Ally Bank Summer Well Spent Series
For the new Ally Bank series, Summer Well Spent, we’re bringing you a variety of ways in which you can spend your time and money wisely to ensure you’re making the most of your summer days. And everybody knows that one of the most important components of summer is assembling the perfect menu.

In this installment, we’re offering summer food tips from Dorothy Reinhold of the popular food blog Shockingly Delicious. Reinhold tells us her favorite things to buy at the summer farmers’ markets, the cool drinks and dishes that can help you beat the summer heat, and how keeping it simple in the kitchen can benefit both your taste buds and your wallet.

Dorothy Reinhold Shockingly Delicious Take Advantage of What’s in Season

Farmers’ markets are great for finding delicious ingredients during the summer. But Reinhold also notes that they can help you get more for your money.

“Eating by the seasons is one of the best ways to keep your food costs down,” Reinhold says. “Try buying blueberries in January, for example, and you’ll need to take out a second mortgage to afford them. That’s because they’ll be coming from Chile or Brazil or Mexico or another overseas growing region. Eating by the seasons also gives you the best options for keeping your food coming from local farms and regions.”

Reinhold also encourages readers to branch out and try something new when perusing the bounty.

“Be fearless!” she urges. “Ask the market vendor how they prepare a certain vegetable, if you have never had it before. Just go for it.”

A General Rule for Summer Chefs: Keep it Simple

No matter what you have on your summer menu, Reinhold encourages you to keep things simple. Not only is simplicity the secret to many of her recipes, but it’s also the way she makes the most of her money.

“I like to reduce food costs by keeping things simple,” Reinhold says. “There are a few key ingredients that I will spend more for — a high quality super premium California extra-virgin olive oil and a good quality butter, for instance. You can definitely taste the difference, so they’re worth the extra. But fancy packaged sauces and tons of processed foods can drive up your meal costs if you’re not careful, so simple is better — and it can help you to stay on budget.”

Drink Your Fruits and Veggies

Reinhold notes that the plentiful — and therefore inexpensive — fruits you find at the farmers market can be great on the plate — or in a glass.

“We’re slicing up anything ripe and seasonal and throwing it in a pitcher of spring water,” Reinhold tells us. “Not only is it beautiful, but — with all those peaches and plums, or cucumbers and lemon zest and mint in the pitcher — it’s also delicious. For cocktail time, we’re adding watermelon juice for a pink hue, or muddling some fresh blackberries or raspberries, or making a mango puree in the blender and adding a dollop of that.”

If you’re looking for recipes to help you cool down this summer, try her Chia Lemonade or Herb Spring Water (“I call it the anti-soda,” she says). If you’re looking to add some seasonal flavors to your favorite adult beverage, try Reinhold’s Strawberry-Infused Vodka or Basilrita, a basil-based twist on the classic summer cocktail.

Let No Food Go Ungrilled

When it comes to summer grilling, burgers, steaks and hot dogs are always great. But Reinhold also encourages people to think beyond the usual standbys.

“I want to encourage people to grill interesting things in the summer time,” she says. “For example, have you ever grilled bok choy? It’s fantastic that way — so flavorful and tender, and somehow sweeter. Also, try cutting a fresh pineapple into round slices (leave the skin on) and grill that! Try grilled peach halves. Try grilling romaine lettuce for your Caesar salad. And go ahead and grill bread for the croutons, too!”

Contribute a Smashing Side

When it comes to attending a summer feast, rather than throwing one, the same question pops into everyone’s mind: “What should I bring?” “Honestly, many people are intimidated when asked to bring food, and it causes them stress,” says Reinhold. “I think they should make something easy and offer it proudly. It doesn’t have to be fancy.”

One option Reinhold offers is an easy two-ingredient appetizer that involves no cooking: Dates Stuffed with Chile Chevre. “Sweet, sticky, tangy, spicy, earthy, easy, delicious!” Reinhold says of the dish. “I could make dinner out of that and some bread and wine.”

She also suggests Flowerpot Crudités, Hummus with Caramelized Onions and Portobello Mushrooms, and Prosciutto Goat Cheese Rolls with Fig Preserves and Arugula. (Of that last dish, Reinhold warns, “It will just bowl everyone over. You might have to assign someone to guard the platter.”)

Beat the Heat with Cold Dishes

Too hot to grill? Reinhold notes that well-conceived salads can be the perfect main course for lunch or dinner. “Perhaps my biggest wowser of a salad is this Amazing Smoked Trout Arugula Salad with Grapes and Blueberries,” she says. “It has complex flavors from the bitter arugula, smoky fish, sweet fruit, herby cheese and lemony dressing.” She also recommends her Vegan Mango Chickpea Kale Farro Salad and Lemony Garbanzo Kale Salad with Tuna.

Sweeten Up Your Summer

Is it really a summer meal without something cold and sweet to cap things off?

“Popsicles, homemade ice cream and sorbet are big attractions,” Reinhold says. “These are perennially popular. But home cooks are getting very inventive and adding herbs and savory ingredients to the sweet, for more complex flavor profiles.”

So what’s her personal favorite? “Right now it’s my Fresh Blackberry Elderflower Sorbet,” she says. “It has a splash of the divine St. Germain Liqueur, which gives it a subtle floral background.”

Another mouthwatering option from her kitchen: Avocado Lemon Grass Ice Cream. “It’s creamy, sweet, lemony and is soft green in color, with a texture like a chewy gelato.”

What are your favorite things to eat during the summer? How do you get the best value when planning your summer menu ?