Summer is the perfect season for salads—and not just because fresh vegetables are abundant and in season. Salads are ideal for picnics, barbecues and impromptu beach parties. The non-lettuce varieties of salad can be made in advance and will last several days in the fridge.

Here are three salad-based meals that are popular with kids and packed full of vegetables. They are also fairly quick to prepare—especially if you get some young helpers to do the chopping while you put everything together. I recommend making double batches so that you have plenty of leftovers. These are the sorts of salads that improve with time.

Mexi Bean Salad
(Total prep time: 15 minutes)

This salad is a cross between a bean salad and a really hearty salsa. You can serve it straight up, as a dip for corn chips or as a filling for a wrap. If you are making it in advance, I recommend leaving out the avocado or adding it right before serving because it will go brown quickly. Otherwise, the flavour of this salad will only improve over time, making it picnic-perfect.

1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can cannellini beans
1 large red bell pepper
6 spring onions
4 roma tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp salt, to taste
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika (or chili powder if you like a bit of heat)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper, to taste
2 avocados
1/4 cup cilantro

1. Drain and rinse each of the cans of beans and place together in a large bowl.
2. Chop the red pepper, spring onions and tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and add to the beans.
3. Add the oil, vinegar, lemon juice and spices to the beans. Toss everything to coat. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed.
4. The flavour will be best if the salad is chilled for 3-4 hours before serving.
5. Right before serving, add chopped avocado and cilantro.

Taco Salad
(Prep time, in addition to the salad above: 10 minutes)

My children LOVE taco salad. It is a great way to feed them lots of fresh veggies because they always have seconds! This salad builds on the Mexi Bean Salad (above) so make a double batch of the bean salad and serve it both ways.

Salad Dressing:
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp dry mustard (or 1 tsp Dijon mustard)
1/4 cup oil
2 tbsp white vinegar
A pinch of salt
A dash of hot sauce (if you like the heat)

Salad:
1/2 batch of Mexi bean salad (see above)
1 small head of lettuce
1/4 cup grated cheese
1/3 bag of corn chips.

1. Mix the salad dressing and place it in a salad bowl with 1/2 of the Mexi Bean Salad (save the other half for a picnic lunch!). Add the avocado and cilantro right to the salad bowl as well.
2. Wash and rip up the lettuce.
3. Toss the salad.
4. Crunch the corn chips so that they are bite-sized pieces. This is a perfect job for kids—they love crushing corn chips.
5. Top the salad with grated cheese and crunched corn chips, then serve immediately.

Hot Dog Pasta Salad
(Total Time: 20 minutes)

This salad tastes sort of like a BLT salad, but the bacon is replaced by chunks of hot dogs. However, if you are planning on serving this salad to young children, switch the hot dogs for bacon to avoid a chocking hazard.
Try this salad as a follow up meal after a barbecue. Barbecued hot dogs are more flavourful than boiled ones, so cook a few extras with this salad in mind.

Salad:
1 package of pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 coloured pepper
6 green onions
4 roma tomatoes
1 cup of mozzarella
5 cooked hot dogs
handful of freshly minced basil

Salad Dressing:
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of cider vinegar
1 tsp of lemon juice
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt & pepper, to taste

1. Boil the pasta until cooked. Drain and toss with the olive oil, then set aside to cool.
2. Mix all of the salad dressing ingredients together to make a simple Italian dressing. Or if you already have a bottle of Italian dressing in your fridge, then add 1 cup to a large salad bowl.
3. Dice the pepper, tomatoes and spring onions. Mix them into the salad dressing to marinade.
4. When the pasta has cooled, add it to the vegetables.
5. Cut the mozzarella into cubes and chop the hot dogs into small pieces. Add them to the salad bowl.
6. Toss everything together. Taste and adjust salt as needed. If you are using store-bought salad dressing you may need to add quite a bit of salt.

Emillie Parrish loves having adventures with her two busy children. She lives in Victoria and is the author of the fermentation-based blog fermentingforfoodies.com.