By Sherrie Norris
For the first time in months, just this week I had a pot of homemade vegetable soup simmering on the stove. I don’t recall ever doing that this time of year. But, the temps dropped slightly, the day was rather cool and rainy and I needed to use up some ground beef and fresh veggies I had in the fridge. I added soup’s best friend — grilled cheese — and served a meal that my family seemed to enjoy. It surprised even me.
But, today, as I write these words, the sun is shining and I am listening to the weather forecast that’s calling for rising temps once again. I’m thinking no more soup for a couple months. Creatures of habit, we are.
With the onset of spring and summer earlier this year, I subconsciously began planning how to make life simple in the kitchen. It’s pretty easy to peel, slice, grill and serve. It’s usually healthier that way, too, for which many of us are striving these days.
Throwing salads together also becomes easier as the season progresses, when we can just run to the garden for one more addition. They can also be enhanced with the following tips:
* Bags of mixed salad greens, shredded cabbage and broccoli are great time-savers for salads. Mix with a low-fat/low-carb salad dressing.
(Remember that dark leafy greens, such as fresh spinach or romaine lettuce, provide more nutrition than the lighter greens.)
* Berries, orange sections, or sliced pears add flavor to salads.
* Make a simple fruit dressing (or dip!) by combining ½ cup lemon or plain reduced-fat yogurt, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, and 2 Tbsp. fruit preserves.
* Use low fat vanilla yogurt as a dressing for fruit salad.
* A healthy variation of Waldorf salad: Combine diced fresh apples, finely chopped celery, raisins or grapes, and nuts. Gently stir low fat vanilla or lemon yogurt into fruit mixture for dressing.
Quick Bean Salad
Rinsed canned beans of choice
½ cup chopped onions (green, red, or mild white).
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1-2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1-2 tsp. lemon juice (optional)
Mix liquids together and pour over beans and veggies. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.
Five Layer Slaw
2 cups prepared coleslaw mix
2 cups shredded carrots
2 cups prepared broccoli slaw mix
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 cup prepared coleslaw dressing (easy to make with mayonnaise, a little vinegar and sugar, to taste)
Spread half the coleslaw mix into bottom of clear glass bowl. Top with half the carrots, half broccoli slaw and half yellow pepper. Drizzle half the dressing over. Repeat layers. Drizzle remaining coleslaw dressing over all. Cover and refrigerate for several hours. Toss before serving.
Chicken and Fruit Salad
4 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 fresh pineapple, cored and cut into bite-size pieces
2 cups fresh strawberries, quartered
1 cup fresh raspberries
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
Lettuce of choice
1 cup orange juice
1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix well and pour over salad when ready to serve.
Strawberry Spinach Salad
4 cups spinach/mixed greens
2 or 3 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1 egg, hard boiled and chopped
1/3 cup sliced strawberries
1 medium red onion, sliced in rings
Layer and cover with dressing that has been made ahead of time.
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1 Tbsp. ground mustard
1-2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
Mix well and refrigerate before using on salad.
Delightful Summer Salad
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves, plus more leaves torn for serving
3/4 tsp. sweet paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cup canned artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, sliced
1/4 cup sliced pepperoncini peppers
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 orange bell pepper, seeded, stemmed, and diced
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
1 small garlic clove, finely grated or minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
Mix together ahead of time.
Gently mix salad ingredients. Drizzle dressing on salad when ready to serve.