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July Healthy Dinner Blog: Summer Salads

It’s time for a healthy dinner! Well, part of a healthy dinner. Summer is peak grilling season and I don’t need to give you a recipe to grill a chicken breast. Instead, here are a couple new side dishes to liven up your grilled proteins! This month we’re making Mediterranean Lentils and Watermelon Salad.

I don’t know about you, but grilling has never been a “night off” from cooking. My husband manages the grilling, but I’m inside prepping vegetables and making side dishes. One of the best parts of these two recipes is that they actually taste better if they sit in the fridge. I can make these during the baby’s nap and then relax during grill time.

Both of these recipes are full of vegetables (and fruits) and light on processed ingredients. Mediterranean Lentils could be a meal on its own, with all the plant protein lentils provide. Double bonus, both of these recipes are vegetarian, gluten-free, no added sugars, and can be converted to vegan. They’re perfect to bring to a summer party or just keep in your fridge.

Mediterranean Lentils

1.5 cups green lentils

1 English cucumber

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes

4 oz (.5 cup) crumbled feta cheese

.5 cup pitted kalamata olives

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

2 tsp chopped garlic

.5 cup red or white wine vinegar

.25 cup olive oil

2 tsp Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Small bunch of fresh mint

1. Cook the lentils according to the package instructions. Make sure you don’t overcook them! Mushy lentils do NOT make a good salad.

2. Put the onion in a bowl and cover them with the vinegar. Toss it all together and let it sit while you prep the remaining ingredients.

3. Chop the cucumber and tomatoes into bite sized pieces and add to a large bowl. Cut the olives in half. Finely slice the mint leaves.

4. Drain the lentils and put them in the fridge to cool.

5. When the lentils are room temperature, add to the veggies.

6. Take 2 tbsp vinegar out of the onions and drain the rest. Add the onion to the other ingredients and toss in the feta.

7. In a small bowl, whisk together reserved vinegar, oil, garlic, and mustard. Gently stir the dressing into the other ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste. Top with mint and enjoy!

Quick notes:

I usually cook the lentils a day ahead of time with my Instant Pot (I take a minute off the recommended cooking time, I like them al dente). I have a bad habit of letting beans and lentils burn on the stove. Also, it’s important to use green lentils for this recipe. Brown lentils have a tough outer skin and red lentils don’t hold their shape when cooked.

Soaking the onions in vinegar pickles them little and takes away some of the bite. If you’re not a big fan of garlic, you could add it to the vinegar to get a milder flavor. You could also add some baby bell peppers if you want a little more color in this dish.

Watermelon Salad

4 cups cubed watermelon

3 cups cubed English cucumber (about ¾ of a large one)

2 cups blueberries

.5 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 small jalapeno pepper

2 Tbsp lime juice

1 small bunch mint

1. CAREFULLY remove the seeds and membranes from the jalapeno and finely dice.

2. Gently combine the ingredients in a large bowl and stir.

3. Top with finely sliced mint, add salt and/or pepper to taste

Quick notes:

I have to admit, I’m not a big watermelon person, but I like this recipe! If you love watermelon, feel free to adjust the cucumber:melon ratio (I just had a ‘90s Bath and Body Works flashback!). You could also add more jalapeno or leave the seeds in for a bigger kick. I have added a couple tablespoons of olive oil to make this more of a dressed salad, but I don’t see a big difference. Full disclosure, my kids don’t really like this dish. They prefer their watermelon as is, but life isn’t always about them, so I keep making it. You could make this a meal by adding some precooked shrimp, too! I love it next to grilled chicken, though. It really lightens up the meal.

Hope you enjoy these two side dishes! Next month we’re taking a break from dinner to hook you up with some lunch box ideas. If your kids are anything like mine, summer has been one gigantic snack time. That eating schedule ends in less than a month! We need to learn some new ways to pack healthy, filling, and kid-approved lunches.