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Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.

Serious Entertaining: How to Make 'Thoughtful Guest' Sides for a Labor Day Cookout

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You're going to someone's cookout party this Labor Day weekend and the host asks you to bring sides. How do you fulfill the request and maintain your standing as a thoughtful guest?

  • Don't bring dishes that require finishing on the grill. If the host is grilling, the host will require as much the surface area on the grill as possible.
  • Don't bring food that require extra dishes or utensils from the host.
  • Bring sides that don't require refrigeration (save that room for root beer), time in the oven (it's hot in that kitchen already) or finicky preparation in the middle of an already bustling area.
  • Bring sides that sit safely at room temperature and inspire groans and seconds in all but the most-disciplined guests.

In addition to the three side dish recipes above, here are six suggestions for simple and stylish servingware:

1. RARITET Food Saver from IKEA ($4.99): This inexpensive dish won't discolor and stacks well to save space.

2. Pyrex® 6-Cup Rectangle Glass Storage Dish ($4.79): The snug, BPA-free lid can allow this dish to work as a lunch box or dip transporter.

3. Sur la Table Glass Grid Bowls with Lids (Set of 15, $45.95): These elegant, heavy, multipurpose collection of French bowls has every size you'll want in the kitchen.

4. CorningWare SimplyLite® ($39.99): This 1-1/2 quart Square Baker with Glass Cover and Cradle weighs less than most ceramic bakeware and looks good on a buffet.

5. Pinnacle Ceramic Non-Stick Bakeware, 3 Quart Round Baker with Lid, White ($32.99): Ovenproof, freezer safe, and dishwasher safe, this baking dish is perfect for transporting your thoughtfully prepared sides.

6. Salad on Ice with Domed Lid ($24.99): This salad bowl may be acrylic, but if you're serving a salad with seafood or egg-based dressing, the ice compartment in the bottom is a must for keeping it cold.

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