Food & Drink

Father's Day feasts: Fill dad's belly with homemade treats

An indulgent burger can be the perfect treat for Dad on Father's Day, but it's hard to balance that sentiment with the urge to keep him healthy.

That doesn't mean you have to toss out the idea of a real burger in favor of a flavorless low-fat patty wedged between a flaxseed and bran bun. You just need to think moderation to create the kind of sandwich that would please even the most avid burger guy.

Start by going with the mini-burger or slider concept. They're small, fun and set the stage for the kind of portion control that will allow you to include all the indulgent ingredients that make burgers great.

Our recipe for Southwestern Chicken Sliders is a great example of this. We start with a ground chicken patty, which is much lower in total fat and saturated fat than beef.

Most markets offer a choice of ground chicken breast (which is the leanest) or just ground chicken, which has a bit more fat and, as a result, a bit more flavor. Whichever way you go, we recommend working some seasonings into the meat before forming the patty.

For our toppings, we choose luxurious ingredients with the kind of big flavors and textures that allow you to use small amounts with great effect. Shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese is melted over each patty, then sprinkled with a modest amount of real bacon bits.

To build on this smokiness and add some serious heat, we make a chipotle mayo by blending reduced-fat mayonnaise with some of the adobo sauce that comes in a can of chipotles. You also can use chipotle salsa (sold in cans often near the chipotles in the Mexican section of the grocer) or even dried, ground chipotle. Taste as you add the seasoning to get the desired amount of heat.

And of course, we add some fresh shredded lettuce and sliced tomato, because no self-respecting super burger would be complete without them.


Start to finish: 25 minutes

Makes: 8 sliders

1 pound ground chicken

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

1 to 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from canned chipotles, to taste

1/3 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

1/4 cup crumbled cooked bacon

8 mini burger buns or rolls

1/4 cup canned french fried onions

1/2 cup shredded Boston lettuce

2 cocktail (golf ball-size) tomatoes, sliced

Heat a gas grill to high or light a charcoal fire.

In a medium bowl, mix together the ground chicken, salt and pepper. Form into eight 1/2-inch-thick patties. Place the patties on a plate and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and adobo sauce. Set aside.

Using a vegetable oil-soaked paper towel held with tongs, oil the grill grates. Grill the chicken burgers, flipping once, until a thermometer registers 165 degrees at the center, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Top each burger with some of the cheese and bacon, then continue grilling until melted.

Meanwhile, toast the rolls at the edge of the grill.

To assemble, spread some of the mayonnaise mixture on the top and bottom of each roll. Place a burger on each roll bottom and top with some of the French fried onions, shredded lettuce and a tomato slice. Top with remaining roll halves.

Nutrition information per slider (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 286 calories; 129 calories from fat (45 percent of total calories); 14 grams fat (4 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 61 milligrams cholesterol; 9 grams carbohydrate; 17 grams protein; 1 grams fiber; 524 milligrams sodium.

Sloppy sandwich

Could there be a more perfect Father's Day meal than a sloppy Joe sandwich?

I mean, even the name is manly. And messy. And there's an added benefit, too. Sloppy Joes are likely to be enjoyed by everyone in the family, especially the kids. Because Father's Day isn't about being a guy; it's about being a dad.

I started with an intensely flavored sloppy joe base rich in tomatoes, beef and pig products. I like prosciutto because it has all the deep, savory flavors of bacon, but with less fat. If you'd rather use bacon, go for it. But I suggest cooking it separately and pouring off the excess fat before adding it to this recipe.

The joes then get spooned onto toasted bulkie rolls, then topped with provolone cheese and tossed under the broiler for a minute or so. The result is a beefy sandwich that will leave Dad satisfied.

If you're wondering about the sodium, it's from the prosciutto, ketchup and Parmesan. Reduce those to cut the sodium.


Start to finish: 30 minutes

Makes: 6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef

1/2 pound prosciutto, finely chopped

15-ounce can tomato sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

6 bulkie rolls, toasted

6 slices provolone cheese

In a large saucepan over medium-high, combine the olive oil, garlic, onion, paprika, basil and oregano. Saute until the onion is tender and seasonings are fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Add the ground beef and prosciutto. Saute until the beef is cooked through and the prosciutto begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, ketchup and vinegar and bring to a simmer. Stir in the Parmesan, then season with salt and pepper.

Set the oven to broil.

Arrange the bottom halves of the rolls on a baking sheet, then spoon some of the sloppy joe mixture onto each. Top each with a slice of provolone, then broil just until the cheese starts to melt. Top with the other halves of the rolls.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 571 calories; 215 calories from fat (37 percent of total calories); 24 grams fat (10 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 106 milligrams cholesterol; 45 grams carbohydrate; 48 grams protein; 2 grams fiber; 2,312 milligrams sodium.

Pat the belly

Want to spoil Dad this Father's Day? Skip the grill. It's become a cliche, anyway.

Instead, try something new and truly over-the-top with a cut of pork most people never consider -- the belly. Though usually turned into bacon, pork bellies can be delicious even without the curing process. Its thin strips of meat layered between succulent fat are delicious braised.

If you've never had braised pork belly, keep in mind that like bacon, it's incredibly rich. And incredibly high in calories. Perfect for a special indulgence.

For this recipe, we've cooked the meat in a braising liquid of dark beer and root veggies. The mixture is pureed afterward to create a rich gravy, perfect served with mashed potatoes or over egg noodles.


Start to finish: 2 hours 30 minutes (30 minutes active)

Makes: 8 servings

2 pounds pork belly, cut into 8 pieces

1 medium yellow onion, sliced

2 shallots, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

Two 12-ounce bottles dark beer, such as stout

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

Salt and ground black pepper

8 ounces carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

8 ounces parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, sear the pieces of pork belly until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the meat to a plate and drain off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan.

Lower the heat to medium and add the onion, shallots and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender and beginning to caramelize, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the beer, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce by half, about 10 minutes.

Return the pieces of pork belly to the pot. Add the carrots, parsnips and chicken broth. Bring up to a simmer and cook for 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours, or until the meat is meltingly tender.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pieces of pork belly to a plate, cover with foil and set aside.

Bring the remaining ingredients up to a boil and reduce to 2 1/2 cups. Working in batches as needed, transfer the mixture to a blender and carefully puree. Return the puree to the pan, then stir in the heavy cream and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve with the pork belly.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 780 calories; 592 calories from fat (76 percent of total calories); 66 grams fat (25 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 102 milligrams cholesterol; 28 grams carbohydrate; 14 grams protein; 2 grams fiber; 142 milligrams sodium.