Fire up flavor with grilled fruits, veggies

Published 6:00 am Sunday, July 10, 2016

It’s grilling season! What better way to fill half of your plate with fruits and veggies than to take advantage of the season. Grilling enhances the sweetness in both fruits and vegetables and, with the right techniques, will have your friends and family wanting more! Below are the my top produce picks for the grill!

Sweet Corn — Corn has plenty of nutritional bang for your buck. The variety of plant phytonutrients and antioxidants in corn may improve heart health and improve disease risk. Corn is a good source of fiber which provides fullness, and it also fuels the good bacteria in our colon. Tips for the grill: You can grill corn with or without the husks; leaving the husk on corn while grilling will protect the kernels from charring and add to its flavor. Peel the husks back and remove the silk by hand. Season it with salt, pepper and a little butter. Cover the husks with foil and grill over medium-high heat for 20 to 30 minutes. If you would prefer to grill without the foil, soak the corn in the husk for 15 minutes before peeling and seasoning so it does not catch on fire while grilling. Try the recipe below for delicious Mexican Grilled Corn.

Zucchini — This versatile vegetable transforms into a savory, slightly smoky treat when grilled. It is a perfect choice to please any picky eaters in your family. Zucchini is low in calories and loaded with fiber, making it a great choice for maintaining a healthy weight. Tips for the grill: Cut zucchini into slices or lengthwise into spears. Preheat the grill to medium. Brush the zucchini with olive oil and season as desired. Try salt, pepper, lemon zest and a dash of lemon juice. Grill each side for 3 to 5 minutes, until well browned and tender.

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Bell Peppers — One cup of bell peppers contain almost three-times the amount of disease-fighting vitamin C as an orange. Red bell peppers are the sweetest, and contain the most antioxidants. Choose deeply colored peppers with firm skin. Tips for the grill: To prepare bell peppers for the grill, cut each pepper into quarters lengthwise and discard the stem and seeds. Bell peppers can be seasoned and grilled the same way as zucchini. In fact, I recommend grilling these two veggies together to take advantage of the nutrition in both and to add more color to your plate.

Portabella Mushrooms — Savory and meaty, large portabellas can take the place of meat and make a fantastic veggie burger! Mushrooms are very low in calories, and contain blood pressure-lowering potassium, magnesium and vitamin D. Tips for the grill: Portabellas can dry out quickly, so it is best to marinate them for 30 minutes before grilling. A simple marinade of balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil and steak seasoning works great. Grill them over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes per side, brushing them with marinade frequently. Serve them on a whole-grain bun with your favorite burger toppings.

Peaches — This summertime fruit is loaded with vitamins A and C, and contains only 80 calories with 3 grams of filling fiber. If your peaches are not yet ripe, place them in a paper bag with an apple, which gives off ethylene gas and helps them ripen faster. Tips for the grill: Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits. Brush lightly with oil and grill over low heat until golden brown, 4 to 7 minutes. Drizzle with honey, sprinkle with a little cinnamon and serve over plain Greek yogurt for a dreamy summertime dessert. For a more savory option, try adding a splash of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of tarragon and serve alongside grilled chicken or fish.

Plumcots — This super sweet fruit is a cross between a plum and an apricot. With only 30 calories, it makes a great snack or dessert choice. Choose darker colored plumcots to gain the most antioxidant benefit. Tips for the grill: Plumcots can be prepped and grilled the same way as peaches. Seasoned either sweet or savory, they make a flavorful salad topping.

Melons — Melons are a great source of lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps the skin and heart. Choose melons with a hollow sound, symmetrical shape and yellow belly to ensure ripeness and peak nutrition. Tips for the grill: Peel and cut melons into one-inch slices. Brush with honey or oil and grill over low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, turning once. Grilled melon is a great side to grilled chicken or fish or can be enjoyed on its own or served with Greek yogurt.

Pineapple — Pineapple’s sweetness is greatly intensified by the caramelization that takes place on the grill, making it an excellent choice for a sweet low-calorie dessert. One cup of pineapple contains 85 calories, 2 grams of filling fiber and many vitamins and minerals. Tips for the grill: Try grilling pineapple in wedges or slices. Toss the wedges in a little lemon, lime or orange juice before placing on the grill. Grill over medium-low heat for four minutes on each side, watching closely as they caramelize quickly. Grilled pineapple is great on your favorite burger or used in pineapple-salsa and served over grilled fish.

Mexican Grilled Corn

Serves 4 (1 ear of corn each).

Street vendors across Mexico sell this style of roasted or grilled corn—topped with mayonnaise, chili powder and Cotija cheese. You can serve the unadorned corn on a platter with small bowls of the sauce, cheese and lime on the side so everyone can make their own.

All you need:

2 tbsp Hy-Vee low-fat mayonnaise

2 tbsp Hy-Vee nonfat plain yogurt

1/2 tsp chili powder

4 ears corn, husked

4 tbsp finely shredded Cotija, (see Tip) or Parmesan cheese

1 lime, quartered

All you do:

1. Preheat grill to medium-high.

2. Combine mayonnaise, yogurt and chili powder in a small bowl.

3. Grill corn, turning occasionally, until marked and tender, 8 to 12 minutes total. Spread each ear with 1 tablespoon of the sauce and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon Cotija (or Parmesan). Serve with lime wedges.

Tips: Cotija cheese, also called queso añejo or queso añejado, is an aged Mexican cheese similar in texture and flavor to Parmesan. Find it near other specialty cheeses or in Mexican grocery stores.

Source: adapted from EatingWell, Inc.

The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.