I’m sure not everyone is as excited when 70 degrees rolls around, but for me after this terrible Ohio winter, seeing even 60 on the thermometer gets me feeling energized and ready to get outside. After being cooped up all winter, I’m sure you’ve seen some changes in your eating habits (at least I do). Being cold and being cooped up inside triggers my brain to do one thing, and that is eat. Not only does your body naturally need a little extra insulation during those cold winter months (causing the munchies to come around a bit more often), but you are also bored! And what can boredom often lead to… mindless eating.
With the warm weather creeping in, use this new exciting, and fresh weather to transition some of those not so favorable winter eating habits into healthy, fresh, summer ones. Not only can you get outside, enjoy the new warmth on your skin, and get in a little physical activity, you can also embrace the tastes, textures, and colors of summer foods. Fruits will be sweeter, vegetables have a little more crunch, and the possibilities for grilling and utilizing the freshest ingredients are endless. Here are my top 4 weekly summer must-haves when it comes to preparing dinner each night. Any of these can be whipped up in a few minutes, are versatile, and can be used to showcase the tastes of summer!
1. SALADS: I know this may seem a little cliche`, but come on. What better to start off a meal each night then a big bowl of colorful fresh fruits, vegetables, or even make it an entree and add in some protein. I’ve said many times how I love combining sweet fruits with either salty nuts or cheese to top a salad, and summer is the perfect time to experiment. Take some chopped romaine, arugala, and baby spinach and top with crunchy walnuts, slivered mandarin oranges, feta cheese, and same shaved radishes. Dress with a light raspberry vinaigrette and you have the perfect basic summer salad to add to any entree. Want to make this an entree? Add some grilled chicken, grilled fish, or even grilled tofu and you have taken this basic salad into an entree that is not only light, crisp, and colorful, but provides carb, protein, and a little fat. Talk about satisfaction 🙂
2. QUESADILLAS: Yes, this is another one of my summertime favorites. Why? Because you can grill them and they taste even better then when pressed. They also form the perfect crust that makes them almost taco like and holds in ingredients tight. Try these combos: grill some portabella mushrooms, onion, and a little red pepper with salt and pepper until tender, add a little shredded mozzarella and grill between 2 tortillas or flatbread, delicious!; grill a chicken breast, slice and add a few tablespoons of goat cheese and a few roasted red peppers, top with a sweet or spicy salsa; a traditional favorite of fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, and sliced tomato made that much better by pressing it between 2 flatbreads or a whole wheat quesadilla on the grill.
3. BARBECUE SKEWERS: Another extremely versatile dish that can really showcase tastes common to summer. For example, one of my favorites is marinating tofu cubes for about an hour with a sweet barbecue sauce and alternating tofu with pineapple chunks, orange pepper slices, and onions for a sweet and salty skewer. Mix up your proteins and try different fruits as well as veggies. The weirdest combos are often the best!
4. BURGERS: Whether you eat meat or prefer a meat alternative, burgers are classic for summer, barbecuing, and any type of outdoor celebration. I have already posted numerous recipes for meat-free burgers (take a look at my black bean burger and sweet potato white bean burger!), but here are some ideas for toppings: sliced avocado with a little dijon mustard and shredded mozzarella cheese; grilled mushrooms with a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar and some crumbled feta cheese; granny smith apple slices with a slice of gouda or if you like your meat, a few slices of lean turkey bacon!
I hope some of these ideas sparked your interest in summer cooking! Let me know if you try any and what you like best 🙂