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Plated with Rebecca Turner: A red, white and blue cookout

By Rebecca Turner

Plated with Rebecca Turner: A red, white and blue cookout

July 4th celebrates the birth of American independence. Traditional festivities range from fireworks, parades, concerts and cookouts. This summer will be anything but conventional as our communities continue to work together to socially distance and slow the spread of COVID-19. Our outdoor gatherings may be more intimate, but that doesn’t mean barbeques are off-limits. Enjoying a wholesome meal cooked outside at home can boost your physical and mental health. Incorporate these simple tips to enjoy a fun, flavorful, and nutritious patio meal.

Your Mississippi farmers and fishers need you now more than ever, so be sure to think local when you shop for lean proteins. Processed meats like hot dogs, sausages and some red meats are high in saturated fats and sodium, which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease. Make the switch to leaner cuts of beef such as the eye of round, sirloin, or skirt steak. Choose 80 to 95% lean ground beef or turkey for burgers. Make your ground meat budget and nutrition go further by adding in black beans, kernel corn, or finely grated zucchini or carrots to patties, meatloaves, spaghetti and tacos.

A cookout isn’t complete without side dishes. You can focus on our patriotic colors, red, white and blue, during July, and be surprised by the variety of foods and the wealth of nutrition each color offers. Mississippi gardens are brimming with red produce like beets, radishes, peppers, onions, potatoes, rhubarb and tomatoes. Red fruits include cherries, raspberries, apples, strawberries and watermelons. Bring white produce to the table with cauliflower, garlic, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, turnips, white corn and white beans. Using the color blue loosely, and including those that are purplish-colored, too, gives you more options like blackberries, blueberries, eggplants, figs, grapes, plums, potatoes and raisins.

Upgrade your side dish recipes to include more heart-healthy ingredients. Remove or reduce saturated fats by substituting plain Greek yogurt for mayonnaise. Instead of sugary baked beans, try white corn and bean salad or a tri-colored potato salad. Choose a variety of seasonal vegetables marinated with herbs and olive oil. Grill whole carrots, or make vegetable kebabs using cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and onions brushed with a vinaigrette dressing. A fresh fruit salad or Smith County watermelon is a refreshing way to add something sweet to any meal.

Get outside, light the grill, and enjoy a meal fit for a celebration.


Red, white and blue mason jar salads


1/4 cup blueberries, fresh

1/2 cup cauliflower florets, halved

1/2 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles (optional)

spinach leaves

2 tablespoons, dressing of choice

Using a wide-mouth mason jar, assemble your salad. Add the desired dressing to the bottom. Sturdy vegetables like cauliflower and tomatoes go in first. Next, add a layer of spinach, followed by chickpeas and feta crumbles — another handful of spinach, followed by blueberries. Fill the mason jar to the top with spinach. When ready to eat, shake the mason jar to cover the content with the dressing. Eat from the jar or transfer to a plate. Make several ahead of time for the week.


Red, white and blue potato salad


3 pounds (about 4 cups) small red, white and purple potatoes, halved

1 tablespoon dried parsley (3 tablespoons fresh)

1 teaspoon dried dill (1 tablespoon fresh)

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons stone-ground mustard

1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper (or to taste)

Place halved red and white potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring potatoes to a full boil and boil for 13-15 minutes or until potatoes can easily be pierced with a fork. Drain potatoes, pat dry with a paper towel and transfer to a large bowl.

To avoid purple or blue potatoes from bleeding onto the others, boil separately, using the same instructions for the red and white potatoes.

While cooked red, white and blue potatoes are cooling in a large bowl, form the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together parsley, dill, onions, vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over slightly warm potatoes and gently toss to cover.

Serve potato salad warm, room temperature, or chilled.


*Look for the tri-colored baby potatoes or purchase 1 pound bags of each. This recipe still works well with single-colored potatoes, too.


Rebecca Turner is an author, registered dietitian, radio host, television presenter and a certified specialist in sports dietetics with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A lifelong Mississippian, she lives in Brandon and has spent the last decade offering no-nonsense nutrition guidance that allows you to enjoy good health and good food. Her book, “Mind Over Fork,” challenges the way you think, not the way you eat. Find her on social media @RebeccaTurnerNutrition and online at

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