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

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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 what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is 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 lives in Redding, California.
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29 Responses

  1. Avatar Karen Calanchini says:

    I love making Zoodles. Zuchinni spiralized, sautéed  in a little evoo, a sprinkle of freshape lemon juice, s & p and eat.

    Last night I made a delicious Beef and Broccoli using soy sauce, oyster  sauce, Chinese black vinegar, found at Pioneer Woman site.

    In the summer, I often make a plate of items from my garden and Farmer’s Market. I make groups of  tomatoes, cucumbers, sautéed  peppers, green beans. Place any sliced meat in the center, then drizzle all with fresh lemon vinaigrette and fresh basil.  I like to eat as much raw food as possible in summer months. Right now the fresh peas are ecxellent and I have been eating them along with cherries. Yum!

  2. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    I’ve been tempted to try the riced cauliflower at Trader Joe’s.  Should make mashing a cinch.

    Does Matthew still have possession of your scale?  How is AJ doing?

    • Yes, I’ve heard good things about the Trader Joe’s riced cauliflower.

      And, sigh, yes, Matthew still has my scale, and many others. In fact, I think Andrea Charroin is designing some art installation with the scales.

      AJ … it’s so sweet of you to ask. Her update isn’t mine to tell, so I’ll let her fill everyone in. (I love how we care about each other here.)

      • Avatar Andrea Charroin says:

        The TJ riced cauliflower is awesome.  I keep several bags in my freezer along with the TJ spiral carrots, broccoli, and brussel sprouts.  I pop that mixture on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast at 350 for about 30 minutes and boom.  done.

        Yes. I do have Doni’s scale!  I am collecting them for a fun art installation at Align.

      • A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

        I can’t believe what a warm, caring family I’ve joined at both nescafe and Align. Thanks for asking after my welfare. As for the heart, looks like we kicked it in the ribs and it’s back on track. I tried to convince the doctor that it was beating funny because it was a jazz heart and the beats were syncopated . . . . don’t think he saw the humor in that one!!

        The teeth . . . another saga . . . another time . . . .  Let’s just say that at this point I’m voting for all false teeth!!

        God willing and the creeks don’t rise and the devil doesn’t interfere . . . I’ll be back at it first thing Monday!!

        • Glad to read this – Of COURSE you would have a jazz heart. Sending good wishes your way.


        • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

          You’ve helped my heart by posting this update, AJ.  Long before three was fluoride in toothpaste, our family dentist feared that my sister and I would end up with false teeth.  Then came Crest followed by a whole host of other toothpastes with fluoride.  And now, at age 74, the dentist tells me I’m no fun because he doesn’t have any repair work to do.  I’m holding good thoughts that, along with your heart and lungs, your teeth will respond as they should.

          • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

            Hummm.  That pesky “r” was supposed to be between the two “e’s” making it “there” rather than “three.”

        • You are lovable, AJ, which makes it easy to love and care about you. I’m so glad you’re on the mend. xod

  3. Avatar Karen C says:

    Recipe for above mentioned Beef and Broccoli.  Very delicious.  I also added crushed red pepper to the cooking sauce.

    I also am in love with mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes.  I have found that processing them in the food processor after steaming, with a tad of butter, salt and pepper gives the best texture.  You could use Greek yogurt instead of butter.

  4. We love all roasted vegetables over here – Brussel sprouts, broccolini, asparagus, sweet potato, cauliflower….I will toss them with balsamic vinegar and olive oil or a mixture of honey, sriracha and lime juice, or just serve them with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. We start every dinner with a tray of fresh vegetables and garlic-yogurt dip  — it’s a great way to take the edge off the appetite and make dinnertime last a little longer.

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      How long do you roast them, Erin?

      • Yikes — I’m terrible at concrete recipes. If I’m in a hurry – 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes will cook Brussel sprouts, asparagus and tougher root veggies. Or, if I have more time, I’ll lower the temp to 350 and let things go for 45-60 minutes. I cut the pieces smaller when I want them to cook quickly. I like the vegetables a little crispy – so I play it by ear and keep an eye on things. UNLESS I get distracted on the internet — then I burn it all like a demonic sacrifice. 🙂

    • Erin, you are a well-known foodie, so I always appreciate your tips. And thanks for the reminder about the fresh vegetables/garlic yogurt dip appetizer. So smart. So healthy.

  5. Avatar Karen C says:

    Not Erin, but here is a basic recipe to start with.

    I roast a mix of white, red, and yellow, baby potatoes, with red, orange and yellow bell peppers, white and red onion wedges,  garlic, salt, pepper, dried oregano which is stunning and the colors just pop.  Very impressive to guests.  I like to  roast at about 375° to 400°.  Give it a try, all ovens are different and you will find what works best.  I love them with the charred edges.


  6. Avatar Ginny says:

    Good seeing you begin having recipes for healthy living, now.  Liked the old ones, but heck, every calorie saved is less on the hips!  ;o)



  7. Avatar Linda Gutierrez Bayless says:

    Great recipes! I will certainly try these!

  8. Avatar Barbara Stone says:

    The thing about spaghetti squash is…to me, it tastes nothing like pasta. Different texture, different taste but I LOVE it for itself! I think it would be disappointing to a pasta lover who tries it for the first time, if they are expecting a pasta substitute. Same for carob. I love carob, I (used to) love chocolate. But to me they are completely different foods. I would never say carob is a substitute for chocolate; it’s its own delicious food!

    • A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

      I totally agree, Barb . . . .I love spaghetti squash for itself, not as a substitute for pasta.


  9. Avatar Karen C says:


    Here is another recipe for stuffed tomatoes I sent to a friend of mine who has a foodie blog.  Very  healthy and delicious.


  10. Avatar K. Beck says:

    IMHO it is now officially salad season! A 400F oven when it is 100F outside simply isn’t happening in my house! Thanks for the slow cooker idea, although I don’t think it could substitute for roasted veggies. I just bought a container of roasted veggies at Holiday Market which were really good. Of course, when you buy already prepared food you can never be sure what you are eating, what kind of oil, how much salt, etc., but I was hungry at the time! And whatever they did to the veggies, it was probably better than potato chips!

    I am glad I was never a big fan of pasta! Giving it up was easy for me. But, not lasagna!

    Here is a recipe for whole roasted cauliflower, then you slice it after. No little bits to figure out what to do with later. I thought it was very good. I used the extra yogurt sauce as a raw veggie dip, but it is substantially spicy hot. I am not so much into to hot spicy food, so you might think it is just fine! I use Allepo pepper, I find it to be milder, which works for me.–roast-the-whole-damn-cauliflower.htm

    VEGETABLES, CAULIFLOWER Roasted Whole In A Marinade


  11. Avatar Karen C says:

    Taco Bowl anyone?  You could substitute the refried beans  for any dried bean of your choice and season as you wish.  Or use canned beans.

    Grilled Corn Salad:

    Crunchy Pea and Radish:  Peas are in and excellent right now at Farmers Market