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Cooking with Melody: Healthy vegetarian summer recipes

With Memorial Day in our sights and plenty of post-holiday occasions on the horizon as well, it's time to plan your next summer get-together with these simple, tasty, healthy ideas to keep your tummies full and taste buds satisfied without sacrificing the bikini bod! Appetizers

* Hummus Cucumber Bites - Quick, crunchy and creamy, these delicious snackers are a crowd pleaser.

* Baked kale chips - Move over potato chips, a healthier chip is in town! Bursting with nutrients, this snack is easy to make and yummy too. Rinse and dry kale, remove stems from the leaves, lightly spray on olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and bake on a lined pan at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until edges are slightly brown.

Main meal

* Collard Green Burritos - The large, sturdy leaves of a bunch of collard greens make a healthy, raw substitute for processed wraps. For the filling, you can get as creative as you want. One of my favorites is sweet potato mashed with quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), avocado, sea salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Cut the thick part of the stem off the top then plop your filling in the middle, fold the sides in and roll it up - tada!

* Easy Baked Beans - This unique twist on a hearty side dish is a great way to round out the meal and pack a protein punch.

* Salad with some pep - Make a light avocado dressing by pureeing avocado with olive oil, cilantro, sea salt and lemon or lime juice. Use whichever type of lettuce you prefer (I like to toss in mustard greens for a wasabi-like kick) then drizzle with the dressing and add any other salad fixings you prefer.

Desserts (my favorite course!)

* Nutty Chocolate "Caramel" Bites - Who doesn't love the combination of salty and sweet? This chewy treat was inspired by one of my favorite chocolate bars, but it's much better for you. You'll just need medjool dates, semi-sweet chocolate (chips work great) and chopped nuts (try peanuts or cashews).

1. Slit the dates lengthwise (but don't cut all the way through, just enough to open it up). Remove the pit and the hard nub at the end. 2. Fill each date with chopped nuts and pinch it closed. 3. Melt the chocolate and dunk the dates to completely cover them. 4. Wrap each date in saran wrap and pop into the fridge the night before your party, then pull them out about 5-10 minutes before serving.

* Smoothie Pie - A friend brought this fruity treat to a birthday dinner a few years ago and it was so good. This recipe is gluten-free and dairy free, plus diabetic-friendly so I made it to bring to my boyfriend's family's house (his mom has several allergies) - it was a hit! It's very versatile too, you can use any type of fruit you want.

* Salted Dark-Chocolate-Dipped Oranges - These are super simple. Here's a tip: To speed up hardening the chocolate, pop the tray into the freezer for about 15 minute, then serve.

* Dessert Kabob Bar - This lets people customize their dessert, plus, it's fun! Set out wooden skewers and bite-sized yummy sweets for people to add themselves - fruit, cake, brownies, and even melted chocolate and nuts for them to drizzle and sprinkle on.

Drinks

* Water - I know what you're thinking, boring! But it's especially important to stay hydrated in the warmer months and there are tons of ways to jazz up your H20. Stick to filtered water and try this handy tip to keep it ice cold to keep it frigid, flavorful and fancy.

* Hula Coola - This sweet, tropical treat only requires a few ingredients. Adults 21+, feel free to add rum to get the party started. The name says it all - it's sure to shake things up and keep you cool!

What are some of your favorite lighter dishes?

Break-out the briquettes - It's BBQ time!

Words to our Mothers