Ever go to a cookout and feel weighed down by greasy burgers and artery-clogging sides? Or maybe you’ve planned a shindig or two, fumbling over the menu, wanting to provide healthy alternatives for guests but didn’t know where to turn? As the biggest grill-burning, fun-in-the-sun holiday approaches, these vibrant food ideas will satisfy family and friends while keeping them on the fit side.

Spinach and Feta Turkey Sliders With Tomato Buns

  • 3 lbs. ground turkey meat
  • 2 ½ teaspoons Lawry’s seasoned salt
  • 1 ½ cups crumbled feta cheese (or shredded parmesan)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped
  • 8 vine tomatoes, sliced in quarters
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground pepper
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Mix spinach and onion in a bowl with ground turkey. Add garlic powder, cheese and salt. Drizzle in olive oil for added moisture if you please. Stir mixture and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Form burgers into small patties, no bigger than your palms, and throw on the grill. Let cook for 5-8 minutes on each side or until lightly charred. Sandwich burgers between tomato slices, and serve.

Servings: 15

Italian Shrimp Skewers

  • 2-lb. bag large frozen shrimp, deveined
  • 2 lbs. fresh scallops
  • Large green, orange and yellow peppers (2 each)
  • 1 pack 12-inch bamboo skewers
  • 16 oz. bottle Italian dressing (I prefer Wish-Bone, but any brand is fine)

Let shrimp thaw, then peel and clean. Rinse scallops and combine in a large bowl with cleaned shrimp. Thoroughly wash peppers and cut into halves. Remove the seeds, then cut the halves into quarters. Next, slice the quarters into large chunks. Add the diced peppers to the shrimp and scallops. Pour Italian dressing into the bowl and mix, making sure all ingredients are covered.

Refrigerate overnight or for at least an hour. Let bamboo sticks soak in water for at least an hour before grilling. When ready, assemble the shrimp, scallops and peppers onto the skewers. You can arrange them in any order you like, just be sure not to overload the skewers.  Place the kabobs on a preheated grill, and cover. Let them cook at least 5 minutes on each side or until they’re charred to your liking.

Serve on a pretty little platter, and watch them fly!

Servings: At least 20

Grilled Squash and Zucchini

  • 3 large zucchini
  • 3 large yellow squash
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to taste

Wash the squash and zucchini, then chop into 1/4” pieces (you can cut them thicker, but remember that they’ll take a little longer to cook). Place sliced squash into a large bowl, and sprinkle garlic, onion powder, crushed red pepper, sugar, salt and pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil until evenly coated, and mix together.

Lay the seasoned squash in a tin pan.  Place the pan on a medium grill, cover and let cook for 20-30 minutes. For grill marks, remove the veggies from the tin pan and spread on the bare grill 2-3 minutes longer on each side.

Remove from grill, and allow your family and friends to dive in!

Serving: 10-12

Corn and Black Bean Salad

  • 2 lb. bag frozen corn
  • 4 large mangos, peeled and diced
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 large red peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1½  large red onions, diced
  • Juice of 4 limes
  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Let corn defrost, then place in large bowl. Combine mangos, black beans, red onion and red peppers.  Add brown sugar, oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Mix contents, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Decorate with chopped cilantro before serving this refreshing salad, and watch your guests come back over and over again!

Servings: 10-12

Grilled Chicken Lettuce Wraps

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 3 carrots
  • ¼ head red cabbage
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 8 oz. bottle French salad dressing
  • 1 package fresh romaine lettuce leaves
  • 2 teaspoons Adobo seasoning
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Wash carrots, tomatoes and cabbage. Cut the tomatoes into chunks and grate the cabbage and carrots. Season the chicken breasts with Adobo, salt and pepper (or whatever seasoning you use for your chicken), then cook on grill for 8-12 minutes, flipping cutlets between cooking time. Place chicken in a container by itself, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

When cool, chop chicken into small chunks, then add tomatoes, carrots, cabbage and mozzarella. Pour French dressing over mixture, and stir until all contents are evenly coated. Wash lettuce, then place a scoop (about two tablespoons) of the mixture into the center of each leaf.

Roll them up, and serve.

Servings: 10-12

Cecily Michelle is a Newark, NJ native and graduate of both Essex County College and Ramapo College of NJ.  She is a freelance writer whose resume includes work for BET, For Harriet and Madame Noire.