Spring is in the air in Minne – this weekend we were graced with 60+ degree sunny weather and it was glorious. The neighborhood was buzzing and the smell of grilling filled the air – I think it is finally safe to put the winter coats away (knock on wood)!
I was invited to a wine club BBQ on Saturday with a fantastic group of women I met at work (shout-out Beth and Jamie for hosting!) and was asked to bring a side to share. My sides as of late have all been butternut squash based or comfort foody so I had to dig into the recipe book to pull-out some of my summer go-to’s!
Below are 3 summer-friendly, (relatively) healthy side dishes. I ended-up making two sides for the party, and one to just have around to bring to work.
1.) Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Salad
I feel like buffalo anything was kind of a “thing” for awhile, and this was my go-to side dish about 4 years ago. Well cool or not I’m still a huge fan of buffalo chicken and love that this recipe from Half Baked Harvest is a bit different but still fairly healthy! I pulled this guy out from the bottom of my Pinterest board and it was a hit!
It can be served as a side or the leftovers are perfect for lunch as well 🙂
*Note I skipped the cabbage, and I used a food processor to break-down the carrots. I’ve found shredded carrots can be too tough and big in the salad.
2.) My Family’s Famous “Healthy Salad”
I’m not exactly sure where this recipe came from (I think my aunt’s friend Kathy?) but has been a staple summer side at the lake since I was a kid. I’m sure it at one time had a different name, but the recipe card I have literally says “healthy salad.” It is super flavorful, colorful, easy to make, pretty healthy (hence the name) and the beauty is that it stays good for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator!
I love to eat it over spinach as a salad for lunch at work 🙂
Full disclosure I forgot to buy celery, but I doubled the green pepper and it worked fine!
- 1 15 oz can peas
- 1 15 oz can white (shoepeg) corn
- 1 15 oz can french-style green beans
- 2 oz pimentos (they come in 4 oz jars)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 chopped green pepper (yellow or red works as well)
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- Drain corn, peas, green bean, and pimento then set aside in a medium bowl
- Chop onion, pepper, and celery and combine with canned vegetables
- In a small saucepan, stir together red wine vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt, and pepper over low to medium heat until sugar is dissolved
- Take off of heat and pour over vegetables, cool and refrigerate
- Salad stores in refrigerator for 2-3 weeks
3.) Whole Wheat Veggie Mac & Cheese
I am a HUGE mac & cheese lover and for this recipe mixed some tricks from my Aunt Honey and some veggies into this creamy recipe from Macaroni and Cheesecake.
Use whatever veggies you would like!
Cooking the noodles in milk seems weird, but adds to the creaminess
- 2 cups dried pasta (I used whole-wheat elbow noodles)
- 2 1/2 cups skim milk (I used almond milk and it turned-out fine)
- 1/4 lb american cheese, cut into chunks*
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 red pepper, diced
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 cup broccoli florets, chopped
- In a saucepan add pasta and milk, bring to a simmer and cook until noodles are soft, around 20-25 minutes – be sure to stir frequently and make sure the milk never comes to a boil
- While the pasta is cooking, saute the veggies with a drizzle of olive oil (and a sprinkle of garlic powder) over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until soft
- Remove the pasta/milk from heat and add the cheese a little at a time, stirring until creamy. Add the salt, dijon, and veggies and mix until combined. You can add more milk as needed based on your creamy-ness preference
*the recipe called for 1 cup loosely shredded cheddar cheese, but as a trick from my Aunt, I used 1/4 lb yellow american cheese. You get it at the deli counter, and just ask for it in a block vs. sliced (they look at you a little weird but it is worth it). It melts so much better!