Healthy Summer Recipes: Part 1, (2015)

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Every I reach out to healthy chefs, healthy cookbook authors and culinary institutions to provide healthy using summer’s best offerings. The recipes need to be low calorie, whole ingredients, and little or no unnecessary sugar and fat.

Backyard Burger BBQ (includes Grilled Chili Burgers and Apple Spinach Salad)

Healthy Recipe from Diabetes Meals by the Plate by Diabetic Living Editors (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)

Grilled Chili Burgers

Serves 6 (1 burger, 2 pita quarters, and 2 tablespoons topping each)

1 recipe Chimichurri Topping (below)
1 pound 95% lean ground beef
8 ounces lean ground pork
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 2 teaspoon onion powder
1 4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 8 teaspoon salt
3 whole wheat pita bread rounds, quartered and toasted
3 4 cup bottled roasted red sweet peppers, drained and cut into strips

Prepare the Chimichurri Topping and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the beef, pork, chili powder, onion powder, cumin, and salt. Mix well. Shape into six 1 2-inch-thick patties.

For a charcoal grill, place patties on the grill rack directly over medium coals. Grill uncovered, turning once halfway through the time, for 10 to 13 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the side of each patty registers 160°F. For a gas grill, preheat and reduce the heat to medium. Place patties on the grill rack, cover, and grill as directed above.

Place a grilled patty on top of two of the pita quarters on each of six serving plates. Top with roasted pepper strips and Chimichurri Topping.

Chimichurri Topping: In a small bowl, combine 1 2 cup finely snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, 1 2 cup finely snipped fresh cilantro, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, minced, 1 4 teaspoon salt, 1 4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 8 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

Nutritional Information (per serving): 306 calories; 13 g total fat (4 g sat. fat); 73 mg cholesterol; 390 mg sodium; 21 g carbohydrates (4 g fiber, 0g sugars); 27g protein

Apple Spinach Salad

Serves 6 (1 cup each)

6 cups fresh baby spinach
1 large green-skinned apple, such as Granny Smith, cored and sliced
1 2 cup thin wedges red onion
3 tablespoons snipped dried tart red cherries
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white or regular balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme or 1 4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1 2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese or blue cheese

In a large bowl, toss together the spinach, apple, onion, and cherries. In a screw-top jar, combine the olive oil, vinegar, thyme, mustard, and salt. Cover and shake well. Drizzle over the salad and toss gently to coat. Divide the salad among 6 plates and top each serving with about 1 tablespoon cheese.

Nutritional information (per serving): 130 calories; 7g total fat (3g sat. fat); 11 mg cholesterol; 244 mg sodium; 14 g carbohydrates (3g fiber, 9g sugars); 4g protein

Meal Total (per serving): 435 calories; 20 g total fat (7 g sat. fat); 84 mg cholesterol; 633 mg sodium; 35g carbohydrates (6g fiber, 9g sugars); 30g protein

Cheeseburger Lettuce Wraps

Healthy Recipe from: Dashing Dish: 100 Simple and Delicious Recipes for Clean Eating by Katie Farrell ( (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

Serves 6 (1/2 cup filling for each lettuce wrap)

1 1/4 pounds extra-extra-lean ground turkey (or extra-lean ground beef)
1 medium white onion, diced
3 tablespoons low-sugar ketchup, plus more for wrap
2 tablespoons prepared mustard, plus more for wrap
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons light mayonnaise (or plain nonfat Greek yogurt), optional
1 teaspoon sweetener that measures like sugar, optional
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, optional
1 head of lettuce
1 medium tomato, diced, optional
2 dill pickles, diced, optional

Cook the ground turkey and diced onions in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Stir and break up the turkey while it is cooking. When the turkey is almost cooked through, add the ketchup, mustard, seasoned salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the pan. Add the mayonnaise and sweetener if desired. (The mayo will add moisture to the meat.) Stir and continue to cook until the ground turkey is completely cooked, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle grated Cheddar cheese evenly over the meat while it is still warm if desired.

Cut off the stem (or base) of the lettuce and cut the head in half lengthwise. Peel off individual leaves, wash and pat dry. Scoop 1/2 cup of filling into each lettuce wrap and serve with sliced tomato, pickles, ketchup, and mustard if desired.

Notes from author: These Cheeseburger Lettuce Wraps scream comfort food without the grease that comes along with the typical cheeseburger. The cheeseburger meat filling has a delicious combination of flavors from the sweet ketchup, salty mustard, and Cheddar cheese. This is a melt-in-your-mouth juicy burger that will make it hard to believe how light and fresh these lettuce wraps actually are. The best part about this recipe is that it is very kid friendly while being extremely healthy. This recipe is proof that healthy eating can be fun and delicious!

Nutritional information (per serving): 60 calories; 2 grams fat; 1.5 grams carbohydrates; 0.5 grams fiber; 0.5 grams sugar; 8 grams protein

The “Emily Burger”

Healthy Recipe from Hot & Hip Grilling Secrets: A Fresh Look at Cooking with Fire by Bonnie Matthews (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015)

Serves 4 to 5

This recipe was inspired by my friend Emily Duke’s recipe for her vegan wheat berry burger.

3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 carrot, grated
3/4 cup frozen spinach, thawed, strained, and chopped (or about 1 1/2 cups fresh, chopped)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, plus additional as needed
2 cups fully cooked lentils (look for Melissa’s Produce fully cooked lentils in the produce department)
1 1/2 cups quinoa, fully cooked (or look for fully cooked black barley, red quinoa and brown rice in the freezer case)
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds + 2 tablespoons water
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 3 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 3 cup arrowroot powder (or corn starch)
1 cup raw or roasted walnuts, chopped
Fresh cracked pepper and Himalayan pink salt to taste
A few shakes of cayenne pepper

Optional accompaniments: Ketchup or Vegenaise mixed with Old Bay Seasoning, , bibb lettuce, sliced tomato, sweet or purple onion

In a skillet, combine the onion, garlic, carrot, spinach and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Stir and cook over medium heat until the veggies are tender.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked vegetables with the remaining ingredients and stir together. If the mixture is too dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

To prepare and grill the burgers: Preheat a gas grill on high with lid closed; or, if using a charcoal grill, prepare for direct heat cooking over hot charcoal. If you are using a gas grill, reduce the heat to medium-high. Carefully coat the grill surface with cooking spray, spraying at an angle.

While the grill is heating up, carefully form 4-ounce patties (about the size of your palm). You should have 4 to 5 patties. Keep your hands wet while working so they don’t stick. Brush or spray cooking oil on both sides of each burger and place directly on the grill. Cook about 4 to 5 minutes per side. If desired, serve on a bed of bibb lettuce, with ketchup or Vegenaise mixed with a little Old Bay seasoning, a tomato slice, and sweet or purple onion.

Notes: You can also use canned lentils, rinsed, drained, and patted dry. For a non-vegan version of this same recipe, substitute grated Parmesan cheese for the nutritional yeast.

Photo:  Copyright © 2014 by Meredith Corporation, Des Moines, IA. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

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