I get antsy when someone asks me to name my favorite this or my favorite that. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say my favorite time of year to entertain is summer. Even typing this makes me want to rush in with the qualifiers—yes, of course I love entertaining in spring, fall and winter, too. Every time of year holds its own specialness in terms of the foods that get served, the ways we host, the vibe of the event.
But summer usually equals outside, and outside usually equals bigger gatherings, and bigger gatherings usually equal a whole lot of festivity.
Better Homes & Gardens will not be clamoring to photograph our house in Connecticut any time soon. But it has a big backyard. And there’s a grill. And we have a fun bunch of friends in the area, many with kids. Many a get-together has taken place amongst our group, and quite a few of them have been at our house.
When the kids were all little, it was so easy to get everyone together. Small children basically trek around with their parents, and don’t say things like “But I was invited to a party Saturday night!” or “That’s the weekend of my football playoff game!” They get popped into back seats of cars, and then they get to where the family is going and they run around with water guns and frisbees and eat tortilla chips until someone tells them to save room for a burger, and then at some point they get tired and are carted home. Those were some very nice years, a little swarm of kids aged 2 to 10ish who were happy to just frolic in the grass while the parents sipped whatever they were sipping.
Fast forward to this year. It had been a while since we had managed to get a significant assembly of the group together. Travel, work, sports, parties, clubs, awards dinners, school plays and concerts, and now even college have just made it all very hard to get to critical mass. But this year, I was determined to get our group reunited for a summer-kick-off bash.
Amazingly I got the invite out with reasonable notice. Happily it was Memorial Day weekend, which many families carve out as free time. And thankfully, the weather was great. We cleaned off and set up every piece of mismatched outdoor furniture we own. We put out the cheap-o fire pit and torches. We found the citronella candles.
Finding Entertaining Shortcuts
When I am menu planning for a crowd of 20, which we were, I am all about the some-things-are-homemade-some-things-are-storebought-and-some-things-are-in-the-middle. A simple prosciutto wrapped pork chop recipe might be one of the main course options (pictured here). One of the crowd-pleasing side dishes I served that day was one of those almost-from-scratch recipes that make you feel very clever. Everyone loves a good three bean salad. It’s a staple for a reason. But that’s where a my shortcut comes in.
It all starts with a few cans of READ Classic 3 Bean Salad. A pretty combo of green beans, wax beans, and kidney beans, the colorful trio everyone is happy to see on the buffet. And to jazz it up a bit, and make it my own, I added, corn, avocado and sauteed onions. Even prettier, and with a cilantro lime dressing, it had a great Mexican vibe that nestled up perfectly with the slightly spicy burgers and the other sides.
READ salads are such great pantry staples to have on hand. They are ready-to-eat, and provide fiber, plant-based protein, folate, potassium, iron. And they are gluten-free, which is a big plus these days. Plus they have those familiar, appealing traditional flavors that hit the old nostalgia button in such a nice way. In this 3 bean salad, they are updated with some bright Mexican-inspired add-ins. If you want to make this up to a day ahead, you can! Tuck it in the fridge, but then fold in the diced avocado right before serving.
It was a very happy reunion. Most of our group was there. And my mom came. Our neighbors came. A friend from college came. And while not everyone will be able to make it every year, we will throw our get-together every year because there is something very, very comforting about a regular reunion with people you love. Even if you miss a year, you can know that it will be waiting for you next year.
But there’s one more great reason to think about READ salads this June. READ is all about helping you reunite with family and friends. For a chance to win one of the 12 prizes to be awarded, just enter your name and email address here.
• Grand Prize: A $500 VISA gift card + 4 cases of READ Salads (3 Bean (cans and single serve cups), 4 Bean, and German Potato Salad) (Total Awarded: 2)
• First Runners Up Prize: A $100 Ancestry.com gift card + a family pack of READ Salads (Total Awarded: 10)
Deadline: June 30, 2019
Now, go make this salad, and serve it up to your people.
Mexican Avocado, Corn and Three Bean Salad
For the Dressing
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ teaspoon finely minced garlic
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
For the Salad
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 Vidalia or other sweet onion diced
- 1 red bell pepper finely diced
- 2 15-ounce cans READ Classic 3 Bean Salad drained and rinsed
- 1 avocado diced
- 1 cup cooked corn kernels fresh, frozen, or canned; see Note
- Make the Dressing: In a large bowl, combine the 2 tablespoons olive oil, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, and pepper.
- Place one tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, and saute for about 5 minutes until it is tender and lightly browned. Add it into the bowl with the dressing.
- Add the bell pepper, drained 3 Bean Salad, avocado, and corn to the bowl, and gently toss to combine. Taste and add additional pepper if desired.
Note:Two ears should yield a generous cup of corn kernels. You can cook fresh corn a couple of ways. You can grill ears of shucked corn on a grill, over medium heat, turning the corn so that all sides become lightly brown, about 6 minutes total. Let cool, and cut the kernels off. Or, steam the shucked ears for 5 minutes in a small amount of simmering water, then drain, cool, and slice the kernels from the cob. For frozen, follow package directions. For canned, drain and rinse. If you want to heat either frozen or canned kernels in a hot skillet for a few minutes to brown slightly that adds additional flavor and visual appeal.
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