With barbecue season in full swing, healthful eating might not be the first thing on your mind, but this is a great time to experiment with vegetables, lean cooking methods and other smart food choices. Here are some ways to lighten up your next party:
* Grill lean meat, poultry or seafood with a light, homemade marinade: Think chicken or fish kebabs with a citrus-garlic marinade.
* Get creative with vegetables: Try a homemade veggie burger on a lettuce "bun" or prepare a cold vegetable side dish.
* Make smart substitutions when it comes to dessert: Puree frozen fruit with a bit of agave nectar instead of buying a treat with lots of added sugar.
Side dishes are another good opportunity for a swap. Many cole slaw recipes are drowning in not just mayonnaise but also sour cream and refined sugar.
Instead, try tahini. Tahini is made of ground sesame seeds and provides five grams of protein and one gram of fiber per serving (two tablespoons) without unhealthful fats or cholesterol. Tahini also offers calcium and iron.
This slaw is packed with vitamins and minerals from a medley of veggies including purple cabbage, green cabbage, carrots and radishes. The tahini-based dressing brings it all together with a tangy and sweet finish from the fresh lime juice and agave nectar. Plus, the dressing offers a bit of heat from a pinch of cayenne pepper.
But "cole slaw" is derived from the Dutch words for cabbage salad, and cabbage really is the star of this recipe. It is low in calories but filling, because it's full of fiber. In fact, one cup of cabbage has only 22 calories and provides over two grams of fiber. There is evidence that purple cabbage fights aging, helps with memory and urinary tract health and may reduce cancer risk.
Cabbage provides vitamin C (one serving has half your daily intake), folate, vitamin B6, phytonutrients, lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin are believed to protect eye tissue from sunlight damage and reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Your body needs fat to absorb lutein and zeaxanthin, and this recipe gets these fats from the olive oil and tahini.
Carrots are a traditional part of most cole slaws. They are low in calories (a half-cup of grated carrot has only 23 calories) and contain lutein and zeaxanthin as well as vitamin A and fiber. Radishes are less common, but they add an interesting bite to this slaw. One serving (seven radishes) has just 10 calories and offers a high amount of vitamin C (30 percent of your daily recommended amount).
The cole slaw mix called for here contains shredded purple cabbage, green cabbage and carrots. You can create your own blend by using a food processor fitted with the shredding disk attachment -- or by lots of chopping.
The slaw can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days. If you make/store the dressing separately, you might need to add water to loosen it up.
Lime-Agave Tahini Veggie cole slaw
Makes 10 servings (8 to 10 cups)
For the cole slaw:
6 cups shredded tricolor cole slaw mix
2 to 4 scallions, trimmed and cut into thin slices (1/2 cup total)
10 medium radishes, trimmed and cut into chunks
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, for garnish
For the dressing
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons tahini (paste)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water
Juice of 1 or 2 limes (1/4 cup)
2 teaspoons light agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
1/4 teaspoon onion salt, or more as needed
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or more as needed
For the cole slaw: Combine the shredded cole slaw mix and scallions (to taste) in a large bowl.
Pulse the radishes in a food processor just until coarsely chopped; transfer to the bowl along with the cilantro, if using.
For the dressing: Use the flat side of a chef's knife to smash the garlic, then mince and smash until the garlic is close to a puree; transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add the tahini, oil, 1 tablespoon of the water, the lime juice, agave nectar, black pepper, onion salt and cayenne pepper. Seal, and shake vigorously to create an emulsified dressing. If it seems too thick (not easily pourable), add the remaining tablespoon of water; seal and shake.
Pour over the vegetables and toss to coat evenly. Add the sesame seeds and toss lightly. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Nutrition per serving: 60 calories, 1 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 60 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar