I was stunned to realize as I was designing the Berkshire Eagle and Transcript food pages this week, that all the Associated Press recipes were Independence Day-themed. A glance at the calendar confirmed that next Thursday is the Fourth of July.
Say what? Where has Memorial Day and all the time since gone? It cannot be July 4 -- that means we're halfway through summer. OK, maybe not technically, but I view summer as starting on Memorial Day and ending Labor Day, hence the summer holiday between them is the halfway point.
Remember the lazy summer days of childhood when summer seemed endless? For my generation, that meant getting up around 8 a.m., eating a bowl of cereal and bolting out the door before our mothers find something for us to do around the house. We'd hop on our bikes and ride to the nearest school playground.
Every school in the city had a summer playground program overseen by two or three high school or college kids. These counselors were responsible for organizing games, bike parades, crazy hat days, whiffle ball games, arts and crafts projects (remember braiding "gimp" key rings?), and anything else they could come up with to entertain the neighborhood kids -- and trust me, we were easy to entertain back then.
The ice cream man came every afternoon. If you were lucky, you had found some soda bottles to redeem for the deposit and could buy some ice cream.
No one had a backyard pool back then. If it was hot, you coaxed and wheedled your dad into hooking up the lawn sprinkler and you ran through the spray or flopped down in the grass next to it and let the spray fall on you.
Fourth of July was a big deal. The night before the 4th, there was a carnival and huge bonfire in Clarksburg. It was amazing to see the three-story high pile of wood erupt into flames and burn. On the 4th, Mom would pack a picnic and we'd head for Windsor Lake or some other watering hole, capping the day off with a fireworks display, usually in Readsboro, Vt., where my Dad had a cousin. And no visit was complete without Aunt Gladys' Kool-Aid popsicles made in an old-fashioned metal ice cube tray.
This July 4th will find me floating in our pool, Mother Nature willing, with a good book and a tall glass of ice tea. For those planning a more exciting day, I offer a few red, white and blue recipes. Have and happy -- and safe -- holiday!
In memory of Aunt Gladys, I offer this recipe for yogurt popsicles that I clipped from Family Fun magazine when my son was little. I used a plastic popsicle mold instead of the ice cream cones,
Red White and Blue Popsicles
3 cups vanilla yogurt
red food coloring
white food coloring
blue food coloring
6 sugar ice cream cones
6 wooden popsicle sticks
To make a half dozen pops, tint 1/2 cup of the yogurt with red food coloring and 1 1/2 cups with blue food coloring. Leave the rest plain.
Make waxed paper cone liners by folding six 12-inch square sheets into triangles, wrapping each around a sugar cone, and using tape to hold the shape. Then place the paper cones inside the sugar cones.
Fill each cone with 1 tablespoon red yogurt, followed by 2 tablespoons white yogurt, then 3 tablespoons blue yogurt. Insert a Popsicle stick and freeze the pops until firm, about 4 hours, using the cone box with six circles cut out to keep them upright.
Red, White and Blueberry Muffins
1 box wild blueberry muffin mix
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons milk
1/8 teaspoon orange extract or vanilla
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place paper baking cup in 12 regular-size muffin cups, or grease bottoms only.
Drain can of blueberries (from muffin mix); rinse and set aside. In medium bowl, stir muffin mix, milk, oil, eggs and cranberries just until blended. Gently stir in blueberries. Divide batter among muffin cups (each about three-fourths full).
Bake 17 to 22 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 3 to 4 minutes; remove from pan. Stir together powdered sugar, milk and orange extract until thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle glaze over muffins.
2 pints strawberries
1 10.75-ounce frozen pound cake, cut into 10 slices
1 1/2 cups blueberries, divided
1 tub (12 ounces) whipped topping, thawed
Slice 1 cup of the strawberries and set aside. Halve remaining strawberries and set aside.
Line bottom of 12x8-inch baking pan with the pound cake slices. Top with 1 cups sliced strawberries, 1 cup blueberries and all of the whipped topping.
Place strawberry halves and remaining blueberries on whipped topping to create a flag design. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.