If you are anything like me when I am planning my Fourth of July menu, I like to make sides that are light, refreshing and that I am fairly confident are not going to turn on me in the sun. I have included a few of my favorite sides that are a old school, vintage recipes with a twist. Of course I make the requisite beans, grill hot dogs and hamburgers, and all the fixings, but there is something to having the perfect sides that just makes a barbecue taste like summer. Some of my favorite sides and salads are below.
Start with one head of fresh broccoli, two cups cheddar cheese, one 8 ounce container of greek yogurt, one packet of ranch powder, one pound of bacon, and one packet of frozen green peas. You are only going to use about ½ of the bag of green peas. To make the broccoli a bit more attractive to my crew, I chop it VERY fine – more of a broccoli shrub than a broccoli tree if you will. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Finish with about 1 cup of frozen green peas. Make a simple dressing with plain greek yogurt and ranch powder. Top with very crispy bacon and see if your kids don’t finally eat their broccoli!
Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad
The watermelon salad is my go to summer salad. I like to use a bed of either spinach, arugula, or sometimes mix it up an use both. The arugula has this amazing peppery flavor that goes so nicely with sweet watermelon. Papa Bear prefers spinach, so we are a house divided. For a family of four, add a 4 cups of greens, 2 cups of diced watermelon chunks, ½ cup feta and slivered, toasted almond slices (if you want) to a large glass bowl. Layer the ingredients in the order listed for the best effect. I don’t generally toss as it breaks up the melon and feta and I don’t love the soupy slush remaining. Just before serving add a few dashes of red wine vinegar and ¼ cup of almonds.
Apple Raisin Salad
Our apple salad is so very easy! This is one of those recipes that tastes like childhood for me. My Maw Maw made this salad all the time, especially in the summer. I loved it then, and I love it now! Dice 4 large apples or 6 small apples and place in a bowl. Add 1 cup of raisins and ½ cup of chopped pecans. Generally, I don’t tint the whipped topping before I add it to the salad, but in honor of the holiday, I will tint it green prior to mixing it into the salad. If you like a slightly tangy taste, you can add one 6 ounce cup of plain Greek yogurt in place of a portion of your whipped topping. Use just enough whipped topping and yogurt to thoroughly coat the fruit – I generally only use about ¾ of a container for this recipe.
I mix two small packets of pistachio pudding and 1 container of whipped topping. Add one can of crushed pineapple, one bag of mini marshmallows (truthfully, I love the little devils, but I don’t usually use a full bag – don’t tell the kids!) and 1 cup of chopped pecans. Mix and place in the fridge for about 20 minutes to firm up. It is light and fluffy and absolutely amazing on a hot day!
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
Making this quinoa salad is so easy! If you don’t have a rice cooker, go get one! They are quite handy to have around. Generally they are pretty cheap, and I have a small inexpensive one from my local box store. Just add quinoa to vegetable or chicken stock, throw in a little garlic and some fresh herbs if you have them – dried Italian seasoning if you don’t. Let it rock on without doing too much to it. I would suggest giving it a good stir after about five minutes, then let it cook. Once done, fluff with a fork and you are good to go. The grains (cous cous, quinoa, etc.) are really no different than rice to cook – especially when the rice cooker will just do it for you. The salad is so easy. My favorite mix is red onion, green and red bell pepper, sliced black olives, and feta cheese. I like to add about a quarter cup of Olive Garden dressing to give a little more flavor to the overall salad – so very good!
I move on to the caprese skewers and anti pasta that will serve as our starters. I am simply using some deli salami, mushrooms, olives, and artichokes for a small anti pasta platter. The caprese skewers are just as easy. Take a four inch skewer (I particularly like these little bamboo numbers that I get at my local grocer on the paper products isle – very cute and they have a fancy little knot a the end instead of those little plastic fringes – I like the look of the bamboo and the finish of the knot) and begin with a mozzarella pearl. Follow the mozzarella with a basil leaf, then a half cherry tomato. You can stop at these three basic ingredients or continue layering if you want. I will then use a basil and garlic olive oil pesto with a splash of balsamic vinegar to drizzle over the skewers. Not only is it tasty, it is pretty with the bright green basil as the base of your dressing.
What are your favorite sides?