It doesn't have to be a special occasion for you to make these simple, delicious meals.

Enjoy these wonderfully flavorful dishes you can mix and match for your summer cookout. Try fresh takes on traditional favorites--such as baked beans and potato salad--along with perfect main courses like sweet-and-savory ribs, grilled chicken with a spicy white BBQ sauce, and southern-style shrimp. These substantial dishes, including yummy desserts, are not only healthful but sparkle from beginning to end with the excitement of a fireworks display.

Fresh-Squeezed Raspberry Lemonade

from Sunset

Pour a tall glass of cool lemonade infused with sweet raspberries. Garnish the rim with red, white, and blue sugar for a patriotic finish. To make colored sugar, mix one drop of food coloring with 1/2 cup of sugar in a zip-top bag and shake.

6 oz. fresh raspberries
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup lemon juice
2 cups water

In a small bowl, with a potato masher or spoon, mash 1 cup rinsed fresh raspberries (6 oz.) with 2/3 cup sugar. Let stand 10 minutes. Press through a fine strainer into a pitcher (at least 1 1/2 qt.); discard seeds. Stir in 1 cup lemon juice and 2 cups water. Taste and add more sugar if desired. Pour into tall, ice-filled glasses.

Yield: Makes about 1 quart; 4 servings.

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Root Beer Baked Beans

from Southern Living

Sweet, smoky, and savory, this delicious baked bean dish is sure to be a hit for Independence Day. Root beer adds a fun twist, making this dish one of a kind.

3 bacon slices
1 small onion, diced
2 (16-ounce) cans pork and beans
1/2 cup root beer (not diet)
1/4 cup hickory-smoked barbecue sauce
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon hot sauce

Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp; remove and drain on paper towels, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon. Sauté diced onion in hot bacon drippings in skillet over high heat 5 minutes or until tender. Stir together onion, crumbled bacon, beans, and remaining ingredients in a lightly greased 1-quart baking dish.

Bake beans, uncovered, at 400 for 55 minutes or until sauce is thickened.

Yield: Makes 4 servings.

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Roasted Potato Salad with Mustard Dressing

from Cooking Light

This tangy side dish with sweet onions and honey pairs beautifully with burgers or steak. This salad is best chilled but can stay at room temperature for up to two hours. You can also use sweet-hot mustard in place of the Dijon and honey for a zesty flavor.

3 pounds small red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 bacon slices (uncooked), chopped
2 cups diced Vidalia or other sweet onion (about 2 medium)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; toss to coat. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400 for 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring once. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl.

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in pan; set bacon aside. Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 15 minutes or until golden brown and caramelized, stirring frequently. Add garlic to pan; cook 30 seconds. Add onion mixture and bacon to potatoes; toss gently. Let stand 15 minutes.

Combine mustard, mayonnaise, honey, and vinegar in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Add mustard mixture and parsley to potato mixture; toss gently.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

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Summer Shrimp Boil

from Southern Living

A Low Country summer entertaining classic, Frogmore Stew combines sausage, shrimp, red potatoes, corn, and seasonings, yielding a feast that's perfect for a crowd.

5 quarts water
1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning
4 pounds small red potatoes
2 pounds kielbasa or hot smoked link sausage, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
6 ears fresh corn, halved
4 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp
Old Bay seasoning
Cocktail sauce

Bring 5 quarts water and 1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning to a rolling boil in a large covered stockpot. Add potatoes; return to a boil, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes. Add sausage and corn, and return to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add shrimp to stockpot; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Drain. Serve with Old Bay seasoning and cocktail sauce.

(Note: For testing purposes only, we used Hillshire Farm Polska Kielbasa.)

Yield: Makes 12 servings.

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Grilled Chicken With White Barbecue Sauce

from Southern Living

Put a spin on barbecue chicken with spicy white sauce, a combination of mayonnaise and vinegar. The sauce is finger-licking good and ready in only 10 minutes.

Prep: 15 min., Chill: 4 hr., Grill: 20 min.

1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
10 chicken thighs (about 3 lb.)*

1. Combine first 7 ingredients. Rinse chicken, and pat dry; rub mixture evenly over chicken. Place chicken in a zip-top plastic freezer bag. Seal and chill 4 hours. Remove chicken from bag, discarding bag.
2. Grill, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350 to 400) 8 to 10 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 180. Serve with White Barbecue Sauce. (See below.)
*4 chicken leg quarters (about 3 lb.) may be substituted for chicken thighs. Increase cooking time to 20 to 25 minutes on each side. Yield: Makes 5 servings

White Barbecue Sauce
Prep: 10 min., Chill: 2 hr. Developed by Test Kitchens Professional Pam Lolley, this versatile sauce is also good over baked potatoes or as a condiment for burgers.

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon coarse ground pepper
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons horseradish

1. Stir together all ingredients until well blended. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week.

Yield: Makes 1 3/4 cups.

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Sweet-Hot Baby Back Ribs

from Southern Living

Get out the paper towels for this backyard favorite. Combining Asian flavors--sweet chili and ginger with spicy red pepper flakes--creates the Sweet-Hot 'Cue Sauce. Take a bite of these ribs, and you'll whisper "wow" in total respect for the amazing taste.

Prep: 30 min.; Chill: 8 hr.; Stand: 40 min.; Grill: 2 hr., 30 min. Our directions are for a two-burner gas grill. If you have a three-burner grill, light both sides, and leave the center portion off.

2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
3 slabs baby back pork ribs (about 5 1/2 lb.)
2 limes, halved
Sweet-Hot 'Cue Sauce

1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl.
2. Rinse and pat ribs dry. If desired, remove thin membrane from back of ribs by slicing into it with a knife and then pulling it off. (This will make ribs more tender.)
3. Rub ribs with cut sides of limes, squeezing as you rub. Massage ginger mixture into meat, covering all sides. Wrap ribs tightly with plastic wrap, and place in zip-top plastic freezer bags or a 13- x 9-inch baking dish; seal or cover, and chill 8 hours. Let ribs stand at room temperature 30 minutes before grilling. Remove plastic wrap.
4. Light 1 side of grill, heating to medium-high heat (350 to 400); leave other side unlit. Place rib slabs over unlit side, stacking 1 on top of the other.
5. Grill, covered with grill lid, 40 minutes. Reposition rib slabs, moving bottom slab to the top, and grill 40 minutes. Reposition 1 more time, moving bottom slab to the top; grill 40 minutes.
6. Lower grill temperature to medium heat (300 to 350); unstack rib slabs, and place side by side over unlit side of grill. Cook ribs 30 more minutes, basting with half of Sweet-Hot 'Cue Sauce. Remove ribs from grill, and let stand 10 minutes. Cut ribs, slicing between bones. Serve ribs with remaining Sweet-Hot 'Cue Sauce.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Sweet-Hot 'Cue Sauce
Prep: 10 min., Cook: 35 min.

2 (10-oz.) bottles sweet chili sauce
2 cups ketchup
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes

1. Combine sweet chili sauce and remaining ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.
(Note: For testing purposes only, we used Maggi Taste of Asia Sweet Chili Sauce.)

Yield: Makes 4 cups.

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Peach-Cinnamon Ice Cream

from Southern Living

The iconic summer treat, take a big scoop of cool ice cream filled with peaches and spiced with cinnamon. Garnish with fresh peaches and enjoy the perfect ending to any Fourth of July festivity.

Prep: 20 min., Cook: 20 min., Chill: 4 hrs., Freeze: 25 min. Peach nectar is a sweet, intensely flavored drink that's usually found on the international food aisle, with the fruit juices, or with cocktail mixes.

4 cups peeled, diced fresh peaches (about 3 pounds)
1 cup peach nectar
1/2 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
4 cups milk
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Garnish: sliced fresh peaches

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl.
Process peach mixture, in batches, in a food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Set aside.

Whisk together yolks and milk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat; cook, stirring constantly, 20 minutes or until mixture thickens and coats a spoon. Do not boil.

Remove from heat; whisk in peach mixture, half-and-half, lemon juice, and ground cinnamon. Cover and chill 4 hours.

Pour mixture into freezer container of a 6-quart electric ice-cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. (Instructions and times will vary.) Garnish, if desired.

Note: For testing purposes only, we used a White Mountain 6-Quart Electric Ice Cream Freezer.

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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Old Glory Cherry-Blueberry Pie

from Sunset

5 cups fresh sweet, dark cherries, rinsed and pitted, or frozen pitted cherries (see note)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained, or frozen blueberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch

Flag pastry (see below for ingredients and preparation)
2 teaspoons butter or margarine, cut into small pieces
Vanilla ice cream (optional)

1. In a large bowl, mix cherries with 2 tablespoons lemon juice. In a smaller bowl, mix blueberries with remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Combine sugar and cornstarch; gently stir 1 cup of the mixture into cherries and 1/4 cup into blueberries.
2. Spoon cherry mixture over 3/4 of the pastry in pan, leaving 1 quadrant free. Spoon blueberry mixture into unfilled area. Scatter butter evenly over fruit.
3. Top filling with stars and stripes as directed for flag pastry. Set pie in a foil-lined 13- by 17-inch baking pan.
4. Bake on the bottom rack of a 400 regular or convection oven until fruit is bubbling in the center and pastry is well browned, about 1 hour. If pastry edges brown too quickly (check after 40 minutes), cover loosely with foil.
5. Let pie cool on a rack at least 3 hours; let stand at room temperature up to 8 hours. Cut into wedges and serve with ice cream, if desired.

Flag Pastry Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter or margarine, cut into chunks
6 tablespoons cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into chunks

(Note: If using fresh cherries, buy about 1 3/4 pound; if using frozen, you'll need about 1 1/2 packages, 16 ounces each.)

Flag Pastry Preparation
1. In a bowl, mix flour and salt. Add butter and shortening. With a pastry blender or your fingers, cut in fats or rub in with your fingers until mixture forms pea-size pieces.
2. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons cold water over mixture and stir with a fork just until evenly moistened. Gently squeeze about 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball; if it won't hold together, crumble lump back into bowl and sprinkle with more water, 1 tablespoon at a time; stir with a fork until evenly moistened.
3. With lightly floured hands, gently squeeze dough into a ball. Divide in half and pat each half into a 4-inch-wide round. Lay 1 round on a lightly floured surface. With a flour-coated rolling pin, roll firmly but gently in short strokes from center of dough outward to form a 12-inch-wide round. If edges split, push back toward center to make relatively smooth. Occasionally lift dough and dust underneath with flour to prevent sticking.
4. Fold dough round in half, lift gently without stretching, and lay folded edge across the middle of a 9-inch pie pan. Unfold pastry and ease into pan without stretching. Trim dough 3/4 inch beyond pan rim.
5. Fill as directed for Old Glory cherry-blueberry pie.
6. On lightly floured board, roll remaining pastry dough into a 10-inch round. With a pastry wheel or a sharp knife, cut 6 strips (3/4 in. wide) across center of round. Place filled crust in front of you with blueberry quadrant at the upper left. Lay the longest pastry strip across pie with 1 edge adjacent to bottom of blueberry quadrant, then evenly space remaining strips across pie parallel to first strip. Cut away portions of strips over blueberry filling. With a 1 1/2-inch star-shaped cookie cutter, cut 6 stars from remaining pastry; arrange over blueberry filling.
7. Fold edge of bottom crust over ends of strips, flush with pan rim. Flute decoratively.

Yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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