Being outside, we need to be aware of dehydration, skin sensitivities and vitamin and mineral deficiencies that may happen to our bodies during the peak of summer. Nature has a bounty of different fruits and vegetables that are just right for the summer. These vegetables and fruits are high in water content and are light on the stomach and easy to digest.
Easy to digest food items are best for the summer, as they do not stay in the stomach for long and do not make you feel heavy or lethargic. Junk food, fries, fried foods and other foods that are high in fat content will make you feel excessively hot after a short period of time. This is because fat in the body acts like an insulator for body heat. On top of drinking water, fresh juices and smoothies, eating fresh fruit can also help your body stay energized and hydrated.
Foods that are especially good for you in the summer are:
Beverages – Potassium rich water with lemon and coconut water
Fruits – Mango, watermelon, melons, cherries, berries and banana
Vegetables – Squash, cucumber, corn and tomatoes
For summer dinners forget about processed foods. Instead, use fresh, seasonal ingredients to create a balanced meal that includes vegetables, salad, proteins and healthy snacks like hummus.
- Use legumes — beans, peas or lentils — to make salads or side dishes. They are high in fiber and vitamins and are much healthier than sugar-loaded baked beans or calorie-laden mayo-based potato or macaroni salads.
- Use healthy oils and vinegars to add flavor to salads. For example, blend olive with different types of vinegar or citrus juices.
- For snacks, try raw unsalted nuts, marinated olives, guacamole and sliced vegetables.
- For grilling, choose lean cuts of meat and trim away excess fat. Don’t forget fish – it is wonderful on the grill. Be sure to add vegetables and fruit to the grill. Good choices include red, yellow and green peppers, green or yellow squash, mushrooms, red onions and peaches.
Try these dinner menus to get you started.
Dinner One: 6 servings
- Tuna Zucchini Cakes
- Remoulade Sauce
- Grilled Corn Salad
Tuna Zucchini Cakes
Yield: 6 servings: 2 patties each.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 12 ounces fresh cooked tuna or canned tuna in water, chopped
- 2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs, divided
- 2 cups shredded zucchini
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten or 1 cup refrigerated egg substitute
- 2/3 cup minced fresh parsley
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 teaspoons seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir until tender. Remove from heat.
Add tuna, 1 cup bread crumbs, zucchini, eggs, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper to onion mixture; mix lightly but thoroughly. Shape into twelve 1/2-inch thick patties; coat with remaining bread crumbs.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add 6 patties; cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and heated through. Repeat with remaining oil and patties. Serve with Remoulade Sauce.
Healthy Remoulade Sauce
Makes 3/4 cup
- 1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon coarse-grained mustard
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 4 teaspoons drained capers, rinsed
- 4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
Whisk mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard, lemon juice, anchovy paste and cayenne in a small bowl until smooth. Stir in capers and parsley.
Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Few dashes bottled hot pepper sauce
- 6 fresh ears corn (with husks)
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 medium sweet bell peppers, seeded and halved
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
- Romaine leaves
For the dressing:
In a screw-top jar combine olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the hot pepper sauce. Cover and shake well; refrigerate until ready to serve.
Peel back the corn husks but do not remove them. Gently rinse corn and scrub with a stiff brush to remove silks. Spread butter over corn. Sprinkle with rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Fold husks back around corn and tie with kitchen string or strips of husk.
For a charcoal grill, grill corn on the grate of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 20 to 25 minutes or until corn kernels are tender, turning and rearranging ears occasionally. Add sweet peppers to the grill the last 8 to 10 minutes of grilling, turning often to brown evenly.
(For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place corn and sweet peppers on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as directed.). Cool corn for 30 minutes.
Remove string; peel back husks. Cut kernels from the cobs. Remove stems from sweet peppers and cut peppers into bite-size pieces.
In a large bowl combine corn, peppers, cheese and dressing; toss lightly to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature over a bed of romaine leaves.
Dinner Two: 4 servings
- Grilled Garlic Shrimp
- Spaghetti with Fresh Lemon & Basil
- Sliced Tomatoes Drizzled with Italian Dressing
Grilled Garlic Shrimp
- 1 lb large shrimp
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine the oil, shrimp and garlic in a plastic ziplock bag. Let the shrimp marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Turn it from time to time to let the marinade cover all of the shrimp.
Heat an outdoor grill to medium and remove the shrimp from the refrigerator. Place the shrimp on metal or soaked wooden skewers and brush with the marinade from the bag. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place the skewers on the grill and cook for about 2 minutes per side. Make sure the heat isn’t too high. Turn the shrimp over, brush with the marinade and cook for another minute.
Spaghetti with Fresh Lemon & Basil
- 1 lb spaghetti
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice from 2 lemons
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest from the juiced lemons
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
Whisk the oil, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a large pasta serving bowl to blend. Set the lemon sauce aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Add the spaghetti to the lemon sauce and toss with the basil and lemon zest. Add enough of the reserved cooking liquid, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well to moisten the pasta.
Transfer to individual bowls and serve with extra Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Dinner Three: 2 servings
- Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers
- Baby Lettuces with Tomato Dressing
- Coconut-Mango Frozen Yogurt
Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers
- 2 large sweet red bell peppers
- 1 cup canned stewed tomatoes or diced tomatoes
- 1 cup cooked rice (white or brown)
- 3/4 cup canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn, thawed
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
Cut peppers in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Place peppers in an ungreased shallow microwave-safe dish. Cover and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes or until tender. (You may also boil the peppers.)
Combine the tomatoes, rice, beans, corn, onions, Italian seasoning and pepper flakes in a mixing bowl; spoon into the pepper halves. Place in a baking pan just large enough to hold the peppers. Sprinkle with cheeses.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the peppers uncovered for 30 minutes.
Baby Lettuces and Green Beans with Tomato Dressing
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 1 large tomato, cut into eighths
- 2 oz green beans, trimmed
- 2 cups mixed baby lettuces
- 1/2 cup baby arugula
In a blender or processor combine olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and shallot just until combined. Add chopped tomato and process or blend just until the tomato is chopped into small pieces. Set aside. This dressing recipe makes more than you need for this salad.
Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook 3 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain; run under cold water.
In a serving bowl, combine green beans, lettuce and arugula. Toss with some of the dressing and serve immediately.
Coconut-Mango Frozen Yogurt
- 1 cup plain coconut water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 small mango (about 10 ounces), peeled and diced
- 1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
- 1 cup light coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut
In a small saucepan, combine the coconut water and sugar and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Let the sugar syrup cool.
In a blender or food processor, puree the diced mango with 2 tablespoons of the sugar syrup.
Transfer 1/4 cup of the puree to a bowl and whisk in the Greek yogurt, coconut milk, lemon juice and the remaining sugar syrup.
Pour the mixture into a glass baking dish and freeze for 1 hour, until frozen around the edges. Whisk the mixture to break up the clumps and return to the freezer. Freeze for about 2 hours longer, whisking frequently, until the mixture is nearly frozen. Spread the remaining mango puree on top and, using a butter knife, swirl it into the yogurt. Freeze until nearly solid.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the shredded coconut over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until it’s golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer the coconut to a plate and let it cool.
To serve, scoop the frozen yogurt into bowls and top with the toasted coconut. Alternatively, in a tall glass, layer the coconut between small scoops of the frozen yogurt, like a parfait.
Dinner Four: 8 servings
- Orange Marinated Flank Steak
- Chopped Salad
- Easy Black-Pepper Breadsticks
Orange Marinated Flank Steak
- 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
- 2 lb flank steak, fat trimmed
- 2 large navel oranges, peeled & sliced thin
- 8 sprigs mint, for garnish
In a shallow glass or ceramic dish, combine garlic, orange zest, juice, vinegar, pepper, mustard and mint. Add steak to the marinade; turn once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, turning steak twice in marinade.
Remove steak from the marinade, scraping any bits of marinade clinging to meat back into the bowl.
Transfer marinade to small saucepan and bring to a boil; reserve.
Lightly grease the grill rack and preheat a charcoal grill until coals have turned a gray ash color or preheat a gas grill to high heat.
Place steak on the grill directly over the heat source and sear 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Brush with a little reserved marinade and continue cooking, covered (with lid down or tented with foil), for approximately 4 minutes, turning once and brushing frequently with marinade.
Transfer to a carving board, tent with foil, and let rest for 7 minutes before slicing. Arrange orange slices in overlapping pattern around the outside of the platter.
Slice steak diagonally across the grain into very thin slices. Arrange down the center of the platter and garnish with mint.
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 4 small new potatoes or fingerling potatoes (6 ounces), sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 3/4 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 cups chopped romaine lettuce
- 2 hard-cooked eggs, cut into wedges
- 1/4 cup chopped English cucumber
- 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
- 2 radishes, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallot (1 medium)
For vinaigrette: in a screw-top jar combine vinegar, oil, oregano , honey, salt and pepper. Cover and shake well. Set aside.
In a covered medium saucepan cook potatoes and green beans in enough boiling water to cover for 5 to 8 minutes or until tender; drain. Immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking; drain again.
In a large bowl combine potatoes, green beans, lettuce, eggs, cucumber, olives, radishes and shallot. Add about half the vinaigrette; toss gently to coat
Easy Black-Pepper Breadsticks
- 8 oz pizza dough
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
- 4 garlic,crushed
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
Heat the oven to 425°F. Coat a baking sheet with olive oil spray. Divide the dough in half. Roll one half into an 8 × 4-inch rectangle.
Cook olive oil and crushed garlic cloves in a small skillet over low heat for 5 minutes. Discard garlic.
Brush half the oil over the rolled out dough; sprinkle with ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cut dough into 4 (4 × 2-inch) rectangles and roll into thin sticks.
Repeat with the second half of the dough and remaining ingredients. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8- 10 minutes.
- 5 Healthy Spring Dinners (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Parsley, Chickpea, Avocado and Greens Salad (thoroughlynourishedlife.com)