Hello June…summer is finally here! Erik has one more week of teaching left, the pool across the street just opened this weekend, and my maxi dresses are ready for humid evenings on outdoor patios. Some of my favorite things about summer include being outside, grilling good food, sampling the local brew, and just making good old fashioned summer-time memories; so for this week’s post, I’m bringing you my favorite foods and drinks of summer…and how to make them FIT your lifestyle. (See what I did there?) 😉
Tips for Grilling the BEST Summer Burgers:
- Buy a less lean ground beef. I know this doesn’t sound healthy, but dry burgers don’t taste good at all. And when you grill your burgers, most of the fat drips off anyway. So buy less than 92% lean ground beef. Look for local beef or beef from organically raised/grass-fed cows. You’ll get a better quality, healthier cut of meat regardless AND you’ll be supporting your community. And most all stores now carry at least some form of a healthier meat option.
- Make your burgers fat–not flat. They’ll end up juicer and trust me, you’ll thank us for that. Do not pack the patties too tightly either, a thick loosely packed patty will make the best burger.
- Though I love a great burger on a potato roll, often I’ll skip the bun and roll my burger up in extra large pieces of Romain lettuce. Of course it’s messy. So is any burger. And if I do choose the bun? I just make sure I lifted really heavy that day. If you deplete your carbs through exercise, it’s an awesome way to replenish them again.
Want to add a little flair to your burger? Mix your ground beef with ground pork, there’s just something about them that make them taste extra special. (3 to 1; beef to pork.)
- Don’t forget spice! I love Montreal Steak Seasoning on my burgers. I’ve heard that Flavor Gods Seasonings are fantastic though I haven’t tried them yet. (Just added them to my Amazon Wish List, hint hint.) 😉 Flavor Gods are seasonings that are low in salt, Paleo approved, Gluten Free, contain no MSG and are great for your summertime healthy cooking!!! Why haven’t I tried these yet? And the spice in conjunction with a hot hot grill will sear the meat and help to keep much of the awesome flavor inside.
- Top your burger with everything you can. On a day where I have a lot of macros left over, you can bet I’m topping my burger with everything. Grilled onions, maybe fresh onions–a slice as thick as the burger. Pickles and tomatoes, and depending on what I’m craving, sometimes cheese, sometimes not, and anytime it’s available, a slice or two of bacon. I think Erik and I once topped our burgers with a fried egg. Jalapenos give burgers a nice kick, and Erik loves hot sauce on his. Seriously, burgers are fun. Packed with protein. Flavored any way you desire. And the veggie-topping options can be whatever you make them. Burgers don’t have to be thought of as “unhealthy.” We should all embrace the beef.
Tips for Summer Sides
I just learned (and if you follow me on social media you might have seen this already) that sweet potato fries are SO easy to make. (And much healthier than buying them frozen.) A couple weeks ago I took two large sweet potatoes, cut them in half, used my apple slicer to slice them, tossed them in a bowl with olive oil and season-all, and then baked them at 450 for 20 minutes. I loved them so much that I ate almost ALL of them. I think Erik ended up with a few.
Who doesn’t love a fantastic pasta salad? And who also does not love all the added carbs/gluten/processed food/pick-your-poison part of the pasta? Zucchini and squash actually make fantastic cold-pasta noodles. Grab a veggetti if you don’t have one already–seriously it’s the easiest thing in the world to use–and spiral out a fun pasta salad that is good for you! Steam the noodles in a little bit of water just to get them tender, then drain the excess water, and cool them in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, toss them in a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and throw in some olives and feta–or really, anything that you like!
- Erik likes corn on the cob with his burgers — what says summer better than burgers and corn on the cob? Local sweet corn tossed in a pot of boiling salt water, turn off heat and let sit for 10 minutes, voila! They are done.
- My absolute favorite summer side is Erik’s ratatouille. Simply cut up your favorite veggies to grill (onions, peppers, mushrooms, squash, tomatoes, egg plant…), add olive oil and the seasoning you chose for your burgers, and throw in a grill basket. Cook the ratatouille in a closed grill to get the best results. When the veggies are done you can mix in some fresh herbs for a healthy tasting summer dish.
When my friend Myra threw a party for her daughter’s first birthday, she made a fruit salad that I could not get enough of. Typically if you ask me what my favorite desserts are, I won’t respond with fruit. Sorry–I know I’m supposed to be the “health-nut,” but really, I am over-sensitive to sweets and have a deep, long-rooted addiction to chocolate and ice cream. My point is, this dessert is just as satisfying to me AND it’s much better than chocolate and ice cream. Take fresh fruit–whatever kind you like and toss it all (sliced and diced if necessary) into a big bowl. Sprinkle it with the juice of one lemon. Then take 1/4 of a cup of dry vanilla pudding mix, sprinkle over your fruit, and then mix. The already sweet fruit becomes even sweeter and somehow magical tasting in your mouth…I swear!
- When you just HAVE to have the ice cream fix, or something really cold, try making a thick frozen smoothie. Using a banana, Greek yogurt, your milk of choice, and whatever frozen berries you choose, throw your mix into a blender and you’ll have a cold, sweet, tasty summer treat in no time. And the best part of a smoothie is that you can customize it any way you like–kind of just like those burgers. The less liquid you add, the thicker it will be, and adding yogurt and bananas always make the smoothie rather thick. Sometimes I use coconut water instead of my typical almond milk–especially if I want a more tropical tasting smoothie. Adding some fresh organic spinach, kale, or swiss chard would give you lots of extra nutrients, and frozen blueberries typically mask the taste of greens rather well. You can add protein powder for extra protein, or you could make a smoothie of fresh oranges, apples, and bananas, for a well-rounded vitamin and mineral-boosted smoothie.
- Post-workout summer s’more bowl: I call this Steph’s post workout bowl of perfection because it is ridiculously sweet and also meets the requirements of the 2:1 carb:protein ratios needed for lifting recovery. Put a banana in a bowl and mash it with a fork. Add a scoop of chocolate protein powder with a splash of almond milk (or your milk of choice) and then top it with a giant marshmallow (or two regular marshmallows–but the giant ones are way more fun). Stick the bowl in the microwave for about 30 seconds–enough to start melting the marshmallow. Then mix everything together and stick your bowl in the fridge or freezer–depending on if you want it frozen like ice cream or just really cold. You’ll feel like you just cheated on your nutrition but in reality, you’re refueling your muscle glycogen with simple carbs and protein…just like you’re supposed to do!
If you have access to a juicer, I highly suggest juicing a watermelon–even with the rind! I’ve never tasted anything more refreshing than a juiced watermelon. And we all know that watermelon is a summer staple. Impress your guests at your BBQ by having a pitcher of watermelon juice (plain–nothing added–pure ultimate hydration) and another pitcher of juice with an added white wine and a splash of club soda. Hosting a brunch? Try watermelon juice and champagne…put a new twist on mimosas.
- Sangria is always something easy to make when you are expecting company. All you need is wine, a juice, and fresh fruit. Now, if you go on Pinterest, you can find hundreds of sangria recipes and you can stress out all day about which one is the best. But you don’t need all that fancy jazz–you just need to know your own tastes. If you like white wine, grab a white wine and “light-colored” juice like apple juice or pineapple juice. Add freshly sliced apples and strawberries, pears, or pineapple. If you like red wines, grab a red, a “dark-colored” juice like cranberry or pomegranate and again, add some apple slices, maybe some lime, grapes, strawberries, oranges, anything! Sangria is just fun–just like summer! It seems like there’s a theme to a lot of these recipes–try out a lot of combinations, experiment, and have a great time doing so! Wouldn’t it be fun to host a “build your own burger/smoothie/sangria summer party”?! Sounds like a fantastic idea to me.
Don’t forget! No indulgence is complete without a little exercise. Try out these three Strong Figure Conditioning workouts this week!
Workout One: 3 Rounds for Time–
- 400 meter run
- 21 goblet squats (or air squats)
- 21 lunges
Workout Two: 12 Minutes–As Many Rounds Possible–
- 10 push-ups
- 15 kettlebell swings (or burpees)
- 20 box jumps (or squat jumps)
Workout Three: 4 Rounds for Time–
- 500 meter row
- 25 wall balls (or air squats)
- 10 pull-ups (or push-ups)
- Rest 1:00 after each round