Super Summer Time-Saver Suppers: It’s All About the Extras

Summer and all its pleasures are fleeting, so—like many Canadians—I get outside as often as possible. The goal: more time with family and friends in the backyard or on a beach, and much less time in the kitchen. 

Even if beautiful sunny days weren’t calling my name, let’s face it: cooking fatigue is real. During the pandemic, Canadians have been cooking at home a lot more, often from scratch. This is the healthiest way to eat, but after months of lockdown, it’s no surprise that we could use a break! For the sake of summertime fun, and to shake up your routine, let’s simplify supper, starting tonight! 

The strategy: Planned extras

Here’s my time-saving secret: cooking lots of extra nutritious ingredients and reinventing them in different meals for days to come. And if I can cook on my backyard grill, even better. These are my go-to extras:

  • Prepared veggies: Wash, chop and grill! Some summer-fresh veggies that grill well: zucchini, corn on the cob, green beans, peppers, new potatoes, sweet potatoes. Brush veggies with oil before grilling or marinate for a flavour boost.
  • Whole grains: Cook a big batch and refrigerate. Try barley, brown rice, quinoa or whole-grain pasta.
  • Grilled turkey: Whatever the recipe, I grill a double or triple batch for future lunches and dinners. Some goes in the fridge for the weeks’ meals, and some goes in the freezer for next month’s meals. 

Why turkey? It’s delicious, versatile and easy to grill. It’s also nutrient-rich and packed with protein, so it makes satisfying meals that fuel you for longer. 

Planned extras in action: 3 tasty ideas 

1. Turkey thighs

Make this for supper: BBQ Grilled Turkey Thighs Cajun Style 

Enjoy it with: Grilled zucchini, a cabbage slaw (buy a bagged one to save time) and brown rice 

Use the extra turkey for: Sandwiches and wraps – take the cooked Cajun turkey meat off the bone and refrigerate. Enjoy it later in sandwiches or wraps with fresh summer tomatoes, crunchy lettuce and sliced cucumber, or try leftover grilled zucchini.  

Bonus recipe: Grilled Turkey Panini – these sandwiches with melted cheese and fresh basil are perfect for al fresco lunches. Variation: skip the pasta sauce and try smashed avocado instead. It tastes great with the turkey’s Cajun seasoning, and it boosts your intake of healthy fats. 

2. Ground turkey

Make this for supper: Turkey Koftas with Garlic Lemon Yogurt and Pitas 

Enjoy it with: This recipe includes tasty salad ingredients for building a pita; while you’re prepping dinner, double the veggies to have as a Greek salad for lunch the next day. Top the salad with leftover Brazilian-Style Grilled Turkey Breast (see recipe below).

Use the extra koftas for: Pasta – slide koftas off their skewers and warm them up in the oven. Then gently toss with hot pasta and sautéed veggies. Drizzle with Garlic Lemon Yogurt.

Bonus recipe: Turkey Meatballs and Greens with Orecchiette Pasta – turkey isn’t the only make-ahead ingredient in this simple yet elegant dish. You can also prepare the pasta and garlic oil a few days in advance. 

Nutrition Side Note: The Koftas are made with ground turkey thigh. As a dietitian, I often get questions about dark turkey meat. People think it’s filled with fat, but here’s the truth: dark turkey meat is lean, with just 8 grams of fat per 100-gram serving. The same amount of white turkey meat has 5 grams of fat per 100-gram serving* – that’s pretty darn close!

3. Turkey breast 

Make this for supper: Brazilian Style Grilled Turkey Breast with Salsa Verde 

Enjoy it with: Grilled corn, green beans and mini potatoes

Use the extra turkey for: Salad bowls of all sorts! Slice or shred the turkey and create a protein-rich side or meal-sized salad. 

Bonus recipe: Turkey, Green Bean, Corn & Tomato Salad – lime juice, cilantro and red onion add zest to this summery salad. 

Take some inspiration from these tasty ideas; plan for extras so you can save time making healthy meals and enjoy the summer days. 

Happy healthy grilling!


*Nutrient Value Source: Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File v 2015