Real Cooking

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CHERYL JOST
“School’s out, school’s out.

Teacher let the mules out.”

Where in the world did that childhood song come from? I guess if I really wanted to know, I could probably find out by searching the World Wide Web to learn the origins of that little ditty, but for now I’ll let it pass.

Because school is out and summer vacation has begun. I’ve so enjoyed my first school year of working at Hillsboro Elementary, but I think I’m as excited as the kids are about having a summer break.

So for now-in fact for the next 101/2 weeks-I’m not going to do any research. I’m not going to do any scholarly reading. I’m not going to wear a watch. I’m not going to keep any kind of regular schedule and, if I feel like it, I’m going to stay up late because tomorrow isn’t going to be a school day.

OK, OK, I know that’s just a pipe dream. But at least for a few days, I’m going to try to enjoy life at a more relaxed pace. I’ve made plans to sleep-even deciding that on Friday of this first week at home, I won’t set the alarm clock. I’ll just allow myself the indulgence of letting my body determine when it’s had enough rest.

I’ve made all sorts of plans and promises that I hope to keep. I’ve pledged to go out for breakfast on a regular basis with a group of women that I’m privileged to call my friends. I’ve lined up a shelf of books that I want to read. The kids and I talk daily about which movies we want to take in before school starts again in the fall.

And even though we haven’t made any final decisions, we’re all looking forward to getting away for a family vacation.

For now, at the onset of my days away from school, I want to catch up with some things around the house, plant a few flowers and paint the back doors. I want to putter and relax.

Well, until Sunday, when Meghan and the rest of the Hillsboro Crush girls have a softball tournament in Clay Center. We have to be up, dressed and ready to meet the team at 6:30 a.m. to carpool to the game.

And the following Thursday (May 30) will be Krispy Kreme doughnut day in Hillsboro and guess who gets to help? The Crush girls and their parents will be selling those delicious glazed gems at Vogt’s IGA starting at 9 a.m., and that means an early trip to Wichita to pick up the fresh pastries.

I’m sleepy already.

Those Orange Crush events start a month-long marathon filled with Alex’s baseball games, Meg’s softball games, summer drama, three weddings that I said I would help at and church camp.

Oh yeah, and wheat harvest. Can’t forget that.

In July, our outside commitments will slow down, but our never-ending remodeling job will be there to fill any time void we might experience. I’ve assured my daughter that the wallpaper for her bedroom and bath will be up before she begins the seventh grade.

Surely, oh surely, we’ll get done with this house thing before September rolls around again. Won’t we?

Maybe by August, I’ll have had time to wash the windows. Maybe I will have taken the opportunity to go to a couple of auctions or take in an afternoon of antiquing. Perhaps, on some hot summer’s night, I’ll have stood on my deck and watched the fireflies dance in the creekbed that edges our property line or gazed at a falling star pitch to the ground.

Wait a minute. The deck hasn’t been built yet. But Kunkel Construction should be here in the next week or so to start that project-so yes, I will be able to watch the fireflies, gaze at the stars, etc. Whew. Had myself worried there for a moment.

And I’m not going to worry about a thing, now. It’s summer vacation.

* * *

I hope this summer will bring friends and family over for a barbecue or two. These burgers are great served with oven-baked potato wedges and crispy slaw. Be sure to try the grilled onions with the burgers or by themselves.

Barbecued Cheddar Burgers

31/2 lb. lean ground beef

1/2 cup purchased barbecue sauce (we like Gates brand)

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

12 sesame seed hamburger buns, lightly toasted

Lettuce leaves

Tomato slices

Caramelized onions with barbecue sauce

Mustard and mayonnaise

Mix first five ingredients in a large bowl until blended. Shape the meat into patties of desired thickness. Can be made eight hours ahead. Cover and chill until ready to use.

Prepare barbecue and grill burgers to desired doneness, making sure that burgers for children are well done and aren’t contaminated from coming into contact with raw meat juices from burgers that are cooked to rare or medium, cooking utensils, or dishes that held raw hamburger.

Serve on toasted buns along with toppings, including the following recipe for caramelized onions.

Caramelized Onions

with Barbecue Sauce

2 tbs. olive oil

2 large onions, cut into 1/8-inch thick slices

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 ground black pepper

1/3 cup beef broth

1/2 cup purchased barbecue sauce

11/2 tbs. apple cider vinegar

Heat oil in skillet and saute onions topped with salt and pepper over medium heat; cook until onions begin to brown, stirring frequently. Add broth, barbecue sauce and vinegar. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Can be made one day ahead. Cover, chill and rewarm before serving.

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