Chef Rick Brown, author of "Big Book of BBQ Sides," shows how to spice up your Fourth of July picnic side dishes.

• Root Beer Baked Beans

Everyone loves beans at a barbeque. These have a nice root beer flavor, but you can also use Dr. Pepper, Cherry Coke, or the southern favorite, RC Cola, for a distinctive flavor. Don't use any diet drinks, as they get bitter when cooked.


Bacon, 5 slices, diced

Baked beans, 1 can

Root beer (regular, not diet), 1 cup

Dark molasses, 2 tablespoons

Dry mustard, ½ teaspoon

Garlic salt, ¼ teaspoon

Lemon pepper, ¼ teaspoon

Celery, 2 to 3 ribs


Cook the bacon with the onions in a medium saucepan over a grill

or side burner until the bacon is brown and crisp and the onions are just starting to brown and have become transparent.

Add the remaining ingredients, including the whole celery ribs.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove the celery and serve the beans hot.


• Spicy Mac and Cheese


Cream of onion soup, 1 (10 ½ oz) can

Water, ½ cup

Cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces), 1 ½ cups shredded

Elbow macaroni, cooked, 3 cups

Finely chopped pimento, 1 tablespoon

Chopped sweet onion, 2 tablespoons

Chives, finely chopped, 1 tablespoon

Buttered bread crumbs, ¼ cup

Butter, melted, 1 teaspoon

Huntsman cheese, crumbled, ½ cup


Preheat the oven or grill to 350ºF

Combine the soup, water, Cheddar cheese and macaroni in a 1 ½ quart casserole dish. Stir in the pimento, onion, and chives and bake for 30 minutes, or until hot.

In a small saucepan, sauté the bread crumbs in the butter until all the butter is absorbed. Set aside.

Top the macaroni mixture with the crumbled Huntsman cheese and bread crumbs and bake for 5 more minutes, or until the cheese melts. Serve hot.


• Julienned Foiled Veggies

This is a fun, rainbow-hued dish that's downright healthy and delicious. Of course, you can add other veggies too. How about some tiny new potatoes, green beans, or julienned carrots?


Ccherry tomatoes, 8 to 10, halved

Corn kernels, 1½ cups, cut from 3 to 4 medium ears

Red bell pepper, medium, seeded and julienned

Green bell pepper, ½, medium, seeded and julienned

Onion, 1 large, sliced

Fresh basil, 1 tablespoon, chopped

Grated lemon zest, ½ teaspoon

Salt and pepper

Unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon, cut into pieces

Crumbled feta and blue cheese, ¼ cup


Have medium-hot coals ready, or preheat a gas grill.

Combine the vegetables, basil, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl; toss gently to mix well. Divide the mixture in half.

Place each half in the center of a 12 x 12-inch piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil that has been sprayed with nonstick grilling spray.

Dot the vegetables with the butter and bring the corners of the foil together to from a pyramid; twist to seal.

Grill the foil packets for 15 to 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Open the packets, sprinkle the cheese over the vegetables, and reseal; let sit for 4 minutes. Serve immediately


• Red, White and Blue Potato Salad

Potatoes in three colors give this salad an all American look.


Green onions, 1 cup chopped, divided

Sour cream, 1 cup

Mayonnaise, ½ cup

¼ cup white wine vinegar

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 pound unpeeled small or baby red-skinned potatoes

1 pound small purple or blue potatoes, peeled

1 pound unpeeled small white creamer or White Rose potatoes

2 cups cooked fresh peas, or one 10-ounce package frozen, thawed

1 ½ cups crumbled blue cheese (about 6 ounces)



Whisk ½ cup green onions and next 7 ingredients in medium bowl. Cover and chill dressing. Do ahead of time, up to one day in advance. Keep chilled.

Place all potatoes in large saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Sprinkle with salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium, and boil until tender, 10 to 15 minutes (time will vary depending on size and variety of potatoes). Drain and cool to room temperature.

Cut potatoes into ½-inch-thick slices and place in large bowl. Add dressing, peas, and blue cheese; toss gently. Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Sprinkle potato salad with paprika and remaining ½ cup green onions.