(BPT) - Summer is here and with it comes endless chances to enjoy all the sights, smells and tastes that this season brings.
“Summertime is all about stress-free entertaining and simple meals,” says Rita Held, culinary professional and NAKANO Seasoned Rice Vinegar brand ambassador. “The abundance of fresh produce and warm weather makes eating healthier foods easy.”
Make the most of the season with these tips from Rita on how to make your summer healthier and more flavorful:
* Visit a farmers market. Savor summer’s bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables by visiting your local farmers market. While tomatoes, corn and peaches are in season and delicious, also try out some produce you typically don’t buy. Watercress, fennel and rhubarb are all delicious alternatives to liven your meals.
* Fire up the grill. Use it to cook more than just meats and vegetables by grilling a homemade pizza or ripe fruit. Grilled melon makes a terrific light appetizer or side. Slice the melon up, brush each slice with seasoned rice vinegar and sprinkle with a little chili powder. Grill the slices for five minutes on each side and then top with chopped mint before serving.
* Find flavor in herbs. Fresh herbs are a simple and healthy way to add vibrant flavor to bland dishes. Grow your own herbs for instant access to them at any time. The best thing about herbs? The more you use them, the more they’ll grow.
* Outdoor entertaining. Having guests over for dinner? Take the meal outside and serve appetizers that showcase the delicious flavors of summer. Serve caprese salads on a stick and use hollowed-out bell peppers for dips instead of bowls. Not only will you wow guests with this unique presentation, but fewer dishes mean less clean-up at the end of the night.
* Lighten up your meals. Warmer weather means you should be spending less time in the kitchen and more time outside. Look for simple, high-protein dinner salads, like a Chicken Avocado Quinoa Salad. Citrus-seasoned rice vinegar combined with mint and a bit of curry is the perfect flavor combination in this protein-packed salad. Cook quinoa in the morning or a day ahead so it has time to chill.
Chicken Avocado Quinoa Salad
Prep Time: 45 minutes
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/3 cup NAKANO Seasoned Rice Vinegar - Citrus flavor
2 tablespoons safflower, canola or corn oil
1/2 teaspoon each salt and fresh-ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
1 large avocado, peeled and diced
2 cups diced cooked chicken
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
1/4 cup sliced green onion or diced red onion
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint (optional)
Prepare quinoa as package directs. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, uncovered, then spread out on a shallow tray. Refrigerate until chilled. For dressing, stir together seasoned rice vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and if desired, curry powder. Add several tablespoons dressing to a large bowl; stir in avocado to keep it from browning. Fold in chilled quinoa, chicken, tomatoes, onions and, if desired, mint. Taste, then splash with additional citrus rice vinegar if desired. Serve salad on lettuce-lined plates.
Makes four main-dish salads
For additional recipes, visit NAKANO at Facebook.com/NakanoSplash.