homemade marshmallow s'mores with chocolate on crackers
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Chef Allie: S’mores and more — how to be the star of your summer barbecues

Okay, it’s July. It’s hot. It’s sticky. Barbecue season is in full effect (and, dare I say, going harder than ever with folks re-emerging from their pandemic stupor), and you need to bring side dish. (Side bar: please make sure you’re vaccinated and gathering safely. For real, it’s no joke.)

Chef Allie Lyttle

But it’s freaking hotter than hades and you’re sick of being the paper plate friend. It’s OK. I see you, and, pal, I got you. Let’s talk through some awesome, easy & low heat / no heat appetizers that will make you the King | Queen | non binary royalty of your barbecue ball.

The S’Mores Board: OK, this one is a show stopper and it is literally going to take you no time at all AND no stove required.

You’re going to gather all the rad s’mores supplies your friends can handle — and I’m not talking about the classic Hershey and grahams we’re all so used to. Ever had a s’more on a mini chocolate covered Entenmann’s donut? How about using crispy cookies instead of boring old Honey Maid graham crackers? What about using a Ghirardelli square instead of a Hershey bar — bonus, they’re individually wrapped AND come in a ton of flavors.

You’ll just gather some fun and less traditional crackers (think thin & crispy cookies, donuts, pizelles, Oreos), marshmallows, and candies (Reece’s PB cups, pink Starbursts, Cadbury dairy milk chocolate) and arrange them beautifully on a tray. You can visit my Instagram — @chefallielyttle — and see a demo of me building a s’mores board. Editing the reel took longer than assembling the hanging board, no joke.

Honestly with a s’more, the world is your oyster — the only common thread is the marshmallow (and for that I highly recommend the s’more-shaped Kraft marshmallows) — some classics deserve the respect they’ve earned.

Crudités: These aren’t just any veggies with whatever boring ranch dip you can find. You’re going to slay the barbecue with this amazing family dip recipe AND use baby vegetables (commonly found at Kroger, Plum Market, Whole Foods or the local farmer’s market).

Now, this dip is a beloved family favorite, and I know that if you give it a whirl it’ll be devoured before you know it.

Ultimate Veggie Dip
1 cup mayonnaise (use Hellman’s, it’s the best)
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon Lipton onion soup mix
1 teaspoon sugar

Mix together and refrigerate. It’s best to make the day before eating.

Elote Corn Salad: This? This is my personal banger of a barbecue dish. It’s what I almost always bring to pass at celebrations. It’s beloved, it’s requested, and it’s so simple to make.

Elote is Mexican street food, typically fire roasted corn in the cob, smothered with mayo, rolled in cotija cheese (think Mexican Parmesan) and sprinkled with paprika & lime zest. It’s to die for but kinda messy to eat. I turned it into a simple salad that’s much easier to nosh on.

Elote Salad:
6 ears of corn, fire roasted or grilled, cut off the cob
3/4 cup mayo – use Hellman’s, it’s the best
1/3 – 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Handful of cilantro, chopped finely
Zest & juice of 2 limes
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together and adjust seasonings as desired.

I have one last quickie idea that will surely beat bringing plastic forks to the party — marinated mozzarella, store-bought or homemade pesto, Michigan summer cherry or grape tomatoes, and a couple olives for good measure. A light and fun twist on a classic caprese salad.

I hope you have found at least one new idea or recipe that has sparked your interested and will help you out at your next BBQ!

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Allie Lyttle has been in the hospitality industry for the last 16 years working in every facet from bartender to restaurant manager to executive chef. She is currently building out her passion project: Ann Arbor-based restaurant, Lala's. When she isn't chasing around her 2-year-old daughter and pair of weenie dogs (Nathan & Vienna) she's trying to read the never-ending stack of cookbooks on her nightstand while her husband snores beside her.

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