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Summer recipes to prepare for the warm months

By Lisa Tindell

It’s beginning to feel a lot like summer even though the season’s official beginning is still a few weeks away. Because of that I’ve been thinking about dishes that can be prepared during warmer months without having to crank up the stovetop or the oven in your home. We all know that using slow cookers and Instapots certainly cut down on additional heat in the kitchen for the main courses of most meals. But finding good side dish recipes and even dessert recipes can sometimes be a challenge.
However, living in the deep South where temperatures can soar in the summertime, we have all learned some good go-to dishes to accomplish completing a meal without sweating.
There are some staples you’ll want to stock up on to fill your cupboard with items needed to create last-minute dishes for that pot-luck or picnic that I hope will become a part of our lives in the very near future. If not, there’s nothing wrong with devouring a cool dish or two all by yourself.
For desserts, some items to keep on hand include things like cream cheese, sour cream, jarred or canned fruits such as preserves, pie fillings, peaches and pineapple or whatever fruit your family likes. If you have room in your freezer, pick up a few cartons of frozen whipped topping and be sure to add a few packages of instant puddings in a variety of flavors to add to some dishes.
Those ideas cover the dessert portion of the meal, but you may wonder about side dishes. For those times when you need to bring a side dish to the picnic, consider a salad chock full of fresh veggies and even some canned or jarred items like olives, chunks of pineapple, salsas, chickpeas, English or sweet peas (canned or frozen work nicely). And while you’re shopping don’t forget to pick up a few cans of black beans, red beans and even some whole kernel corn. Those items make tasty dips as well as salads for the summer.
One thing you’ll need to remember when preparing side dishes is to make sure they are kept cool prior to serving. That may also mean pickup on an ice chest for traveling or by making additional room in the fridge to keep things cool. If you have a salad dressing that contains any kind of mayonnaise or dairy product, take extra care in storing those before being served. Nothing ruins a good picnic than folks getting sick.
I have a few recipes that are favorites among my family and friends and have become a part of my usual offerings at gatherings or even just for Sunday dinner. The recipes I’m sharing this week are good for a crowd or good for a family to have on hand for a couple of meals. With the addition of proteins such as chicken, steak or even bacon to salads, they become much more than a side dish.
Broccoli salad is one of our family’s favorite side dishes whether it is summer or not. It is usually found on our table at any holiday or special celebration meal. I’m sure you have your favorite version of this dish, but I’ve got a recipe that may give your old favorite a new appeal. I will advise you to purchase broccoli crowns if you can. The stems are of no use in this recipe and it’s just a waste.

Greek Broccoli Salad
Ingredients:
1 large head broccoli divided into small bite-size pieces. About 1 to 1 ½ pounds
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
¼ cup chopped red onion
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup thinly sliced kalamata olives (optional, according to taste)
¼ cup slivered almonds.
For the dressing:
4 oz. good olive oil
2 tbsp. Lemon juice
1 tsp. Honey
1 garlic clove, finely minced
½ tsp. Oregano
½ tsp. Dijon-style mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Prepare:
In a medium bowl, toss the broccoli, tomatoes, onion, feta, olives and almonds until combined well. In a separate small bowl or jar, combine the dressing ingredients and whisk or shake until completely blended. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss well. Allow the salad and dressing to sit for about 30 minutes to allow the broccoli to marinate in the dressing. Toss again just before serving.
Now for the dessert. This recipe is one that will remind some people about joys from their childhood. It’s a light, refreshing dessert that takes no time to make and will be a hit at your next picnic. If not, call me and I’ll take care of the leftovers.
Creamsicle Pie
Crust Ingredients:
24 whole Golden Oreo cookies, crushed
6 tbsp. melted butter
Pinch of salt
Filling ingredients:
1 (3-oz.) box orange Jell-O
1 cup boiling water
2 cup whipped topping
2 (8-oz.) blocks cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Prepare:
In a large bowl, whisk together orange Jell-O and boiling water until Jell-O is completely dissolved. Set aside to cool completely. Make the crust: In a medium bowl, mix together Oreo crumbs, butter, and salt. Press into the bottom of an 8″ spring form pan and up the sides.  Make the filling: In another large bowl, beat cream cheese and sour cream until smooth, then add powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Fold whipped topping into cream cheese mixture, then pour half of mixture into cooled Jell-O. Whisk until smooth. Onto the crust, alternate pouring 1/4 cup dollops of cream cheese and Jell-O mixtures until both mixtures are used up. With a butter knife, gently swirl the layers. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours, or until firm. Just before serving, dollop a little whipped topping around the outer edge of the pie and decorate with mandarin (fresh or canned) oranges if desired.