The summer months are just around the corner.  That means the sun will be out and the weather will (hopefully) be heating up.  When the thermometer goes up, my desire to heat up my house making dinner goes WAY down.  My family and I have become huge fans of a great salad for dinner on a hot summer night.  It’s delicious and keeps the temperature in my house comfortable.

Now a summer dinner salad at my house must have a few key components.  The first, and most important, is meat.  My family wouldn’t consider it dinner if that was missing.  I’d for sure get the question about an hour after I cleaned up the dishes, “when are we having dinner?”  Somehow adding meat makes it seem like a “real” meal.  This is true for both my husband and my kids.

The second key component to a great salad for dinner is it must be served with something on the side.  This side for us is most often bread, rolls, naan, or a even a great cracker or multigrain chip.  As long as a side is served, my family happily gobbles it up.

We are fans of the more traditional taco salad and the large chef salad with many additions to choose from – fruit, veggies, cottage cheese, etc.  But here are the five most requested, kid-tested and approved, family favorites from our house to yours.

Thai Chicken Salad

We like this one with fresh naan

  • 8 cups coleslaw mix
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 1 1/2 cups chow mein crackers/noodles
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 cups cooked chicken (I’ve used 2 very large chicken breast, marinated them in teriyaki sauce and then grilled them or rotisserie chicken)

Sweet Ginger Chili Lime Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon ginger chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon garlic chopped fine
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chili sauce

Cut up chicken, into cubes. Cut up all the vegetables.  In a large mixing bowl add coleslaw mix, diced carrots and celery, green onions, cilantro and top with chicken.

To make the dressing, mix all the ingredients in a large mason jar, or any type of jar with lid. Combine all of the ingredients and shake to combine, use immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Be sure to shake up before you use it.  Drizzle dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Add chow mein noodles {crackers} and toss again. Serve immediately.

*If you aren’t serving immediately, you can add everything in a large bowl except the chow mein noodles and dressing and then add those right before you are to serve. This is a great salad to make ahead.

Cheeseburger Salad

We like this one with chips

  • 6 cups shredded thin Romaine, Iceberg lettuce or other greens of choice
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef, or ground turkey
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup sliced dill pickles, or to taste
  • 1 small red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered, or 2 large tomatoes, chopped

Burger Sauce

  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt or mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 Tbsp hot sauce of choice (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp ketchup, or more to taste
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
  • a pinch of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper – I sometimes add a few shakes of McCormick Hamburger seasoning

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute about 3 minutes. Add in the meat and the minced garlic, then cook, until nicely browned, breaking the meat as you go. Drain the excess fat, then season with sea salt and pepper. Set aside. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add all the burger sauce ingredients and whisk well to combine. Taste test and adjust to your preference. Place shredded lettuce in a large serving bowl.  Top lettuce with chopped tomatoes, red onions, beef, pickles, and cheese. Just before serving, drizzle the burger sauce over the top, then toss well to combine and eat!

Strawberry Salad with Chicken

We like this one with crusty bread or crackers

  • 1 head torn romaine lettuce
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced
  • 1 (11oz) can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp maraschino cherry juice
  • 2 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 2 Tbsp honey (more or less to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp lemon juice

In a large bowl, mix romaine, onion, strawberries, and oranges. In a medium bowl, whisk together mayo, cherry juice, honey poppy seeds, and lemon juice.  Pour over lettuce mixture and toss to coat.  Top with sliced grilled chicken or steak.

Shrimp Pasta Salad

We like this one with crusty French bread or rolls

  • 12-16 oz. Roti Macaroni or Shells
  • 1 lb. cooked shrimp
  • Italian dressing (8-12 oz. bottle)
  • 1 green or red pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1 ½ Tblsp. Dijon-type mustard
  • 1 ½ C blanched snow peas or snap peas ((I’ve used Italian green beans also)
  • ½ C sliced ripe olives
  • 1 ½ C blanched broccoli florets
  • cherry tomatoes, as desired
  • ¼ C chopped green onions (I’ve used red also)
  • radishes or other seasonal items, as desired

Cook pasta as directed. Drain, and while still hot, stir in the mustard and enough Italian dressing to coat thoroughly. Add peppers and onions and let chill overnight. Blanche broccoli and peas. Cook shrimp if it’s uncooked. Chill all 3, but not with pasta. Combine all ingredients with tomatoes or other desired seasonal items. Adjust seasonings and add more dressing, if necessary.

Antipasta Salad

We like this with multigrain chips or pita chips & hummus

  • 8 ounces Genoa salami, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 8 ounces hard salami, cut into bite-size pieces (I have also used pepperoni)
  • 8 ounces sharp provolone cheese, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 (14 ounce) can artichokes, drained and cut into bite-size pieces
  • ½ (12 ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
  • ½ cup pitted and coarsely chopped Kalamata olives
  • ¼ cup pitted and chopped green olives
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup shredded fresh basil leaves

Combine the Genoa and salami, provolone, mozzarella, tomatoes, and artichokes in a bowl. Slice the roasted red peppers and add them to the bowl, along with about 3 tablespoons of their juice.

Mix in the chopped olives. Drizzle olive oil over the entire dish, followed by the red wine vinegar and black pepper. Salad can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until serving.

Tear the fresh basil leaves into bite-sized pieces and add them to the salad just before serving. Mix thoroughly and serve.

*I often add some cooked pasta to this salad or put it over shredded romaine or spinach.

So, this summer, when the sun heats up and the days get hot – think summer dinner salad.  They are fun, healthy, and a great way to keep the oven off and the house cool.