Thursday, August 12, 2010

A smattering of all things grilled...

I'm BACK! Wow, its been tooo long since I blogged last and BOY have I missed it! I have been doing a bit of everything in my time away: remodeling my kitchen, starting a new job, helping my dad recover from brain surgery, and curing cancer (3 truths, one lie - you decide). I've been cooking up a storm, and I have so much to share, I'm not sure which recipe to share here tonight.

I've been doing a lot of grilling, since my energy plan includes on-peak hours from 3PM to 6PM and our AC is set to 84 degrees (read: hotter than hell and last thing on my mind is cooking ANYTHING). Consequently, I have been honing my grilling skills to near perfection - totally kidding. I was never much of a "griller" (this word sounds like one of those words that may have an alternate cultural meaning of which sheltered-me is unaware...), as my dad was always the grill master in my home, and I never wanted to sit outside and sweat while I watched him cook.

I really don't know how effective it will be to write about how to grill though... I am a teacher by trade, and it makes me ashamed to say: I am a bad cooking teacher. I never measure, I never time things, I never have any foolproof way to set someone up for success. I taste test, I watch the food, I try for good color, and somehow I never end up butchering anything too badly, or burning anything, or serving something undercooked. I think the gods and goddesses of cooking have smiled upon me, and for that, I am grateful (and so is my full-bellied hubby!)

I tried some awful things on the grill this summer, including my "Keilbasa, Chicken Tomato and Garlic kabobs." Because I have to keep my weight and calories down due to my osteoarthritis, I choose not to add fat/sugar to anything I grill (read: no butter, very little basting sauce). These kabobs were so dry, I thought I was chewing on sawdust with a nail here and there. They were terrible. However, I did recover some grilling dignity with chicken...

Chicken is my go-to protein. White meat is lean and nutritious, not to mention quite tasty when prepared correctly. We try to stay away from red meat (although, what's the point of life without the occasional steak?!), and I don't think I've EVER bought pork. We also LOVE fish: Mahi Mahi, Orange Roughy, Talapia, and Cod are some of our faves. I have had success with all meats on the grill this summer, but chicken is by far the most convenient way to go. Since the installation of our second income (hooray!), we have had enough money to shop like we've always wanted (read: how I'VE always wanted) for food. I love to by local, in-season, and organic - but it's expensive, and sometimes not very accessible. However, I have been able to find most of what we want between Sunflower Market, Sprouts, Trader Joe's and the Guadalupe farmers market (if you haven't been there... GO!! With a buddy, ladies.... it's a little sketchy).

All that to say, we have been living off fresh, local fruits and veggies and organic, grass-fed, free range chicken for the last month (why yes, I DID just take a job in Scottsdale, lol!). And do you know what? I can tell a huge difference. The chicken has better flavor and consistency, it cooks more evenly and the portions are more appropriately sized (processed chicken breasts are about DOUBLE the portion size you should have = 4 oz.). The veggies are crisper, and though many don't have the "right colors" on the outside, the inside is tasty and delicious!

Grilling veggies is a snap, and it has become a nightly staple in our home. Crank up the grill to medium high, and chop up some of your faves. Toss them in a bit of EVOO and whatever spices you like, throw them in a grill basket and let them brown. They will blow you away! I always try to include some garlic cloves (halved) and separated pieces of quartered onions to intensify the flavorings of the more bland veggies (zucchini, cucumbers, etc.).

Also, you can't go wrong by marinating chicken. Take it out of the freezer and let it thaw overnight. Throw it into a bowl with your favorite marinade - I like Lawry's Baja Lime Chipotle (reserve a little for basting later!) and let it soak while you're at work. When you come home, fire up the grill and go for it! It will be easy and satisfying... and it will keep your home form turning into your own personal sauna (as mine is apt to do).

I also did a few crock-pot masterpieces (as my husband says) this summer while I was prepping for the new job. One of which was "Garlic Chicken with Italian Beans." I cannot take credit for inventing this one (thanks, Betty Crocker!!), but I did modify it a bit - don't I always?? I served it for 18 people in my home last Monday, and get this: I was not home all day! I know croc-pots are "set it and forget it" appliances, but when is that really the way it works? Usually there's SOME prep and post work to do, but not this time! I walked in the door, changed clothes, welcomed my guests, and served dinner! AWESOME! I think this one deserves a post all to itself though, so I'll have to leave you in what is, I'm sure, mouth-watering suspense.

So, if you haven't grilled this summer, give it a go! You'll save some $$ on energy, some time on dishes (nobody has to wash a grill!), and it'll look like a million bucks (especially if you can learn to make the little cross-hatched grill marks). I am SO glad to get back to blogging again, and I can't wait to post my back-log of recipes! But for now, you can bet that grilled veggies and chicken will be on this kitchen table for two tonight!