Turkey Creek Lavender

Turkey Creek Lavender

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day is Not Just About a Barbecue!

Every year barbecue grills are fired up to pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of brave men and women who have served our country.

That sounds bad, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it's the truth. People all across the country plan their weekend at the lake or the beach, boating, camping, swimming, relaxing, shopping, sleeping, enjoying a day off. And there's nothing wrong with that, but Memorial Day is more than just the unofficial kick-off of the summer season.

It's especially important that this generation, and future generations, understand that Memorial Day is not just about the barbecue, and that they appreciate the significance of the day.

Memorial Day was originally established as Decoration Day on May 5, 1868 as a way to give Americans an opportunity to decorate the graves of service members killed in the Civil War. After World War I, the observance was expanded to honor all troops killed in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress and was determined to be observed on the last Monday in May so that Americans can honor their fallen heroes.

Many will visit graves and cemeteries, and attend memorial ceremonies today all across the country. But most will not.

My young cousin Paul Cope is in Afghanistan right now. He periodically sends out a little newsletter to friends and family about what's going on. He has given me permission to share his latest post with you today. 
Paul and I when he was here at Ft. Sill

Friday, May 25, 2012

Greetings all!

I hope this finds you all in good health and great spirits.  As the subject line indicates, we have now surpassed the century mark, meaning we now have less than 100 days left in country.  We have started receiving information about the unit that will be replacing us, meeting with their representatives, and started making plans to demobilize and go home!  With that comes a new set of challenges and opportunities.  Most prevalent in my world are the Soldiers and Airmen that are getting complacent and losing focus here and beginning to get into more trouble.  Typically on any deployment we see a spike in military justice actions early on at about the 3 month mark and then at the end when we have about 60 days left in theatre.  As we begin to approach that mark, we have seen our workload steadily increase.  Most of the Soldier issues stem from losing military bearing and disrespecting officers and non-commissioned officers, failing to show up on time for work, and fighting with other Soldiers.  The extreme heat and poor living conditions are also contributing to this.  Most of our Soldiers are still residing in large tents with 30-40 of their "closest" friends and the temperatures have been exceeding 110-115 degrees every day.  There's a bit of a break in the heat at night, when we will see a drop to about 85-90.  However, the hottest days are yet to come.  We are expecting the temps to top 130 in the next month.  It will be miserable to say the least.

This week, I'm attending a training course at another base.  The accommodations here are amazing compared to what we've been living up north.  There's even a swimming pool!  The training should be good and it's a nice break from the normal routine.  The training is an advanced course on anti-terrorism and force protection.  A lot of it is a study into previous terrorist attacks on US assets so that we can attempt to avoid repeating our past mistakes.  It also delves into the planning of construction of new facilities, upgrading old facilities, and establishing checkpoints, entry control points, and other critical infrastructure.  It so far has been fascinating and I feel like it is one of the most beneficial courses I've attended.  In fact, I'm sitting in the class, awaiting the results of the final exam, as I type this email.

I'm looking forward to getting back to the States and catching up with everyone and everything that I've missed  over the last year.  Overall, the deployment has been eye-opening and a true learning experience.  I have done and seen things that I could never have imagined.  It will certainly be something to remember, whether we like it or not.

We've also been living through a number of major and minor sandstorms, known as Shamals and Haboobs.  Shamals are very lengthy sand storms that can last upwards of 5-6 days and are usually accompanied by thunderstorms.  Of course you can probably imagine when you incorporate rain into blinding sand and dust, it begins raining mud.  It's...interesting.  Haboobs on the other hand, are short, high intensity sandstorms.  They pop up quickly and usually only last a day or so.  However, we've been having those on a nightly basis for the last couple of days.  The visibility in either type of storm will usually drop to less than 100 meters and the air quality becomes horrible, making it difficult to breathe when outside.  You can draw parallels between these and the dust storms in Western Kansas, but times 100.

As always, we're proud to be here serving the United States, but at this point, I think we're all ready for a break.  Thank you all for your continued support and kindness.  The letters, emails, and care packages have been overwhelming and much appreciated.

Until next time, I remain faithfully yours,

CPT Paul W. Cope
Command Judge Advocate
1-108th AV REGT
"Strength and Courage!"

I thought you might enjoy his personal account. God willing, he will be coming home safely in less than 100 days.

But for the thousands who did not make it home, for the thousands who have died in service to our country, for the thousands who have died for our freedom, I hope you will pause at 3:00 as part of The National Moment of Remembrance Act and remember.
 "To ensure the sacrifices of America ’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.
The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

Wishing you a wonderful day, wherever you are.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Best Spicy Sweet Cheater Pickles!!!

Cheater Pickles! You read that right. Cheater. Pickles. Easy and scrumptious. Sweet and spicy. All that goodness in a little pickle. Could be the best pickle you ever eat.

Shhhhh. No one has to know you cheated.

I have been repeatedly asked for this recipe. Hounded really. Well, your hounding has finally worn me down. And now I have to fess up to just how easy these are to make. I never thought I'd be doing this, belive me.

Just in time for the Memorial Day weekend, impress your friends and family...but let them think you actually pickled these yummy little gems.

I've been making these, and giving them away, for right about 16 years. A long time to keep a secret, don't you think?

Here's what you'll need for Cheater Pickles...yep, that's it.

Cheater Pickles
1 large jar of kosher dills
1 2 oz. bottle of Tabasco
1 4 lb. bag of sugar

Drain all the juice off of the pickles.

Slice across into approximately 1/2 inch thick slices.

Now layer the slices with the sugar and tabasco. You don't have to be too precise here...it will all turn to liquid in a few days and blend together nicely.

Put the lid on nice and tight because each day for the next 3-5 days you will be turning these over, rotating the jar until all the sugar has dissolved.

Here you can see the sugar is turning to liquid in the jar.

After about 5 days the sugar will be fully dissolved and the pickle slices will have absorbed the tabasco laden syrup, creating a nice spicy sweet pickle.

Of course, you can add more tabasco for extra spicy pickles if you want. We find 1 2-ounce bottle just perfect. And we like the large pickle slices. You could substitute a large jar of the hamburger slices.

Once the sugar is fully dissolved and you are happy with the taste, simply ladle the pickle slices into their own canning jars, pour syrup over them to cover, put that lid on, label if desired, and share! Make sure to tell people to keep them refrigerated since you didn't actually can them!
Cheater Pickles

(I usually cover them in syrup but for the picture I just poured the syrup in half way.)

That's it. Except enjoying them, of course. Awesome on grilled burgers, chopped for relish, chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad, sliced up and eaten on a cracker...great served with any sandwich...wherever a pickle is called for! And this suggestion from Uncle Jack and Aunt Alberta...add a kick to your potato salad! Love this idea! Thanks Uncle Jack!

So now the jig is up and you can make your own. And quit nagging me for the recipe.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Quick and Easy Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

This Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp is perfect for the transition from spring to summer baking. This rhubarb was actually from last years garden and has been safely tucked into the freezer. The historical Oklahoma drought of 2011 did my poor rhubarb in, and it did not come back this year. So, while cleaning out the freezer to make room for more of Eva's goat milk, I spied a package waiting to be used.

When I was younger I was not a fan or rhubarb. Just too tart. Something happens to those taste buds as we get older. Now I find it delicious. Go figure.

The only concession is that I don't like it by itself. I like it with something else, usually strawberries. Strawberry Rhubarb Jam is a favorite now.

This recipe is adapted from another recipe that only had plain old rhubarb, so you can make it that way if you want to.

I bake my rhubarb crisp in individual ramekins so I can share with my neighbors. For the sake of the picture I removed it from the ramekin. These are cool little dishes, a gift from my brother and sis-in-law for Christmas one year from Crate and Barrel. We use them for soup, stew, I even bake chicken pot pie in them. Very cool.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
3 cups rhubarb, chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups strawberries, cut in half, or quartered, depending on size
2/3 cup flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
10 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup old fashioned oats

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Chop and put the rhubarb and strawberries in a large bowl. Sprinkle with a few tablespoons of granulated sugar and toss. Evenly divide the rhubarb and strawberries among eight 1 cup ramekins. Stir together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender, cut in the cold butter until it is coarsely mixed. Stir in the oats. Sprinkle the topping generously over the rhubarb-strawberry mixture in each ramekin. Bake 40-50 minutes until the topping is brown and the filling bubbly. Serve warm with fresh sweetened whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream. Yumm!

I'm hoping one of the farmers at the Lawton Farmer's Market will have rhubarb this year. Keeping my fingers crossed! Perhaps I should add a little lavender. Hmmmmmm.....

Have a wonderful day, wherever you are!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Lavender is Blooming at Turkey Creek!

If you've ever wanted to try your hand at making lavender wands, cooking with fresh lavender blossoms, or if you just like the look and smell of fresh lavender, we'll have some at the Lawton Farmer's Market starting this Saturday! We'll leave the butterflies at home though!

See you there!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cooking With Lavender: Lavender Meringues for Mother's Day

Lavender Mernigues for Mother's Day

Oh, you heavenly meringues! So easy and so delicious! Even my sons eat these, and if I don't hide them, they eat them all! Light as air, with a little crunch and a little chew. Perfection.

I took my regular meringue cookie recipe and used lavender sugar in place of regular granulated sugar. Subtle, but so good. And I piped them in little meringue kisses just so I could package them especially for Mother's Day.

But wait, there's a bonus! I also piped meringue shells, filled them with whipped cream, and doused them with sweet, syrupy strawberries. So this is really a double duty recipe!

You will want to make these early in the day so everything is ready to assemble by dessert time. Start by making your lavender sugar ahead of time, which we talked about in this post. Slice or mash your fresh strawberries and sprinkle with granulated sugar, set aside so they can spend the day getting juicy!

 Lastly, make the meringues because they have to sit in the oven and dry out for 6 hours. You could do these the day before, but beware of humidity! They lose their crispness and become gummy. Still good, but not the effect we're looking for.

Lavender Meringues
2 egg whites, slightly beaten
2/3 cup lavender sugar
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover cookie sheets with aluminum foil or use a silpat. Beat egg whites in a small bowl until foamy. Gradually beat in sugar until meringue forms stiff peaks. Add the pinch of salt and beat slightly. Using a large star tip and a piping bag, fill the bag and pipe meringues onto lined cookie sheet.

For the meringue shells: Use the back of a spoon and spread the meringue in a 3 inch circle. Pipe an edge around the meringue circle.

Place in the oven. Turn the oven off. Do not open the door for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Note for meringue cookies: You can also just drop the meringues by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Now you're ready to package the cute little cookies for Mother's Day, or enjoy the shells filled with whipped cream and strawberries.
Lavender Meringue Shells

Lavender Meringue Shells filled with
whipped cream and strawberries!

Okay, so I couldn't wait till Mother's Day!

Lastly, to package the Lavender Meringue cookies I used a simple clear cello bag and for the header a darling Mother's Day graphic from the Graphics Fairy. Here is the link to download the card. Can be used as a Mother's Day card, too, in case, you know, you forgot to get your Mom a card. I downsized it to a 5x7 for the cello bag header.

For all you Mom's out there, I sincerely wish you the happiest of Mother's Days. For my own sweet Mothers, lots of love to you both!

And for my daughter, who is celebrating her very First Mother's Day, enjoy! They grow up way too fast! 
Katie, Kael and Kyle

A big thank you to my daughter and her little family for the beautiful flowers! So gorgeous! Hugs all around!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cooking With Lavender: Lavender Whipped Cream

Lavender Whipped Cream...ummm, just saying it...sooo good. Sooo easy.

It's always rather interesting when people pick up packets of culinary lavender at the Lawton Farmer's Market and are surprised that you can cook with it. Well, needless to say, after I get done extolling the many and varied virtues of consuming, cooking with, and otherwise using lavender, their eyes begin to glaze. (Sorry, can't help it.)

So here's yet another fun and versatile way to use culinary lavender.

It just kicks that whipped cream up a notch, making it a bit more complex and oh, so yummy.

First we'll start by infusing the cream with culinary lavender buds.

Super easy, just add a tablespoon of culinary lavender to a pint carton of whipping cream and bring up the heat just until a few bubbles start at the edge.

 Remember, we're just heating it here to get the infusion started. Then remove from heat, put on the lid and chill thoroughly.

Once the cream is chilled, strain out the lavender buds.

To the cream, add 1/4-1/3 cup granulated sugar, or whatever your taste dictates. (Sometimes I use lavender sugar, or half lavender sugar and half plain sugar.)

Now whip the cream until it is the consistency you like your whipped cream to be. (Caution: do not overwhip, because as you know it will break down again and it is ruined. Yes, I learned that the hard way a long time ago!)

So now you can chill your Lavender Whipped Cream for later, or use it right away.

To say I love whipped cream with strawberries would be a serious understatement. I think they're the perfect marriage of taste and texture, don't you? And really, sort of sexy and sensual. Have you ever noticed when you mention whipped cream and strawberries your girlfriends just smirk? I mean.

I love to stuff those giant California strawberries. You can easily make a dessert out of just one of those big boys. Cut off the leaves, remove the core, slice a few slits in the top and just pipe that delicious lavender whipped cream in. My culinary lavender is blooming so I added a few fresh blossoms for color.

Or, topping sliced strawberries with lavender whipped cream...simple and delicious.

Love strawberries and whipped cream on angel food cake, or layered in a sponge cake. I even love a dollop on hot chocolate. Lavender and chocolate? Yes, but we'll have to wait for another day so I can extol the virtues of that concoction!

I know I've said this before, but the real key when cooking with lavender is don't overdo it. If 1 tablespoon isn't a strong enough flavor for you, try 2 next time. It's all adjustable.

The easiest, and most sensual way is, of course, just dipping and biting. Or sharing.
Wishing you a wonderful day, wherever you are! Thanks for stopping by. And if you haven't "liked" us on FB yet, we'd love to see your smiling face there, too!


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