Getting Veggies on the Grill

I hope everyone’s July 3rd parties were a blast, despite the lack of fireworks. (See what I did there?)

Last month, I wrote about my pie-in-the-sky, dietitian-approved menu, AND WE ACTUALLY SERVED IT!  My husband grilled chicken with our favorite (not low sugar but incredibly convenient) Sweet Baby Ray’s barbeque sauce, while I whipped up my favorite kale salad and a flag cake.  Partygoers provided watermelon slices and fruit-juice popsicles, and we had plenty of other goodies to round out the meal. 

There are still plenty of warm weekends left of summer, so keep the grill fried up.  And don’t be afraid to try something new; hot dogs and hamburgers aren’t the only things that can go on the barbie.

Obviously, steak and chicken come to mind, both of which are leaner than burgers and dogs.  Other fancy options include cedar-plank salmon and shrimp on skewers, guaranteed to take your party up a notch.  Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your brain, lowering inflammation and triglycerides in your blood.

But what about our vegetarian and vegan friends?  Are they resigned to the bean dip while everyone else enjoys delicious grilled meat?  Heavens no!

Just about anything can be cooked on the grill, and grilled vegetables are absolutely delicious.  Main dish options with protein include tofu, which can be purchased ‘firm’ to hold up to grilling.  Try it with barbeque sauce!  Veggie burgers, purchased or homemade, are typically made with black beans or chickpeas and provide an option akin to a traditional burger.

Lots of vegetables stand up well to the grill, including cauliflower, Portobello mushroom caps and corn.  Try roasting the cauliflower whole, or slicing into thick ‘steaks’ seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Mushrooms mix well with balsamic vinegar and could serve as ‘buns’ for a veggie burger or the ‘burger’ itself.  Spread butter, salt and pepper on ears of corn and wrap in foil, then place on the grill for about 15 minutes—you won’t go back to boiling again!

Consider serving a ‘baked potato bar,’ either as your main course or a side item.  Wrap spuds in foil with a little olive oil and salt, and grill until done, about 45 minutes.  Provide toppings such as plain yogurt (instead of sour cream), shredded cheese, salsa, chives, and crumbled bacon (for meat-eaters). 

One of our favorite recipes for the grill is as easy as it gets.  Chop sweet potatoes into chunks, slice green onions into one-inch sections and mix with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and fresh thyme.  Wrap it all up into a foil packet and grill for 25 minutes.  It’s the perfect side dish!

Lastly, don’t forget that almost anything can be grilled!  A grill basket helps, which allows chopped veggies to come in contact with the flame but stay contained.  My neighbor is a vegetarian, and I tell you what—the smells coming from their grill are delightful.  Peppers, onions, eggplant, and zucchini…dress with a little olive oil or balsamic vinaigrette and you’re in business.  It’s a perfect side to throw on the grill while you’re cooking the rest of dinner.

Next month: More grilling!  This time, SWEETS!

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