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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Prepping For Graduations and Memorial Day

This is a busy week in the High Country and elsewhere as hundreds of high school seniors prepare to graduate, ending an unusual and final year of their basic education. 

I know there are collective sighs of relief from within many homes and hallways this week as an important milestone is reached. How it has been obtained is nothing short of amazing in light of the last year’s pandemic-related restrictions and events. 

We applaud each student, graduating or not, as well as school faculty, staff and parents who have all had to rearrange their lives to get through this last school year. Simply looking from the outside in with my kindergartener grandson, and helping occasionally with remote learning in the early part of the school year, was enough for me. I cannot imagine how families with more than one child made it through the year, and how the ever-changing rules kept many homes, lives, schools and businesses in a continuous spin of uncertainty. 

But, here we are now, hopefully nearing the coronavirus end, and some aspects of life returning to a semblance of normalcy. Thank you to everyone who helped our local communities reach this place in time with flexibility and compassion. Your efforts are much appreciated, and I’m sure the graduating seniors and their families are more than relieved.

It’s rare that our local high school graduation ceremonies precede Memorial Day, but it’s happening this week. Memorial Day evokes a mixture of emotions for many people, and sadly, there are those who really don’t get it. 

Because it falls on the calendar pages when it does, the long holiday weekend seems to be the perfect time for the season’s grilling and outdoor dining and festivities to begin.

I understand that, and have myself, been a part of those fun, festive times. I’ve shopped the Memorial Day Sales, fired up the grill and enjoyed the day with friends. But I think it’s time we pay homage to the day for what it is. In fact, there’s nothing “happy” about it, as it signifies the ultimate sacrifices made by countless American soldiers who fought for our freedom. 

As we gather with family and friends in these next few days, let’s enjoy the camaraderie, but let’s not forget what it’s all about.

In the midst of the fun and games, take a moment or more to offer solemn gratitude to and for those who suffered great loss. There are many families around us today who still feel the sting. Let’s not make light of their pain.

For high school graduation – it is a great accomplishment that required at least 13 long years for most, coupled with a lot of hard work and dedication. And that, my friends, is reason to celebrate. Congratulations!

Easy Subs

Choice of condiments: mayonnaise, mustard, sub dressing, etc. 

Choice of  ham, turkey, salami, cheese

Lettuce, shredded

Tomatoes thinly sliced

Onion, thinly sliced

Pickles, peppers and other thinly-sliced veggies, as desired 

Salt, pepper, oregano, etc.

Large sub rolls

Open sub rolls and lightly toast, if desired. Spread with basic condiments.

Layer cheeses, meats, lettuce, onion and tomatoes on the rolls.

Drizzle lightly with dressing, salt and pepper, etc.

Wrap in saran wrap to hold shape if not served immediately, but not for long if dressings are added to prevent becoming soggy. 

Five Layer Slaw

2 cups prepared coleslaw mix

2 cups shredded carrots

2 cups prepared broccoli slaw mix

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 cup coleslaw dressing

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

Drizzle remaining coleslaw dressing over all. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Toss before serving. 6 servings

Southern Potato Salad 

4 to 5 cups cubed potatoes, cooked and drained

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped onion

3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

2 Tbs. chopped sweet pickle

2 tsp. sweet pickle juice

2/3 cup mayonnaise

½ to 1 tsp. prepared mustard

½ tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir gently to combine. Refrigerate for several hours before serving. Serves 4 to 6.

Steakhouse-Style Grilled Steaks

2 tsp. each brown sugar, garlic powder and onion powder

1 tsp. coarse ground black pepper

4 beef tenderloin steaks

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Mix brown sugar and seasonings. Brush steaks with oil. Sprinkle seasoning mixture evenly over both sides of steaks; press gently into steaks to secure. Grill 6 to 8 minutes on each side or until cooked through to desired doneness.

Foil-Grilled Potatoes 

6 to 8 large potatoes 

2 large onions

Garlic salt

Pepper

Margarine/spray 

Aluminum foil

Tear enough foil to hold your potatoes and onions. Thinly slice each potato (leave skin on) onto the foil. Slice enough onion to lightly cover the potato. Add garlic salt and pepper to taste; spray or margarine generously. 

Seal each pouch, leaving a little room for steam and flavors to mix. Place potatoes on top rack of grill, if meats are cooking, or directly onto the main rack, after meat is done. Watch closely to prevent burning. Process should take about 30 minutes.

Diploma Wraps

8 oz. cream cheese, softened 

¼ cup seedless strawberry or raspberry jam

Flour tortilla

Whip together cream cheese and jam. Lightly spread the mixture on flour tortilla then roll up each wrap like a diploma; tie with a ribbon made of fruit roll-ups. Makes 4 to 6 sandwiches.

Graduation Cap-cakes

1 cake mix of choice

1 container icing of choice (school colors)

Graham crackers

Licorice strings

Food coloring

Bake cupcakes according to box directions. No cupcake liners needed, but do grease and flour the muffin pans. When done, remove pans from oven and cool cupcakes completely, removing them to a foil-lined cookie sheet. Mix food coloring into icing for desirable school colors if needed. (Can start with white and gradually add enough food coloring for intended colors if not available on store shelf.)

Gently spread icing on the cupcake sides and some on top. Frost the graham cracker and attach to top of cupcake. Cover entire “cap” with icing. Tie thin licorice strings into tassels and use frosting to attach to the caps.