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Summer salad meals

Light dishes great for warm evenings

Last week I left you with a great Mexican casserole, which I enjoyed with friends. I hope you had a chance to try it too. 

We are due for warmer weather, so it’s a good time to think about salads.

I love salads, especially the ones that can be served as a meal – with meat and chicken, as well as vegetables and fruit. Of course, the pasta salads are good and hearty, as well.

Caesar salad is the one I make the most because it is so versatile, and you can add just about anything you like. It goes with anything and is pretty on the table, reminding me of spring and summer. It can be served family style in individual salad dishes.

I have my own version of Caesar salad. I do not like to use raw eggs or anchovies.

I do love the big Caesar made with fresh, crisp, romaine lettuce and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper. This salad is great with very crisp croutons – tossed in at the last minute so they don’t get soggy.

It makes a great meal when the meat used comes from a fresh rotisserie chicken.

Try this salad with seedless green or red grapes, cherry or grape tomatoes, all cut in half. If all that is not enough for you, dried Craisins (cranberries and raisins) are good add-ins. Look for little packages of add-in accents to stimulate creativity.

Top it off with your favorite dressing. I prefer red wine vinegar and oil with a little garlic.

I have been looking for a warm bacon salad dressing ever since I had some in Ohio several years ago. A reader also is looking for the recipe. I have found one in a book, called “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Sensational Salads,” by Leslie Bilderback. I don’t know if the recipe is the same, but it is good. Here is the recipe for Spinach With Warm Bacon Dressing.

Spinach With Warm Bacon Dressing

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Serving size: ¼ salad

2 bunches spinach, washed and trimmed

6 slices uncooked bacon, diced

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

Salt and pepper

1 cup of sourdough croutons

Place washed spinach in a large salad bowl and set aside. In a small saute pan over high heat, saute for 2 or 3 minutes or until fat is rendered. Add garlic and continue to cook for another 2 or 3 minutes, until bacon is crisp. Remove from heat and drain off all but 3 tablespoons of bacon drippings.

Add Dijon mustard, cider vinegar, honey and salt and pepper to bacon. Whisk thoroughly and drizzle over spinach. Serve immediately, topped with sour dough croutons.

Here is a family dinner plan that sounds very practical and fun if you have a mixed age group. Most of the time if you are feeding small childen, a couple of teens and the parents, you have to plan for different tastes. 

Just about everybody likes pizza. The problem is the toppings. The younger ones usually want plain cheese and no pepperoni, onions or peppers. The teens and some of the adults tend to like lots of meat.

I read about a family who started out with the number of plain pizzas they needed. They ordered pizzas, made their own pies, or put some frozen pizzas in the oven. Then while they are cooking the pizzas, they set out the toppings.

Toppings included small finger food, such as baby carrots ln small individual cups for the little ones and other toppings for the older kids. They sat out a lovely large spring green spinach or other salad with dressing alongside to please the more mature tastes.

Sounds like an easy way to feed a mixed-age crowd. And don’t forget the drinks – from lemonade to beer.

Editor’s note: An incomplete version of this recipe was written last week. Here it is again in its entirety.

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Casserole 

Servings: 6

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 6 hours and 20 minutes

2 cans (4.5 ounces each) Old El Paso chopped green chiles

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup

1 can (10 ounces) Old El Paso green enchilada sauce or other green chile enchilada sauce

¼ cup mayonnaise or salad dressing

12 corn tortillas (6 inch), cut into 3⁄4-inch strips

3 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 can (15 ounces) Progresso black beans, drained, rinsed

2 cups shredded taco cheese blend (8 ounces)

2 large tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)

2 cups chopped lettuce

½ cup sour cream, 1 can (4 ounces) green chilies

¼ cup finely diced onions

¼ teaspoon lemon pepper

1 clove garlic

Spray 3- to 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. In cooker, spread 1 can of the green chiles. In medium-size bowl, mix remaining can of green chiles, the soup, enchilada sauce and mayonnaise.

Arrange 1/3 of the tortilla strips over chiles in cooker. Top with 1 cup of the chicken, ½ cup of the beans, ½ cup of the cheese and 1 cup of the enchilada sauce mixture, spreading to edges of cooker to completely cover tortilla strips. Repeat layers twice, reserving last ½ cup of cheese.

Cover; cook on low heat setting 6 to 7 hours.

Top with remaining ½ cup cheese. Cover; cook about 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Serve with tomatoes, lettuce and sour cream.

Serve with Guacamole Dip.

Guacamole Dip

2 ripe avocados, peeled and chopped

1 finely chopped onion

1 can (4 ounces) green chiles 

1 small tomato, finely chopped

1 clove garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Dash hot sauces

Mix all ingredients together.

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