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Tips to keep your summer entertaining menus easy

6/22/2011, 9:38 a.m.
Tips to keep your summer entertaining menus easy

(ARA) - Summer entertaining season is here and it's time to take advantage of the warm weather by getting together with family and friends. Simplicity is key, so toss the complicated menus and decor out the window in favor of cold platters, fresh fruits and vegetables and sunny skies so you can spend more time out of the kitchen and with your guests.

To help make your next summer soiree stress free, try a few of these simple tips:

* Season and marinade your meat and vegetables the night before so all that's left to do is fire up the grill. Be prepared for entertaining all year round by storing your own unique, dry seasoning blend in an empty salt shaker. Just shake, grill and enjoy.

* Put a unique spin on traditional pasta salad by swapping out your regular white pasta variety in favor of Ronzoni Garden Delight Pasta. Ronzoni Garden Delight pasta is the only great-tasting tri-colored pasta with the added bonus a full serving of vegetables in every four-ounce portion. It's a great way to sneak in a healthy dose of veggies without anyone noticing.

* Take your meal outdoors and pack a picnic. Opt for coolers with handles and wheels that allow you to transport heavier foods easily. You can also purchase picnic baskets complete with a shoulder strap, glasses, plates, silverware, napkins and even a tablecloth.

* If you're looking to lighten things up this summer, swap the mayonnaise found in your traditional pasta salad with fat-free Greek yogurt. Not only will this lower the calories in your salad but it will also add a unique and tangy punch of flavor.

* Summer salads are as much about the texture as they are about the taste. Incorporate seasonal fruits and vegetables like asparagus, grapes, apples and broccoli for a fresh and satisfying crunch.

If you're looking to spice up your usual summer salad, this Southwest Chicken Pasta Salad offers a delicious combination of fresh salsa, hearty beans and sharp cheddar cheese.

Southwest Chicken Pasta Salad

Serves: 8 to 10

Ingredient:

1 box (12 ounces) Ronzoni Garden Delight Penne Pasta

1 cup prepared salsa

8 ounces plain low-fat yogurt

2 cups cooked, diced chicken

1 can (15 ounces) corn, drained

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup green onions, sliced

1 can (2.25 ounces) black olives, drained

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Tortilla chips, optional

Directions:

Prepare pasta according to package directions. In a medium bowl, whisk together salsa and yogurt. In a large bowl combine pasta, chicken, corn, black beans, green onions and black olives. Fold in dressing. Top with cheddar cheese and cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips, if desired. ViewTracker.aspx?articleid=13333&memberi