Five Mouth-Watering Side Dishes for Outdoor Grilling Season

It's officially outdoor grilling season now. In the South, it's not uncommon for one's social calendar to be filled with family reunions, potluck dinners, bbq's or even a good, ole' fashioned "Pig Pickin" where bbq is a noun and not a verb. Usually, the hosts ask the guests asked to bring a side dish to share.  I've been writing about side dishes for years and you can find all of these recipes and more under the recipe section of the HinesSightBlog.

I've made every single of these dishes at least once, and some dishes are so popular that I'm not allowed to attend certain annual events unless I bring a certain dish with me. Here are my family's favorite five side dish favorites.

Southern Mac and Cheese is a great picnic side dish. This is a family favorite recipe from Southern blogger, Leigh Powell Hines. It's not your usual Mac and Cheese. Great for family reunions, family dinners, or potluck dinners.

Hines Mac and Cheese

This recipe came from my husband's family, but it's the only Mac and Cheese I make now. My kids ask for this dish more than anything else. In fact, it's the only dish I take to Scouting events now because my husband nor son will let me take anything else. I've served it to many guests in my home and I hope you enjoy, too.

Shoe Peg Corn Salad

Shoe-Peg Salad is a popular Side dish with a sugar and vinegar base. It is a crowd favorite for church picnics and event side dishes. It is one of the most popular recipes from the HinesSightBlog. It also doubles easily for a crowd.

This particular side dish is a favorite of my mother-in-law so anytime she hosts an event, she asks me to make this delicious side dish that is served chilled. It's even better if made the day ahead.

Southern Potluck Potatoes for a Crowd

This yummy side dish originally came from a cookbook from an Edenton, N.C. church.  It's one of those dishes that tend to come back empty when you take it an event.

Easy No-Mayo Pasta Salad

Not everyone loves mayo, but mayo is common in the South. This no-mayo based pasta salad recipe is perfect for the mayo-haters, but it is delicious enough that it wins over the entire crowd at potlucks, picnics, and reunions. It's easy enough for an easy dinner side on any day of the week.

I have several friends who do not like condiments. When you're in the South, it's sometimes hard to go to an event and find a side dish that does not contain mustard or mayonnaise. When I was having one of my no-mayo friends over to the house, I whipped up an easy pasta salad that I was proud to put on the table. Olive Oil and Lemon juice serve as the base.

Southern Baked Beans with a Twist

I like baked beans as a side dish. However, soaking beans can take a while so to save time, I doctor up canned beans. now. This baked bean recipe is originally from Rachael Ray, but I accidentally created a new version of the dish when I read the ingredients wrong. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

In the South,  tis the season for picnics, parties and reunions. These five mouth-watering sides are perfect pairs for the South's grilling season, or easy side dishes for any night of the week, but several of these recipes are crowd favorites at Southern Potlucks and Family Reunions.

Disclosure: My thanks to Glenn Martin Hammond Law Office, personal injury attorneys in Lexington, KY for being a HinesSightBlog May sponsor. My sponsors keep me at my desk writing about my Southern Lifestyle or OutaboutNC. If your business would like to become a HinesSightBlog editorial sponsor, please contact me at leigh@hinessightblog.com.  My sponsors give me 100 percent editorial content control and I could not do what I do without them. 


How Doing One Simple Thing Helped Me Lose 20 Pounds Before Turning 50

2019 is my year to be fifty.  Some may consider that number to be a milestone. AARP certainly does. I've already received my second invitation to become a member.

I still have kids on the younger side so I don't think of myself as fifty, honestly. I don't feel fifty. But yet, people who were born in my year are all fifty whether we like it or not.

NC Blogger Leigh Powell HInes at the Beautiful HIstoric Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, NC. This Black and White Hallway is an Inn landmark. Leigh shares her weight loss journey before turning 50. She lost 20 pounds.
March 2019 at 50
Photo by Curious Notions Photography

I feel that turning fifty was certainly better than turning forty-five. Beginning at forty-five, the body as I knew it began to change. I started holding weight in my midsection than rather my hips and every year, the scales would get heavier.  By the age of forty-nine, I was twenty-five pounds than I had been five years earlier. Now, at fifty, I'm not skinny. I'm average, but am twenty pounds lighter and weigh less than I did at the age of forty-four.

Having a blog is like having an online time capsule. I've written about weight many times before. The first time I wrote about weight was when I was participating in a clean eating/detox program. At forty-three I weighed 125 to 130 pounds.  Just a year later, I talk about turning forty-five soon, and I had jumped to 136 pounds so once again. I was working on a new eating program. I was finding that keeping weight off was not as easy as it once was and it was something I would battle throughout my forties.

Add moving to a new home, busy schedules and way too many carbohydrates in a diet, the pounds kept adding up.  In fact, I have very few photos of myself from 2105 and beyond and very few full-body shots like this one below from 2017. It's easy to tell in this photo that those twenty pounds were in face, arms, bust, and stomach.

Losing weight after 40 is hard. AT45, it gets even harder, NC Blogger Leigh Powell Hines before a low-carb lifestyle in 2017.
In the summer of 2017 at 47

When we moved into our new home, I started exercising more because of our clubhouse pool and gym. We even adopted a dog that needed walking.  No doubt, I was moving more by the time I was 48 in our new home, but my diet was not right.

 In July of 2018 when I went for my well-visit, I was shocked to learn that all that exercise and dog-walking may have toned my legs a little, but I was five pounds heavier than I was six months prior and unfortunately, I was only five pounds lighter than my husband. I was determined to make a plan right then because I was not turning fifty and be heavier than my own husband.

Before Weight Loss.
Summer of 2018 at 49

I had dinner with my college roommate who is the medical field. We discussed carbs and sugars that night over a great dinner at Bida Manda in Raleigh.  She said to me, "Go home and google keto and lower-carb. You'll find so much information." She told me how she monitored her carb intake daily.

That July night of 2018, I downloaded a free app. I just googled "free carb counting" in the play store and came up with the Carb Manager.  I used the free version.  As you educate yourself on the Keto diet, it advises about 25 carbs a day.

Hello, 25 grams of carb is basically one sandwich a day. One medium tomato has nine grams of carbs.  I learned very quickly that I was eating a ton of carbs in my diet and had no idea how much carbs I was really eating in a day. I cooked a lot of pasta meals for the family because they were quick and easy.  This had been my lifestyle for years.

Twenty-five carbs a day was not going to work for me. I decided to shoot for 50 carbs a day and it would be OK if I went to 75 carbs some days. I figured I was eating about 200 carbs a day before changing my habits so going to 75 carbs a day would at least help.

The carb manager app helped NC Blogger Leigh Powell Hines track what she was eating daily.

I continued to walk the dog and go to the gym. I moved daily thanks to the dog, Andy. My weight loss was slow and steady at about a loss of one pound per week. By December (my birthday month), I was down finally down 20 pounds.

North Carolina Blogger Leigh Powell Hines is owner of the HinesSightBlog, Travel, Food, and Life with A Southern Spin.
Photo by Curious Notions Photography

I did not gain weight over the holidays. I did give up a lot of pasta throughout this process and I now use a lower-carb bread for sandwiches at home. When I was working to lose weight, I was strict, I would rarely eat a sandwich in a restaurant for lunch.  Instead, I would eat a chopped salad, tuna salad or chicken salad. Bread is not your friend on a low-carb diet, but fats are more tolerable. I also ate very little beans during the weight loss process.

Once I achieved a twenty-pound weight loss goal, I stopped using the app because I started to know my foods, but once I stopped using the Carb Manager app, the weight loss stopped.

50-year-old NC blogger lost 20 pounds on a low-carb eating plan.
Photo by Turnkey Photography

I've maintained my weight at about 132 pounds. I've fluctuated up to 135 pounds, if I don't eat well or drink enough water. I also will eat a sandwich out or a burger with bread now in a restaurant on occasion. I've learned now that my weight may creep up if I do it too many times in a row. I also eat more beans now than I did when I was trying to lose weight.  Everything I do has to be in moderation.  The biggest take away for me that I've learned from this experience is to actually lose weight, I need to log everything I eat with the app and be under 1300 calories a day. It was that simple.

Log what I eat, keep carbs between 50g to 75g per day, and do not go over 1300 calories.

The one thing that I did not give up through this entire process was NC Craft Beer, but I had very little wine unless it was sparkling. I rarely ate sweets and I kept sugar at a minimum. I still try to abide by both those rules.

On My eating plan, I still kept NC craft beer as part of my diet. This is a local beer from Brice's Brewing in Raleigh, NC.
Photo by Turnkey Photography 

What did I miss most on this diet? I missed spaghetti and meatballs. When I was losing weight I did zucchini noodles and let's be honest, there is no substitute for a big plate of angel hair.

I will eat angel hair now, but I really try to watch the portions or mix it with zucchini noodles so I can still get a hearty portion.

I'm really glad that I got my weight in check before turning fifty. If I can do it, you can, too.

How Lifestyle Blogger, Leigh Powell Hines, of the HinesSightBlog lost 20 pound before turning 50. She did one simple thing that helped her achieve her weight loss carb goals.

Disclosure: My thanks to Wells Family Dental Group in Wake Forest, N.C. for being a HinesSightBlog sponsor. My sponsors help keep me # OutaboutNC and writing editorial content at my desk. If your business is interested in becoming a blog sponsor, please email me at leigh@Hinessightblog.com for advertising rates.


Make it a Simple, Taco-Themed Dinner Party: Fiesta Tacos, Taco Pizza, and Guacamole Salsa will Wow your Guests for Easy Entertaining

Updated May 2019
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a Taco Pizza

Do you need a simple entertaining menu to feed a crowd? When I have people over, I like to use simple and inexpensive recipes. 

A taco-themed dinner party worked well for a mini family reunion and it is perfect for any night of the week or even Cinco de Mayo. 

Tacos, Taco Pizza plus Guacamole Salsa for Entertaining a Crowd. It's Simple and Great on the Budget

My father-in-law’s twin brother was in town from Atlanta, so we entertained him along with my husband’s family, who also live in Raleigh at our home. It was a chilly weekend here, so we decided against grilling. 

Taco Night is great for entertaining because it doesn’t break the piggy bank.  It’s simple, and it feeds a crowd with ease, with very little preparation by the host.

My Taco-Night Themed Menu

Guacamole Salsa
Blue and White Corn Chips
Fiesta Turkey Tacos  (Hard corn shells and Soft flour tortillas)
Taco Pizza
Black Beans and Corn
Toppings: Sour Cream, Salsa, Lettuce, Tomato

The taco, taco pizza, and guacamole recipes all came from McCormick's website. I’m sure you make tacos all the time, so I’m not going to share a recipe on how to make a taco, but I did use ground turkey, and McCormick Taco Seasoning Mix. Simple and easy. 

The other recipes were DELICIOUS.  They are keepers, and I will serve them again as family entrees.

Guacamole Salsa

Guacamole Salsa

2 medium ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and chopped
1 package McCormick Guacamole Seasoning Mix
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1 tablespoon lime juice

Mix avocados, seasoning mix, tomato, onion, and lime juice in medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or until ready to serve. Stir before serving and serve with tortilla chips.

Taco Pizza

Taco Pizza comes together in Minutes

1 pound of ground turkey
1 package McCormick Taco Seasoning Mix Mild
1 cup of salsa
¾ cup of water
1 prepared pizza crust (12-inch)
2 cups of shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 cup chopped tomato

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brown meat in large skillet on medium-high heat. Drain fat. Stir in seasoning mix, salsa, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to low; simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place pizza crust on a baking sheet. Spoon meat mixture over crust. Sprinkle evenly with cheese.  Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Top with shredded lettuce and tomato.

Taco Pizza: Great for Cinco de Mayo, Mexican Night. Easy Weeknight Meal instead of Tacos

Disclosure: This was a sponsored post in 2013 from the Motherhood on behalf of McCormick. This post was updated in 2019.  Six years later, the recipes are still solid.

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