This article was written by Amanda Miller, Registered Dietitian, and Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties Volunteer.
Grilling out this summer? Instead of piling on the meat, try filling half of the grill with vegetables. It’s a great way to make your summer meals healthier and help you save a little money.
Most vegetables make good grill companions – peppers, onions, eggplant, zucchini, corn on the cob, broccoli…the list goes on and on. But here are a few simple tips to remember when you’re grilling vegetables.
1. Toss vegetables with a small amount of oil before grilling– this prevents them from drying out and helps the seasonings stick a little better. Olive oil and canola oil both work well on the grill.
2. Cut your vegetables in a way that will allow more of their surface area to be exposed to the grill – this will speed up the cooking time and helps develop that nice roasted flavor that makes them taste great! Example: cut vegetables into rounds and slices instead of chunks when possible.
3. The amount of time needed to grill vegetables depends on two things: how large you chop them and how dense the vegetables are. If you want them to cook more quickly, chop them into smaller pieces and choose non-starchy vegetables such as peppers or broccoli as opposed to potatoes or squash.
4. Keep it simple by using tools – grill baskets and skewers give you more freedom when it comes to grilling vegetables. By using these tools, you can chop your vegetables into any size you’d like, without having to worry about them falling through the cracks. One of my favorite skewers is: chicken marinated in Italian dressing, red onions, orange peppers, and cherry tomatoes.
5. Fruits are great on the grill too! Try grilling fresh pineapple (cut into large pieces) or fresh peaches (cut in half and remove pit; place face down on the grill). Cook until they are lightly seared.
Grilled vegetables make great side dishes when you’re serving meat as the main entrée; however, vegetables can also be the stars of the show. Black bean burgers are a great option when you’re looking for a healthier version of the typical burger. They are loaded with fiber, magnesium, iron, and potassium. Most black bean burgers typically don’t work well on the grill since they have a softer consistency. However, this recipe from http://ohsheglows.com/2011/07/13/our-perfect-veggie-burger/ is easy to follow and the burgers turn out great on the grill as long as you pre-bake them in the oven ahead of time. Feel free to adjust the seasonings to your liking – if you like a stronger flavor, you may want to add more seasonings than what the recipe calls for. And if having eight black bean burgers at once is too much, try freezing half of the batch. After making the mixture, I formed them into patties and froze half of them. Later in the week I took them out and baked them in the oven; they turned out just as great as the original batch. This is hands down the best black bean burger I’ve ever had. For those of you who aren’t veggie burger fans, this recipe just might make a believer out of you yet!
So the next time you fire up the grill, don’t forget the veggies or the tips to help keep grilling the way it should be: simple. Enjoy!