It’s officially SUMMATIME!!!! Also known as my favourite season of the year.
Even though summer solstice was last week, interestingly, it really hasn’t felt super summery here in LA yet! For the past week or so, I’ve walked to the gym in the morning with a misty-like drizzle falling from the sky. It’s definitely not what I expected upon moving here, and had I known it was going to be like this, I probably would have tossed some warmer clothes into the suitcase of clothes that’s lasting me until my full shipment from Vancouver arrives!
With that said, the good news is that there’s heaps of sunshine in the forecast. To me, summer is synonymous with grilling and eating al fresco. Sadly my Vancouver apartment didn’t have a balcony or shared barbecues, but I was lucky to land in a building here that has both. This weekend I loaded up on grillable veggies at the market, so I fully intend to cook dinner tonight on the grill. (Hopefully I remember how!)
On that note, Canada Day and 4th of July are coming up, and no matter what side of the border you live on, you’ve got a reason to celebrate. I’m always asked for healthy recipe ideas that can be shared with a crowd, so today I’ve got 7 of them – all quinoa salads – to share with you. In true Angela fashion, they’re all heavy on the plants, full of bright colours, and great accompaniments for whatever you’re tossing on the grill.
Before we get to the recipes, I thought it might also be helpful to chat about some ways to make your summer barbecues (or cookouts, which tends to be a much more common term here in the States!) more healthy. Let’s get straight into it!
Tweak traditionally ‘heavy’ side dishes with lighter (but just as tasty) alternatives.
A lot of recipes (I’m looking at you, potato and pasta salads!) tend to be heavy on the creamy dressings and mayo – sometimes to the point where you taste a whole lot more mayo than potato! Instead, let the other ingredients in the salad stand out by swapping heavier cream-based sauces for homemade dressings, vinaigrettes and marinades. Add fresh or dried herbs and spices, and you’ll be amazed by how much more fresh and flavourful the dish tastes.
If you can’t part with creamy textures, try swapping mayo with with avocado-based mayo, tahini, and yogurt (dairy or non-dairy, depending on your dietary preferences). Kite Hill Plain Unsweetened Yogurt and Cream Cheese Spread are both almond-based, non-GMO, and free of gluten and soy. They taste amazing if you ask me, and I’d also recommend trying Yoso and Amande brands if you can’t find Kite Hill.
Skewer all the things!
From cubes of meat and seafood to just about any veggie, you can skewer so many ingredients and marinade them in tons of different ways. Simple is not boring, so even homemade balsamic vinaigrettes brushed onto your skewers is an absolutely deeeelish option. I like using skewers for veggies because it makes for easy grilling without a grilling basket (which are a pain to clean!)
Regardless of whether you’re grilling meat, seafood, veggies, fruit, or a combo of all of these, be sure to chop all the food into similar-sized pieces to avoid over and under-cooking.
When using meats and seafood, pick sustainably-sourced, high-quality cuts.
I know these may seem more pricey up front, but having really become interested in the sourcing practices behind the animal products we eat, I’m convinced that the extra price is absolutely worth it. Not only is it better for the planet to eat sustainably, but it’s better for your health too. Look for wild caught seafood, as well as meats that are free of antibiotics and hormones. This prevents our immune and endocrine systems from being thrown out of whack, and makes a big difference (for the better) in the taste and texture of your food as well.
Of course, even if you’re a meat or seafood eater, remember to make this part more of an accessory on your plate while making plants the foundation. This will help keep your costs in check, and you’ll ensure you get a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.
Use an appropriate oil with a high smoke point.
Extra virgin olive oil is lovely, but save this liquid gold for your salads and hummus making. Healthy fats are only healthy if they’re not oxidized, and if you try to grill with extra virgin olive oil (or any other oils with low smoke points), it negates the benefits.
Instead, look for high-quality oils that have high smoke points – approximately 450F or higher are best. Avocado oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil are all good choices provided they’re organic and non-GMO. One brand I really like for high quality high-heat oils is Spectrum Organics because of their non-GMO products and high sourcing standards. You’ll also find the smoke point provided for each oil on their website which is helpful when making shopping choices.
Experiment with non-traditional toppings.
Burgers and other grilled foods are canvases for all sorts of delicious sauces and dips, and making your own is a lot of fun! I like creating salsas with fruit such as pineapple and mango, then mixing them with complimentary herbs and produce, oils, vinegars and citrus juices. Some simple ideas:
- strawberry + basil + balsamic vinegar
- pineapple + jalapeño + red onion
- mango + cucumber + cilantro + chili flakes
- cherry tomatoes + sweet corn + black beans + cumin
- roasted red peppers + basil + red onion + balsamic vinegar
Consider bun alternatives.
If you’re looking for an easy way to avoid gluten, prefer a paleo/keto diet, or just want to cut back a bit on carbohydrates, you still have heaps of options. One of the easiest swaps is greens (big leaves of chard or collards are nice and sturdy) or big lettuce leaves. There are also heaps of vegan, paleo and keto-friendly grain-free options popping up, made with blends of ingredients like coconut, almond flour, cassava flour, flax seeds, chia, dehydrated vegetables and spices. Julian Bakery, Siete, NuCo, Raw Wraps and Wrawp are all examples, and I know NuCo definitely has distribution in Canada via third party sites.
It’s hot outside, and I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where we’ve mistaken thirst for hunger. To keep your appetite under control and to avoid over-consuming food, be sure to drink fluids regularly (especially non-alcohol ones!). If you do choose to booze, remember that alcohol is a diuretic that will encourage your body to release fluids, so it’s sort of doing the opposite of hydration. Drinking water in between bevvies will help to counter-balance this, and ensure you don’t wake up with a sore head in the morning!
7 quinoa salads to round out your menu
I know it’s a bit strange to be writing a post all about grilling without sharing a bunch of grilled recipes, but there will be plenty to come now that I have a barbecue available. In the meantime, here are some healthy, totally delish quinoa salads to take to your Canada Day or 4th of July celebrations!
Tell me, what’s your favourite dish to bring to parties in the summer?