Amy! What is a good healthy summer meal when it is hot out? It's over 90 degrees where I live and it's sometimes unbearable. What are some inexpensive, healthy options to cool down and feel refreshed during these hot summer days? ~Hailee

This question hits home for me. I lived without air conditioning for most of my adult life. I finally splurged and installed central air, but before that my houses have been stifling at times. And I am sure you would agree that the thought of standing in a hot kitchen cooking is the last thing you want to do on a 90 degree day. So, if you know a heat wave is coming, head to the grocery store to stock up on ingredients that can make a quick, cool summer meal.

The first thing I would recommend is to peruse some websites for some fantastic cool summer dishes. There are so many great sites that provide recipes that are not only easy to make, but that use very affordable ingredients. My personal favorite is a refreshing orzo salad. Orzo is a fun variety of pasta that is kind of shaped like a grain of barley or rice. It cooks up just like regular pasta and once cooled you can mix in your favorite light vinaigrette (my personal favorite is olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar). To that I add feta cheese, basil and top with a pinch of salt and pepper. Definitely delicious!

Many people will focus on making a salad the entrée on hot summer days. The possibilities are endless! You can pair arugula with watermelon chunks and add sliced red onion and feta for a delicious meal. And salads can actually be paired with leftovers for a healthy cool meal. Shred iceberg lettuce and add chopped carrots, celery and top with last night’s shrimp fried rice. The combination is not only savory but crisp and cool also.

Sandwiches and wraps can also make a great “no-fuss” dinner. I like whole wheat wraps topped with hummus and goat cheese. To that I add broccoli slaw, shredded carrots, black beans and garlic vinaigrette. How about a lightened up chicken salad sandwich? Take leftover chicken and cube it up. To it add light mayo, chopped scallions, chopped celery, dill and Dijon mustard. Scoop the mixture onto a few slices of whole wheat bread and you have a very balanced/easy dinner. Finally, if you don’t have the energy to prepare a thing at home…then go out to eat! But, be sure to review the nutritional information beforehand or at least choose dishes that are not laden with butter, not fried, and not immersed in cheesy sauces.

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