Two Summer Salads: Reinvent Your BBQ

Summer is a time for picnics, barbecues and other pot luck-style gatherings of family and friends. It's customary to bring macaroni or potato salad, but in case you're getting a little tired of turning up to the party with the usual suspects, here are a few new twists on the classic theme.

It's easy to make any party a fiesta with chicken taco pasta salad. Spicy and cool at the same time, it boasts a wealth of textures and a flavorful pop that many pasta salads can't deliver. Bonus ­—it's a great, easy way to get a few extra veggies into your kids and grandkids at what can be an unbalanced, indulgent event.

Spinach and artichoke dip is a favorite at all kinds of family events. It's creamy, salty, savory and just a little spicy, and now, you can have it in potato salad form. It's potato salad like you've never had it, can be served warm or cold, and you won't even miss the chips.

Don't count on leftovers coming home from the party, though. These dishes are sure to please a crowd and you'll be getting invitations for repeat performances.


Chicken Taco Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. chicken breast, diced
  • 1 package taco seasoning mix
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 lb. pasta (I used gemelli)
  • 1 tbsp. salt (for pasta water)
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream, plus more to top
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 can black beans, drained (rinse if desired)
  • 1 can black olives, drained and sliced
  • 1 can sweet corn, drained
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Corn chips or corn tortilla chips
  • Chopped scallions (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a pot on the stove, bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions, or until al dente. Drain and set aside to cool.
  2. In a skillet, heat canola oil. Add chicken and taco seasoning, saute until cooked through, and set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, combine cooled pasta and chicken with mayo, sour cream and salsa. Add beans olives and corn. Chill 8 hours or overnight to allow flavors to meld.
  4. Top serving bowl with garnishes, or provide them on the side for guests to top their own portion.

Spinach Artichoke Dip Potato SaladPotato Salad - Food for Thought

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. potatoes (I used Yukon golds)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 can chopped spinach, drained well
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Prepare potatoes as desired. Some people boil them whole, allow them to cool part way, and then peel and dice before dressing. If you're in a time crunch, I like to peel and dice them first, put them on the stove in cold, salted water, and put them on medium heat for about 20 minutes. Because everyone's stove is different, always check them periodically to make sure they don't overcook. Mashed potato salad is still delicious, but tender chunks of potato make for a much more pleasing texture.
  2. In a microwave safe bowl, heat cream cheese for 1-2 minutes. (If you hear it pop, it's hot enough.)
  3. Add mayo and sour cream and mix well. Stir in Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, artichoke hearts and spinach. Season as desired. When evenly mixed, add to warm potatoes and combine. Serve warm or chilled.