Florida summer heat is peaking about now on the Fourth of July, but that doesn’t dampen your cravings for something tasty and homemade without heating up the oven.

It’s a good time to put that slow cooker to use for something other than winter soups and stews, and to also consider light, refreshing salads and desserts that can be tossed together in minutes.

Let your Crock-Pot, chopper and air fryer handle the laborious part of cooking and plan ahead to outwit those high-index temperatures this summer.

I’ve found that meal planning is so much easier with my favorite appliances at the ready, including a Ninja chopper, Paula Deen air fryer and 5-quart Crock-Pot.

CROCK-POT BREAD PUDDING

  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 cups dry French bread cubes
  • 2/3 cup chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, sugar, dates, cinnamon and vanilla. Place the dry bread cubes in a 6-quart Crock-Pot. Pour the egg mixture over the bread. Cover; cook on High for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

DR. PEPPER PORK ROAST

  • 3 pounds pork loin or pork shoulder roast
  • 1 (12-ounce) can Dr Pepper
  • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
  • Package of Lipton Onion Soup mix

Put roast in Crock-Pot and mix the soups together. Add Dr Pepper to soup mixture and pour over roast. Cook on high for 4-6 hours. When done, remove roast and thicken juices with cornstarch for gravy. Note: Can also use equivalent amount of Pepsi or Coke in place of Dr. Pepper.


SUPER SUPPER PASTA SALAD

  • 6 ounces thin spaghetti
  • 1 cup raw broccoli florets
  • 1 cup of raw broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onions
  • 1 can of large black olives sliced
  • 1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cups large firm fresh tomatoes, chunked
  • 2 10-ounce cans of white chicken, drained (optional)
  • 1 16-ounce bottle of Wishbone Robusto Italian Dressing
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta al dente, drain and rinse in cold water until pasta is cooled and no longer starchy.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients together. Toss well. Chill and serve with warm Italian or French bread.

NO FUSS CHICKEN-PECAN SALAD

  • 1 whole chicken, cooked and shredded or deli rotisserie chicken
  • 2 to 3 ribs celery — wash, destring and chop
  • 2 boiled eggs, chopped
  • 2 heaping teaspoons relish
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise (enough to be barely moist when mixed)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix ingredients and serve on large, lightly toasted croissants with lettuce and sliced tomatoes.

MY DAD’S HOT BACON DRESSING

Cook 1 pound of bacon until it is done enough that you can crumble it when it cools. Set aside.

In mixing bowl, combine:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 to 4 eggs (depending on size)
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 4 cups water

Preheat medium-to-large skillet, lightly greased to medium/high. Pour ingredients from mixing bowl into skillet and heat just to boiling. Add crumbled bacon. Add a tablespoon or two of cornstarch to 1/4 cup water to thicken to about the consistency of gravy, and it’s done. Pour over large bowl of large-leaf lettuce.

QUICK LEMON CHEESE CAKE

(Original 1950s recipe as it appeared in Family Circle magazine ad, March 1959)

  • 1 large (8-ounce) package cream cheese
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 package Jell-O Lemon Instant Pudding (must be instant)
  • 1 8-inch graham cracker crust

Soften cream cheese, blend with 1/2 cup milk. Add remaining milk and the pudding mix. Beat slowly with egg beater just until well mixed, about 1 minute. (Do not overbeat.) Pour at once into graham cracker crust. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs lightly over top. Chill about an hour. Serves 8.

EASY LITTLE PIZZA

(Kid favorite)

Canned refrigerated biscuits, separated and placed on a cookie sheet and flattened/stretched into thin circles (not touching). Cover with pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese and toppings of choice such as pepperoni, olives and mushrooms. Put another layer of cheese on top. Bake about 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees in air fryer.

Julianne Munn is the food writer for the Citrus County Chronicle. Email her at bonnyblu1@hotmail.com.

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