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   Every season brings its unique tastes and traditional recipes. When the mercury starts to approach the red line, these hot season favorites will be a hit around the pool, out on the patio or under a beach umbrella. A couple of these great dishes and a cool breeze is all you need to make a hot, lazy day just about perfect. Here are our picks for the coolest foods to enjoy during the dog days of summer.

1. SNOW CONES. Snow cones are brimming with cool flavors and a satisfying crunch. You don't have to be a kid to love them, either. Head to any fair or recreational food court, and you'll see plenty of grown-ups standing in line for a snow cone or Hawaiian ice of their very own. In fact, these summer sweets are so popular that you can pick up crushed or shaved ice makers and syrup through most food supply outlets and make your own at home.

2. GASPACHO. Chilled summer soup is a refreshing option with a sandwich. You eat salad vegetables right out of the fridge; why not go for a flavor-packed refrigerated soup, too? With a few fresh veggies and a food processor, you can create a memorable meal with Latin flare that doesn't contain fat or a lot of sodium. Gazpacho thickened with bread crumbs (the Portuguese way) has a nice broth, and the tomatoes and cucumbers give it just-picked goodness. It's full of nutrients, easy to make and low in calories. What's not to like?

3. GREEN SALADSummer is the best time to luxuriate in a big, beautiful green salad. All the ingredients will be fresh, and most of them will probably be available locally. This season, add more variety to your basic dinner salad recipe by using spinach, bitter greens and a variety of colored peppers. The more colors and textures you add, the more interesting and flavorful your simple salad will be.

4. CHICKEN. When the temperatures soar, a light entree is the best way to beat the heat. Grilled or fried chicken served cold is a perfect choice, especially if your family is on an unpredictable schedule. To spice it up a bit, try a mustard and tarragon marinade, or go for a citrus-based marinade with lime and cilantro. Keeping it cool on warm, humid summer evenings doesn't mean sacrificing flavor.

5. BACON, LETTUCE AND TOMATO SANDWICHES. We love BLT sandwiches. They're a celebration of salty, smoky and garden fresh flavors all rolled into one. The classic summer BLT relies on very flavorful ingredients, so make sure you have quality bacon and a great tomato going in. Seriously, this summer sandwich is even worth growing your own tomatoes for. Another hint: Use thick sliced bacon and potato bread. Delicious.

6. FRESH FRUIT. Feasting on sun-kissed fruits served at their peak of freshness is one of the perks of summer dining. You may love chilled half crescents of watermelon, chocolate dipped strawberries, fresh picked blackberries or those first-of-the-season cherries. Whatever your fruit fix of choice happens to be, wash it thoroughly in cold water before you indulge. Why not try a pick-your-own fruit outing this year? Your family will come away with plenty of fruit and a better appreciation for local farming and agriculture.

7. CORN ON THE COB. Glistening, sweet and fresh, corn on the cob is a side dish worthy of its place on a paper plate. Save a spot for it on your grill this season. Or, be daring and cook it nestled in the coals with the husks still on. Whatever cooking method you choose, corn on the cob slathered in butter is as close as you'll ever get to tasting sunshine in its own convenient carrying case.






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