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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Celebrating America Is What It’s All About

By Sherrie Norris

It doesn’t seem possible that we have arrived at summer, and even more so that we’re actually talking about celebrating Independence Day in the next week.

This time last year, we were trying to muddle our way through a cloud of uncertainty, hoping that normalcy was around the next corner. While we might never reach that exact destination, anything resembling  “normal” seems closer than it has been in quite a while.

It’s been a hard year, no doubt about it, but we’re coming out of the slump and looking for brighter days ahead. It’s good to be out and about again, seeing smiling faces and trying to find the good that we know is out there.

Freedom is a great thing to celebrate and I hope we can all do just that in the coming days. It’s something we’ve often taken for granted, but I think we’ve all gained a new perspective in the last year. We’ve certainly been given stark reminders that freedom isn’t free and that many of our rights are now at stake.

Few things stir up more of an emotional response in many of us as does our beautiful American flag and all it represents. At the same time, our hearts hurt deeply as we see our flag desecrated and offered no respect by those who do not comprehend its significance.  

 I am proud to be an American and I will never deny my heritage and my pride in America. I will always be grateful for those who made it possible by fighting for our country, and especially for those who gave their lives as the ultimate sacrifice.

Whether you are hosting a backyard barbecue, joining friends in community gatherings and parades, please take a moment to reflect on what it’s all about. And hopefully, we can help with a few suggestions for your celebrations.

Baby Back Ribs

1 Tbsp. paprika

1 ½ tsp. garlic salt

1 tsp. celery salt

½ tsp. ground black pepper

¼ tsp. ground red pepper

4 lbs. pork baby back ribs, cut into 3 to 4 rib portions

Combine seasonings; rub over all surfaces of ribs. Place in foil-lined roasting pan, bake for 40 minutes at about 325.

Meanwhile, fire-up the grill. Cook ribs over medium heat for 10 minutes. Brush with barbecue sauce for 10 minutes on each side or until ribs are tender and browned.

Basic Barbecue Sauce: 

½ cup ketchup

1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 Tbsp. cider vinegar

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp. soy sauce

Combine ingredients and apply to ribs, chicken, etc. as desired.

Five Layer Slaw

2 cups packaged coleslaw mix

2 cups shredded carrots

2 cups packaged broccoli slaw mix

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 cup coleslaw dressing

Cherry tomatoes, optional

Spread half of the coleslaw mix into bottom of clear glass bowl. Top with half the carrots, half broccoli slaw and half pepper. Drizzle with half the dressing. Repeat layers.

Drizzle remaining coleslaw dressing over all. Cover and refrigerate for 2-24 hours. Toss before serving. Add cherry tomatoes to the top, if desired. 

 Simple Fruit Pie 

1 graham cracker crust

1 can blueberry pie filling

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

12 oz. Cool Whip

1 can cherry pie filling

Pour blueberry pie filling into graham cracker crust; refrigerate for 30 minutes. Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth.

Fold in whipped topping. Spread cream cheese mixture over blueberry filling; refrigerate for 30 minutes. Spread cherry pie filling over cheese mixture. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

Festive Cheese Spread

1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

¼ cup shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese

2 Tbsp. sliced black olives

¼ cup salsa

Variety of crackers

Place cream cheese between two sheets of waxed paper; with rolling pin, roll out to a rectangle. Remove top sheet of waxed paper and invert to oblong serving plate. Remove remaining waxed paper. Coat top and sides of cream cheese with shredded cheese. Arrange four rows of olives in top left corner of triangle to make “stars.” Make deep rows using round end of a spoon, leaving ¼-inch between rows. Fill rows with salsa and refrigerate until time to serve. Serve with colorful chips and/or crackers.  

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

2 cups crushed pretzels  

¾ cup butter, melted

 3 Tbsp. sugar

16 oz. cream cheese, softened

1½ cups sugar

16 oz. cool whip, thawed to room temperature

 1 (6 oz.) box Strawberry Jell-O

 2 cups boiling water

 3 cups strawberries, sliced

Combine melted butter and sugar. Stir in the crushed pretzels. Press evenly on the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Bake at 375 degrees F for 8 minutes. Let cool completely.

 In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, and cool whip. Beat until smooth. Spread over pretzel crust. Make sure to get the cream mixture tight against the edges of the pan to prevent the Jell-O mixture from seeping through.

 Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Remove from stove and add Jell-O. Stir until Jell-O is dissolved. Add sliced strawberries. Pour over cream layer and put in the fridge for at least 4 hours 

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries 

1 lb. large strawberries

8 oz. cream cheese, softened 

3-4 Tbs. powdered sugar, depending on taste 

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Graham cracker crumbs

Rinse strawberries and cut around the top of each one.  Remove top and clean out with a paring knife, if necessary. Prep all strawberries and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add cream cheese mix to a piping bag or Ziploc with the corner snipped off. Fill strawberries with cheesecake mixture. Once strawberries are filled, dip tops in graham cracker crumbs. Refrigerate until serving.