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Every summer, grilling inspires gatherings. It can also provide healthy eating for a group if you swap burgers and dogs for lighter meats and veggies accompanied by tempting, well-chosen sides. Here are a few of my favorite backyard menus — on Fiesta, Mediterranean and Greek themes — whether you're firing things up for your family or that group of friends you're eager to entertain again.
1. The Fiesta Feast
What to Serve:
- Margarita Chicken (See Recipe)
- Soft Corn Tortillas
- Your Favorite Light Slaw
- Fresh Salsa or Pico De Gallo
- Fresh Cilantro
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I'm a big margarita fan — in moderation, of course — so I thought I'd infuse a bit of my love for those flavors into this delicious chicken dish. It's a great one for parties, since you can eliminate day-off mess by marinating the chicken ahead. Doing so gives you that fresh burst of orange and lime flavor while keeping the dish extra light.
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon tequila
- 1 teaspoon freshly minced garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoons seeded, freshly minced jalapeño
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 (4-ounce) trimmed, boneless, skinless chicken breasts (preferably free range)
- Lime slices, for garnish
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the orange juice, lime juice, olive oil, tequila, garlic, jalapeño, chili powder and salt until well combined.
Add the chicken to a large resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken. Seal the bag and press any air from it. Then massage the marinade around the chicken breasts to make sure they're completely coated. Refrigerate the bag for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Preheat a grill to high heat.
When hot, place the chicken breasts side by side on the grill (if using a charcoal grill, place the breasts away from direct flame; if using a gas grill, turn the heat to medium after the chicken has been placed on the grill). Discard any remaining marinade. Grill the breasts until no longer pink inside, about 3-5 minutes per side. Garnish with lime slices. Enjoy immediately.
Makes 6 (1 chicken breast) serving: 150 calories, 3g fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 65mg cholesterol, 170mg sodium, 305mg potassium, 1g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 1g sugars, 26g protein, 225mg phosphorus
Recipe compliments of Devin Alexander from You Can Have It! copyright 2018, American Diabetes Association. www.devinalexander.com for more.
2. Greek God(ess) Feast
What to serve:
- Lamb Kebabs (See Recipe)
- Vegetarian Dolma (rice stuffed grape leaves, available in cans at stores like Trader Joe's, Whole Foods or in the deli case of other grocery chains) or brown rice if you want to go even leaner and lower sodium
- Whole Wheat Pita Triangles or Lavash
- Cucumber Slices
- Baba Gannouj
- Greek Salad
- Olives (go light if you have high blood pressure as they are very high in sodium)
- Red Wine
In case you've never heard of sumac, it's a tangy spice made from the blossoms of the Rhus plant. The flowers are dried and ground into a deep reddish/purple powder that is commonly used throughout the Middle East. I find it has a lemony, almost salty flavor. I love using it in marinades for various meats — as we do here for some tasty lamb kebobs — or just sprinkled over hummus or a Greek salad. It's very inexpensive, and I can usually find it in the ethnic foods aisle at my local grocery store. If you don't see it there, you can easily order it online. I urge you to try it, since it's so inexpensive and imparts such a great, unique flavor to Middle Eastern recipes.
- 2/3 cup fat free plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic, divided
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sumac, divided
- 1 teaspoon + 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound trimmed top round lamb, cut into 16 large cubes (about 2-inch x 2-inch each)
- 20 cherry tomatoes
- 20 sweet onion squares, about 1-1/2 inches
- 4 (at least 12-inch) wooden skewers, soaked in water at least 30 minutes, or metal skewers
In a medium bowl, stir together the yogurt, garlic, vinegar, sumac, 1 teaspoon olive oil and salt until well combined. Add the lamb to a large resealable freezer bag. Pour the marinade over the meat. Marinate for 24 hours.
Preheat a grill to high.
Add the tomatoes, onion squares, remaining olive oil, garlic and sumac to a medium mixing bowl. Toss until combined.
Thread a tomato, piece of onion, piece of lamb, tomato, onion, lamb, tomato, onion, lamb, tomato, onion, lamb, tomato, then onion onto one skewer. Repeat with the remaining skewers, veggies and lamb until you have 4 kebabs. Grill for 45 seconds to 1 minute and 15 seconds per face for medium rare. Serve immediately, or transfer to a warmer to keep warm until serving.
Makes 4 servings. Each (1 skewer) serving has 222 calories, 27g protein, 10g carbohydrates (5g sugar), 9g fat, 3g saturated fat, 71mg cholesterol, 2g fiber, 492mg sodium
Reprinted from: The Biggest Loser Flavors of the World Cookbook by Devin Alexander (c) 2011 by Universal Studios Licensing LLLP. The Biggest Loser (TM ) and NBC Studios Inc., and Reveille LLC. Permission granted by Rodale Inc. www.devinalexander.com
3. Japanese Grill
What to Serve:
- Yakitori Beef Skewers (See Recipe)
- Grilled Shishito Peppers or Grilled Veggie Skewers
- Steamed brown rice
- Chili Garlic Sauce (if you're like me and love to add kick to your Asian dishes)
Yakitori Beef Skewers
The literal translation of yakitori is “grilled bird", so you'll often see this Japanese dish made from various parts of chicken (thighs, breast, livers and even skin), though many Japanese American versions of yakitori are made with other types of meat besides chicken. I like using ground beef — shaped into tiny patties that you skewer — because it's so easy (no trimming required), and I can mix up the beef mixture in advance and grill off the skewers when I'm ready to serve them.