Now that the days are getting longer, and we are grilling and barbecuing more often outside, I tend to look for simple, quick sides to go along with the meal. Try grilling some fruit, such as pineapple, peaches, or apple slices, and top it off with a drizzle of honey. For a seasonal side that goes well with just about anything, try oven roasting some fresh asparagus seasoned with olive oil, sea salt, and lemon-pepper seasoning. With grocery and produce prices still at record high levels, recipes that call for just a few extra ingredients are also welcome. Before summer strikes and the heat is here indefinitely, more time outside and less time in the kitchen is also a plus during this time of the year.

Glazed Carrots

1 (16 oz.) bag baby carrots

1 ¼ TBSP. salted butter

½ TBSP. light brown sugar

Optional: Add a dash of black pepper and a pinch or two of parsley before serving

Optional: ½ tsp. fresh orange zest

Place the carrots in a saucepan and cover with water. Cover the saucepan with a lid and boil over high heat; cook carrots for 7-8 minutes. Drain most of the water from the pan, but leave a tablespoon of the liquid. Add the butter, sugar, and orange zest, and stir well. Cover with the lid and cook about 6 more minutes, or until done.

Squash and Mushroom Sauté

2 large yellow squash, sliced about ¼ inch thick

2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 TBSP. canola or vegetable oil

2 tsp. fresh minced garlic

Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

¼ tsp. tarragon

2 ½ TBSP. butter

Fresh parsley

In a large skillet, heat the oil, then add the sliced mushrooms to the pan. Add the minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until the mushrooms are tender. Remove the mushrooms and garlic from the skillet and place in a dish. Add the sliced squash to the pan and cook for several minutes; season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the butter to the skillet and continue to sauté until the squash is tender. When the squash is done, add the tarragon and stir well. Add the cooked mushrooms back to the skillet and stir to incorporate. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Savory Mashed Potatoes

2 lbs. potatoes

1 TBSP. Bacon-Ranch Dip (I recommend Dean’s brand dip)

4 TBSP. salted butter

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

1 TBSP. crispy fried onions

Peel and cube the potatoes and place in a large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to boil. Add salt to the water. Boil until fork tender. Drain the potatoes and place in a large bowl with the butter; use an electric mixer and whip until there are no lumps. Add in the prepared dip and mix well; add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with crispy fried onions. Makes about 4-5 servings. Note: I use Yukon Gold or other yellow skinned potatoes. If you cannot locate Bacon-Ranch Dip, any Ranch flavored dip will work.

White Bean Salad

2 (15 oz.) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (or you can use small white beans)

½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1/4 cup onion, finely chopped

2 TBSP. white wine vinegar

2 TBSP. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. parsley

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

In a large salad bowl, gently stir together the beans, red bell pepper, and chopped onion. Stir in the parsley. In a small jar or bowl, add the vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine. Gently stir the salad with the dressing. Note: You can add a can of premium white tuna and a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to the salad.

Grilled Apples with Honey and Cheese

2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into ½-inch rounds

2 tsp. canola oil

1 ¼ tsp. confectioner’s sugar

1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

¼ cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese

2 TBSP. chopped pecans

4 ½ tsp. honey

Toss the apple rings with the oil, sugar, and cinnamon. Grill the apple slices over medium heat (can use a grill pan), turning once. Grill for about 5-6 minutes. Top the apple slices with some of the cheese, nuts, and a drizzle of the honey.

Amy Fischer lives in Fort Payne, Alabama, and is a Southern food enthusiast who loves to spend time in the kitchen creating tasty recipes. You can contact her at facebook.com/MySouthernTable.

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