Ah, summer. Rocking on the porch swing, lazing by the pool, sipping lemonade….sound familiar? It doesn’t? Not to me, either!
Nope, my summer is spent frantically running between work and play, desperately trying to keep everyone cool, fed and entertained. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complaint. My summer is jam packed with mini adventures, boating, and the sea breeze to keep us cool. Unfortunately, it also ends up packed with junk food. Consequently, my shorts end up packed with me. Ugh.
Why is it that the hottest months of the year – the ones in which we are wearing the least – are the ones we end up eating the most? For the picnics, parties and vacations we need ice cream, fried chicken (I live in the South!) and beer. I don’t eat like this the rest of the year, why now? Because everything is a special occasion. That’s my justification and I’m sticking to it. Or rather, it’s sticking to me.
I’m definitely in once-in-a-while denial. In the summer, my special occasions happen all too often. Fried chicken on the boat isn’t a big deal if it’s really once-in-a-while. But we use the boat every weekend. That means fried chicken every weekend. And all the “grab food” that goes with it – potato chips, carby corn on the cob, high calorie drinks, boiled peanuts (again, I live in the South!). You get the idea. Your “special occasion” food might be a bit different than mine, but I bet it follows the same lines. With summer comes socializing and with socializing comes eating. It’s the American way!
In our house, I’m the CFO – Chief Food Officer. Therefore, it’s my job to plan ahead and make sure that everyone is fed. Coming up with easy and healthy take-along “grab food” is tough, especially when we’re always in a hurry. I’ve devised a couple tips that I may not always follow, but I try to make the norm. This way, the special occasions really are special and my pants still fit.
The next time you grill chicken (boneless, skinless breasts, of course!), make extra. The next day, slice it up and take it with you. No need to reheat – cold grilled chicken is delicious, easy to eat, full of healthy protein and NOT FRIED.
Stick to the veggie tray like white on rice (basmati rice, of course – as low as brown rice on the glycemic index!). Heading to a party? Not sure if there will be a veggie tray? Bring one. Summer party hosts often request that their guests bring a dish, so I always volunteer for the veggie tray. That way, I don’t have to worry about what I’ll fill up on.
There’s no scarcity of fresh produce around this time of year, so use that to your advantage. Instead of filling your beach bag with chips and cheese puffs, opt for cut up fruits. Trust me, the kids will devour those cherries, grapes and hunks of watermelon and you won’t have to feel the least bit of guilt.
Pot luck? Sunday dinner at your house? Try this recipe. It’s comfort food at its best, but with a secret ingredient that makes this version guilt-free. With only 195 calories in ¾-cup (that’s a big helping!), this version has a fraction of the fat and calories you’ll find in most traditional recipes. Enjoy!
The Svelte Gourmet Macaroni & Cheese Serves 8 7 oz elbow or shell pasta (NOT whole wheat) 4 cups cauliflower florets, roughly chopped 1 1/2 cups lowfat (2%) shredded sharp cheddar or cheese blend 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan 2/3 cup 2% milk (skim would make the fat and calories even lower!) 1 egg 1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp butter, melted 2 tbsp panko bread crumbs butter spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain well. Steam cauliflower florets until very soft, drain well. Let pasta and cauliflower cool a bit while you prepare the other ingredients. Shred the cheese if it’s not pre-shredded. Beat the milk, egg and salt together in a small bowl. Mix the melted butter with the panko in another bowl.
Mash the cauliflower with a potato masher, a whisk, or whatever you have handy. Mix it with the pasta until well combined, being careful not to break up the noodles. Take a pinch of each of the cheeses and toss them with the panko/butter. Set aside. Combine the rest of the cheese with the pasta and cauliflower. Spray the bottom and sides of your casserole dish lightly with spray butter, then spread the mixture evenly in your casserole dish. Pour the milk/egg/salt mixture over the top. With your mixing spoon, carefully stir and fold until the milk mixture is combined with the pasta/cauliflower. Sprinkle with the panko/butter/cheese mixture and bake, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes or until the top just starts to brown. Voila!
Thanks for reading and enjoy your summer! For more healthy tips and tricks or to purchase The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook, visit www.thesveltegourmet.blogspot.com.