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Survive Summer with Salads, Vegetables, and No-Bake Meals

Kara Kimbrough

Borrowing a line from the late Woodie Assaf of WLBT-TV3, “the weatherman says” hot weather has arrived. And let’s face it, in Mississippi, it’ll be hot until Christmas parades roll in early December. Salads, all-vegetable meals, and no-bake meals are not just smart. In our state, they’re survival food.

First, when I say salads, I’m not talking about pale iceberg lettuce topped with high-fat ranch dressing and mounds of croutons. If you go that route, you might as well partake of take-out burgers and fries. Believe it or not, there are healthy and satisfying salads that qualify as actual meals, not the prelude to the fried chicken buffet line.

Take chicken salad, for example. Nothing’s more transformable than chicken breasts and lettuce. If you’re counting calories, make a light chicken curry salad by stirring together two cups of low or fat-free yogurt, a handful of grapes, cup of chopped walnuts, and a little curry powder and seasoning. Stir in chopped roasted chicken and mixed greens for a delicious meal that doesn’t scream “diet.”

For a tropical flair, combine four tablespoons each of olive oil and fresh lemon juice with a tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce and a little fresh grated ginger. Coat pieces of chicken breast with the mixture, reserving some for the dressing. Grill or roast chicken in the oven, chop into pieces and mix with several cups of mixed salad greens and sliced mangos and avocados. Drizzle reserved dressing on top.

Cornbread salad has been around for a while, but I discovered a grilled version that’s a little different.

Take four cups of baked cornbread and cut into large cubes. Toast the cubed cornbread in the oven for about 10 minutes, then brush three chicken breasts with a mixture of two tablespoons each of lemon juice and olive oil, and a little ground cumin. Grill or roast chicken in the oven, then cube and toss with the toasted cornbread, romaine lettuce, chopped tomato, red onion, and an additional sprinkle of lemon juice, olive oil and ground cumin mixture.

Or, switch things up and combine chopped shrimp or tuna with a cup of light mayonnaise or plain yogurt, ground black pepper, and a dash of seasoning salt. Piled on a large bed of mixed spring greens, it’s the perfect meal to quell dessert longings.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with going the simple route. I’m talking about a fresh lettuce salad topped with frosty slices of homegrown tomatoes, slivers of tangy purple onion, and crispy bits of green pepper and celery. However, I’m a little bored with light vinaigrette dressings. Last week, I revived a blast from the past, a light version of Green Goddess Dressing.

In a food processor, combine five tablespoons of low-fat yogurt, two tablespoons of light sour cream, tablespoon each of chopped fresh tarragon and fresh dill, and teaspoon each of white wine vinegar and anchovy paste. I was so intrigued by the dressing that I actually forgot I was dining on salad.

From now until Labor Day, I’ll periodically pass on no or minimal-bake recipes to get us through a long, hot Mississippi summer. I’ll start with a no-bake dessert I discovered last week on a television show. Besides uncovering a no-fuss, no-muss dessert, I learned a new way to reinvent store-bought graham cracker crust.

Until next week, as Woodie would say, “that’s all, folks.”

Summer Survival No-Bake Berry Cheesecake

Nonstick baking spray

1 store-bought graham cracker pie crust, removed from pan and crushed

2 tablespoons melted butter

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 can (14-1/2 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

Zest of 1 orange

16 ounces frozen strawberries or mixed berries

1/2 cup strawberry jam, warmed

1 cup whipped cream (optional)

Spray a loaf pan with nonstick spray then line with parchment paper so it hangs over the edges creating handles. Spray the parchment with more nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press into the bottom of the prepared loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk and orange zest. Fold in the frozen berries then pour the berry mixture over the graham cracker crust. Spread the top out into an even layer and place in freezer for 4 hours or overnight. Remove from freezer 15 minutes before serving.

To serve, cut cheesecake into slices. Spread a spoonful of the warm jam on each plate and top the jam with a slice of the cheesecake. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream.

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