Summer salads: Enjoy their coolness in the summer heat

A simple dinner salad can become a complete, healthy meal in no time.

As summer hits its peak, it is really easy to turn salads from side dishes into entrées. To turn your salads into a complete meal, just add a little protein. A simple dinner salad can become a complete meal in no time.

Salads are a great way to use up leftover barbequed chicken or steak. Any kind of lunchmeat is good as well. Smoked turkey, ham, tuna, salami or corned beef are great protein additions to your summer salads whether they are lettuce salads or pasta salads.

If you prefer to go meatless, open up a can of beans. Kidney, cannellini, garbanzo and black beans all make tasty, satisfying salad toppers. Hard cooked eggs, a good protein source, are another option when going meatless.

A taste-tempting addition to your salads is fresh raw sweet corn. Raw sweet corn adds a wonderful crunch when cut off the cob and sprinkled onto a salad. Try some toasted nuts on your salads as well. Toss some pecans, walnuts, almonds or pine nuts into a skillet and stir over medium heat until the nuts turn a shade darker and give off an enticing aroma. The toasting brings out their flavor. Stir constantly so that they become toasted and not burned.

Gelatin salads are a hit when it is so warm. Make your gelatin salads more nutritious and tasty by adding fruit, vegetables, nuts or marshmallows. Some of these things like to float, and some like to sink. However, it’s possible to tame these garnishes and make them stay put: patience is the key. You must wait until the gelatin is semi-firm - - about the consistency of cold egg whites - - before pushing in the fruit. It will stay right where you put it. However you may like all of your fruit at the bottom like I do, so just add it once the gelatin has cooled a bit.

Cool off with a cool salad this summer but take extra care to keep all your salad items cool as well. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that food not be left out for longer than two hours. When the temperatures are above 90 degrees Fahrenheit as they have been this summer, then that is shortened to one hour or less.

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