Summer lovin’ is all about enjoying the outdoors and making the most of gorgeous sunny days. Fresh flavours in easy-to-prepare meals is a season essential but the last thing you want to be doing is spend hours slaving over a hot stove. With these 42 delicious and healthy dishes, you will be done and dusted in 20 minutes or less, giving you more time to kick back, relax, and enjoy leisurely dining with family and friends.
2. Sashimi and salad
Buy fresh salmon and tuna fillets. Slice thinly (to make this easier, pop them in the freezer for 15 minutes if you have time), and arrange on plates with soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi. Make a brown rice salad to go with it: mix ready-cooked brown rice with baby spinach, brown rice with baby spinach, a sesame oil and lemon juice dressing, and sprinkled with sunflower seeds.
3. Smoked chicken couscous
Buy smoked chicken. Prepare couscous: cover with boiling water then cover and leave for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and add lemon zest and juice, chopped fresh parsley and (if you like) dried chilli flakes. Add lots of fresh, crunchy salad vegetables such as cucumber and carrot slices, sliced red capsicum, radishes and cherry tomatoes. Add chopped chicken and mix everything together.
4. Spicy tuna rice paper rolls
Buy fresh tuna (or use canned). Chop (if using fresh) then mix with reduced-fat mayonnaise and sweet chilli sauce. Wrap in rice paper rolls (simply soak these in warm water for a few seconds to prepare) with cucumber, salad greens and avocado chunks.
5. Salmon salad
Toast cubes of bread and mix together with chunks of smoked salmon, diced cucumber, capsicum and rocket. Drizzle with oil-free dressing and serve.
Quick meal essentials – freezer favourites
- fish fillets
- frozen dumplings
- homemade stock
- leftover cooked rice
- pre-cooked chicken
- spinach portions
- squid tubes and rings
- stir-fry mixes such as beef and vegetables
- vegetables of all descriptions
7. Sesame honey tempeh with quinoa
Marinate tempeh in a little soy sauce and honey. Stir-fry in a little oil spray until golden. Cook quinoa in liquid stock following packet directions. Toss through blanched green beans and asparagus with lemon juice and sesame oil. Dish up and serve with tempeh on top.
8. Potato gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce
Cook gnocchi following packet directions. Toss through canned, drained chickpeas, finely-chopped tomatoes, crumbled feta and sliced garlic. Drizzle with olive oil to serve.
9. Hearty vege and tofu scramble
Stir-fry cooked vegetables (such as potato, kumara, carrots and beans or frozen mixed vegetables) and chopped marinated tofu. Add beaten egg mixed with trim milk, and scramble. Add chopped tomatoes and grated cheese. Serve with grainy toast.
10. Potato egg pots
Cook new potatoes until tender. Drain and slice. Add to small ovenproof dishes with sliced mushrooms, onion and rocket. Season with dried mixed herbs. Beat eggs together with a little trim milk. Pour over potatoes. Scatter with Parmesan cheese and bake in a hot oven until firm and golden.
Quick meal essentials – handy ingredients for the pantry
- baby potatoes
- bulgar wheat/barley (quick cook)
- canned legumes – beans, chickpeas, lentils
- pre-cooked rice packets
- small pasta, eg. orzo
Salads and stir-fries
12. Chicken and bean Caesar
Combine baby cos lettuce, halved hard-boiled eggs and blanched green beans in a large bowl. Toss together with reduced-fat mayonnaise thinned down with lemon juice. Add sliced, grilled chicken and croutons made from toasted whole grain bread. Sprinkle with freshly-shaved Parmesan cheese and black pepper.
13. Fresh tuna nicoise salad
Combine cooked baby potatoes, black olives, blanched green beans, sliced tomatoes and halved hard-boiled eggs. Dress with a low-fat vinaigrette. Quickly sear fresh tuna fillets until browned then slice and add to salad. (This can be made with canned tuna, too.)
14. Crab and avocado salad
Make a salad with carrot and cucumber ribbons, chunks of avocado, fresh chilli, mint and coriander. Add lots of salad greens. Combine with cooked rice noodles. Dress with a mixture of lime juice, sweet chilli sauce and a dash of soy sauce. Toss through canned crab meat (or use tuna or shredded chicken). Serve cold.
15. Venison stir-fry
Spray a non-stick pan with a little oil and stir-fry venison strips until cooked through. Remove from pan, draining off any juice and set aside. Spray pan once more and stir-fry vegetables for a few minutes. Return venison to pan. Stir in a little teriyaki marinade. Heat through. Serve with a salsa made with chutney, diced onion and chopped fresh mint.
Useful quick-cook meat cuts
- chicken tenderloins
- lamb cutlets/backstraps/leg steaks
- pork fillets
- pre-cut salmon portions
- schnitzels – chicken, beef
- steaks – beef, lamb, pork
- tuna steaks/fillets
- venison stir-fry
17. Chicken potato-top pie
Place leftover cooked chicken and vegetables in a casserole dish. Add leftover or instant gravy. Top with leftover mashed potato, sprinkle with cheese and breadcrumbs and bake until golden. Serve with a salad.
18. Rice and vege bake
Combine leftover cooked rice with beaten egg, grated reduced-fat cheese, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach and leftover cooked meat or canned tuna. Sprinkle with a little more cheese and bake in oven for 20-30 minutes.
19. Sausage salad
Chop leftover cooked sausages into a salad with cooked couscous, mesclun, chopped capsicums and roasted beetroot and pumpkin. Dress with a low-fat balsamic dressing or reduced-fat mayonnaise.
20. Pasta frittata
Mix cooked pasta with chopped leftover roast vegetables, feta, asparagus and halved cherry tomatoes. Arrange in a large frying pan. Pour over beaten egg and cook for a few minutes until set then transfer to a hot grill to cook the top. Sprinkle with grated cheese if desired.
21. Bread-case mince and cheese pies
Spray a jumbo muffin tray with oil. Cut crusts off wholemeal bread slices and place in muffin holes. Fill cases with leftover cooked mince. Top with thin slices of reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Bake until cheese is melted and mince is warmed through. Serve with vegetables or a salad.
22. Cheesy tuna and pasta bake
Place leftover cooked pasta in a casserole dish. Make a cheese sauce with trim milk and reduced-fat cheese. Pour over pasta and mix well. Add cherry tomatoes, canned tuna and green vegetables such as broccoli or beans. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and extra grated cheese. Bake until golden.
23. Speedy jambalaya
Mix some leftover cooked rice with diced smoked chicken (skin removed), diced red onion, pineapple and canned mixed beans. Sprinkle with Cajun seasoning and serve.
24. Sausage and tomato risotto
Use leftover cooked sausages as a base for a tasty risotto. Stir-fry cut sausages with onion and garlic. Add risotto rice and then hot liquid stock, adding more as stock absorbs. Cook for 20 minutes, or until rice is tender. Stir through vegetable greens such as spinach, silver beet or rocket. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to serve.
25. Tasty fried rice
Stir-fry spring onion, garlic and broccoli in a little oil. Add an egg and stir-fry. Add leftover cooked rice, salt-reduced soy sauce, chopped ham or bacon and frozen peas. Stir-fry until well combined. Serve with barbecue and/or chilli sauce on the side.
27. Lemon chicken and walnut toss
Cook spaghetti following packet directions. Drain and return to saucepan. Meanwhile, spray a non-stick frying pan with a little oil and stir-fry chopped chicken breast until browned. Stir through lemon zest and juice and toasted walnuts then transfer mixture to pasta. Stir through lots of baby spinach and grated Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
28. Avocado and chicken pasta
Cook penne pasta following packet directions. Add snow peas in final 2 minutes and cook until just tender. Drain, transfer to a bowl and toss with shredded cooked chicken, chopped avocado and halved cherry tomatoes. Serve with a dressing made from low-fat plain yoghurt, reduced-fat mayonnaise and chopped fresh basil. (Chill for a tasty pasta salad.)
29. Summer pasta salad
Cook your choice of pasta shapes following packet directions. Drain. Microwave frozen peas. Toss pasta with peas, flavoured canned tuna, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced black olives and finely-chopped fresh basil. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
30. Spring vegetable spaghetti
Cook pasta following packet directions. Add sliced asparagus and trimmed green beans in final 2 minutes of cooking and cook until just tender. Drain and return to saucepan. Toss with semi-dried tomatoes, olive oil and feta. Serve with fresh parsley.
Quick meal essentials – for the fridge
- filled pasta
- fresh herbs
- low-fat dressing
- marinated/chargrilled capsicum
- pita bread/pizza bases
- pre-bagged/chopped salads/slaws/stir-fry mix
- reduced-fat cheeses, eg. feta, mozzarella
- reduced-fat mayonnaise
32. Greek-style lamb chops
Brush lamb chops with lemon juice, olive oil and dried oregano. Barbecue each side for 4 minutes or until done to your liking. To make yoghurt sauce, combine low-fat plain yoghurt, chopped cucumber, chopped fresh mint and 1 finely-chopped clove garlic. Serve chops with sauce, potatoes and a salad.
33. Teriyaki chicken burgers
Place chicken breast fillets in a bowl. Toss to coat with teriyaki sauce. Set aside for 5 minutes then barbecue each side for 3 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer to plate. Barbecue each side of Turkish bread slices for 1 minute or until toasted. Place toast on 4 plates and top with chicken ‘burger’, sliced tomato, cucumber ribbons, grated radish and a dollop of reduced-fat mayonnaise.
34. Moroccan fish with quinoa salad
Cook quinoa following packet directions. Sprinkle thick white fish fillets with a little Moroccan seasoning and lemon pepper. Spray with oil and barbecue each side for 3 minutes or until cooked through, adding chopped courgettes to barbecue in final 5 minutes. Combine cooked quinoa with orange zest and juice, chopped dates, chopped fresh parsley and a sprinkling of pine nuts. Serve fish with quinoa and courgettes.
35. Haloumi and vege wraps
Slice an eggplant, courgettes, a couple of capsicums and a red onion. Spray with oil and barbecue in batches. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. Barbecue wholemeal pita breads and haloumi slices until browned. Divide pita among serving plates and top with vegetables, haloumi, a dollop of hummus and a splash of sweet chilli sauce. Wrap up and serve immediately.
36. Chicken skewers
Prepare rosemary stems or wooden skewers by soaking in water for 10 minutes. Thread skewers with skinless chicken breast (cut in 1.5cm cubes) and red and green capsicums cut in 2cm cubes. Brush skewers with sun-dried tomato pesto. Grill skewers, turning occasionally, for 7-8 minutes or until cooked through and brown.
‘No-cook’ instant desserts
38. Strawberry surprise
Try sweet summer strawberries on a big platter with small bowls of reduced-fat sour cream and brown sugar on the side. Diners just dip strawberries in the sour cream, then in sugar, then eat. Strange but good!
39. Cheat’s brûlée
Place a mix of seasonal fruits in small dishes with some thawed frozen blackcurrants. Spoon over low-fat vanilla fromage frais. Sprinkle with soft brown sugar. Leave for 5 minutes then serve.
40. Instant choc trifle
Break up chocolate sponge or chocolate cake. Layer in a bowl and soak with enough fruit juice to moisten well. Add fresh or frozen berries and top with chilled chocolate mousse or reduced-fat chocolate custard. For optimum flavour, refrigerate for as long as you can before eating!
41. Biscuit-topped peaches
Crush ginger biscuits or plain biscuits and mix with reduced-fat cream cheese to make a spoonable ‘stuffing’. Stone and halve peaches and spoon biscuit mixture into cavities. Sprinkle with a little orange juice. Optional: these can be baked in a 200ºC oven for 15-20 minutes until tender.
42. Healthy ambrosia
An old favourite. Mix low-fat vanilla yoghurt with a selection of summer fruit – peaches, plums, nectarines, pineapple and melon are all good. Stir passionfruit pulp and marshmallows through or try broken-up meringues.