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Ease, portability the perfect recipe for long holiday weekend dishes

Memorial Day is associated with the official kickoff of the summer grilling season, but also is a holiday that is associated with the appreciation for and remembrance of those who gave their lives defending our nation.

Whether your plans are to get outside and start cooking, gather up friends and family for a picnic, take the family on a camping weekend or just fire up the grill, this week, I would like to share dishes that are easy to bring, are portable and perfect for a long holiday weekend.

Chocolate Chip Caramel Bars

18 1/2 ounce package German chocolate cake mix

3/4 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup evaporated milk

1 pound caramels (about 50 individually wrapped)

1/3 cup evaporated milk

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

 Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour 9- by-13 inch pan. In a large mixer bowl, combine cake mix, butter and 1/3 cup milk; mix well. Pat half of mixture in prepared pan. Bake about 10 minutes. Cool. In double boiler or microwave-safe bowl in microwave, melt caramels with 1/3 cup milk. Spread over cooled layer in pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, then remaining cake mix mixture. Bake about 15 minutes. Cool.

Company Macaroni Salad

Serving size: 6     

3 cups cooked macaroni or small shell pasta, drained

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

4 green onions, chopped

1 stick celery, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, cubed into small pieces (I have also used American cheese)

5 hard cooked eggs, chopped

1/2 cup sweet pickles, chopped


6 tablespoon sweet pickle relish

3/4 cup prepared Ranch salad dressing

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)

Salt and  pepper, to taste

 In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, peas, celery, green onions, cheddar cheese and chopped eggs; toss to combine. In a small bowl, combine relish, Mayo, ranch dressing, mustard and garlic powder. Mix well; add to macaroni mixture, toss to coat and season with salt, pepper or season salt. Add chopped sweet pickles; mix to combine. Chill for at least three hours before serving. The longer you chill the salad, the better.

Grilled Potato Pockets

Serving Size: 4     

 4 medium potatoes, julienned 

 3 carrots, julienned

 1/3  cup red onion, chopped

 2 tablespoon butter or margarine

 1/2 teaspoon salt or seasoned salt

 1/8 teaspoon pepper

 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated or cheddar cheese

Divide the potatoes, carrots and onion equally between four pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Top with butter; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring opposite short ends of foil together over vegetables and fold down several times. Fold unsealed ends toward vegetables and crimp tightly. Grill, covered, over medium coals for 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Remove from grill, open foil and sprinkle with cheese; reseal for 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Never let the seeds keep you from enjoying the watermelon.

GARY’S TIP: For a crispy French toast, add a touch of cornstarch to the egg mixture.