How to Have a Hip and Healthy "Mama-Q" BBQby Laura Cipullo
Get your party on, and your apron off! Healthy summer parties should be spent with your guests, not serving them.
Turn your next summer barbecue into one in which you create memories - not just burgers - by following these five simple tips for planning a healthy and hip Mama-Q that your friends and family will be sure to enjoy.
1. Sustainable and Green
First and foremost, summer is a great time to focus on a “sustainable” lifestyle. Don’t make the faux pas of using plastic, and instead, opt for serving ware made of bamboo or compostable utensils, plates, cups, and straws. Go the extra mile and serve in style with large bamboo bowls (not to be discarded), organic cotton napkins, and of course, potted plants for that little extra "je ne sais quoi"!
2. Don’t Booze, Bond!
Is the idea of potted plants growing on you? For a fun activity, have the kids and parents make potted plants together before the entrée is served. Allow the kids to choose from strawberry plants, pepper plants, or even edible flowers. Supply pots, organic soil, shovels, seeds, and water. Meanwhile, let your guests sip Perrier in their bamboo cups to stay hydrated.
Not only is this a great way to create a bonding experience while encouraging gardening and sustainable, local farming, but it’s also the perfect way to send your guests home with a parting gift - an organic plant that produces flavorful delights.
3. Fancy Finger Foods
Serve restaurant-quality flavors without the oversized portions by turning your favorite dishes into finger foods! How? It’s easy. Simply think of a restaurant dish you love. Add a few of the dish’s ingredients (like feta and watermelon - my favorites) to a bamboo skewer and voila, fancy finger foods.
To make, choose two to three ingredients, and include at least one fruit and one protein to keep your guests full enough - but not too full - until dinner is served. If it is particularly warm out, serve the fruit kebabs over ice or leave off the cheese. If your tots are old enough, ask them to help make the kebabs before the guests arrive or even the night before. Just be sure to leave extra room on the skewer so that little fingers with soil don’t spoil the hors d'oeuvres. This easy, pre-made appetizers will allow you to pot plants with your children and really enjoy your Mama-Q, while your guests enjoys the fruits of your labor.
4. Simple and Healthy
Banish the idea of boring burgers, and create a hip dish instead! At your Mama-Q, serve one nutritious main entrée, balancing the dish with wholesome carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats and of course, a healthy kick. Wild fish tacos are the perfect summer dish! Wild fish is not only healthy and sustainable but cooks quickly. Remember, the goal is to mingle with your guests in the garden, not around the grill!
To save even more time, cut your peppers and onions the night before or the morning of your party. Cook with canola oil using a grill pan immediately before dinnertime. When it’s ready, encourage your guests to fill their own whole-wheat soft tortillas with goodies from the grill. Having them build their own meal will give them a greater appreciation for the food they are eating, while making them more mindful of their portions (but shh, you don’t have to tell them that). Serve with hot sauce to give your friends and family an even bigger taste of the summer heat!
5. Dish It Out With Dessert
Healthy parties can still have dessert! Because guess what; without them even knowing it, you have already moderated your guests’ intakes by following the above guidelines. When it comes time for dessert, there’s no reason to feel guilty for serving something a little less nutritious.
My children love nothing more than making s’mores. Not only are they finger licking good, but these delicious graham-wiches take time to make, meaning your guests will once again be more mindful of their food and eat at a slower pace. Use organic dark chocolate and locally produced or homemade marshmallows, and add organic raspberries in between the graham crackers for a fruity boost. Don’t forget to use bamboo skewers and an eco-friendly fire source to complete your true, green Mama-Q!