Michele makes…summer salads

Summer is the time of the year that people want — and crave — light, refreshing food. Summer salads are the perfect way to satisfy those cravings. These salads can serve as the main course, or as tasty sides to your outdoor barbecue.

I love those “ready-to-toss” salad kits you find in the grocery stores. However, I like to make my salads with the freshest possible ingredients and “tweak” my ingredients and dressings to satisfy the picky eaters in my family. Which isn’t to say, I won’t use a commercially prepared salad dressing from time to time.

Here’s our “go-to” summer salad favorites.

Tip Substitute stevia for sugar in any of these dressings to make a low-cal alternative.

Poppyseed Kale Salad

1 cup kale, chopped

1/2 cup Brussel sprouts, chopped

1/2 cup green cabbage, chopped in thin slices

1/4 cup red cabbage, chopped

1/4 cup broccoli florets, chopped

1/4 cup cauliflower florets, chopped (optional)

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup pepitas or toasted pumpkin seeds

Mix together.

Poppyseed Dressing

1 cup oil

1/3 cup vinegar, you can use white, apple cider or raspberry

1/2 cup sugar or stevia

2 tsp. poppy seeds

1 tsp. dried mustard

1 tsp. salt

Combine ingredients in blender or bowl. Mix well.

Strawberry-Walnut-Orange Spinach Salad

3 oranges, peeled, sliced (tangerine slices work well, too)

1 cup sliced fresh strawberries

6 cups fresh baby spinach leaves

1/2 red onion sliced thin

1 cup toasted walnut pieces (toast walnuts in a 350F oven 10 minutes, mixing once or twice while they bake to prevent burning)

Use Poppyseed Dressing (above) or Raspberry-Walnut Blender Vinaigrette (below).

Berry Spinach Salad

I love berries, well … not blueberries as much, but raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, huckleberries, marionberries, just about any kind of berry. This is a great salad (even with the blueberries) to enjoy berry season. Mix and match berries to your particular taste buds.

8 cups baby spinach leaves

6 ounces blackberries

6 ounces raspberries

6 ounces blueberries

1 cup sunflower seeds (you can also substitute sliced almonds if you prefer)

Optional Add 1 cup sliced strawberries.

I normally use the poppyseed dressing (see above) on this salad. However, I also like raspberry-walnut vinaigrette on occasion.

Raspberry-Walnut Blender Vinaigrette

1/2 cup fresh raspberries.

1/3 cup toasted walnut pieces

1/4 cup raspberry or red wine vinegar

2 tbsp. honey, or stevia

1 tbsp. Dijon-style mustard

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1/3 cup olive oil

In a blender combine raspberries, walnuts, vinegar, honey, mustard, salt, and pepper. Cover and blend until nearly smooth. With blender running, drizzle in the oil until combined.

Watermelon Salad

Sometimes, when I feel “fancy,” I’ll dig out my melon baller and make the salad look “special” by scooping out watermelon balls.

1 (7-to 8-lb.) watermelon

3 tbsp. fresh lime juice

2 tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves (you can chop the leaves if you like smaller pieces of mint)

2/3 cup crumbled or diced feta cheese (substitute mozzarella for those who don’t like feta)

1/2 red onion, sliced thin in thin strips

Cut the watermelon into cubes or use a melon baller and scoop it into balls. Add it to a large bowl.

Add the fresh mint leaves, feta cheese and sliced red onion.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the watermelon, add the chopped mint and feta cheese, and toss to combine.

Optional dressing I like the simplicity of this salad and the fresh, natural flavors. However, I’ve also made this salad with a balsamic syrup, and it is equally as good, in a decadent kind of way.

In a small saucepan, combine 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar and 1 tbsp. sugar over med-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook, scraping down the sides, until it has reduced to a syrup, about 5 minutes. (It will thicken as it cools, and only yield a few tablespoons.) Cool before you drizzle over your finished salad.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

This recipe uses commercially prepared salad dressings for a quick and easy lunch or dinner.

2 tbsp. melted butter

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. Morton Natures Seasoning

2 to 3 slices day-old bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup commercial Italian salad dressing

2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

6 cups romaine lettuce, torn into salad-size pieces

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup commercial Caesar salad dressing

Combine butter, garlic powder and Morton’s; add bread cubes and toss to coat. Place on a baking sheet; bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Pour Italian dressing into a large resealable plastic bag; add chicken. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Grill chicken, uncovered, over medium heat or broil 4-6 inches from the heat for 6-7 minutes on each side until done. Cut into strips or cubes; refrigerate until chilled.

When ready to serve, combine the romaine, cheese, croutons and mix with Caesar dressing. Lay grilled chicken atop the salad.

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