Healthy Sides For Summer BBQing

If you’re grilling up a nice, healthy fish dish for a summer get together (or even if you’re grilling steak or burgers) it can be a challenge to come up with tasty, healthy side dishes. This summer, I have two new favorites: Grilled Sweet Potato Fries and Broccoli Slaw.

I discovered Grilled Sweet Potato Fries on Health.com and it’s so easy and delicious that I’ve made these five times already this summer. It’s a great dish for 2-4 people: if you’re making it for a crowd, you’ll just need to budget your grill time to get a mound of fries done and turned!

The concept’s perfect for summer weather when you don’t want to heat your house with anything oven-based. Just wash and poke a few sweet potatoes, dry, and microwave on high for 6-7 minutes (more if the sweet potatoes are huge, though it’s much easier to use small-medium sweet potatoes!). Let them cool a bit, cut into wedges, and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a seasoning of choice (recipe calls for paprika; I favor Penzey’s Balti seasoning or a paprika / cumin / chili pepper blend.)  Then grill on a medium-hot grill for 3-5 minutes per side.  Not only are they fantastic, they keep in the refrigerator pretty well – toast ’em on up next day in your toaster oven for fabulous side-dish leftovers. Link to web recipe above or download this PDF of Grilled Sweet Potato Fries.

What to serve with your protein and Grilled Sweet Potato Fries? How about a tasty broccoli slaw? The title of this recipe on ‘thekitchn.com’ compelled me to take a risk on a new recipe for a friend’s BBQ: Light & Easy Broccoli Salad. If you have a food processor (or can find broccoli slaw in a store) this is a snap to make. And testament to its tastiness: everyone asked for the recipe. It’s worth reading the comments on ‘thekitchn’ website – I successfully followed several recommendations and substituted dried cranberries for the currants. And as I failed in my quest for bagged pre-shredded broccoli, the only challenge was shredding it myself in my Cuisinart; it’s not hard but took me a while to figure out which blade to use. But once I got the broccoli shredding down, this recipe was very easy and with just 1/2 cup mayonnaise, far healthier than store-bought slaw. Check it out on thekitchn site and read the reviews and/or download this PDF of Light & Easy Broccoli Salad.

BroccoliSlaw_SweetPotatoFriesHere’s a picture of both along with a sad little piece of grilled pork – but don’t the sweet potatoes and broccoli slaw look enticing?

Hope this adds some variety and fun to your healthy summer dinners!

 

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Moist Dry-Poached Chicken Breasts

Two weeks ago, things reached a new level of low when my good friend, cartoonist Chris Juneau, asked, “Do you EVER cook anymore or do you eat out every night?”  While that felt a tad unjust (Chris’ query was in reply to my dinner invitation! At a restaurant where we’d won a gift certificate at Chris’ charity fundraiser!!), in the end, she was right. I’d pretty much stopped cooking (and gained weight, but that’s another story).

And with that single snarky comment, I’d been shamed right back into the kitchen.

That week, I made my usual favorites: Baked Arctic Char with Baked Sweet Potatoes (recipes on Going Lo-Co Recipe page) and Mustard Roasted Fish (see my Mmm Mmm Mustard Roasted Fish post for info and recipe).

Then I switched things up by using salmon instead of arctic char and made them both again. Yes, that was sarcasm.  Yes arctic char and salmon taste nearly identical. Yes, at this point, my husband bought some steak and grilled it while I baked more fish.

Clearly I needed help.

So at 5:30 one evening the following week I went to a different market – one where fish is not their best offering – and peered at some nice looking chicken. The package was labeled “dry-rubbed, beer-seasoned (oxymoronic on two levels: crazy, right?) boneless chicken breast.” They looked and sounded great, so I grabbed them.

It wasn’t until I got home that I found a problem: no cooking directions. Oh, and also that’s when I remembered that I absolutely detest dry chicken breast. And here I was with what was already advertised as dry.

Sigh.

But now it was dinner time and I was hungry and it was too late to go buy some fish. I briefly considered tossing the chicken and dining out, but even I was sick of pizza. That and Chris’s wagging finger taunted me (okay, so that part wasn’t literally true, but it kind of felt that way. It doesn’t help that Chris is a great cook and gardener. If she wasn’t so smart and so very funny I’d hate her.)

So I hopped online to look for a way to make the damn chicken I’d bought – and make sure it would be easy – and tasty.  What I found was a new-to-me technique called “dry-poaching” (yes, oxymorons abound in this post). I decided to give it a whirl because of it’s oh-so appealing title: “How To Bake Chicken Breasts in the Oven: The Simplest, Easiest Method.”

And it was GOOD and EASY.

My husband and I very much enjoyed this dry-rubbed chicken which I dry-poached, served alongside some leftover sweet potato and a kale salad I’d purchased at the same market.

A PDF of the recipe is here:  Dry-Poached Chicken Recipe. Read TheKitchn recipe editor Emma Christensen’s post for excellent photos and directions.

To me, this method is easier than cutting parchment paper into heart shapes and crimping them shut which is recommended in most ‘en papillote’ method directions – which feels a fussy to me. Though that said, one en papillote recipe to try might be Rachael Ray’s Chicken In A Sack which doesn’t sound fancy or fussy at all!

Finally, one last kick in the butt – this one to myself from myself. It wasn’t until I penned this post that I remembered I have another great, easy way to make moist chicken in like 15 minutes: my countertop grill/panini maker. I’d completely forgotten about my panini maker because with my son in college now I’m not making breakfast paninis all the time (see Panini Magic for recipes.) So my panini maker is no longer on my counter and I’d totally forgotten about it.

So now I’m recommending two lo-co, home-cooked-chicken alternatives to dining out: pull out some parchment paper and try this dry-poaching recipe or grab your George Forman indoor grill and griddle up a nice chicken breast. If you toss a few sweet potatoes in the oven (they warm up well – make more for leftovers!) and pair the chicken and potatoes with some pre-made fresh kale salad (and wine) and it’s as good as dinner out.

And certainly healthier and more lo-co than most of my dining out options. Plus there’s the added benefit of no risk of snarky comments from friends!

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