Since the unofficial start of summer has arrived, I am officially declaring "Picnic Season" now open. That means it's time for all of those yummy seasonal staples, such as hamburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob and my all-time favorites potato salad and baked beans.

I have several potato salad recipes, and I enjoy them all, but this version is on the top of my list. It comes from my former mother-in-law, Gerda, who I am blessed to still have in my life.

When I put a cookbook together for my kids a few years ago, I made sure to include this recipe. I asked Gerda if it would be OK to share it here, and she said she would be honored. Thanks Gerda!

This recipe calls for red potatoes, which are great for potato salad because of their smooth texture and firmness. Other than salt and pepper, the main flavor for this salad comes from sweet pickle relish, so there is no peeling and chopping extra veggies. What could be easier?

There is only one small addition I've made to Gerda's original recipe, and that is to add a pinch of cayenne pepper. I add a little bit of cayenne to almost every mayonnaise-based salad I make. It gives it just a little extra kick.

For me, nothing goes better next to a heaping spoonful of potato salad like some homemade baked beans. This recipe is partly my mother's and partly my own. My contribution is the molasses. It gives the beans a little more depth of flavor and an extra layer of sweetness. You can cook these beans on the stove and finish them in the oven if you wish.

I've been making these for so long off the top of my head, that I had to stop and measure everything this time, so that I would be able to write it down and share it. Just remember, this is one of those recipes you can always play with, and add more or less, depending on your personal taste.

This recipe also makes a lot. If you don't need such a large batch, you can either cut the ingredients in half, or make the entire batch and freeze what's left over.

So, no matter what you've got cooking on the grill, add a side of potato salad and a side of baked beans, and you have yourself a summer meal.

Oma's Potato

Salad

Serves 18-20

5 pounds red potatoes

4 hard-boiled eggs

1/2 cup sweet relish

1 cup mayonnaise

Salt and black pepper to taste

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Boil potatoes whole, about 20 minutes, until they are fork tender. Cool, then peel and slice into bite-sized pieces. Cut hard-boiled eggs into small pieces and add to potatoes.

Add mayonnaise, relish, salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

Baked Beans

for a Crowd

Serves 18-20

4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 large onion, chopped

6 16-ounce cans Heinz vegetarian beans (if you can't find them, you can use Campbell's Pork 'n Beans)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup molasses

1/2 cup ketchup

1/8 cup yellow mustard

1 teaspoon black pepper

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, cook bacon for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. When fat has begun to render, add chopped onions and sauté until transparent. Add beans and stir into bacon and onions; cook on low for five minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and cook for 15-20 minutes. You can serve these at your next picnic, or make them for dinner and freeze the leftovers.