Stress-Free Summer Meals

Preparing fresh, healthy made-at-home meals doesnt have to mean sacrificing half your day indoors.
Whatever happened to the lazy days of summer? As temperatures rise, the demands on our time seem to spike, as well.

With working in the office, training for mid-season races, shuttling the kids to-and-fro, and entertaining Aunt Edna and Uncle Charlie visiting on vacation, "cooking" meals in the summer months usually means stopping at the takeout window or paying the pizza delivery guy.

And this time of year we'd much rather be working up a sweat on the trail than in the kitchen.

Preparing fresh, healthy made-at-home meals doesn't have to mean sacrificing half your day indoors. We've cooked up five easy-to-make recipes tailor-made for your time-crunched active life. Requiring fewer than seven ingredients and minimal cooking time -- 30 minutes or less -- these delicious dishes prove that less is more.


Vegetarian Asparagus and Herbed Cheese Risotto

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 cup Arborio rice
1 32-ounce can vegetable broth
12 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (2 cups)
1 4.4-ounce container low-fat garlic and herb cheese spread (such as Boursin Light)

In a large saucepan, cook onion in olive oil on medium heat until tender. Add rice and cook two to three minutes or until rice is lightly brown. In another saucepan boil broth, add asparagus, and cook one to two minutes or until tender, but still crisp. Remove asparagus from broth and set aside.

Slowly add one cup of broth to the rice mixture, stirring often. Continue to stir over medium heat until broth is absorbed. Add remaining broth in two more equal batches to the rice mixture, stirring often until fully absorbed. Add cheese spread and asparagus, and stir until cheese is melted and well incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Makes four servings.

Nutrition Facts: 210 calories, 29 grams carbs, 6 grams protein, 8 grams total fat, 3.5 grams saturated fat, 2 grams fiber

Italian Sausage and Garden Fresh Tomato Pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh garlic
2 12-ounce containers cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup packed, chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 hot Italian turkey sausage links
6 ounces thin spaghetti

In a 12-inch skillet, cook garlic in olive oil on medium heat until fragrant and soft. Add halved cherry tomatoes and cook on high heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until reduced to 2 1/2 cups sauce. Cook sausage according to package directions and slice into half-inch pieces. Set aside. Cook pasta according to directions. Add basil and Parmesan to sauce. Stir well. Add cooked pasta and sausage to sauce. Toss to coat. Makes four servings.

Nutrition Facts: 340 calories, 42 grams carbs, 18 grams protein, 12 grams total fat, 3.5 grams saturated fat, 3 grams fiber

Grilled Chilean Sea Bass with Corn and Avocado Salsa
Can substitute tuna, halibut, salmon, mahi-mahi or red snapper.

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 5-ounce Chilean sea bass fillets
1 ear of corn, husked
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1 small avocado, peeled, seeded and diced, (about 4 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Coat fish and corn with nonstick cooking spray, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill both at the same time. Grill fish over medium heat for about six minutes, turning once halfway through, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove from grill and wrap in foil to keep warm.

Grill corn also over medium heat for about six minutes, turning a few times, until corn is tender and slightly browned. When cool enough to handle, slice corn off cob and combine with tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, crushed red pepper and olive oil in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Serve salsa over fish. Makes four servings.

Nutrition Facts: 260 calories, 11 grams carbs, 28 grams protein, 11 grams total fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 4 grams fiber

Asian Pork and Vegetable Stir-Fry
Can substitute flank steak, chicken or firm tofu for pork.

1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 14-ounce package frozen stir-fry vegetable mix, thawed and drained

Combine hoisin sauce, soy sauce, half-cup water, ginger and garlic in a large plastic zip-top bag. Add pork. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least four hours or up to 24 hours.

Remove pork from bag and reserve half cup of marinade. In a 12-inch skillet cook pork over high heat for two minutes or until well browned and nearly cooked through. Add reserved marinade and vegetables. Stir over medium heat until pork is cooked through and vegetables are heated. If desired, serve stir-fry over brown rice. Makes four servings.

Nutrition Facts: 220 calories, 21 grams carbs, 27 grams protein, 4 grams total fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 3 grams fiber

Lazy Day Focaccia Sandwich

1 2-pound cooked rotisserie chicken
1 8-inch focaccia bread, sliced in half lengthwise
1/4 cup pesto
1 cup baby arugula
1 6-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
3 ounces shredded fontina cheese

Remove breasts from rotisserie chicken. Remove skin and coarsely shred breast meat (makes about two cups chicken). Spread pesto over bottom half of bread. Add arugula, chicken, roasted red peppers and fontina cheese. Place on baking sheet and bake open-faced at 425 degrees for seven minutes. Place top half of bread on the baking sheet cut side up and cook both halves for three more minutes. Place focaccia top on sandwich and cut into four wedges. Makes four servings.

Nutrition Facts: 590 calories, 50 grams carbs, 46 grams protein, 22 grams total fat, 8 grams saturated fat, 1 gram fiber

Houston-based Paige Boyle is a recipe developer, food stylist and cooking instructor whose work has appeared in magazines such as Cooking Light, Diabetic Living and Better Homes and Gardens Heart Healthy.

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