When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Easy Summer Salads

Let's be honest -- when summer temperatures outside are sweltering, no one really wants to be inside cooking dinner. The thought of turning on a stove or oven is highly unappealing when you've already been roasting for hours in the heat of a sunny afternoon! For those kinds of days, I've got a plan for getting a healthy meal on the table without breaking a sweat in the kitchen. Enter the simple supper salad:

Crisp leafy greens combined with handfuls of whatever crunchy veggies you have on hand, some lean protein, and a simple homemade dressing make a refreshing and satisfying supper. Best of all, prep and clean-up are minimal so you can quickly get to enjoying the outdoor activities summer evenings have to offer.

For the salad pictured above, I used romaine and red leaf lettuces, carrots, red peppers, green and yellow beans, cucumber, grape tomatoes, peas in the pod, chunks of grilled chicken, and slices of hard-boiled egg. The dressing was a simple mix of olive oil and freshly-squeezed lemon juice with sea salt and pepper. We added a crusty loaf of multi-grain bread and voila -- dinner was served!

For me, the trick to being able to whip up dinner easily is to do a little planning ahead. When cutting up vegetables for one meal, I always cut up extras to store in the fridge for handy snacks and salads later. If we are grilling meat for dinner, I'll often add a few extra pieces so that we can make another meal by simply slicing up the leftovers and thinking of something interesting to do with them. Having boiled eggs ready to use later in the day is easy when I think to cook a half-dozen in the morning during breakfast. It's not an earth-shattering revelation, nor is it much extra work, but each of these little things makes it possible to avoid labouring for an hour in the evening when there are other things I'd rather be doing. I can feel good on those hot summer days that even without a huge effort, my family is eating an enjoyable meal that didn't have to come from a take-out container.

The next time a hot, sunny day makes salad for supper seem like a bright idea, get creative with colour and stay cool in the kitchen! The possibilities are endless and the results are virtually always good.

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