As you may have seen in the new announcements section on the blog home page, Natural Comfort Kitchen set up shop at the Dew Yoga open house last Sunday, along with many other cool vendors. I met some new entrepreneurial friends from Steam Coffee Bar, Integrity Yoga, Yevo, and The Funky Hippie, to name a few of my favorites. Coincidentally, they were the ones placed closest to me in the vendor room. I would have tried to make the rounds a little better, but thankfully, I was bombarded with almost more traffic than I could keep up with!
This was my first demo event, and while I wasn’t actually demonstrating anything except how to hold down a chair, I was offering samples of southwest quinoa salad, Thai sweet potato salad, and spicy chocolate truffles. In hindsight, it’s clear that I should have been filming the reactions as people bit into the truffles–some of the best, most surprised faces and expressions ever. “WOWWW!!!! That really is spicy!” Ummmm, I told you? So next time…cameras.
>> Jump to the recipes <<
I love bringing you guys recipes via the blog and free samples at events, but the truth is I’m especially anxious to get into more clients’ kitchens to stock them up on happy, healthy, homemade dinners. What can I say? I love the connection to food that comes from preparing it with my own two hands, and nothing beats seeing happy people as they’re devouring something tasty that didn’t come from a bottle, box, or bag. I could be having the worst day, but if Steve inhales dinner and then goes back for seconds, I can’t help but beam. As such, I was super excited to get in touch with some potential clients at Dew and start brainstorming healthy summer dinners that are fresh, seasonal, and easy to make ahead, store, and serve.
Whether you’re in the market for a personal chef or not, let these dinner ideas fuel your summer menu planning. I feel like I’m not the only one for whom summer is always much busier than I imagine it will be, and these recipes are really conducive to making ahead whenever you have an hour or two to spare. Make a double batch and package up some of the freezer-friendly items for later! I’ll fill out the post with links to the remaining recipes as I document them, so make sure to pin this post and check back. And, if you are in the market for a personal chef in Fairfield County, Connecticut, you can choose from this list as we customize your menu for your first trial service!
Another option for healthy summer dinners is to check out the eCookbook I wrote last summer. It’s comprised strictly of stovetop cooking, so it won’t heat up your house. If you’re a subscriber to my email list, you should already have a copy of the book, and if not, sign up here and wait for the eCookbook to magically appear in your inbox! You can then download and keep it forever. It’ll definitely last longer than these healthy summer dinner recipes when they hit the table…
These five recipes take full advantage of fresh, seasonal produce in its purest form. They all keep well for at least a few days in the fridge.
1. Roasted cauliflower + garlic garbanzo purée + Greek salad with fresh herbs
My first CSA haul contained an abundance of fresh oregano, and I’ve surprised myself with my comfort level throwing it into just about everything, including the tofu marinade for some kick@ss veggie nachos tonight. Don’t worry, Stevie, no tofu for you…just black beans, which I’m sure will bode well for your day on the golf course tomorrow. Fresh oregano was, for me, before last week, one of those scary herbs that every Food Network chef and Chopped judge always cautions against overusing, but I’m happy to report it’s easier and tastier than I thought. Moral of the story: get yourself some fresh oregano, and put it on a Greek salad. Or just some feta with a fork.
To roast cauliflower, chop into florets, toss generously with olive oil, salt, and pepper to coat, and bake on a rimmed sheet pan near the bottom of a 425 degree (F) oven. Stir once or just rotate the tray, to make sure you get some nice charred spots. It should take between 20 and 30 minutes to become tender–just enough time to prep the purée and salad.
2. Quinoa-avocado tabbouleh + creamy herb vinaigrette + seasonal greens
Massaged kale is nice and meaty as a salad beneath this, um, salad. Throw in chickpeas or chicken, and you have yourself a meal chock full of protein and summery, juicy tomatoes.
3. Mustard and panko crusted salmon + tomato, roasted corn, and herb pasta salad
This salmon is the bomb…not exaggerating. But then again, has Ina ever created a dish that wasn’t? This one is especially bomb-ish in my book, as it gets my salmon-hating fiancé to actually eat a few forkfuls, but mostly to leave lots for me. I don’t always eat meat, but when I do, I like it frosted in dijon mustard and crispy breadcrumbs. Recipe for the pasta salad coming soon, but for now here’s what Pinterest has to say about it.
4. Wine glazed lentils and vegetables + simple green salad
I would serve mesclun greens or something else delicate with shaved parmesan and a simple lemon vinaigrette (lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt, pepper, dijon, and maybe some maple syrup)–no need to build a complicated salad.
This lentil recipe put The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, fast-becoming one of my favorite cookbooks, on my wish list. If it wasn’t for this post on 101 Cookbooks, and this Deborah Madison classic, there would not be these gratins. I think that’s enough said, right? Oh, and cooking with wine. Definitely enough said.
5. Ina’s gazpacho + olive oil croutons + white bean (or shrimp) and avocado salad
It shames me to say that I haven’t yet, as in, ever in my life, prepared gazpacho, yet somehow I’m confident in my future abilities. Gazpacho seems to be one of those things where the goal is to get the ingredients right–fresh, local, seasonal–and the rest will follow.
For the croutons, toss fresh cut sturdy white bread cubes with plenty of olive oil and S + P and, if you want to be extra naughty, grated parmesan. Bake in a 375 degree oven on a rimmed sheet pan until golden and crisp. For the salad, I plan to keep it simple, since the gazpacho already has a lot of fresh flavors going on. I thought something mellow like beans and avocado would be perfect to balance the acidic gazpacho.
Soup is the ultimate freezer friendly dinner, but it’s just not appetizing on a hot summer day. Like these make ahead dinners, the best summer freezer meals have a bit of cheese or a thick sauce. Combined with fresh veggies in this format, no one will ever know dinner came from the freezer.
6. Loaded vegetable mac and cheese (gluten free easily)
I don’t really need to explain the merits of mac and cheese to you, I’m sure. Perfect with scallions, peas, and greens mixed in to unload some of those summer veggies. You could even add a protein (steak, white beans, chicken) to make it extra filling. Doused in cheesy sauce, mac is the ultimate freezer dinner.
7. Seasonal vegetable and goat cheese frittata + hot or cold herbed pea soup
This gives me extra motivation to get to posting the Spanish frittata recipe that I’ve already tested (twice! for company!) and photographed. It’s SO GOOD. Until then, I like the Pioneer Woman’s approach. Think outside the box with your frittata veggies: potatoes, greens, and olives (is that a vegetable?) all make for an excellent frittata.
After I make the frittata, I cool it, then cut it into quarters which I wrap in foil and freeze. To reheat, place on a baking sheet and open the foil slightly to vent, which keeps the frittata from becoming either watery or too dry. Bake around 300 until warmed through. You can serve frittata at close to room temp, but I’m just not a big fan of room temperature eggs–it tastes more like a sponge to me in that case. It’s fastest to completely defrost the frittata before heating, but I’ve baked it from frozen, too. It works fine, just takes a while to heat the frittata at a low enough temperature that the eggs don’t overcook.
My green quinoa recipe is moderately based on Pinch of Yum‘s green rice, linked above. It’s one of those hits I’ve made so many times that I barely glance at the recipe. I rarely include corn, usually substitute pickled jalapenos because I forget to grab a fresh one, and have started making it with quinoa in half the time that rice takes.
Notice how I just skipped over the enchiladas there? Yeah, they’re good, too. Use my recipe, or improvise, like me. I make enchiladas a little different every time, but one thing is constant: there’s always cheese, sour cream, and/or cream cheese in the filling. Unlike enchiladas filled with shredded meat, veggies and beans are chunky and need some extra “glue” (the cheese) to bind the filling together in a cohesive unit.
9. Ginger-lime stir fry with veg, shrimp, or tofu + brown rice
Stir fry can be made with whatever veggies look good on the day you shop. Keep it simple with only one or two veg varieties (broccoli is a winner), or go crazy and clean out the fridge. For the freezer, make the sauce a bit thick, with some extra cornstarch (or less liquid), and freeze stir fry mixture and rice separately.
Even if you’re making it ahead for the freezer, these colorful, creamy peppers require less than a half hour of prep. Bell peppers roast in the oven along with hands-off oven baked “risotto”, so the peppers and filling are done at the same time. All that’s left is to stir in the good stuff (cheese, sour cream, olives) and assemble.
Check out the recipe post for instructions on freezing.
As I look over these menu options, I think the best part is that they make an equally impressive BBQ or party dinner on the weekend as they do an easy weeknight dinner. Win-win! Go, eat, enjoy…and comment with some of your own go-to healthy summer dinners!
Oh, and one final note–thank you to all who came out in support of Dew Yoga and their scholarship programs on Sunday. It might sound small, but I’m proud to say that NCK wrote a check for $35.00 to Dew at the end of the day. I like to think of it in terms of paying for a few classes for someone who can’t afford it and will truly benefit.
Note: This page contains affiliate links. It does NOT contain sponsored content. Affiliate links (to products I recommend, on Amazon) offset my ingredient and website maintenance costs, so I can keep bringing you seasonal recipe ideas like these. Thanks!