Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Chillin' and Grillin'

Is it me or is it hot out there? In the summer I do not will not heat up my oven, unless we get an occasional, cooler than normal day. It just takes too long to cool off the house. So, we grill. Like every day. To some people that might sound boring, or restrictive, but if you're creative there's almost nothing you can't cook on the grill. Here's a few grill tips and my favorite things to grill: 

I just found this tip I'd never heard before. If you rub a piece of raw onion on the grill, meat doesn't stick to it! This is me trying it, and it totally worked. I just rubbed down the grate while the grill was warming up, so it wasn't too hot (you want it a little warm to bring out the juice in the onion). 


I love sweet potato fries, but like I said--oven is not happening. If you had a grill pan you could probably just grill your hand-cut fries. We don't have a pan or anything special, just a basic grill with a basic grate, so I've been grilling them as rounds. I just cut them into 1/4" slices and either boil for 10 min or  stick them in a microwave dish with a little water for 3 minutes. Then I toss them with olive oil and some thyme from the garden and grill for about 5 minutes on each side. 


Grilled pineapple melts in your mouth (but let it cool a bit first or it will actually melt your mouth!). Fresh is the best, but even if you don't have a fresh pineapple, you can skewer a can of pineapple chunks and give it a try.



Just because I'm only using the grill doesn't mean I'm actually grilling every night. At the beginning of the week I like to grill up a bunch of chicken so we have lots left over to work into a couple other meals. I marinate a gallons size bag of chicken usually in some italian dressing or a variation of that (there's lots of kinds of italian dressing now). This gives it some flavor, but not overpowering, so you can still make different flavors with the left overs. I also always cut breasts in half, so more surface gets to marinate and you get smaller portions, which works out well for leftovers. 


So what do I make with all this chicken? The night I grill it, we usually just eat it as is: 
1. Grilled Chicken

2. BBQ Chicken Pizza
        Use chopped grilled chicken to make BBQ Chicken Pizza on the grill. The key to making pizza on the grill is flouring surfaces with corn meal to keep the dough from sticking once you've rolled it out, and bringing the cheese to room temperature before you add it to the pizza. I've just used an instant crust mix (like Jiffy) for the dough. Once your crust is mixed and rolled out,  lay the dough on the grill and grill until firm enough to flip, about five minutes. Have all your toppings chopped and ready, once you flip the crust you quickly slather on the BBQ sauce, cheese, chopped chicken, fresh basil, red peppers onions or anything else you want. Be sure not to overload with toppings, though. Then quickly close the grill lid, and let your pizza bake until cheese bubbles. Use two spatulas to remove from the grill and enjoy!

3. Chicken Salad
         Sometimes I feel lazy, or just hot, and I just chop grilled chicken and throw it in a salad. I don't like a traditional salad with just carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers. I love to add fruits and veggies with more flavor and texture  corn, avocados, peas, beets, goat cheese, and anything fresh from the garden. Here's a patriotic salad I made last year: garden greens, shoestring beets, blueberries, corn, goat cheese, pepitas, and chicken. It's great with a balsamic or  poppyseed dressing. 


4.  Chicken & Potato Salad
             There's salad with chicken on it, and then there's chicken salad. This recipe I found in Sunset Magazine for New Potato and Chicken Salad with Yogurt Chive dressing is the best of both worlds. Find the recipe here. It's a great way to use grilled chicken on a hot summer night.


 5. Chicken Alfredo
                A quick pot of pasta with alfredo sauce is great with some sliced grilled chicken on top. Just warm the chicken in the alfredo sauce or in the microwave. 

The salads and the pasta are all great with our favorite Caprese bread, which you can also make on the grill!


Once in a while I do grill something other than chicken : ) Here's my favorite recipe for basting 
Pork Chops

Find the full recipe for Five Spice Grilled Pork Chops here. To cheat, keep reading ; )

Mix 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce, with 2 tbsp honey, and 1/4 tsp five-spice powder. 
Divide into two small cups.
Season boneless pork chops with a little salt and pepper. 
Grill on medium heat for about 5 min. Using half the mixture, baste the chops then turn over and baste the grilled side. Grill for 5 more minutes. Once you remove the pork from the grill you can drizzle the other half of the soy sauce mixture over them, or let each person add more sauce as they choose. 

I usually try to make extra pork chops too, with the left overs we make:

Pork Tacos
Just chop the chops, and stuff into a tortilla with lettuce, avocado, green salsa, sour cream, and cilantro. 



Warm Pork & Sweet Potato Salad
Grill and chop five-spice pork and grilled sweet potato rounds.  Chop grilled or fresh pineapple and fresh snow peas. 


Toss everything together and divide into individual plastic containers for a quick and easy picnic in the park meal.  Or serve over couscous or rice or quinoa. We have lots of free concerts in the park over the summer and I'm always looking for meals that are easy to make, pack and clean up. This was a great, one dish, mess-free meal.


Ok, those are my most used, and most recent grilling ideas, friends. I hope you are having a great summer and staying cool. The grill is your friend, and so am I : )
You are loved!
-Haley

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