In August it can be so hot outside that you don’t even want to go in the pool let alone turn on the stove or oven and make dinner for the family. This summer in particular has been very hot for me, and I have found myself ordering carryout and getting fast food on many week nights. Usually I try to eat healthy Sunday through Friday; I do go out to dinner with my husband on Friday night but I try to keep the meal light and hang out with the girls on Saturday ordering a pizza and having some wine. Because I like to go out on the weekend, I like to keep eating out to a minimum during the week. Eating out can be expensive, but I also don’t know how many calories and severing are in the portions some restaurants give me. Of course if I order fast food I can always go onto the restaurants website and look up how many calories are in the food, but that’s not case for the local mom and pop diners I like to frequent. The eating out and wasting money because it was “too hot” to cook started in June and I needed to put a stop to it. After talking with my friends and mother I decided that for the whole month of July I wouldn’t turn on my oven or stove and only cook things outside on the BBQ grill. I thought this would be hard because we are pasta loving, oven baking household, but I was wrong! I found about fifteen great meals to cook for my husband I that required only the BBQ grill as the source of heat. There are five meals in particular that really worked for my family. None of these recipes are from a specific website or magazine, just things I had heard of other people making, watching the Food Network or scrolling Pinterest boards. Let’s get started with some of my favorite not stove or oven cooked dinners!
Build your own burger bar: Burgers are a not brainer when it comes to summer cooking and feeding a family, but this year I wanted to give the traditional American cheese, lettuce and tomato burger its own personalized spin. I went to the store and made up burgers for the family then purchased a lot of different toppings and sides. I bought eggs, coleslaw, mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce, guacamole, jalapenos, and tortilla chips to top the burgers with. I grilled the burgers outside like I normally would, then prepared all sides and placed them into their own bowl. Each person could them pick a burger, type of bun they wanted, cheese and toppings to create their own unique combo. Building our own burgers got the kids involved in cooking and exposed my husband to different type of toppings. Our one friend created a pizza burger, while I made a Mexican themed burger, and one of the kids just made a cheese and pickles burger. Either way it was a great time to spend doing something different for a weeknight dinner and I never had to heat up my house to make it. And don’t forget to cut up a lot of toppings; the toppings can be used as a side salad and side dish too.
Chicken Kebobs: Kebobs are great make ahead of time for dinner on busy weeknights, and they require very little cook time. I suggest going to the store are buying one chicken breast per person. Cut the chicken into strips (not cubes like you’re used to) and marinate the chicken overnight. While the chicken is marinating cut of the traditional red, yellow, and green peppers for the kebobs along with onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and potato cubes. Skewer all the veggies onto one kebob with not chicken, then skewer the chicken strips onto their own stick by weaving it in and out like a satay. The veggies will take longer to cook than the chicken so put those kebobs on first, then the chicken ones a few minutes after. This is insure all the kebobs are done cooking at the same time and you won’t have any cross contamination with the chicken and veggies. To change up the kebobs each week think about switching the meat. Shrimp kebobs with cilantro lime marinade are amazing, or salty beef teriyaki kebob would be amazing too. When in doubt the bottles Italian salad dressing works for most meats and always tastes flavorful and juicy. This meal is so light and delicious, perfect when you don’t want to cook inside.
Grilled corn salad: I have seen a lot of different versions of a grilled corn salad over the past few years, and I have to say all of them are good in their own way. Grilled corn salad can be used a main dish when adding a seafood or meat, or as a refreshing side dish to a head steak or Mexican meal. My new favorite grilled corn salad consists of grilled potatoes, grilled green chilies, grilled corn, green onions, herbs, and a mayo and sour cream dressings. This recipe was on the Food Network TV show called The Kitchen a few weeks ago and I have made it three times. This is a crowd pleasing meal or side dish. If you ant to make it a meal just grill some chicken or steak to have with it. I always thought grilled corn salad was tomato based with avocados and lime dressing but this new spin on the corn/potato salad is a great change for the summer of 2016. Look up other grilled veggies salads online to make your own twist on this simple and fresh side dish.
Pizza flat breads: If you haven’t tried pizza on the BBQ grill you are missing out! Grill pizza is one of the best summer dinners and it requires very little effort. I suggest going to your local pizza place and buy balls of fresh dough for $1 or so. With each ball of dough you can make 2-4 individual flat breads by cutting the dough into equal balls prior to rolling it out. A pizza stone is not necessary for grilling pizza; in fact the crispy grill lines on the bottom of the pizza are my favorite bites. Like the build your own burger bar, the flat breads can be created individually to meet everyone’s taste buds and expectations. I personally like make a white pizza, with feta cheese, mozzarella, fresh garlic and basil with a drizzle of olive oils fresh black pepper and seat salt. If that type of pizza doesn’t sound appealing, buy a few different types of sauces such a marinara, pesto, and Alfredo. Each person can start with their base sauce and build their flat bread from there. I always suggest poking holes in the raw dough before putting the toppings on, this will prevent any bubbles during the grilling process. Toasty warm pizza flat breads on the grill are way better than cooking it in the oven; I even do it in the winter!
Grilled stone fruit and ice cream: Everyone can go to the local ice cream stand on a hot summers night, but not everyone knows they came make delicious fresh fruit sundaes at home too without using the microwave or stove. An amazing fruit sundae I discovered this year was the caramelized stone fruit sundae, and personal favorite version was made with brown sugar cherries and grilled peaches. First you pit the cherries and slice the peaches in half. Then you heat your cast iron skillet on the grill with a little butter and brown sugar. Add the cherries to the skillet and place the peaches skin side up directly on the grill. Let the fruit cook until it’s nice and soft. Serve the warm fruit mixtures on top of vanilla ice cream. Be sure to place your ice cream bowls in the freeze prior to serving for that extra little touch.
Grilling may not be for everyone but once you get used to your grill it is so fun and easy to do. Don’t be intimidated by the hot coals or gas burners, just consider the grill like your second kitchen this summer and you will have the best meals. Make sure you prep your food for these dishes inside your house to prevent bugs and meats getting to an unsafe temperature. I also suggest investing in grill gloves for your hot cast iron skillet and a grill basket to stir-fry veggies in. Don’t forget about the classic grill dinners too like baked potatoes, steak, and asparagus. One of my easy go to meals on the grill is corn on the cob and BBQ chicken breast. If you are worried about cooking times, make sure you invest in a good meat thermometer and then you can sit back with a cold one and wait. Grilling is the way to go this summer!