Salads among top suggestions for bang-up holiday menus

Salads among top suggestions for bang-up holiday menus

June 27th, 2012 by Clint Cooper in Life Entertainment

BLT pasta salad, fresh broccoli salad and Oreo Dirt Cake are simple dishes perfect for a holiday potluck.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

You've been invited to a Fourth of July potluck picnic, but what to bring?

Times Free Press readers who responded to a Facebook question about just such a possibility thought several kinds of salads were just the ticket. And why not? With grocers and farmers markets offering the freshest of vegetables and with a little imagination, the sky is the limit for the various types that might be made.

Signal Mountain resident Amber Flenniken, who writes the food blog This Mommy Cooks, suggested red potato salad and fresh broccoli salad. In addition, Tom Bright submitted mustard potato salad, Rachael Smith offered cornbread salad, and the folks at Hunt Nissan proposed BLT pasta salad found at the food blog A Bird and a Bean.

Flenniken, in her blog, says she and her husband are parents to three youngsters, two boys and a girl.

"My philosophy," she said, "is to only prepare one meal that my entire family will eat. This makes my life much easier! It also helps my kiddos to eat more of a variety of foods that are healthy."

Lucretia Dyer, meanwhile, said "just watermelon" was all she needed for the picnic.

No picnic is complete without baked beans, Erin Edwards opined. But she wasn't talking about plain baked beans. No, her suggestion was "homemade BBQ beans with ground beef mixed in and bacon slices on the top!"

And for dessert? Sarah Callahan Farmersuggested an easy-to-make Oreo Dirt Cake.

Fresh Broccoli Salad

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 broccoli crowns, washed and cut into bite-size pieces

2 medium carrots, cut into bite-size pieces

1/2 onion, diced

3/4 cup raisins

3/4 cup almonds, chopped

In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. Add in chopped broccoli, carrots, onion, raisins and almonds. Stir until all of the mixture is coated. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

-- Amber Flenniken, This Mommy Cooks

BLT Pasta Salad

12 ounces corkscrew-shaped pasta

1/2 cup milk

12 ounces lean bacon

3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 clove garlic, minced

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup mayonnaise (1/4 cup mayo and 1/4 cup Greek yogurt may be substituted)

1/4 cup sour cream

4 tablespoons chopped chives, divided

5 heads Bibb lettuce, quartered (or 5 cups chopped romaine hearts)

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water as the label directs. Drain and toss with the milk in a large bowl; set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Discard all but 3 tablespoons of drippings from the pan. Add the tomatoes, thyme and garlic to the pan and toss until warmed through; season with salt and pepper. Crumble the bacon into bite-size pieces; set aside 1/4 cup for garnish. Toss the remaining bacon and the tomato mixture with the pasta.

Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream and 3 tablespoons chives with the pasta until evenly combined. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Add the lettuce; toss again to coat. Garnish with the reserved bacon and the remaining 1 tablespoon chives. Serve at room temperature.

-- Hunt Nissan (from the food blog A Bird and a Bean)

Oreo Dirt Cake

1 bag Oreos, crushed

8 ounces cream cheese

1/4 cup butter

1 cup powdered sugar

3 cups milk

2 small packages instant vanilla pudding

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

12 ounces Cool Whip, thawed

Put half of crushed Oreos in bottom of 13- by 9-inch pan. Cream together cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar. In separate bowl, mix together milk, pudding, vanilla and Cool Whip. Add cream-cheese mixture. Put other half of crushed Oreos on top. Chill.

-- (suggested by Sarah Callahan Farmer)

Red Potato Salad

7 small red potatoes

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup plain yogurt

2 tablespoons Miracle Whip (optional, but it adds a great flavor)

1/4 cup fresh chives, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon dill weed

1 teaspoon salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

Scrub potatoes (but don't peel). If large, cut in half or in quarters. Boil potatoes in their skins until they are fork-tender. Drain, dry and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

In a bowl, combine sour cream, yogurt, Miracle Whip, chives, dill weed, salt and pepper and dill weed. Add the potatoes, and toss gently to coat. Taste, and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Refrigerate until chilled.

-- Amber Flenniken

Blueberry Peach Pie

1 single pie crust

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)

2 cups peaches (fresh or frozen.)

4 ounces of cream cheese, softened

Cook pie crust according to directions. Set aside to cool.

Combine sugar, water, cornstarch and fruit. Cook on medium heat until mixture starts to bubble, then reduce to a medium-low simmer and stir frequently until thickened, 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Spread cream cheese on the bottom of the cooked pie crust. Pour blueberry and peach filling over cream cheese. Cool for a few hours in the refrigerator.

-- Amber Flenniken

Lemon Bundt Cake

2 lemons, zest and juice

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup oil

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 cups flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup plain yogurt

Powered sugar, for garnish

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Zest lemons into a bowl, and set aside. In a large bowl (or mixer), whisk eggs and stir in sugar. Add lemon zest, oil and vanilla, and mix until combined. Add in lemon juice. Next add flour, baking powder and baking soda to mixture, and combine. Last, add in the yogurt. Spray the inside of a nonstick Bundt pan with cooking spray, and pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn pan 180 degrees, and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 3 to 4 minutes, and then invert on a wire rack to continue cooling. Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cool, and serve.

-- Amber Flenniken

Chocolate Bundt Cake With Chocolate Ganache

For cake:

2 cups sugar

13/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cups Dutch process cocoa powder (or traditional cocoa powder)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup freshly brewed strong black coffee

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

For chocolate ganache (optional):

1/3 cup heavy cream

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or semisweet chips)

1/2 tablespoon corn syrup

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

For cake: Heat oven to 350.

Either spray a Bundt pan with nonstick spray or butter a Bundt pan and dust the inside with cocoa powder or flour. Next, sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl. Set aside.

In a mixer on low, add the buttermilk, coffee, oil, eggs and vanilla, one at a time. Mix until all ingredients are smooth and incorporated. Then, with the mixer still on low speed, slowly add in the dry ingredients. Once all of the flour mixture is added, mix the batter for a full 4 minutes on medium speed.

After you've mixed the batter, pour the batter into the Bundt pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Allow cake to cook in pan for 5 to 10 minutes on a wire rack, and then invert onto serving plate (or keep on wire rack) and allow to cool to room temperature.

Top cake with chocolate ganache or dust with powdered sugar (or serve warm with ice cream on the side).

For chocolate ganache: In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. In a heatproof bowl, combine 3 ounces of chopped chocolate with the corn syrup and butter. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and let stand until melted, about 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Let the ganache glaze cool until thick but still pourable, about 5 more minutes.

Pour the ganache over the cooled cake. Let the cake stand until the glaze is set, at least 30 minutes, before serving.

-- Amber Flenniken

Homemade Pimento Cheese

4-ounce jar pimentos

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon finely chopped onion

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper, or to taste

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

8 ounces white cheddar cheese, shredded

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, adding more sour cream or mayonnaise if needed to get the right consistency. Serve on sandwiches, burgers or veggies.

-- Amber Flenniken

Feta Cheese Stuffed Burgers

1 pound ground beef

1/4 cup feta cheese, plus more for topping

1 tablespoon dried parsley, chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 clove of garlic, minced

Salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and mix gently. Heat grill or grill pan over medium heat, and coat with olive-oil cooking spray. Shape meat into patties as thick as desired. Place the patties on the grill pan, and cook until the desired degree of doneness, turning only once. Remove from heat, and serve on buns with extra feta, tomatoes, onions and lettuce for toppings.

-- Amber Flenniken