Last year about this time I offered a few salad recipes as a way to beat the hot, dog days of summer. That phrase, by the way, while it has come to mean the hottest, most humid part of summer in the northern hemisphere, actually originated with the ancient Greeks who saw the star Sirius (the dog star) rise around late July, at which point their summer was moving into its hottest phase. Nothing to do with dogs! Anyway, maybe I’ll make this an annual post, since salads seem to be the most popular dinner at my house this month. So here goes – some Cool Salads For Hot Days!

 

Quinoa Super Salad

My new favorite!

4-6 c. torn or chopped lettuce of your choice
3/4 cup dry white or red quinoa
1 15-ounce can black beans or 1 ½ c. cooked black beans
1-2 ears fresh corn, removed from cob, or 1 c. frozen corn, thawed
1 small zucchini or 3-4” of a medium zucchini
1 avocado
1 red bell pepper, roasted or raw

½ c. prepared salsa
½ c. mayonnaise (I use Just Mayo)
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, seeded and chopped
½ t. ground black pepper

Mix together last four ingredients for dressing, set aside.
Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Bring 1½ c. water to a boil, add the quinoa and stir. Bring back to boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 15 minutes. Stir, cover, set aside. Any remaining water will be absorbed; plus the quinoa should be room temperature for the salad.
If using canned beans, drain them. Steam the corn very lightly, allow to cool. Cube the avocado. Slice the bell pepper thinly lengthwise, then cut the strips into 1” or so pieces.
When all this is ready, place ¼ of the lettuce on each of four plates. Top with ¼ of the quinoa, the beans, the corn, the avocado, and then the peppers. Drizzle each with the dressing. Serves 4. Enjoy!

 

Kale Salad with Cranberries and Pumpkin Seeds

This is a simple salad, a good one to accompany a simple pasta dish or light fish entrée. And it needs no cooking!

 1 large bunch kale, Tuscan or curly
1/3 c. raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 c. dried cranberries (I found apple juice sweetened at Natural Grocers)
1 lemon
¼ c. olive oil
1-2 t. honey
1 t. Dijon mustard
Pinch salt, dash black pepper
Remove large stems from kale, chop the leaves, and place in large bowl. Squeeze one half the lemon over the kale and massage it into the kale to soften the leaves. Allow to rest about 10 minutes.
Mix the oil with the juice from the other half lemon, the honey, mustard, and salt and pepper.
After the kale is relaxed, toss in the cranberries and pumpkin seeds. Pour the dressing over and mix well. Serves 4.

 

Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Cheese

3 medium beets, washed and trimmed
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. sherry vinegar
1 T. honey
1 T. minced onions
1/2 t. Dijon mustard
4-6 c. baby spinach
1/2 c. crumbled goat cheese or bleu cheese
3/4 c. chopped walnuts, or halves

Preheat the oven to 400° F.
In a lidded jar add the olive oil, vinegar, honey, onions and Dijon and shake well.
I prefer to cube the beets and roast the chunks – doesn’t take as long. Peel the beets and cut into 3/4” cubes. (Yes, this can be messy!) Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and shake to lightly coat. Place on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Bake about 15 minutes, then remove from oven and turn them over. Return to oven another 15 minutes and check for doneness. When a knife slips in easily, remove the beets from the oven to cool.
Place the spinach in a bowl, add the beets and dressing and toss to coat. Top with the cheese and walnuts. Serves 4.

Adapted from http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nancy-fuller/roasted-beet-salad-with-walnuts-and-goat-cheese-2383008

 

Chicken Fajita Salad

This salad does require a bit more cooking. If you use forethought and are grilling on a weekend, you could grill some extra chicken and grill the onion and peppers in a grill basket at the same time. I use the stove because I don’t usually think about it when grilling something else!

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken, or equivalent cooked chicken of your choice
1 med-large sweet onion, sliced 1/4” thick and into half circles
1 medium red bell pepper
1 medium green bell pepper
1 medium yellow or orange bell pepper
2 jalapeno peppers
20 or so grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
6-8 c. torn or chopped lettuce of your choice
2 T. chopped cilantro
Oil for sautéing

2 T. organic canola oil or EVOO
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. prepared salsa

Mix the last four ingredients together for the dressing. Set aside.
Slice the onion into 1/4” thick slices and then cut slices into quarters. Remove tops of bell peppers, remove seeds and membranes, slice about ¼” thick, and cut slices into quarters. Remove seeds and membranes from the jalapenos (unless you like it hot!) and slice thinly. Slice chicken thinly.
Put a small amount of oil in a skillet large enough to cook the onion and peppers, not all at once unless you have a really large skillet. Heat the oil over medium-high heat, then add the onion quarters, spread them out and sauté until translucent and a little browned. Remove from skillet to a dish to cool. Repeat with the bell peppers, I usually do one color at a time, adding the jalapeno slices near the end of the last batch. Last, add the chicken to the skillet if not using already-cooked chicken. Cook thoroughly, set aside to cool. Add more oil as needed as you go through this process.
Place the prepared lettuce and the tomatoes in a salad bowl. When onions, peppers, and chicken are warm but no longer hot, add to bowl and toss with dressing to coat. Serves 4.

 

I would love to know if you try any of these, and what you think of them!  Post a comment!

Summertime! For those of us who don’t get to spend the whole summer on a beach being lazy, especially those who have kiddos who are bored even though they don’t want to be in school, I’d thought I’d write about cool things to make for lunches. It’s too hot to eat heavy and who wants to heat up the kitchen with a lot of stove use? But, we also don’t want to eat out all the time – at least, I hope you don’t! And, getting the kids involved is a good way to teach them about where food comes from and how it gets from farms to your table, not to mention instilling a practical skill they will have for life.

Moving past PB&J or cheese sandwiches or hotdogs, what are some interesting and fun lunch ideas that don’t need a lot of heat? Wraps. Rollups. Pasta salads. Sloppy Joes. Kabobs. Tostadas. Salad-in-a-jar. Tacos. Zucchini pizzas. Panini. Keeping in mind what foods your kids like and what you think they might try if presented with a fun chance, all of these ideas could work well. You’ll want to keep these ideas in mind as you prepare for other meals and shop for ingredients. I also will make lunch out of unexpected leftover bits and bites, and many of these ideas lend themselves well to that. Will some of the lunches for the week need beans? Cook extra or make sure to have canned ones on hand. Making mini-pizzas? Be sure you have extra of your favorite marinara – homemade or bought – and cheese. Tortillas? Check. Fresh carrots and cucumbers and lettuce and other veggies? Check. Cooked chicken, either leftover from a dinner or rotisserie chicken from the store makes it easy? Check. As with planning dinner menus, it helps to have all the ingredients available. Then all ya gotta do is prep and eat!

Depending on the ages of the children, if you have any around, they can be assigned various tasks to help. Older kids may want to help plan or even dream up their own ideas, and certainly help with prep and any cooking. Younger kids can help assemble and even chop and slice – good way to teach safe knife handling. Little ones can help add ingredients you have prepped and measured, stir, and help assemble. The results may not be as pretty as the pictures but will taste just as good!

Most kids like pasta, and a cold pasta salad can be a fun dish to prepare, and a good way to get some veggies in their mouth they may think they don’t like. It seems raw veggies, especially cut into fun shapes, are more tolerable to reluctant tasters. Italian-style dressing is common but may not be to kids’ tastes – maybe a creamy, ranch type dressing would be better liked. Sure, pasta has to be cooked but it’s minimal and if you plan extra when making another meal, you’ll have it ready to mix.

Skewers (cold kabobs) of favorite and not so familiar items are fun. Roll up sliced turkey or ham and cut into 1” pieces, do the same with soft cheese slices like provolone or cut small cubes of some cheddar or Monterey jack. Prep items the eaters will like or you think they might like, such as cucumber or zucchini slices, grape tomatoes, folded up lettuce leaves, pitted olives, and even grapes or strawberries. Choose foods that will slide onto a wooden skewer easily. Put these in small bowls and let the kids build-your-own-kabob, no cooking needed! You can turn wraps into rollups if you layer the contents well, using hummus or similar consistency spread as first layer. Once you’ve layered the wrap, roll it tightly, and then cut into 1” wide slices. So maybe hummus, slice of turkey or ham, slice of cheese or shredded cheese, maybe young spinach leaves or some shredded lettuce, a bit of shredded carrot or other veg. Just don’t use large chunks – they don’t roll well or stay rolled up well.

Tacos and pizzas don’t have to be hot, or have meat that requires cooking. These pizzas will be a little messy to eat but fun. Slice a day-old, whole-grain baguette or a medium zucchini into 1/4-3/8” slices. Top each slice with a bit of marinara, a bit of shredded cheese, and maybe an olive or halved cherry tomato. You could add some finely chopped herbs, like basil or oregano too. Pizza! Tacos could be fresh (less crumbly) or dried small tortillas, with maybe some cold leftover chicken or leftover beans and rice, some salsa, and other taco toppings of diner’s choice. Again, put the toppings in small bowls and let the kids build-your-own-taco, no cooking needed!

If the children are salad eaters it can be fun to make a salad in a jar (or one pint translucent plastic tub for picnics). Put the dressing in first, then layer the preferred fixin’s in, with the first one being something that can touch the dressing without damage. (So I wouldn’t start with lettuce.) Use lots of colorful veggies is various shapes  – orange carrots cut in tiny cubes, purple cabbage thinly sliced to show off its curls, dark green spinach to contrast with lighter green lettuce, red bells in skinny strips, etc. Put the lid on, store in fridge until lunchtime. Shake the jar to mix the dressing around, and now all that’s needed is a fork.

Here’s a vegetarian ‘sloppy joe’ recipe. Requires little cooking, and does well in a crockpot. In addition to being different from what a sloppy joe usually consists of, serve this mix in a pita pocket to make it even more interesting. Also, it makes a lot as written, so maybe this helps out for a pool party.

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, sliced
2 medium carrots, or 1 large, shredded
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cups cooked pinto beans
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 8-ounce can no-salt-added tomato sauce
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari, or Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2-1 cup water
2-3 cups very thinly sliced green or purple cabbage
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen (optional, I omit this)
3 tablespoons mustard of choice, or to taste
Salt, black pepper to taste

Preparation
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to
brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in carrots and garlic and chili powder; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 15-30 seconds. Remove from heat; stir in vinegar and scrape up any browned bits.
Coat a 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray, if desired. Mix the tomato paste with 1/2 cup water until smooth; add remaining water a bit at a time if mixture is too thick. Add this mixture and the rest of the ingredients to the slow cooker. Stir to combine.
Cover and cook on High for 1 hour or Low for 2-3 hours. The cabbage should be well cooked. When done to your liking turn the cooker off. Check the seasoning, adjust to taste.
Serve on buns or in pita pocket bread.

Note: If you sauté the onion/carrot/garlic in a large stove top pot, you could add the rest of the ingredients to it instead of a crockpot. Heat to low simmer for 30-40 minutes and check for consistency. This method may require a little additional water.

[Modified from http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/vegetarian_pinto_bean_sloppy_joes.html]

 

Now I was saying how kids like pasta. Disclaimer here – I have not tried this! But it seems so easy I thought I’d add it.

5 Minute Homemade Mac and Cheese
1/2 pound cooked pasta of choice (we used small shells)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup whole milk
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Place pasta, cheese, milk, salt and pepper into a microwave safe bowl. Stir to mix. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and microwave for 3 minutes. Stir and microwave for an additional 2 minutes. Stir until creamy and smooth. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings

[http://picky-palate.com/2012/02/20/5-minute-homemade-mac-and-cheese/]

 

Anyway, I hope this gave you some creative ideas for cool, easy lunches, whether you are feeding kids this summer or not!

20160607_summer cookingIt’s hot. It’s humid. The AC can’t keep up in the hottest part of the afternoon. Even the pool water gets warm. It’s even too hot to eat, much less cook something. But who wants to go out for dinner every night? Not this health coach!

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you’ll know I cook a lot and make most of our meals. We might eat out twice a week. I live in the Valley of the Sun, or the Pit of Hell as my daughter calls it in summer. We do get hot in the summer; in fact as I write this the forecasters are promising 117 as tomorrow’s high (update: it only got to 113). Welcome to June, lol! So what to do when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen? Sure, salads are always an option and we eat lots of salads year ’round. Cold soups, maybe? The grill is there, but ya gotta go outside to use it – it’s cooler in the kitchen! Here are a few ideas to help.

1) Pesto Pasta. Buy (or make) fresh pasta. It cooks in just a few minutes, less than half the time of dried pasta. Yes, you still have to get the water boiling but it takes less overall time. Or if you are not opposed to using a microwave, pasta cooks up pretty well there. Drain the cooked pasta and add dollops of fresh homemade pesto or use my favorite- Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto (from Costco, amazingly good). Pesto is easy to make and also requires no cooking. Or for a change from basil pesto try this one, Cilantro Walnut Pesto: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/RCP02334/Cilantro-Walnut-Pesto.html. Serve the pasta with a small salad, or do like I do – add some fresh spinach, small pieces of broccoli (fresh or frozen), and some peas (fresh or frozen) to the pasta while it cooks and finish the same way as above. It’s a complete meal.

 

2) Gazpacho. Now, there are probably as many recipes for this as there are for winter’s favorite – chili. But here is mine, with no cooking required. Get a nice artisan loaf of bread from the farmers market or bakery and serve with good olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar to dip the bread.

In a large pot (you won’t be cooking but it makes a good mixing container!), pour in one bottle (64 oz.) of Trader Joe’s Low Sodium Garden Patch Vegetable Juice, or similar product of your preference.

Add:

1 diced cucumber or zucchini – no need to peel if organic (but do wash!)

1 green bell pepper, chopped

4-6 green onions, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 Tablespoon minced fresh parsley

1 Tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

1/2 Tablespoon minced fresh oregano [or 1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried]

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon paprika

5 Tablespoons red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Stir to mix well. Refrigerate several hours before serving, stirring occasionally.

 

3) Celery Soup. Yes, this is great served hot but also quite good cold. Very satisfying and light, just what your overheated body wants. Serve with a small, simple side salad if your diners want something more.

2 potatoes, average size, diced

4 cups celery, cut in chunks

3 cups water

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 Tablespoon cooking oil (not coconut)

1 cup finely minced onion

1 cup finely minced celery

1 teaspoon celery seed [not celery salt, celery seed]

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk [can use unsweetened plant milk]

Ground pepper to taste

Finely chopped parsley for garnish [optional]

 

Put first four ingredients in large pot with lid, bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer about 15 minutes. Make sure potatoes are well cooked to avoid gluey soup. Puree and return to pot.

While potatoes are cooking, heat oil in skillet and sauté the minced onions and celery, the celery seed, and 1/2 teaspoon salt until tender but not browned.

Add the sautéed onion-celery mix, the milk, and the pepper to the puree when it is ready. You can serve it hot, or let it cool, refrigerate, and serve cold. Either way, sprinkle chopped parsley on top of soup as garnish.

{Adapted from Light Cream of Celery Soup in Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook}

 

4) Speaking of simple salad… If you do grill something outdoors and want something cool to accompany it, try this salad. It’s also good served with the Celery Soup above. It can be just enough all by itself or with a bit of drained canned tuna mixed in for a light lunch.

Use Quantity of each item to fit number of servings and whether it’s side salad or main dish

Blend of torn lettuces [I use leaf, iceberg, spinach.]

Thin sliced cucumber

Halved grape or cherry tomatoes

Thin sliced green onions

Toss these together. Also toss in the tuna if using. Then in a lidded jar, add 1-2 Tablespoon(s) olive oil, 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar (it’s milder than white vinegar), 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, dash black pepper; shake very well. If making a large salad you will need to increase these amounts proportionately. Pour over salad and toss.

 

5) Another good summer salad is this Black Bean Chicken Salad. Not a chicken salad to spread on sandwiches – it’s a green salad that has chopped cooked chicken added; chicken is optional, I often make this one without. If you do want chicken in it, some leftover from a grill outing would be good here.

Salad: ~ 6 cups torn lettuce [I mostly use leaf lettuce, and mix in fresh spinach if I have any.]

1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped [optional]

1 1/2 cups cooked, drained black beans -or- 1 15 oz. can, drained

1 cup chopped, seeded tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes

1 cup chopped bell pepper, color of your choice

1/2 thin sliced sweet or red onion

Dressing: 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon organic canola oil [or other mild oil, olive oil has too much fruitiness for this, imo]

1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 teaspoon chili powder

Salt and black pepper to taste

Put all dressing ingredients in a small blender or food processor and process until mostly smooth.

Pour over salad and toss to coat.

 

I hope you enjoy these cool summer dining ideas. Let me know if you do, and how you liked them!

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net