Last summer I ate and drank what I wanted when I wanted. I decided to trade the gym days for beach days with my family. It was heaven! We had a great time and checked everything off our bucket list. And by mid-July, I was sporting a fabulous tan. Unfortunately, I was also sporting a fabulous gut. In total, I gained 17 pounds from June to July. I know what you’re probably thinking, “17 pounds? that’s nothing!” But it really is something when you’re 5’4″ with a small frame and every ounce gravitates to one spot: the belly.
This summer, I knew I needed to pay more attention. Not ready to give up on my beach days, I decided to give up the burgers. (Mostly.) And to avoid wasting sunny days in the kitchen, I looked for recipes I can make in large batches. Cooking in bulk allows me to keep healthy options on hand, so I don’t opt for pizza delivery instead. It also allows for more free time to push the kids on the swings and judge the 18th cannonball competition of the week. Who knows, in between all those, “Mom! Look at me!” shouts, there might even be time to read some of that book that’s been sitting on my nightstand since Christmas.
I have put together some of my favorite go-to salads. These are quick, simple recipes that keep me feeling light and make my life easier through the summer months.
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
To start, cook the quinoa according to the package directions. I always buy the pre-rinsed because, well, I’m lazy and who needs that extra step! While the quinoa is cooking, peel and dice one cup of cucumber. Do the same to a red onion (one cup) and then quarter cut one cup of plum tomatoes. The original recipe calls for kalamata olives, but I use a small can of chopped black olives instead. Again, it’s just easier. Put your veggies in a bowl and set them in the fridge. Remove the cooked quinoa from the pan and let it cool. Once its ready, combine the quinoa with your veggies and add two tablespoons of olive oil. Mix well and season to taste with salt, pepper, and garlic. Add the desired amount of feta cheese (I like a lot!) and squeeze some lime juice over the top. Mix again and you’re done! You can serve the quinoa on its own or as a side. I sometimes serve it over spinach leaves, with grilled chicken and drizzle honey Dijon dressing over the top. This dish will last for several days in the fridge and honestly, the longer it sits the better it seems to taste! Not a fan of quinoa? The same recipe can be made with orzo instead.
Strawberry Almond Salad
I have to admit, before trying this salad I was not a fan of fruit as an ingredient in anything except desserts. Fruit in my salad, entree or even my beer (Blue Moon, hold the orange!) sounded awful to me. But then I was convinced to try this at a local pub, belief or not, by my father. My lasagna-loving, meatloaf ordering Dad said this was his all-time favorite salad! So I obliged, and I am glad I did. Now I make it at home and have it for lunch or dinner at least once a week. And I’ve grown to love the orange in my Blue Moon. Who would’ve thought?
Start with your favorite lettuce base, it can be romaine, baby spinach, or spring mix. If you want to add protein, chicken, salmon, or even shrimp is fabulous served over this. Just go light on the seasoning, especially when using pepper. While your protein is cooking, cut a cup of strawberries into quarters being sure to remove all the stems. Peel and dice a medium cucumber and mix into your lettuce. For the almonds, I use the Blue Diamond lightly salted and crush them myself with a kitchen mallet. Its a really great stress reliever! But you can go with sliced almonds if you prefer. Lastly, add the almonds and the desired amount of crumbled blue cheese. (I like a lot!) Top it with protein and your favorite dressing. I usually serve it with Newman’s Own Raspberry Walnut, but it’s also delicious with balsamic vinaigrette or blue cheese dressing.
Shrimp Avocado Salad
I love avocados so much, I can’t even! I also love seafood, so this one hit the spot! First, rinse and peel about 8 ounces of shrimp (or more if you’re going big) then pat dry. Toss the shrimp in a bowl with melted butter (or olive oil for healthier option) and saute in a saucepan over medium-high heat flipping over to get both sides pink. Careful not to overcook; it should take a minute to two at most. Combine one large diced avocado, one large diced tomato (or plum tomatoes) and about 1/3 cup chopped cilantro in a bowl. Add the desired amount of feta cheese (again, I like a lot!) and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Add your shrimp and season with salt, pepper, and garlic. Mix and serve! You can also make this ahead of time and keep it refrigerated which makes it an excellent go to lunch option! Want to make it a meal? Serve it over rice or quinoa.
What are your healthy, go-to summer salads?