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Simple Summer Kitchen

With so much produce growing in summer, this is a great time to enjoy the warmer weather, savor flavors, and keep recipes simple. The tastes of all those summer fruits and veggies will do most of the work in making your recipes shine.

I recently taught the "Your Diet, Your Decade" class, designed to highlight nutrition needs across different age groups. Our 60+ year young crowd prepared nutritious dishes with simple ingredients and limited preparation.

When the temperature rises, find reason to get outside and consider these tips to limit meal prep and time:

  1. Make cold side and main dish salads. You can prepare these ahead of time and eat for a few days. Think rice salads or pasta salads with tuna or chicken. Or marinade vegetable salads. The corn salad recipe in this post was a hit with our 60+ crowd!
  2. Use your slow cooker. While soups may not sound good in summer, harness the power of a slow cooker for pot roast with potatoes, casseroles, or even just to cook tough cuts of meat to serve along with side salads you made from idea #1. Save leftovers for the next few days or freeze for later use.
  3. Make a meal with 5 ingredients or less. For example, top cooked brown rice with chicken cooked in salsa and sliced sweet bell peppers. Simple. Quick. Done.
  4. Make one-pot meals. Try this Skillet Spaghetti – easy and you never have to boil water for pasta.
  5. Cut up fruits and veggies to keep on hand. Spend 30 minutes, wash, and cut up carrots, radishes, bell peppers, and other veggies you like. Portion into small containers, or keep a large container of veggies. Do it all at once, so you can eat for a few days without extra prep work. (Note that carrots may dry out without a bit of water in the container.)

Blueberries, strawberries, peaches, grapes, and other fruits hold up well once washed, cut, and stored in the fridge a few days too. (Raspberries, blackberries, bananas, and other fruits are best used soon after washing and cutting to size.)

What ideas will keep your kitchen simple? Share in the comments.

Corn Salad (Serves 6)

Side salads are a great way to get in more fiber and nutrients.

1 can (15 ounces) corn, drained
Half a medium green pepper, chopped
Half a small red onion, diced
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup low fat sour cream OR nonfat yogurt
2 Tbsp low fat mayonnaise/salad dressing
1 Tbsp vinegar
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp celery seed

    1. In a large mixing bowl, combine corn, green peppers, onions, and tomatoes.
    2. In a separate bowl, combine dressing ingredients. Mix well.
    3. Pour dressing over vegetables and mix. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.
      Nutritional analysis per serving: 100 calories, 3g fat, 280mg sodium, 15g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 2g protein

      Adapted from: University of Illinois Extension, Let's Eat for Health, Illinois!, Corn Salad

      Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.