Blog | Rachel Begun, MS, RD | Page 2

Meatless Monday Cookouts

Dish with vegetable kebab

How many days a week do you eat chicken, turkey, beef or other meat product?



Every day?

Meatless Mondays are a great way to get more plant-based foods into your diet. It’s not only good for your body, it’s good for the planet. Did you know that 34 countries participate in Meatless Mondays across the globe? Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or just want to eat more plant-baed foods, here are suggestions for making your next Meatless Monday cookout tasty and nutritious.

You might be thinking, “But what will we grill?” One of my dad’s favorites to make when entertaining are veggie kabobs consisting of baby red potatoes, red onion, red peppers and white button mushrooms. Alright, that’s a little white lie – my dad’s creations may also contain beef chunks, but I’m censoring that ingredient for this post! Dad will understand.

Grilled zucchini, corn on the cob, or eggplant wedges on the grill drizzled with some olive oil also satisfy.

One of my own standbys is a chilled gluten-free quinoa, kalamata olive and veggie salad. Perfect for your picnic table! Toss any veggie combo (such as red onion; orange, red, yellow bell peppers, zucchini, cucumber, tomato) into a quinoa base and sprinkle with olive oil and mint sprigs. Other gluten-free grains that work well are basmati or brown rice. Add feta if desired – and if you’re not vegan!

Interested in adding a little creativity to your green salad? Me, too. One of my favorites involves taking pitted and halved cherries and cooking them gently with olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar until they become soft. Toss the cherries with chopped endive, escarole or a combination of both, and some toasted hazelnuts.

Find inspiration at your local farmers market, too. Experiment with different nuts and seeds in your salad, plus fresh herbs, greens and more. Have you made a salad of spinach leaves lately? Arugula? Kale? Mustard greens?

Green salads with fruit such as strawberries, blueberries or tangerine slices are always a hit. Why not mix it up with greens, peach slices and dates for a change of pace? The following Stone Fruit Salad serves approximately 6:


1 ½ cups thinly sliced leek, divided
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 ripe peach, pitted chopped
2 ripe peaches, sliced
6 cups frisée greens
3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
¼ cup dates, pitted and chopped


1. Place 1 tablespoon of the leek, plus the water, white wine vinegar, olive oil and 1 ripe peach into a blender and process until smooth.

2. Combine the frisée and the remaining leek in a large bowl, and toss with the dressing made in step 1.

3. Place 1 cup frisée mixture on each of 6 plates. Top each serving with about 1/3 cup of the sliced peaches, about 1 teaspoon of almonds, and 1 ½ teaspoons of dates.

Lastly, I wanted to share Rachel’s favorite Shades of Green Salad with kale, cucumber and avocado. The salad also calls for cayenne for a little heat and hemp seeds for crunch. The hemp provides a good dose of protein (5g in just 2 tablespoons), and omega-3s (for anti-inflammation and immune health).

What is your favorite summertime Meatless Monday dish? Please share!


Krista Ulatowski, MPH, RDN, is based in Seattle, where she practices in the areas of nutrition writing, marketing and social media. She also counsels clients in weight loss and corporate wellness settings. Follow her at @PhytoK or send an email:


Packing a Gluten-Free Picnic PicnicPhoto courtesy of

I was traveling with a few girlfriends this past weekend, and one of them asked for picnicking hotspots in the Seattle area. I provided several, and then I realized that I hadn’t been on an actual pack-up-the-picnic-basket type of picnic in…way too long. I started daydreaming about what I would pack…

That got me thinking about how my gluten-free friends might pack their picnics, and I wanted to share some ideas for a healthy, naturally gluten-free picnic – good for the gluten-free and not-so-gluten-free alike!

To start, the following are all naturally gluten-free foods, providing a good base to spring from when building recipes:

  • Beans, seeds, nuts in their natural, unprocessed form
  • Fresh eggs
  • Fresh beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, and seafood
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Most dairy products, i.e. milk
  • Quinoa, flax, corn, brown rice, wild rice
  • Oils, honey, molasses, spices and herbs

The Gluten-Free Brunch Picnic: Prepare a scramble at home with your favorite selection of veggies (peppers, caramelized onions, steamed spinach, etc.) and top with rosemary or your herb of choice. Keep the scramble warm during transfer to your grassy hangout with a separate insulated carrying case.

Another tasty egg option is Portobello mushroom caps filled with a thin layer of prosciutto and a baked egg – simply crack the egg over the mushroom and prosciutto base, then bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 20 minutes.

Lastly, prepare and tote along a colorful fruit salad of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries with mint sprigs.

The Gluten-Free Lunch or Dinner Picnic: A brown rice entree with broccoli, peapods and mushrooms packs well, is hearty and satisfies. Toss with a touch of gluten-free tamari, the wheat-free cousin of soy sauce.

Or, season cooked quinoa with a touch of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, basil and thyme as a second lunch picnic option. Sprinkle with slivered almonds and currants for crunch and texture.

Slice and dice celery sticks to dip in all-natural peanut butter, or try a salad of greens, pistachios and apple wedges. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the salad.

Dessert options include slightly sweet and satisfying tapioca pudding, or homemade macaroons made with ground almonds or almond flour.

Let’s not forget beverages. Hydrate with ice water and lemon wedges, or if you’re feeling frisky, pack naturally gluten-free wine or champagne. For your relaxing outing, gather up utensils, napkins, glassware, plates, bowls, a corkscrew, a picnic blanket…and your sweetie!

Please share! What do you plan to pack in your gluten-free picnic?

Krista Ulatowski, MPH, RD, is based in Seattle, where she practices in the areas of nutrition writing, marketing and social media. She also counsels clients in weight loss and corporate wellness settings. Follow her at @PhytoK or send an email:


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