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Make summer super with potluck-perfect recipes
May 12 2012
(ARA) - From block parties to backyard barbecues, summer is when people get together and enjoy the delectable tastes of the season. The classic American potluck is always a favorite gathering, especially when friends, family and neighbors bring out their best dishes for everyone to enjoy.

The perfect recipes for summer parties are ones that are quick and easy - providing maximum flavor for minimum time spent in the kitchen. When it comes to cooking for a crowd, go with something that will reliably get rave reviews, while keeping in mind whom you're cooking for. If it's a crowd with a more sophisticated palate, you can try something a little more adventurous. If it is a group with notoriously picky kids, go a little more mild with kid-pleasing classics. If it's a big enough crowd, you might even want to try both.

It's always a great idea to take a healthful approach to whatever you bring to the table. Whether you're bringing a main course, a side, or a dessert, there are plenty of healthy recipes to choose from. Wherever you can, opt for ingredients like fresh vegetables and fresh or dried fruit. Raisins, in particular, are a wise choice to add flavor and good nutrition to all kinds of dishes. They are fat- and cholesterol-free, and contain antioxidants and fiber - good-for-you qualities that can healthfully enhance any dish.

Try incorporating plump California raisins into a more exotic dish like couscous salad along with fennel, garbanzo beans and chopped fresh cilantro for a subtly sweet-and-savory combination. Or, add them as an extra pop of sweetness to miniature apple tartlets - a party-perfect version of classic American apple pie. To get more ideas and inspirations for delicious raisin recipes, visit www.LoveYourRaisins.com.

All-American Raisin Apple Tartlets

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes total

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons heart-healthy buttery spread
4 medium green apples, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup California raisins
18 sheets phyllo dough
Butter flavor cooking spray
9 tablespoons shredded low-fat sharp Cheddar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 F and spray 12 cupcake tins with nonstick cooking spray. Melt buttery spread in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in apples and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon and cook for a minute more; add raisins and set aside.

Meanwhile, lay one sheet of phyllo on a cutting board; keep remaining covered with a damp towel to prevent drying. Spray sheet with cooking spray. Repeat with five more sheets, sprinkling 3 tablespoons cheese in under the last layer; press firmly to keep cheese in dough. Assemble 2 more stacks. Cut each stack in half crosswise to make 6 pieces; then, cut each piece lengthwise into 6 strips for a total of 36 strips. Center and press 3 strips into each tin, letting the dough extend over the top by about 1/2-inch. Divide and spoon fruit mixture in centers. Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned; then, tent loosely with foil and bake for 10 minutes more, until done.

Makes 12 small desserts

California Raisin Couscous with Vegetables

Ingredients:
1 box couscous, plain
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 pint red pear or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 heads fennel, bulb only, small dice
1 English or hothouse cucumber, peeled, seeded and small dice
1/2 red onion, peeled, small dice
1 cup California golden raisins
2 bunches Italian flat leaf parsley, picked and chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, picked and chopped
Juice of 4 lemons
Salt and pepper

Directions:
Place one box of couscous in a large bowl or shallow rectangle pan. Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over couscous along with salt and pepper. Then pour boiling water over couscous to cover. Mix with fork; cover with plastic wrap and set aside for five minutes. Remove plastic and fluff couscous with a fork to avoid lumps and let cool. Once cool, add remainder of ingredients and toss well. Reheat to serve.

Note: Make sure all ingredients are ready before making couscous. For variety, sprinkle crumbled feta cheese on top just before serving.

Makes eight side dish servings

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