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Fast Dinners (and Dessert!) for Fun Friday Nights

By Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD | August 27, 2019 | Rally Health

Sunsets, dancing fireflies, the whirr of your neighbor’s sprinkler system: Summer Friday nights should be savored, spent relaxing on your porch, deck, or patio, not over a hot stove. Planning fun, easy meals for the end of the week will make your life easier and much more pleasant this season. From beefy sliders and grilled pizzas to cool chicken salad, we’ve created healthier versions of five summertime classics. Each dish highlights summer produce and uses staples you probably already have in your fridge or your pantry. With temps already rising, we also made sure to keep cook times quick and prep work to a minimum. Make the most of those precious Friday nights. Gather the kids, call friends, and light the grill!

Chicken Salad With Grapes and Almonds

Freshly prepared chicken salad is a quintessential summer meal, whether served on a bed of lettuce or over sliced tomatoes, or used for a sandwich filling. We put a lighter spin on traditional, mayo-laden chicken salad  by using plain low-fat yogurt to create a creamy base, and then adding a little olive-oil-based mayonnaise to round out the flavors. Olive-oil mayonnaise varieties have a healthier fat breakdown than conventional mayonnaise, and most also contain half the fat and calories. 

Chicken Salad with Almonds and Grapes


Mushroom-Beef Sliders

Eating less meat can help you cut your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. One simple way to make your summertime burger a whole lot healthier is by adding mushrooms to your chuck.  With a savory, umami flavor similar to beef’s, mushrooms blend seamlessly. Another perk? Patties with mushrooms stay juicier while cooking. The trick to crafting the perfect patty is in getting your mushroom-to-chuck ratio right: Start by sauteing 1 part mushrooms and adding to 2 parts beef. Even your pickiest dinner guests will likely never even know you made the switch. 

Mushroom Sliders

Fish Tacos With Avocado Crema

Take a break from the grill. These fish tacos saute quickly, so fear not, you won’t be sweating over the stove. We kept the seasonings simple — a little cumin, salt and olive oil — and opted for corn tortillas because they have fewer calories and less sodium and fat than flour varieties. You can also save time on chopping by springing for pre-shredded cabbage and cherry tomatoes. Before serving, stir together a creamy sauce using mashed avocado, yogurt, and lime juice for drizzling. Done and done — you’ve got all you need to assemble restaurant-quality tacos.

Grilled Personal Pizzas

No one complains when it’s pizza night — not the kids or the cook! Grilling personal pizzas is super fun and not as challenging as you might think. All the diners get to choose their own toppings. Plus, prepping dinner in the backyard, as twilight falls, is about as festive as it gets. We recommend using whole-grain, refrigerated pizza dough (or a thawed frozen one) along with a few convenience items like jarred, lower-sodium marinara, pesto, and rotisserie chicken to keep prep simple. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of throwing dough on the grill; the recipe walks you through the steps. Still not sure? We also included baking directions if you prefer to use the oven. 

Summer Berry Crisp

Summer nights call for the right warm-weather desert — like this light berry crisp.  Most berries come into their prime in June and July, but frozen berries can also be used if thawed before adding to the recipe. Using naturally sweet, vine-ripe fruit means you won’t need to add as much sugar to this crisp to satisfy your sweet tooth. One serving has just 11g of added sugar, compared with  the 25g or more often found in traditional versions. Topping the berries with an oat- and almond flour crumble also adds 4g of heart-healthy fiber per serving — more berry good news!

Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD
Rally Health