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Bless Your Spoon: Simple sandwiches a rite of summer

Some of my favorite summer memories are of my other mother, Melba – a church lady.

I had many mothers – my aunts, my mom’s friends, and those unforgettable ladies in my mother’s Sunday school class. Now, these women had been in Sunday class together for more than 40 years – the bonds were strong. Since my childhood primarily consisted of church-related activities – these ladies ranked right up there close to being called “Mom.”  So I’m pretty ecstatic anytime I discover a handwritten recipe card giving credit to any church lady.      

Mom would pack a light lunch on the hottest days in July – usually a simple sandwich, a deviled egg, pickle, some raw veggie, and a fruit or two. She’d drive us to Melba’s house for an afternoon of swimming. Melba had a backyard pool. We’d spend all day basking in the sun – our only relief was plunging into the cool pool – and taking lunch in shade from an umbrella’s canopy.

Today’s recipes pay homage to rites of summer – packing picnics and taking refreshing dips in your favorite swim hole. Homemade pickles, marinated fresh vegetables, and flavor-stuffed eggs all pack well in a mini cooler and are perfect accompaniments to a simple sandwich. Be sure to use a variety of bread like pumpernickel, rye, and artisan. I included two great chutneys to slather on your sandwich – a combo of salty and sweet. The perfect dessert for a hot summer day is a marinated or naturally sweet, fresh melon.

Perfect warm-weather entertaining surrounds any swim hole – so take it outside, and keep it simple.

CUCUMBER SANDWICHES

1 large, peeled cucumber

8 oz. softened cream cheese

½ tsp. garlic salt

½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. salt

¼ cup green onion stems or chives

Wheat sliced bread

Softened, salted butter

Cut a cucumber in half, lengthwise. Remove center seeds with a teaspoon. Dice and drain for 1 hour. In a mixer bowl, combine cream cheese, garlic salt, Worcestershire sauce, and salt until well blended. Stir in well-drained cucumber and onion. Spread slices of bread with butter. Spread cucumber spread on slices. Can refrigerate between sheets of waxed paper.

HAM SALAD

2 cups cooked, ground ham

1 finely chopped green onion

2 Tbsp. minced green pepper

1 chopped hard-boiled egg

1 Tbsp. drained sweet relish

1/3 cup premium mayonnaise

1 tsp. yellow mustard

In a mixer bowl, combine ham, onion, pepper, egg, relish, mayo, mustard, salt, and pepper. Mix well.

PIMIENTO CHEESE-STUFFED CELERY

1 lb. grated mild cheddar cheese

4 oz. drained, chopped pimientos

2 minced garlic cloves

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

¼ tsp. red pepper

¼ cup Durkee’s sauce

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

½ cup premium mayonnaise

Salt and pepper, to taste

Grate cheese and set aside. In a bowl, combine pimientos, garlic, parsley, pepper, Durkee’s, mustard, mayo, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Add cheddar cheese and mix well. Refrigerate Fill cut celery stalks with pimento cheese.

EGG SALAD

4 chopped hard-boiled eggs

¼ cup mayonnaise

½ tsp. yellow mustard

1 tsp. drained sweet pickle relish

½ tsp. chopped dried dill weed

1 tsp. minced chives

TUNA FISH SPREAD

13 oz. drained, Bumble Bee white albacore tuna

1/3 cup premium mayonnaise

4 chopped hard-boiled eggs

¼ cup minced celery

1 Tbsp. chopped sweet pickle

2 tsp. minced pimento

2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. chopped capers (optional)

In a mixer bowl, combine tuna, mayo, eggs, celery, pickle, pimento, lemon juice, and capers. Mix well.

CREAM CHEESE & RAISIN SANDWICH

8 oz. softened cream cheese

2 Tbsp. whole milk

4 Tbsp. chopped pecans/walnuts

4 Tbsp. chopped dates/raisins

2 Tbsp. chopped, sweet chutney

4 Tbsp. finely chopped watercress leaves

In a bowl, combine cream cheese and milk until smooth. Add nuts, dates, chutney, and watercress. Spread on bread. Another combo spread I like is 4 Tbsp. blue cheese, 4 Tbsp. cooked, crumbled bacon, 2 Tbsp. minced chives, 4 Tbsp. chopped watercress, and 2 tbsp. sweet chutney.

GOOD HOMEMADE PEAR CHUTNEY

2 diced with rind oranges

1 diced with rind lemon

1 diced with rind lime

2 ½ lbs. unpeeled, diced pears

1 diced onion

1 cup white raisins

2 minced garlic cloves

3 oz. diced, crystallized ginger

2 cups sugar

¼ cup white vinegar

¼ cup apple wine or Sauterne (optional)

In a bowl, dice oranges, lemon, lime, pears, onion, garlic cloves, and ginger. Mix well. In a saucepan, bring sugar, vinegar, and wine to a boil for 15 minutes. Pour all fruit from the bowl into a large pot. Pour sugar mixture over fruit and simmer 30 minutes on medium-high heat for 30 minutes. Fantastic served with any meat. Makes over 1 quart. Great as a gift if packed in smaller jars. Can make peach chutney by substituting peeled, diced peaches instead of pears.

GREEN TOMATO CHUTNEY

12 cups sliced tomatoes

4 Tbsp. rock salt

2 cups vinegar

1 ½ cups honey

4 garlic cloves

4 cups peeled, sliced apples

5 cups onions

1 cup currants

6 oz. chopped candied ginger

2/3 cup chopped fresh mint

In a strainer, sprinkle salt over tomatoes and allow to stand overnight. Drain well. In a saucepan, combine tomatoes, vinegar, honey, garlic, apples, onions, currants, ginger, and mint. Bring to a boil and simmer on medium heat. Stir often until thickened. Seal in sterilized jars.

SPICY CARROT STICKS

1 lb. carrots

1 cup white vinegar

¼ cup honey

½ cup orange juice

1 Tbsp. pickling spices

Peel carrots and cut into thin sticks. In a saucepan, combine vinegar, honey, orange juice, and pickling spices. Add carrot sticks. Bring to a boil and simmer on medium for 10 minutes or until carrots are crisp-tender. Cool 15 minutes. Place carrots and sauce into a bowl with tight lid. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain to serve.

MARINATED CARROT STICKS

10 carrots

1 tsp. salt

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. chopped green onion or fresh chives

2 minced garlic cloves

1 tbsp. chopped basil

¼ tsp. dry mustard

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

In a pan, add carrots. Add 1-inch of water and add salt. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Drain well. In a bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, onion, garlic, basil, mustard, and pepper. Mix well and pour over carrots. Cover with a tight lid. Refrigerate 3 hours. Serve cold.

COLD CUCUMBER & RED ONION SALAD

3 cucumbers

¼ tsp. salt

2 thinly sliced red onions

1/3 cup white vinegar

¼ cup sugar

1/3 cup sour cream

Peel cucumbers, leaving green in between strips. In a bowl, thinly slice and salt cucumbers. Stir and refrigerate for 1 hour. Rinse and drain well. Add onions to cucumbers. For dressing, in a bowl, combine vinegar, sugar, and sour cream. Mix well. Pour dressing over cucumbers and onions. Chill 4 hours.

FRESH HERB STUFFED EGGS

6 hard-boiled eggs

3 Tbsp. mayonnaise

2 tsp. white wine vinegar

½ tsp. minced tarragon

2 tsp. minced watercress

1 tsp. minced chives

¼ tsp salt

Cut eggs in half lengthwise. Scoop out yolks and mash. Stir in mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, tarragon, watercress, chives, and salt. Mix well. Spoon into 12 egg white halves. Garnish with sprig of watercress.

SMOKED AND DEVILED EGGS

6 hard-boiled eggs

1 tsp. yellow mustard

¼ cup softened smoky cheese spread

2 tsp. minced pimento

1 tsp. minced parsley

2 Tbsp. whole milk

1/8th tsp seasoned salt

Cut eggs in half lengthwise. Scoop out yolks and mash. Stir in mustard, cheese spread, pimento, parsley, milk, and salt. Mix well. Spoon into 12 egg white halves. Garnish with sprig of parsley.

EASY CANDIED DILLS

1-quart dill pickles

2/3 cup apple cider or tarragon vinegar

3 Tbsp. pickling spices

3 cups sugar

In a bowl, drain pickles. Either discard liquid or save for different use.  Cut pickles into ¼-inch slices. Repack pickles in quart jar. In a saucepan, combine vinegar, pickling spices, and sugar. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. Strain out pickling spices and discard spice. Pour warm syrup over pickles in jar. Store in refrigerator for 1 week, turning each day for 7 days.

A SIDE OF CANTALOUPE

1 peeled, seeded cantaloupe (5 cups)

3 tsp. freshly grated ginger

4 Tbsp. fresh mint

3 Tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. honey

3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

3 tsp grated lime peel

In a bowl, cut cantaloupe into 1-inch cubes. Add ginger, mint, sugar, and honey. Toss to blend. Add lime juice and peel Mix well. Refrigerate for 4 hours.