Cucumber Recipes for the August Garden

cropped cucumber bud 762ae36b2d07c81606229e9c7c890e65It’s August and in Central Michigan the farmers’ markets are in full swing. There are family reunions taking place and end of summer gatherings held at a moments notice.

Its also time to pick up speed harvesting the veggie patch. I’ve tried to keep my garden under control with only one or two plantings of a vegetable type, and still there is plenty to give neighbors or donate to food shares—I’ve watered a lot during this year’s drought, so there’s that adding to the abundance.

The tomatoes are still green (there will be a lot of them ripening all at once!) but the Straight Eights cucumbers are freakishly productive—unwittingly I planted three hills. With a bumper crop coming on faster than I can give them away, I made a couple of my favorite cucumber recipes. Thought you might enjoy them too!

This cucumber salad is a single person’s size, but can be double or triple as needed. Keep in mind it only keeps for 24 hours and then separates becoming watery…cucumbers are like that, you know.

Creamy Cucumber Salad

1 large cucumber, peeled, thinly sliced, sprinkled with 1 tsp. table salt and set aside for 30 minutes, then drained

COMBINE:

½ cup sour cream

4 tsp. cider vinegar

2 tbl. fresh chives (or 1 tbl. green onion tops diced)

1 tsp. dried dill weed

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Pour sour cream mix over cucumbers and gently mix. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Serve.

This next recipe is a quick salad, and my favorite! Though the measurements are flexible, it always comes out perfectly fine: two parts sour cream to one part mayo. It too separates, though because it lacks vinegar not quite as bad. I’ve eaten it up to three days out by just draining the water off the top.

Dilled Cucumbers in Sour Cream

2 medium cucumbers, peeled, thinly sliced

COMBINE:

1 cup (small tub) sour cream

1/3 cup mayonnaise (not salad dressing!)

2 tbl. dill weed (for each additional cup of sour cream/mayo, add another tablespoon)

The following recipe will keep for a week! I highly doubt these addictive little crunchers will last that long. I love the crispiness of the cucumbers and the cooling flavor of this salad.

Pickled Cucumber Salad

3 medium cucumbers, skin on, thinly sliced

½ Vidalia onion, thinly sliced

3 tbl. fresh minced dill (or parsley), up to 1/3 cup if desired

COMBINE: Mix until sugar is dissolved

½ cup white vinegar

1 cup sugar

¾ cup water

½ tsp. table salt

In a 2-quart, sealable glass container toss onions and cucumbers with dill. Pour liquid on top, cover and let set for 24 hours (well, okay, 10 hours if you want them with dinner).

This recipe takes more time, but is well worth the effort. A familiar summer-time fare in my kitchen.

Gazpacho

2 cups cucumber, peeled and chopped

3 lbs, approximately 6 cups, chopped tomatoes

32 oz. tomato juice

1 ½ cup green bell pepper, chopped

1 ¼ cup Vidalia sweet onion, finely diced

1 cup celery, finely diced

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 tbl. rice vinegar

1 tbl. cider vinegar

1 tbl. balsamic vinegar

¼ tsp. dried basil

¾ tsp. table salt

½ tsp. fresh ground pepper

½ tsp. hot sauce

Combine all ingredients, cover and chill for 4 hours. Yields 8-12 servings.

I have often substituted home canned or frozen tomatoes for fresh, but then reduced the juice by 8 oz. The vinegar combinations can be whatever you have on hand, except for white vinegar which is too harsh for this recipe. It is a nice change of taste to use red bell peppers, or English cucumbers with their skins on.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. May God bless you with enough to share.

Image by svklimkin, morguefile.com.

 

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Decompressing; Photos in a Garden

Aleteia pro life gardenIt’s been all too much. We’ve heard, “The gates of hell will not prevail…” but Satan is sure having a go at it during this Year of Mercy! So much hate, intolerance, and violence.

A cartoon making the rounds on social media says, “My desire to be well informed is at odds with my desire to remain sane.” After reading that I stepped away from the computer, took my rosary and camera, and heading into the garden to rest my weary heart in the company of the Creator.

Here are a few of the photos that I took (sorry if they seem a bit grainy). Rest your eyes a moment, take a deep breath and pray, Come Holy Spirit, come now, come as you wish.

Trumpet Vine

Trumpet Vine

asiatic lilies

Asiatic Lily

 

 

 

 

 

Mouse Ears Hosta

Mouse Ears Hosta

Golden Splendor Lily

Golden Splendor Lily

Pansies

Pansies

Annabelle Hydrangea

Annabelle Hydrangea

Daylily

Daylily

I hope these images may have softened the anguish, we’re all feeling it.

A favorite quote from St. Teresa of Avila helps me to realign when my thoughts tip towards despair.

A beginner must think of herself as one setting out to make a garden in which her Beloved Lord is to take his delight…”

Let us all orient ourselves to becoming that garden, striving to bloom among pestilence and weeds.

If you’re inclined, there are some powerful and focused prayers from Elizabeth Scalia here and here.

Images by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl OSB. All rights reserved.

 

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Impatient to be Fed

DSCN8093 (1)Mass was at a church that had been reclassified, rather, to use the Bishop’s words, “suppressed” as an Oratory. After a priest created a rift in the faithful the number of parishioners had dropped. The decline in the worshipping community never regained its former attendance. 

I sat back and lifted the kneeler having offered the prayers brought with me. I looked at the many beautiful, although disparate images and statues about the modern octagonal structure. On the wall behind the altar a modern mosaic framed a crowned and stylized risen Christ the King. To each side of it were hung large cloth portraits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and matching Immaculate Heart of Mary, reminiscent of 1950s prayer cards. Each of the side walls framed an assortment of Marian statues and images, statues of saints, and portraits and crucifixes of Jesus. It felt crowded, jarring, as if by adding more, more holiness would come. 

We stood as the priest and deacon advanced down the main aisle. I groaned to myself. The priest was in his nineties. He is a holy and dedicated priest who had served our churches well and for a very long time. Of late he would get confused while at the altar. His homilies would ramble on and on as he included bits of well worn verses from the whole of the Bible. Cohesiveness had escaped him, though the love for shepherding had not. It was going to be a long service. 

The accompanying deacon exaggerated all that he deemed appropriately holy. His slow and deliberate affectations, and singing everything, were a distraction. When he read the Gospel he paused for drama. At every. Single. Word. 

My expectations for being nourished by the Word of God were thwarted. I was irked by the whole of it all with these two presiding. I was not into Mass and numbly recited the Penitential Act, barely listened to the readings, and mentally checked out as the priest hobbled to the ambo for what I anticipated to be one of his long disjointed homilies.

Finally. We were at the point of the Eucharistic Prayers.

After the aged priest offered a cursory, and what appeared painful, genuflection, the tremors in his hands stopped as he raised the host inches above the altar. Having lowered his arms we the congregation chanted “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…” And it hit me—my judging heart had come close to silencing communion with God! 

The shame of my critical nature caused me to pause before I moved into the communion line. I realized I needed the Eucharist more than ever that morning. Tears welled up as I ate and drank His body and blood and felt—begged—the words “…and my soul shall be healed.” 

I didn’t understand why I felt impatience toward a loving and dedicated priest who for decades had given powerful homilies that fed the soul and encouraged the mind.  And what business was it of mine how a deacon is inspired at Mass? 

I am still praying about my sense of entitlement that long ago Sunday…and a strong need for Grace.

(7/2014)

Image courtesy morguefile.com.

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Prayers and Pies for Memorial Day

bowl of berriesAre you gathering with friends and family after Memorial Day services? Wondering what to bring to the pot-luck? Bring a pie! Its easy to tote, doesn’t need ice, can be made ahead and is a fun we-be-fancy dessert to share!

Since the Civil War, Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, is a day to honor our deceased veterans. Much like All Souls and All Saints days celebrated in late autumn, families gather and remember the dead and pray for the repose of the soul.

During May rhubarb in Michigan is abundant and, at the grocers, berries plentiful; all make yummy pies. Using those fruits as starters, here are a few of my favorite pies shared during Memorial Day weekends.

Red, White, and Blueberry Cream Pie

This pie tastes like a cross between cheese cake, cream pie, and a regular berry pie. It is my most requested dessert!

One 9” pie shell, unbaked, pressed into pie plate.

Filling, mix together, set aside for about 5 minutes:

1 tsp corn starch

2 tbl flour

1 ¼ cup sugar

¼ tsp salt

1 cup sour cream

1 egg beaten

Fruit: 3 cups fresh berries. I usually use a pint of blueberries, half-pint red raspberries, and quartered strawberries to make up the difference. Evenly spread fruit into bottom of unbaked pie crust.

Pour filling mix over berries. Bake 400º for 35-40 minutes (use a pizza pan underneath in case it bubbles over).

Crumble Topping: mix together

2 tbl sugar

3 tbl chopped pecans or walnuts

3 tbl flour

3 tbl butter

After 40 minutes, remove pie from oven, and sprinkle topping over pie. Return to oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Chill before serving.

For my birthday–May 30th–my grandmother would bake a rhubarb-custard pie instead of cake. Though best served chilled, we would occasionally eat it warm with vanilla ice cream.

Grandma’s Rhubarb-Custard

9” pie crust for top and bottom

Filling:

1 ½ cups sugar

3 tbl instant tapioca

2 egg yolks

Let stand for 15 minutes, and then add…

3 cups fresh rhubarb, sliced in ½” pieces

Place pie shell in 9” pie plate; add filling, cover with crust. Crimp edges and cut vents into top crust. Brush with beaten egg whites and lightly sprinkle with about a teaspoon of sugar. Bake 350 º for 1-1 ½ hours until crust is brown. Use a pizza pan underneath pie in case it bubbles over.

This blueberry pie is a quick and easy pie with a little zest, great for any occasion!

Margaret’s Blueberry Pie

9” pie crust for top and bottom

Filling:

4 cups blueberries

1 ½ cup sugar

3 tbl corn starch

2 tbl instant tapioca

½ tsp grated lemon peel

1/8-1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbl cold butter (cut into eighths and dotted on top of filling)

Mix filling, pour into pie shell, dot with butter, and add top crust. Crimp edges and cut vent holes in top. Bake 400 º for 45 minutes, until crust is brown. You guessed it…use a pizza pan underneath pie in case it bubbles over.

So there you have it, simple as pie! A lovely practice as you make your dessert is to offer prayers for those with whom it will be shared.

Image courtesy morguefile.com.

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This is the Way, Walk in it?

cropped skunkcabbage file6101302727731I was walking a river path in the northern third of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. My rubber half-boots made sucking sounds when, avoiding puddles, I walked on the soggy chartreuse grass. The thaw had left the ground and spring rains melted the earth. It was mud season.

Near the end of my trek, on the low side of the path, was a narrowing between trees. On each side grew tangles of brambles. Across the whole of the path was a sizeable puddle…and a quandary. How was I going to get to the other side? I was too old and heavy to leap across the four foot expanse and too unsteady to agilely tip-toe around its unknown slippery depths.

I studied the gray-green surface and thought… There might be only a thin layer of mud below. Then again, the path I had been walking along had had sizeable divots from exposed mole runs or possibly foxes—pretty good chance of a hole beneath the water. I picked up a large stone and tossed it in the center, sighing as it disappeared.

I imagined that if I stared long enough at the puddle some unknown saint-of-conundrums would miraculously dry it up. Or possibly a bunny would come along and hop through the puddle, revealing the depth. And where was that chivalrous man willing to dirty his cloak for a damsel in distress?

I can imagine a lot of things, but couldn’t imagine away that puddle.

When perplexed—by people, rarely by nature—I try to listen for the whisper of the Holy Spirit. A Bible verse (Isaiah 30:21) came to mind, “…this is the way; walk in it…” God’s humor at that moment was nearly lost. I looked to the heavens above naked branches and with a tone of sarcasm asked, “Seriously, you’re going with that verse?”

I rolled-up my pant legs, then unfolded the cuff of my socks so they were higher above my ankles. I slipped off my half boots and walked cautiously down the soggy path, letting out a small gasp at the first step into the cold muddy water.

Gingerly keeping my balance I brought the other foot down and sank ankle deep and gasped again as the cold mud covered my foot. Another step and the anxiety gave way to hilarity of the suck-plop sound of each step.

Holding on to the trunk of a tree I squished about—feet nearly numb with cold—in the gravelly muck. I giggled then self-consciously silenced myself peering around to see if any one was near. What would they think of a gray-haired woman in 50º weather stomping about ankle deep in mud? I stopped my playing and stepped carefully out the other side.

A few yards up was a fallen tree. I sat on it, pulled off my socks and smacked them against its trunk to remove the mud. Drying my feet with a scarf, I rolled down pant legs and slipped on shoes.

Having a little fun traversing the mud made the journey memorable. Sometimes when faced with the mud of life, we just have to “walk in it,” eventually getting to the high side and cleaning things up as best we can.

(5/2013)

Image courtesy morguefile.com.

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