Here we are in the midst of summer, yet with physical distancing 100% still in the mix, open house gatherings are not quite the same. Especially when there is no open house option😔. But, it is still summer and the heat is on. Going for the grill can be one of easiest and tastiest ways to cook almost anything. Barbecuing is a perfect way to blend summer sunshine, tasty meals, refreshing beverages, family and friends — just not too much of any of it.

There is something wonderfully evocative about the smell of grilled food, often bringing a sensation of a more relaxing, informal meal. Grilling an array of creations from sizzling veggies, chicken, fish, seafood, meat, to all sorts of burgers can bring a simplistic approach to healthy eating — and perhaps the spark we all need right now in the kitchen. Trying to stay creative when our cooking brains are a bit fried can be challenging — if you are completely over cooking right now, skip to ordering in tips below☎️.

Let’s light it up🔥 while keeping a sense of balance in your meal planning. Aim for 50% veggies, 25% lean protein and 25% whole grains, no matter the amount of heat. I repeat this ratio quite a bit, as it is the key for enjoying all foods. How each of us creates this balance for ourselves is completely individualized, since you have to find the best food options that satisfy you, your mind and your body.

These recipes are simple to prepare, quick to cook, yet an exciting assortment of flavors. This could be one night’s summer cookout menu or part of your menu for any night of the week.

SUMMER FLING
Cocktail hour is first. This fresh cocktail will take the edge off of your appetite for dinner, with some tangy hydration. Any calorie-free seltzer will do.

INGREDIENTS
1 shot vodka + 1/2 shot vanilla vodka
6 ounces grapefruit seltzer water
1 lime, sliced in half

PREPARATION
Fill shaker halfway with ice cubes. Add vodkas, seltzer and fresh juice from 1/2 of lime. Cover and shake well. Pour into cocktail glass. Add a few ice cubes and slice of fresh lime for garnish. Sip. Relax. Makes 1 serving.

CURRIED CHICKEN SKEWERS
These can be served as the main dish or as an appetizer. Prepping and marinating overnight in the refrigerator will maximize the flavors, but if you just have an hour or two, that will surely work here as well. Any favorite, on-hand combination of veggies is fabulous, but don’t skip the apricot sprinkle (unless you really do not like them) for a unique zing and flavor combination.

INGREDIENTS
Marinade:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
6 ounces plain Greek yogurt, low fat or fat free
Skewers:
1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, cut into cubes
3 ounces dried apricot halves, chopped and set aside
2 bell peppers (1 yellow, 1 orange), seeded and cut into squares
2 zucchini, washed, sliced into 1/4 inch circles
1 Vidalia onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves (or herb of choice), chopped

PREPARATION
Combine the oil, spices and yogurt in a large bowl and mix well. Add chicken to bowl and mix well. Cover and chill for a few hours or overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat grill to medium. Thread the chicken onto skewers, alternating with the peppers, zucchini and onions. Place skewers on grill and turn frequently for about 8–10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and veggies are slightly charred. Place on serving platter and sprinkle with apricots and cilantro.

NUTTY COUSCOUS
This dish compliments the curried chicken skewers. It can also be served as a stand alone dish~just add some chicken or tofu or tempeh and/or nuts for some protein. You can easily have a quick lunch, or a simple yet tasty weeknight dinner.

INGREDIENTS
1 14-ounce can vegetable broth, low sodium
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 1/2 cups whole wheat couscous
2 Tablespoons walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup sliced green onions
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

PREPARATION
Combine vegetable broth, water and curry powder in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in couscous, cover and remove from heat. Let stand for at least 5 minutes. Stir in walnuts, onions, salt and pepper. Fluff with fork and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Photo by Zukhra Galiullina on Unsplash

RASPBERRY-BLACKBERRY-LEMON PARFAIT
Sometimes we are just looking for dessert. This no-cook berry dessert can be made with fresh or frozen raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, or a combination of whatever fruit you have on hand. Mini chips go a longer way than regular size chips, so you get chocolate in every bite.

INGREDIENTS
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries and blackberries
2 (8-ounce) cartons low-fat lemon yogurt
2 Tablespoons mini chocolate chips

PREPARATION
Layer berries and yogurt evenly into 4 parfait glasses, beginning and ending with berries, topped with 1/2 tablespoon of chips on each serving. Makes 4 servings.

Seriously, I just want to order in tonight!

Go for it! Ordering in can surely be healthy and a wonderful way to skip cooking for a night, just keep a few tips in mind ~

*In general when reading the menu: Choose: Grilled, baked, broiled and steamed. Be mindful: breaded, crispy, fried, in a cream sauce; and if you see “sautéed” ask to use little to no oil.

*When ordering pizza: Add: any and all veggies, pineapple, grilled chicken. Be mindful: pepperoni, sausage, extra cheese. You can try the cauliflower crust, but often it is the same (sometimes more) calories, and still includes some flour. If looking for gluten-free, be sure to inquire.

  • ALWAYS order a large salad to go with it — include a protein on top, to help satisfy your appetite. If ordering a Caesar salad, order the dressing on the side, possibly skip the croutons. If ordering any other type of salad, also order the dressing on the side; request oil and vinegar as well (vinegar is virtually calorie-free, so a great addition to any salad; be more mindful of how much oil, as it is 45 calories per teaspoon). Add fresh or dried herbs, lemon juice and flavored vinegars to enhance your salad flavors, without increasing calories.

*When ordering Italian entrees: Choose: Marsala, Cacciatore, Grilled offerings. Be mindful: Parmigiana, scampi, fried offerings.

*When ordering pasta dishes: Choose: Red sauces (marinara, tomato sauce). Be mindful: Extra bread/garlic bread on the side, creamy sauces (Alfredo, rosa).

*When ordering Mexican food: Soft-shell tacos with the fixings on the side. Include: lots of salsa, veggies, and greens. Be mindful: how much sour cream and guacamole; substitute low fat Greek yogurt for sour cream, if you have in stock.

*When ordering sandwiches: Choose: Half sandwich with half salad or clear-broth soup; share a sandwich and salad or other veggie dish. Go with whole grain wraps or breads, or lettuce wraps, when available; grilled, roasted or barbecued chicken, turkey, ham (lean, low sodium), hummus, pulled chicken, pulled pork, tempeh. Be mindful: large submarine and kaiser rolls; fatty red meats, like roast beef, corned beef; mayo-based pre-made tuna and chicken salad; chicken cutlet; mayo or other special creamy sauce

*Healthy Additions ~ to add to any order:

— Clear broth soups with lots of veggies
— Greens with light dressings, vinegars, herbs and spices
— Grilled or roasted non-starchy veggies (broccoli, eggplant, spinach, green beans, cauliflower, etc)
— Edamame — always a fun one!
— Pickles — just be mindful of the high sodium content
— Fresh fruit — whether an official fruit salad or platter, or just apple slices

*Less Healthy Additions ~ to skip…most of the time:

— French Fries
— Chips
— Breads on the side
— Cookies, cakes, sweets

*Condiments to keep on hand…add some kickin’ spice or flavor:

— Buffalo sauce
— Salsa
— Sriracha
— Lemon Juice
— Balsamic Vinegar
— Basil, oregano, garlic, pepper
— Soy sauce (low sodium)

Smell the sea and feel the sky. Let your soul and spirit fly. ~ Van Morrison

For comments, thoughts, requests or anything else you feel the need to share, please do: amysmargulies@gmail.com

A nutrition expert and middle child, I am writing to promote health and wellbeing, recipes and tips in a relatable, slightly rebellious fashion.

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