The cold weather is finally behind us, and it’s time to enjoy outdoor time with friends and family. But in order to do so, you need to minimize time in the kitchen by choosing quick and easy dishes with 5 ingredients or less to contribute to the festivities. Here are a few ideas:
Get your protein ready to hit the grill by marinating meats in advance. Whether it’s chicken, beef or pork, marinate it overnight in your refrigerator, then pack it in your cooler before you head out the door. Marinades don’t have to be complicated, and if you’re in a pinch, pick up a bottled marinade, but read the nutrition facts to make sure both the sodium and sugar contents aren’t too high.
One recipe for my Wall Street Journal best-selling cookbook, “The Easy 5-Ingredient Healthy Cookbook,” is my miso-garlic pork chops. My boyfriend, both a barbecue and pork-lover, can’t get enough of this recipe. Note that in my cookbook, salt, black pepper, cooking spray, olive oil and honey are pantry ingredients that don’t count toward the five ingredient limit. You can also swap the pork for skinless, boneless chicken breasts.
Miso-Garlic Pork Chops
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus at least 30 minutes marinating time
Cook time: 10 minutes
1/3 cup white miso
1/3 cup sake
1/3 cup mirin
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
Four 5-ounce boneless, pork loin chops
Cooking spray or 1 tablespoon olive oil
In a large bowl, mix the miso, sake, mirin, ginger and garlic into a smooth paste.
Add the pork chops and turn to coat all sides with the glaze. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
Coat a grill pan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Alternatively, brush the grates of an outdoor grill with the olive oil. When the pan or grill is hot, cook the pork chops for about 3 to 5 minutes on each side, until they reach an internal cooking temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nutrition information (per chop): 209 calories; 4 g total fa (1 g saturated); 32 g protein; 12 g total carbs; 1 g fiber; 932 sodium.
If you’re looking for less than five ingredients, you can’t get any simpler than a baked potato topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt and corn on the cob with a teaspoon of butter or sprinkled with chili powder. You can also make a simple, but healthy, pasta or potato salad dressing using my combo of Greek yogurt and light mayonnaise, which is perfect for both.
Toby’s Creamy Dressing for Picnic Salads
1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a large bowl, whisk the Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon zest, onion powder, salt and black pepper until combined. Then toss 1 1/2 pounds of steamed diced red potatoes or 8 ounces of whole-grain pasta in the dressing. It doesn’t get any easier than that!
Since 90 percent of Americans don’t meet their daily vegetable recommendations, I always recommend toting along a vegetable salad to picnics. You can opt for a traditional tossed salad with lettuce, cucumber and tomato with a vinaigrette dressing, or try my go-to Mediterranean-style chopped salad.
Prep time: 15 minutes
2 medium cucumbers (about 1 pound)
1 medium tomato (about 1/2 pound)
1 yellow or red bell pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Chop the cucumbers, tomato and pepper and place in a medium bowl. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss well to combine.
Nutrition information (per 3/4 cup): 209 calories; 4 g total fat (1 g saturated); 32 g protein; 12 g total carbs; 1 g fiber; 932 mg sodium.
Picnic Food Safety
No matter what you choose to bring to your picnic, be mindful of how you pack your dishes in order to prevent illness. Here are important food safety tips to keep in mind:
Use two different coolers, one for raw meats and one for ready-to-eat foods like salads.
Keep raw meats in resealable plastic bags to minimize juices from dripping in your cooler.
Keep salads in the cooler after serving. Salads and other foods that should be refrigerated can easily spoil if left in the hot sun. Foods should never be left out for over two hours when it’s warm outside, and over one hour if the temperature is 90 degrees or above.
Cook the meat in batches. Instead of grilling everything at once and leaving leftovers in the hot sun, cook in small batches. This way the raw meat can stay nice and cold in the cooler, and eaten right after it’s cooked.
Use a meat thermometer to make sure chicken and other meats are cooked to proper temperatures.