Simple, versatile side dishes for your menu

To turn this pea salad into a pasta salad, just stir in some cooked macaroni noodles.

Main dishes, desserts, and appetizers are the reigning stars of the buffet table. However, side dishes are often the afterthought when menu planning. Yet, side dishes, including salads, round out the meal and shouldn’t be overlooked. A well thought out side dish can complement the meal or, if it is a vegetarian dish, serve as a stand-alone entrée. These are some of my favorite sides. They are so simple to prepare and have earned a definite stamp of approval from family members.

Creamy Pea Salad

• 1 (16 oz.) bag frozen green peas, thawed

• 1 cup mayonnaise

• ½ cup sour cream

• ½ tsp. garlic powder

• 1 TBSP. sugar

• ½ tsp. apple cider vinegar, optional

• Salt and pepper to taste

• ½ cup finely chopped onion (red onion or white onion)

• 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

• ½ cup real crumbled bacon bits (plus more for garnish)

• ½ cup mild cheddar cheese cubes

In a large bowl, stir together mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic powder, sugar, and salt and pepper until creamy and smooth. Stir in the chopped onions, shredded sharp cheddar, peas, bacon, and cheddar cubes until just combined. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours. Stir before serving and garnish with additional bacon. Note: Can use 6 slices cooked and diced bacon for the bacon crumbles in the recipe.

Tortellini Salad

with Prosciutto

• ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

• 2 TBSP. balsamic vinegar

• ½ tsp. Italian seasoning

• ¼ tsp. kosher salt

• 1 TBSP. grated Parmesan and Romano cheese blend

• 12 oz. three-cheese tortellini

• ¼ cup sundried tomatoes, diced

• ½ cup prosciutto, chopped

• ¼-½ cup Kalamata olives, sliced

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Italian seasoning, salt, and cheese until smooth and emulsified. Prepare the tortellini according to package directions, rinse under cold water, and drain. Add the drained tortellini to the oil mixture; stir in the tomatoes, prosciutto, and olives. Toss to coat. Refrigerate for one hour. Garnish with fresh parsley and additional grated cheese.

Spinach Grits

• 1 cup quick cooking grits

• 4 cups boiling water

• ½ cup salted butter

• 1 envelope Onion Soup Mix

• 3 cups (12 oz.) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

• ½ cup milk

• 1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach (cooked and drained)

Cook the grits in water according to the package directions. Stir the grits so that lumps do not form. Stir in the butter, onion soup mix, and 2 cups of the cheese. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Thaw the frozen chopped spinach in the microwave and squeeze out all of the excess water. Drain well and set aside. Stir the beaten eggs and milk into the grits. Fold in the spinach. Pour into a buttered 2-quart casserole dish. Top with the remaining cup of shredded cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes.

Potato Stacks

• 4-5 medium-sized Russet potatoes, sliced very thin

• 1 ½ cups heavy cream

• ¼ tsp. dried thyme

• 2 garlic cloves, minced

• 1 tsp. salt

• ½ tsp. ground black pepper

• Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Wash and peel the potatoes. Use a mandoline to slice the potatoes to about 1/16-inch thickness. Grease the bottoms and sides of a 12-cup muffin pan with a nonstick spray; set aside. In a saucepan, bring the heavy cream, thyme, and garlic to a simmer; remove from the heat. Toss the potatoes with the salt and pepper and layer the potatoes into stacks in the muffin cups. Fill the cups almost to the top. Spoon the cream sauce over each stack, filling almost to the top. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes; remove from the oven and sprinkle the tops with the Parmesan cheese. Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Allow to sit for a few minutes, then run a knife along the edges to loosen the stacks. Carefully remove to a platter. Notes: You can substitute Gruyere cheese for the Parmesan cheese. You can add a dash of crushed rosemary to the recipe.

— 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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