My #1 Summer Recipe Hack

Summer is an amazing season because I get to grow, cook, and share all kinds of yummy and healthy food. I love that neighboring residents and outside visitors are coming to see my garden! I give them a full 10 minute tour, then they can stay as  long as they want to talk and taste. I always have a garden recipe sample ready to taste, too! I have so much fun testing out all the different flavors I’m growing in various combinations, and the visitors seem to greatly enjoy being on taste-test duty for me! It’s a win/win setup, I’d say!

Each celebration, BBQ, or potluck dinner party is a chance for you to share your summer recipes, too.  OK, so we know summer is fun but we all have busy schedules, and sometimes there will be those times where you don’t have time to do a major grocery shop and you’ve got to prepare something for that dinner you have later. You have a few ingredients that could be useful, but you don’t have all the ingredients you have to make your usual favorite recipes. I think we have had this experience — you know the feeling when you open the fridge and stare in contemplation at your leftovers? It’s as if you hope something will magically appear!

I have a great solution for those days – so I’m sharing my summer recipe hack –just for you! You want to save time and effort, right? Let me introduce a simple idea: versatility. I know it seems abstract, but when I explain the art of what I like to call my “recipe mash-ups” you’ll catch my drift.

The goal is to transform a healthy recipe by thinking of ways it can do more than just stand on its own. So one recipe you already prepared becomes a building block as a component of a different summer recipe!  It does take some creativity and a bit of practice, but I know you’ll love this skill once you get the hang of it!

Take a look at my example of how to transform my summer recipe for white bean salad!

(A little hard to see here, but you can see the bean salad standing alone on the bottom left of the photo and AND is also moonlighting as a recipe component, too…keep reading and I will tell you more about what I have going on here!)

summer recipe hack.jpg

By the way, how awesome is my NYC rooftop view? 

So..I’ll start with some background on how I started thinking about the usefulness of culinary versatility.  I created this summer recipe for bean salad  over 10 years ago and have been making it every summer since. I noticed that the fresh flavors are enhanced as they mingle and marinate while spending a few days in the fridge. I always make a large batch because I never felt sick of eating this stuff.I decided that I should serve it up so people would enjoy it in other ways, so I started thinking how it could become a component of something else…

Here is what I came up with:

  • Roll it up – enjoy as a lunch wrap. Just add some salad greens, tomato, onion, and cheese.
  • Serve a beautiful appetizer plate – perfect for a formal outdoor dinner party. Top a scoop of bean salad with warm shrimp scampi. Garnish with green onion.
  • Show off a BBQ side dish – this is a fresh & healthy delicious summer recipe alternative to traditional potato or macaroni salads. (Safer from spoilage in the hot sun, too.)
  • Instead of salsa – step away from the traditional bore of chips and salsa. No fork needed when you serve bean salad with tortilla chips, or try scooping with toasted pita triangles or crackers.
  • Dinner salad plate with chicken – This is what you are looking at in the photo above!  You would not believe it took me only 15 minutes to prepare this meal. Why so easy and quick to make?  I already had the bean salad and also leftover chicken breast. Those were ready and waiting in my fridge from the day before. I took a heap of peppery arugula and added some colorful tomato, red cabbage, sliced onion and cucumber. I made a simple mustard-dill vinaigrette dressing which was perfect because it added a twist of tangy flavor. I used a lot of fresh dill, cider vinegar, lemon juice, dijon mustard and a little olive oil. Yum.

Ok, now your turn! Don’t worry, you can’t screw this up, just start by keeping it simple.

  • Think about how many ways you can use just one ingredient (for example – what dishes could use some basil, or chicken, or strawberries?)
  • Using that ingredient, write a list of as many recipes as you can think of that include it. Think of how it could be in the spotlight, front and center on your plate, then think of a different dish or recipe where maybe there is just a tiny bit of that same ingredient – barely enough to catch your eye, but it is certainly there, adding distinct flavor. For example- it could be a main dish and it might show up elsewhere garnish or topping.
  • Think of as many ways to use your ingredient as you can, write down the names of those items in a list. Search the internet for ideas when you get stuck.

After doing this brainstorming process a few times you will find that just about ingredient, sauce, or even a stand-alone side dish can be transformed and incorporated into a different dish or meal. Master this technique and you will be amazed how much it takes your culinary game to the next level. Plus, you never waste any food because you can use every last bit of your leftovers. When you start thinking about versatility and how it seems to just make perfect sense, you will really find it easy to cook like me! Trust me, it is so much simpler than it looks, which just even more proof of some serious value in the versatility hack.

So what are you waiting for? Time to get creative with those mix & match skills and have fun creating a summer recipe you’ve been craving and a couple spin-offs, too! Thanks for reading, everyone!

Just one more thing before i go…follow me please!  Also feel free to comment. I’d love to know what you are making out there! How do you get versatile when you mix, match and switch it up one component in a few different summer recipes? Of course I appreciate when you send your food, cooking, or nutrition-related questions, too. See you soon!

Have a delicious week, everyone!















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