Tag: healthy cookout recipes

Top 10 Tips to Upgrade Your Summer Cookout!

Hot dogs, potato salad, chips, soda, and ice cream.

It seems like when we’re in social situations, especially at events like summer cookouts or picnics, we temporarily stop trying to¬†eat¬†well. We know how we’re going to feel later, but we decide it doesn’t matter as much as feeling good in the moment.

I’m here with some great¬†news!

We can eat nourishing AND delicious¬†food at cookouts without feeling deprived…or bloated, gassy and tired ūüôā

The¬†next time you’re headed to a cookout and want to make the best choices possible for yourself and your friends and family, check these out!


1) Bring a nourishing dish/side/drink. Most of the time when we are going to an event someone else is organizing, we tend to cop out and pick up something cheap and quick at the store, without taking into consideration how that food will make everyone feel. If you bring something nourishing that you like to eat, you’ll be guaranteed to make better choices while you’re there…and help others in the process!

Try this Tomato-Basil Pasta Salad. It’ll be a HIT!

Tomatoe Basil Salad

2) Instead of mayo as the base in different salads, try using an oil-based vinaigrette or mashed avocado. I used to hate avocados (before ever trying them), but they have almost no flavor, so they won’t mess with the flavor of whatever dish you put them in.

3) Load up on veggies. Whether you throw them into a pasta salad or greens salad, put them on a kabob or roast them in a foil pack, make sure you load up on veggies. Whenever I go to a cookout or picnic, if there is a platter of roasted vegetables, it gets eaten up quickly!


4) Add in some minced veggies to your burger patties. If you finely dice them, no one will notice, and they will add flavor and moisture to your burgers. Try things like onions, garlic, mushrooms, celery, diced peppers, and herbs.

5) Don’t char your meat. As much as some of us might love the taste of charred meat, we should avoid it to reduce our exposure to cancer-causing compounds. Charring, burning or grilling meat, poultry and fish over high temperatures causes cancer-causing compounds to form, which can damage our¬†genes,¬†raising the risk for stomach and colorectal cancers. Marinating your meat for 30 minutes prior to cooking can reduce that risk dramatically. To learn more about healthy grilling, click here. We also want to make sure we’re upgrading our meat and fish to grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry and wild caught seafood. Check out LocalHarvest to find a supplier near you.

6) Go bunless. Sometimes we do things out of habit. Grabbing a bun to go with our burger is one of them. If I have a burger, I just cut it up and treat it like a mini steak – no bun needed. Another option is to wrap lettuce leaves around it, just like you would a lettuce wrap and eat it that way.

7) Go for simpler chips. When it comes to chips, focus on upgrading your options from things like Doritos to Way Better Chips, Jackson’s Honest Chips, Kettle Chips, and even kale chips! Look for chips with as few ingredients as possible.

Dairy-Free Queso Dip with Way Better Chips

Dairy-Free Queso Dip with Way Better Chips

Jackson's Honest Sweet Potato Chips

Jackson’s Honest Sweet Potato Chips

8) Upgrade your dips and spreads. Instead of heavy, cheesy dips or things like ketchup, mayo, and BBQ sauce (which is just like pancake syrup in terms of sugar content), try guacamole, hummus, salsa, bean dips, queso dip (dairy-free!), sauerkraut, or mustard.

9) Instead of sugary drinks, sweet tea or lemonade, try infused water. From lemon-lime to strawberry basil and orange/pear, infused waters are refreshing and flavorful, and the variations you can make are limitless!

10) Focus on fruit for dessert. Make it fun, and try simple popsicles made with coconut milk and fruit, a fruit salad with mint, or grilled fruit kabobs with a honey glaze.

This berry peach crisp is always a hit, too!

Delicious Berry Peach Crumble

Delicious Berry Peach Crisp

**Bonus Tip #11**

Focus on FRIENDS and FAMILY instead of FOOD.

It can be SO easy to become consumed by all of the smells and sights at a cookout or summer party.

See what happens when you are intentional about focusing more on the people at the party¬†and less on the food on your plate ūüôā

Celebrating summer with friends

Celebrating summer with friends

In my next post, I’ll be sharing a bunch of recipes (from entrees and sides to dips, drinks and desserts) that will help YOU answer the following¬†question:

“What exactly should I bring to the¬†potluck?”

Mexican-Inspired Black Bean Quinoa Salad {Gluten-Free}

It’s summer, and you know what that means?


When the weather is warmer, we often crave lighter, more cooling foods. For that reason, I like to prepare healthier alternatives to the heavier potato, egg and pasta side salads we typically see at picnics, potlucks and cookouts.

If you want a¬†quick and delicious dish¬†to bring to your next cookout or potluck, give this one a try! It’s packed with plant-based protein, healthy fats, filling fiber, and TONS¬†of flavor.

It also gave me a reason to use these beautiful spring onions ūüôā

Aren't these pretty?

This recipe was inspired by one¬†from Angela, who writes an amazing blog over at ohsheglows. She just came out with her first cookbook, too! It’s on my wish list.

I made a few tweaks to the salad itself and the dressing based on the flavors we like.

The original recipe called for 3 times as much cilantro, but I find cilantro to have a very strong taste, so I reduced it. I also tossed in some creamy avocado and added a little more flavor to the dressing by throwing in some chili powder and a subtle pinch of cayenne pepper.

As always, Bill added a few shakes of hot sauce on top of his bowl and liked it so much that he went back for seconds! Success ūüôā

Cumin-Lime Black Bean Quinoa Salad

This salad was delicious. Bill went back for seconds AND had leftovers for lunch the next day! Servings: 6

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa (or 3 cups cooked). Click here for how to cook perfect quinoa every time. You could also sub in brown rice instead.
  • 1 thumb-sized piece kombu¬†(find it in the Asian aisle of the grocery store)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans (or 1.5 cups cooked), drained and rinsed. We like the brand “Eden.”
  • 1/2¬†cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 4¬†medium carrots, grated/shredded¬†(about 1.5 cups)
  • 4 green onions/scallions, chopped
  • 1 avocado, diced

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/3 cup¬†extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Black pepper to taste


  1. Rinse quinoa under cold water in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear. Set quinoa aside.
  2. Add ghee to medium pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute 3-4 minutes or until they start to soften. Then, add garlic and saute 1 more minute.
  3. Add quinoa to pot along with kombu and 2 cups water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cover about 12-15 minutes or until you see little white tails pop off the quinoa and no water remains. DO NOT STIR the quinoa during this time.
  4. After cooking the quinoa, dispose of the kombu piece, and let the quinoa cool for 10-15 minutes. Fluff with a fork if needed.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, drained and rinsed black beans, cilantro, carrots, green onions and avocado.
  6. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, pour the dressing onto the salad, and toss to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Make the salad the day before your next cookout, potluck or party, and the flavors will come together even more once you serve it. If you make it ahead of time, throw the avocado on just before serving, so it’s as bright green as possible.

Peachy Keen Kale Salad

It’s no secret that I like kale.

I’m surprised I haven’t bought one of those “Eat More Kale” shirts yet! (birthday hint??)

A beautiful bunch of curly kale

A beautiful bunch of curly kale

It can get boring to eat kale the same way all the time (juice from 2 lemons + 1-2 T olive oil + a few hefty shakes of nooch + a sprinkle of sea salt + black pepper massaged into the kale leaves), so I like to change it up throughout the year and try new recipes to keep things exciting.

I’ve shared my absolute favorite kale salad recipe before along with one for an upgraded kale Waldorf salad, but the salad I made this week has quickly become a new favorite!

(Check out the video below¬†to see how you can quickly and easily “destem” kale as you prep this salad ūüôā I’ve been working on doing some videos for Hometown Harvest, which is the company Bill and I use for our fruits, veggies, eggs, meats and some other pantry items. I also write for their blog. If you don’t live in the Baltimore/DC metro area, check out LocalHarvest to find¬†a farmer’s market, CSA or farm near you!)

This salad is SO easy to make and gave me an excuse to use the sweet, juicy and flavor-filled peaches that are in season right now on the East Coast.

The basic ingredients are kale, peaches, and red onions. Easy, right? The dressing isn’t much than that – a¬†peach, olive oil, water and apple cider vinegar (whose health benefits I’ve raved about before in this post!).

Make sure you let the kale sit for at least 30 minutes to soak in all the flavors. We stored ours in the fridge overnight, and the flavors came together beautifully for dinner the next day.

I plan to bring this salad along with a¬†watermelon mojito salad¬†to the 4th of July party we’re going to on Friday.¬†You have to try it for yourself – it’s so yummy and will be a hit if you bring it to a summer party or cookout!

Peachy Keen Kale Salad

This beautiful peachy kale salad will be a hit at your dinner table or a potluck!

A perfectly peachy salad ready to be enjoyed! You won’t even need dessert after having this treat ūüôā


2 bunches curly kale, stems removed
1/2 red onion, diced
1 ripe peach, pitted and chopped

Peach Vinaigrette:

1 ripe peach, pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon honey (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Click here for the recipe from The Detoxinista!

My Favorite Free Recipe App (& Southwest Black Bean Burgers!)

When I was a picky eater, I ate the same things all the time.

Cereal for breakfast.

Fruit, yogurt, crackers and carrots for school lunch (since I didn’t like sandwiches or salads).

Meat, rice or pasta, and a steamed veggie for dinner.

…all without sauces (teriyaki was the lone exception) and with very little seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic powder and parmesan cheese were my “go-tos”).

It’s no wonder so many of us get bored with food and “eating healthy.” We eat the same things over and over again and don’t flavor our food!

Food was meant to be enjoyed and filled with endless flavor possibilities, many of which I just started experiencing over the past three to four years.

Be bold and try new flavors :) We love this southwest black bean burger!

Be bold and try new flavors ūüôā We love this southwest black bean burger!

It has taken me a while to build up to liking flavors I used to hate (like coconut) or assumed I wouldn’t like without actually trying (curry) and food preparations that sounded “weird” (i.e., anything containing ingredients I hadn’t eaten before).

We’re afraid of anything unfamiliar…so we don’t even give it a chance. Longer ingredient list? Not trying it. Ingredient I don’t have on hand? Not buying it. Ingredient I don’t recognize? Forget it.

That’s how I was for most of my life when it came to food…and a lot of other things actually. If I thought I was going to fail at or dislike something, I didn’t even try it.

I had no idea what I was missing!

Now I can’t imagine food without herbs, spices, sauces, dressings, and other flavorful add-ons. Hooray for no more bland food ūüôā

The dish I’m sharing today is one of our favorites for the summer time and it is FULL of flavor…along with ingredients I never would have tried as a picky eater.

We found this recipe about 3 years ago on my absolute favorite mobile app for delicious and nourishing recipes – Whole Foods Market Recipes. You don’t have to shop at Whole Foods to use it, but if you’ve written off Whole Foods as “Whole Paycheck,” take a look at this article about 25 things that are actually cheaper at Whole Foods. Whole Foods is unarguably a wonderful place for the best food. If you’re a brand similar to whole foods, you can get recognized by the top retailer and expose your brand to buyers over RangeMe through a whole foods vendor portal.

Screenshots of the Whole Foods Market Recipes app

Screenshots of the Whole Foods Market Recipes app

Anyway, we love this app! Here’s why:

  • Contains a searchable database of over 3,000 recipes. We can save our favorites, create weekly meal plans (and grocery lists!) and get inspirations for new recipes to try.
  • We can search by course, cuisine, and special dietary needs (gluten free, low sugar, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, low sodium, high fiber, health starts here etc.)
  • Use On-Hand Search to find recipes that use ingredients you already have (great way to use up food and save money)

This recipe for a Southwest Veggie Burger was one of the first ones we tried from the WF Market Recipes app, and it quickly became one of our favorites. We usually make about 6 burgers from one batch. Check out the 3-minute video below for how to make them yourself!

Southwest Black Bean Veggie Burger


  • 1 cup cooked brown rice (to save time, use one of the steamable brown rice bags)
  • 1 cup cooked no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup diced tomato
  • 1/4 cup diced roasted red bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup cooked and mashed sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon no-salt-added chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce

Click here for the full recipe from Whole Foods Market Recipes!

I eat mine without a bun since I feel best eating gluten-free and top it with some guacamole or avocado slices. Feel free to serve yours with a bun, in a wrap, or on top of a salad ūüôā

Minty Watermelon Mojito Salad

Mojitos are my favorite cocktail.  The combo of tart lime and smooth mint is so cooling and refreshing and perfect for summer!

Mmm, fresh mint, limes, and seedless cucumber

Mmm, fresh mint, limes, and seedless cucumber

I remember my first mojito experience.  

I had just come home from a semester abroad in Granada, Spain and was really into everything about the Hispanic culture from the food to the music and dancing. I loved their energy, vitality and enthusiasm for life!

When my friend Allyson invited me to go with her and some friends to The Latin Palace in Fells Point shortly after returning from my trip, I was all in. I had a blast as I was led through all sorts of Latin dances for hours!

When it was time to take a break from dancing, I was introduced to what would become my favorite mixed drink – mojitos.


It’s been almost 10 years, and I still don’t think I’ve had a mojito that was as perfectly prepared as my first.

As I was looking for recipes to prepare today for a Memorial Day cookout, I stumbled across this one for a minty watermelon mojito salad.

How could I resist?? 

Watermelon + mint + lime + cucumber = the ultimate warm weather refresher.

It’s DELICIOUS and was really simple to prepare, too. This will be a hit at any cookout, picnic or party, and I guarantee kids will love it, too!

Minty Watermelon Mojito Salad

Ridiculously refreshing minty mojito watermelon salad

Ridiculously refreshing minty watermelon mojito salad


  • 3 cups seedless watermelon, cubed (here’s¬†how to pick a perfect watermelon)
  • 1.5 cups seedless cucumber, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons¬†fresh mint leaves, sliced thin (‚Äúchiffonade‚ÄĚ if we‚Äôre being fancy about it)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • Zest from two limes (here’s the zester I use)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Pinch of black pepper

Click here for the full recipe from one of my new favorite blogs – Stupid Easy Paleo!

Thank you to all of the men and women who selflessly serve our country, especially our friend, Joe, who recently left for a multi-year tour in Germany!

Refreshing Quinoa, Apple & Almond Potluck Salad

In the springtime, our bodies naturally want to start detoxing¬†to “clean out” all of the gunk that we’ve stored up over the winter (which was pretty brutal this year!).

Wastes and toxins build up in our bodies from stress, processed and refined foods, sugar, fried foods, chemical additives, and pesticides.¬†¬†That is just one¬†of the reasons we often feel¬†tired and sluggish, hold on to extra weight (toxic tissue is a fat storage hog!), and don’t radiate health in the way we look.

Fortunately, this salad contains a bunch of ingredients that naturally promote the elimination of wastes and toxins. Check out all of the detoxifying ingredients!

  • Scallions (also a GBOMBS food!)
  • Celery
  • Lemon Juice
  • Parsley

This is a great dish to bring to a potluck or cookout. You can even make it the night before and store it in the fridge to let all of the flavors come together!

I went to one of my best friend’s birthday parties a few weeks ago¬†(yay for turning 30!) and brought this salad with me. I doubled the recipe for the party, and it made enough for a group of 50 people. It was a HIT!

Refreshing Quinoa Salad with Apples & Almonds

Bring this to your next potluck or make it for your family!

Bring this to your next potluck or cookout or make it for your family!


  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (here’s how to cook perfect quinoa)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons honey (I used raw honey)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup peeled, diced tart apple, such as Granny Smith
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins (you can use regular raisins if you can’t find golden ones :))
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup of thinly sliced green onions/scallions*
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds, toasted
  • Coarse salt and pepper

*I added about 1/4 cup of thinly sliced green onions/scallions to the original salad recipe, since they are in season and add another dimension of flavor. They are also detoxifying and an anti-cancer GBOMBS food!

Click here for the full recipe!

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