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

Rice Pilaf

This rice pilaf recipe is super quick and easy. It whips up in 10 minutes on a busy weeknight, which I love, AND it’s packed with flavor.

My mom used to make a similar recipe when we were kids and I adapted it to include mushrooms. I know that not everybody loves mushrooms, but you could swap them for carrots if you wanted to. Her original recipe also included 1 Tbsp. of parsley, but I never have that, so I never use it.

Meal prep tips

If you want to prep ahead for this recipe, you can chop all of the veggies a day or two before you need to make this. Using instant Minute Rice is really what brings the cooking time down to next to nothing, so if you’re going to use regular rice, remember to adjust the liquid and cooking time according to the type of rice you buy.

Rice pilaf pairs well with…

I usually make this as a side dish with chicken or pork. The rosemary garlic marinade and the lemon herb marinade are our go-tos when pairing chicken or pork with this rice.

Kid-friendly?

I want to say that this recipe is kid-friendly, but only two of my four kids like it. If your kids aren’t fans of cooked vegetables, foods that are mixed together, or “green things” (thyme) in their food, this recipe might not be for them. But here’s the good news: My new e-book Feeding Picky Eaters is now on the Shop page. It has over 20 strategies to help you engage your picky eaters at mealtime, as well as printable templates and actionable steps that you can implement immediately.

Enjoy this one and tag me on Instagram @toobusylivin204 if you make it!

Rice Pilaf

Course rice, Side Dish
Keyword celery, mushrooms, pilaf, rice
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 cups chicken broth (I use vegetable broth + 2 tsp. chicken bouillon concentrate)
  • 2 cups Minute Rice If not using instant rice, cook time will be longer.

Instructions

  1. Melt butter and sauté mushrooms, celery, shallot and garlic until softened.

  2. Add thyme, then chicken broth.

  3. Bring to a boil. Add rice, stir and remove from heat.

  4. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Recipe Notes

If using regular rice (not instant), add it to the pan before the broth and stir it into the vegetables before adding the broth. 

You may have to adjust the amount of broth you need, based on the ratio of water you need for the type of rice you choose to use. 

Easy Weeknight Cheesy Breadsticks

In an effort to move my entire recipe collection to this blog, here is a short and sweet post of a recipe for breadsticks that we use often in our house.

These cheesy breadsticks are the perfect accompaniment for any soup, salad or pasta.

This recipe was given to me by one of the Home Economics teachers at our school, about 15 years ago.  I love it because it is simple and quick to make since students would make this during a cooking class, so it’s the perfect side for a weeknight meal.

I’ve modified the recipe over the years, firstly to include cheese, and secondly to be made in a stand mixer.  If you omit the cheese, you get soft breadsticks similar to those from the Olive Garden (another reason why I love these!).

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