The Richmond Register

July 24, 2013

Use the grill to save money, make tasty meals

By Gina Noe

RICHMOND — Use the grill to save money, make tasty meals

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

We have had lots of rain and now, heat, this summer (it seems like a sauna). And since most of us try to conserve energy and save money by using the air conditioner as little as possible, the thought of adding to the heat by starting the oven isn’t appealing.

Grilling is the answer. It keeps the house cooler, there are 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.

• You can also make a foil packet or “hobo pack” for cooking diced or chopped vegetables like zucchini or corn off the cob. The packs work well for soft and juicy vegetables like tomatoes.

Start with a large sheet of heavy duty foil. You could also double regular foil. Spray it with cooking spray before adding the vegetables. To create the packet bring together the short ends of the sheet, fold over to seal and then do the same with the sides. Cook over medium heat without turning. When unsealing the foil, watch for hot steam.

• 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, visit the Madison County Farmers’ Market at 8:30 a.m. to noon  Aug. 3. The Madison County Extension staff and volunteers will be on hand to answer questions about grilling, food preservation, horticulture, Extension programming and Extension Homemakers. We will be passing out grilled food samples and some kitchen “freebies.” The market is in the Richmond Lowe’s parking lot. Hope to see you there.

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.