Memorial Day is almost here and with it comes the unofficial start of summer. For most of us that means a holiday weekend filled with friends and family and outdoor activities like cookouts, baseball games and maybe a trip to the beach or a local lake.

If you’re hosting a holiday cookout for friends and family don’t worry, it doesn’t mean that you have to be chained to your grill slaving away over hot coals while everyone else is relaxing. With our easy all-American menu and just a little advance preparation, you’ll be back to the fun in record time.

 

Texas caviar

• 2 15 ½-ounce cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

• 1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained

• 1 medium green pepper, finely chopped

• 1 small red onion, finely chopped

• 1/2 cup fat-free Italian salad dressing

• 2 tablespoons lime juice

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 teaspoon pepper

• 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and cubed

• Tortilla chips

In a large bowl, combine the peas, tomatoes, green pepper and onion. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing, lime juice, salt and pepper. Pour over black-eyed pea mixture and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Stir in avocado just before serving. Serve with chips. Makes 5 cups. Serves 10 at about $1 per serving.

 

Wisconsin-style grilled brats

• 10 bratwurst sausages

• 1 12-ounce bottle beer or 1 1/2 cups chicken broth

• 1 cup ketchup

• 1 cup honey barbecue sauce

• 10 hot dog buns, split

• Spicy brown mustard

Grill bratwursts, covered, on an oiled rack over medium heat or broil 4 inches from heat 10 minutes, turning frequently. Transfer to a 5-quart slow cooker. In a large bowl, mix the beer, ketchup and barbecue sauce; pour over the bratwursts. Cook, covered, on low for 3 to 4 hours or until cooked through. Place bratwursts on buns. Serve with mustard and, if desired, cooking liquid. Serves 10 at about $1.15 per serving.

 

Kansas City-style ribs

• 1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar

• 2 teaspoons each garlic powder, onion powder and smoked paprika

• 1 1/4 teaspoons each ground cumin, coarsely ground pepper and cayenne pepper

• 12 bone-in country-style pork ribs (about 7 pounds)

SAUCE:

• 2 tablespoons canola oil

• 1 medium onion, finely chopped

• 1 cup tomato sauce

• 1/3 cup dark brown sugar

• 1/4 cup ketchup

• 1/4 cup molasses

• 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

• 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1 teaspoon ground mustard

• 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, mix brown sugar and seasonings; sprinkle over ribs. Refrigerate, covered, at least 1 hour. For sauce, in a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir 5 to 6 minutes or until tender. Stir in remaining ingredients; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Wrap ribs in a large piece of heavy-duty foil; seal edges of foil. Grill, covered, over indirect medium heat 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours or until ribs are tender.

Carefully remove ribs from foil. Place ribs over direct medium heat; baste with some of the sauce. Grill, covered, 8 to 10 minutes or until browned, turning and basting occasionally with remaining sauce. Serves 12 at about $2 per serving.

 

Pennsylvania Dutch-style macaroni salad

• 1 pound (16 ounces) uncooked elbow macaroni

• 2 cups mayonnaise

• 4 tablespoons granulated sugar

• 4 tablespoons yellow mustard

• 4 tablespoons white distilled vinegar

• 2 teaspoons paprika

• 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated

• 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

• 1/2 cup chopped onion

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add a big pinch of salt and macaroni. Cook as directed on the package until al dente, roughly 10 minutes. Drain into a colander.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, mustard, vinegar and paprika. Add the cooked macaroni to a large bowl. Mix in the carrot, green pepper, onion and dressing. Dust with additional paprika on top, if desired. Cover and refrigerate at 1 hour or until cold (24 hours is preferred). Serves eight at about .95 cents per serving.

 

Southern baked beans

• 1 large onion, diced

• 2 16-ounce cans pork and beans

• 3 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard

• 1/4 cup maple syrup

• 1/4 cup light brown sugar

• 4 tablespoons ketchup

•1 tablespoon lemon juice

•1/2 pound bacon strips, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

In a Dutch oven, mix onion, pork and beans, mustard, maple syrup, light brown sugar, ketchup and lemon juice. Top with the bacon pieces. Bake, covered, for 45 to 60 minutes. Serves eight at about $1 per serving.

 

Slab apple pie

• 1 box refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box

• ½ cup sugar

• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

• 2 teaspoons apple pie spice or ground cinnamon

• 9 cups thinly sliced peeled apples (about 9 medium)

Streusel:

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• ½ cup sugar

• ¼ cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats

• ½ cup cold butter, cut into small pieces

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Remove pie crusts from pouches. On lightly floured surface, unroll and stack crusts one on top of the other. Roll to 17-by-12-inch rectangle. Fit crust into ungreased 15-by-10-by-1-inch pan, pressing into corners. Fold extra crust even with edges of pan.

In large bowl, mix 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons flour and apple pie spice. Stir in apples to coat. Spoon apple mixture into crust-lined pan. In medium bowl, mix Streusel ingredients, cutting in butter with fork or pastry blender until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over apples. Bake 33 to 38 minutes or until crust is golden brown, filling is bubbling and streusel is browned. Cool on cooling rack 45 minutes before serving. Serves 15 at about .85 cents per serving.

Penny Hawkins is a former Times-News Cook of the Month. Contact her at twodollardinners@yahoo.com or visit her blog at twodollardinners.blogspot.com. Her “$2 Dinners Cook Book: Easy Delicious Meals for $2 or Less Per Serving” is available for $14.99 at www.tatepublishing.com.