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Burgers are commonplace at any summertime picnic or barbeque.  And, while the typical beef burger is tasty, I’ve got some equally delicious choices that are lower in fat and calories (an extra bonus!).

 

The most popular alternative to a beef burger is ground turkey.  These Greek Turkey Burgers are a savory option that contain a mix of Greek yogurt, fresh lemon, minced garlic, dried dill, sun dried tomatoes, chopped red onion, frozen spinach, crumbled feta cheese and dried oregano.  Top the burgers with sliced cucumber and sliced red onion for extra flavor.

Turkey Burger w sides
Photo courtesy of Budget Bytes

 

Veggie burgers are also a popular alternative.  These are often made with a combination of grains and beans.  The first option is this Black Bean Veggie Burger.  It’s incredibly simple to prepare as it uses canned black beans, chopped bell pepper, chopped onion, garlic and some seasonings.  Total time (including prep and cook time) is 20 minutes, making these ideal for a busy weeknight–I’m thinking a perfect Meatless Monday meal.

Black-Bean-Burgers-2
Photo courtesy of Dine & Dish

 

The second “veggie burger” option is this recipe for Quinoa Burgers with Roasted Red Pepper Relish.  These burgers are really interesting and packed with protein (from the quinoa).  They are made from a mixture of quinoa, garlic, carrot, onion, celery, baby arugula, canned cannellini beans, as well as spices.  The burgers are then topped with a delicious relish made from roasted red peppers, parsley, onion, fresh lemon juice and ground cumin.  A wonderful combination of flavors and textures in every bite!

quinoa burgers
Photo courtesy of Saveur

 

Portobello mushrooms are known for their meaty texture and make a great substitute for ground beef.  They are ideal for grilling, making them perfect candidates for a meatless burger.  Grilled Portobello and Peach Burgers use these mushrooms and another summer favorite–peaches–in this recipe, to make a sweet-savory flavor explosion you’ll love.  You’ll marinate the mushrooms and peaches before grilling and prepare a fresh guacamole that will cover the bun halves.  Pea sprouts, spring onion and tomatoes top the mushrooms and peaches after grilling.

Portobello_burger
Photo courtesy of Green Kitchen Stories

 

Give these healthy burger recipes a go at your next cookout this summer and if you have any of your own favorite recipes, share them with us via the comment section below.  I’ll return next week with a look at another summer veggie–eggplant, along with some delicious recipes.

 

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As the temperatures rise, I often look for ways to keep my house cool and that means using my stove and oven as little as possible.  Grilling is always a terrific alternative, but another option is to avoid cooking your food altogether.  No, I’m not talking about take-out.  No-cook summer meals are both filling and perfect for those intensely hot summer days.

 

Let’s start with something really simple like a basic Cobb Salad.  Use chopped romaine lettuce as your base and diced summer tomatoes.  Add some sliced avocado and chopped rotisserie chicken that you get from your local supermarket.  A traditional Cobb salad also includes hard boiled egg and chopped bacon–you can find these items at your local grocery store’s salad bar, I know mine has whole hard boiled eggs there or also sells them in the dairy section.  I make my own balsamic vinaigrette dressing by combining equal parts of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey.  It’s got a delicious tangy, yet sweet flavor that can’t be beat.

cobb salad
Photo courtesy of Spark People

 

This Tuna and White Bean Salad is a heartier option, packed with protein.  This recipe is really simple, containing tuna, beans, red onion, bell pepper, olive oil and lemon juice.  Be sure to let the mix refrigerate for at least 4 hours for the flavors to blend before serving.

tuna bean salad
Photo courtesy of Spark People

 

Spicy Asian Slaw Summer Rolls not only keep your kitchen cool, they are a delicious way to get your family to eat their veggies.  These spring rolls are packed with shredded carrots, green onions, bell pepper, radicchio, bok choy and baby spinach.  A spicy dressing made with sriracha sauce is perfect for dipping.

spicey asian slaw summer rolls
Photo courtesy of The View from Great Island

 

If you love Mexican, you’ll love these Mango Habanero Black Bean Tacos.  Simple to prepare and requires no cooking, these tacos use canned black beans, red onion, bell pepper, avocado, mango and habanero peppers (or mango-habanero jam).

mango habanero black bean tacos
Photo courtesy of Love and Lemons

 

Enjoy and I hope these recipes help you stay cool this summer.  I’ll be back next week with some ideas to help you build a better burger.

 

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Different regions of the country are known for various foods and flavors that the locals feast on.  For example, I live outside Philadelphia and the region is known for the “Philly Cheesesteak.”  Similarly, if you travel to the southern states, you’ll find a multitude of culinary delights, especially during the summer months when produce is readily available.  Of course, this produce plentiful across the nation right now, so it’s easy to try one of these southern favorites for your next gathering or summer supper.

 

Cucumbers and tomatoes are common back yard garden items and as they come to harvest, you can find yourself with too much of this delicious produce on your hands.  Instead of preparing your usual green salad, try this Cucumber, Tomato and Onion Salad.  It’s light and perfect as a side for dinner and is great to take along for a cookout.  And added bonus is your can throw this salad together in 15 minutes.

cucumber tomato onion salad
Photo courtesy of The Food Network

 

Okra is an especially popular veggie in the south and is quite nutritious.  It’s an excellent source of Vitamin C, as well as a good source of folate, magnesium and fiber.  Okra can be prepared many ways and goes really well with stewed tomatoes, but one of the most common ways to enjoy it is by frying.  Since frying okra adds unnecessary calories and fat to this low calorie and fat-free veggie, I’ve found a recipe for Crunchy Baked Okra that provides the flavor without the guilt.  The okra pieces are coated with cornmeal and panko breadcrumbs, plus a little bit of parmesan cheese to boost the flavor.  Just pop them into your 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

crunchy-baked-okra
Photo courtesy of Sing for Your Supper

 

Tomato pies are a traditional southern dish.  Again, when your tomato plants are at their peak of production, this is a wonderful way to use the fresh, right-off-the-vine fruit.  Tomato Pie with Basil and Gruyere Cheese is a beautiful adaptation of the traditional dish.  Gruyere (or Swiss if you prefer) and parmesan cheeses are blended with fresh thyme, basil, Vidalia onion and the tomatoes.  This recipe also has you make your own crust (you can always buy a store bought version if you choose).  This would make a terrific Meatless Monday entrée–just pair it with a green salad and some sliced, fresh summer fruit for a delicious supper.

Tomato-Pie-with-Basil-and-Gruyere-Cheese-6
Photo courtesy of Southern Boy Dishes

 

I hope you’ll try these flavors from the south this season and I’ll be back next week with some recipes designed to keep you away from your stove during those hot days.

 

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Many Americans suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) and part of treating this disease is a low-sodium diet.  Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of watching how much extra sodium you’re adding to your food.  However, if you’re used to adding a fair amount of salt to your meals, this can be quite a shock to your palate.  The good news is there are plenty of ways to add flavor to your food without breaking out the salt shaker.

 

herbs
Photo courtesy of How Stuff Works

 

Herbs

Herbs are ideal for adding flavor to your favorite dishes.  They come in fresh or dried form and each have their own unique flavor.  In fact, many people enjoy growing their own herbs in a small herb garden outside their home.  Since it doesn’t require much space you can even use pots and do it on your deck or porch.  Some common herbs used in everyday cooking are:

  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Cilantro
  • Tarragon
  • Sage
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Mint
  • Coriander

Jalapenos
Jalapeno Peppers

 

Turn Up the Heat

Adding a little spice to your dishes increases the flavor.  Try adding some minced hot peppers like a jalapeno, Serrano chili pepper or habanero chili pepper.  Just be careful of how many you add as these peppers can be quite potent.

 

bulb veggies
Photo courtesy of Epicurious.com

 

Flavorful Additions

Certain vegetables naturally add flavor to your meals.  These are commonly known as bulb vegetables.  Members of this family include onions, garlic, leeks and shallots.  Sautéed, roasted, grilled or boiled, these veggies will always add an extra zip to your meal.

 

lemons
Photo courtesy of zsazsabellegio

 

Citrus Fruit

Lemons and limes are wonderful as a substitute for salt in your meals.  They are commonly used in vinaigrettes and their zest is used in many recipes.  In addition, it’s simple to squeeze a slice of lemon or lime over fish or chicken for even more flavor.  Michael Marks, Your Produce Man, has some great tips for using their juice in drinks or main meals in this quick video.

 

I hope this has given you some helpful ideas for passing on the salt shaker.  Remember, it’s all about adding different flavors and textures to your plate to make it more interesting.  I’ll be back next week with some delicious recipes that are Southern favorites.

 

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With the start of June we celebrate National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month.  It’s perfect timing as the growing season is in full swing and there is an abundance of fresh produce available locally.  The goal of National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month is to increase daily consumption of fresh produce.

 

Nutrition is Key

nutritionfacts_magnif2

Fruit and vegetables provide a list of valuable nutrients your body needs including calcium, fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, Vitamin A and Vitamin C.  Fruits and Veggies–More Matters even has a list of which fruit and veggies are good sources for these specific nutrients.

 

Storing Fresh Produce

There is a simple rule of thumb that can be applied to all fruit and veggies–FIFO.  That is First In, First Out.  Of course, when it comes to fresh produce, you must be diligent as these fruit and vegetables will spoil faster than those that are frozen, canned or dried.  In addition, some fruit and veggies should be stored at room temperature (tomatoes, bananas, melons), while others should be kept in your refrigerator (grapes, broccoli, lettuce).  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has a detailed storage sheet for fresh fruit and veggies as well as tips for cleaning fresh produce.

 

Adding more fruit and vegetables to your diet is easy right now with all the fresh selection at your local supermarket, roadside stand or farmer’s market.  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has added two new healthy plate selections that go perfectly with the season, one as a lunch entrée and the second as a meatless dinner option.

 

Take these California Avocado Super Summer Wraps with you on your next picnic or beach outing.  They’re portable and a delicious, new twist on your usual chicken salad recipe.  You’ll love the addition of fresh blueberries and chopped, fresh arugula!

avocado wrap

 

Searching for something new to fix for your Meatless Monday entrée?  These Rainbow Bell Pepper Boats with Garbanzo Beans and Kale are filling and flavorful.  Peppers are coming into season and plentiful during summer so take advantage of them and their sweet flavor right now.  This recipe stuffs them with a blend of brown rice, garbanzo beans, chopped kale and walnuts, which makes for a variety of tastes and textures.

Stuffed Peppers

 

Need more reasons to add fresh fruit and veggies to your day?  Check out these Top 10 from Fruits & Veggies–More Matters.  I’ll be back next week with some ideas to spice up your meals naturally.

 

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