Save money and don’t heat up your kitchen–cook on the grill!

We have lots of rain and heat in Iowa this summer (it seems like a sauna). And, since I try to use the air conditioner as little as possible, the thought of adding to the heat by starting the oven doesn’t appeal. Grilling is my answer. It keeps the house cooler, I have fewer dishes to wash, and food from the grill tastes good.

Most of us think about grilling meat, poultry, or fish, but have you considered grilling fruits and vegetables? As long as you have the grill going, why not give it a try? Fruits and vegetables both taste sweeter when cooked on the grill, and there is a slight smoky flavor.

Here are a few hints:

  • Cut fruits and vegetables into sizes that won’t slip through a grill grate, purchase an inexpensive grill pan to protect foods, or make a homemade version with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil fashioned with a turned-up edge (to prevent food from rolling off the grill or into the coals).
  • Cut vegetables into large, flat pieces of even thickness throughout each slice. You can cut them into smaller pieces after cooking.
  • Allow grill surface to get hot (but not flaming) before placing raw foods, including fruits and vegetables on it. Grilling time will vary with the size of the cut fruits and vegetables. Two to three minutes per side may be all that it takes to grill fruits and vegetables.
  • Brush fruits and vegetables lightly with cooking oil before placing them on the grill to enhance color and prevent sticking.  Or, marinate vegetables for a few minutes in an oil-based Italian-style dressing to introduce Italian seasoning.
  • To avoid cross contamination, use separate tongs, plates, or platters when grilling meats, hamburgers, hot dogs, poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables, or when toasting breads.
  • Here are a few fruits and vegetables to consider grilling: potato, squash, onion, eggplant, asparagus, mushrooms, green pepper strips, thick-sliced or halved tomatoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, pineapple, and banana.

If you’d like more information, Julie Garden-Robinson, North Dakota State University, has a column in her Prairie Fare series on grilling fruits and vegetables you might like to read.

-pointers from Peggy

Declutter and Save Money on Grocery Bills

I am still in my organizing/cleaning frame of mind. I don’t mind when I have multiples of things I use all the time—like canned tomatoes, black beans, yogurt, margarine, fresh fruits and vegetables, etc., but when the pantry is full of partially used items or things I can’t remember how long I have had or why I bought them, it’s time to make a list and clean them out.

First, I make a list of everything I have too many of, partial packages, or specialty items that I have to make an effort to use. Then I make up menus using those items, crossing them off as I go. Sometimes I have to buy a few items to round out a meal or complete a recipe, so I also start a grocery list.

Last week it was my turn to host dinner club.  (Once a month, eight friends and I eat together. When it is your turn, you plan, prepare, and clean up after the meal. Then for 8 months you have great meals for free!)  I decided on a Tex-Mex theme to take advantage of what was in my cupboard. I was able to present a great meal while only buying 1 pound ground beef, 3 avocados, and a bag of carrots.

For the future, I am trying to write the month and year on items when I add them to my pantry. I remember my mom using a magic marker to write dates on the tops of cans and boxes. It was easy to see how long items had been on the shelf.

-pointers by Peggy

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