Sunday, April 29, 2012

Planning Dinner around the Weather

It's been a busy spring so far. They boys' swimming lessons changed to Monday nights, and starting next week they both play soccer on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The weather has also been unseasonably warm for the most part. Even though it's April, we are able to use the barbeque on several occasions. I like to barbeque during the week as often as I can. So here's a quick tip to make it an easy transition.

We all like a grilled burger, but it's not an "everyday" food. If you want to switch it up and still make use for the outdoor grill throughout the week try marinating your meat. My trick takes a little planning. When the large packages of meat are on sale, I take what I am not using in the next couple days and place what I need for a meal the whole family (e.g. For 2 adults & 2 kids I use 3 skinless boneless chicken breasts) and place it in a resealable freezer bag with a marinate. You can use your own or store bought. You can even use a salad dressing. Lay it flat and remove the air. (labeling with a marker is also helpful) Place it in the freezer until the day you are ready to use it. Take it out of the freezer in the morning you are planning to use it. By the time dinnertime rolls around, the meat is thawed and full of flavour.

I do this a lot during cottage season. I'll bring up with us my frozen marinated meat. It is perfect portioned, the mess is already cleaned up since I did all the prep at home, and I don't have to stock the cottage pantry with tonnes of spices, oils and vinegars.

For a basic marinade you only need a couple key things. The first is an acid. This can be citrus juice, vinegar or even a can of ginger ale. Next you want some supporting flavours. Things like garlic, herbs, spices and/or chilies. The last thing is some liquid to allow the flavours to surround the meat. I like to use an inexpensive, neutral tasting oil, like vegetable or canola oil. Although you could use your best olive oil, it seems like a bit of a waste to me. Then like most recipes, a pinch of salt and pepper.

There are some great store bought marinades and I do use them on occasion. But the beauty of making your own is that YOU control the ingredients. You can make it just the way you want and you can control things like fat, sugar and salt.

I'll add one more tip to make dinner a little easier... grill your vegetables! Really, there is nothing better. Corn, zuchinni, peppers, asparagus all work wonderfully. A little olive oil, salt and pepper and you are ready to go. It's less dishes to clean and less running in and out of the house to make sure everything get on the table hot and at the same time.

And girls... don't be afraid of the grill! It's not just for the men. Be your own GRILL MASTER.

Need a recipe to get started? Here's what's for dinner tonight.

Grilled Tarragon Mustard Chicken
This recipe came to be because I had leftover tarragon from another recipe for a recipe contest. (Lobster Mac & Cheese made it to the finals) Doing a quick search, I found that tarragon was often paired with mustard.  I'm not a huge mustard fan; so you can add more if you like. I find that the way it is, you can taste the mustard, but it is not overpowering.

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp sherry vinegar (use white wine vinegar if you don't have sherry vinegar)
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp fresh tarragon, roughly chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a large freezer bag place the chicken.

In a small bowl, add the remaining ingredients and whisk together. Pour over the chicken.

All to marinate in the fridge for at least hour.

Preheat grill to medium-high. Remove chicken from the marinade and place on the grill. Sear each side (bottom grill) 3 -4 minutes a side then most to the top rack and cook 10-15 minutes, or until the juices run clear.