I’m all about party planning, and I never need much of an excuse to throw one. Mother’s day? Father’s day? Arbor day? Every holiday, every birthday, you name it. I had to stop throwing parties for the dogs birthdays. The mailman wasn’t on board with that one. So why not celebrate the start of a new season? Summer is almost here. Let’s have the perfect summer lunch menu. My parties in the past have always been over the top with WAY too much food. So, how do I reconcile that with my new healthy lifestyle? Well, let’s take these one party at a time. We can eat healthy and still have amazing food that everyone will love.
For this menu, I decided on: Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps, Chopped Chickpea Salad, Smoked Salmon Cucumber Cups, and a Lemon Berry Trifle. Sound awesome? Well, it was!
I also enjoy decorating for a party, so I got some really cute stuff at my fave French boutique Target. Pronounced Tarjay, that is. Most of this stuff is from the dollar section, which the mailman hates. Especially now that they have $2 and $3 items. Mailman pet peeve #53. The votives were battery lit. Four for $3. The pitcher I already had, but I only spent around $30 on everything else.
Raspberry Iced Tea-
On to the beverages! I always have lemon water as an option, as you can see on the table. For the second option, I made a raspberry iced tea. I just brewed some iced tea bags and let it steep with some lemon slices and some raspberries. Letting the raspberries steep in the hot tea while it brewed infused the flavor into it nicely. If you wanted a stronger flavor, you could mash the raspberries and strain out the seeds and add some of the strained juice. I think this was just enough flavor, although next time I may add a few more. I added a few more raspberries for decoration to the dispenser on top of the ice as well as some lemon slices and it was delicious. Unsweetened and all!
Smoked Salmon Cucumber Cups-
This is the cutest little appetizer! I’ve made similar versions with cream cheese and with the salmon mixed into the cream cheese, but I thought, there’s got to be a healthier way! So, I took two spoonfuls of Greek yogurt to one spoonful of olive oil mayo. These are real exact measurements here, I know! I mixed in a squeeze of lemon juice, some fresh dill, some sea salt, and some fresh ground pepper.
Cucumbers. If you are not an English cucumber convert, it’s time for my pitch. They come in the plastic, and they are amazing. They have soft peels that you can bite through that haven’t been dipped in wax like those other store cucumbers, so you don’t have to peel them. Just rip off the plastic and you are set to rock and roll. They are juicier and better all around. Unless you grow your own, then disregard this entire paragraph because you are awesome, and please bring some to my house!
Just spread a little of the mixture on each cucumber round, top with a small piece of the salmon, and a sprinkle of dill. If you are adventurous, a caper would be a great topper also!
These went fast! The Greek yogurt and mayo combo is much less rich than the cream cheese would be, so this is much more refreshing than the higher calorie version anyway.
Chickpea Chopped Salad-
This is one of my favorites. This one isn’t quite like any of the other Greek or Mediterranean Chickpea salads out there and I’ll put this one up next to them any day. It’s that good.
To make my version of Chopped Chickpea Salad, you’ll need 3 cans of Chick Peas, and I’m all for buying the generic on things like this. There are some cases when the brand name is obviously better (like Oreo’s!), but in a lot of cases, the store brand is produced or canned in the same factory as the brand name, and a different label is then slapped on it. Don’t pay more to look fancy. You ARE fancy. You don’t need a label to tell you that, you have ME telling you. The only time you should pay more is if the can has a pop tab top. Can we just get pop tabs on all cans already? Come on already, it’s 2016. OK, back to the salad, I know.
Three cans of whatever Chickpeas make you happy, half a bag of shredded carrots, a fourth to a half of a red onion, chopped, a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved, an English cucumber, chopped, 2 big handfuls of baby spinach, chopped, a handful of Kalamata olives, chopped, a container of crumbled Feta, reduced fat if you desire. We’ll get to the dressing in a moment.
A few things on these ingredients. As always this is your food, so add and omit as you see fit. If Kalamata’s are too strong for your taste buds, sub in black olives, but if you do want to use the Kalamata’s buy them pitted. I’ve only made that mistake once.
Also, don’t get me started on the bags of shredded carrots. They make me so sublimely happy that it’s a bit ridiculous, really. And I think they’re only about a dollar. That’s why my Kroger never has any left, and I have to stomp around the produce section like a 37 year old toddler looking for more. They make life so EASY. No chopping carrots? No peeling carrots? Well, really, has anyone peeled a carrot since the invention of baby carrots? But still, these things put baby carrots to shame. Buy them and buy them now, before there is a run on shredded carrots and you are chopping baby carrots for your Greek Salad with a sad face.
For the dressing, I whisk together, 1/4 cup Extra Virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, the juice of 1 lemon, some sea salt and some cracked pepper, and you could add any other Greek seasoning and herbs you wanted here. Oregano, mint, dill, parsley, basil, etc. Dried or otherwise.
Next, toss the dressing with the salad ingredients and mix well. I made this a while before serving and let it marinate. It made delicious leftovers for my lunch.
Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps-
Who needs a greasy croissant when you can eat your chicken salad in a delicious, crunchy piece of crisp, spring lettuce? No one, that’s who!
Chicken salad gets a bad rap sometimes, because it can be really unhealthy when it’s drenched in mayo. Well, not today! We are swapping out most of the mayo for Greek yogurt, and the rest of the full fat mayo for Olive Oil mayo. And, I also like to eat my chicken salad with a lot of flavor, and added ingredients, so it doesn’t have to be absolutely dripping with the mixture. If you can get accustomed to this as well, it will help save calories in the long run. It lets the flavor of the individual ingredients shine.
Here are the ingredients I start with. I boil the chicken the night before, so it’s cooled, shredded, and ready to go. This is about two or two and a half pounds of chicken. I want to make a lot, so I’ll have leftovers of this too. About 1/2 of the red onion, and 4 or 5 stalks of celery. I like to use the celery greens as well, I love their flavor! One container of Greek yogurt is enough for me. You may want more. Two big spoonfuls of mayo is plenty to start with, as you can always add more. Chopped fresh dill, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and turmeric.
Stay with me here! Just a little of the turmeric. Mix it right into the Greek yogurt. It gives it a gorgeous yellow color. It has a mild flavor, and it is has quite a few health benefits, including the reduction of inflammation. If you think it sounds awful, then skip it! But if your knees hurt, Google turmeric, and thank me later.
Then, get everything all mixed together. Core the heads of lettuce. I used two kinds, Bibb lettuce, and Boston lettuce. Any large leaf variety will do. Wash the leaves, keeping them intact in large pieces that are good for stuffing and rolling, and pat them dry with paper towels. Chill everything until you are ready to serve.
Lemon Berry Trifle-
Lunch is served! Looks delicious, right? But would a Lunch Party be complete without a little dessert? Nope! So, how do we serve a nice dessert that doesn’t fall too far outside of our healthy eating guidelines? I opted for a trifle. It reminds me of summer. It’s light, fluffy, full of berries, and it doesn’t have a million calories either. The great news is, this trifle was so good, I only got one serving of it and it was gone. Nothing was left to tempt me later!
Let me show you how to tackle this trifle!
First, the cake. You can buy an angel food cake, but it’s not quite enough cake, and baking a cake is so darn easy, why not just do it yourself?
One box of white cake mix, a can of lemon flavored sparkling soda, like La Croix, but Perrier or San Pelligrino would be great too. A container of plain Greek yogurt, and a lemon. None of the other ingredients on the back of the box are needed. I promise. Pour the cake mix into a bowl and stir in the yogurt and the soda. Zest the lemon with a micro-planer. Add some lemon juice. Whisk it up. You will find it much easier to blend than usual, I think it’s the carbonation that does this, but I’m no Bill Nye.
This cake tastes really good. You won’t miss the eggs and oil. My toddler and I got in a big fight over whether or not he should eat all of the cake cubes or whether he should save some for the trifle. I won, but barely.
Bake according to package directions. Let cool completely. Invert onto a cutting board and cut into cubes.
I prep the berries so I can lay everything out and layer them into the trifle bowl.
Start with a layer of cake cubes, then a layer of pudding, then a layer of berries, then a layer of cool whip, then start over with cake again, repeating until I get to the top. Or run out of cake, thanks Ben!
I know trifle isn’t a health food, so don’t think I’m adding this to the daily menu. This is a special occasion and a special treat. These are part of life, right? And a part of adopting a healthy lifestyle is knowing how to treat ourselves without going overboard, and without feeling guilty about it later.
So here we have it folks, the perfect Summer Lunch. The only thing more perfect would be if someone would some clean all this up for me. Maybe if I’m nice to the mailman he’ll take pity on me…
Let me know what you think in the comment section!