CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Summer is the time of year for picnics, church gatherings and barbecues. It is also the time when temperatures reach record highs. On those lazy warm afternoons, when everyone gathers for fun and relaxation, no one wants to spend hours in a hot kitchen, cooking both the food and the mood into a rolling boil.
Here are a few fun, quick, easy and, most important, cool recipes for your picnic basket that will leave the friends wowed and the cook cool and relaxed.
Remember anything that involves dairy should be kept cool. You can use a traditional cooler filled with ice or a thermal tote with frozen packs to keep food at a safe temperature until time to serve.
This is a recipe I adapted years ago from a friend who had made a similar dish for an office gathering.
Helpful Hint: This dish can be made more or less spicy to suit personal taste by eliminating the jalapenos or by substituting mild or medium banana peppers for hot.
2 8-ounce bags shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 to 1 cup mayonnaise
1 4-ounce can diced green chilies, drained
1 4-ounce can diced jalapenos
15 to 20 hot banana pepper rings, diced
6 to 8 green onions, chopped, green and white parts
PLACE the Swiss cheese in a large bowl and stir in mayonnaise beginning with 1/2 cup and gradually add more until the desired consistency is reached.
ADD onions and peppers, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
REFRIGERATE at least three hours, but this dish is best prepared the night before to allow the flavors to meld.
SERVE with crackers as a dip or it can be used as a sandwich topping.
There are countless variations of this dish found on the Internet so you can explore and tweak your choice of beans or seasoning.
1 15.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15.5-ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can sweet corn, drained
1 finely chopped sweet Vidalia onion
1 to 2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 bunch chopped, fresh cilantro
1 diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
Chipotle hot sauce to taste
COMBINE in a large serving bowl the beans, corn, onion, garlic, cilantro and pepper. Set aside.
MIX in a separate small glass bowl the sugar and vinegars. Stir until sugar dissolves.
WHISK in olive oil, hot sauce and salt.
POUR dressing over bean mixture. Stir well and refrigerate.
SERVE chilled with tortilla chips.
Area lawyer Trent Redman and his wife, Tiffany, have recently launched a small catering food truck business, "Betsy's Barbeque," named for their daughter. Redman said they specialize in pulled pork, ribs, chicken and gargantuan turkey drumsticks.
For years, though, the Redmans have been known locally for their cooking prowess and entertaining style. Here are a couple of their favorite, crowd-pleasing recipes.
Watermelon Feta Salad
1 regular seedless watermelon