Back yard feast: Side dishes add fireworks to Great American Cookout

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By Greg Summers

Light the grill; Independence Day is here.While hot dogs, hamburger patties and barbecue chicken take center stage in the backyard on Friday, nothing adds spice to a star-spangled July 4 feast like all-American side dishes.The great thing about side dishes is you can mix and match them, depending on what your tastes are.From baked beans and coleslaw to potato salad and fresh-shucked corn, the combinations are endless.Nothing is better than topping it with homemade ice cream and a patriotic sweet treat or two, including an ice cold watermelon. And with a little bit of planning and work, you can make this holiday meal one to remember.Here are a few tips to consider:– July 4 is the biggest grilling day in the United States. Call or e-mail those you plan to invite and if you want them to bring something, ask them up front and be specific. That way, dishes and items like sodas, ice, salads and desserts won’t be duplicated.– If you are having lots of people, a mixed grill that includes hot dogs, smoked sausages, hamburgers and barbecue chicken should satisfy everyone.– Go “country” with ribs. To make your budget stretch, try grilling country-style ribs instead of spareribs or babybacks. Made from the blade end of the pork loin or shoulder, they have more meat than babybacks and are a great way to enjoy the great taste of barbecued ribs without the cost.– Stay away from mayonnaise-based dishes and foods that can spoil in the heat, if possible. You can also place potato salad inside another bowl filled with ice to keep the temperature down. It’s still a good idea not to keep it out for a long period of time.– When it comes to side dishes, work ahead to eliminate the stress. Do most of the prep work and baking on Thursday so you can enjoy the magic of the annual July 4 parade in Charlesboro on Friday morning, too. We hope to see you there!

Patriotic CupcakesIngredients1 package butter-recipe cake mix3 eggs2/3 cup water1 stick butter, room temperature1-2 cans coconut supreme pre-made frosting (any white icing will work)1 cup small, fresh blueberries, washed and dried1 roll red-colored fruit snack or fruit leather (Fruit Roll-Ups) cut into 1/8 inch strips by 2 inches long

Directions– Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-size muffin tin with paper muffin cups.– Combine softened butter, eggs, water and cake mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Increase to medium speed and beat another 2 minutes.– Divide batter evenly into 24 paper-lined muffin cups. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool to room temperature on wire racks before proceeding, or cool quickly 10-15 minutes in the freezer.– Spread frosting on tops of cooled cupcakes. Use blueberries to stud cupcakes in rows (for stars) over the upper left quarter of the cupcake. Place red fruit strips across the remainder of the cupcake surface in rows (for stripes) over frosting. Trim fruit strips where they hang over edges.Makes 24 cupcakes.

– Recipe by Melanie Knight/inspired by Peggy Trowbridge Filippone (www.about.com)

Corn on the Cob with Basil-Parmesan ButterIngredients1/4 cup (1e,,2 stick) unsalted butter, softened1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil1/2 teaspoon kosher salt1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic4 ears of corn, husked

Directions– To make the butter: In a small bowl, mash the butter ingredients together with the back of a fork, then stir to distribute the seasonings throughout the butter.– Brush about 1 tablespoon of the seasoned butter all over each ear of corn. Grill over direct medium heat until browned in spots and tender (10 to 15 minutes), turning occasionally. Serve warm with the remaining butter spread on the corn.Makes 4 servings.

– From www.weber.com (used with permission).

3-Bean Baked BeansIngredients1/2 pound bacon, fried, drained and chopped1/2 pound ground beef, cooked and drained1 medium onion, chopped1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained1 (15 ounce) can pork and beans1 (15 ounce) can butter beans, drained1/4 cup brown sugar, packed1/4 cup white sugar1/4 cup ketchup2 tablespoons molasses1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Directions– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.– In a large bowl, combine bacon, hamburger, onion with beans and stir.– Combine sugars, ketchup, molasses and mustard. Mix into the beans.– Bake uncovered for 1 hour.

– From www.recipezaar.com

Roasted Red Potato SaladIngredients2 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes1 medium onion, chopped4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced6 bacon strips, fried, drained and chopped1 cup mayonnaise1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon pepperPaprika (optional)

Directions– Preheat oven to 400 degrees.– Place potatoes in a greased, 15-inch-by-10-inch baking pan.– Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes until tender or golden brown, stirring occasionally. Cool for 15 minutes.– Transfer to a large bowl; add onion, eggs, bacon, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Toss to coat.– Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.– Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.

– By Ginger Cusano/allrecipes.com