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Summer is officially in full swing . . . we have the hot temperatures going on, swimming lessons, fireworks, and many family BBQ's. And I am loving every minute of it! I would much rather have a hot summer than a freezing cold winter!
My parents have lived in the same house for almost 25 years. They have a pretty good sized backyard and shortly after they moved in, they planted a cottonwood tree that would give the yard lots of shade. Well, after about 20 years, it pretty much shaded the entire yard, which was so nice for hot summer days. We would have BBQ's and parties in the backyard, along with killer barefoot soccer games (that usually ended up with one or more people injured- we are a pretty competitive family!). Well, in December 2011, we had a huge windstorm move through our area with tornado-like winds and it snapped my parents' huge tree right in half- and landed smack dab on the neighbors house! Thankfully, a couple of others trees softened the blow, so it didn't crush through the neighbors' roof (but it definitely dented a lot of things! Thank goodness for insurance!).
Since the storm, my parents backyard has been like a hot desert . . . without that shade, we all just sweat to death when we are back there! Last summer, we hardly had any family gatherings because we didn't have a place large enough (or cool enough!) to gather. My parents thought about putting in another tree, but didn't want to wait 20 years for it to grow, so for now they settled for a nice awning. And just like that, our family parties were back in action!
We had a fun get-together for the 4th of July and I was planning on making my mom's Raspberry Pretzel Salad, but I completely forgot to buy raspberries at the store. I started looking for something that I could use in place of it and I saw some cans of mandarin oranges in my pantry . . . the rest is history! It turned out awesome!
Mandarin Orange Pretzel Salad Recipe
2 cups pretzels, crushed
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
1 (8 oz) container Cool-Whip (non-dairy whipped topping)
1 cup sugar
1 large box (6 oz) orange Jell-o
2 cups boiling water
1 can (11 oz) mandarin oranges
For the first layer, combine broken pretzels, melted butter and 3 tablespoons sugar. Stir together until well blended. Press in 9 x 13" baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 7 minutes. Cool completely.
For the second layer, beat 1 cup sugar and cream cheese together until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip. Spread cream mixture over pretzel layer (be sure to seal the cream cheese layer against the sides of the pan so that the jello mixture (3rd layer) will not be able to leak through when added).
For the third layer, mix orange Jell-o and boiling water together until Jello is completely dissolved. Add mandarin oranges and let cool until slightly set. Pour Jell-o over cream cheese layer and refrigerate until firm.
Cut into squares and serve (makes about 12 servings).
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