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Ready, Set... Grill!

By Ryan Hutmacher and Sara Haas

grilled chicken It was a long winter for most of us; we had to endure cold temperatures and inches of snow.  As triathletes, we fully appreciate the changing of the winter season into spring.  Warmer weather means we can finally shed those winter layers, pull on our shorts and short-sleeved shirts and head out for a run into the spring air.  We also know that warmer weather means it's time to get the grill ready.  Grilled food is not only delicious, but it is also one of the healthiest and easiest methods of cooking.  That's great news for health-conscious, time-strapped athletes.  

This season, don't limit yourself to grilling the usual turkey burgers.  Instead, try grilling seasonal vegetables like squash, carrots and onions.  Hankering for a healthy dessert?  Some fruits also lend themselves quite well for grilling.  Try grilled pineapple, stone fruits like peaches and even bananas (see our recipe below). 

Grilling is a healthy way to cook your food because it does not require an excessive amount of fat.  You can grill chicken breast, flank steak and many other lean proteins without having to add much oil, butter or other fat.  Marinating your food before you grill it is also a great way to add flavor and keep your food moist.  

Marinating also helps prevent the development of harmful carcinogens that can form during the cooking process. Another way to prevent carcinogens and keep your food safe on the grill is by avoiding high temperatures, especially when cooking red meat.  Carcinogens are cancer-forming compounds that are also linked to inflammation.

Enjoy this grilling season and remember these tips for your next barbeque.  Read below for more exciting recipes.

Harissa 
   Makes 2 cups
Ingredients

  • 6 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 6 dried new mexico chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1 cup roasted red bell pepper, drained
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Procedure
Place the chiles into a medium bowl and cover with boiling water.  Cover and allow the chiles to soften, about 20 minutes.  Drain and place in a food processor.

Place a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the coriander, caraway and cumin seeds and toast until aromatic, about 1-2 minutes.  Swirl the pan while toasting to prevent burning.  Remove the seeds from the pan, transfer to a clean coffee or spice grinder (a mortar and pestle will work too) and grind into a fine powder. 

Add the ground spices to the food processor, followed by the garlic, roasted red bell pepper, olive oil, sugar, and red wine vinegar. Purée, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the paste is smooth, about 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Spicy Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kabobs
   Makes 8 servings
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp harissa (see above)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into large cubes
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Wooden skewers
Procedure
Combine the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, harissa and salt in a plastic bag.  Add chicken, toss well to coat evenly, and refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to 24 hours). 

Remove the chicken from the marinade and season well with salt and pepper. Heat the grill to medium. Skewer the chicken pieces and grill the kabobs for 7-10 minutes, turning occasionally for even grilling. The chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F with an instant read thermometer.

Tip: When using wooden skewers, soak them in boiling water for 10 minutes before skewering. This will keep them hydrated and avoid burning on grill.

Grilled Citrus-Scented Bananas
   Makes 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 large bananas, no speckles on skin, washed with skin-on
  • 1 tsp butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp fresh orange juice
  • ground cinnamon, for dusting
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 2 tbsp sliced almonds
Procedure
Cut the bananas in half length-wise (leaving the skin on), then in half width-wise.  You will have 4 quarter-pieces of banana.

Combine the butter, honey and orange juice in a small bowl.  Brush mixture onto the exposed banana halves and top with a little dash of ground cinnamon.

Place the bananas on the grill cut-side down and cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until bananas have grill marks.  Flip over and cook until the bananas are warmed through. The bananas are done when the skin starts to pull away from the fruit.

Serve in the peel and garnish with orange zest and almonds.

Click here for more information on grilling safely.

Chef Ryan Hutmacher is owner of Centered Chef Food Studios in Chicago, Ill.  Centered Chef is a wellness focused culinary consulting and educational firm that fuses nutrition with culinary arts.  With a focus on natural ingredients, Ryan celebrates the idea reinventing "health food", proving that nutritious and delicious are equally attainable.  His expertise is notable within the marathon and triathlon community in Chicago, as well as within the corporate sector.  Partnerships in culinary wellness programming include athlete runner programs like Team determiNation/ACS, Team CF, TEAM to End Aids, Fleet Feet Sports, Chicago Area Runners Association, Chicago Endurance Sports, Chicago TriMonster, and Fitness Formula Clubs.  Other notable partners include American Nutrition Association, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, Northwestern Hospital, Rush Hospital, Energy BBDO, Leo Burnett, IBM and Sara Lee Corp.  

Along with his staff dietitian and co-writer, Chef Sara Haas (RD/LDN), Ryan appears both locally and nationally on television stations like WGN Superstation, where they give practical solutions to preparing food both easily and healthfully. 

Chef Ryan's Culinary Wellness Initiative: http://vimeo.com/8796801

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