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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Nana’s Last Days of Summer Break

By Sherrie Norris

Parents, grandparents, educators — and especially the kids — are once again transitioning from lazy, crazy days of summer to busy, regimented days of a new school year. It’s exciting, yet, a bit unsettling in some respects, as changes in daily schedules require a bit more discipline than what summer requires.

I am not ready for my grands to leave me as they return to  school next week. I will greatly miss the times we’ve shared during their summer break — early morning snuggles as they arrive at Nana’s two or three days a week, while spending the other days with their Mom Mom and Paw for equally, or even more, satisfying days of fun and adventure. I will miss switching the TV from the morning news to Tom and Jerry, as Papaw joins his two favorite little people in laughter at the ageless antics of his two favorite cartoon characters. Picnics on the porch until  the bees run us back inside. Filling their plastic pool (that once  seemed big to them), and watching them take a dive into the quickly shrinking plastic water hole that will  need to be passed on to smaller kiddos before next summer. I will miss visits to the Tot Lot in the late morning hours before the heat and crowds take over, followed by an occasional celebratory luncheon at Makotos or a quick drive-through for a burger, (no pickles for one, extra for the other), fries and slushy for both.  I will miss preparing their afternoon “surprise snacks” that contain everything from celery sticks, cucumbers, apples and berries, to jerky, cheese balls, gummies, chips and yes, those coveted Oreos that usually disappear first.

I will miss filling the treasure box (an incentive for good behavior) and watching them at the end of the day sort through the surprises found therein, mostly from the nearby discount store.

I will miss handing over my phone for game-playing, followed a few minutes later with, “No, you cannot have it any longer. Let’s go outside for some fresh air.” I will miss getting the fly swatter from its hiding place when a swat is needed for insects (or a mischevious little boy who loves to pick on his sister). I will miss our guessing games, trivia and all the fun responses they come up with, not to mention the random questions and expressions that just pop up out of nowhere. (No, Noah, I’m still not sure that if the gate to heaven is behind that big cloud. And yes, Lainey Ruth, you may be right that there’s a gate to hell out there somewhere, too.) And that’s just for starters. 

Fortunately, I still have those afternoon pick-ups a couple days a week at Green Valley School, where I will take my place in line for 30 minutes before the bell rings, with a good book, or some other distraction to pass the time to avoid the end-of-the-line back-up. Go figure.

Anyway, my heart is all over the place as I write this “cooking column” on this last Wednesday morning before a new school year begins. Yes, the kids are here with Nana today. They were still drowsy when they arrived, and they crawled up on the couch and drifted back to sleep. It’s quiet for the moment. Too quiet, actually. I must hurry. We’ve got a lot to do today. We’ve got to make every minute count. This time next week, they will be in school and Nana will be all alone again. And the fly swatter will be back on the shelf. And another tear will likely be falling from Nana’s eye — as one or three are doing right now.

Here’s to a great school year for all of our students, teachers, parents, grandparents and everyone involved!

And here are a few ideas for some after-school snacks.

Peanut Butter Dip with Pretzels And Fruit

½ cup peanut butter

½ cup vanilla yogurt

¼ tsp. cinnamon

¼ cup raisins

2 cups miniature pretzel twists

Apple slices and banana chunks

In small bowl, combine first four ingredients. Mix well. Keep refrigerated. Serve with pretzels and fruit. 

Healthy Miniature Fruit Pizzas

4 medium tortillas (whole wheat or your choice)

1/2 cup Greek yogurt, plain

1 tsp.  honey

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 Tbsp. orange juice


1/4 cup strawberries

1/4 cup kiwi

1/4 cup mandarin oranges, canned in juice

1/4 cup blackberries

1/4 cup grapes, green

Using a small cookie cutter or drinking glass, cut circles into tortillas. Set aside. In a small mixing bowl, blend together yogurt, honey, vanilla and orange juice until fully blended. Slice strawberries; peel kiwi and slice; drain oranges and slice into smaller pieces; slice blackberries and grapes into quarters.

Spread yogurt mixture onto tortillas and top with fruit.

Low-Fat Brownies

¾ cup sugar

½ cup flour

½ tsp. baking soda

2 egg whites, lightly beaten

1 tsp. vanilla

2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder 

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Combine ingredients in large mixing bowl, blend well. Pour batter into pan and bake in preheated oven 20 to 30 minutes until done. To test, insert a toothpick. If it comes out clean, brownies are done.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes in pan. Gently remove from pan; place on wire rack to cool. 

Peanut-Butterscotch Bites

1 cup butterscotch chips

½ cup peanut butter

3 cup Rice Krispies cereal

Variations: Add ½ cup mini-marshmallows, 1 cup peanuts, 1 cup raisins, or 1 cup coconut 

Prepare 9×9 inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large pot, over low heat, combine butterscotch chips and peanut butter until smooth, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in cereal (and any variations if desired) and mix well, until cereal is coated evenly with peanut butter mixture. Press cereal mixture into prepared pan and chill until firm.  Cut into bars and store in refrigerator. Makes 24 bars