Healthy Grilling Recipes for Summer

If you’ve only been grilling burgers and hot dogs this summer, it’s time to take your grilling to the next level. Shake things up with these grilling recipes that are not only healthy but also easy to make. Fire up that grill and surprise your family with new tastes and flavors for the rest of the summer!

Sweet and Spicy Grilled Salmon

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. hot sauce, such as Frank’s
  • 1 tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp. light mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp. snipped chives
  • 8 stalks celery, very thinly sliced in half moons on an angle
  • 1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • Four 5-oz. center-cut skin-on salmon fillets, about 1” thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil, for oiling the grill

Directions

  1. Preheat an outdoor grill or grill pan on medium high.
  2. Mix together the hot sauce, brown sugar, paprika, and cayenne in a small bowl. Transfer 1 tbsp. of the mixture to a large bowl and whisk in the mayonnaise; set aside the rest of the sauce. Add the chives, celery, and onions to the bowl with the mayonnaise and toss well.
  3. Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper. Brush the grill grate lightly with oil. Lay the salmon on the grill, skin-side up, and cook until distinct grill marks appear and the salmon releases easily from the grate, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and brush the fish with some of the reserved sauce. Continue to cook the fish, brushing the pieces periodically with the sauce, until the salmon fillets are glazed and just cooked through, 13 to 15 minutes more.
  4. Transfer the fillets to individual plates and serve with the celery slaw, made with the same sauce, made creamy with light mayo, and brightened with onions and chives.

Find the original recipe here: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/sweet-and-spicy-grilled-salmon-recipe-2112185

Chile-Rubbed Chicken with Salsa

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 1/4 pounds)
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely grated
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. chipotle chile powder
  • 4 tsp. fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 3 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and diced
  • 1/4 c. finely diced red onion

Directions

  1. Butterfly the chicken: Slice each breast almost in half horizontally (do not cut all the way through); open like a book so the chicken lies flat.
  2. Combine the olive oil, garlic, ancho chile powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, chipotle chile powder, 1 tsp. lime juice and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
  3. Preheat a grill to medium. Meanwhile, make the salsa: Toss the tomatoes, tomatillos, red onion and the remaining 3 teaspoons lime juice in a bowl; season with salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. Brush the grill grates with olive oil. Grill the chicken, turning once, until marked and just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Top with the salsa and serve with the lime wedges.

See the original recipe here: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/chile-rubbed-grilled-chicken-with-salsa-recipe-2042792

Mini Pineapple Pizzas

Ingredients

  • 1 medium pineapple, peeled and cored
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil, divided
  • 8 (1-oz.) slices Canadian bacon
  • 1/2 c. thinly sliced red onion
  • 2/3 c. part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 c. lower sodium pizza sauce
  • 2 tbsp. thinly sliced black olives
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler to HIGH with oven rack 6 inches from heat.
  2. Heat a grill pan over medium-high. Slice pineapple into 8 (1/2-inch) rounds. Using 1 ½ tbsp. of the oil, brush oil on both sides of pineapple rounds. Working in batches, place pineapple rounds on grill pan, and cook 3 minutes on each side, until char marks appear. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Place Canadian bacon slices on grill pan and cook 1 to 2 minutes on each side until heated through. Set aside.
  4. Heat remaining 1 ½ tsp. oil in a separate nonstick skillet over medium. Add onion and cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until softened.
  5. Top each pineapple round with 1 tsp. cheese. Place 1 slice Canadian bacon on top of cheese. Top each with 1 tablespoon pizza sauce and 1 tablespoon cheese. Top evenly with onion and black olives. Broil on HIGH for 2 to 3 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and melted. Sprinkle basil and crushed red pepper flakes evenly over top.See original recipe here: https://www.cookinglight.com/recipes/mini-pineapple-pizzas.  

Tips for Running on the Beach

If you’re an avid runner, the thought of running on the beach may sound glorious. The sand is soft and inviting, the view is gorgeous … but don’t be fooled, running on sand is far more challenging than you may think.

According to active.com, several studies have found that running on sand consumes more energy than running on asphalt—burning as many as 1.6 more calories per mile. There’s also much less impact force when you run on sand, but with the added resistance, your heart rate rises faster, and your muscles have to work harder.

If you’re planning to run on the beach while on vacation, or if you’re lucky enough to live close to the beach, take note of these tips before trading in the pavement for sand.

Run at low tide

Check local tide reports to see when low tide will be before you head out for a run. It’s best to run at low tide or within an hour or two around the lowest point. As the ocean recedes, it leaves hardening sand behind that creates a hard-packed surface perfect for running.

Shoes or barefoot?

For your first few beach runs, wear your regular running shoes. It may be tempting to ditch the sneakers and go barefoot, but running without them on new terrain could end up being too much for your feet and cause pain or injury. Sand can also be hard on your ankles, and sneakers will help provide stability. After you do a few runs on the sand and your body gets more used to it, if you want to go barefoot, your feet should be able to adapt. Just be aware of sharp shells, glass, or other debris on the beach that could cut your feet.

Slow your pace

Don’t expect to run your average pace on the beach. The change of terrain and lesser impact of the sand will make it feel like your legs are heavier than normal and will become unbearable if you try to run at the speed you’re used to. Slow down and enjoy the view.

Slather on the sunscreen

Protect your skin while running with an SPF30 water-resistant sunscreen, and be sure to bring a water bottle to stay hydrated.

Beach running can be a challenging workout. Be sure to take a rest day in between beach runs to let your body recover from this new work out.

 

 

How Dirty Are the “Dirty Dozen”?

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has many health benefits: it can protect against many chronic diseases, including heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes, and protect against certain cancers. But approximately three-quarters of Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables daily, according to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

With all of these wonderful health benefits, why are so many consumers avoiding eating  produce? Fear of pesticides is one reason.

Most consumers have heard of the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of fruits and vegetables that supposedly contain the highest levels of pesticide residue. The list was started by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2004, and the organization releases an updated “Dirty Dozen” list annually, urging consumers to purchase only the organic versions of those particular fruits and vegetables. But consumers who don’t have access to or can’t afford to buy organic produce report that they avoid buying produce at all.

Just how dirty are the “Dirty Dozen,” really? To put the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list in proper context, it’s important to understand that they don’t use the same strict methods for measuring risk that food scientists typically do. They tend to rely on alarmist and sensationalized reports that media outlets love. For example, EWG also annually releases the “Clean 15,” a list of conventional produce that doesn’t have detectable levels of pesticide residues, yet this list does not get the same media attention that the “Dirty Dozen” does. Additionally, a recent Forbes article points out that the EWG has strong ties to “big organic marketers.”

According to agdaily.com, recent USDA and FDA reports show that both organic and conventional food is safe. “According to the sampling data, 99 percent of residues on fruits and vegetables, when present at all, are well below safety levels set by the EPA. And an April 2018 article published on agdaily.com, stated that FDA sampling shows that 50 percent of the foods sampled had no detectable residues at all.

If buying organic is not in your budget, or it’s not easy to find in your area, you can rest easy knowing that conventional produce is perfectly fine. If you still have concerns, simply wash your produce under running water. According to the FDA, you can reduce and often eliminate residues, if they are present at all, on fresh fruits and vegetables simply by washing.

The bottom line is this: don’t believe everything you read about pesticides on produce. The benefits of eating more fresh fruits and vegetables far outweigh any minimal risk a minute amount of pesticide residue that might be on those strawberries or apples may pose.

 

 

 

 

Incorporating Exercise During Your Vacation

It’s July and many people are heading out on that much-anticipated summer vacation: a time to relax and recharge, whether it’s at the beach, lake, mountains, or sightseeing in a new city.

While vacation is definitely a time to unwind and indulge, it’s also easy to indulge a little too much and get off-track with exercising regularly. Finding ways to stay active while on vacation is easy to do; it just takes a little forethought and planning.

One of the best tips is to remain consistent: If you regularly work out three times per week at home, plan to do the same while on vacation. That can be hard for some folks to even think about because most people perceive exercise while vacationing as taking away from the fun parts and also the desire to avoid anything that resembles everyday chores. The good news is that exercise can be a fun part of any vacation and can be easily incorporated without having structured exercise time.

Here are some tips to keep you on track with your fitness routine while on vacation:

– Set realistic expectations – If you don’t work out daily for an hour a day at home, don’t think you can do it while on vacation. Decide how much and what type of exercise you can incorporate into your trip; for example, taking a walk on the beach at sunset counts as exercise.

Pack your workout shoes and clothes. Don’t forget to pack your gear so you’ll be more likely to exercise while away.

Get outdoors. No matter where you’re headed on vacation, getting outside will get you moving.  Whether it’s a morning swim in the hotel pool, a walk on the beach, a hike in the mountains, or sightseeing in a new city—all of these activities are easily incorporated into your vacation.

Try new activities. Vacation is the perfect time to try new recreational activities, such as kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkeling, hiking, surfing, and more. You can also join a walking tour to explore local sights and landmarks.

Enlist your travel partners. Vacation is about spending time with family and friends, so grab your travel buddy and go for a run on the beach or rent bikes and hit the trails.

 

 

Beyond Burgers: Best Foods to Grill This Summer

Cookouts are a summer tradition, and let’s face it, nothing tastes better than a burger or hot dog made on the grill. Grilling is not just fun and easy, it’s also a healthful way to cook. There’s no better time than summer to experiment with new foods cooked on the backyard grill.

Think beyond hamburgers and hot dogs and fire up the grill to try these easy recipes. Then experiment with other foods on your own to create new summer recipes.

Vegetables

Take your favorite summer veggies from the garden or the farmers’ market and season with salt and pepper, coat them with olive oil, and grill.  Think squash, eggplant, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and more.

Shrimp

Add some shrimp to the grilled vegetables and make shrimp skewers. Kids love food on a stick and will be more likely to eat their veggies!

Corn on the Cob

Corn is a great side dish for any summer meal. Grilling corn gives it a delicious, crisp texture.

Salmon

Place salmon skin-side up directly on the grill and cook for 8 minutes then flip. Season with a marinade of your choice or serve plain.

Lamb chops
Lambchops about an inch thick cook in three to four minutes on direct heat, so be sure to watch them closely.

Sweet potatoes

Cut a sweet potato in half and place each half in the center of a rectangle of aluminum foil. Turn pouches every 10 minutes until the potatoes are tender and cooked all the way through, approximately 20-30 minutes.

Pineapple and peaches

Grill slices of pineapple or peaches (or grill an entire pineapple, sliced down the middle). Serve fruit plain, or add some brown sugar and vanilla ice cream for a refreshingly sweet dessert.

 

Shopping at Your Local Farmers’ Market: a Summer Guide

Summer is prime time for shopping at your local farmers’ market. There is a wide selection of colorful and delicious fresh fruits and vegetables for sale right now. Knowing which produce is best to buy right now and how to select the ripest and freshest of the bunch will make the most of your farmers’ market experience and your pocketbook.

Peaches

Select peaches that are on the firmer side, unless you plan to eat them that day. Store them in the refrigerator in a drawer, but only with other fruits.

Melon

It’s not summer without watermelon, but don’t forget about juicy cantaloupe and honeydew melon, too. For cantaloupe, opt for a golden color rather than green, while for honeydew, pick a light yellow color, and for watermelon, look for a yellow spot, a sign of ripeness. Store ripe melons in the fridge and only cut before serving.

Berries

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are some of the healthiest fruits, and early to mid-summer is the best time to buy them. For strawberries and raspberries, look for ones that are dry and firm and a deep red  color. For blackberries, shininess is the key to their ripeness. When purchasing blueberries, choose smooth-skinned, dark blue or purple berries. Store berries in the fruit drawer in the refrigerator, or for longer lasting berries, freeze them.

Tomatoes

Check tomatoes for any bruising or soft spots on the skin. Choose a vibrant-colored tomato and one that is firm to the touch. It’s best not to refrigerate tomatoes or you risk having them lose their flavor.

Summer squash

There are several varieties of summer squash, but they have a shorter lifespan than winter squash. Check for bruising before buying and always choose firm squash, as it quickly softens. Place it in a plastic bag that is sealed tightly and store in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator.

Corn

Look for bright green, tightly wrapped corn and almost-moist husks. Check the husks to make sure there are no brown wormholes, and then feel individual kernels through the husks to make sure none are missing. Corn is best when eaten on the same day it’s bought, but it can also be stored in the fridge with the husks still on.

 

 

Making Fitness a Regular Part of Your Day

You’ve heard the exercise recommendations before—at least 30 minutes of activity most days of the week. But with our increasingly busy lives, sometimes it’s hard to  find that small chunk of time to dedicate to working out every day. The most important thing is just to move more. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean 30 minutes of jogging or lifting weights in a gym or an aerobics class. Exercise can be any activity you enjoy that gets you moving, that gets your heart rate up, and makes you feel good.

Working fitness into your daily routine is easier than you think. Try not to think of exercise in the traditional sense. Things like working in the garden, walking your dog, hiking with your kids, or even just mowing the grass are activities that get you moving and count toward your daily activity. The key is to change your mindset about exercise: once you do, you’ll be surprised how you will begin to look for more opportunities to move.

Here are five simple ideas to incorporate exercise into your daily routine:

  1. Take your dog for a walk, or go to a dog park to play frisbee, or throw a ball.
  2. Play with your kids. Get outside and play tag, throw a ball, go on a nature walk, jump rope, run through the sprinkler, and just have fun.
  3. Work in the yard. Gardening, mowing the lawn, and raking leaves are hard work!
  4. Always take the stairs. And always park your car far away from your destination.
  5. Clean your home regularly. Vacuuming, mopping, sweeping, and other chores can be a great workout, especially if you have a larger home.

The most important point is to find something active that you enjoy doing—if you’re having fun, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

 

Foods That Appear Good for You but Aren’t: Snack Food Edition

Most people truly want to eat more healthily. And most companies want to provide healthy foods to their customers. The problem, however, is that healthy foods tend to lack the salt, fat, sugar, and carbohydrates that people crave. So, even while people try to eat healthily, they soon tire of the high-fiber, low-fat foods that they should be eating, and reach for more appetizing alternatives. Hence the boom in snack food that makes at least some concessions to health. Supermarket shelves are filled with products that advertise that they contain healthy vegetables or high-protein grains. But how healthy are these foods, really? Here’s a breakdown of how some of the most popular “healthy” snacks stack up.

Veggie Chips/Straws

They’re veggies, right? That must mean they’re healthy! Well, that depends on the product. With just a few exceptions, many of the most common veggie snack products have similar nutrition profiles to potato chips, with primary ingredients of potato flour and potato starch. Many of these potato-heavy healthy snacks indeed have lower fat and calories than standard potato chips, but they don’t have any of the vitamins or nutrients that real vegetables provide. Veggie chips made from whole dehydrated vegetables are likely to have more of the good vitamins and nutrients, but they are also likely to have more fat and salt to make them more palatable. Bottom line? Read the label to find out what you’re really eating.

Quinoa Chips

Quinoa is a popular superfood because of its relatively high protein content, and people are drawn to quinoa chips for the same reason: they hope the protein will stave off hunger and help them eat less. Indeed, some quinoa chips have as much as nine grams of protein and as little as 12 grams of carbohydrates (compare to two grams of protein and 16 grams of carbohydrates in a serving of regular potato chips). Other quinoa chips, however, have as little as 1 gram of protein. If protein is your primary goal in a snack food, quinoa chips may be a good choice, but make sure to check the nutrition information before diving in.

Pita Chips

Pita chips have a good reputation; they’re often served with hummus (often a healthy snack choice), and they seem like they should be healthier than potato chips. However, most pita chips are made with processed white flour pita bread, which is high on empty carbohydrate calories and low on fiber, protein, and any healthy nutrients. Many pita chips are soaked in oil before baking, and then coated with salt—giving them a very unhealthy nutrition profile that’s high in carbs, sodium, and fat: a trifecta of bad nutrition. Not all pita chips fit this mold; look for whole grain chips with less than three grams of fat and more than two grams of protein.

 

HR Focus: Office Gardening

As this blog discusses frequently, access to fresh and healthy foods can boost workplace morale and productivity. USConnect’s fresh vending and Bistro To Go!™ micro markets provide team members with many fresh and healthy options. But what if you could provide even fresher options, like tomatoes that people can eat right off the vine or salads made from fresh-picked lettuces?

Workplace gardening is a growing trend, especially among businesses that prioritize employee wellness. Gardens can feature an array of plants—like colorful flowers, whispering grasses, and sweet-smelling lavender—that soothe the senses of all who visit it. Of course, many workplace gardens focus primarily on team members’ taste buds, growing such produce as cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, and herbs. Employees can enjoy fresh-off-the-vine produce and revel in the simple sweetness of just-picked flavors.

Apart from the benefit of the fresh-grown produce, the act of working together on a gardening project provides the kind of teamwork and camaraderie for a fraction of the cost of expensive off-site, team-building retreats. Gardening provides natural shared tasks and rewards, especially after a few weeks when team members can start seeing tangible results of their hard work.

Further, the very act of working outside can have significant benefits for health and productivity.  According to Harvard Health Publishing at Harvard Medical School, spending time outside has five distinct positive effects:

  • Increased vitamin D levels
  • Increased activity levels
  • Elevated sense of happiness and well-being
  • Improved concentration
  • Faster healing

A workplace garden can be as simple as a raised bed next to the parking lot or as grand as an acre of off-site farmland. In urban areas, “green roofs” provide the extra benefit of helping to offset global climate change. Employee interest and satisfaction in workplace gardens tends to be very high. Why not start one today?

Food Service Focus: Celiac Awareness Month

May was Celiac Awareness Month, but managing this serious autoimmune disorder is a year-round job. If you’re in the foodservice industry, here’s what you need to know about Celiac Disease.

Celiac Basics

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac disease is a genetic disorder in which the body’s immune response to gluten (a protein found in wheat and many other grains) is to attack the lining of the small intestine (the villi).

The attacks damage the villi over time, which affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. If left untreated, celiac disease can lead to other autoimmune disorders like Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis as well as serious neurological conditions and even stomach cancer. Short-term symptoms for adults usually include diarrhea, fatigue, and weight loss as well as other forms of gastric distress.

Approximately 1 percent of Americans have celiac disease.

Celiac Treatment

There is currently no cure or medical treatment for celiac disease. The only way to keep celiac disease at bay is to adhere to a lifelong gluten-free diet. Unlike food allergies or food intolerances, which may wax and wane during a lifetime or have gradations of seriousness, celiac disease requires complete avoidance of even trace amounts of gluten for the rest of the celiac patient’s life.

Avoiding Gluten

Thanks to heightened awareness of celiac disease, it’s easier than ever for people with this disorder to shop and eat normally. Many foods are naturally gluten-free: especially “whole” foods like meat, fruit, and vegetables. And due to a rise in the perceived effects of gluten intolerance, there are many options for gluten-free bread and crackers as well as other processed food.

Standards/Certification

Since only trace amounts of gluten can set off the immune system of someone with celiac disease, it is important that any food that is labeled Gluten Free (GF) is truly free from gluten. The Gluten-Free Certification Organization provides verification through a “stringent review process” that any certified GF product has 10 parts per million or less of gluten.

Food Service for Customers with Celiac Disease

The most important tool for people with celiac disease is knowledge. To best serve team members with celiac disease, it is not necessary to provide only certified GF food items (although it is nice to have a few); what is necessary is to provide easily-accessible nutrition information for all food so that everyone can be sure of what they are eating.

In a food service kitchen, it is also crucial to avoid cross-contamination with gluten—like avoiding cross-contamination with nuts for people with nut allergies. This means keeping equipment separate or cleaning it thoroughly between each use. Frequent gluten-spreading culprits include cutting boards, knives, toasters, spatulas/wooden spoons, and even spreadable condiments like butter or mustard. Kitchen employees should also be sure to wash their hands carefully before working with food that will be served as “gluten-free.”