How-To: Creative Summer Salads

(Photo by Sarah Komisky)

How-To: Creative Summer Salads

By April Bautista Garcia

Summer is officially here, and the Fourth of July is approaching! This is the perfect time to close up your oven and roll out the BBQ! When it is hot outside, I cannot stand the idea of making my kitchen equally warm. There is no better way to combat this problem than to use recipes that involve little to no cooking – and salads are one approach. I thought I would share with you a couple of recipes that are light and refreshing, but simple enough that you can modify them with your own flare. These recipes are also perfect for any gettogether – BBQ, holiday or just time at the beach. Enjoy!


This is one of my favorite times of the season because so many refreshing fruits are at their peak. Summer tends to offer fresh and lively dishes with the possibility of adding your own creative touch – which I love. This fruit salad is very simple and something that I make every year for Fourth of July. It is colorful, fresh, and offers flexibility depending on your taste. However, the key to creating a good Red, White and Blue Fruit Salad is flavorful strawberries. Ensuring that you have flavorful and ripe berries means that your salad will pop and less sugar will be needed (a win-win in my opinion).


  • 1 pint of strawberries
  • 1 pint of blueberries
  • ½ cup of sugar (may require more depending on taste), plus 2 tablespoons of sugar separated
  • ¼ cup of water (may require more depending on taste)
  • 1 cup very cold heavy whipping cream
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla or other flavorings or liquors
  • 2 mixing bowls
  • Hand mixer with the whisk attachment


Step 1

Clean and quarter strawberries. Pour into a mixing bowl.


Add the ½ cup of sugar and ¼ cup of water and begin to mix. Tip: You may have to add more sugar or water depending on the sweetness of the berry water mixture. You want enough sugar to sweeten the berries and water. However, you do not want too much water to make a soup or too much sugar that it is overpowering. It should taste like sweet berries and water.

Step 3

Add the blueberries to the mixture.

Step 4

Again, take the mixture to see if everything is sweetened and that there is enough liquid that will moisten the berries and allow them to marinate.

Step 5

Refrigerate overnight.  This is key. Letting the berries marinate in the cool for at least six hours enhances their flavor.

Step 6

About 1 hour before you serve your salad, place mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to chill. The colder the bowl and the accessories, the better your whipped cream will be.

Step 7

Pour heavy whipping cream, remaining sugar and vanilla into the cold bowl and whisk on high speed until medium to stiff peaks form, should take about 1 minute. Make sure not to overbeat.

Step 8

Place whipped cream back into the freezer for about ten minutes.

Step 9

Assemble all ingredients – be sure to add a little of the sweet berry liquid that is in the berry bowl. Top with the whipped cream.

*Additions and suggestions: You can serve this mixture over shortcake or angel food cake. You can also add bananas to you the mixture for a sweet breakfast treat. Just be sure to add a little lemon juice to the bananas if you allow them to sit with the berries over a long period of time.


The next recipe has been a used at my house quite often! It was given to me by a good friend, and I love to use it during the summer. This recipe requires an overnight sit in the refrigerator, so I recommend that you plan ahead.  Enjoy the creamy goodness with less guilt, too! The veggies help to lighten the dish, and you can add your own creative touches to perfect it to your liking.

Dressing Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk – this is a required ingredient!
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Pasta Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cooked and chopped
  • 1 pound dry fusilli pasta
  • 1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes (chop them into halves)
  • 2 cups small broccoli florets (uncooked)
  • 1 orange, green, yellow, or red bell pepper chopped (or select 1/3 from all 3 and mixed)
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 strips crispy bacon, chopped


Step 1

You will need to make the dressing first.  Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together. Depending on your taste you may want to add more salt and/or pepper or even a little more parsley. Place the dressing in the refrigerator as you prepare the rest.

Step 2

Then work on the pasta.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook through. Drain the pasta and then rinse with cold water to cool. I move the pasta through the colander again to ensure all liquid as has been removed. Pour into a large bowl. Add the chicken, tomatoes, broccoli and bell pepper. Pour 3/4 cup of the dressing over the pasta salad and gently toss to combine.

Step 3

Add the feta cheese and bacon and stir the salad again. Season with additional salt and pepper as desired. Add additional dressing necessary. Chill for at least 4 hours, but I recommend overnight.

I encourage you to try one of these recipes this upcoming holiday. Hopefully, these salads will be hit at your next event!