5 Ways to Green Your Grilling and Thai Soy Sliders

The summer sun is almost here, which means grills across America are about to be fired into high gear. I love grilling - for me, there's an almost primitive pleasure I derive from stepping outdoors and bidding adieu to the oven for a few months: the smoke. The smells. The sounds. And in our family, the consensus is that practically every food tastes better grilled-slices of crusty bread from the farmers market, fish or poultry with a snip of summer herbs, garden vegetables, even stone fruit like apricots and peaches.
You grill can not only be good for you, but it's good for the planet. Here are 4 of my favorite tips to keep your diet a cool shade of green during grilling season:
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Green Grilling Ideas:
1.Cook once, eat twice. When you fire up the grill, use all the available space to cook dinner tonight, plus enough for extra leftovers to take to work or school tomorrow. Like I said, practically everything tastes better grilled. And maximizing the food you grill means cooking with less energy per calorie of food.
 2. Marinate meaty mushrooms. Drizzle portabellos with a generous amount of olive oil, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar and let sit for 30 minutes. Grill until soft and smoky on each side- as a side dish, a "mushroom burger" or in an omelet or salad, these are divine. With just 40 calories per cup, it's also a great way to also slash calories and saturated fat while still delivering bold flavor.
. 3. Grill an outdoor veggie pizza. The act of grilling utterly transforms pizza. The real flames and high temp create a deliciously crispy crust, with a fantastically smoked flavor. Simply buy some pre-made whole grain dough for your crust, and top with your favorite veggies and fresh sliced tomatoes (or your favorite sauce) and a small amount of good mozzarella for a fun dinner treat. Bonus points if you put on basil or oregano from your garden.
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4. Grilled veggies make excellent sandwich toppings. The grill can also help you shake off a lunch rut: Try roasting your favorite veggies on the grill (lightly brushed with olive oil, salt and fresh cracked pepper) and wrapping them with a whole grain tortilla and some hummus. Grilled sliced eggplant (like mushrooms) is another fantastic "meat like" alternatives.
5. Fire up Shrimp or Chicken Kabobs. Kabobs are a fun, easy way to serve smaller portions of animal protein-in a way that most people don't even notice. You can round out kebobs with  a side of whole wheat cousous and a yogurt dressing, or on top of summer salad greens.
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Want more ideas? Here's one of my all time favorite creations- my Thai Inspired Soy Sliders.  You can prep the elements in advance and then people can build their own (which kids especially love to do). These savory, smoky  bite-sized sliders have a refreshing contrast-the crisp, pickled vegetables with creamy sauce. Even carnivores will crave one.
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Have any more green grilling ideas? I would love to hear them! Please drop me a line.
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thai slidersThai Inspired Soy Sliders

Yield: 5 Tofu Sliders
Inspired by the popular bahn mi Thai sandwiches that many Thai food trucks sell, these tofu sliders are a delicious twist on the typical slider, and are packed with fresh flavors.

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Burgers: 5 whole grain dinner rolls 1 cup bean sprouts 1 small handful fresh cilantro sprigs 1 small handful fresh mint sprigs 1/2 hothouse cucumber, peeled and julienned 1 small jalapeño, seeded and julienned (or with seeds, if you prefer more heat)

Directions: 1. The night before, slice the tofu into 5 equal slices (about 3/4 inch thick). Cover with paper towels, place in a bowl, and drain overnight. 2. Place the drained tofu in a marinating dish. Place remaining marinade ingredients in a large liquid measuring cup. Using an immersion blender, puree all the ingredients together into a paste. 3. Cover both sides of tofu with the paste, and marinate for at least 1 hour. 4. Preheat oven to 400°F, and preheat your grill or sauté pan over medium-high heat. 6. Grill the tofu 4 minutes on each side, until cooked through (and with grill marks). 7. While tofu is grilling, place dinner rolls directly onto the upper rack in the oven. Bake for 5-6 minutes, until toasted and slightly golden on top. Remove. 8. To assemble: Slice heated dinner roll in half. Spread 1/2-1 tsp of burger dressing on each side of the roll. Stack grilled tofu with some bean sprouts, cilantro, mint, cucumber, jalapeño, and pickled vegetables. Top with other half of dinner roll and enjoy immediately.

Tofu Marinade:tofu marinade 1 carton extra firm tofu 2 cloves garlic 1/2 a large white onion 1/2 tsp ground black pepper 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp tamari or soy sauce 2 tsp sugar 1 tsp canola oil

Burger Dressing: 1/4 cup canola mayonnaise Juice from 1/2 lime 1 tsp sriracha

Pickled Vegetables - Kate GeaganPickled Vegetables: 1 tsp soy sauce 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar 3 tsp sugar or honey 1/2 tsp salt 1 bunch small Daikon or other radish, julienned 1 large carrot, peeled and julienned

Pickled Vegetables Directions: Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl. Add carrots and radishes. Marinate 30 minutes - 1 hour (can be made the night before). Drain well before use.

Burger Dressing: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk until combined. Taste and add more sriracha if you prefer more heat. Set aside.

6 Must Have Sustainable Snacks for Summer Roadtrips

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road trip sustainable snacksHitting the road this summer? Whether a day trip to the beach or an extended road trip to a far flung relative, when your vacay crams in the car, it’s even more challenging to eat something you can feel really good about. But with new research this month finding that Americans consume 25% of their calories from “snacks” (which weigh in at a whopping 580 calories total) summer dashboard dining habits matter, especially if a bathing suit is in your future. Here are 6 super convenient, tasty lean and green Sustainable Snacks that kids and parents alike will love-that will also have you SAVING Green when as well. My criteria? They had to be eco-friendly, healthy, tasty and fun. And “car picks” must withstand searing hot car temps for a day or two- and couldn’t require fussy utensils or other tricky setup that seems impossibly difficult at 70 miles an hour.

 

Justin's Nut Butter Packets1) Justin's Nut Butter Packs. These high protein, high satiety and uber flavorful nut butter packs are portable beyond compare. And because Justin created his own unique method of grinding his masterpieces,these healthy summer snacks taste richer, and, well, nuttier than any other nut butters on the market (The almond maple butter and honey peanut butter are my kids faves). Most are USDA certified organic. Best of all, they can stand up to searing summer heat (at least, for a few weeks), making them a bit more durable.

 

2) Baba Ganoush. Last year I blogged about these wonderful falafel balls with Greek yogurt and pita - I'm still on a Mediterranean kick with this fantastically portable Baba Ghanoush by Blue Moose of Boulder (available at Whole Foods, but look for any brand in the chilled fancy food area of your grocery store). Tote along some whole wheat pita (I cut mine up with a pizza cutter into wedges and then put back into the plastic bag for the trip, so kids and grownups can just help themselves). Add some bagged carrots and you've got 2 veggies and a whole grain for snacking! Or you can always make your own, with a delicious recipe like this one.

 

Earthbound Farms Organic Snack Packs3) Earthbound Farm Organic Snack Packs. For the perfect lean and green overlap, swing by your local farmers’ market before you go and fill a small cooler with amazing edible eats like seasonal peaches, plums and hydrating cantaloupe. But if you’re on the road already, many supermarkets now carry Earthbound Farm Organic Snack Packs. These snack packs come in a variety of fruit and veggie options, and are not only organic, but are fantastically convenient for car eating as well. Coming in varieties ranging from apple slices to carrot snack packs, these are the perfect way to keep fruits and veggies in the mix while on the road. For a double bonus you can even try dipping the apple slice snackers in a pack of Justin’s Nut Butter, or bring along a small container of hummus for the carrots (I love reusing a container from my kids’ Laptop Lunch for this purpose).

 

liberty bottleworks4) A Liberty Bottleworks Water Bottle. I LOVE these bottles! Liberty Bottleworks’ water bottles are the ONLY Made in the USA 100% recycled bottle, totally BPA free and with a recycled lid to boot. Fill them with water and stay cool  for hours while you sip sustainably- after recently meeting the company founder on a fieldtrip to Rodale, I am a convert. Their full circle commitment to job creation and  keeping iconic brands made America (many of the other top reusable water bottles are made in Europe or China), had me feeling good at the deepest level that this company embodies the way forward to a more sustainable future. And the best part? Not only will the generous size (and splash proof design) remind you that ZERO CALORIE drinking is key (that new snack study found Americans spend 85 minutes a day drinking liquid calories, a 90% increase from 2006) , the artwork is to die for gorgeous and innovative.

 

5) Cucumber. Cucumbers are one of the most refreshing, hydrating and economical summer fruits around. They are loaded with water, to help keep you cool, but their skin also contains silica, a mineral that keeps your own summer skin plump and glowing.

Because we all have enough to pack and prep when hitting the road (or because I’m just lazy), I will either pack 1 giant hothouse cucumber (that I’ve washed well), hacked into 4 big pieces...or else a bunch of individual smaller cucumbers (those cute pickling ones are the best) from the farmer’s market. Kids and adults love nibbling directly from it, and it’s one less container I need to wash!

 

 

 

6) Sunflower Seeds. We have several “salty/crunchy” types in my family, but rather than digging into a bag of chips large enough to drown my firstborn, I tote a mix of roasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds instead, which are packed with important minerals like zinc and magnesium, their combo of heart healthy fat, fiber and protein is the winning trifecta to keep hunger at bay all the way “until we get there”. On the run? These powerhouse seeds are easy to find at most convenience stores and gas stations as well, making your healthy on the road snacking a breeze.

 

What are your favorite sustainable summer snacks? I would love to hear about them!

 

(In full disclosure, I received free samples from Justin’s Nut Butter and Liberty Bottle Works when I asked them for info about their products).

Written with assistance from Lindsey Toth, MS, RD

7 Ways to Use Spices in Your Diet this Summer

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SpicesSummer's here and despite my weekend forecast for SNOW (yes, you read that right), my herbs are popping. How about yours? Basil, thyme, cilantro, rosemary… for thousands of years people have been using spices to add flavor and color to dishes. But here's where old world flavor meets new science: spices are one of nature's most concentrated source of phytochemicals, which means they make a powerful addition to your plate that goes way beyond just good taste. Talk about an easy way to improve your diet without changing too much about what you eat. Plus, seasoning your food with spices adds more plants to your diet (a lean and green win) and can also help you cut back on added fat, salt and even sugar in your day. What's not to love?

I love these Easy Eco Friendly ideas for using up outdated spices from Gaylin Walli, and here's something fun and ecofriendly you might not know about your favorite spice: organic agriculture has been increasingly using well known spices like rosemary, mint and clove (in the form of their essential oils) as an environmentally friendly alternative against conventional pesticides against insects and pests.

Summer herb pots are fun for kids and an easy way to grow something yourself, but dried spices are also potent and healthy, can be economical, and are a great swap for winter if you have 8 months of snow like I do. While all spices (because they come from plants) have healthy compounds, here are some of the most powerful ones sure to make all that delicious summer produce from your farmers market or CSA taste even more delicious.

1. Cinnamon

Cinnamon

Did you know 1 teaspoon of cinnamon contains as many antioxidants as a half cup of blueberries! To boot, cinnamon may help you regulate blood sugar and reduce your risk of diabetes. Swirl into cold muesli, give a hefty shake in your morning java fix, or give summer lunchbox sandwiches an unexpected flavor boost by adding a sprinkle of Ground Cinnamon to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
2. Ginger

Ginger

Pungent and spicy, ginger has long been a remedy for morning and motion sickness, for upset stomach and heartburn, and contains potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. For a fresh fruit pick-me-up, try a light sprinkling of Ground Ginger on summer peaches, cantaloupe, or honeydew melon. Or boost your brew by adding ½ tsp ground ginger to 1 quart of freshly made summer lemonade. Did you buy a fresh ginger root? Freeze the extra and just grate it directly from freezer to recipes.
3. Oregano

Oregano

Talk about a powerhouse: a scant ½ a teaspoon of oregano has as many antioxidants as 3 cups of spinach. Oregano also has strong antibacterial properties because of its volatile oils. Roast those farmer market tomatoes with olive oil and oregano and enjoy hot or cold. For a twist on the typical grilled cheese, prepare your whole grain bread with mozzarella cheese, sliced tomato and ½ teaspoon Oregano Leaves.
4. Red Pepper

Red Pepper

Getting fiery heat from a compound called capsaicin, cayenne has been widely studied for its anti-inflammatory properties, its ability to reduce the risk of ulcers, and its pain reducing effects for headaches and arthritis. Sprinkle paprika or cayenne onto your favorite hummus and serve. Or mix up your own spiced salt by mixing 2 tablespoons kosher salt, 2 teaspoons Paprika, ½ teaspoon Ground Cumin and a pinch of Ground Red Pepper. Sprinkle over grilled or roasted fish, poultry or tofu.
5. Rosemary

Rosemary

Related to mint and lavender, its signature scent not only calms you but also might provide powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. Farmer's market potatoes and rosemary are a perfect summer pair. You can also toss 1/2 teaspoon crushed Rosemary Leaves and ½ tsp Garlic Salt to steamed summer green beans.
6. Thyme

Thyme

A super concentrated source of antioxidants, the volatile oils in thyme (such as thymol) also have strong antimicrobial properties. Eggs and thyme are a perfect pairing. Wake up your taste buds with Herbed Scrambled Eggs. Snip 1 teaspoon of fresh chives and thyme leaves into 2 eggs (preferably organic) before scrambling.
7. Yellow Curry

Yellow Curry

Curcumin, a component of turmeric that gives yellow curry powder that gorgeous gold color, is a potent cancer fighter and helps boost mental clarity and fight depression, Love this! Mix ½ teaspoon curry powder with 1 cup organic Greek nonfat yogurt, Use as a spread for turkey/veggie pita pockets. For summer movie night, lightly dust hot popcorn or snack mixes with Curry Powder for a new taste sensation.

Do you have a favorite recipe that spices things up? Or a tip for what you do with outdated spices? I would love to hear your ideas. In the meantime-I'd better bring my pots indoors I think.

Thanks to McCormick Spices for Health!