10-Minute Costco Salad Hacks

Flavorful, satisfying Greek pasta salad comes together in 10 minutes with simple ingredients from Costco.

I love summer parties and barbecues with my favorite people and some of my favorite foods – grilled burgers and chicken, smoked baby back ribs, and tons of yummy salad. This past 4th of July we were blessed to attend not one but two holiday barbecues – one with my family and one with my husband’s. I wanted to contribute a dish to both parties, but on such a busy day, there’s no time for fussy cooking. Those are days when I turn to recipes I call “Costco hacks,” dishes I can pull together in a few minutes with simple ingredients from my favorite warehouse store. With a little creativity, you can dress up drab pre-made salads and make them truly party-worthy.

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Southwest Salad with Quinoa and Black Beans

There aren’t many foods I dislike, but I don’t really like quinoa. There, I said it. I know quinoa is trendy and good for you, but I just have never liked the taste of it. Until now. Recently, I was at a food blogger event, and one of the lunch selections was this amazing Southwest salad with black beans, quinoa, queso fresco, and fresh vegetables. With this recipe, I’ve found a way to eat quinoa that I really love.

This salad is substantial, super tasty, and vegetarian. I serve it with a cilantro lime vinaigrette, and even kids will eat it. I love how healthy it is, and how easy it is to make.

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Homemade Sweet Chili Sauce

Homemade sweet chili sauce is sweet, spicy, and simple - perfect on chicken, shrimp, rice, or egg rolls.

Homemade sweet chili sauce: it’s sweet, spicy, simple, and delicious on pretty much anything. I’ve been buying sweet chili sauce for years, and I always wondered if I could make it better myself. I tried a few different methods, some more successful than others, and finally landed on this one as my favorite. I like this method because the consistency is great; not too syrupy or too watery. 

Sweet, spicy, and simple - this sauce is perfect on chicken, shrimp, rice, or egg rolls.

If you’ve never tried sweet chili sauce before, you are really missing out. My favorite way to eat it as a dipping sauce for veggie spring rolls. But it’s great on chicken, shrimp, salmon, rice, or almost anything. Today I was so excited to eat it that I mixed it in with some quinoa and ate it as a snack.

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Chipotle Lime Honey Vinaigrette

Chipotle Lime and Honey Vinaigrette tastes great with salads, grilled chicken, shrimp or fish.

During the past week we’ve celebrated a high school graduation, bought season passes to the water park, and fired up the grill at least three times. I guess you could say summer is underway! I love the tastes of summer, especially tangy citrus flavors like lime and lemon. I developed this recipe for Chipotle Lime Honey Vinaigrette to go with my Chipotle Lime Chicken Kabobs, but it goes great with any kind of salad, grilled fish or shrimp.

There are so many flavor directions you can go with a basic vinaigrette, but this combination of chipotle, lime and honey is one of my favorites. This dressing is tart, sweet and spicy without being overpowering. It’s fresher and less expensive than bottled dressing.

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Chipotle Lime Crema

Chipotle Lime Crema adds creamy, spicy, citrusy goodness to tacos, burritos, enchiladas, grilled meats and more.

I love sour cream on all types of Mexican food – its creamy coolness tames the heat from chiles and adds richness and tang to tacos, burritos, nachos, tamales, and lots of other dishes. Sour cream also makes an excellent base for a flavorful sauce, like this Chipotle Lime Crema.

I developed this recipe as a dipping sauce for my Chipotle Lime Chicken Kabobs, but it also tastes great with Allie’s Black Bean Tacos, Cilantro Lime Shredded Chicken or just about any of our Mexican or Southwest recipes. It’s actually a faux crema – true Mexican crema is made with heavy cream and buttermilk, not sour cream. This sauce only takes about five minutes to make, and you can serve it with fish, shrimp, chicken, pork, beef, beans or vegetables.

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Raspberry Lemon Cupcakes

Lemon cupcakes filled with raspberry jam and topped with raspberry buttercream - a perfect summertime dessert!

For the past few weeks we’ve had some pretty rainy weather in Utah, but it’s finally starting to feel like summer. This weekend I wanted to celebrate by making a summery dessert so I whipped up some raspberry lemon cupcakes. Lemon cake always reminds me of summer, I had a delicious pack of fresh raspberries, and a jar of home-made raspberry jam from my mom so it was the perfect combination. 

Lemon cupcakes filled with raspberry jam and topped with raspberry buttercream - a perfect summertime dessert!

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Chipotle Lime Chicken Kabobs

Grill up some chipotle lime chicken kabobs for an easy, low-calorie meal that's high in protein.

It’s almost June, so I guess summer is here! I love summer foods, especially grilling. I eat a lot more hamburgers, hot dogs and potato salad than is good for me during the summer, but grilled chicken is one summer food you don’t have to feel guilty about. I love these Chipotle Lime Chicken Kabobs because they’re delicious, high in protein and low in calories, and because all foods are more fun when you serve them on a stick! Making meat, vegetables or fruit into kabobs just makes the food seem a little more fancy.

This recipe for Chipotle Lime Chicken Kabobs takes only about half an hour to make, but you do need to allow time to let the chicken marinate for anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight. The kabobs are moderately spicy, so they’re popular with both kids and adults.

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Homemade Ranch Dressing and Seasoning Mix

Homemade ranch dressing and seasoning mix is simple to make and tastes better than the commercial packets.

 

I’ll confess I’ve never been the biggest fan of ranch dressing – at least the store bought kind. If a recipe called for ranch dressing or a packet of ranch seasoning, I used to just skip it. Once I started making homemade ranch seasoning and dressing mix, my attitude changed. The homemade version is super-easy and tastes much better than commercial packets.

It takes less than five minutes to make homemade ranch dressing mix or seasoning mix, so I make both, one to use for salad dressing and another to use for chicken, vegetables or other recipes. Both mixes are made with staple ingredients you might already have in the pantry, but the dressing mix includes a secret ingredient, powdered buttermilk, that makes it extra convenient. 

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Sparkling Limeade (Regular or Low-Calorie)

This sparkling limeade made with sugar or low calorie sweetener is simple and refreshing.

I have a HUGE bag of limes in the pantry. Sometimes I take a risk and buy limes or lemons in bulk at Costco, just because the price is so great. But then, I have to figure out how to use them! Fortunately, this simple, refreshing sparkling limeade recipe came to mind. I’ve made it lots of times, especially for parties, and it’s super easy but still impressive enough to feel special.

This limeade requires making a simple syrup, which is the secret ingredient for all kinds of fresh, fruity drinks. Simple syrup is just equal parts sugar and water, heated on the stove so the sugar dissolves completely. For this limeade, I decided to use Lite&Sweet sweetener instead of sugar. Lite&Sweet is a blend of xylitol and erythritol, two plant-based sweeteners, and it measures and cooks just like sugar. If you prefer, you can make this limeade using sugar or a different low-calorie sweetener.

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Better-Than-Olive-Garden Copycat Italian Dressing

Better-Than-Olive-Garden Copycat Dressing is easy to make and tastes even better than the real thing.

Ranch is the most popular salad dressing in the United States, but at our house Italian salad dressing is a lot more popular. It’s probably because my husband’s family is half Italian (on his mother’s side), and they love to celebrate their Italian roots. Early in my marriage, I learned that the secret to my mother-in-law’s wonderful “homemade” salad dressing was Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix, and I’ve been using it ever since. It’s pretty good made according to the package directions, but I think it can be improved on just a little bit. It’s the basis for this Better-Than-Olive-Garden Copycat Italian Dressing recipe.

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