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Pitch-in (or, Carry-in) dinners are fun! We always enjoy getting together with friends and family, and when we can do it over food, that’s an even better good time! One of the reasons we enjoy those dinners so much is because of the variety of dishes that we find on the table(s). We might get a chance to try two or three versions of the same dish, and wonder at the variety of flavors that were mixed up. Here are a few of our recipes that offer up a little, sometimes whimsical, fun in being just a bit different than the regular dishes.

Rye Bread with Dill Dip
Dill Dip in Rye Bread LoafOur extended family started serving this treat several years ago. Marjorie, Larry’s mother, got the dill dip recipe from a grocery store that made this fresh daily, and was one of their best selling products. We have served it many times over the last thirty years, and it is one of our family’s favorites. Hollow out the middle, fill it with dip, and break up the center you removed and place around the loaf. Find the recipe here.

Roasted Cheddar Potato Fans
Roasted cheddar potato fanOne dish we don’t often see at a carry-in dinner is baked potatoes due to the difficulty of transporting them safely. Here’s an innovative way to bring a stand-out dish that isn’t likely to be duplicated. These can be made from quite small potatoes, right down to fingerlings or bite-size Russets. Have fun with this one, and soak in the oohhs and aahhs when you put them out. Find the recipe here.

Spinach Artichoke Dip
Spinach Artichoke DeipThis is a silky textured dip that pairs perfectly with tortilla chips. I like to finish mine with a slice of mozzarella cheese and a little dried parsley before baking. I like to finish it with a little bit of browned cheese on top, just to add an additional dimension of flavor and color. Your fellow diners will appreciate the eye appeal of the cheese, and the additional hint of flavor from the parsley. This is going to be a hit! Here is the recipe.

Seasoned Olive Oil for Bread Dipping
Seasoned Olive Oil with Balsamic ReductionThis is a fun dish that folks return to time and again. Fill up a large dinner plate or platter with this dipping oil, season it up with any combination of flavors you prefer along with cubes of three or four types of bread, and you’ll have them coming back for thirds and fourths. Our favorite breads to dip include; ciabatta, baguettes, French loaf, focaccia bread, Italian bread, and bread sticks. Have fun with this one! Find our recipe here.

Green and Gold (Pea) Salad
Green and Gold Pea SaladThis is a recipe that Lea has used since her Junior High School days. She made this in her Home Economics class when she was in the seventh grade. It’s a fun dish, easy to put together, and always brings “yums” when it is uncovered at carry-ins. Silky smooth and earthy in flavor, this is sure to become a favorite with your family. The recipe is here.

And, just for fun: Purple Pickled Eggs
pix-2008-purple-pickled-eggsOur family really loves these pickled eggs, and we used to make up a batch of them each year at Christmas time when our far-flung family got to be together at our bed and breakfast, the Asher Walton House! We printed up funny labels for the eggs, and that always adds to the fun. Boiled eggs and beets get evenly mixed, in a glass container, with sweet-sour mixture, horseradish and cloves to deliver great flavor and a bright purple color. This dish always strikes up a lot of conversation. Enjoy! Here’s the recipe.

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If your family or friends are planning a holiday season pitch-in dinner where the meat is already planned, you need to be able to pull out a few ideas for side dishes that can go together easily, have great eye appeal, and deliver with flavors as good as the dish looks. Celebrate the casserole, hero of overly busy homemakers for centuries! Here are some carry-in ideas to help get you started.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Baked Macaroni and CheeseThis is a recipe by Alton Brown that we adapted to fit our family’s preferences. Alton’s recipe calls for Panko bread crumbs for the topping, which we don’t always have on hand. We usually make coarsely ground bread crumbs from any crusty bread we have around, such as French or Italian bread or baguettes. You can find our recipe here.

Cornbread Casserole
Cornbread CasseroleThis side is a bread accompaniment that fits right in with any meal, whether it is a holiday gathering, a family dinner, or a camp out. The cornbread casserole is likely as time tested as any dish we could name. This simple recipe uses a boxed mix, is quick to assemble and cook, and yet, it is one of the best comfort foods you can add to any meal. You can find our recipe here.

Orange & Gold Potatoes au Gratin
Orange and Gold Potato CasseroleThis is an eye-catching dish that always pleases, with color to provide the visual “pop,” and the lusciousness of the waxy Yukon Gold potato combined with the silkiness of the sweet potato. They are layered with ricotta or cottage cheese, and your preference of Romano cheese (creamy), Asiago cheese (saltier), or Parmesan cheese (salty and nutty). You can find our recipe here.

Sour Cream and Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
Horseradish and sour cream potatoesMashed potatoes are one of the most beloved dishes for pitch-ins, often with two or three versions making an appearance. This variation stands out because of its eye-catching silky finish derived from using red or gold potatoes, and pairs very well with brown gravies and sauces due to a hint of horseradish. You can find our recipe here.

Creamy Four Cheese Macaroni
Four Cheese MacaroniOne of America’s favorite dishes, this recipe is adapted from “The Best of Cooking Light,” and is one of Lea’s favorite recipes. In fact, she said this cheese combination of Fontina, Parmesan, extra-sharp Cheddar, and Velveeta, is one of the best tasting she has ever made. If you like mac ‘n cheese, we think you will really like this recipe! Find it here.

Classic Cranberry Salad
Lea Mixing Cranberry SaladLarry’s mother, Marjorie, always made this for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. It is so delicious with turkey! We enjoy it mostly with the turkey sandwiches the day after the holiday! Give cranberries a ride in the food processor, add sugar and orange, marshmallows and nuts to create a chilled salad that is even better the day after. You can find our recipe here.

Casseroles fit the pitch-in bill because now there are portable carriers that can be heated or cooled, as appropriate, to keep your food in the food safety zone until service. At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes, according to foodsafety.gov. Check it out, to keep your food safer. And, share with us your comments, thoughts, and favorite recipes, to be shared with others. Best regards from our kitchen to yours for the holiday season!

All those wonderfully eye-pleasing entrees we prepare, whether roasted, braised, or sauteed, are made better by the sauces that bring that extra measure of flavor and moistness to the plate. From savory to sweet, the sauce often is the jewel in the crown of your starring dish.

French “Mother” Sauces
Lea ladles sauce There are five basic sauces from which hundreds of other derivative sauces can be developed. Sauces are liquids that are usually thickened in some way, and are used to 1) add moistness, 2) provide a finishing flavor, 3) add richness, or, 4) enhance the attractiveness of the dish. At the foundation of every sauce is usually a flavored or seasoned liquid with a thickening agent added in. You can find the recipes for these essential basic sauces here.

Red Wine Reduction (Pan Sauce)
Pan Sauce on Pork Loin Medallions When you turn the steak or chop you’re searing, or roast you’re browning, you’ll see some cooked seasoning and brown bits left in the bottom of the pan and floating in the liquid. This is called fond, and it delivers great goodness in a pan sauce to go over your steak or chop, or to finish your roast. You can find the technique for creating a delicious pan sauce from the fond right here.

Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
Classic Shrimp CocktailHardly anything excites the pallet upon first sight more than the classic shrimp cocktail, which is elegant by its very nature. Our simple recipe will help you serve an outstanding, flavorful, sauce that is robust without being overly hot. Buy your prepared horseradish the way you want to serve it: Very hot, hot, medium, or mild. By letting the manufacturer prepare it, you eliminate the guess work. Get the recipe https://morecooking.net/misc/shrimp-cocktail-sauce/

Raisin Sauces
Apple Pie with Rum Raisin SauceClassic raisin sauces have been around for as long as anyone can remember. Leaving grapes out to dry in the sun and air is one of the oldest methods of preserving them by turning them into raisins. Raisins and dried fruits are simple, wholesome foods, grown by nature and used basically the same way for thousands of years. We have some raisin sauces to spice up that fruit pie, baked ham, or to turn ice cream into something extraordinary. Here is the Rum Raisin Sauce, Raisin Sauce (No Rum), and the classic Raisin Sauce for Ham.

Sauces really elevate many dishes to a whole new level of eye appeal and flavor. Stir some up, and enjoy the comments of your diners.

I fondly recall many wonderful family gatherings for the fall/winter holiday seasons, which always brought out some of the best meals of the year. Memories of special dishes like the elegant Standing Bison Roast, Standing Beef Rib Roast, Roasted Peking Ducks, and huge Roasted Turkeys, come to mind instantly. But, just as memorable, are some of the side dishes that accompanied those meals, particularly those that were specialties of loved ones.

Green Beans with Pecans and Blue Cheese
Green Beans with Toasted NutsGreen beans are an ever-present side dish, and there are at least hundreds of variations on how to prepare them. This recipe uses a mustard, vinegar and shallot dressing, and toasted pecans to create an elegant flavor that goes well with a number of main-course meat dishes.
The recipe is here.

Lea’s Cole Slaw
Sweet & Sour Cole SlawThis is an attractive and tasty side dish that uses cabbage, carrots, and celery, (or 2 pounds of pre-packaged Cole slaw mix), paired with a sweet sour dressing. If you need to make a last minute adjustment to sweeten the flavor, you can use honey or other liquid sweetener. The recipe is here.

Orange & Gold Potatoes Au Gratin
gold-and-yellow-potato-casserole_smlThis is a colorful potato dish that uses sweet potatoes and gold potatoes sliced into thin slices for easy baking. Take the flavor and texture in the direction that’s best for your meal by selecting the proper cheese; Romano for creaminess, Asiago for saltiness, or Parmesan for saltiness and nuttiness. The recipe is here.

Sour Cream and Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
Horseradish and sour cream potatoesPrefer a mashed potato with a fresh spin on the flavor? This recipe uses your choice of red or golden potatoes with their waxy texture and thin skins are excellent for eating unpeeled, and they’re great boiled or roasted). Combine with ricotta cheese and a little fresh horseradish for a hint of flavor without the heat. This dish always gets a lot of “Yum!s.” The recipe is here.

Lea’s Sweet Swedish Meatball Appetizers
Swedish MeatballsThis is a fun and flavor-full slow cooker appetizer that is always a hit for family gatherings. Often times self-served from the slow cooker, the hot appetizer can be scooped up and placed on a small plate for a walk-around treat. Using cooked, frozen, Italian meatballs, chili sauce and jelly, this simple recipe is sure to delight, and is always a favorite for the children. The recipe is here.

 
Marjorie’s Very Crunchy Sweet Pickles
Marjorie's Crunchy Sweet PicklesThese sweet pickles are so easy to make, and are better than any other homemade or store bought pickles you’ll run across. It takes about a week to make them, but, they are SO crunchy they are a long time favorite, and one you’re sure to enjoy! The recipe is here.

There are many other great side-dish recipes to choose from, and invite you to search for those that interests you on our Side Dish page.

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