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Summertime recipes for picnics and grilling parties

At the Gwinnett Daily Post, we cover and represent all things important around the county each and every day, but when we leave the office, we also like to chow down on good food. Here are a few recipes that we whip up during the warmer summer months.

-- Compiled by Staff Writer Meghan Kotowski

WATERMELON SALAD

Courtesy of Tori Boone, Copy Editor

My boyfriend, Jeff Jackson, is the one who created this dish. It's such a refreshing dish to eat during the hot summer months when you don't want to eat anything too heavy.

-- Half of a seedless watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes

-- 4 ounces of crumbled feta cheese

-- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

-- Acetificio Emiliani Crema Gastronomica balsamic glaze (or any balsamic glaze you can find)

Arrange watermelon on plate, top with feta, season with salt and pepper and drizzle liberally with balsamic.

JUANITA'S SUMMER CASSEROLE

Courtesy of Heather Parker, Advertising

Juanita was my Aunt-Polly-Through-Marriage's family cook down in Moultrie. One summer Juanita made up this casserole from vegetables fresh from the garden. The dish is so delicious Polly brought it home to our family and we have enjoyed it every summer since. I make it by memory and guesstimations-so good luck and enjoy!

-- 1 lb. tomatoes, yellow squash and zucchini, peeled and thinly sliced

-- 1 large onion (we prefer yellow or Vidalia), peeled and sliced

-- Salt and pepper

-- 6 pieces of bacon

-- 1 cups shredded sharp cheddar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease your pan and begin to layer each vegetable one by one, salt and peppering each, until all the vegetables are used and heaped to the top of the dish.
  3. Place 6 slices of bacon over the top of the vegetables and sprinkle sharp cheddar over the top of the bacon.
  4. Cover the dish with foil and bake for about an hour or until vegetables are tender.
  5. Turn oven to broil and let bacon crisp up real fast. When broiling is complete, the dish is done.

SUMMERTIME MACARONI SALAD

Courtesy of Robert C. Granfeldt Jr., Vice President of Digital Media

I enjoy this salad because it adds a light side option to my normal mesquite smoked brisket, ribs and smoked German sausage. It's flavorful, but complex -- and most importantly, it's unique.

-- 8 ounces small pasta (such as elbows)

-- cup mayonnaise

-- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

-- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

-- cup minced onion

-- cup diced green bell pepper

-- 1 cups corn kernels (canned, off the cob or frozen)

-- 4 ounces diced sharp cheddar or longhorn cheese (about 1 cup)

-- teaspoon dried dill weed

-- teaspoon salt

-- teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot with plenty of salted water until "al dente," according to package directions. Do no over cook. Drain the pasta.
  2. Spoon the mayonnaise into large bowl. While the pasta is warm, add it to the bowl and mix it up with the mayonnaise.
  3. Stir in the lemon juice and olive oil. Add the onion, bell pepper and corn and mix.
  4. Cool pasta. Once cooled, mix in the cheese, dill, salt and pepper.
  5. Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled. Just prior to serving, taste the salad and refresh the flavors as needed by adding more lemon juice, mayo, salt or pepper.

MEXICAN SALAD

Courtesy of Keith Farner, Suwanee Post Reporter

This Mexican salad has the right combination of refreshment, but also a little kick from the salsa. It's also fairly healthy. The ingredients also allow for ad lib as needed.

-- Lettuce

-- lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips and cooked (grilled, broiled or stove top)

-- can of corn, drained

-- can of black beans, drained and rinsed

-- Salsa

-- Taco sauce

-- Sour cream (or Greek yogurt)

-- Shredded cheese

Basically, just add all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix. You can decide of how much what you would like in the salad.

EVERYONE'S FAVORITE MASHED POTATO SALAD

Courtesy of Heather Parker, Advertising

I love to cook and I love to feed my family and friends good food. Thankfully, this is one of my favorite dishes to make because it is requested often. I'm transporting a double batch to Birmingham on Wednesday for the holiday.

-- 3 lb. red potatoes, peeled

-- 6 large eggs

-- Salt and pepper

-- cup sweet pickle relish (add more as needed)

-- Yellow mustard

-- Mayonnaise (I prefer Kraft Original)

-- Paprika

  1. Boil the red potatoes until a potato piece will mash on the side of the pot with a spoon or spatula. Drain very well.
  2. While potatoes are cooking, boil 6 large eggs and peel when cooked.
  3. Add potatoes and eggs to a large bowl and smash together with a pastry blender.
  4. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper and the sweet pickle relish to the potatoes and egg mixture, then squeeze a generous amount of classic yellow mustard in the bowl.
  5. At this point, you want the potatoes and eggs to be yellow in color and for there to be a good mix of relish with the potatoes and mustard.
  6. Add regular mayonnaise (not low-fat) one cup at a time until the mixture is very creamy. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  7. Before your serving, remove the salad from the refrigerator and taste it. You will need to add more mayonnaise, but first, see if you need to add additional salt, pepper, mustard or relish.
  8. Once you have added these ingredients, add mayonnaise, cup by cup until the salad is very creamy, with a consistency similar to mashed potatoes. There will be some chunks which is perfectly OK.
  9. Once you have completed the mixing, transfer to a nice serving bowl, smooth the salad and sprinkle paprika over the top.

GORGONZOLA BURGERS

Courtesy of Meghan Kotowski, Features Writer

I love to make these burgers because they're really easy and super tasty. I top with the Gorgonzola (a veined Italian blue cheese) because my boyfriend loves the flavor.

-- 1 lb. ground beef (80/20 is ideal)

-- 1 egg

-- 3 shakes of soy sauce-- 2 shakes of Worcestershire sauce

-- 1 teaspoon onion powder

-- 1 teaspoon garlic powder

-- Salt and pepper

-- Crumbled Gorgonzola

-- Buns

-- Whatever else you'd like on your burger. I topped mine with bacon, lettuce and tomato.

  1. Throw all of those ingredients (except cheese and buns) in a bowl and mixed them together with your best tools: your hands.
  2. Here's an easy tip to make even patties: Roll the meat into a ball, flatten it out in the bowl and use your hand to score a cross into the beef. It makes even patties for the grill.
  3. When ready, throw the meat on the grill and cook until your desired temperature.
  4. Top with cheese and take the patties off of the grill.
  5. Put your favorite ingredients on top and enjoy.

BANANA SPLIT CAKE

Courtesy of Sharon Peacock, Advertising

Want an easy dessert? This is it. The best part about this cake is that you can make it a day ahead of time in case you don't have the extra 30 minutes before your meal to create this treat.

-- 16 graham crackers, crushed

-- 3 tablespoons lite margarine, melted

-- 2 cups water-packed pineapple, drained

-- 1 banana, sliced

-- 1 cup strawberries, sliced

-- 1 (6 serving) package of sugar-free instant chocolate pudding mix

-- 2 cups skim milk

-- 2 cups lite whipping topping

-- Chopped dry-roasted unsalted peanuts (optional)

  1. In a small mixing bowl, combine crackers and margarine. Press crumbs into a 13x9x2-inch baking pan prepared with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Fold fruit into pudding prepared according to package directions, but using 2 instead of 3 cups skim milk. Spread pudding-fruit mixture over crust in pan. Chill until firm.
  3. Spread whipped topping over pudding. Sprinkle with nuts.
  4. Serve cold. Cake may be prepared in advance and stored in refrigerator.