Spicing up your holiday meal can be simple and fun

Published 6:07 pm Saturday, June 28, 2014

PackageWith the Fourth of July just down the road, attention from backyard chefs turns instinctively to the grill; the lure of the smoke and its charred, meaty goodness pulling at the senses almost relentlessly.

While the mainstay of grilling often includes burgers, steaks, chicken drumsticks, pork loins and brats, it’s easy to sometimes forget that the ever-evolving side dish is a food staple that can be augmented and changed to something that is more than simply potato salad and baked beans.

Though tasty on their own, side dishes present an opportunity to try something different in a deceptively simple way. Doing a quick turn in the kitchen may be enough to get your creative side rolling to create something new from something old.

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“Just give yourself a few minutes to think about how you can make the dish more creative,” said Jen Haugen, Hy-Vee dietitian. “Maybe it’s the way you put it together so it looks more appealing.”

Haugen said that when it comes to spicing up your sides, the ideas can range from new tastes to the way it’s presented.

Even something so simple as playing with foods with different colors can create an appealing addition to the run-of-the-mill dish.

“I would say just add some color,” she said. “That could come from anything in the pantry — a different kind of bean, maybe you add some sautéed bell peppers and onions. Whatever you have that will make it even more appealing.”

Often times, as the outdoor meals are prepared, it’s easy for people to concentrate more on the main dish than the sides themselves simply on a complacently of tradition.

“I think people like their traditional dishes,” Haugen said. “It keeps people in the same though process of what sides can be. They don’t take take it the one step further that it can be.”

The upside is days like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July offer the perfect inspiration for something new.

“Definitely,” Haugen said of the Fourth. “It gets people in the mode of red, white and blue. You can integrate that into the recipes.”


Cranberry Potato  Cucumber Salad

One of my favorite picnic side dishes is potato salad, but it’s got to be creamy.  And usually creamy means extra calories! But with this recipe, the creaminess from the mayonnaise is replaced with non-fat, plain Greek yogurt with just a touch of low fat mayonnaise.  I also like the addition of cranberries and cucumbers for more texture and crunch.  It is delicious!


All you need

•8 oz. small red, white and blue potatoes, quartered

•1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek-style yogurt

•2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise

•1 tablespoons white balsamic or cider vinegar

•1/2 tsp. hot red pepper sauce

•1/3 cup dried cranberries

•1 cup diced seedless cucumber

•1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions


All you do

1. Wash potatoes and boil with skin on for 15-20 minutes or until almost tender. Remove from heat and drain. Cool.

2. In a bowl, whisk together yogurt, mayonnaise, vinegar and pepper sauce. Stir in cranberries and let stand 20 minutes to soften cranberries slightly. Stir potatoes, cucumber and scallions into yogurt-cranberry mixture and toss to coat. 3. Adjust seasoning as needed. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.