Sliding Along

We officially broke into the 2011 grilling season last night with buffalo/venison burgers and some red/sweet potatoes. And despite having a little trouble with my grill, everything turned out just fine. But the next time we do burgers on the grill, I might go the slider route.

Sliders are a smaller version of hamburgers that have enjoyed a lot of popularity recently. The nicest thing about them is that they make it easy to practice portion control. Most burgers you see advertised these days are quarter- or third-pounders. That’s an awful lot of meat to eat in one sitting. Sliders, on the other hand, usually start out with about 2½ ounces of raw meat.

Of course, you can beef up your sliders with anything from mushrooms to peppers to onions, and there are a ton of toppings you can use that aren’t loaded with of calories.

Following are a couple of recipes that I’m considering for our next grilling session. The first is for a Southwestern Slider, which is seasoned with a mix of hot New Mexico-style chili powder and ancho chili powder along with fresh minced jalapeno pepper. And the toppings include cheese, avocado and cilantro.

The second recipe is from WeightWatchers. Those sliders are seasoned with garlic and chili powder as well as paprika, and the buns are reduced-fat crescent rolls.

Southwest Sliders
1 large avocado
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound ground beef chuck or round
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, minced
1 small onion, peeled, chopped
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon hot New Mexican style chili powder
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¾ cup low-fat Mexican-style shredded cheese
1 tablespoon canola oil
Small butter lettuce leaves
8 whole wheat slider buns, toasted
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Condiments of choice (optional)
Cut the avocado in half horizontally and remove the pit. Cut each half into thin slices lengthwise. Cut those slices in half again so they will fit nicely on the slider. Set aside. Sprinkle the slices with a little salt and pepper if desired.
In a large bowl, mix together the beef, minced jalapeno, onion, chili powders, salt, pepper and cheese. Evenly divide mixture and shape into 8 patties about 2½-inches in diameter. Make a slight indentation in the center of each. In a grill pan or nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. (You can grill these, too.) Working in batches, add the sliders to the pan and cook about 4 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness. Remove from the pan and repeat with remaining sliders.
Place some lettuce on the bottom half of the bun. Top with the slider. Arrange a few avocado slices on the slider and sprinkle with cilantro. Top with the top half of bun and serve.
Note: You can use any variety and amount of chili powder and adjust to taste in this recipe.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 309 calories, 43 percent of calories from fat, 19 grams fat (6 grams saturated), 22 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams protein, 403 milligrams sodium, 46 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams fiber .

WeightWatchers Mini Sliders
4 ounces reduced-fat crescent roll dough, 4 rolls
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon table salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound uncooked lean ground beef (with 7 percent  fat)
Cooking spray
6 tablespoons ketchup
1/8 teaspoon chili powder, chipotle-variety
¼ cup) sour or sweet pickles, round slices
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Unroll dough and form into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a thin sheet. Cut 10 2½-inch circles of dough, collecting scraps and rolling out dough again as needed. Place circles on a nonstick baking sheet and sprinkle with salt; bake until golden, about 8 minutes. Remove from pan; cool on wire rack. Slice each roll in half to make 10 tops and 10 bottoms.
Meanwhile, prepare sliders. In a medium mixing bowl, combine salt, paprika and garlic powder. Add beef and gently knead; divide into 10 portions. Flatten each portion into a 2½-inch patty, about ½-inch thick.
Coat a large stovetop grill pan with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Arrange burgers on pan making sure not to crowd them. Cook until well-browned on bottom, about 6 to 8 minutes. Flip and cook until meat is cooked through, about 4 minutes.
To serve, in a small bowl, stir together ketchup and chile powder. Sandwich each burger between a roll, spread with 1½ teaspoons ketchup and topped with pickles.
Yield: 1 slider per serving.
Notes:Serve with lettuce, red onion slices and tomato slices (optional). Swap chili sauce for the ketchup if desired. You can make these on an outdoor grill but you might need to adjust the cooking time.