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A refreshing chicken salad served up in juicy cantaloupe rings. 

When the summer weather heats up like it has recently, we look for meals that don’t require a lot of preparation time, aren’t as heavy as our winter comfort food, and make us feel refreshed. Try any of the following recipe ideas to simplify your summer meal preparation and still leave your family and guests satisfied.

Chicken salad in cantaloupe rings

This refreshing chicken salad is perfect to be served on a hot summer evening. It is easy to assemble ahead of time and have on hand in the refrigerator. Rather than the plain white rice, give the salad more interest, flavor and nutrition with brown rice or a medley of rice. For the cooked chicken, use a purchased roasted chicken to save time, or poach a chicken breast in a flavored broth if desired.

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 tablespoon vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

2½ cups cubed or shredded, cooked chicken or turkey

1½ cups cold cooked rice (I used a combination of brown, wild and white rice)

¾ cup diced celery

¾ cup seedless green or purple grapes

1 (11-oz.) can mandarin orange segments, drained

1 (8-oz.) can pineapples tidbits in its’ own juice, drained

½ cup mayonnaise or salad dressing

½ cup slivered almonds, toasted

1 cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and cut into ½-inch thick rings

Lettuce leaves, if desired

Directions:

In medium bowl, combine oil, orange juice, vinegar, and salt. Add chicken; stir to coat. In large bowl, combine rice, celery, grapes, mandarin orange segments, pineapple and mayonnaise; blend well. Add chicken mixture to rice mixture; mix well. Cover; refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. To serve, stir almonds into chicken salad. Place cantaloupe slices on lettuce-lined serving plates; spoon salad into center of each slice. Source: Pillsbury “Summer Fun Cookbook,” 1986.

Pesto chicken skillet supper

The main topic of a recent showing of the TV program,” A Pioneer Woman” with Ree Drummond, was “16-Minute Summertime Meals.” One of the recipes she prepared was this Pesto Chicken Skillet Supper that is simple to put together, includes a variety of fresh vegetables from your garden, is all prepared in one dish, and has a wonderful combination of flavors.

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into ½-inch cubes

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 large zucchini, halved and sliced into ¼-inch half-moons

1 large summer squash, halved and sliced into ¼-inch half-moons

2 cups chopped kale

½ cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

½ cup red grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

2 ears corn, shucked and kernels removed

2 cloves garlic, minced

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¼ cup store-bought pesto

¼ cup heavy cream

Juice of ½ lemon

One 5-oz. Parmesan cheese wedge, grated

Directions:

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the olive oil to the skillet; throw in the chicken and brown on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the chicken and reserve. Add the onions, zucchini and squash to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes. Move those vegetables to the edges of the skillet and add the kale, tomatoes, corn and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale turns a bright green, an additional 1 to 2 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the pesto and cream. Return the chicken to the skillet along with any juices; add the pesto cream and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring, for an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and grated parmesan. Enjoy. Source: The Pioneer Woman TV Show, Ree Drummond, 16-Minute Summer Meals Episode.

Frosty fresh fruit

When the weather is hot, this frosty fruit salad will be a welcome addition to any meal. Buttermilk is a surprise ingredient in the salad and gives a certain tang to set off the fruit. Make a batch up in advance, put in the freezer, and have ready to serve at any time. The salad can be made in individual muffin cups with paper liners for individual servings if desired. Once frozen, the individual cups can be stored in a plastic freezer bag.

Serves: 9 to 12

Ingredients:

1 quart (4 cups) buttermilk

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup diced, peeled, fresh peaches

1 cup sliced, fresh strawberries

1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine buttermilk, sugar, almond extract and salt; mix well. Gently stir in fruit. Pour into a 9-inch square pan; freeze until firm. To serve, let stand at room temperature 10 to 15 minutes before cutting. For individual servings, line 12 muffin cups with paper baking cups. Fill each cup with fruit mixture; freeze. Source: Classic Pillsbury Cookbooks, “Light Summer Meals”, 1987.

Salmon and couscous packets

One of my favorite ways to prepare fish is to cook it along with fresh veggies and herbs in a packet of foil or parchment paper. This method is quick to assemble, makes for easy clean-up since the meal can be served in the packet, and provides a healthy meal entrée. This recipe has couscous added to the salmon packet for a change of pace.

Servings: 5

Ingredients:

1 (10-oz.) box couscous

1 (6-oz.) bag fresh baby spinach

2 shallots, thinly sliced

1 (8-oz.) package sliced fresh mushrooms

1 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 (2½- pound) skinless salmon fillet, cut into 5 pieces

5 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

5 teaspoons minced fresh dill

5 teaspoons butter, cut into small pieces

2 lemons, thinly sliced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees or grill to medium-high heat (350–400 degrees). Spray 5 (18-inch) squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon ¼ cup uncooked couscous on half of each piece of foil, leaving a 3-inch border on three sides. Divide spinach, shallots, and mushrooms over couscous. Drizzle wine over each, and sprinkle each with salt and pepper. Top each with one salmon piece. Brush each salmon piece with 1 tablespoon mustard, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon dill. Dot each salmon piece with 1 teaspoon butter, and top with 3 lemon slices. Fold opposite side of foil over salmon mixture, and fold edges of foil together to make a tightly sealed packet. Bake or grill packets for 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Source: Cooking with Paula Deen Magazine, July/August 2014.

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Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She was a Yellowstone County extension agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.

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