By Dr Sherry LaBeck, ZRT Laboratory
Hello summer! Our Lab docs and staff have compiled some tasty recipes to include for your family picnics or impromptu gatherings with friends. From a refreshing herbal beverage and a cool creamy soup to a zesty, peppery corn dip and tangy, nutty quinoa salad, the foods that make up summer fare can be simple to prepare as well as delicious. The addition of spicy, savory grilled chicken thighs boosts the protein up a notch. Then top these off with a delectable mini muffin containing nut butter and chocolate chips! What more could you want? Fruit sorbet, of course! Enjoy!!
Hibiscus and Mint Lemonade
- 4 bags hibiscus tea (such as Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger tea)
- 2 cups fresh mint leaves, plus sprigs for serving
- 2 ½ cups lemonade
In a small saucepan, steep the tea and mint in 2 cups boiling water, using a wooden spoon to gently mash the mint; let cool. Discard the tea bags and mint. In a pitcher, combine the tea and lemonade. Serve over ice and garnish with the mint sprigs. Yields 4 servings.
Chilled Avocado-Cucumber Soup
- 1 English cucumber, peeled and diced (reserve ¼ cup for garnish)
- 1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and diced (reserve ¼ cup for garnish)
- ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus sprigs for garnish
- 1 scallion, white and pale-green parts only, coarsely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Puree ingredients in a blender. Divide soup and reserved cucumber and avocado among 4 bowls. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.
Mexican Corn Dip
- 4 cups corn kernels, frozen and thawed or fresh (about 5 large ears fresh)
- 1 can (4.5 oz.) mild green chilis
- 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1/4 cup diced red bell peppers
- 1 diced jalapeno (seeds removed unless you like spice)
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise made with olive oil
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl until well combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve with chips.
Tahini-Lemon Quinoa with Asparagus Ribbons
- 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 cup quinoa, cooked
- ½ cup tahini
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
- 1 pound thick asparagus
- ¼ cup shelled pistachios, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
Combine chickpeas, lemon zest and juice and a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl. Let stand for 20 minutes or refrigerate overnight, then drain. Meanwhile, cook quinoa per package directions and season with salt. In a blender, puree tahini, lime juice, honey, mint, ½ cup of water and ¼ teaspoon salt until smooth, adding additional water if needed. Set aside. With vegetable peeler, shave asparagus into ribbons, peeling from woody end toward tip. In a bowl, combine cooked quinoa, asparagus ribbons and marinated chickpeas. Sprinkle with pistachios and drizzle with tahini dressing.
Grilled Chicken Thighs
Ingredients for Marinade:
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 1 cup Tamari soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons powdered ginger or grated fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ¼ cup olive oil
Marinate 18-24 chicken thighs (skin on, no real prep here) for at least 2 hours.
Ingredients for Glaze:
- ½ bottle Stubb's BBQ sauce
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (finish to taste and thinness desired)
- 4 squirts Tabasco sauce (finish to taste)
- 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
While chicken is marinating, make up the glaze and mix it up to your taste. There are no hard rules here. Get creative. If you like spicy, you can add Sriracha or ghost pepper flakes. If you like sweet, add in some honey or brown sugar. At this point, save a little of this glaze for a dipping sauce if you’re so inclined.
Start your grill and get it hot. Remove your chicken thighs from the marinade. Cook chicken on medium heat if it’s a gas grill about 10 minutes on each side (5 minutes if boneless) or until done. Once just about cooked through, paint your chicken with the glaze and close the lid for about 30 seconds. Flip them and do the same on the other side. Pull off glazed, gingery chicken that’s so juicy and delicious, no one will believe how easy they were to make.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Mini-Muffins
- ½ cup thick, creamy peanut butter or almond butter (no-stir brand or mixed to incorporate oil and nut butter). Any kind that is not separated or thin would be ok. Thicker is better.
- 1 banana, roughly sliced
- 3 tablespoons honey or agave syrup
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ + cup mini chocolate chips (to taste)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or add cup liners to a mini-muffin pan. Put all ingredients except chocolate chips in blender and blend for a few seconds until smooth. Stir in mini-chocolate chips. Fill mini-muffin cups about ¾ full. Bake for 8-9 minutes at 400 degrees until tops look rounded and they pass the toothpick test. Makes about 2 dozen mini muffins. Easy-peasy! Keeps for a few days at room temperature or freezes well.
Homemade Fruit Sorbet
- 3+ cups fresh or frozen fruit, cut up
- 1-2 tablespoons honey (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice (lime juice may go better with some fruit)
- ¼ cup warm water, as needed
Arrange fresh fruit on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze until solid (3-4 hours or overnight). Frozen fruit can be used straight from the freezer. In a food processor or blender, add frozen fruit and lemon or lime juice. Process until smooth, adding the warm water as necessary to help blend. Serve immediately or place in a freezer for 3-4 hours or until firm. Makes 4 servings.
Fruits ideas: raspberries, peaches, strawberries, watermelon, blueberries, mangos, cantaloupe, honeydew and oranges.