by Jennifer Alexander Ruple

Up your summer side dish game

The sun’s out, the temperature’s up, and the party’s on! It’s mid-July in Sylvania, and that means outdoor gatherings are in full swing. If you’re looking to bring a side dish that’s a little different than the usual macaroni salad, potato salad or baked beans, opt for Dill Pickle Pasta Salad or Bourbon and Brown Sugar Baked Beans. Each recipe has its own special ingredient (pickle juice/bourbon), and both dishes easily accompany chicken, brats, burgers or whatever is hot off the grill.

Dill Pickle Pasta Salad
This salad is full of fresh dill, tangy mayonnaise, cheddar cheese and pickles – it’s sure to be a big dill at the pool party. Use your favorite pickles and choose a pasta shape such as shells or rotini, one that will cradle all these delicious ingredients.

8 ounces pasta such as shells or rotini
1/2 cup pickle juice
1 cup small dill pickles or gherkins, sliced
3/4 cup cheddar cheese, cut in small chunks
1/4 cup sweet onion, diced
2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped

2/3 cup light mayonnaise
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons pickle juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste Cook pasta according to package directions. Run under cool water and drain. Toss pasta with 1/2 cup pickle juice and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Drain and discard juice. To a medium size bowl, add dressing ingredients. Stir until well combined. To a large bowl, add salad ingredients and then dressing. Stir until well combined. Store salad in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Bourbon and Brown Sugar Baked Beans
The party doesn’t start until I walk in with a crockpot of bourbon infused baked beans. To save valuable play time, I cooked the beans on the stovetop, making this a true, one-pot dish. Full of flavor from bacon, bourbon, brown sugar and molasses, I suggest you head to the front of the buffet line. These beans will fly! 12 ounces bacon, chopped

1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
Two 28-ounce cans white beans such as navy or cannellini, drained and rinsed
1 cup bourbon, optional
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup molasses
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup hot water

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chopped bacon and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the onion, bell pepper and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant and the bacon has browned, about 1 minute. Add in the remaining ingredients, stirring to make sure everything is well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Bring everything to a simmer. Cover pot and reduce heat to maintain a simmer (between medium to medium-low). Cook, stirring at 30 minute intervals, for 1 1/2 hours or until the sauce has thickened and is sticky.

(Recipe adapted from

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