July 15, 2013

Celebrate summer by serving up quick and tasty dishes using this season's bounty of fresh produce. There's nothing that says summer like a ruby red tomato, crisp cucumbers or a mound of crunchy green beans.

It doesn't matter if you and your green thumb grew your own fruits and veggies or if you picked them up at your local farmer's market. Enjoy the peak of summer with fresh, flavorful food.

Santa Fe Chicken Salad

Yellow and red sweet peppers add sweetness and a burst of color to any dish. When it's too hot to turn on the oven, throw together Midwest Living's chicken salad. It's tangy, fresh and out-of-the-ordinary.

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 teaspoons finely chopped canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, or finely chopped, seeded, fresh jalapeno chili pepper

2½ cups chopped cooked chicken

¼ cup finely chopped celery

¼ cup snipped fresh cilantro

3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

3 tablespoons finely chopped yellow sweet pepper

2 tablespoon finely chopped red sweet pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

tortilla salad bowls, tostada shells, flour tortillas, or tortilla chips

shredded lettuce

For the dressing: In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, lime juice and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine chicken, celery, cilantro, green onions, yellow sweet pepper, red sweet pepper, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over chicken mixture; toss to coat. Cover; chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 4 hours.

Serve salad atop lettuce in tortilla salad bowls or with tortilla chips.

Note: Hot chili peppers can burn eyes and skin. Be sure to wear plastic gloves while working with pepper and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

Crisp Cucumber Salsa

Cucumbers are a refreshing and crisp summer staple. For your next get together, serve cucumber salsa from the Taste of Home instead of traditional salsa.

2 cups finely chopped seeded peeled cucumber

½ cup finely chopped seeded tomato

¼ cup chopped red onion

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

4½ teaspoons minced fresh cilantro

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ cup reduced-fat sour cream

1½ teaspoons lemon juice

1½ teaspoons lime juice

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon seasoned salt

baked tortilla chip scoops

In a small bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. In another bowl, combine the sour cream, lemon juice, lime juice, cumin and seasoned salt. Pour over cucumber mixture and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately with chips.

Yield: 2-1/2 cups.

Note: Wear disposable gloves when cutting hot peppers; the oils can burn skin. Avoid touching your face.

Green Beans With Bacon

Pat and Gina Neely from Down Home with the Neelys on the Food Network are known for their Memphis-style barbeque. They turned up the volume on green beans by adding bacon and red pepper flakes.

2½ lbs green beans, trimmed

Kosher salt

1/2 pound bacon, roughly chopped

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

juice of ½ lemon

freshly ground pepper

Toss the green beans into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook until bright green in color and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the beans and shock in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain the beans again and pat dry.

Cook the bacon in a large, heavy sauté pan until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Spoon off the excess bacon grease, leaving 2 tablespoons in the pan. Add the onion to the pan and sauté until soft and very tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until just fragrant, about 1 more minute. Add the reserved green beans and the pecans and cook until heated through, 5 to 6 minutes more. Return the bacon to the pan, pour in the lemon juice and toss. Season with salt and pepper.

Feta Tomato Topper

Do you have plenty of tomatoes and need a healthy afternoon snack? Top Melba toast with feta, a crumbly Greek cheese, mixed with red, ripe tomatoes.

1 cup (4 oz) crumbled feta cheese

1 cup plum tomatoes, seeded and diced (about 3 medium tomatoes)

¼ cup finely chopped red onion

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

36 Melba toasts

In a small bowl, combine first 6 ingredients. Spoon 1 tablespoon mixture onto Melba toast. Three topped Melba toasts is one serving and is worth 2 Weight Watchers points.

Skillet Pasta, Chorizo and Peppers

Green bell peppers brighten up this meal that uses only one pot. Extra flavor comes from chorizo, a Mexican sausage, but any type of sausage can be used.

12 oz bulk chorizo or other garlic sausage

½ medium onion, sliced

2 green bell peppers, seeded, cored and cut into strips

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs

14.5 oz can chicken broth

2 cups macaroni

Cook sausage, onion, and green pepper in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes or until sausage browns. Add tomatoes, broth, macaroni, ½ teaspoon oregano, some salt, pepper and, if desired, red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender. Sprinkle with cheese.

Serves 3 to 4.