The south has way too much to offer

I just had to ask. Is it getting foggy out or is it just my eyes?  Spring is in the air full force.  The pollen has me second guessing what I see.  

I do love this time of year, except for the pollen.  You can wash your car, and five minutes later, the pollen is back on it.  

I have rinsed off my porches, and in five minutes, the pollen is right back on it.  I love to sit outside and so I guess I will continue to rinse everything off until it is gone.

The pollen is so bad I think it has my puppy sneezing.  

I never had allergies growing up. Now that I am older, they have hit me hard.  I think my allergies only started five or six years ago.  Every year it gets worse.  I guess I didn’t have allergy problems when I was younger because the snow was on the ground til the end of April. Plus, I don’t remember pollen being bad in Maine.  Each year, we would have beautiful blooms and pretty things, but they come out during May or June.

After being here more than 25 years, I am still trying to get used to things in the south.  I will never get used to the heat.  I guess you just learn to live with it.  

In Maine, most people do not have air conditioning in their homes.  One or two families may have window air conditioner units, but most just have ceiling fans.  There are only a few weeks out of the year when the heat is unbearable.  We would turn on the fans and deal with it.  

In the south I am sure there a few without air conditioning, but not many.  How they deal with it is beyond me.  But you have to remember there wasn’t always air conditioning in houses.  I am so glad I didn’t live during those times.

Another thing I am still trying to get use to is dealing with all the bugs.  They are everywhere.  

In Maine, we had bugs, but not like here. As a child, I remember laying in the grass looking up at the clouds to see what shapes we could see — no blanket just the cool grass.  

Around here, there is no way you can lay in the grass.  There is every kind of bug you can imagine.

One time, I sat in the grass for a minute. I felt something crawling on me and had to get up.  I am not a “science girl,” so I don’t know if what crawled on me was poisonous or not. If I see a spider, they are all “poisonous” in my book.  Some of the “flying things” around here are very scary looking.  The horse flies around here are bigger than Dallas.  

Scorpions are another thing I don’t want to have anything to do with.  I stepped on one once and couldn’t walk for two days.

One other thing I will never get used to is all the fire ants.  Those things are everywhere. If you happen to step in an ant bed by mistake, well, you are done for.  You will swell, hurt, and itch for days.

Maine doesn’t have even a quarter of the things that have down here because nothing can live in the kind of weather up there.  

Spring and summer are the only seasons where the bugs come out..  They do have black flies that will eat you up.  Once September arrives, the bugs are looking for a place to survive the winter.

I remember as a kid seeing snakes and grabbing them by the tail and playing with them.  There are no poisonous snakes in Maine.  I don’t know my snakes, so I just stay way away from all of them here.  

Even after all this, and still trying to get use to the south, I would never move back to Maine.  Winters are harsh.  I can handle the heat before I can handle the snow anymore.  Maine had one of their worst winters this year with over 18 feet of snow.  

It was one of Maine’s coldest winters also.  I can count on one hand the times I had to wear a winter jacket this year.  In Maine people are still wearing them.

I’ll take the bugs, snakes, heat and pollen and make the best of it.  You can always go inside, cool off and get away from all that stuff outside.  I still can tell you after all this, I still love the south.

Layered Taco Salad {For a Crowd or Family Taco Night!}

Dressing:

1 c. sour cream

1/4 c. mayonnaise

1/4 c. prepared salsa

½ tsp. taco seasoning mix {from a 1 oz. packet}

Salad:

1 lb. ground beef

1 (1 oz.) packet taco seasoning {use 1/2 tsp. of this packet for the dressing above}

2/3 c. water

6 c. chopped iceberg lettuce {about 1 small head … or Romaine works too, if you’d prefer}

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed & well-drained

12 oz. prepared salsa

1 (12 oz.) package frozen corn, thawed & well-drained

1 (2.25 oz.) can sliced black olives, well-drained

1/2 c. to 1 c. finely chopped red onion

3 Roma tomatoes, seeded & chopped

2 c. (8 oz.) shredded Colby cheese {I shred my own because I think it has better flavor}

1 or 2 avocados, peeled & cubed

Directions

PREPARE THE DRESSING: In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, salsa, and taco seasoning. Set aside.

PREPARE THE MEAT:  In a saute pan, brown the ground beef; drain any fat.  Stir in taco seasoning and water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 4 minutes.  Stir frequently.

Set seasoned meat mixture aside to cool.

PREPARE THE SALAD:  In a glass serving bowl, trifle bowl or 9×13” baking dish, layer the lettuce first, then black beans, and seasoned meat. {Do not toss.}

Pour salsa evenly over the seasoned meat.  Do not spread the salsa all the way to the very edge of the meat layer ~ if you do, liquid from the salsa will drip down the edge of the salad container and collect in the bottom.  Keeping the salsa back from the edge minimizes this.

On top of the salsa, layer the corn, black olives, and red onion.  Spread the dressing mixture evenly over the onion layer.

Top the dressing mixture with a layer tomatoes and then a layer of cheese.

Cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.

At serving time, top with cubed avocado.  Serve with chopped fresh cilantro and more salsa, if desired.

Tina Specht is co-publisher of the Minden Press-Herald. She shares her thoughts and recipes each Thursday.