Margaret Button | Kitchen Comfort: Time to get ready for summer!

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I can't believe this weekend is Memorial Day weekend. Summer has finally arrived ... well, unofficially until June 21. Time to get my act together and prepare for it.

The first thing on my Memorial Day weekend agenda is to get flowers to the cemetery. I bought artificial flowers a few weeks ago — I don't have the time to go there daily and water real flowers. Usually, I wait until the last minute and can't find any flowers that look remotely real. Blue carnations? Two-foot calla lilies? Really? This year, I stocked up on bunches of small sunflowers. I love real sunflowers and the bright yellow will look good in the cemetery.

After that, it's off to the nursery for real flowers and vegetable plants for around my house. I'm thinking medium-sized marigolds in all the planters, and tomato, pepper, summer squash or zucchini, and basil plants in the horse troughs I use as a raised garden (my knees ain't what they used to be!). And while I'm there, I think I'll get a perennial or two to go along one side of the yard. And, I have to get some new solar lights to line the gardens in the front of the house.

I have to wash down the deck and the furniture and get it ready for summer entertaining. (OK, we all know there will be more reading — and napping — on the couch done than entertaining.) My son was home last weekend and hung the roll-up shades and wind chimes for me. I have several plaques and signs to hang, and candles and other knickknacks to place. Hopefully, it will be all done by late afternoon and I can enjoy my first glass — and maybe second — of wine of the summer on the deck.

At some point, I have to plant all the plants. I planted a hummingbird-friendly flowering vine last weekend and have to find the new feeder I bought on sale last year and cook up a batch of simple syrup hummingbird food to fill it with.

Whew, I'm beat just thinking about it!

I'm always on the lookout for new salads for summer. This recipe caught my eye because of the pepper jack cheese. I turned it into a meal by adding some store-bought, already-cooked chicken to it. Next time, I want to try substituting a southwest ranch dressing for the mayonnaise.

PEPPER JACK PASTA SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

8-ounces elbow macaroni, cooked and cooled

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8-ounces pepper jack cheese, cubed

1 cup chopped red bell pepper

1 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 cup diced celery

1/2 cup sliced green onions

1 cup mayonnaise

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

Cover and chill before serving.


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