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Ahh, summertime. Sunshine, festivals, vacations … and summer vegetables.

I just love how colorful summer vegetables are and how versatile, delicious and healthy they are. They’re great for picnics, BBQs, and in comfort food. Let’s start with the quintessential American summertime favorite: BBQs.

Grilled Veggie Ciabatta Sandwiches

Ingredients you need. Feel free to change up the veggies.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/8 cup of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 eggplant, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 ciabatta loaf
  • 4 slices of sharp cheddar (or your preferred cheese)

Amazingly hearty and a great alternative to burgers and hot dogs.

Directions:

  1. Preheat the grill on high and brush the grate with olive oil.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together the garlic, 1/8 cup of olive oil, lemon juice and ground black pepper. Put in refrigerator.
  3. Brush sliced vegetables liberally with olive oil on both sides.
  4. Place vegetables on grill and cook for about 8 minutes, turning once. [Cook until you can see grill marks and/or vegetables are thoroughly cooked.]
  5. Cut the ciabatta (half the loaf and then slice each half).
  6. Remove the olive oil garlic spread from the refrigerator and spread on each piece.
  7. Place a slice of cheese on each.
  8. Put the bread on the grill, cheese side up, and allow the heat to slightly melt the cheese without charring the other side of the bread.
  9. Remove from grill and layer 2 of the slices with vegetables (or layer all 4 and eat as open-faced sandwiches).
Grilled Veggie Quesadillas

Having a double grilling day? Use leftover veggies from the ciabatta sandwiches for these quesadillas.

Ingredients: 
  • Please see Grilled Veggie Ciabatta Sandwiches for list of vegetables
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 2 1o-inch tortillas
  • 1/2 cup of grated sharp cheddar

Directions:

  1. Please see Grilled Veggie Ciabatta Sandwiches on how to prepare the vegetables.
  2. Mix together the olive oil, chili powder, ground black pepper and oregano.
  3. Spread the oil mixture over one side of each tortilla.
  4. Layer the vegetables on one half of each tortilla on the oiled side.
  5. Sprinkle the cheese over the vegetables and fold over the tortillas.
  6. Place on grill and let cook until the cheese is thoroughly melted.

Barbecue away, vegetarians, and make all those meat-eaters jealous when they see how delicious your food looks compared to their hot dogs and hamburgers.

~~~

What are summers without picnics?

The Ravinia Festival is one of Chicagoland’s long-standing summer traditions. Warm summer nights picnicking on the lawn listening to everything from classical musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma and opera stars such as Jackie Evancho to pop groups a la Maroon 5 and country vocalists in the caliber of Carrie Underwood. Ravinia is just outside of the city and the brief train ride makes it feel like a mini-vacation. And what is vacation without food?

I went to Ravinia with my best friends at the end of June, and for our picnic, we went for the simplistic since we couldn’t bring that much stuff. Our menu consists of whole wheat baguette and brie, grapefruit salad, peach salad, and orange pepper salad, all washed down (I mean, sipped…) with a bottle of Jam Jar sweet shiraz.

Honey Almond Peach Salad

Peaches, spinach and almonds drizzled with honey. (Well, that's how it would be if we actually had all the ingredients with us.)

Ingredients:

  • 5 ounces of fresh baby spinach
  • 4 peaches, cubed
  • 1/2 cup of raw, whole almonds
  • 2 tablespoons of honey

Directions:

  1. It’s a salad. Mix all the ingredients together. What else would you do?

Grapefruit Salad

Our simplified version was just spinach and grapefruit. Click the link to check out Martha Stewart's Grapefruit Shrimp Salad.

Rainbow Salad

Slices of orange pepper and tomatoes in a bed of spinach. Works with any dressing of your choice.

Ingredients: 

  • 8 ounces of fresh baby spinach
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 orange peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 1/2 cup of blue cheese dressing

Directions:

  1. Seriously?

Strawberry Fields Salad

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces of fresh baby spinach
  • 2 cups of fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of raw, whole almonds
  • 1/2 cup of balsamic vinaigrette (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of honey or agave (optional)

Directions:

  1. Serve alone for a fresh, simple sweetness (this really depends on the quality of the strawberries).
  2. Dress it with balsamic vinaigrette for a tangy twist.
  3. Drizzle with honey or agave to sweeten it up even more.

~~~

And when you’re all picnicked out and barbecued out, you can still come home for a lazy and cozy night in with comfort food dishes made with summer vegetables.

Ratatouille – Skip the cheese and you can make it vegan.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

It's a lot prettier if you have an actual grater to make the cheese more even...

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons of curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons of chili powder
  • 1/2 large eggplant, cubed
  • 1 yellow squash, cubed
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 3 Russet potatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup of fat-free milk
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup of shredded sharp cheddar

Directions:

  1. Heat up 1 tablespoon of the oil in a skillet.
  2. Saute the onions, garlic, curry powder and chili powder for 5 minutes.
  3. In another skillet, heat up the rest of the oil and add in the eggplant, squash, tomatoes and water. Saute for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes until they are done and can be mashed.
  5. Stir the onions into the eggplant mixture and spoon into a 8×8 baking dish.
  6. Mash the potatoes and then stir in the milk, peas, salt and black pepper.
  7. Spread over vegetable mixture.
  8. Sprinkle cheese over the pie and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 6 peppers (any color), seeded and halved
  • 1 cup of uncooked white rice
  • 1 3/4 cup of water
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped into tiny pieces
  • 1 cup of frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can of diced tomatoes
  • 3 teaspoons of dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of ground black pepper
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese (I used a Mexican four-cheese mixture)

Directions:

  1. Liberally grease a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and place the peppers cut-side down on it.

Look how colorful they are!

  1. Bake the peppers for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.
  2. Cook the rice with the water as instructed per packaging.
  3. Meanwhile, heat up the other tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet.
  4. Saute the garlic and carrots for 5 minutes.
  5. Add in the corn, tomatoes, basil, salt and black pepper and cook for another 5 minutes.
  6. Mix in the cooked rice and heat thoroughly.
  7. Sprinkle in the cheese and mix well.
  8. Remove the peppers from the oven and flip cut-side up. Spoon the rice mixture into the peppers.
  9. Bake at 400 degrees for 5-8 minutes, or until cheese is fully melted.

That’s all I have for now. Enjoy summer 🙂

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