The Weight is Over: Summertime, When the Eating is Easy

Praise spring! Gone are winter’s high-calorie comfort foods. Not that I ate them, but I’m glad their temptation is behind me, and by behind me, I mean far away, not on me.

When it comes to healthy food, here in the north state, spring and summer are our best friends. Fruits and vegetables are plentiful. Some of us have gardens and fruit trees. Others are happy to shop at farmers markets, or are lucky enough to know people who are nice enough to share their bounty.

This is the time of year when it’s easier to eat healthy and to stay “on program”.

The other day, as my Align workout buddies and I were indisposed doing 3-minute hamstring stretches and wall sits, someone brought up the topic of summer cooking. Most of us have had issues with food (notice how I used the past tense), so we’re all food experts.

Today I share some simple recipes that were discussed during our workout. The great thing is, these are delicious and also healthy. I recommend making enough for leftovers during the week. It helps break up the monotony of all those salads. I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section, too. Thanks in advance.

Back to the recipes. Someone at Align mentioned grilled or roasted cauliflower steaks, and how delicious they were, all golden with slightly crunchy edges. I’ve never tried them, but they sound wonderful. I did a search online and found many recipes for grilled/roasted cauliflower “steaks” – as well as many comments about what did and didn’t work.

Each cauliflower will yield about two "steaks" and lots of little florets.

Each cauliflower will yield about two “steaks” and lots of little florets.

For one thing, I read many complaints about the fact that most cauliflowers will only produce about two solid “steaks” with a lot of little lose florets left over. So I guess the solution is buy a couple of cauliflowers, unless you’re OK with just two slabs. And you can still have the roasted little florets, which are delicious. (If you want, you can turn those florets into mashed cauliflower. See recipe, below.)

Second, you can either grill the cauliflower on your barbecue, or you can roast the steaks in your oven. On the grill, it’s recommended you have either a grill mat, a foil tray with little holes or one of those barbecue baskets beneath the cauliflower so the florets don’t fall through the grate.

Third, most of the grilled cauliflower recipes just say to slice away and then grill, but I suggest you par boil or steam your cauliflower for a few minutes and then slice the “steaks” after the cauliflower has cooled. It’s easier to cut and it makes the steaks more tender, which means you don’t have to cook them as long. The flavoring options are limited only by your imagination. Teriyaki would be good, so would a chipotle or Sriracha sauce.

Grilled Cauliflower

Whole cauliflower head, parboiled for two minutes, then cooled
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, and/or any of your favorite seasonings

Sprinkle cauliflower slices on both sides with olive oil and seasonings. (I hate to say this, but some people also do a light sprinkle of brown sugar with delicious results, but it’s up to you.)

If using a barbecue, cook cauliflower on the grill until char marks appear, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the cauliflower from the direct heat and either cook indirect in the barbecue or oven for about 10 – 20 minutes, or until tender. If roasting in the oven, place the steaks on an oiled cookie sheet at about 400 degrees, until golden brown and fork-tender.

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

(This recipe suggestion comes from my workout buddy Erin Lundgren, who swears this tastes nearly just like mashed potatoes. )

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets and steamed until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes (retain water)
1 clove finely diced garlic (I like to smear it with salt on a cutting board and use the side of knife blade – like a putty knife – until it’s a paste)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Saute garlic in olive oil in a small frying pan until it’s softened but not browned. Remove from heat and place in a food processor.

Add the florets to the garlic in the food processor and blend with a few tablespoons of the retained steaming water. (Not too much. You can always add more if the mixture is too thick later.) Add the Parmesan cheese and seasonings. (Some people, on their quest to make this dish even more creamy, might add a little butter, cream, sour cream or even cream cheese at this point. It’s up to you. I won’t judge.)

Homemade Cooked Spaghetti Squash Pasta with Marinara Sauce

Homemade Cooked Spaghetti Squash Pasta with Marinara Sauce

Mock Spaghetti

Erin said that the way he makes mock spaghetti from spaghetti squash is to cut the squash in half, scoop out all the seeds, put the two cut sides on an oiled baking sheet and bake it until it’s fork tender. Then you top it with your favorite healthy pasta sauce, and there you have it, mock spaghetti.

But I found a video online that uses a crock pot, which is pretty cool, too. Check it out. Either way, you may be able to convince yourself you’re eating pasta.

These recipes should tide us over for a while, until we move onto salads. OK, now it’s your turn. What are your favorite healthy summer recipes?

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate, Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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