I couldn’t stand the heat earlier this week, so I got out of the kitchen. OK, to be more precise I just didn’t turn on the stove.
As the temps soared into the low-90s this week and a heat advisory was issued, I declared my kitchen a no-cook zone. Luckily for me, I had some salad greens plus some berries I picked up on sale. Voila! I had the makings of easy, breezy summer fare. Hopefully soon, we will see strawberries cropping up at the Farmington Farmers & Artisans Market as we head into peak berry season, but in the meantime, you can get the fruit for a great price at the local supermarket.
Spinach and strawberries may seem like an odd couple but they complement each other so well. They are also a nutritious pair. A dark, leafy green, spinach packs a lot of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A and folate. The strawberries bring vitamin C to the mix. You can look nutrient information on any food here.
These two work well together in many applications, from smoothies to salads. In the morning, especially during the hot summer months, I whip up a smoothie so I can dash out the door to work and not worry about starving until lunch. Smoothies are a great way to ensure you start off with the most important meal of the day; my version incorporates three of the food groups (vegetables, fruit and dairy) and the protein in the yogurt will help you feel full until lunch time. Or don’t just have a smoothie for breakfast; it’s also a nice, cold mid-afternoon treat.
Spinach and strawberries also make a great pair in this salad, which is inspired by my cousin, Val, who always makes this colorful dish for summer family parties. Her version calls for mandarin oranges, spinach, strawberries, almonds, green onions, bacon and avocado tossed in a bottled toasted sesame salad dressing.
I’ve pared down my version to only spinach, leaf lettuce, toasted almonds, green onions and strawberries to cut down on fat and sugar. I’ve also made my own sesame dressing, which is similar to the dressing I made with the grilled asparagus a while back. Read the variation below for a sweeter dressing and optional ingredients.
You can make your own “summer salad” using whatever you like. Just make sure you have the three key parts: something crunchy (nuts), the greens (spinach or lettuces) and the berries, all pulled together in a sweet and savory dressing.
1 bunch of spinach
About 8 leaves of lettuce (green or red), torn
3 green onions, chopped
1 cup of strawberries, sliced
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted in the oven or in a dry skillet
1 small can of mandarin oranges (look for oranges packed in juice or light syrup to cut down on sugar)
1 avocado, scooped out and diced
3 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled (use turkey bacon to cut down on the fat but check out the sodium content on the label if you’re watching salt)
¼ cup canola oil
3 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar (1-2 tsp. more if you like more vinegar in your dressing)
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame dressing
1 packet of sugar substitute (I like to use Stevia but you can use regular sugar, brown sugar or honey, about 1 teaspoon)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Variation: If using mandarin oranges, add 1 tablespoon of the juice from the can.
Combine salad dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well.
Combine salad ingredients into a bowl.
Toss salad with dressing and serve immediately.
2 cups of your favorite fruits (I usually use strawberry, blueberry and raspberry, preferably frozen. If using fresh, make sure to add about ½ cup of ice)
½ cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 cup of your favorite juice (I usually use cherry but apple juice also works well), plus extra in case the smoothie is too thick
1 big handful of spinach
Put fruit, yogurt and juice in a blender. Mix well. Add the spinach and blend.