For those of you rolling your eyes before you’ve made it past the first sentence, fear not. This isn’t a blog about judgement. I’m not going to sit here and tell you to eschew meat, dairy and sweets from your diet forever. I won’t even tell you to do it for a day. As shown below, I’m just not that kind of girl.
Maybe because I get it. I was raised by parents to whom bacon was practically a food group. Burgers and steaks on the bar-b was simply part of my childhood. I certainly wouldn’t have had it any other way either.
The eat-what’s-on-the-table-or-make-it-yourself mentality instilled in me as a child turned me into an adventurous foodie, and so while I understand the salivation factor of a juicy three-quarter-pounder, I also very much appreciate the value of veggies on the grill. It’s all part of a well-rounded palate. And to be honest, if you love your meat sources of protein, these vegetastic options would go wonderfully on the side. Look: It’s not so scary!
Personally, right now, I’m on a mission to keep it clean — or as clean as possible, at least. Listen, at the end of the day, I’m not Gwyneth nor do I want, plan or hope to be. GOOP is still something I have to remove from the end of my fishing pole, not the title of a cleansing food regimen I’ll be testing to take inches off my waist. I still love wine. I still love cheese. I probably won’t be removing either from my daily intake anytime in the near future.
That said, I’ve definitely explored and discovered many little tricks along the way to create nutritious meals and snacks that manage to make my mouth water nonetheless. During summer months especially, when it’s preferable to keep it light, the following five bites (and sips!) can be served at any BBQ to satisfy hunger and thirst without bringing on that dreaded warm-weather bloat.
1. Summer Veggie Kebabs
The key to creating the perfect summer veggie kebab is to be open and adventurous. Anything in the kitchen is fair game. Leave no veggie or fruit unskewered.
To start, I washed two packages of mushrooms, sliced each of the bigger boys in half, and then allowed the fungi to marinate for a few hours in the fridge in a mild blend of balsamic vinegar, fresh basil, salt, pepper, oregano and ground ginger.
After tanning on the beach for too long and taking the party (I use this term loosely; the party was just Noah and I) to the hot tub, I returned and got cracking. On each skewer, I added freshly marinated mushrooms, red onion slices, red and orange peppers, fresh tomato slices and — best of all — Georgia peaches. This last addition was a huge hit, the sugars which caramelized and offered a delicious, if not surprising, sweetness.
2. Grilled Zucchini
Easy. That’s the best way to describe summer zucchini, along with filling, delicious and tasty. To prepare, cut your zucchini in angled slices. Lay on a plate, add extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and grilled ‘em up. That’s all folks!
If possible, try to get your hands on zucchini that’s fresh from the garden. During the summer, my dad grows these bad boys in the backyard, which makes for an even more delicious treat come July.
3. Homemade Sweet Potato Cheesy Chips
I’ve been making homemade potato chips smothered in Parmesan cheese at home a lot lately, but for summer, I figured I’d make the switch to sweet potato. To cook, stab holes in the potatoes to allow air to escape in the microwave. Then, microwave for approximately 2 minutes, flip the potatoes over, and then add another 2 minutes. Once soft — but not too soft – slice thinly, and lay onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle with pepper and fresh cheese of your choice. Bake until crispy and hard, like homemade chips.
4. Raspberry/Peach Sparkling Water
This mixture served two purposes during my trip down south. For one, the water near the ocean tastes awful, and as a New Yorker, I’m especially sensitive to bad tap water. But on the other hand, this is also an incredibly simple way to spruce up any summer meal. And for those trying to cut back on snacks during these warmer months, I bet this would be a good, hydrating substitute.
Homemade sparkling water is simple to concoct. All you have to do is open up a bottle of soda water, or make some in a Soda Streamer, and crush up your favorite fruit flavors with a fork to release the sugars and infuse the liquid with just a touch of sweetness.
In Hilton Head, I began each morning with raspberry and blueberry seltzer water (best served with a view of the ocean, of course).
When we made our way down to the beach, it was on to a peach blend.
5. Steamed Artichoke
My dad and I used to watch The Little Rascals, and we have this running joke from this one time when the rascals tried eating an artichoke. As the story goes, the boys peeled away the layers and found the center — the choke — but didn’t know what to do with it. The punchline? “It may choke Artie, but it ain’t ever gonna choke me.”
I love artichokes, not only for their nostalgic value or delicious, if not neutral taste, but also because they are healthy and light. It takes time to scrape the “meat” from the leaves, and so, as a snack, they force you to enjoy each moment of the experience.
To cook, cut off the tops of the leaves and boil in water. To the water, add a bit of salt and extra virgin olive oil for natural flavor. You can serve either hot or cold, with or without a dipping sauce. For a simple, summery dipping sauce made only of the condiments in your fridge, try mixing Dijon mustard with balsamic vinegar, pepper and garlic (minced or powder).
Duh. Did you think I’d get through a whole menu of summery dishes without mentioning my all-time favorite? Fresh guacamole is hands down omg-so-much-better than store bought mole. That, and you can avoid the evil cilantro, which is inevitably added into every non-fresh variety.
For the BEST guacamole ever, here are my secret ingredients: garlic powder, fresh jalapeno (remove the seeds, please) and a healthy dose of hot sauce. Serve with chips and endive leaves for a fresh, summer twist on an old favorite.
7. Summer Sangria
I’ll call myself out here: My sangria has no sugar, vodka or simple syrups, so if you’re looking for traditional sangria with a Spanish one-two-punch, turn around. You’ll truly find my version boring.
For those of you who keep it light and simple, then I definitely invite you to try this out. All it takes is a bottle of your favorite white, rose or light red wine, a quarter-to-half a bottle of seltzer water (for hydration and bubbly), and all your favorite fruits. In mine, you’ll find kiwi, blueberries, orange (definitely add something citrusy if possible, leaving the rind on), and apples.
What are your healthy summer go-to’s?
Do you aim to add nutritious dishes or drinks to your summer BBQ’s?