Celebrating my independence from sub-par BBQ food

I’ll admit, I didn’t get it. This week at WW, the topic was something along the lines of “Surviving Summer BBQs.” My fellow weight loss buds were pretty melancholy about missing out on potato salad, macaroni salad, hot dogs and burgers, etc.

I’ve always loved a good cook out, but I really don’t like a lot of the traditional American BBQ types of food. I don’t like mayonnaise-based salads, and I know I can have a decent hamburger without the bun (which frankly mutes the taste anyway, in my opinion) and with leaner beef. The only thing I really miss about a good July 4th BBQ is good hotdogs on the grill. My grandmother used to buy Deutschmacher. I loved one of those with good grill marks, loaded with finely chopped onion, dill relish, dijon mustard and ketchup.

This year, I decided to avoid holiday traffic and spend the 4th at my place with some friends. Because of the way my apartment is set up, it was a cook-in, but thanks to my George Foreman and a Farmer’s Market jackpot, I think we did quite well. You’ll see the total calorie count for what I consumed at the end of the post. It’s definitely on the high side, but I think the quality of food was good. We had lots of uber fresh produce and minimal saturated fat.

On the grill:

  • hot Italian pork sausages: Not healthy by any stretch of the imagination, but since all of the sides were healthy, I wanted to give people an opportunity to indulge if they wanted to. Plus, I knew I could have a half of sausage with a smaller piece of chicken. It let me feel like I was indulging a bit without going overboard. I have bought chicken sausage before and would have done that for this event, but the store was out. Chicken sausage comes in so many more flavors than regular pork sausage. Cooking is much more clean-up friendly since there’s so much less grease. I don’t notice the difference in taste or texture.
  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts marinaded in a little bit of olive oil, the juice and zest of one lemon, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper, parsley. I gotta admit, the chicken was super-moist, but I didn’t care for the marinade. I don’t think I like grilled lemon chicken. Next time, I’d just keep it traditional and stick with a good BBQ sauce.
  • I was going to grill the peaches I got at the Farmer’s Market and glaze them in a simple brown sugar/vanilla vodka combo, but they weren’t ripe yet.

Sides (pics  & recipes for the dishes I made are at the end of the post):

  • summer corn salad (adapted from this Ina Garten recipe)
  • green bean/potato salad (courtesy of Weight Watchers)
  • Caprese pasta salad
  • tossed salad (brought by friends–topped with feta)
  • homemade balsamic vinaigrette
  • multigrain tortilla chips with homemade salsa and guac (brought by friends)
  • I also wanted to make a tomato tart, but I ran out of basil and realized we had more than enough food.

Drinks & Dessert:

  • Crystal Light
  • Diet 7-Up
  • Water
  • an assortment of beer (including light beers)
  • Chocolate Zucchini cake topped with Halo Farms Ice Cream (Tahitian Vanilla and Plain M&M). This time I skipped the frosting on the cake and baked it in a 13×9 inch pan. It was easier to cut, lower in calories, and the cake went further.

Balsamic Dressing

I got this recipe from a friend of Evan’s. Jillian brought a big salad with field greens, dried cherries and Craisins and this amazing dressing to a game night Evan hosted. I’ve never seen Evan eat so much salad, and I’ve never enjoyed such a simple salad more than I did this one. The dressing isn’t low calorie, but it’s full of flavor (so you don’t need as much) and it lacks the preservatives and other chemicals bottled, store-bought dressings typically have. This would also be a good topping or marinade for grilled chicken.

  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. dijon mustard (I use a whole grain, but it doesn’t really matter)
  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 c. canola oil

Put the first three ingredients in a blender or food processor and mix well. Gradually add the oil, mixing until emulsified.  

Makes 1.5 cups. A 2 TBS serving should be about 140 calories, 14 g. fat, 6 g. carbs, 6 g. sugar.

Fresh Corn Salad

I love that everything in this salad is chopped the same size, so it looks like confetti.

I love that everything in this salad is chopped the same size, so it looks like confetti.

  • 5 ears of corn, shucked
  • 1/2 c. finely diced red onion
  • 1 small red pepper, finely diced (about 1/2 c.)
  • 1 small green pepper, finely diced (about 1/2 c.)
  • 1 portobello mushroom, finely diced
  • 3 TBS cider vinegar
  • 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, julienned
  1. In a large pot of salted water, boil the corn for three minutes until the starchiness is gone. Immerse the corn in cold water to seal the color and cool enough for handling.
  2. Sautee the mushrooms until soft.
  3. Cut the corn kernals off the cob and toss in a large bowl with the onion, peppers and mushrooms.
  4. Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a smaller bowl.
  5. Pour the marinade over the corn mixture, add the basil and toss until coated.
  6. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Serves 6. Each serving is 125 calories, 7.6 g. fat, 1.1 g. saturated fat, 14 g. carbs, 2.4 g. fiber, 3.2 g. sugar, 2.4 g. protein.

Weight Watchers’ Green Bean & Potato Salad

My OXO Mandonlin saved the day on this salad. It cut the potatoes into perfect 1/4-inch rounds.

My OXO Mandonlin saved the day on this salad. It cut the potatoes into perfect 1/4-inch rounds.

  • 24 oz. fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into 1/4″ rounds
  • 8 oz. fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 6 TBS fat free, reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped shallots
  • 2 TBS white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 TBS chopped fresh tarragon (don’t care for this herb, so I left it out)
  • 3 TBS chopped fresh dill (love this herb, so I used 5 TBS instead)
  • 3 TBS chopped fresh chives (didn’t have this, so I left it out)

Boil potatoes 6-8 minutes until they’re almost tender. Add the green beans and cook another 2-3 minutes until the potatoes are tender and the green beans are crisp-tender.

Drain, rinse under cold water and drain again. This seals the bright green color into the green beans, prevents the veggies from continuing to cook and it rinses off the extra starch.

In a large serving bowl, whisk together the brith, shallots, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Drizzle in the oil, whisking until blended and stir in the herbs. Add the potatoes and green beans to the bowl, tossing gently. (Too rough and you’ll end up with broken up or mashed potatoes!)

Serves 6, about 1 c. servings. 165 calories, 7 g. fat, 1 g. saturated fat, 23.4 g. carbs, 3.6 g. fiber, 1.7 g. sugar, 3.7 g. protein. (3 WW points)

Caprese Pasta Salad

Caprese salad is my favorite, but I thought I'd turn it into a pasta salad with the addition of rigatoni. Even Evan who claims to hate cold cheese loved it and had seconds (probably even thirds).

Caprese salad is my favorite, but I thought I'd turn it into a pasta salad with the addition of rigatoni. Even Evan who claims to hate cold cheese loved it and had seconds (probably even thirds).

  • 3/4 lb pasta (I chose mini rigatoni–you could make it even healthier by using a whole grain whole wheat pasta)
  • 5 tomatoes, chopped into 1/2″ chunks
  • 3/4 lb. fresh mozzarella, bocconcini or ciliegine sized (or chop larger sized fresh mozzarella)
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
  • 1/2 c. fresh basil, julienned
  1. Boil the pasta and cook according to manufacturer’s directions  for al dente pasta. Drain and rinse with cold water. Pour into a large bowl, toss with the tomatoes and mozzarella.
  2. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir in the basil and garlic. Pour on top of the pasta mixture and toss.
  3. This dish is best when made at least a couple hours (if not a day) before serving.

Serves 16 (about a 1 c. serving). 163 calories, 8.2 g fat, 3.2 g saturated fat, 14 g. carbs, 1.2 g. sugar, 8.3 g. protein. 

Sure, if you’re adding up all of the calories, you’ll see that the sides I made alone top 400-500 calories, but keep in mind that because there were so many things to taste, most people didn’t have a full serving. I probably had 1/2 c. serving (at most) of each of those sides. And only 1 TBS of dressing. I didn’t think to take a picture of it, but my dish (actually, it was 2 plates of food) contained:

  • 1/2 sausage link (120 calories)
  • 2 oz chicken breast (70 calories)
  • 1 c. salad with 1 TBS dressing (under 100 calories)
  • 1/3 c. Green Bean & Potato salad (60 calories)
  • 1/3 c. Caprese Pasta Salad (60 calories)
  • 1/4 c. Summer Corn Salad (40 calories)
  • 1 slice of cake (271 calories)
  • 1/2 c. ice cream (220 calories?)
  • 1 bottle of Miller Genuine Draft MGD 64 (64 calories)
  • 3/4 bottle of Yeungling Light (75 calories)

Total calories: 1080. It would have easily been about 800 calories if I cut out one of the beers, had half a serving of ice cream and skipped the sausage. While that’s still high for a normal dinner, I think it’s reasonable for a special occasion/holiday, especially if you’re being careful with your calories for the rest of the day and sneaking in some exercise.

Unfortunately, the following put my calorie counts in the indulgent and irresponsible category:

  • 2 TBS guac (60 calories–but it’s healthy fat!)
  • 2 TBS salsa (20 calories tops)
  • 2 servings of Multigrain tortilla chips (300 calories–yikes!)

A better choice would have been to limit the chips to one serving (and perhaps have baked chips instead). Or skip it altogether. Fortunately, I had a healthy breakfast and snacky-light lunch because I was saving up calories for dinner and dessert. Until that point, I had only consumed about 500 calories for the day (egg and cheese on an Arnold’s sandwich thin as a late breakfast and 2 graham crackers with 1 TBS of PB for snack). My total caloric intake was about 2000 calories yesterday–too much to support weight loss, but not enough to result in a gain. Since I intend to be on target the rest of the week (and the leftover zucchini cake and some of the ice cream is coming with us for dinner at Evan’s mom’s house tonight), I still expect a loss this week.

Now let’s compare this to what I might have eaten a couple years ago:

  • 1 hot dog with bun and full range of condiments: 360 calories
  • 1/2 a hamburger with bun, mayo and other condiments: 250 calories 
  • 1/2 c. potato salad (mayo based): 200 calories
  • 1/2 c. pasta salad (probably my mom’s tortellini salad made with bottled italian dressing, pepperoni and black olives): 300 calories
  • chips (3 servings–easily): 450 calories
  • 1 c. tossed salad with dressing: 100 calories
  • 1/2 c. fruit salad: 60 calories
  • some kind of dessert: 500 calories
  • a couple beers or whatever sweet alcohol-based punch my aunt made: 300+ calories
  • TOTAL CALORIES: 2520…that’s more than a day’s worth of calories for one meal!

Despite indulging this weekend, I saved myself 1000 calories and countless grams of fat. And I don’t really feel like I “dieted.” I’d say that’s a good deal.

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3 responses to “Celebrating my independence from sub-par BBQ food

  1. I got to say one thing.. I rather not have an MGD 64 and instead have a WHOLE Yeungling… I rather have one good beer instead of bad beer.. 🙂

  2. The corn salad looks great. I sent the link to your blog to my W.W. leader. Thought she might enjoy it.

  3. Pingback: Eat More/Weigh Less « Downsized!

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