Healthful, easy summer grilling

By Marcia Kyle | May 16, 2009

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer and a great time to eat light using more fresh foods and grilled entrées. Better yet, how about the entire meal made on the grill?

Start with chicken, fish or lean meats. For a quick meal try out my Traditional Barbecue Sauce on boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Grill a few extra breasts, slice in thin strips and toss into a salad of fresh greens for tomorrow's lunch or light dinner. While the meat is cooking, save space on the grill for the all-in-one potato, pepper, onion and garlic Foil-Wrapped Veggies.

For a grand presentation try marinated Chicken Shish Kabob. Skewer fresh mushrooms, zucchini and eggplant with cubed chicken breasts. Serve on top of a bed of rice and you have your complete meal.

Fish is the easiest of all entrées to prepare. Grilled salmon fillets are my favorite and need little preparation – just a little lemon. Lean poultry, fish or meat can stick, so spray the grill with a nonstick vegetable product before cooking.

Selecting lean meat means less marbling and less fat, but also less tenderness. This drawback can be easily fixed by tenderizing meat before grilling or roasting. Mechanical grinding is a common way to tenderize – it's what makes burgers made from beef or poultry so popular – but grinding can distribute bacteria on the surface of the meat throughout the patty. Another way to tenderize while helping to avoid food-borne illness is with marinade. Try basting lean meats, fish or chicken with Red Wine Marinade or low-calorie salad dressings to help lock in moisture.

Never eat raw or undercooked meat products.

Grilled burgers can be perfectly safe as long as they are thoroughly cooked – check to be sure the centers are not pink and the juices show no pink color. The best way to make sure meat is cooked is by using a meat thermometer. Invest in a good quality instant-read thermometer. For a hamburger, insert it from the side to the center. Ground beef needs to be cooked to medium (160 degrees).

Insert the thermometer about halfway into steaks and roasts, being careful not to touch bone. Steaks and roasts are safe at medium rare (145 degrees) because the bacteria that cause food-borne illness, if present, will be only on the surface and are quickly killed. Pork chops or roasts also need an internal temperature of 160 degrees, and chicken or turkey is safe at 180 degrees. When grilling meats, always remember to use a clean plate for serving the cooked meat.

Traditional Barbecue Sauce (fat-free)

1 cup catsup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup finely chopped onion or 1 tablespoon minced onion
3 minced garlic cloves or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
Several dashes bottled hot pepper sauce

In a saucepan combine water, onion and garlic, and simmer until onion is clear in color. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Brush on beef, pork or poultry during the last 10 to 20 minutes of grilling or roasting. Makes 1¾ cups of sauce.

Nutrition facts per tablespoon: 13 cal., 0 g total fat, 0 mg chol., 4 g carb., 0 g pro. Daily values: 1% vit. A, 4% vit C.

Foil-Wrapped Veggies
Serves four

4 medium potatoes, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves
Olive oil (to reduce fat, oils can be put in a specialty bottle made to lightly mist on oil)
1/4 teaspoon basil
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Spray heavy-duty aluminum foil or double sheets of regular grade foil with olive oil. Layer onion, potato, green pepper and garlic cloves on foil. Sprinkle with basil and pepper, and mist or drizzle with olive oil. Seal veggies by wrapping foil around layered veggies and fold each end. Place on grill and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. Carefully open sealed foil to let steam escape.

Red Wine Marinade (low-fat)
Use to tenderize lean cuts of meat like brisket, flank steak, round steak.

1/2 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup chopped onion (1 small)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme, rosemary or marjoram, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

1. Trim fat from meat. Place meat in a plastic zipper bag set in a shallow pan. For marinade, stir together all the ingredients. Pour over meat. Seal bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for one hour or up to six hours, turning bag occasionally.
2. Drain steaks, reserving marinade. Grill steaks on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals, turning once and brushing with remaining marinade. Discard any remaining marinade.

Chicken Shish Kabob
Serves four

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 large mushrooms
2 small zucchini
8 (1 1/2-inch) cubes eggplant, unpeeled
1 recipe Red Wine Marinade or salad dressing

Cut each chicken breast into eight equal cubes. Using four skewers, thread chicken, mushrooms, zucchini and eggplant in equal portions. Place kabobs in baking dish. Pour marinade (previous recipe) over kabobs. Marinate for 30 minutes, turning occasionally. Grill over hot coals 12 to 15 minutes, turning often. Using a long-tined fork, push cooked food off skewers to serve.

Nutrition facts: 259 cal., 10 g fat, 73 mg. chol, 30 g. pro.

For dessert, what could be easier than fresh strawberries served with a bowl of low-fat strawberry yogurt for dipping. So get grilling and start eating light!
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