, says Castillo. Clay, concrete, and glass birdbaths may crack and leak in freezing weather, so don’t work well for winter birding.
You can also make your own simple birdbath out of any shallow basin such as an old serving tray or a disposable aluminum baking pan. Place your birdbath on a stump or garden wall out of reach of predators. Freshen your water every other day, and scrub your birdbath periodically with a stiff-bristled brush. Remember to break the ice during the coldest days.
Brush and cover
Your birds need the protection of nearby trees or bushes, so place your feeder in a location that makes them feel secure. Stiteler suggests using your discarded Christmas tree or piles of brush placed about 10 feet from the feeder for a quick escape from ambushing cats.
Sit back and enjoy
Some great sources for bird identification are Stan Tekiela’s state-by-state bird guides, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site at www.allaboutbirds.org, the Online Guide to North American Birds of the National Audubon Society, the iBird Pro Guide to Birds app available for iPhone and iPod Touch, and the Peterson Field Guide to Birds app.
As you observe all the backyard activity from inside your cozy sanctuary, you can also savor the special satisfaction of creating your own inviting winter haven. You may even find that you want to take it a step further by attracting summer visitors such as hummingbirds.
And it could be that what began as a simple project to pass a chilly afternoon will cultivate a new family interest already shared by millions worldwide.
More birding resources: The Great Backyard Bird Count at www.birdsource.org, http://www.birdchick.com, www.wildbirdsunlimited.typepad.com, www.birds.audubon.org, and http://www.juliezickefoose.blogspot.com.
Here’s a winter craft project that accomplishes three things: it adds interest and decoration to your trees outdoors, provides winter food for birds, and gives children something fun and interesting to do.
You will need:
6 large oranges
2 cups peanut butter, softened in the microwave
2 cups birdseed
½ cup rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
spoon for scooping out the pulp
yarn or string
Halve each orange and scoop out the pulp. Using a nail or wooden skewer, punch a hole about ½ inch from the top of the orange “basket” and punch another on the opposite side. Using yarn or heavy string, create a handle for your basket. With your hands or a pastry cutter, mix the remaining ingredients and use a spatula to fill each basket. Decorate your trees and bushes at a height of about five feet and watch your birds flock to your offering. Makes 12 ornaments.
A commercial or homemade suet provides energy and warmth and appeals to many types of birds including chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers and flickers.
Try this healthy winter suet recipe field-tested and perfected by the author of The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds by Julie Zickefoose. It can be a little messy to make, but birds find it a delicacy.
New Zick Dough (Gourmet Suet)
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup lard
2 cups chick starter
2 cups quick oats
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
In a microwave, melt peanut butter and lard and mix well. In a larger mixing bowl combine the chick starter, oats, cornmeal and flour. Add the melted peanut butter and lard mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. The mixture will resemble granola. Serve on a flat surface such as your deck rail or an old plate, or use a platform-style feeder. Store the mixture at room temperature.
As published in Foothills Spotlight, October 2013
Paper gowns are crackly and uncomfortable. In fact, sharing a cool waiting room with a group of similarly clad women isn’t comfortable either.
An annual mammogram may seem like another of those embarrassing personal hardships women must endure. Who really enjoys having their girls lifted onto a cold plate by a technician and then squished flat?
But some women have an anxiety that borders on panic when they even think about having a mammogram.
The words “you have breast cancer” are something a woman wants to avoid more than the embarrassment and the temporary discomfort. A woman who already knows she has breast problems or has felt a lump has increased dread of what the test may reveal.
But consider this: While breast cancer has touched the lives of more women in the United States than any other cancer, it is also one of the most treatable if detected early. In fact, death rates from breast cancer have been declining since 1990, and these decreases are believed to be the result, in part, of earlier detection and improved treatment.
“In the 80s and into the 90s, when cancer was found through screening mammography, we were finding cancers in higher stages such as 3 and 4,” says Meghan Wilson, lead mammography technologist at The McDowell Hospital in Marion. “Now we find some cancers in stage 0. That is all because of digital mammography and advanced skills in interpreting mammograms.
Research coordinated by The American College of Radiology Imaging Network found that lower-radiation digital mammography is more accurate than film in detecting abnormal tissue in women under 50, pre- and perimenopausal women, and those with dense breasts. Digital images can be enhanced for viewing, which could eliminate a false positive and another trip to the radiologist.
“Realistically, if there is something there for the screening to find, avoiding a mammogram won’t make it go away,” adds Wilson. “In fact, the sooner you know, the better the chances of treating it successfully.”
“I also speak from experience,” says Wilson. Even though I begged her to get it done, my mother missed three years of mammograms. When she finally went in for her screening, she was recalled for another look. We recently found out that she has stage 2 ductal carcinoma. That’s still an early stage, but if she had gone for her screening every year, it probably would have been found when it was in stage 0.
According to the National Cancer Institute, women in their 40s and older should have mammograms every 1 to 2 years. Women with an elevated risk of breast cancer because of personal and family history or other factors, should talk to their physician about when and how often to get a mammogram.
And it’s never okay to ignore changes in the breast. If you notice discharge from the nipple, itching, redness, scaling, dimples or puckers, or a section of skin appears as the color and consistency of an orange peel, let your doctor be the one to tell you if there’s reason to worry.
It really depends on how the woman views her options,” says Wilson. “Do I want to wait until I have a problem and face treatments with minimal options that are possibly more severe on my body, mind, and spirit? Or, do I have regular screening digital mammograms and face any cancer found early with more treatment options that are less harmful to my body, mind, and spirit?”
“Your mammogram shouldn’t be something that fills you with dread,” says Wilson. “Catch a problem early, treat, and live.”
Tips to Make the Most of Your Mammogram
Whether you’ve never had a mammogram, or you’re a seasoned veteran, Meghan Wilson, lead mammography technologist at The McDowell Hospital in Marion, says there are a few things you can do to make your experience more successful and less stressful:
- Schedule your mammogram about 10 days after your start your period. Your breasts are usually less tender.
- Choose a facility that specializes in mammography or provides many mammograms a day. Continue to use this practice every time you go, so that your images can be compared from year to year. If you change facilities, ask for your previous images to take with you so that they can be compared to the new ones.
- Switch to decaffeinated beverages for about a week before your mammogram. Caffeine can make breasts tender.
- You’ll be asked to undress from the waist up and put on a gown that opens in the front. Wearing a two-piece outfit to your appointment will make undressing much easier. Be careful not to wear deodorants, lotions, creams, or powders on your chest and underarms. You may be asked to remove any jewelry around your neck.
- The technologist will take at least two views of each breast. The exam should not be painful, but it can be uncomfortable, particularly if you have dense breasts. Remember that the pressure only lasts until the image is complete and the compression paddle is released, but don’t be afraid to tell the technician if you feel pain. She may be able to reposition your breast for a more comfortable exam. If you are sensitive to the pressure of “the squish,” Wilson suggests taking an over-the counter pain reliever such as Tylenol or Advil about 30 or 40 minutes before your appointment.
- Within a week to 10 days, you’ll hear from your physician. If you don’t hear within about 10 days, don’t assume your scan was normal. Confirm this by calling your physician or the facility.
Most of all, go to your appointment with the knowledge that most tests come back normal. Before long you’ll be back in the dressing room and on your way to the parking lot.
As published on the online version of Carolina Gardener, August 28, 2013
Sometimes called the poor man’s orchid, the bearded iris, with its myriad of colors, puts a new box of crayons to shame. These diverse, drought-resistant garden beauties provide an elegant centerpiece for many Southern gardens, with their magnificent spring blooms. But the plants are great in the garden even after the blooms have faded, thanks to their lush green stalks.
While spring is when we usually think of irises, now is actually the time when work needs to be done to ensure a beautiful flowering next season. Shirley Spoon Knox of Lawndale, N.C., is well known for her beautiful irises and loves to share her knowledge, much of it passed along from her mother. Knox recommends dividing irises every four to five years, even if you don’t plan to replant them. July, August and September, when irises are dormant, are the prime months for dividing them to ensure a brilliant spring with multiple blooms. Without regular division, the clump of irises will bloom less and not thrive.
The root of an iris is called a rhizome. From year to year, the primary rhizome grows several increases of younger, fresher rhizomes that encircle the mother rhizome. These are what you will divide and can replant in your own garden or share with friends and neighbors.
The best time to divide is early in the morning before the sun gets fierce. To divide a whole clump, insert a wide garden fork about 6 inches from the perimeter of the circle and lift the clump to the side.
As you trace the rhizome with your finger, you will feel a small indention that indicates the node’s connection to the mother plant. You can easily snap off the rhizomes or use a sharp knife to slice the node from the mother plant and lay it aside. If you use a knife, some experts advise dipping it in a diluted mixture of chlorine bleach: 10 parts water to 1 part bleach. Don’t forget to label your rhizomes, at least by color and height and possibly by cultivar name.
Wash off excess soil and soak the rhizomes for 10 minutes in a 10:1 water-chlorine solution and then rinse in a clear water bath. Air dry for 30 minutes in the shade. Choose the plumpest, healthiest ones for replanting, inspecting them for signs of disease or rot, or damage by borers.
Some gardeners trim the leaf fan and roots so they’re easier to handle and replant. Knox recommends leaving both intact in order to give the new plant a good start in its new setting. She does, however, snip off any brown tips or damaged leaves.
Knox likes to replant her irises the same day in a previously prepared raised bed, 2-3 inches deep and wide enough to accept the roots. Irises prefer morning and midday sun and well-drained soil. To prepare her soil for planting, Knox swears by the soil and fertilizer recipe passed down to her from her mother (see sidebar). She mixes ½ cup into the hole and then waters it in.
“Irises don’t like crowds,” Knox says, which is one reason why they need to be divided. When planting, place them 18-25 inches apart. Place the rhizome straight down, spreading the roots around. The top third of the horizontal part of the rhizome should rise slightly above the soil line. Cover with soil and pack it firmly with your hand. Scratch in another ½ cup of soil mixture around the plant. Water once more and continue to water lightly for the next two weeks if the weather is dry.
Irises should be lightly fertilized twice a year with a 10-10-10 fertilizer. Do this once in March, just before blooming, and again in June, just after blooming has finished. Reblooming iris, which can bloom up to four times a year, should get an extra dose of fertilizer in August, as well as plenty of water.
Weeds are always a problem for gardeners, and you will find them in your irises since weeds like fertilizer too. Knox not only pulls weeds regularly, but she also plants phlox, thrift, herbs and lilies among her irises to keep the beds colorful long after the iris blooms have faded.
“Irises feed the human desire to create, perpetuate and inspire beauty,” Knox says. Caring for them draws us out to the sunshine and fresh air and provides us with the feel of soil and water as well as the healing power of exercise. Sharing them gives us the opportunity to meet with old friends and cultivate new ones. Irises are truly a grounding influence for our souls … no pun intended.
Lilla Spoon’s Fertilizer Recipe
5 gallons of dry sphagnum peat moss
3-4 shovels of Black Cow compost
1 quart powdered dolomitic lime
1 pint wettable sulphur (discourages fungus and insects)
1 ½ quarts Triple Super Phosphate (for blooms)
1 quart 10-10-10 fertilizer
Photos courtesy of Carole Howell
The pop and a burst of juice make muscadines one of the traditional treats of late summer
Ray Hoffman, my father and muscadine mentor, has been cultivating his passion for muscadines all of his life. Even though arthritis sometimes limits the time he can spend in direct care, he supervises from his modified golf cart and planted two new rows this past spring. (photo by by Carole Howell)
As a boy, my father regularly ignored his sister’s call to supper. Even as she stood calling from the edge of the woods, he was sitting high in the tree branches eating wild muscadines, the hulls littering the ground a dead giveaway to his whereabouts.
For the last eight decades, he has continued loving the fruit and tending many varieties, some 50 years old, on his farm in Lincoln County. In September he sells the fruit by the gallon, and in the fall he makes the wine that he shares with his friends at Christmas.
Although they’ve been cultivated for centuries in the U.S., folks up north don’t often have the pleasure of the pop and sweetness of a southern sun-ripened muscadine.
Muscadines are not only good by the handful and the glass full, you also can freeze them, juice them, make jelly and preserves, bake them in pies, turn them into wine, and make healthy smoothies with them. They’re currently in research for the medicinal value of the seeds and skin, already available as a dietary supplement. Muscadines are high in antioxidants and have been linked to treating cardiovascular disease.
In North Carolina, the muscadine grape industry has been steadily on the rise since the 1970s. Our soil and climate create prime growing conditions for both commercial production and personal enjoyment, so it’s not surprising that muscadines are the official state fruit.
It’s clear from the September crowds at our small vineyard that muscadines have quite a fan base. Each year more and more of our pickers are also picking my father’s brain for advice on starting their own vines.
Grow your own
Whether you enjoy muscadines fresh, in a wineglass, or spread as jelly on a hot biscuit, you know that they’re a late summer treat that shouldn’t be missed. If you want to make sure never to miss a season, the solution is to grow them yourself.
Whit Jones, retired N.C. Cooperative Extension horticulture agent and now a consultant for Cottle Farms in Duplin County, knows about muscadines. In fact, they’ve been his passion for the past 20 years. He’s worked with grape growers in Duplin County for most of his career.
He also gets lots of questions from amateur growers who would like to plant their own vines.
New vines are placed in the spring, so fall and winter is the prime time for setting your posts and wires. Choose a location that is well drained. “Start with a soil sample to see what nutrients you’re missing,” advises Jones. Testing kits and instructions are available at no cost for North Carolina residents. Get yours from your county’s Extension office.
For support, Jones recommends untreated black locust or metal posts for organic production. Salt-treated, 3-inch to 5-inch diameter posts also work well. Choose an 8-foot-long post, leaving 5½ feet above ground, 20 feet apart with 10 feet to 12 feet between rows.
Two parallel wires, officially known as a Geneva double curtain, is a favorite of small gardeners and actually increases your yield by about 30 percent, says Jones.
“Use a #9 galvanized wire for support,” says Jones. “Anything less will deteriorate over time.” The wire is available at some hardware stores and at stores that sell livestock supplies.
With spring, after the last frost, comes the planting. The type of muscadine you choose depends on your preference and how you plan to use them.
“Supreme, Fry, Tara, and Lane are good fresh market varieties, perfect for snacking just as they are, and are popular in North Carolina,” says Jones. “For making wine, Carlos, Noble, Doreen, and Magnolia are good choices.” He adds that if you choose a female such as Fry or Supreme, you should also add a self-pollinator such as a Nesbitt, Carlos, or Tara to ensure pollination.
Plant one shoot per post about 15 inches away from the post to help support the weight of the main vine and keep the trunk straight.
Training your vines to reach the wire supports is an important part of the care of a new plant. Place a tall stake next to each plant and use a zip tie or string to loosely fasten the young plant. Add ties every two or three weeks as the plants stretch upward. Trim any offshoots from the sides of the plant as it grows, leaving the top two shoots. Once the shoots have reached the wire, continue to tie the vine until it is firmly committed to the wire support.
A little care makes a great harvest
Muscadines are not care free, but a backyard vineyard should not be difficult or overly time-consuming to maintain.
After the vines start breaking buds in the spring, apply fertilizer. Jones recommends using 4 ounces, about a handful, sprinkled lightly about a foot away from young plants. He favors a 6-6-18 tobacco fertilizer. Apply lime as necessary to maintain a 6.2 to 6.4-pH level.
September is for harvesting and enjoying the fruits of your labor. The fruit is ripe when it yields to a gentle squeeze. Pick individual grapes and not bunches. One piece of advice: Bees and wasps like grapes too, so be careful when picking. No one enjoys picking an angry wasp.
January and February are trimming months when the plants are dormant. The younger the vine, the less trimming it will need. With a pair of sharp hand-snippers, cut back any shoots that are toothpick size and snip the larger shoots back, leaving 2–4 buds.
If you need more information, the experts at NCSU Cooperative Extension have all the advice you need to get started and maintain healthy vines. Visit their dedicated website at ces.ncsu.edu/muscadines.
Besides enjoying them directly from the vine, muscadines can be the main attraction for pies and other sweet surprises. Most popular is muscadine pie, and you can find many recipes on the Web. Not as well known is the muscadine roll, served hot with sweet sauce. It’s my father’s favorite muscadine treat. Because you can freeze muscadines, you can enjoy them all year long.
As published in Carolina Country, July 2013
This year I planted only six zucchini seeds, but they grew faster than Jack’s beanstalk. Anyone who has invited the bountiful zucchini into their garden knows that this vegetable seems to mature faster than you can harvest it. It’s no wonder that August 8 is celebrated each year as “Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day.”
As I filled my own crisper and freezer, carried them to work in grocery bags, and offered them to every neighbor walking by, I still struggled to find creative ways to use them.
Zucchini is abundant, delicious and nutritious, so it’s a must for any summer garden. Just a few plants will give you plenty to both enjoy and share, and one large zucchini will make several meals.
It’s a good thing that zucchini is so prolific, because it’s so versatile. You can fry it, stuff it, grill it, bake it, add it to soups, spaghetti sauce, and meatloaf. You can make sweet breads, cakes, and cookies with it. You can make salads or simply add it raw to a vegetable tray. You can freeze it and enjoy it all winter long.
It truly is the perfect summer vegetable.
Makes a great light meal all by itself and makes a great side dish. It’s especially good as a side with beans and cornbread.
2 medium zucchini
1 medium red onion
1 cup red bell pepper
½ cup green bell pepper
½ cup roasted unsalted peanuts
3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup cider or balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Chop the first four ingredients and add peanuts and relish.
Mix and add the remaining ingredients and place all in a gallon-size storage bag. Mix well. Allow the salad to marinate in the refrigerator at least one hour or overnight. Serve with a slotted spoon. Makes six generous servings.
Moist Zucchini Cake
You’d never suspect that a vegetable could make such as tasty treat!
2 cups of finely grated zucchini
1 cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups self-rising flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
8 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350º. In a large bowl combine the oil, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon and eggs. Add flour slowly and mix well. Add zucchini, drained pineapple, and pecans. Pour into greased 13 x 9 in. baking pan.
Bake at 350º for 45-55 minutes or until dark golden brown and cake springs back when lightly touched. Allow to cool before frosting. Store in refrigerator.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Cream butter and cream cheese until well blended. Add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time. Add vanilla flavoring. Spread over cooled cake.
As published in Foothills Spotlight, June/July/August 2013
Let’s face it, we all mean well. But keeping our New Year’s resolutions intact after late January can be a push for even the best intentioned.
So why do we even make them, if the odds say we won’t keep them?
Terry L. Ledford, Ph.D., of Woodbridge Psychological Associates in Rutherfordton, and author of Parables for a Wounded Heart: Overcoming the Wounds to Your Self-Esteem and Transforming Your Perceptions of You, thinks he may have an answer.
“We make resolutions because we want to improve our lives,” says Dr. Ledford. “Most resolutions are in the area of self-improvement such as losing weight, stopping bad habits such as smoking and drinking, and behaving more positively toward those we love. We resolve to make these changes on January 1st because a new year suggests a new beginning. It feels like a good time to start over.”
Making New Year’s resolutions may go back as far as Babylonian times to honor the Roman god Janus, whose two faces looked both to the year that was and forward to the new year. (It’s also a great time to put off our good intentions so that we don’t feel so bad about our holiday overindulgence.)
“I think resolutions are rather harmless and may help us improve,” says Dr. Ledford. “At the very least, they reflect that we have hope for change.”
Some research even confirms that people who actually set a resolution, rather than just saying they want to achieve a goal, have a significantly greater percentage of success.
If you’re really serious about your resolutions, Dr. Ledford recommends setting goals that are realistic, specific, and reachable. Start small.
“Saying ‘I will weigh 150 pounds by March 1’ is much better than saying, ‘I’m going to lose weight.’ A goal without a deadline is just a wish, and it doesn’t usually get very far. Put it in writing, and chart your progress. Tell a supportive friend to check on your progress periodically. Reward yourself for small successes.”
But even the most disciplined of us will fall behind on some days. Don’t beat yourself up over a candy bar or a spending splurge. Resolve to start fresh the next day.
Want some ideas for resolutions that guarantee to improve the life of even the laziest individual? Why not pick a few and get started?
- I will eat right 90% of the time, and eat whatever I want 10% of the time. I will reach for the water before I grab a glass of sweet tea or a soda.
- I will walk to more places. I will park at the far end of the parking lot and I will take the stairs every time I can.
- Rather than becoming resentful, I will nicely say, “no” when someone asks me to do something that I don’t want to do.
- I will focus on what went right every day, instead of what went wrong.
- I will take long, hot bubble baths or showers as often as I need them to relax.
- I will get as much sleep as I need to be happy, healthy, and fun to be around.
- I will be kinder to people and not call attention to their faults. I will set a better example to my children by not making negative comments about others.
- I will take care of myself by getting my annual physical exams without procrastination.
- I will focus on something that’s spiritual to me. That could be a daily devotional, time for meditation, or even tending a garden.
- I will “seize the day.” I will do something every day that makes me laugh out loud.
Just remember that if you missed the January 1 start date, that doesn’t mean that you have to wait until 2014. You can always resolve to improve your life, and today is as good a day as any.
As published in Foothills Spotlight, June/July/August 2013
Why not burn off a little staycation energy this summer by learning about energy and how it works at the EnergyExplorium at Duke Energy’s McGuire Nuclear Station?
The EnergyExplorium, at Duke Energy’s McGuire Nuclear Station about 17 miles northwest of Charlotte on Lake Norman, is a great place for a family to spend a few hours together. And what makes it even more attractive? It’s all free and completely handicapped accessible.
Plan to spend about two hours learning all about how Duke Energy uses nuclear fission to heat water into steam to create the electricity we use to power our lights and appliances. Your adventure begins in the EnergyExplorium with a guided virtual tour of McGuire Nuclear Station. In additional to learning about nuclear power and the conversion of steam to electricity, you’ll learn how security and safety systems at McGuire protect the public and the environment, and the level and types of training required for a nuclear power professional.
At the EnergyExplorium, touching exhibits is encouraged and curiosity is a must. The EnergyExplorium features exciting and interactive games and activities about safety, weather, producing hydroelectric power, using electricity, and protecting the environment by producing clean energy, and much more.
“All of our guests seem to enjoy, The Great Inland Sea, a short movie about Lake Norman and the community during the time the lake was being built in 1963,” says Christine Pulley, communications representative at McGuire Nuclear Station. Known as the largest man-made lake in North Carolina, Lake Norman was built by damming the Catawba River. Initially, the more than 32,475-acre lake was built to provide cooling water to McGuire Nuclear Station and the Marshall Steam Station. Today the lake is popular for a variety of recreational activities that include sailing, boating and fishing along its 520 miles of shoreline. that include sailing, boating and fishing among others
Make sure to bring your walking shoes so you can take advantage of a beautiful mile-long nature trail that borders the shores of Lake Norman. Simply burn off some of your own energy by getting some exercise, or check out one of the EnergyExplorium’s educational backpacks and enjoy a scavenger hunt for different kinds of trees, insects, birds and flowering plants using the magnifying glasses, binoculars and other scientific “tools” provided. When you look closely, you may discover something you’ve never noticed before.
And don’t forget to bring lunch! Spread out your own family feast in the lakeside picnic area. An observation deck allows a bird’s eye view of the boats and wildlife of beautiful Lake Norman as well as views of Marshall Steam Station and the top of Cowans Ford Dam.
McGuire Nuclear Station and the EnergyExplorium host many free events throughout the year, including Movies@McGuire on an enormous outdoor movie screen. “One of our most popular annual events is the Charlotte Symphony concert,” says Christine. “It’s not unusual to see more than 10,000 music lovers, young and old, taking advantage of this free concert under the stars.” Other events include home school fairs, teacher workshops, a Boy Scout Encampment and art shows. The Charlotte Symphony event will be held on Friday, June 21, at 8 p.m. Movies@McGuire are scheduled for July 26 and Aug. 23.
For details, directions, and information about other special events, visit Duke Energy’s website at http://www.dukeenergy.com/energyexplorium.