Fresh Simple Sides for Poolside Dining

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One of my favorite outings is to scope out local farmers markets and roadside stands. I’ll often create a dinner plan around whatever vegetables I find, and I try to let my kids pick our purchase. I’ve found that the more involved the boys are in helping to create dinner, the more likely they are to eat it.

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Here in Michigan, we take advantage of prime weather by turning off the oven and spending our time outside grilling dinner. Here are a few of my favorite fresh, simple side dishes made with local produce. I’m an “inspired” cook, so when something sounds good together, I mix it in. You can tweak these recipes to your tastes and to the local produce you have in season.

Fresh Pepper & Fruit Salsa

Tweak this recipe to your guests’ tastes. If it’s a family-friendly event, you can skip the hot peppers. The crunch from the peppers and onions mixed with the fresh fruit is a juicy combination that won’t disappoint! We never have leftovers from this salsa — it’s gone in one meal!
3 yellow, orange or red peppers
2 jalapeño peppers
½ sweet onion
2-4 kiwi
1 mango
1 cup fresh pineapple
2-3 limes
¼ lb. fresh cilantro
salt & pepper

1. Dice the peppers, onion, kiwi, mango, and pineapple into fine pieces.
2. Slice the limes in half and add juice of limes to salsa.
3. Finely chop the cilantro and add in.
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with chips as a dipping salsa, or top freshly grilled fish or fish tacos.

Grilled Vegetables

Grilled Parsnips, Carrots & Potatoes

Yield: 8 servings

Parsnips are a rarely used veggie that have catapulted into the hearts of our entire family. It’s the white root veggie that looks like a fatter version of a carrot. Once grilled (or sautéed, if you have rainy weather), its sweet flavor is the perfect complement to the grill char.

½ lb. parsnips
½ lb. carrots
½ lb. potatoes
garlic salt
black pepper
cayenne pepper
sea salt

There are two variations for this recipe: sweet or savory. The garlic salt, black and cayenne peppers mix together, or you can use honey, cinnamon, black pepper and sea salt for a sweet glaze.
1. Peel and dice the vegetables to bite-size pieces.
2. Mix with pads of butter and the spice mixture of your choice.
2. Prepare 2 layers of foil with the edges folded up. Add veggies and top with 2 more layers to create a packet for the grill. Cook for 12-15 minutes on direct heat of the grill until tender.

Lemony Cucumber & Orzo Salad with Mint

Yield: serves 8

This combination of zesty lemon, cucumber and just-picked mint is delightfully refreshing on a hot or humid day. It’s a great vegetarian dish, or toss a grilled protein on top to make it a complete meal.

1 ½ cups dry orzo pasta, cooked and chilled
2-3 fresh cucumbers
2-3 large lemons
⅛ lb. curly leaf parsley
¼ lb. mint
8 oz. fresh goat or feta cheese
salt & pepper
olive oil

1. Cook and chill the orzo pasta ahead of time to make this a chilled salad. It can be served warm if desired.
2. Peel and dice your cucumbers into bite-sized pieces.
3. Juice your lemons and add to cucumbers. Zest fine curls or strips and add in as well.
4. Finely chop the parsley and mint to your taste, add to cucumbers.
5. Dice the cheese, and mix together with cucumber mixture and cold orzo. Season with salt and pepper. Mix with a few tablespoons of olive oil to coat and toss the salad together.


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