Perfect Dishes and Desserts for Summer Barbecues and Block Parties

With graduation season in full swing and Memorial Day only a few weeks away, the months of backyard barbecues and neighborhood block parties are upon us. Each invitation to another food-oriented gathering can stir up major anxiety of finding the perfect side dish or dessert to bring, especially when you know some of the attendees have dietary restrictions or allergies. Likewise, food that can handle the heat and please picky kids can be even harder to find. But never fear, here’s a list of dishes to bring that are sure to be a hit.

 

Side Dishes

Photo Credit: kelizuiku

Shaytards Tex Mex Quinoa Salad

I learned about this healthy dish from the YouTubers, Shaytards, and it has become a staple amongst my family and friends. Over the years, I’ve varied the ingredients, trying different kinds of quinoa and using tri-color peppers instead of just the green pepper. I’ve omitted the corn for a friend who is allergic. I’ve also added leftover turkey to it for some extra protein. While the prep time is around two hours since there’s so much slicing and dicing, this dish can serve an army. Plus, it’s vegetarian, vegan, lactose intolerant, and gluten-free friendly!

 

Photo Credit: May I Have That Recipe

7 Layer Dip

I got this recipe from a classmate in high school after this dish became a hit at all of our yearbook staff parties. It’s the kind of side dish that’s a step above salsa without being too fancy for the standard neighborhood get together. Likewise, I’ve even seen people alter the presentation of the layers of dip to make it Fourth of July themed. This recipe is also great because it goes together quickly with little fuss, so it’s great if you don’t have a lot of time to cook before the party begins.

 

Photo Credit: King Arthur Flour

Gluten-free Corn Muffins

Despite no one in my family actually being on a gluten-free diet, we prefer these muffins to any other bread we’ve had before. They’re so great that we request them to be part of our Thanksgiving dinner. So if you’ve got gluten-free guests coming into town or want a crowd-pleasing side to go along with your BBQ sandwiches, this recipe is perfect!

 

Photo Credit: Deb C

Pesto Chicken Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is great if you want to step away from the usual pasta salad recipes without bringing something too strange to the table. It also makes great leftovers that you can eat for days. There are many variations on this recipe; the one my mom makes has cherry tomatoes and baby arugula.

 

Photo Credit: Food Network Kitchen

Pasta Salad with Asparagus and Pine Nuts

This is another versatile pasta salad that is a bit lighter fare and a great option for a lady’s luncheon kind of event. I also love that you can use different kinds of pasta in this recipe. I’ve had it with cheese tortellini and it is fantastic!

Desserts

Photo Credit: Kevin & Amanda

Chess Pie Squares

If you’re aching for a dessert that’s easy to pick up but is not just the standard cookie or brownie, this recipe will sate any sweet tooth. Best of all, you only need five ingredients!

 

Photo Credit: Kraft

Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

This incredibly decadent cake is best served at a party where there’s air conditioning or it’ll melt. I’ve also heard that it can be a bit challenging to construct, so you might want a preparation partner. However, the effort is totally worth it as this is the perfect summer treat that adults and kids will both love!

 

Photo Credit: kwiedman3

Dirt Pudding with Gummy Worms

This recipe was a staple of my childhood and freaked out a few classmates along the way who thought it was actually dirt! This fun, no-bake recipe is at its most convincing when served in a flower pot with fake flowers stuck in it. So if you’re looking for a Pinterest-worthy dessert that will garner a few laughs, this is a great choice.

 

Photo Credit: Betty Crocker

Strawberry Shortcake

May is prime strawberry season where I live and my mom always serves homemade strawberry shortcake with strawberries from a local farm. This is a great dessert for a few guests or a larger dinner party.

 

Photo Credit: Food Network Magazine

4th of July Trifle

If you want to wow your 4th of July crowd before the fireworks even start, bring out this dessert. This easy to make dessert is gorgeous and will elevate your celebration above the standard burgers and Buds.

Maggie Stough

Maggie Stough

Maggie is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and is currently trying to make the most out of post grad life (read: figuring out what she’s supposed to be doing on this planet). When she’s not having an existential crisis, you can find her working on a novel, having a cuppa, petting a dog, reading a YA novel, coloring, getting her cardio in at a concert, or quilting.
Maggie Stough
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