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I love salads and there is never a better time to enjoy them than summer!  Hot weather is ideal for breaking out the fresh veggies, not to mention it saves you from having to heat up your kitchen with cooking.  Traditional green salads are always terrific, but I’ve pulled together a few other summertime salad recipes that are also ideal for lunches, dinners or for bringing along to your next BBQ, picnic or party.

 

This BBQ Chicken Entree Salad is exactly how it sounds–a meal in itself.  The salad is the entree.  There are plenty of other entree salad recipes, but what I liked about this one was how it included lots of flavors of the season–BBQ chicken, cooked corn, fresh tomatoes and the dressing is cilantro ranch, which goes perfectly with the BBQ chicken.

 

bbq chicken salad

 

Macaroni salad is a popular summertime side dish, but the traditional dish contains mayonnaise, which adds fat and calories.  It also doesn’t include many veggies outside of a bit of chopped onion and celery.  This is why Grilled Summer Vegetable Salad with Roasted Garlic and Basil Vinaigrette is such a great alternative!   This recipe uses penne pasta as its base and plenty of in season veggies like squash, tomatoes and asparagus.  The flavorful dressing made with garlic, basil, dijon mustard and other spices tops the dish off perfectly.

 

pasta salad

 

Layered salads make for a beautiful presentation at parties.  Fruit salads are a wonderful and healthy dessert during the summer.  Put both of these together and you’ve got Layered Summer Fruits with Creamy Lime Dressing–the perfect party dessert!  This recipe calls for in season, at-their-peak fruits like blueberries, honeydew melon, cantaloupe and strawberries.  The top fruit layer is covered with a dressing made from cream cheese, frozen limeade concentrate, powedered sugar and whipping cream.  It’s the perfect light dessert that will still satisfy your sweet tooth.

 

fruit salad

 

So, this summer while you’re enjoying your fresh garden salad, I hope you’ll also explore some of these other salad ideas as well. Discover how fresh produce can be used in so many other salad combinations.

 

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Stone fruits refer to those that contain a stone (or sometime referred to as a “pit”), which can be removed with ease (Freestone) or without (Clingstone) from the flesh of the fruit.  The most popular stone fruits are usually enjoyed during the summer season and include peaches, plums and nectarines.  In many parts of the country these juicy fruits are coming into harvest right now and plenty of orchards host “pick-your-own” outings.  Even if you don’t want to go out and pick your own peaches or plums, local farmer’s markets and even your neighborhood grocery store has these in-season fruits on hand right now at some terrific prices.

 

Peaches, plums and nectarines are a healthy addition to your daily diet.  They are a good source of Vitamins A and C and are naturally fat, cholesterol and sodium free.  In-season fruit is delicious to snack on all by itself, but I found a few recipes that also take advantage of their delicious flavor.

 

Here is a true summer recipe, but using peaches differently than you normally would.  Grilled Halibut with Peach and Pepper Salsa combines the perfect blend of sweet and savory flavors that work well with this mild tasting fish.  Habanero pepper gives the dish an extra “kick.”

 

salsa

 

Grilled Cinnamon Plums with Sweetened Mascarpone, Vanilla Honey & Toasted Pine Nuts is a new and elegant twist on dessert.  Plus, I like the idea of getting that sweet “fix” without adding too many added calories and fat.  This recipe keeps it really simple and relies on its flavor from the fruit and spices.  The presentation is also perfect if you’re having guests.

 

plums

 

Obviously, there are plenty of other recipes you can explore with fresh stone fruits like cobblers, pies, jams, not to mention fresh peach ice cream or peach tea!  I have a bowl of nectarines and peaches sitting on my counter for snacking right now–I hope you’ll do the same while these fruits are at their peak of flavor through the next month or so.

 

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July is National Baked Bean Month!  It’s no surprise since picnics, barbeques and summertime gatherings almost always offer up this popular side dish.  Hot dogs, hamburgers or grilled chicken are hard to imagine without a steaming plate of sweet and savory beans to go with them.

 

 

Traditionally, baked beans are made with salt pork, which is great for adding flavor, but also adds fat and calories to the dish.  Since beans are a super healthy food–they are high in fiber, a great source of protein and folate, finding a way to keep the traditional flavor without adding the fat is my goal.  This recipe for Vegetarian Baked Beans does just that!  It uses navy beans, the typical bean used for baked beans and keeps the ingredients simple.  Some vegetarian recipes want to add a bunch of odd items that you typically won’t find in traditional baked beans, which, in my opinion, makes it a completely different dish.  While this recipe is homemade, the flavor pays off for the time and effort.  You can use either canned navy beans or start with dried beans and cook them until soft (either by cooking in a slow cooker or in a large pot covered with water).  I hope you’ll give this recipe a try for a different and healthier spin the next time your menu calls for baked beans.

 

baked beans

 

Vegetarian Baked Beans

 

6 cups cooked navy beans
4 carrots, sliced
1 onion, diced
28 ounces tomato sauce
2/3 cups white wine
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses
2 teaspoons mustard powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees,  In a deep baking dish, mix all ingredients together.  Let bake for 3 hours.  This makes 8 servings.

 

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July is National Pickle Month and that’s a great thing since your garden is probably overflowing with cucumbers right about now!  If you haven’t tried homemade pickles, now is the time to start, especially since I’ve got a few great recipes that are super easy.

 

The two most popular varieties are dill pickles and “bread and butter” pickles.  Dill pickles are known for their tart, tangy flavor and are the most often pickle wedge you’ll find accompanying your meal when you order a deli sandwich.  Dill pickles are also often found in “barrels” at markets where you can use tongs to select them and then place them in a bag.  I remember doing this as a kid and choosing the biggest pickle I could find so I could cut the pickle and put the slices on my sandwiches.  I found this terrific recipe for Easy Garlic and Dill Pickles you’ll definitely want to try this summer.  This recipe uses a brine mixture and requires no cooking.  Coriander, fresh dill and garlic add flavor to the fresh cucumbers and the pickles are ready after 24 hours in the refrigerator and last up to a month.

 

dill pickles

 

There are few flavors that remind me of my childhood more than bread and butter pickles.  My grandmother and my mother both made them each summer and I recall eating sandwiches stacked with their sweet flavor.  That’s the thing about bread and butter pickles–they have a sweet/savory taste and the addition of onion in the pickle mix makes them even more delicious!  My sister brought me a jar last year, made with fresh cucumbers from her garden and the flavor brought back all the memories from my childhood.  I was able to find another simple recipe for Bread and Butter Pickles that requires very little effort to recreate this tasty treat.  Again, these pickles are ready after 24 hourd in the refrigerator and they will last 2 weeks in an airtight container.  The only cooking is to simmer the sauce of sugar, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and ground turmeric.

 

bread butter pickles

 

Considering cucumbers are in season right now and are delicious and nutritious (they are a good source of Vitamin C!), try pickling them this season for a new way of taking advantage of this summer veggie.

 

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This week is filled with July 4th festivities–picnics, barbeques and backyard cookouts.  Whether you’re at the beach, around the campsite or just spending it relaxing at home, delicious food is always a requirement for a successful celebration.  This year, consider taking some of the usual picnic/barbeque fare and putting a healthy twist on it.

 

Let’s start with a typical side–macaroni salad.  The traditional version consists of pasta with a mayonnaise base along with diced celery and onion.  Swap this out with Greek Pasta Salad w/Red Wine Vinaigrette for a healthier and tastier change.  This recipe uses red onions, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, olives and feta cheese for its ingredients.  Instead of heavy mayonnaise, this dressing uses red wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and herbs to flavor this salad.  More taste and less fat/calories!

 

pasta salad

 

Another popular dish at cookouts are Deviled Eggs.  Avocado Stuffed Eggs are a healthier version that won’t leave you missing any of the original recipe’s flavor. The only thing omitted is the fat and calories of the mayonnaise used as the original base.  Instead, this recipe uses avocado for its creamy consistency.

 

eggs

 

What’s a celebration without dessert?  This Fourth of July Dessert keeps it super simple by combining fresh strawberries and blueberries with some low-fat vanilla yogurt and whipped topping in an old fashioned mason jar.  Fresh flavors and patriotic colors–perfect for the holiday!

 

dessert

 

These recipes prove you can enjoy your holiday with flavorful food while still keeping it healthy.  Have a fun and safe July 4th!

 

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When the temperatures rise, it’s important to stay hydrated.  Of course the obvious answer is to drink plenty of liquids, preferably water, but another great way to ensure you keep hydrated during these hot, summer months is by adding plenty of fruit and veggies to your diet.  This is because lots of fruit and vegetables have a high water content, especially some that are in season right now!  For example, leafy greens, melons of all kinds, berries, and stone fruits like peaches and nectarines are great ways to stay hydrated. An added bonus is these fruit and veggies also provide important nutrients that help to keep your body healthy.

 

Who doesn’t like popsicles?  And let’s face it …popsicles scream summertime. This recipe for Strawberry-Cantaloupe Popsicles only uses two ingredients and those ingredients are two, delicious in season fruits.  Seriously, you can beat this treat and it’s a perfect way to cool down while staying hydrated.

 

cantaloupe pops

 

 As I mentioned, salads are a great way to help keep hydrated through your meals.  A popular salad is Cucumber Salad.  This recipe incorporates fresh cucumbers, onion (I like to use red onion), and fresh tomato.  It’s topped with a wine vinegar dressing and you can serve it over a bed of fresh greens to boost the water content of your meal even more.

 

cucumber salad

 

Sweet Georgia Peach Tea makes me think of summer in the South.  I love iced tea (my favorite drink!) and I love fresh peaches, the combination is simply wonderful.  This recipe also addes a sprig of fresh mint and some sliced lemon–talk about refreshing!

 

peach tea

 

These are just a few ideas to keep you hydrated this summer.  Smoothies, fruit ices, and other cold treats will work well too.  The important thing is to drink plenty of water and eat a variety of juicy fruit and veggies that are now available to help keep you cool.

 

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One of my favorite things about summer is the fact that blueberries are in season.  I simply love them!  It’s hard to believe so much flavor can come from such a tiny berry, but an in season blueberry can rival any other sweet treat any day of the week.  Even better is the fact these fruits are nutrition powerhouses.  A serving of blueberries is packed with fiber, provides 25 percent of your daily requirement of Vitamin C and is filled with valuable antioxidants–even more reason to feast on these sweet fruits!  I usually will take a cup of fresh blueberries and snack on them alone with a bit of string cheese, but I’ve got some great ways to use them in recipes.

 

While you might think of blueberries and sweet dishes, they are delicious in salads.  Their sweet flavor goes well with savory flavors as in this Brain Power Salad (Spinach Salad w/Blueberries, Avocado and Salmon).  These fresh ingredients are perfect for the season and it’s topped with a Honey Chia Seed Vinaigrette dressing.

 

blueberry salad

 

A terrific way to enjoy fresh blueberries is in a smoothie.  This Berry Blueberry Smoothie recipe is great because it also includes a cup of spinach and one whole, peeled orange.  It’s made with vanilla yogurt so it’s even perfect for a breakfast drink.  Take a look at the image below–your kids will never even guess it contains spinach (great for those picky eaters!).

 

bluerry smoothie

 

While I’ve never been a huge fan of jams or jellies, I do like blueberry jam.  I found a recipe for Easy Blueberry Jam that you can make in a small batch so you’re not having to put up jars and it doesn’t require a lot of blueberries.  Another great thing about this recipe is that it only takes an hour to make and two ingredients!

 

blueberry jam

 

 Make it a point to visit your local supermarket and grab some blueberries while they are at their peak of flavor over the next couple of months.  Better yet, if you live near a pick-your-own location, make it a family outing and pick some fresh blueberries yourself.  These little blue gems are like nature’s candy

 

right now!

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