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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Take the Labor Out of the Upcoming Holiday

By Sherrie Norris

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again — the older we get, the faster time passes. And, to be just days from Labor Day weekend seems impossible. Summer has all but left us, but hopefully, we have a few more weeks to enjoy warm weather and picnics on the patio before we transition to the cooler autumn season.

Labor Day and its long weekend usually signals the last official summer getaway, after which our thoughts turn to soups over salads and comfort foods from the crockpot. 

It’s not over yet, folks, but we will begin to  gradually ease into autumn and all its activities soon enough. Of course, the grills continue to get a workout through football season with tailgating a huge deal in these hills, and we’ll have plenty of ideas for that in due time.

For now, let’s take some of the labor out of the upcoming holiday and make life easier for the cooks with these simple ideas.

Quick Smash Burgers

1 lb. ground beef

1 tsp. canola oil

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

4 hamburger buns, split

Toppings of choice: Lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, etc. 

Shape beef into 4 balls, being careful not to “work” the beef too much; (the longer you do, the tougher the burger will be.)

 Over medium heat, add oil to a large cast iron skillet.  Add beef balls and flatten (smash) with a heavy metal spatula.; sprinkle each with salt and pepper. Fry until browning begins, about 2 minutes or less. Flip burgers and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Cook until well done. Serve on buns with desired toppings.

Corn Casserole

2 (15 oz.) cans creamed corn

1 (15 oz.) can whole corn drained

1 cup saltine crackers crushed

½  cup milk

½  cup sugar

3 eggs

3 Tbsp. flour

3 Tbsp. butter melted 

Optional: Crumbled bacon, jalapeño, onion, green chiles, shredded cheese or sour cream.

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into a greased 9×13-inch glass baking dish.

Bake for about an hour, maybe longer, until cooked through and golden brown on top.

Honey BBQ Grilled  Chicken

6 chicken breasts

1 Tbsp. cooking oil of choice

1 tsp. minced garlic

¾  cup ketchup

½  cup apple cider vinegar

¼  cup brown sugar firmly packed

¼  cup honey

3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1½ Tbsp. yellow mustard

2 tsp. soy sauce

½ tsp. chili powder

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add remaining sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes. Set aside. Pour half of the sauce in a small bowl for basting the chicken.

Pound chicken with mallet a little before grilling, if desired, so it cooks evenly. Grill on medium high heat, 7 to 10 minutes each side. Baste generously with sauce every 3 or 4 minutes.

Serve with the remaining sauce on the side for dipping.

Tip: For easier preparation, your favorite commercial barbecue sauce can always be used. 

Loaded Potato Wedges

5 small potatoes

2 Tbsp. oil

2 Tbsp. seasoning salt

½  cup shredded cheddar cheese

½  cup bacon, cooked and crumbled

¼  cup sour cream

2 tsp. chives or Italian seasoning to taste

Scrub potatoes well, slice into wedges and place in a large plastic bag or in a large bowl. Add a little oil and toss to coat; transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet with the skin side down.

Sprinkle potatoes with seasoning salt. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until cooked through and golden brown. Do not stir while cooking. Sprinkle on cheese and crumbled bacon and bake for about 2 more minutes, just long enough for the cheese to melt.

Drizzle sour cream over the top and sprinkle with chives or Italian seasoning.

Family Favorite Ice Cream Cake

1 pkg. Oreo cookies, crushed, divided

¼  cup butter or margarine, melted

½   gallon vanilla ice cream, softened

1 jar (16 oz.) hot fudge ice cream topping, warmed

1 container (8 oz.) whipped topping, thawed

In a large bowl, combine most of the cookie crumbs (save some for topping) and butter. Press into a greased 9×13-in. dish. Spread with ice cream; cover and freeze until set. Drizzle fudge topping over ice cream; cover return to freezer until set. Spread with whipped topping; sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs. Cover and freeze 2 hours or until firm. Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving.

Tips: Best to leave in freezer until time to serve. If placed in the refrigerator, it will thaw. Be creative and try any flavor of cookie, ice cream and toppings.