The flowers are blooming. The temperature's rising. And the smell of charcoal is in the air. It's officially grilling season -- the perfect time to fire up that commitment to a healthier life-style. While this outdoor tradition adds flavors to food, it also helps remove fat and calories.
Here are some barbecue tips:
· Seared Salads -- Take a break from ordinary lettuce, and substitute it with those favorite vegetables, such as asparagus, squash or red peppers. Serve them in a bowl as a traditional starter, or pile them high in paper cones to encourage mingling at outdoor get-togethers.
· Beef-less Burgers -- While extra-lean ground beef is always a smart favorite, why not try a patty with a punch: like salmon, tuna, chicken or turkey? Bulk up these alternatives by adding chopped vegetables or fruits, as well as low-calorie sauces or rubs. Nestle burgers onto a whole-grain bun or pita for more fiber.
· Side Pockets -- Not every side needs to be served in a dish. Put it in a pocket -- a tinfoil pocket. Tear off a 12-inch sheet of foil and fill it with sliced red potatoes, onions, herbs, and salt and pepper. Fold over the foil and seal it tightly. Cook until veggies are tender, turning at least once. Grilling in foil locks in flavors and nutrients, and makes for easy clean up.
· Sweet Endings: Swap the cakes and cookies for Mother Nature's favorite dessert -- fruit. Make a tropical treat with easily prepared fruit kabobs. Fill water-soaked skewers with chunks of bananas, pineapple and mangos, and sear over the fire. For extra flavor, lightly brush with a touch of melted butter, brown sugar, ginger and rum.
Marinated Grilled Vegetable Salad
1 lb. asparagus
1 medium red onion, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium sweet red pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium summer squash, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into 2-inch pieces
1 large zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
Snap off the tough ends of asparagus. (You can save these for future cooking purposes.)
Place the asparagus, onion, bell pepper, squash and zucchini in a large, heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag.
Combine balsamic vinegar and the next eight ingredients; pour over the vegetables in the plastic bag. Seal the bag. Shake gently to coat all the vegetables.
Marinate for at least 30 minutes, turning bag occasionally.
Prepare the grill.
Remove the vegetables from the bag, discarding the marinade. Place the vegetables in a grill basket.
Grill, uncovered, over medium-high heat (350° to 400°) for 20 minutes or until slightly charred, turning often.
Grilled Tropical-Fruit Kabobs
1/4 cup dark-brown sugar
2 Tbsps. unsalted butter
1 tsp. ginger root, finely chopped
1 oz. dark rum
1/2 medium pineapple, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 large mangoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
2 large bananas, peeled and cut into large pieces
Preheat the grill to medium-high or heat a grill pan over high heat.
Combine the sugar, butter, ginger and rum in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until well-combined, about 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.
Alternate pieces of fruit on each of eight 10-inch or 16 six-inch metal or wooden skewers. (If using wooden ones, soak in water for 20 minutes to prevent charring.)
Brush the fruit with the sugar mixture.
Place kabobs on the grill or grill pan, and cook until grill marks appear on the bottom side of the fruit, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Turn kabobs and grill until marks appear, about 1 to 2 minutes more.
Recipes come courtesy of Weight Watchers.