Sunshine safe sides, no fridge necessary


After four kids – three of whom I was pregnant with through the summer  –I have become quite adept at avoiding side dishes at potlucks and barbecues that have mayonnaise or need to be kept cold for safe consumption. This is because it is SOP for pregnant women to avoid soft cheese, sushi, deli meats and mayo or dairy based side dishes that aren’t right out of the fridge.

In addition to avoiding those dishes during pregnancy, I have also found that while I really love a good potato salad, when I am taking kids on a picnic and we are walking, it is just a pain to pack around a cooler with cold packers. So I frequently turn to side dishes that are yummy and can be served cold or room temp. These dishes won’t spoil if you leave them out for a bit and actually taste better with a day in the fridge, so can be prepared ahead of time. I do suggest doubling these recipes if you have more than two people, or if you like them because they go fast at every gathering I bring them to.

Quinoa Greek Salad

This salad is packed full of protein and flavor thanks to the quinoa and mix of fresh vegetables. While you would think the tomatoes and cucumber would get watery or mushy sitting overnight they don’t thanks to the fluffy ancient grain. This great salad is also gluten free and can be dairy free if you leave out the feta, though the cheese adds a great hint of creaminess and tang.

2 cups of chicken broth

1 cup of quinoa 

1 cup of halved grape tomatoes

1 cup chopped cucumber

1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives halved

1/4 cup diced red onion

1/3 cup feta crumbles

1/4 cup olive oil

3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and black pepper

Rinse quinoa and in a medium saucepan combine broth and quinoa. Bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes then turn heat to low and simmer for another 15 minutes covered until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff. Allow to cool completely.

Combine vegetables and quinoa. In a separate bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar and oregano, then pour over quinoa. Mix to combine well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Finally, stir in feta cheese or, if not everyone likes/can have feta simply sprinkle on top of servings.

I have actually served this salad before the quinoa cooled and it was tasty warm as well. If you make this a day ahead I recommend adding another tablespoon of olive oil to the salad before you serve it.

Rice or pasta can be substituted for the quinoa but the olive oil and vinegar amounts may need  slight adjusting.

Sweet Corn and Radish Salad

A short ingredient list and fresh flavors allow this salad to come together quickly. It is the only way my kids like radishes. For a fun twist you can grill the corn first but if you are like me you need something fast and easy. Again, this dish can sit for a while or be served immediately.

3 cups fresh corn kernels (3-4 ears of corn)

6 small fresh radishes thinly sliced

1/2 medium jalapeno seeded, ribs removed and finely chopped

3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice

2-4 Tablespoons fresh cilantro (optional)

Salt and pepper 

Place the ears of corn in a large ziplock bag or dish you can cover with 4 tablespoons water. Microwave for 3-5 minutes depending on microwave just until steamed. Set aside to cool while you chop the radishes, jalapeño and cilantro.

Once cooled, slice the kernels off the cob. I place the end of the ear on an upside down bowl on a plate and use a sharp knife. It is a little messy but worth the flavor. 

Combine all the ingredients and toss, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. If I have it, I love to season with flavored salts like chili-lime sea salt. 

Mango cheddar bites

Stay with me on this one. Yes, it has cheese but when white cheddar is brought to room temperature something amazing happens with the flavor. This side or appetizer is so easy to assemble my kids can help with it. It looks so pretty sitting on a platter.

1 16 oz bag frozen ripe mango pieces

1/2 pound sharp white cheddar

1 bunch of fresh cilantro

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Toothpicks

Thaw the mango overnight in the fridge. When ready, place the mango in a colander and rinse to get any mushy bits off. Cut the cheese into 1/2 inch cubes. Pull the leaves off the cilantro stems trying not to tear them too much.Assemble by sliding one cheese cube onto a toothpick, then a leaf of cilantro, followed by a mango piece on the bottom. Once all are finished drizzle with balsamic vinegar and enjoy. 

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