Contributed by Christine Binney
Summer is the perfect time to enjoy the flavors of the season in healthy yet satisfying dishes. It’s also the perfect time to prepare quick and easy meals that are a cinch to pull together, leaving you plenty of time to get outside and enjoy the weather. The best summer recipes can be made without even turning on the oven, keeping you and your family cool as a cucumber. Give these three light and healthy summer recipe ideas a try and be sure to share them with your community.
Strawberry Summer Salad
Adapted from www.simplebites.net
The most refreshing summer salads feature ingredients that provide an assortment of complimentary tastes and textures, including leafy, crunchy, creamy, acidic and sweet. This Strawberry Summer Salad does just that and is beautiful to boot. The creamy dressing blends together into a beautiful pink color that is perfect for drizzling over bright green lettuce, red strawberries, white cheese and crunchy granola.
Strawberries are packed with vitamin C, which supplies powerful antioxidants and even has hidden healing powers. This salad also features safflower oil, a great source of polyunsaturated fat that can help lower blood sugar and decrease inflammation. For a heartier summer recipe idea that is packed with protein, try topping the strawberry salad with grilled chicken breast or salmon.
½ cup safflower oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground mustard
1 cup sliced strawberries
¾ tsp poppy seeds
Feta cheese or goat cheese, crumbled
1. In a blender, combine the safflower oil, red wine vinegar, sugar, salt and ground mustard. Pulse until everything is blended together, and then add strawberries and process until smooth and creamy. Stir in poppy seeds. Refrigerate until ready to serve; the dressing will keep in an air-tight container up to one week.
2. Arrange salad greens on a serving platter or in individual bowls, top with sliced strawberries and crumbled cheese, drizzle on the dressing, and sprinkle with your favorite granola.
Adapted from www.onceuponachef.com
For the ultimate salad where no greens are required, turn to this fun and festive mixture of black beans, corn, edamame, red pepper, onion and avocado. Topped with a tangy chipotle, honey and lime vinaigrette, this is an amazing summer recipe idea that your friends and family will love. The salad features bright, bold colors. It tastes even better after sitting in the refrigerator for a while, which makes this the perfect prepared dish for picnics or potlucks.
Even better, this salad is packed with fiber. Fiber keeps our digestive system healthy and has an array of benefits for your heart, weight and energy.
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 large garlic clove
¾ teaspoon cumin
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 cup chopped red onion
2 cups canned corn, or the kernels from 2 ears of cooked, fresh corn
1 cup cooked and shelled edamame
1 can black beans
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ cup chopped cilantro
1. Place the chopped red onion in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for 10 minutes, then drain completely. This will mellow out the flavor.
2. Prepare the dressing by combining all dressing ingredients in a blender and processing until smooth.
3. Combine the drained onion with all of the other salad ingredients, except the avocado, and toss with the dressing.
4. Refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight, allowing the flavors to mingle.
5. Right before serving, dice the avocado and gently fold it into the completed salad.
Summer Pesto Your Way
The great thing about pesto recipes is that they are so versatile. Any assortment of fresh herbs, nuts, and cheeses can work, as long as they are brought together with extra virgin olive oil and plenty of garlic. Pesto is always a classic on pasta, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the delicious green paste. Try using it as a topping for grilled vegetables, as a sauce for your next potato salad, as a healthy sandwich spread, or as a marinade for meat. Pesto is also a great way to utilize an overflowing herb garden since it keeps beautifully in the freezer. Imagine being able to take a freezer bag filled with pesto out in January and enjoying the tastes of summer during the depths of winter.
The ingredients in pesto include olive oil, which is a heart-healthy unsaturated fat, nuts which are a great source of protein, garlic which can lower cholesterol and protect the heart, and fresh herbs which have a number of beneficial properties. For a lighter pesto, try substituting low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth for a portion of the olive oil, which will make this an even smarter summer recipe idea.
2 cups fresh basil leaves
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Or substitute half the olive oil and replace with:
low-sodium chicken broth
low-sodium vegetable broth
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, minced (about 3 teaspoons)
Salt and black pepper to taste
1. Put your greens, cheese, nuts, and garlic into a food processor and pulse until combined.
2. With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil and process until you reach the desired consistency.
3. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.