Lighten Up this Summer

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Now that Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone, it’s safe to say summer is officially here (even if the calendar and weather don’t agree). Layers of clothes are coming off. Hair gets blonder. Windows and convertible tops go down. White is safe to wear again. And, most importantly, food and beverages lighten up as well.

Gone are those belly-warming meals. Now it’s time for fresh locally grown fruits and veggies to come out to play. Herb gardens are back in action. And meals overall lighten up. Now is not the time to be ready for a nap after dinner- it’s the season to get out and enjoy longer hours of daylight. If you’re not quite sure how to transition to lighter meals, here’s a few tips to help you spring into summer foods.

Don’t Get Saucy With Me

It’s time for heavy sauces and gravies to go into hibernation. When cooking meats, fish, or even veggies, give them flavor from marinades.  Juice from ribs_Apoloniasqueezing fresh fruit has natural acids that help break down proteins and provides a fresh summery flavor.  Place item in the marinade for an adequate amount of time to soak up the flavor. Veggies, shellfish, and flaky fish fillets only need 30 minutes, while meats and poultry can take up to 24 hours. Set some unused marinade aside to top off meals when serving. A drizzle of flavored or infused olive oil and vinegar also offers a nice flavoring option for proteins, side dishes, and salads.

Go Green with Herbs

If you’re lucky enough to have a successful herb garden, then you have a wealth of flavor growing in your home. And if you’re like me and did not inherit your family’s green thumb, then we make the most out of those bunches of herbs they sell at the market. Fresh herbs offer a light flavoring option versus the use of salts.mint_Serge Bertasius Photography Heavily salted meals can cause us to feel more thirsty- not ideal on those steamy summer nights. Use herbs to flavor any meal, marinade, or dressing. Chopping or slapping the fresh herb leaves helps release flavor. When cooking with fresh herbs, throw in at the last 30 seconds to provide flavor without overcooking. If subbing dry herbs, use only 1/3 the amount due to the strong flavor (ie. 1 tsp dried vs 1 TB fresh).

Soup’s On!

Although winter is typically the season most associated with soup, summer’s fruits and veggies make excellent bases for cold soups. Tomatoes are ready for veggie soup_tiramisustudiocold tomato soup or gazpacho. Cucumbers make their own base or can be combined with yogurt or kefir for a thicker soup. The creamy flesh of avocados turn into a delicious, cooling soup on a hot day. Starchy veggies like peas, corn, and potatoes aren’t just for the wintertime soups. And if you’re looking for something sweeter, watermelon, peaches, and citrus fruits all make complimentary companions to savory soups. Make it a goal to try a cold soup on a hot day this summer.

Don’t Forget About Fruit

Start inviting more fruits to be part of main meals. A berry compote makes a naturally sweet topping for fish or pork. Fruit salsas can be a side all their own orwatermelon_phasinphoto added to meats or tacos. Add strawberries, pears, or citrus fruits to salads – as an added bonus, fruits high in vitamin C can help absorb more iron from those dark leafy greens! Avocados (yes, they’re a fruit!) add a healthy source of fat to meals. Puree fresh fruit and place in a popsicle mold or ice cube trays for an all-natural frozen fruit treat. And of course, finishing off your night with some fresh berries or grilled pineapple/peaches is a sweet ending to the day.

Seeing Red

red wine_suphakit73Nothing compliments a fresh summer meal like the perfect wine. And it’s time to throw out the idea that white wines can only go with fish or lighter meals. As red wine enthusiasts, Mr. E and I keep the wine cellar stocked with plenty of red varietals. Pinot noir is the lightest red wine and pairs well with most veggies, flaky fish, shellfish, or chicken. If you’re firing up the grill for a meatier fish (such as swordfish or tuna) or a steak, then by all means pair it up with a cabernet to match the bold flavor of the meal. If you’re not ready to fully commit to a certain grape, try a meritage blend.

Lighten up your meals to help keep feeling light overall. Whether it’s making small adjustments to favorite meals or trying something new, those tastebuds will thank you for changing up the flavors in the warm summer months. One more way to keep that bathing suit body rocking all summer long!

How do you lighten up your meals in the warmer months? What are your favorite additions to meals? And, most importantly, what is your favorite wine you like to enjoy in the warmer months? Sound off in the Comments below!

DISCLAIMER: All opinions are my own and are not influenced or biased by any third parties. I am not compensated for mentioning any specific brands or retailers on this blog.
Images courtesy of Apolonia, Serge Bertasius Photography, tiramisustudio, phasinphoto, and suphakit73 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net