Happy Birthday Canada and Happy Early Birthday USA!
With Canada and the USA sharing so many great traditions, celebrating their birthdays so close together only makes sense. This means shorter weekends and more outdoor time for folks on both sides of the 49th parallel.
As with most birthdays, these tend to revolve around food. Since it’s the middle of summer, most people will probably be throwing a BBQ, so lets talk about how to maximize the fun on the big day and minimize the overindulgence regret the day after.
Celebration BBQs have a lot of food involved, so lets break this down into courses:
It’s important to hydrate! Try your best to limit the sugary drinks like pop and juice, which will actually make your guests thirstier and hungrier. Instead, serve plan and patriotic water by adding fresh or frozen fruits that are the same colours as your country. Canada, think strawberries and lychee fruit. USA, think raspberries, blueberries, and skinless pear pieces. If you’re looking to really jazz things up, make pitchers of iced herbal tea by brewing double the amount of tea than normal and pouring the hot stuff over ice once it steeps. Leave the sweeteners on the side to allow guests to add them to taste.
When most of us think BBQ main courses, things like steaks, hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken wings are the first to come to mind. Just because you’re cooking with fire, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to burn away all of those unhealthy saturated fats and calories. Change things up this summer by expanding your cooking roster. Try salmon steaks instead of beef to get more of those healthy omega-3 fats that are good for your health and national healthcare. For the vegetarian option, try vegetable and goat cheese stuffed portobello mushrooms. Make extras, as some of the meat eaters will likely also want a taste of this delicious creation.
Creamy potato and pasta salads are frequent staple of summer BBQs, but the food safety hazard they present when left sweating in the sun always makes me cringe, not to mention their negligible nutritional value. This year, replace them with complex carbs like bakes sweet potato and grilled corn on the cob. Canada, top your potatoes with white onion and diced red peppers. USA, top your tots with a deep purple red onion, white beans, and diced tomatoes. As for the corn, set out assorted spices instead of the traditional butter and salt to shake up the flavours and lower the sodium, without loosing taste. If you did end up grilling some hot dogs or hamburgers, makes sure to serve them on whole grain buns.
The sweetest endings, don’t have to be cavity inducing. Instead of pie, cake, and regular ice cream serve fruit smoothies, melon salad, and yogurt pops. Blend frozen fruit and milk or water to make delicious fruit smoothies, with no need for ice. Either cube or use a melon baller to fill a large bowl with watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon, then top with a few tablespoons of finely chopped mint and some honey for an irresistibly sweet centerpiece to your dessert table. If you have time the night before, blend yogurt with fruits and set into popsicle moulds in the freezer overnight. Just makes sure to have enough for kids and adults alike!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY NATION! May your food make you stronger and healthier for many more celebrations.
Eat healthy and be happy,
Anna Gofeld, RD