Back-to-school is kind of like New Year’s Day for my kids. It’s the perfect time to revisit personal goals, which range from mastering fractions to eating more vegetables.
But it’s also an incredibly busy time of year with sports and activities kicking in, not to mention parent nights at school, fall festivals, fundraising auctions and all the other must-do events that mark the start of another school year. So all my healthy eating plans focus on quick and easy meals that can be prepped not just on a regularly busy weeknight, but also on a weeknight jammed with more than the usual dance classes, soccer practices and meet-the-teacher events.
These rainbow vegetable skewers are inspired by the “eat a rainbow” mantra so many of us introduced to our children as toddlers. They are fun to make together as a family ahead of time. I just cut up the veggies and my kiddos and I thread them onto the skewers together. Then I cover them in the easiest of marinades: bottled Italian dressing! After that, they hang out for up to a day until I’m ready to grill or broil them in just minutes.
Before I leave you to your skewering bliss, I have a small confession: I don’t love that skewers are deceptively tricky to cook. It’s actually quite difficult to get all the veggies to cook properly, and I’ll tell you flat out that I have never actually eaten a skewered chunk of onion that wasn’t either too raw or too burnt.
That’s why this skewer recipe is a bit different. I tell you exactly how to thread the skewers to optimize them for perfect cooking. And I leave off the onion. Instead, I give a hint of oniony flavour from some mild chopped chives at the end. Because who needs to worry about undercooked onion when there is spelling homework to be done?
GRILLED RAINBOW VEGETABLE SKEWERS
If you are using wooden skewers, it’s a good idea to soak them in warm water for 30 minutes or so before threading the vegetables onto them. This helps prevent them from burning during cooking.
Start to finish: 30 minutes, plus marinating
16 cherry tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1 1/2-inch squares
1 yellow (summer) squash, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 orange bell pepper, cored and cut into 1 1/2-inch squares
1 cup bottled Italian dressing (any kind without Parmesan cheese in it)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Thread the vegetables onto 8 skewers, starting each with a tomato, then red pepper, squash, zucchini and orange pepper, then finish with a second tomato. Thread the peppers, squash and zucchini lengthwise to make them more stable. Arrange the assembled skewers in a baking dish. Drizzle the dressing over the skewers, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
When ready to serve, heat the grill to medium. Alternatively, heat the oven to broil.
Grill or broil the skewers (if broiling, set them on a wire rack placed over a rimmed baking sheet) for 6 minutes, then flip and cook for another 4 to 6 minutes, or until nicely seared. Arrange 2 skewers on each serving plate, then sprinkle them with the chopped herbs. If desired, serve with additional dressing for dipping.
Nutrition information per serving: 200 calories; 120 calories from fat (60 per cent of total calories); 13 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 600 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 14 g sugar; 3 g protein.
Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, “Supermarket Healthy.” http://www.melissadarabian.net