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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: The Unofficial Kick-off To Summer Begins Here and Now

By Sherrie Norris

As if we need a reminder that summer is almost here, the Memorial Day weekend and the end of another school year together usually signal the “unofficial”  beginning of a long-anticipated break from the mundane.

For many families picnics, cookouts, vacations, camps and fun days in the park and local attractions take the place of our regular schedules of school and work. 

While most of us can’t have every day filled with exciting adventures away from home, we can still make every day fun with the simple things in life. A quiet, mid-morning brunch on the front porch, a picnic lunch on the back patio and/or a walk through the woods after dinner on the deck are just a few of the countless ways we can spend enjoyable summer days with those we love.

We’re sharing a few ideas below to help make those simple times even more special. The calendar says we’re still weeks away from summer, but who’s counting? The last bell is about to ring. 

Kid-Friendly Frozen Treats

1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix

2 cups cold milk

2 cups whipped topping

1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

24 whole graham crackers, halved

Mix pudding and milk according to package directions; refrigerate until set. Fold in whipped topping and chocolate chips.

Place 24 graham cracker halves on a baking sheet; top each with about 3 tablespoons filling. Place another graham cracker half on top. Wrap individually in waxed paper; freeze until firm, about 1 hour. Serve “sandwiches” frozen.  

 Veggie Pizza Faces

Here’s a good way to get the kids to eat their veggies this summer.

Whole wheat tortilla, pita, or flatbread

Sause of choice: pizza sauce, softened cream cheese, etc.

Sliced, diced and/or chopped fresh vegetables and meat toppings: onions, peppers, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, olives, ham, cooked sausage, hot dogs, pepperonis, etc. 

Shredded cheese of choice

Place on the counter or kitchen table a selection of preferred toppings as suggested above, or come up with your own, based on family preference.

Encourage and assist the kids as needed with making their happy faces, first by selecting the base and “sauce” and then adding the “facial” features.

Note: The more options they have to make funny faces, the more veggies they’ll ultimately consume when they eat their pizzas!

High-Protein Fruit Dip

2 cups Greek yogurt

Sliced fruit of choice

4 tsp. almond butter

2 tsp. cinnamon 

2 Tbsp. honey

Mix together in a bowl the yogurt, almond butter, honey and cinnamon 

Divide mixture into small cups or bowls and serve with fruit slices, graham crackers, pretzels, cookies, etc.

For more protein, you can add almonds, walnuts, chia seeds or roasted pumpkin seeds.

Savory Grilled Zucchini

4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

¼ cup minced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. rosemary

2 Tbsp. parsley leaves

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 medium zucchini, cut diagonally into ½ -inch-thick slices

1 medium yellow squash, cut diagonally into ½-inch-thick slices

Preheat grill to medium high heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons olive oil, onion garlic, rosemary and parsley; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Brush zucchini and squash with remaining olive oil; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Grill in a single layer, about 2 minutes per side.

Serve immediately, drizzled with olive oil mixture.

Tropical Kebobs 

⅔ cup barbecue sauce

⅔ cup teriyaki sauce

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger

2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks

2 cups fresh pineapple chunks

1 red bell pepper, cut into 1½ -inch pieces

1 sweet onion, cut into 1 ½ -inch pieces

2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, combine barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce, garlic and ginger. Reserve ½-cup and set aside.

In a gallon size Ziploc bag or large bowl/baking dish, combine sauce mixture and chicken; marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight, turning the bag occasionally. Drain chicken from marinade.

Thread chicken, pineapple, bell pepper and onion onto skewers. Brush with oil; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Preheat grill to medium heat.

Add skewers to grill, and cook, turning occasionally, until chicken is done, about 10 minutes. Brush skewers with reserved barbecue sauce mixture, cooking for an additional 1-2 minutes.

Serve immediately.