Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer and the last weekend it seems mandatory to throw something on the grill. Backyard barbecues are in full swing, and you may be looking for the perfect menu to cap off the summer.
For this 3-day weekend, I’m suggesting that you start with steak…yes, I said it. RED MEAT. Of course, there are some health risks if you consume too much red meat, but indulging every so often can fit perfectly fine within a healthy diet. The key is to eat red meat no more than once a week, keep your portions reasonable and choose a lean cut.
A reasonable portion is considered 3 ounces – like the size of a deck of cards. I know, I know…that seems TINY. Really, the protein shouldn’t take more than 1/4 of your plate. Think of all the money (not just calories) you’ll save by reducing your portion! I often split a steak portion with my kids as a way of maintaining the right amount.
As for the kind of steak you choose, there are actually many lean cuts of beef that can be fewer calories than chicken – especially if you like to eat the skin on poultry. I found a great interactive website that allows you to look at the nutritional content of different kinds of beef. Look for the lean choices – they are less than 10 grams of fat per 3 ounce serving. Basically, anything with “loin” in the name (ex. Sirloin or tenderloin) is going to be lean. Personally, I like flank steak because I can slice it thin – which make me feel like I’m getting a much larger portion for my 3 ounces, and it is easy to use the leftovers in salads, sandwiches, or fajitas later in the week. Saves me a night of cooking!
While the meat is often the star of the show, I like to make sides that garner a little of the spotlight themselves. Since summer is wrapping up, farmers’ markets are teaming with the last of summer produce. Corn on the cob is unbelievable sweet and cheap right now, and it is perfect on the grill. But what really steals my attention at the markets is the incredibly sweet tomatoes. In fact I’m proud to say that I successful grew many of my own this year!
We bought a cherry tomato plant that has produced more than expected. I purposely opted for small tomatoes, because I love being able to stop by the garden and pop ones of these jewels in my mouth – like candy! I’m trying to encourage my kids to do the same. Any who…these tomatoes are perfectly paired with some of the upcoming fall vegetables in my warm roasted vegetable salad.
I know you are thinking…but that’s not on the grill. You can certainly put all of this yumminess in a disposable pan and put the pan right on your grill too. But if your home is like mine, my husband likes to “man” the grill and I am usually making a few of the sides in the kitchen…running in and out of the house periodically, of course.
So roasting is a perfect way to cook in the kitchen without having to hover when I’d rather join in outdoor fun. Besides, I just LOVE what roasting does to vegetables. It brings out the natural sweetness and makes them just tender enough without being mushy so you get the perfect bite with every vegetable. The key is to cut all of your vegetables about the same size so they will cook evenly. I used tomatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms and bell peppers – but this is a recipe that is totally open to personal preferences.
You can put all of the veggies on the same pan (I like to use a silicone baking liner for easy clean up and I never have to worry about something sticking), drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can add other herbs too. I personally think chopped fresh rosemary is delish with roasted vegetables. Herbs or not, this dish is so flavorful and hearty that you forget it is actually good for you! Roast at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, depending on the size of your vegetables. This recipe is substantial enough to match well with a steak, but flavorful enough to steal the show.
Since I am completely in LOVE with berries of all kinds, I can’t help but round out my Labor Day meal by paying tribute to this summertime treasure. I like to serve a bowl of fresh berries with a little bit of whipped cream and lemon zest. The little touch of lemon is just enough freshness to make a basic bowl of berries seem gourmet! Your guests (or family) don’t have to know how simple it is.
So get outside, fire up the grill and savor the goodness of this menu. I can’t wait to hear what you think!