Share that garden goodness by turning it all into healthy, crispy party nibbles. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

When I’m out and about, I cannot pass by a farm stand. I must check out the offerings, sometimes bringing home more than I really need. Fresh corn, greens, tomatoes, zucchini, melon and berries are just a few of the items I can’t resist.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundys Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

On one recent rainy night, I unloaded the refrigerator’s vegetable bins and experimented with making small batches of veggie-based snacks. While I worked (and sampled), I had the thought that these tidbits would be great party fare.

The Cheddar Corn Fritters are especially delicious and have just enough cheese and egg to keep them together. You can make them tiny or larger, use different kinds of cheese (I think pepper jack would be awesome!) and throw in fresh herbs such as cilantro, if you like.

Who wants a new way to use zucchini? I’ve read about these “tots” in the past, and when I finally made them, I found using a mini-muffin pan works so well! Be sure not to skip the step where you press the water out of the shredded zucchini. This is another flexible recipe where you can choose your cheese and herbs. I went with Parmesan, but any hard cheese would be yummy.

If you have a silicone muffin pan it would be great for these. I liked these tots even better the next day after they had been re-crisped in the oven.

I have to admit that I used to turn my nose up at the words “crispy kale,” but I have become a fan. This recipe is the best way I know to make it. I like to dust it with nutritional yeast, and since I had the oven on, I roasted some chickpeas to add more protein to my party tray.

All the versatile snacks below can be made ahead then warmed and crisped up with the oven set at 250 degrees or so for 5-10 minutes before serving. Add a sprinkling of za’atar spice blend to some plain yogurt to make a simple dip and you’re all set.

Summer’s bounty doesn’t last long, so enjoy it while you can!

Cheddar Corn Fritters

4 ears fresh corn (equal to 2 cups kernels)
3 tablespoons colored bell pepper, diced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons melted butter
Vegetable oil for frying

Shuck the corn and place it in a large pot of boiling water. Cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Cut the kernels from the cob then scrape the cob with a table knife to release the corn “milk.” Stir in bell pepper, eggs, water and cheese.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, chili powder, salt and pepper. Add the dry ingredients to the corn mixture and stir until evenly moistened. Stir in melted butter.

Pour 1/4 inch of oil into a large, heavy skillet and heat over medium heat. Drop spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil. Do not overcrowd. Fry on the first side until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Turn and fry until golden on the second side for 2 more minutes. Drain the fritters on paper towels and season with salt. Yield: 16 small fritters

Zucchini Tots

1 cup zucchini, shredded
1 egg
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a mini-muffin pan with oil or cooking spray.

Place shredded zucchini in a clean dish towel and squeeze the moisture out of it, then transfer to a bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients.

Fill the muffin cups with batter to the top. Bake for 20 minutes or until browned and set. Yield: 1 dozen

Crispy Kale Chips

1 bunch (about 6 ounces) curly kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Rinse and dry kale, then remove stems and center ribs. Tear leaves into pieces, toss with olive oil in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Arrange in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until crisp. Place on paper towels to cool. Yield: 4 servings

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