Easy Summer Salad Builder

We’re all looking for easy no-cook meals to have on a hot day or to take with us camping or to the beach. A summer salad travels well, doesn’t take up a lot of space in your cooler, and will fill you up for a day of fun in the sun.

Minimal prep required

What I like most about these salads is that they don’t require too much prep. All you have to do is cook some grains or noodles ahead of time. Most of the ingredients in this salad builder don’t require chopping. Use ready-to-serve ingredients, to make these salads quick to assemble and easy to prepare.

Maximize cooler space

Since these summer salads use mostly non-perishable ingredients, you will only need to store the grains or pasta and a few vegetables in your cooler. Assembling these salads once you arrive at your destination prevents you from having to store a full container in your cooler. I like to use silicone food storage bags like these ones from Zero Waste Mvmt, to reduce waste while camping. They also store flat, don’t take up a lot of space in your cooler, and can be washed out and used for another purpose while you’re traveling. Use the discount code TBL10 to get 10% off your order.

Picky eater & allergy-friendly

One of the biggest challenges when camping or weekend meal planning with other families is accommodating everyone’s likes and dietary restrictions. By assembling your salads on-site, you can serve all the components deconstructed or buffet-style and everyone can customize their salad.

Store-bought shortcuts

Using jarred or canned ingredients prevent you from having to use precious cooler space, especially when you will be living out of a cooler for a weekend. Homemade dressings like these ones are easy to whip up before you go and can be stored in mason jars in your cooler. Using store-bought dressings works just as well.

Summer salad ideas

Here are a few combinations you can try for inspiration:

  1. Pasta, olives, sundried tomatoes, bocconcini, fresh basil, balsamic vinaigrette
  2. Quinoa, shredded carrots, dried blueberries, edamame, honey mustard dressing
  3. Rice noodles, snow peas, shredded carrots, peanuts, sesame ginger dressing
  4. Quinoa, chickpeas, grape tomatoes, black olives, feta, greek dressing
  5. Quinoa, black beans, corn, red pepper, cilantro, chipotle lime dressing

Other summer salads for at home

Salads with lettuce have a shorter shelf-life, especially once you add the dressing. They’re not ideal for camping or the beach, but they are great for a quick no-cook meal if you’re enjoying the heat at home. Try this Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad or this Waldorf Salad with Tarragon Dressing.

Summer Salad Builder

How to make a burrito bowl

One of my favorite weeknight meals is a burrito bowl because it’s easy to switch up the protein and flavors and it’s easy to deconstruct for the kids, who aren’t always into spicy foods, or foods touching each other on their plates.

The Rice

The rice is the base for this burrito bowl. You can use white or brown rice, or even quinoa if you prefer. If you want to prep this ahead of time on the weekend for a quicker weeknight meal, you can cook the rice in two different ways.

  1. Cook plain rice, then season it in a skillet when you’re ready prepare dinner.
  2. Cook the rice with the seasoning in the water. (Don’t use this method if you’re using fresh ingredients like cilantro and lime to season the rice.)

I prefer the first method and here’s why. The kids don’t love the seasoning, so I usually add corn and black beans to the rice in the pan, set some aside for the kids, then season the rest for us.

My favorite ways to season the rice are:

The Veggies

I like to add corn, black beans and diced red peppers to mine. You could also add onion, garlic or jalapeno if you want. Again, to make weeknight preparation quicker, chop your veggies ahead of time and rinse and drain your beans. This reduces some of the steps for busy weeknights.

The “Meat”

The picture shown above is a vegetarian version of a burrito bowl with roasted sweet potato. When I say “meat” I mean anything to add more texture to your bowl. Pulled pork or jackfruit, barbacoa beef, shredded chicken, grilled shrimp or fish and spicy chorizo are all excellent options. Consider providing a few different protein options if you’re going to serve these buffet style and allow everyone to choose their own toppings.

The Toppings

The sky is the limit on toppings. I like to use fresh or pickled ingredients to top my burrito bowls. Pickled jalapenos, banana peppers or onions pair well with avocado or guacamole. You can even add some fresh salsas like this tomatillo salsa or this pineapple salsa.

The Finishing Touch

No burrito bowl is complete without crispy tortilla chips and a bit of shredded cheese. You can also top it with your favorite hot sauce, some chimichurri or a drizzle of sour cream.

Meal Prep Tips

Here are few meal prep tips you can use to save some time in the kitchen when making these burrito bowls:

  • Cook, portion and freeze meat when you bring it home from the store
  • Pre-chop veggies
  • Rinse and drain black beans
  • Pre-cook rice
  • If using fresh salsa, make it ahead of time
  • Make extra and take them for lunch the next day
  • Use leftover cooked rice from a previous meal

If you like bowl-style foods, check out these Back-to-school lunch bowls with maple tahini sauce for another quick meal idea.

How to Make a Holiday Snack Board

Featuring Recipes from Manitoba Chicken Producers

This post was written in a paid partnership with Manitoba Chicken Producers. As always, all opinions are my own and I only promote products and services that I use and love.

Snack boards aren’t just for large gatherings! We like to enjoy them for lunch or dinner regularly. Whether you’re wrapping gifts solo or having dinner with your family, pulling a snack board together for any occasion is doable with these tips.

For this board, I scrolled the Appetizer & Snacks section of Manitoba Chicken’s new website for some make-ahead appetizers. 

My favorite part about this website is the categories in the Recipes section.  You can search recipes by type, cut, preparation and cuisine.   Also, it`s educational.  You can find absolutely anything you want to know about Manitoba Chicken Producers, from farming to food safety in the following sections:

  • Nutrition
  • Cooking School
  • Blog
  • At the Farm
  • Our Industry
  • About Us

Store-bought VS Homemade

Using a combination of homemade and store-bought ingredients will help you impress without the stress. Choosing make-ahead appetizers saves you some prep time before you assemble your board.

The Appetizer & Snacks section of the website has an assortment of fresh, make-ahead and freezer friendly recipes to choose from. Think of your main homemade ingredients as the anchors for your board, then fill in with store-bought ingredients to complete the look.

This time, I chose the BBQ Chicken Bacon Bites (assemble ahead of time) and the Chicken Empanadas (make-ahead and freeze) to anchor the board.

How to add interest to your snack board

You can try to stick to a particular color scheme or create a theme for your board, but I honestly think the best part about making a snack board, is using whatever you want and have in the house.  I like to focus on using different textures to make the board visually appealing.

Here are a few specific ways to add interest to your board and how they were used in this board.

Use a couple items from each of these categories:

  • Protein (BBQ Chicken Bacon Bites, Chicken Empanadas)
  • Cheeses & Spreads (Fresh ricotta, sliced mozzarella, habanero black pepper cheese, honeycomb, tzatziki)
  • Fresh fruits & Vegetables (cucumbers, apples, pomegranate)
  • Breads, crackers, pretzels (Whole Wheat Crackers, rustic seed & fruit crackers, beet chips)
  • Something pickled (olives)
  • Filler (to fill in the small gaps around the board)
    • Fresh herbs (dill & parsley)
    • Dried fruit (dried cranberries)
    • Nuts
    • Candy or chocolate

Assembling your snack board

Assembling your board is the trickiest part. You may have to move some ingredients around once you place them to achieve the look that you want.  The important part is to have fun!

  • Place crisp ingredients like crackers and chips on the board just before serving, to prevent them from getting soggy.
  • Contain dips, spreads and pickled items in small bowls.
  • Choose appetizers that can be served warm or at room temperature to prevent heat transfer to the rest of the board components.

Making your snack board ahead of time

If you want to assemble most of your board ahead of time, there are a few ways that you can do this. The first way is to get all your components ready, so that you can assemble the board quickly.

  • Prepare dips and spread and fill bowls.
  • Prepare hot appetizers that need to be cooked
  • Chop and slice fruits, vegetables and cheeses

The second way is to place most of the fresh ingredients on the board and to store it in the fridge.  Just before serving, add the hot appetizers and dry components to the board.

Here are some other great appetizers from manitobachicken.ca that would work well on a snack board.

Prep ahead and assemble before serving

Make-ahead and freeze

Which one will you try first?  Head to manitobachicken.ca to check out their new website and find a new recipe to add to your next snack board.