Toss a healthy meal in minutes for Memorial Day

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, May 28, 2011

The unofficial start of summer is Memorial Day — and with that comes grill outs, get-togethers and a desire for cooking outside. Summer also means running to and from sports, camps and other events.

Does that leave you time in the kitchen for a healthy and tasty meal? Yes.

Instead of the drive-thru, consider tossing a quick meal together, full of health benefits, starting with pre-packaged salads.

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Bagged salad kits are a great starting point to build a complete meal in a matter of minutes. Including time-saving, pre-washed lettuce and greens along with additional ingredients, many times vegetables, these kits are a good base to building a delicious meal.

If the thought of salads leaves you thinking of the standard lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, (although that is good too), you are in need of more variety and something that will sustain you at mealtime. It is time to take things up a notch by adding new and different flavors using the following ingredients:

• Dark lettuces such as romaine, green leaf or red leaf lettuce, spinach or kale build a bold color that is bothhealthy and appealing to the eyes.

• Arugula or watercress added in small amounts will offer a peppery bite.

• Canned beans that are rinsed and drained offer a boost of protein, fiber (7 grams per 1/2 cup) and texture.

• Pasta or quinoa make great additions to a salad, just precook and have available in the refrigerator.

• Nuts and dried fruit add crunch and sweetness to a tossed salad. Experiment with different nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, peanuts) and dried fruits (cranberries, raisins, apples, blueberries). Great ingredients to have in the pantry.

• Pick a protein; think of adding a grilled chicken breast (cook some extra on the weekend when you have the grill fired up), grilled lean steak, grilled fish (tilapia or salmon) or even shredded pork to the top of your salad for a heartier feel.

• Add a variety of fruits and vegetables, such as bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, red onions, corn, snap peas, precooked sweet potatoes for extra chewing! Fruits that go well on a salad are peaches, nectarines, pears, apples, berries, pineapple, kiwi, grapes and even melon. The possibilities are endless. The more crunching you have to do while you are eating, the better.

A salad a day is a great way to reach your target for fruits and vegetables, here are two recipes to get you started.

Chicken and Asparagus

Caesar Salad

Serves 4

All you need

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 (10 oz) Dole™ Light Caesar Salad Kit

2 cups cooked, diced chicken breast

All you do

1. Steam asparagus 4-6 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse.

2. Toss salad with chicken, asparagus and dressing included in salad kit.

3. Top with croutons before serving.

Sirloin Steak Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing

Serves 4.

All you need:

1 (1 lb) top round sirloin steak

Monterey steak seasoning, to taste

2 (4 oz each) packaged Earthbound Farm mixed baby greens

1/4 cup Hy-Vee dried cranberries

1/2 cup light honey mustard salad dressing

All you do:

1. Sprinkle steak on all sides with seasoning. Heat skillet over medium heat until hot; add steak. Cook for 6 minutes; turn. Cook an additional 5 to 6 minutes or until desired doneness.

2. Remove steak from pan and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice steak into thin slices.

3. On a large platter, layer greens, cranberries and dressing. Top with steak.