Hands up if you love summer. Hands up if you love barbeques. Hands up if you want to enjoy barbeques all summer long and still look good in your skinny jeans come fall. I thought so. Let’s face it: barbeque meals are delicious, and nothing says summer more than the grill. It’s also SO easy to splurge/go overboard with calorie-packed drinks, meats, sides, salads and desserts. BUT, it is also SO easy to make a totally healthy, guilt-free spread that you (and your guests) will enjoy. My friends, I give you Exhibit A: The Family Father’s Day BBQ – prepared by yours truly and enjoyed by all. Here’s how to do it.
1. Start things off on the right foot. Our family was coming from an AMAZING concert (a local a capella choir with a guest quartet…both AWESOME!) and I knew everyone would want to munch as soon as they arrived at the house. I prepared HG’s Caramelized Onion Dip and served it with assorted baked chips. I also had PC Blue Menu Tzatziki and veggies for dipping. Let me tell you, those veggies and chips were gone fast! Everyone enjoyed it all, and yet it was a starter that didn’t weigh me down. One of my classic strategies when I’m at a party with dippers and dip (whether I’ve made it myself or someone else has) is to go heavy on the veggies, light on the chips. I try to take most of my dunks with the high-fibre, low calorie veggies, and limit myself to only a few chips (even if they’re baked, the veggies will always be healthier).
2. Lean on lean meat. Sure. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts may seem like the go-to choice for a healthy BBQ. And while they’re great, the breasts can get old after a while, do you agree? Pork tenderloin is another amazing choice, and I believe a serving is even slightly lower in calories than the chicken! And since you’re flipping one large piece of meat instead of a bunch of smaller pieces, I find tenderloin easy for entertaining. For Sunday’s gathering, I cooked 5 tenderloins (there were only 10 of us, but it’s SO great leftover) in 2 different ways.
The first was my own creation: a lemon-herb marinated tenderloin. All you do is put your tenderloin(s) in a large ziploc bag with fresh chopped herbs (I use sage, thyme and rosemary), lemon juice (fresh or bottled), fat-free Italian dressing, salt and pepper. Let marinate in the fridge for a couple hours.
The other 3 tenderloins got the Bobby Flay treatment: his DELICIOUS garlic mustard glaze that I found on one of my favourite blogs, Smitten Kitchen, a couple years back. I’ve only ever tried this glaze on pork tenderloin, but I’m sure it would be great on any number of grilled meats (even those boring old breasts).
Garlic Mustard Glaze
From Bobby Flay via Smitten Kitchen
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons Spanish paprika (I just used the smoked stuff I had in my drawer)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl, cover, and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours before using.
Even after using this on 3 large tenderloins, I still had extra. I just brushed this on the meat immediately before grilling, and basted with a bit more during cook time.
FYI, I cook my tenderloins by preheating the grill to high heat, getting a nice sear on each side, then reducing the heat and cooking for about 10-15 more minutes (depends on size and how well you like your meat done).
3. Pick Smart Sides. Don’t drag that lean meat down with traditional mayo-packed salads. I love pasta salad, and I make it much healthier by packing it with loads of veggies, using fat-free Italian dressing instead of oil or mayo, using whole wheat pasta, and boosting the flavour with chopped fresh herbs. Instead of the usual mayo-heavy coleslaw, I made a Hungry Girl recipe for Hawaiian slaw – complete with pineapple and ham! And to round things off, I made what is a classic in our family – asparagus salad with tomatoes, feta, fresh herbs and my mom’s red wine vinaigrette.
4. Don’t desert dessert.
Since it was father’s day, I had to make date squares (my grandpa’s favourite). And while you can rationalize and tell yourself they’re healthy (after all, think of all that fibre from the dates and oats, right?), I know how much butter is in there (I made them after all), and though they may be delicious, I wouldn’t quite count them as healthy. So, I took advantage of the local strawberries, bought some other non-local (yet tasty) fruit (raspberries, watermelon, pineapple, cherries) and created a couple of light and tasty dips.
The first dip is a bit of a Hilary classic – and with 2 ingredients, it can be a classic for you too. All you do is mix one fat-free sugar-free refrigerated Jell-o chocolate pudding cup with some fat-free Cool Whip. This stuff is light, fluffy, and most importantly, CHOCOLATE! Good for any fruit (or cookies. or cake. or….) any time.
The second dip was lime – nice and summer-y. I love anything citrus-y, especially lime, in the summer. The base is actually quite similar to the frosting I made for last week’s rhubarb cake. I mixed together fat-free cream cheese and Greek yogurt with a bit of Splenda, then added Cool Whip. But instead of vanilla extract, I added the zest of one lime, and the juice of half of a lime (you may want to use the juice of the whole thing, it all depends on how juicy your lime is). And you’ll need a bit more Splenda to counteract the acidity of the lime.
Both dips complemented the fruit well, and made it so tasty that I actually ate a bit too much! But it’s only fruit, right? So it can’t be that bad!
All in all, it was a great summer BBQ without the guilt! Better still? Great leftovers! For lunch on Monday, I had some of the leftover slaw, some of the onion dip and veggies, leftover fruit and then a cheese string and some yogurt. And the pork tenderloin found its way into a nice lunch time salad, along with some berries and lime dip.
How do you keep your summer barbequing healthy?