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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: God Bless the USA!

By Sherrie Norris

Van and I were able to see Lee Greenwood in concert recently during his 40th anniversary God Bless America tour. WOW is all I can say! Not to mention the fact, (well that’s what I’m actually doing) that I was just a young thing when that song hit the airways. And, to see Greenwood, now in his early 80s, strutting across the stage belting out that huge hit still today was a treat, for sure. And, yeah, there were only a handful of folks under 50 in the audience.

That song has spoken to millions of people through the years, and exceeded any expectations Greenwood had, he said, when he wrote it in the back of his tour bus in 1983. It has been in the top five on the country singles charts three different times, the only song in any genre of music to achieve that feat. It was also No. 1 on the pop charts after 9/11/01. In addition, CBS News voted “God Bless The U.S.A.” the most recognizable patriotic song in America. 

Greenwood said, “It is the song I always felt the need to write. I wanted to have something that would unite Americans from coast to coast and to instill pride back in the United States. The song represents my family, my community and those men and women who have paid the price for the freedoms we all love and enjoy.”

It still speaks to us on many levels, and this week, it is a stark reminder to many of us of what really matters.

So, as we embark on the summer’s biggest celebration, I do ask that God continues to bless America and that we can all come together for just one day, if nothing else. Take a minute or two and listen to that song in the coming days and hold close to your heart those poignant words that should never be forgotten. 

In the meantime, try a few of these patriotic-themed treats of your own for the upcoming holiday week. Hopefully, you will be surrounded with lots of fun with family and friends in the mix. 

Healthy Blueberry Watermelon Feta Salad

 2 cups watermelon cubes

½ cup of blueberries 

¼ cup feta cheese

2 cups of mixed greens (optional but highly recommended; 

1 tablespoon of balsamic reduction 

1 – 2 sprigs of mint leaves 

Wash and dry blueberries. Clean/wash, trim or cut the greens if not already washed. Layer bottom of clear salad bowl or dish with greens.

Add watermelon cubes on top of the salad; Toss in the blueberries; sprinkle the feta cheese. Throw in a couple of mint leaves.

Sprinkle on 1 – 2 tsps. balsamic glaze. (One tablespoon may be enough.)

Double recipe if feeding more than two or three people.

Patriotic Muffins  

½ cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 cups flour

2 eggs

½  cup milk

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 ½ cups blueberries (fresh or frozen) 

1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)

2 tsp. sugar

Cream butter and 1 cup sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add vanilla to milk and alternately add dry ingredients with milk into butter and sugar mixture until combined. Don’t over mix. Fold in berries and spoon into 12 muffins lined with cupcake papers. Sprinkle 2 tsps. sugar over muffins and bake at 375 for 30 to 35 minutes. Frozen berries handle more easily. Makes 1 dozen.

Colorful Congealed Salad

2 pkgs. raspberry Jell-O

3 cups hot water

1 pkg. unflavored gelatin

½  cup cold water

1 tsp. vanilla (optional)

1 cup cream

1 cup sugar

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese

½  cup chopped nuts

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)

Dissolve 1 pkg. raspberry Jell-O in 2 cups hot water. Chill until set. Soften unflavored gelatin in cold water. Heat cream, sugar, and cream cheese, add to softened gelatin mixture. Stir until all ingredients are dissolved. Cool. Add nuts and vanilla, pour over gelatin mixture and chill until set. Dissolve remaining raspberry Jell-O in one cup hot water. Add blueberries, pour over cream layers, chill until set. 

Independence Day Cookies  

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 cups butter flavored shortening (Crisco)

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 (12 oz.) pkg. white chocolate chips

1 (12 oz.) pkg. dried blueberries

2 (6 oz.) pkgs. dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Beat shortening, white and brown sugars with an electric mixer in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Fold in the white chocolate chips, blueberries, and cranberries, mixing just enough to evenly combine.

Roll dough into walnut-sized balls and place 2-inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Flatten each ball to about ½ -inch thick.

Bake at 350°F until  lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Strawberry “Stuff”

1 large angel food cake

1 (6 oz.) box strawberry Jell-O

1 pkg. frozen strawberries, thawed/reserve the juice

1 lg. Cool Whip

Break up prepared cake into pieces/cubes and place in a clear 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Mix Jell-O according to package, using reserved strawberry juice for cold water; add enough water to make 2 cups. Add Cool Whip to Jell-O; fold until mixed. Add strawberries. Pour over cake cubes. Cover with Cool Whip and garnish with fresh strawberries and blueberries. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.