Quick and Delicious Summertime Food
It’s picnic time! This is what we’ve been waiting for ~ warmer weather and a chance to have those outdoor get-togethers. If you are like me, you’re always looking for a delicious, easy recipe that everyone can enjoy while still keeping healthful eating in mind. With the lovely weather comes plentiful and beautiful fresh produce to explore and take advantage of; the colors in the produce aisle are like a rainbow at this time of the year!
While we all love the potato salads and brownie variations which are often present at the picnic table ~ sometimes it’s fun to jazz things up and offer new choices to your loved ones and friends; after all, good eating for the pure pleasure of feeling great is a treat to be shared.
I’m sharing some of my family’s very favorite recipes, with a little background on the *why* these ingredients make such excellent nutritionally-rich food choices.
Since I can never quite decide on any one recipe, I’m offering you two make-ahead salad recipes as well as two make-ahead desserts ~ one chocolate and one using fruit. These recipes all benefit from being made ahead of time ~ the flavors deepen and meld nicely.
I know, you’re thinking BROCCOLI SALAD? but this Broccoli Salad is different (since the broccoli remain uncooked) and has never failed to be a hit, so I suggest making a double-batch so some of it actually makes it to the outdoor event! We seem to dive in to this salad the minute it is ready.
You can feel really good about serving this salad, Broccoli is a rich-source of cancer-fighting chemicals and a nutritional powerhouse; a high-fiber, nutrient-rich food, it is an excellent source of the important B vitamin folate, as well as riboflavin, potassium, iron and Vitamin C.
When buying broccoli look for good color to get the most nutritional value and flavor. Broccoli florets that are dark green or purplish or bluish-green have more beta carotene and vitamin C than paler florets.
Sunflower seeds add their own nutritional punch to this salad. They are an outstanding source of the antioxidant vitamin E; enjoy them in moderation as they are rather high in calories.
5 cups fresh broccoli florets
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, raw, unsalted
1/2 cup cooked, crumbled bacon (can used pre-cooked, but I wouldn’t)
1/4 cup of red onion, chopped
1 cup of frozen peas, thawed
1 cup mayonnaise, Hellmann’s (could use reduced-fat, but I wouldn’t)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar (some people reduce the amount of sugar here)
Combine broccoli florets, raisins, sunflower seeds, crumbled bacon, chopped onion, and peas in a large serving bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar. Add dressing to the salad and toss to mix well; chill thoroughly before serving.
Broccoli salad serves 4 to 6
This next recipe might seem strange to some, but please try it once and you’ll be hooked! Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is an ancient grain-like product that has recently been ‘rediscovered’ in this country. It can be found at supermarkets usually in the organic or healthy-food section. Quinoa is not a true grain, but it looks like one and has similar uses. The initial cooking process is similar to cooking rice and the ratio of water to product is 2 to 1. For this recipe cook 1 cup Quinoa in 2 cups of water to produce 1-1/2+ cups of Quinoa.
This perfect picnic salad can be served chilled but the flavors are accentuated when served at room temperature, which saves on refrigerator or cooler space!
Quinoa is an excellent source of lysine, an amino acid and is one of the best sources of plant protein. Quinoa contains no gluten, making it the perfect food for people who follow a wheat-free, gluten-free diet. Quinoa can be used as a substitute for rice in recipes such as Stuffed Peppers and Pilafs. Experiment with this wonderful nutty-tasting product.
Black beans give this tasty salad an advantage, they are rich in soluble fiber, which is thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels; as well as containing insoluble fiber which can improve regularity. This ample fiber content helps support weight-control efforts by contributing to feeling full with even a small serving ~ such a deal! Delicious, nutritious and helps control weight ~ those are great reasons to give this salad a try!
Quinoa and Black Bean Salad
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups black beans, use canned and rinse
1 1/2 T. red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups cooked corn, you can use frozen or fresh
3/4 cup finely chopped green pepper
2 pickled jalapeno chilies, minced – could use fresh but the pickled add a nice flavor
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, you could substitute parsley here
5 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 t. ground cumin
1/3 cup olive oil
Wash quinoa in a strainer until the water runs clear and cook according to the instructions on the Quinoa box.
Toss beans, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and cool. Add beans, corn, bell pepper, jalapeno, and cilantro. Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients adding the oil last and whisking in a steady stream. Drizzle over the salad and toss. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Now for everyone’s favorite ~ dessert! Whether you are feeling naughty or nice, these desserts will appeal to your guests and secretly you’ll be contributing to everyone’s good health!
This first recipe was so odd looking that I couldn’t wait to try it. It all comes together in the bowl of the food processor or blender, keeping cleanup at a minimum. This tasty little cake is wheat and milk free, so it is a great choice for any gluten-intolerant guests. Feel free to substitute brewed coffee for the orange juice and real Maple Syrup to taste for the sugar, if you prefer those flavors. The use of cocoa powder in this recipe keeps the fat content down and deepens that satisfying chocolate flavor. Think flour-less chocolate cake without the guilt and this is the recipe you’ve been looking for!
Chocolate & Spice Chickpea Cake
2 cups cooked, drained chickpeas/garbanzo beans (15.5 oz can works perfectly)
1/3 Cup orange juice
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar, (you could substitute Sucanet or Maple Syrup)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch ground cloves
Cooking spray or oil
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray or oil an 8″ round or square cake pan and line bottom with a circle of parchment or waxed paper.
In the bowl of a food processor or blender, process chickpeas and orange juice until very smooth (you may need to pulse the machine here). Add eggs, one at a time, pulsing after each addition.
In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda. Add to processor and pulse until just blended.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and let cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from pan.
This recipe is sweet and refreshing on a hot summer’s day. If you’ve never tried papaya, now is the time to enjoy this big, beautiful fruit! An excellent source of vitamin C, papaya also provides fiber, folate, vitamin E, potassium and beta carotene. When choosing this fruit at the market, look for papayas that are one-quarter to one-third yellow, these will ripen in 2-4 days. When you get home store slightly unripe papayas on the counter until completely ripened. Fully ripe papayas appear three-quarters to totally yellow or yellow-orange; they will give slightly when pressed gently between your palms but should not be soft or mushy at the stem end. The skin should be smooth, unbruised and un-shriveled; but slight, superficial blemishes may be disregarded. If you are using your papaya immediately, select a more ripened one at the market. You can speed up the ripening process by storing papayas in a brown paper bag with a ripe banana. If not using your fully-ripened papaya right away, transfer to a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. They will keep for up to a week, but the delicate flavor fades with time, so use them within a day or two, if possible.
Papaya Poached in Cinnamon-Lime Syrup
Fruit simmered in cinnamon syrup is a typical after-dinner treat throughout Mexico.
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
3 lbs. fully-ripe papaya, halved, seeded, peeled, cut into ½-inch wedges (most large papayas are around 3 lbs in weight)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
6 lime peel strips
1 cinnamon stick
Sour cream, (I’ve substituted Sheep’s milk yogurt and it was excellent!)
Additional lime peel strips
Bring 2 cups water and sugar to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until syrup thickens slightly, about 6 minutes. Add papaya wedges, fresh lime juice, lime peel strips and cinnamon stick. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until papayas are just tender, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer papayas to bowl. Boil syrup until reduced to 1 cup, about 6 minutes. Pour syrup over papayas and chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
Spoon the cooked papayas and syrup into 6 dessert dishes. Drizzle with sour cream or yogurt and garnish with additional lime peel.
Makes 6 servings
Source: Bon Appétit, Epicurious.com