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7 Tips That Make Summer Cooking a Breeze

Move over meat-based casseroles. So long lengthy recipes with 15 ingredients. Sayonara simmering sauces. This time of year, we’re not just looking for, but insisting on, easy-to-prepare, light dishes for quick dinners or entertaining. To simplify the process, I’ve compiled a list of the food items and cooking accessories to make Summer ’17 a breeze.

1. I usually save the best for last, but in this case, I couldn’t wait to share the news. If you haven’t tasted Blue Bell Ice Cream’s Bride’s Cake and Groom’s Cake flavors, run, don’t walk, to the nearest supermarket and grab one of each. Sometimes, the product description says it best. Bride’s Cake is “a luscious almond ice cream with white cake pieces surrounded by a rich amaretto cream cheese icing swirl.” Delectable Groom’s Cake is “luscious chocolate ice cream with chocolate cake pieces and chocolate coated strawberry hearts, surrounded by swirls of strawberry sauce and chocolate icing.” Need I say more?

2. Everyone loves grilling and barbecuing, but cleaning a charred grill with burnt particles of meat? Not so much. I’m so terrified of food-borne illness from leftover pieces of meat that I disinfect my grill grate in the dishwasher. I found an easier way to alleviate my fears and speed up clean-up time. A non-stick grilling tray is the way to go if, like me, you hate cleaning the grill. Simply pile your meat or vegetables on top, place directly on the grill and fire away. The tray can be popped into the dishwasher, leaving minimal mess on the grill itself. Check kitchen stores and grilling sections of supermarkets for one.

3. Summer is filled with burgers, ribs, potato salad, and ice cream (see #1), but we have to eat healthy sometimes. Bird’s Eye new SuperFoods, Organic, and Protein blends of vegetables in convenient, steam-and-open bags make getting our veggies easier than ever. Some of my favorites are Southwest and Italian blends in the Protein category and Superfoods’ Chick Pea and Spinach. Recipes to transform the blends into pasta salads and other summer dishes can be found on Bird’s Eye’s website.

4. I’ve shared my fear of grill contamination. I’m just as worried about meat cooking to the proper temperature. My paranoia melted when I used a barbecue fork thermometer. Sold at most kitchen stores and supermarkets in the grilling section, look for a fork with a copper tip and a thermometer that displays foods’ temperature within seconds.

5. Baking brownies, cobblers and Bundt cakes for summer cookouts has never been easier thanks to a new cooking spray, Bake Easy! from Wilton. Found in the party section of supermarkets and craft stores, it saved my life when making a six-layer rainbow cake for Mother’s Day. No cutting out parchment paper, no greasing and flouring pans, and, worse, praying the cakes would emerge in one piece. I simply sprayed the bottom and just like that, all six layers popped out in perfect shape.

6. I began drinking flavored fruit water after a client placed a daily dispenser in the office kitchen. My only complaint is the spigot is close to the counter and it’s hard to fill my large glass. Dual Beverage Dispenser Set eliminated the problem by elevating the dispensers on a cute, vintage-looking tin stand. Even better, this set has two dispensers resembling my favorite collectible, Mason jars, to allow for both water and iced tea. I found mine at Bed, Bath and Beyond; they may be available other places.

7. I normally avoid gadgets for chores I can easily do myself. However, the Chef’n Cob Corn Stripper was worth the $8 price tag. Whether you’re stirring together corn salad or a salsa for entertaining, or like me, getting ready to make homemade soup mix for the freezer, removing corn kernels off the cob without decimating them with a knife is tedious. Cooked or uncooked, just twist corn through this clever gadget and you have a perfect pile of corn kernels.

I’ll stop with Lucky 7, but share more of summer’s best food and beverage items and accessories in the months ahead.

Since we’re discussing the grill, try this recipe for Cobbler on the Grill. Guests will be impressed that your outdoor oven produces dessert. It’s quick, easy, and, like the burgers and ribs that preceded it, simply delicious.

Summer Cobbler on the Grill

1/4 cup butter or butter substitute, melted

1-1/4 cups Original Bisquick mix

3/4 cup sugar or sugar substitute

1/2 cup milk

2 cups fresh or frozen fruit of your choice, sliced or chopped in small pieces

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat gas or charcoal grill. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, mix Bisquick mix, 1/2 cup of the sugar and the milk; beat 30 seconds.

Place butter in 9-inch round foil cake pan, place on the grill and allow butter to melt over medium heat. Pour batter over butter in pan. Top with fruit and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon.

Cover grill; cook about 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (If using oven, bake pan in 425-degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until top is browned.

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