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Prairie Fare: Be the Grill Master This Spring

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Try some delicious foil vegetable packets on the grill. NDSU photo. Try some delicious foil vegetable packets on the grill. NDSU photo.
Our spring season beckons us to enjoy dining and cooking outdoors.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“What should I grill for dinner tonight?” my husband asked the other day.

I began naming a variety of possibilities. Then I paused and grinned.

Buying him a grill for Father’s Day was the best gift I ever bought myself, our three kids and even our three dogs. We all enjoy the benefits of delicious meals served hot from the grill. Our dogs beg for tasty tidbits and sometimes they are successful.

Granted, our kids and I usually help with preparing the vegetables for the grill, but my husband is in charge of marinating and otherwise seasoning the meat and cooking all the food. All I do is hand him pans of food, a food thermometer and a clean serving platter, and off he goes.

Our spring season beckons us to enjoy dining and cooking outdoors. We can enjoy the beauty of sprouting grass, budding trees and the return of chirping birds. The aroma of delicious food emanating from backyards is very appealing, too.

If you have a grill, be sure to give it a good spring cleaning. Begin by scouring the grate with a wire brush as necessary.

I always approach our old gas grill with some trepidation during spring cleanup. One year, while retrieving the grill from our storage shed, my husband had an unexpected greeting. Upon lifting the lid, he discovered a squirrel had set up a winter campground. The squirrel was as surprised as my husband. It leaped at him and jumped over his head.

This is another reason my husband is in charge of our grills.

Most of us have read about fires associated with grills set too close to buildings or other flammable materials, so be sure to consider your placement of the grill. Place your grill in a well-ventilated, level space away from shrubs, overhangs and deck railings. Keep children and pets away from grills.

Be sure you have a food thermometer. A food thermometer is not only a safety tool, but it also helps ensure the cooked meat will be of high quality.

Cooking to a safe internal temperature kills bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella. Using a food thermometer also helps ensure that you do not overcook meat and end up with a dry, unappealing entrée.

The recommended cooking temperatures are revised based on food safety research, so be aware of the changes. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, you should cook burgers to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and chicken and other poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Beef and pork steaks and chops should reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and also observe a three-minute “rest time” after the meat reaches the minimum internal temperature. The cooking temperature for pork cuts was reduced in recent years based on research data.

Add plenty of fruits and vegetables to your menu. Fill half of your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables.

To grill vegetables, simply rinse the vegetables, cut as desired, toss with a small amount of salad oil, such as olive oil or canola oil, or try making foil-wrapped veggie packets.

How about grilled bananas or peaches for dessert? Visit http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food, click on “food safety” and check out our “Grill Something Different” and “Be the Grill Master” publications by typing the titles in the search box.

After the food has reached a safe internal temperature, be sure to place it on a clean platter, bring it to the table and watch your family smile. If someone grills a delicious meal for you, praise him or her heartily.

These vegetable packets were a big hit when my dietetic interns tested the recipe. The vinegar and spices in the oil provide some zest to your menu. As shown, you can prepare these packets on your grill or in your oven.

Foil Vegetable Packets

1/2 c. canola oil

1/4 c. cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. seasoned salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 pound green beans, trimmed

1 red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch strips

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch strips

1 zucchini, trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch rounds

2 medium red potatoes cut into 1/4-inch rounds

Oven directions: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut six (12- by 18-inch) pieces of heavy-duty foil. In a large bowl, whisk oil, vinegar, garlic, seasoned salt and pepper. Cut up vegetables and add to dressing; toss to coat. Divide vegetables evenly among foil pieces. Drizzle with any remaining dressing from the bowl. Fold long sides of foil toward each other, crimping edges to seal. Fold and crimp remaining edges, forming a sealed packet. Split packets between two baking sheets, making sure to place them seam side up. Place on the center rack of the oven. Cook for 40 to 60 minutes. To check for doneness, remove one packet from oven, open carefully and taste a vegetable; it should be crisp-tender. Remove packets from the oven. Carefully pull back foil at the top of each packet to allow steam to escape. Let sit for five minutes. Serve.

Grill directions: Preheat grill to medium heat. Cut six (12- by 18-inch) pieces of heavy-duty foil. In a large bowl, whisk oil, vinegar, garlic, seasoned salt and pepper. Add vegetables and toss to coat. Divide vegetables evenly among foil pieces. Drizzle with any remaining dressing from the bowl. Fold long sides of foil toward each other, crimping edges to seal. Fold and crimp remaining edges to form a sealed packet. Place packets, seam side up, on grill. Close grill and cook for 20 minutes. To check for doneness, remove one packet from grill, open carefully and taste a vegetable: It should be crisp-tender. Carefully pull back foil at the top of each packet to allow steam to escape. Let sit for five minutes. Serve.

Makes six servings. Each serving contains 250 calories, 19 grams (g) of fat, 3 g of protein, 18 g of carbohydrate, 4 g of fiber and 250 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)


NDSU Agriculture Communication – March 26, 2015

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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