Most kebabs come in the form of meat, chicken, or shrimp skewered on bamboo sticks; sometimes a few grilled vegetables are thrown into the mix to break up the monotony of color. But how often do you see a skewer devoted completely to vegetables? And raw vegetables, at that? Salad on a stick is a fun, colorful way to eat your vegetables–and it’s perfect for the upcoming barbecue season!
6 small romaine bunches-3 bell peppers, red and yellow, cut into 1 inch squares
1 cucumber, cut into rounds
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup kalamata olives
Whole wheat ciabatta, toasted, torn into 1 inch squares
1/4 cup Pesto
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1. Thread vegetables, olives and bread onto skewers
2. Mix pesto with olive oil and lemon juice; drizzle over skewers
3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
Why Should You Eat This?
The USDA recommends that you eat 2 1/2 to 4 cups of veggies per day, depending on your age, gender, and activity level (calculate your needs here). But many Americans fall short on this recommendation. Whether you’re not meeting these recommendations because you’re getting tired of the same old spinach salad or you tend to fill up on packaged foods, salad skewers are a fun and novel way of eating vegetables. They’re a perfect side to your summer picnic or barbecue, but they’re also a great on-the-go snack–just grab a skewer and head out the door.
How do you ensure that your Meatless Monday-inspired salad — without chicken or salmon, of course — provides enough protein to rebuild tired muscles? Add two protein-rich vegetarian (and in this case, vegan) foods: hummus and quinoa. The refreshing flavors from tabbouleh and the creamy taste of hummus combine for a truly flavorful meal — with no need for extra salad dressings.
1 cup quinoa
Pinch of salt
2 cups chopped parsley
½ – 1 cup chopped mint
1 ½ cups chopped seedless cucumber
½ – 1 cup chopped tomato
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice, or more to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil, optional
1. Rinse the quinoa to remove any saponin, which can make it taste bitter. Add quinoa and two cups of water to a saucepan; bring to a boil. Add salt; reduce heat and cover for about 15 minutes.
2. Turn off heat; let quinoa stand for about 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Let cool.
3. Add quinoa, parsley, mint, cucumber, and tomato to a mixing bowl; mix until combined.
4. Add olive oil and lemon juice, plus salt and pepper to taste. Chill until serving.
5. Toss mixed greens with olive oil, if using. Top with tabbouleh and hummus.
Why Should You Eat This?
Going meatless – even if it’s just once a week — has major health and environmental payoffs (it can reduce your saturated fat intake by 15%, enough to reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke, cancer, and obesity; in terms of the environment, it greatly reduces our carbon footprint).
By replacing the typical bulgur used in traditional tabbouleh recipes with quinoa, the protein content is boosted dramatically: quinoa contains 8 grams per serving, compared to bulgur’s 4 grams. Quinoa also contains more copper, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, zinc, and iron; it’s also gluten-free. (But don’t discount bulgur: it contains about half the calories of quinoa, cup for cup, and boasts more fiber).
What quinoa lacks in fiber, hummus makes up for: chickpeas are rich in slow-digesting complex carbohydrates that help maintain steady blood sugar levels, reduce hunger, and promote satiety. And even with its rich, creamy taste, almost all of the fat it contains come from healthy sources, like olive oil and tahini, that provide omega-3 fatty acids.
For a variety of reasons (more serotonin-producing sunlight, hot weather, days filled with summer activities), we naturally crave ligher fare in the summer. This watermelon-jicama salad fits the bill – it’s crisp, refreshing, and nutrient-packed.
½ large watermelon, chopped, rinds removed
1 jicama, peeled and chopped
1 cup mint, cut into thin ribbons
1 tsp olive oil (optional)
Combine watermelon and jicama cubes in a large bowl. Sprinkle mint on top. Squeeze lime juice over top. Toss; serve immediately or refrigerate.
Why Should You Eat This?
Watermelon contains more lycopene than tomatoes – and it’s just as bioavailable. In a study from the Phytonutrients Laboratory, researchers measured plasma concentrations of lycopene from a watermelon juice diet and from a tomato juice diet. Even though the tomato juice had been treated with heat (thus making its lycopene more bioavailable), plasma concentrations of lycopene were similar. Lycopene is especially important in the summer: as an antioxidant, it neutralizes the harmful, DNA-damanging and aging effects of UV light. To boost the lycopene bioavailability, add a teaspoon of olive oil.
Jicama, also know as Mexican turnip or yambean, is rich in satiating fiber (one whole jicama has 32 grams of fiber), potassium, and vitamin C. Mint also packs a powerful nutritional punch: it’s rich in vatmin A, C, B12, folic acid, potassium, iron, calcium, and zinc. Mint also acts similarly to carinogen-fighting rosemary; in a study published in Food Chemistry, researchers found that its antioxidants reduced carcinogenic activity in radiation-processed meat. In addition to this salad, sprinkle it on chicken, lamb, and steaks for a flavor and nutrition boost.
This recipe is quickly becoming one of my family’s favorite meals. It’s quick, it’s stealthily light, and it’s packed with fresh spinach and two kinds of tomatoes. With the amount of spinach I use, it could even be considered a spinach salad with pasta on top, but it’ll still please the carb-lovers in your family.
It’s not necessary to slow-roast the tomatoes, but I think it brings out their flavor better. If you’re short on time, you can simply throw them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.
A lot of fresh spinach
8-10 roma tomatoes
⅓ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
Whole-grain pasta; enough to serve 4 (bowtie, cavatappi, and fusili work well)
A couple bunches fresh basil
Chicken or another form of protein
Dried oregano, dried basil, kosher salt, and pepper
Prepare the tomatoes: cut each tomato in sixths and line them up on a baking sheet. Sprinkle liberally with dried oregano, dried basil, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven at 225 degrees for about 3 hours – but keep an eye on them! Although it looks like a lot of tomatoes, they reduce considerably in size when they roast, which is why I start with a lot. The tomatoes are the “marshmallows of Lucky Charms” in this recipe, so you really can’t make too many.
Cook the pasta according to package directions.Place the fresh spinach in a large bowl; top with cooked pasta and allow to wilt. Cover the pasta with the sun-dried tomatoes (you’ll also get some more olive oil from these) and the slow-roasted tomatoes; top with basil, olive oil, and fresh parmesan.
Depending on what protein you choose (we usually do chicken sausage), top pasta with protein.
Why should you eat this?
Don’t skip the olive oil in this dish: not only does it provide heart-healthy fats, but it makes the nutrients from both the spinach and the tomatoes more bioavailable. The nutrients in these plants, like lycopene and vitamin A, are fat-soluble – meaning they need to be eaten along with fats in order to be absorbed. Lycopene’s bioavailability is also increased when it’s cooked (and both types of tomatoes in this dish are heated) – your body can absorb three to four times the amount of lycopene when cooked rather than eaten raw – so this dish is an outstanding source of skin-saving lycopene. Balanced with lean protein and whole grains, this one-dish meal fits the bill for a well-rounded, tasty dinner.