The warm weather is finally here and after a particularly long winter I am looking forward to being outdoors to enjoy some fellowship and food with family and friends. My deck and patio are anxious for company! As I think about planning summer menus, I love to take advantage of the local fruits and veggies that will be available at farmers markets and my grocery store. I’m also looking for oven-free recipe options that have nourishing ingredients and minimal prep time. I don’t want to spend a lot of time in a hot kitchen and my go-to recipes need to provide nutrients that help keep my family healthy and well. That what makes fresh leafy greens and Michigan Beans such a perfect combination.
Leafy Greens – Nutrition and Selection:
Fresh greens can be picked up at the local farmer’s market, or you can find a variety of recipe-ready bagged greens and salad kits at your local supermarket. And consuming more leafy greens can play a big role in improving health. They are very low in calories but high in many nutrients. Salad consumption, in particular, helps people eat more veggies which is important for everyone. Check out this handy guide to discover the nutrition facts for a variety of leafy greens.
When it comes to choosing the freshest and tastiest greens use your senses and look for fresh lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens that have crisp leaves. Avoid those that are wilted or slimy. You can also get information on what’s in season by asking local farmers or produce department experts. When purchasing bagged salad greens or salad kits check the sell dates and don’t over buy salad greens, even if they are at a great price. According to the USDA Foodkeeper app, for freshness and quality, leafy greens should be consumed with in a range of 3 days to 2 weeks if refrigerated from the date of purchase. The length of time will depend on the type of greens. Avoid spoilage and food waste by buying only what you can consume in the next week or so.
Michigan Beans – Nutrition and Selection:
Michigan Beans make a delicious and naturally nutritious addition to summer salads. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating about 3 cups of legumes, including beans, per week. Adding Michigan Beans to salads is a great way to meet this goal! All types of beans including black, navy, red, pinto, cranberry, and kidney beans are good sources of plant-based protein and excellent sources of fiber. They are also good sources of potassium and other important nutrients.
Canned beans are a great pantry staple for easy meal prep. Keep a variety of options on hand and if sodium is a concern, look for varieties that have reduced or no sodium. And remember, rinsing and draining canned beans removes about 40% of the sodium. It’s also very easy to cook dried edible Michigan Beans. If you have a pressure cooker, like an Instant Pot, you can cook up a batch and refrigerate or freeze them for multiple meals. Click here for a video showing the simple steps for cooking beans in an Instant Pot.
Sensational Summer Salads with Greens and Beans
Salads make great warm weather meals and by including a variety of convenient and nourishing ingredients, you can create many quick and healthy meal options. Adding Michigan Beans, for example, adds flavor and texture along with a delicious source of protein, fiber and important nutrients like potassium and folate. Other colorful veggies and fruits also make nutrient-rich additions. If you add in cheese and meat, look for lower fat and lean choices. The same goes for salad dressings. Look for lower calorie options like light vinaigrettes or dressings that are yogurt-based. You can also experiment with making your own dressings.
Here are 5 quick and easy combinations for creating some delicious salads with Michigan Beans and fresh greens. Add these nourishing meals to your summer recipe rotation and feel free to get creative with your favorite summer ingredients. Enjoy!
Corn and Black Bean Salad Bowls
Prepare a Southwest Salad Kit as directed on package. Fold in 2 cups of Michigan Black Beans. Divide into salad bowls. Top with corn (frozen, canned or fresh cooked), avocado slices and red pepper slices. Chicken can also be added if desired.
Tuna and Navy Beans with Spring Greens
Mix 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a medium bowl. Toss in 1-1/2 cups of cooked Michigan Navy Beans, 1/4 cup chopped red onion and 2 (2.6 oz.) Pouches – Tuna Creations® Lemon Pepper. Mix well. Serve over a bed of spring greens on plates. Garnish with fresh basil and a lemon slice. Salt and pepper to taste.
(recipe adapted from StarKist® Tuna)
Tuscan Pork and White Bean Salad
Portion 2 cups of spring greens onto 4 individual serving plates and set aside. In shallow serving bowl toss together 2 cups of cooked, cubed pork (from chops or tenderloin), 2 cups of Michigan White Beans, 1 cup of halved grape tomatoes, 1 can (14 oz.) drained, quartered artichoke hearts and 1/4 cup sliced green onions. Toss with light Italian dressing. Divide pork and bean mixture evenly on top of spring greens on plates. Top each with 1-2 tablespoons grated or shredded parmesan cheese.
BBQ Chicken and Kidney Bean Salad
In 4-32-oz. mason jars, layer the following ingredients: ¼ cup yogurt-based ranch dressing; ¼ cup diced tomato; ¼ cup diced yellow or orange pepper; ¼ cup Michigan Kidney Beans; ¼ cup corn; ¼ cup diced rotisserie chicken; 1 tablespoons BBQ sauce; 1 cup chopped romaine lettuce; 2 tablespoons reduced fat (2%) shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Store in refrigerator until ready. To serve, dump contents of jar onto a plate or bowl.
This salad, from the Michigan Bean Commission, can be made ahead and is a tasty family-friendly, vegetarian dish. Feel free to mix it up, however, by adding slices of cooked chicken or tuna.