Go-To Recipes for End of Summer Get-Togethers

Summer may be winding down (can you believe we’re closing in on August already? Dang!), but chances are you still have a family reunion, picnic, backyard barbecue, or town celebration coming up, and then of course there’s Labor Day weekend. Whatever it is, you’ll probably be providing some kind of side or dessert to round out the meal and share with the group. You could go with the usual macaroni salad or bars from a box, but why not shake things up and impress your relatives or friends with something totally unexpected?

If you’re looking for something different and delicious to bring to the table, I’ve got some recipes you should definitely try!

calico beans

Calico Beans beats basic baked beans any day! Photo courtesy of crockpotladies.com

Calico Beans 
Ingredients:
1/2 lb. bacon, in pieces
2 lbs. ground beef
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 (16 oz.) can baked beans in tomato sauce
1 (15-1/2 oz.) can kidney beans
1 (16 oz.) can butter beans
1 cup ketchup
3 tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
Directions: Fry bacon pieces; remove from grease. Brown ground beef. Add onions and celery at end of browning. In baking dish, combine remaining ingredients; add bacon and ground beef mixture. Bake covered at 350° F for 45 minutes or for 6-8 hours on low in a slow cooker.

coleslaw

More zesty and colorful than classic coleslaw! 

Sweet-and-Sour Coleslaw 
Ingredients:
4 cups chopped or shredded cabbage (I buy the kind in a bag)
1/2 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 tbsp. jalapeño pepper, chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 small can cooked corn kernels, cooled
Dressing:
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
Salt to taste
Directions: Place cabbage, peppers, onions, cilantro, and corn in a large bowl. Mix vinegar, sweetener, and salt in a small bowl, add to cabbage mixture and toss well. Chill before serving.   Recipe and photo from allrecipes.com

cowboy caviar 3

Why settle for regular salsa when you can dip your chips in Cowboy Caviar? Photo courtesy of culinaryhill.com

Cowboy Caviar  
Ingredients:
1 can garbanzo beans – drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans – drained and rinsed
1 can black beans – drained and rinsed
1 can white corn – drained
4 stalks celery
1 green, 1 yellow & 1 red pepper – chopped
1 small red onion – chopped
Dressing
1 cup canola oil
½ cup vinegar
½ cup sugar
Directions: Boil dressing ingredients together. Mix dressing with bean/veggie ingredients and refrigerate overnight.

caprese salad

A light, refreshing Italian salad that’s easy to make and simply delish! 

Caprese Salad 
Ingredients:
2 lbs. assorted fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 lb. cubed mozzarella
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar (I use balsamic vinegar)
Salt & pepper to taste
Directions: Toss ingredients together and chill before serving.
Photo and recipe from Foodnetwork.com

snow cone cupcakes

These snow cone treats are actually cupcakes, which means they won’t melt! Photo courtesy of lovefromtheoven.com

Snow Cone Cupcakes
You’ll find all kinds of recipes for these and other clever summer-theme cupcakes on Pinterest!

Deviled Eggs are always a hit at summer parties, but instead of going with the same old mayo and mustard recipe, try one of these Unique Deviled Egg Toppings!

Looking for handy ways to store, serve and carry your food & beverages?  Check these out:

snap and stack 2Snapware® Snap ‘N Stack Food Storage Eggtainer
Ideal for picnics and potlucks, this multi-use tote has two removable egg holders for deviled eggs and stackable containers for bars or cookies. Buy it now at boscovs.com

 

crock potCrock-Pot Oval 7 Quart Red Slow Cooker with Travel Bag
Perfect for hot appetizers, entrees, and side dishes (like Calico Beans!). Comes with a travel bag for easy toting to summer parties. Buy it now at shopko.com

cooler
Rubbermaid 60-Quart Wheeled Cooler

Keep beverages cold on the go with this roomy, easy-to-maneuver cooler. It holds up to 62 cans with ice, plus has built-in cup holders. Buy it now at homedepot.com

Enjoy!

Smark Perks Blogger Catherine B. loves summer. She just wishes it lasted longer (if only she could say the same for winter!).

Savory Spring Sides

When it comes to holiday dinners, the main course tends to take center stage. This season it’s usually glazed ham, pork roast or leg of lamb.  But it’s time to put the spotlight on the supporting players – side dishes. They not only complete your feast, they make it more satisfying. Even if your kids, or in some cases your spouse, turn up their noses at anything that’s green, orange, or yellow and grown in a garden, we all know your meal would be pretty bland (and not nearly as nutritious) without these colorful edibles.

It’s customary in our family to have two kinds of vegetables, along with a salad and potatoes with the glazed ham for Easter dinner. When considering the menu for the upcoming holiday, I got to thinking about different side dishes we could add to mix things up this year. After searching for recipes, I found a few that I’m anxious to try (hopefully they’ll impress the relatives!).

Good tasting, Good-For-You Veggies

I adore asparagus (it’s my vegetable du jour for spring and summer) and I’m always looking for new ways to serve these delightful green spears. I came across this easy, but enticing recipe in the April edition of Food Network Magazine.

dill mushroom asparagus

Asparagus AND mushrooms – can’t wait to dive into this one!

Dill Mushrooms and Asparagus

  • 4 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • Olive oil
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 2 tbsp. chopped dill
  • 3/4 tsp. lemon zest

Directions: brown sliced mushrooms in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add asparagus and water; season with salt & pepper. Cook and stir, until crisp-tender, about 7 minutes. Toss with chopped dill and lemon zest.

If you don’t care for mushrooms, you’ll find dozens of other asparagus recipes at tasteofhome.com.

Here’s a simple recipe for Glazed Carrots that has just the right amount of sweetness to appeal to kids… anything to get them to eat their vegetables, right?

baby carrot salad

So buttery & sweet – even kids like these cooked carrots!

Glazed Baby Carrots

  • 1 lb. fresh, frozen or canned whole baby carrots (fresh is best)
  • Water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Directions: Cook carrots in a small amount of water until tender. Drain. In a saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar; heat until sugar dissolves. Add carrots and toss to coat. Heat through. Yield: 4 servings – double or triple ingredient amounts for a bigger crowd.
Recipe from tasteofhome.com.

Tired of the same old tossed salad? Add more flavor and texture to your greens with mandarin oranges, pecans and a tangy dressing!

Mandarin Orange and Pecan Salad

  • 2 heads romaine lettuce (washed and torn into bite size pieces)
  • 1 cup pecan halves or slivered almonds (toasted)
  • 1 (8 oz.) can mandarin oranges

saladforCathysblog

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 2 tbsp. water

Directions: Place lettuce, pecans (or almonds) and oranges in salad bowl. Combine dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until well mixed. Make ahead and refrigerate until ready to toss with salad. Recipe courtesy of food.com.

 Stupendous Spuds

Potato Latkes are a traditional dish served on Passover and Hanukkah – they refer to them as potato pancakes, but really they’re more like hash browns. Anyway, you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy them. I found this recipe for classic Potato Latkes on realsimple.com.

Homemade potato pancakes served with sour cream and brown sugar

Potato Latkes (potato pancakes) may be served on Jewish holidays, but you can enjoy them anytime!

Potato Latkes

  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 lbs. (5 medium) peeled medium-starch potatoes, such as Yukon gold
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Applesauce and sour cream, for serving

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 450° F. Brush 2 baking sheets with 1 tablespoon of the oil and set aside.
  2. Using a box grater or a food processor fitted with a shredding blade, coarsely grate the potatoes. Place the grated potatoes in a large bowl with the onion, flour, salt, pepper, eggs, and the remaining tablespoon of oil. Toss to mix well.
  3. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets and press lightly to make patties. Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom. Turn the latkes with a metal spatula and rotate the baking sheets. Bake another 5 minutes or until golden.
  4. Transfer to a platter and serve with the applesauce and sour cream.

Even though I plan to modify our Easter menu with a few of these scrumptious side dishes, I still have to include a family favorite – Cheesy Potatoes. My aunt gave me this recipe several years ago and it’s been a hit ever since.

cheesy plateCheesy Potatoes

  • 1 2-lb. package frozen hash browns (thawed)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 16-oz. carton sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 large package shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 1-1/2 cups crushed corn flakes

Directions: combine first 6 ingredients except for 1/4 stick butter. Spread in a large casserole dish. Coat corn flakes in remaining melted butter and sprinkle on top. Bake at 350º for 1 hour.

See more mouthwatering cheesy potato recipes on pinterest.com!
Find all kinds of sensational side dish recipes at simplyrecipes.com!

Have a Happy Easter, Passover or whatever you’re celebrating this spring!

Smart Perks Blogger Catherine B. tricks the kids and sometimes even her husband into eating vegetables by disguising them under mounds of melted cheese.