NORTHWOODS COOKS: Chill out on hot summer days

Pasta salad with tomato, broccoli, black olives,  and cheese fet
During hot summer days, eating meals that don't heat up the kitchen helps keep energy costs down. Greek pasta salad is also a light dish that can be adapted by adding vegetables on hand.
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With temperatures approaching 100 degrees forecast for the weekend, meals that can be made without using the oven help keep the home or cabin cool. This selection comes from “30 No-Cook Summer Meals to Chill Out a Heat Wave” on

Greek Pasta Salad

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1-1/2 tsp. garlic powder


1-1/2 tsp. dried basil

1-1/2 tsp. dried oregano

3/4 tsp. ground black pepper

3/4 tsp. white sugar

2-1/2 cups cooked elbow macaroni

3 cups fresh sliced mushrooms

15 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup sliced red bell peppers


3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup chopped green onions

4-oz. can whole black olives

3/4 cup sliced pepperoni sausage, cut into strips

In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, garlic powder, basil, oregano, black pepper, and sugar. Add cooked pasta, mushrooms, tomatoes, red peppers, feta cheese, green onions, olives and pepperoni. Toss until evenly coated. Cover and chill 2 hours or overnight.

Mediterranean Chicken Pitas

1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese


1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

6-inch whole wheat pita breads, split and toasted

4 oz. roasted chicken breast, sliced (use a rotisserie chicken or leftovers)

Combine artichokes with feta cheese, green onions, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Spoon into pita halves. Divide chicken slices and add to pita pockets.

Ranch Chicken Tacos

1/2 cup ranch dressing

1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1-oz. packet taco seasoning mix, divided

1 Tbsp. mild chunky salsa

2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

shredded lettuce

1 tomato, chopped

4 green onions, sliced

4-oz. can sliced black olives

1 avocado – peeled, pitted and diced (optional)

1 cup shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese

Combine ranch dressing, sour cream, 1 tsp. taco seasoning, and salsa in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Toss chicken with remaining taco seasoning. Cover bowl loosely with wax paper or plastic wrap. Microwave chicken until chicken is heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Warm tortillas in a skillet for about a minute on each side to make them pliable. Place a scoop of chicken on the tortilla and top with lettuce, tomato, green onion, olives, avocado, cheese and a spoonful of the ranch dressing mixture.

Crab and Avocado Salad with Fruit Salsa

1 lb. pasteurized crabmeat (preferably lump or back fin), picked over for stray shells

1-1/2 cups mangoes, peaches or nectarines, diced

1/4 medium red onion, cut into small dice

1/4 medium red bell pepper, cored and cut into medium dice

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

1/2 tsp. Salt and pepper, to taste

3 ripe avocados

Gently mix all ingredients except avocado in a medium bowl. (May be covered and refrigerated for several hours.)

When ready to serve, halve, pit, peel and slice avocado. Fan half an avocado on each plate and serve crab salad alongside.

Simple Egg Salad

6 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

1/4 cup chopped cucumber

3 Tbsp. ranch dressing

1 tablespoon mustard

salt and ground black pepper to taste

Combine eggs, cucumber, ranch dressing, mustard, salt, and black pepper in a bowl. Serve as a side salad or on sandwiches.

Readers are invited to submit their favorite recipes to enjoy, along with a note about what makes them special. Send recipes to

When family and friends gather over the Fourth of July holiday, it’s the perfect time to fire up the grill.

Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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