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Easy Summer Meals You’ll Enjoy Year Round

Easy Summer Meals“Oh baby, it’s hot outside… and I don’t feel like cooking!!!” Not to worry, you’re not the only one looking for easy summer meals that require little energy yet taste wonderful.

Nothing says summer like grilled foods, but if you’re not up to firing up the barbecue or if it’s raining, simply plug in your electric grill and go. No one will tell the difference…:)

Easy Healthy Appetizers

Summertime makes creating easy, healthy appetizers a breeze. If you’re lucky, you can pick fresh produce from your own garden at will or simply visit the farmers’ market closest to you. Nothing beats fresh fruit and vegetable to create healthy, nutritious recipes that are tasty and allow you to take advantage of a variety of seasonal gems.

Summer Gazpacho with Healthy Chickpea Croutons

Summer Gazpacho with Chickpea CroutonsWhat is gazpacho, you might ask? Gazpacho is a cold spanish soup that incorporates refreshing ingredients such as tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper and lemon juice – perfect for the hot dog days of summer! This gazpacho recipe takes a slightly different approach: instead of blending in the traditional crusty bread, gluten-free crispy chickpea “croutons” are used as a garnish.

TIP: Blending in the fresh herbs with the vegetables yields a more robust flavor, but there is a downside: it affects the color of the soup. For a brighter color, finely mince and stir in your fresh herbs after blending instead. And if you happen to be in a rush, a Vitamix gazpacho can be yours in no time…

Prep time: 20 minutes + chilling time
Cook time: 15-20 minutes
Serves: 4-6

Chickpea Croutons
1 15.5oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

1 medium red onion, roughly chopped
1 large red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 large cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
5 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
2-3 fresh garlic cloves
¾ cup water
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
¼ cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 medium avocado
Sprigs of fresh basil and/or parsley (optional garnish)

1. Place oven rack in the center position and pre-heat oven to 400°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper or a Silpat® baking mat and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, toss chickpeas with one tablespoon of olive oil, ground cumin and smoked paprika. Season with salt and black pepper to taste and toss to combine.
3. Spread seasoned chickpeas onto the prepared baking sheet and place in pre-heated oven to roast until golden brown and crispy, approximately 15-20 minutes. For more uniform results, turn the chickpeas or give the pan a good shake halfway through cooking.
4. Meanwhile, finely dice one quarter of the red onion, bell pepper and cucumber and set aside.
5. Place tomatoes with remaining red onion, bell pepper and cucumber in a high-powered blender or a food processor. Add garlic, water, red wine vinegar, two tablespoons lemon juice and fresh herbs. Season with salt and black pepper to taste and quickly pulse until mixture is mostly smooth.
6. Transfer gazpacho to a large glass bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes minimum to overnight to chill.
7. Once chickpeas are golden and crispy, remove from oven and set aside to cool. They will gain crispiness as they cool. Store in an airtight container if using the next day.
8. Right before serving, dice the avocado and toss with the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice to prevent browning. Set aside.
9. Before serving, adjust gazpacho seasonings if needed. Transfer the chilled soup into individual serving bowls. Top with some finely diced red onion, bell pepper, and cucumber. Garnish with the crispy chickpeas, diced avocado and sprigs of fresh herbs.

Mushroom & Herbed Cheese Bruschetta

Mushroom & Herbed Cheese BruschettaBruschettas are easy to make appetizers, and easier still using an indoor grill that has been designed to make open melts. The following recipe combines some the best bruschetta appetizer flavors in my opinion: mushroom and cheese.

These mushroom appetizers can easily be served at a small, casual gathering, yet elegant enough for a more formal function.

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium shallot, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 cup white mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 cup baby Portobello mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, stems removed
1½ tablespoon fresh rosemary, stems removed & leaves finely chopped
1/4 cup brandy or peach juice
Salt and pepper to taste

4 ounces goat cheese (room temperature)
4 ounces ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, stems removed
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, stems removed & leaves finely chopped

2 small 6” Ciabatta loaves first cut in half lengthwise, then into two 3” sections

1. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add oil and shallots and sauté 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 more minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms release juices (approximately 8-10 minutes). Add thyme and rosemary, and sauté 2 additional minutes.
2. Stir in brandy or peach juice and simmer until reduced by half. Turn off heat and whisk in 2 tablespoons butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. In a separate bowl, mix goat cheese with ricotta cheese and fresh herbs until well combined.
4. Butter bread slices with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and place on grill over direct medium heat (or use an electric grill if indoors). Toast until golden brown, then spread with herbed goat cheese mixture and top with mushrooms. Serve immediately.

Easy Side Salads

These side salad recipes are easy to prepare and easier to enjoy as cold salads on a hot summer day whether for lunch or a light dinner or if you’re entertaining. They also make wonderful picnic salads. But thinking ahead to the coming fall days, our summer pasta salad recipes can easily be served warm, incorporating whatever leftover vegetables you might have on hand.

Southern Coleslaw with Vinegar Dressing

A lighter version of the more traditional version with a mayonnaise dressing, this healthy coleslaw recipe combines apple cider vinegar and Dijon mustard for a salad that marries perfectly with grilled chicken, burgers, or even potluck dishes.

Southern Coleslaw with Vinegar Dressing1 head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 small or ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced*
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
3 large carrots, grated
4 large kale leaves, stalk removed & cut into thin ribbons**
Salt and pepper to taste

Slaw Dressing
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup white sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons celery seeds

TIP: To help tame the strong onion flavor and reduce the odor, soak the red onion in a mixture of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar for 10-15 minutes before use.
TIP: Tough kale leaves can be tenderized by rubbing them with some olive oil for a few minutes.

1. Add cabbage, red onion, white onion, carrots and kale leaves to a large glass bowl. Toss to combine, then season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. On medium-high heat, add vinegar and sugar to a small saucepan. Stir mixture until sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in vegetable oil, mustard and celery seeds. Pour over the cabbage mixture while still warm and toss to combine thoroughly.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving. Season with additional salt and pepper before serving if needed.

Red Potato Salad with Fresh Herbs

Red Potato Salad with Fresh HerbsThis dill potato salad recipe takes no time at all to make, yet is full of flavor and perfect for picnics or backyard parties as it is a perfect accompaniment to cold cuts or barbecue fare. Making potato salad doesn’t have to be complicated if you use your microwave to cook the potatoes.:)

TIP: Prepare this dish a day in advance to give the flavors a chance to fully develop.

3 pounds red potatoes, washed, dried & cut into quarters
¾ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 medium shallot, outer skin removed & finely chopped
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
½ cup fresh dill, chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Place cut potatoes in a large microwave-safe dish and add 2 tablespoons water. Cover and microwave for 2-3 minutes or until fork tender (check after 2 minutes as cooking time will vary by microwave). Potatoes should be tender enough to split with a fork but still firm.
2. Remove potatoes from dish and spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet to dry. Blot gently with a paper towel if needed.
3. In a small glass bowl, add mayonnaise, yogurt, shallot, mustard and fresh herbs and stir to combine thoroughly.
4. Place the potatoes in a separate bowl. Gradually add mayonnaise mixture and toss to coat; keep adding mixture until you are satisfied with the consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1-2 days.

Mediterranean Penne Pasta Salad

Penne Pasta SaladAs far as cold pasta dishes go, you’ll find that this one packs quite a punch. The various layers of flavor from peppery fresh arugula to salty Kalamata olives, slightly acidic preserved lemons and creamy feta cheese combine well together, enhancing the herbed pasta without overwhelming. Served as a main dish or to accompany grilled chicken or white fish like our Orange Roughy below.

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

This simple salad dressing complements the penne salad perfectly. Simply whisk the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and mustard together in a small bowl until blended smooth. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Penne Pasta Salad:
1 pound penne pasta, cooked according to package directions and cooled
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, washed & chopped, seeds & excess liquid removed
12-15 large fresh basil leaves, washed, dried & cut into thin strips
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, stems removed & chopped
½ cup Kalamata olives
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup fresh or preserved organic lemon, chopped into small chunks with rinds
2 cups fresh arugula
2 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
3 ounces block feta cheese, cut into equal sized chunks

1. Add olive oil and garlic to a cold pan and on medium high heat. Sauté for approximately 2 minutes before adding chopped tomatoes. Cook for 3 minutes or until tomatoes soften. Remove from heat.
2. In a large bowl, combine the cooked tomato and garlic mixture with basil, oregano, olives, red onion and preserved lemons. Add the cooked pasta, arugula, Parmigiano and feta cheeses. Finally, add the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tomato, Orzo & Capers Quick Pasta Salad

Tomato, Orzo & Capers Quick Pasta SaladThis cold Italian pasta salad is perfect for a hot day! Just be sure to make it a day or two in advance in order to give this delicious side dish a chance to develop.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, washed, chopped (seeds and excess liquid discarded)
1½ cup dried orzo, cooked according to package directions & cooled
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon caper liquid
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, stems removed & chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, stems removed & chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Add olive oil and minced garlic to a cold skillet. Turn heat to medium high and sauté for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes till they are soft. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine cooked orzo, capers, caper liquid, lemon juice, thyme and parsley with tomato and garlic mixture. Toss until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight. Stir and serve chilled with grilled chicken breasts or your favorite main dish.

Easy Summer Entrée Dishes

Want a quick easy healthy dinner? Look no further than baked white fish: light, tasty and nutritious – plus no cleanup required! For more substantial fare, try our chicken entrées or our delicious burger recipe.

Orange Roughy in Lemony Packets

Orange Roughy in Lemony PacketsIf you ever wondered how to cook orange roughy fish, you are in for a treat. Whether you choose to cook on the outdoor grill, the indoor contact grill or in the oven, foil packet cooking offers an easy way to cook any type of fish, lean protein or a combination of vegetables all year round.

Foil packets also make for easy meal prep, and clean up is a breeze. Enjoying a light, healthy meal during the warmer months has never been easier.;)

4 orange roughy filets
12 slices fresh or salt-cured preserved lemon*
8 slices fresh lime
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, stems removed & chopped
1 tablespoon fresh jalapeno pepper, seeds and veins removed & finely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
*If you are using preserved salt-cured lemons rather than fresh lemons, you may not need additional salt!

Cooking Orange Roughy in Foil Packets
Cooking with aluminum foil is not complicated: simply tear off 4 sheets of aluminum foil into sections large enough to fold over fillets, adding a couple of inches on each side for the seal.
Place a fish filet on each sheet slightly off center with 3 lemon plus 2 lime slices on top of each. Season each filet with ¼ of the cilantro and jalapeno pepper. Top with one tablespoon of butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
To seal packet, fold aluminum foil in half over the ingredients. Fold the 3 open sides over several times to seal the packet completely. The packet should be sealed tight enough to hold in the steam while allowing enough room for expansion.
*Oven Method: preheat oven to 400 degrees cooking indoors; place foil packet in preheated oven for 15 minutes.
*Grill Method: place on hot grill over medium, direct heat and cook for approximately 8-10 minutes.
Whichever method you choose, make sure you add a couple of minutes to your cooking time if starting with frozen fillets. To serve, open the foil packets, carefully avoiding the hot steam. Discard lemon and lime slices. Transfer fillets to plates or leave inside foil packets. Top with spicy peach salsa and serve.

Orange Roughy Packets with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

Orange Roughy Packets with Oven-Roasted TomatoesThis recipe calls for oven-roasted tomatoes. The process of drying tomatoes helps concentrate their flavor by removing excess moisture, resulting in a really sweet, delicious burst of flavor in each bite. Oven drying is a great way to use up excess tomatoes from your garden or the farmers’ market.

4 orange roughy fillets
4 oven-dried tomato slices
4 fresh lemon slices, cut in half (or preserved -see above recipe)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Follow above instructions for cooking with aluminum foil packets, which is truly the best way to cook orange roughy or other mild fish. Serve with Mediterranean pasta salad or another side dish with complementary flavors.

How to Roast Tomatoes in the Oven
Slice tomatoes into 2 inch-thick slices and place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle olive oil over tomato slices, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and top with fresh thyme leaves.
Place in a pre-heated 200-degree oven for approximately 2 hours. When done, the tomatoes will be nicely browned around the edges. Remove from oven and use immediately or store in an airtight container covered with olive oil. Roasted tomatoes can be stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.

Marinated Grilled Boneless Chicken Breast

Marinated Grilled Boneless Chicken BreastEveryone needs a quick and versatile grilled BBQ chicken recipe that consistently delivers great flavor. This healthy and delicious option fits the bill perfectly. The best part about this recipe is that the flavors go with just about anything else you may want to serve, including grilled garden vegetables, leafy salads or more substantial sides such as potato or pasta salad. Double or even triple this recipe to pull together quick lunches or dinners throughout the week.

4 8-oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons organic lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, rinsed & crushed with fingers to release oils
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, rinsed & crushed with fingers to release oils
3 garlic cloves, crushed & peeled
Salt and pepper to taste

1. This grilled chicken marinade recipe couldn’t be more simple: add marinade ingredients to a large glass bowl and whisk to combine.
2. Then simply add your chicken breasts to a 1-gallon sealable freezer bag and pour the marinade mixture on top. Seal back and turn to coat breasts thoroughly.
3. Place the bag in a bowl and set in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 hours. Turn the bag a couple times to evenly distribute the marinade.
4. Remove chicken from the refrigerator and discard marinade. Grill breasts over medium direct heat, turning once, for 10 – 12 minutes total. Remove from heat and let set for 5 minutes before serving.

Honey Mustard Chicken Wings

Honey Mustard Chicken WingsEasy to make and the perfect finger food, homemade chicken wings are an obvious go-to crowd pleaser for casual outdoor gatherings. Once you know how to bake chicken wings in the oven, you might want to try grilling them on a contact grill which is easy to clean, so you can enjoy them year round without much fuss.

Chicken wings are also extremely versatile, as they can be tossed with any number of sauces or seasonings and come up finger-licking good! And it doesn’t hurt that this delicious honey-mustard wing sauce recipe pairs perfectly with potato salad and many other picnic appropriate side dishes.

Honey-Mustard Sauce:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons honey
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)

Oven Baked Wings:
3 pounds chicken wings
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add chicken wings to baking sheet in a single layer, not touching or overcrowding. Season wings with salt and pepper and place in oven. Bake until skin is crispy, approximately 45-50 minutes.
3. About 20 minutes before the wings are done, add garlic and butter to a saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until garlic becomes translucent. Reduce heat to low. Add honey and Dijon mustard and stir to combine. Simmer for a few minutes until honey dissolves completely. Remove from heat and stir in hot sauce if you wish.
4. Add the cooked wings to a glass bowl and pour honey-mustard mixture over them. Toss until coated and serve immediately.
5. For more crispy oven wings, place wings on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or sprayed with non-stick cooking spray) and place under broiler for a couple of minutes until brown and bubbly.

Juicy Grilled Blue Cheese Burgers with Avocado

Grilled Blue Cheese BurgersIf you want super juicy, tasty grilled burgers, you have to start with a type of beef cut that has a higher fat content such as regular ground beef rather than ground chuck, round or sirloin. Since ground beef on its own doesn’t have much flavor, sweet Italian pork sausage has been added. A combination of salt, pepper, garlic and fresh rosemary serves to pack a lot of flavor into each bite, while onions and Worcestershire sauce increase the juiciness of the burger without adding to the fat content.

2 pounds regular ground beef
1 pound sweet Italian pork sausage
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup white onion, very finely minced or grated
4 cloves garlic, very finely minced or grated
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, stems removed & leaves finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional toppings: lettuce, tomato slices, blue cheese, avocado slices – and don’t forget: bacon makes a wonderful addition to both blue cheese and avocado!

1. Spray clean grill grates with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Add all ingredients to a large glass bowl and combine thoroughly. Make sure both types of meat and all seasonings are completely incorporated throughout the mixture.
3. Divide meat mixture into 8 equal parts and shape each part into ¾-inch thick patties. Place patties on a lined tray. Using your thumb, create an indent in the middle of each burger patty to keep them from puffing up while cooking.

Burger Grill Time
*Cook over direct, high heat on your grill for 8 – 10 minutes. Final cooking time will depend on desired level of done-ness and how thick you make each patty;
*If topping with soft sliced cheese, add slices about one minute before cooking is complete;
*If using a harder, chunky cheese such as blue cheese, move burgers to indirect heat 2-3 minutes before they are done. Top with blue cheese and close lid to allow cheese to melt completely;
*Serve on toasted buns with lettuce, tomato, avocado slices and bacon or top with your favorite condiments.

Easy Summer Food Sides

Whether you’re looking for great summer sides for burgers, grilled chicken or hot dogs, these recipes won’t disappoint.

Spicy Peach Salsa

Spicy Peach SalsaThis spicy sweet salsa is an absolute delight: while the combination of colors is a treat to the eye, the delicious blend of sweet and spicy flavors make it the perfect fruit salsa for fish, chicken or pork dishes. Making it a day ahead of time will give the spicy and sweet salsa flavors a chance to blend, and both peaches and onion will have time to reach a perfect consistency. This easy homemade salsa recipe is a keeper for sure!

TIP: Soaking the red onion in a cup of water for 10-15 minutes before use will help tame its strong flavor and odor.

6 fresh peaches, pits removed & cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
½ medium shallot, minced
3 tablespoons red onion, cut into small, thin slices
1-2 teaspoons jalapeno peppers, seeds & veins removed, very finely minced
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, stems removed & chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Add all ingredients to a glass bowl and stir to combine, making sure you start with a very small amount of jalapeno pepper and taste before adding more. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
2. Serve with foil packet citrusy orange roughy or other minimally seasoned fish, chicken or pork – or simply with tortilla chips.

Oven-Roasted Parmesan Green Bean Side Dish

Oven-Roasted Parmesan Green Bean Side DishThis easy green bean recipe elevates basic green bean sides to a whole new level and makes it perfect for entertaining. It looks and tastes like you spent a lot more time on it than you actually did, so it is sure to become a daily favorite too. Roasting green beans assures they will be crispy tender and full of robust flavor. Added bonus: the high quality extra virgin olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese greatly enhance the natural appeal of this classic side.

1 pound fresh green beans, washed, trimmed & patted dried
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled & finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Line a rimmed baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper. In a medium bowl, toss green beans, garlic and olive oil together until completely coated. Spread the coated green beans on the lined pan in a single layer without crowding.
3. Season with salt and pepper, then roast in a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes, turning the beans once so they cook evenly.
4. When finished roasting, remove from oven and place beans on serving tray. Before serving, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

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