Are you Ready to Grill this Memorial Day Weekend?

Memorial Day honors the patriotic men and women who have laid down their lives in honor of our country.  Wherever we are, as a nation, we pause at 3pm for a moment of silence to remember them.  Traditions for this holiday include draping flags at American veteran gravesites, attending a parade or simply spending the day with family and friends.

For many, Memorial Day Weekend means the first cook-out of the season with family and friends.

To avoid last minute grilling disasters, take a little time to prepare ahead.  Now is when you should test out your grill and pull out your tools.  Replace anything that is broken or rusted.  And, start thinking about what you want to grill.

The ‘secret weapons’ for truly great grilling

A fully functional grill with enough supplies to keep those flames alive (propane, wood, charcoal, etc.) for as long as you need to finish all of your grilling.
High quality ingredients.  Grilling truly shows off the flavor of your food.  So, whether you are grilling steak, turkey burgers or portabella mushrooms, it is best to splurge on the highest quality you can find.  Now, I like my grilling to speak for itself, but the best grilling technique won’t cover up mediocre (or worse) ingredients.
A digital thermometer.  This is the easiest and best way I have found to make sure meat is done right the first time.  Putting meat back on the grill means risking it will end up overdone.  A digital thermometer takes out the guess work, saving time and aggravation.


Preparation and Technique is where you hit the bull’s-eye

Prepare the grill before you put the food on:
1. Brush loose particles off the grates.
2. Fire up the grill.
3. Superheat the grill for 15 + minutes.  This will cook off any residue left from the last time you grilled or anything else that might have gotten stuck to the grates.
4. Use a wire mesh, or similar, long handled instrument to clean the grates as there is likely to be ash left from the previous step.
5. Oil down the grates and any grilling baskets with cooking oil before putting your food on on the grill.


1. Have your digital thermometer  and a BBQ mitt close by and then put the meat on the grill.  Time any veggies or other foods you are grilling as best as possible.  It all cooks pretty fast, so don’t sweat it.
2. When the juices are bubbling up through the top of your meat, flip it over.  Periodically, stick the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat.  (The thermometer will tell you when it is done based on your preference.)  Be sure to flip it only 1 time (I prefer a spatula over tongs).
3. To get a nice, fancy diamond grill pattern on your meat, turn the meat 45 degrees (1/4 turn) mid-way through your cooking on each side.
4. Or, if you wish to “brand” your meat, be sure to have your branding iron heating on the grill next to your meat.  WARNING: The iron will be hot – be sure to use tongs and a BBQ mitt to pick it up.  Brand the meat right after you flip it to side 2.

Tips for making your grill last longer and looking new

• After you grill, but sure to clean the grill well and let it cool down before you cover it .
• Empty the pan and refresh aluminum foil on it (if it needs it) every 2nd cooking.  Having foil in the pan makes for easier clean up.
• Place a good fitting cover over your grill.  It is likely that you will need to replace the cover every 6 months, especially if your grill is exposed to direct weather, heat and/or sun all year round.  Cooler climates will offer less wear on your grill cover.
• Get your grill tuned up/super-cleaned every couple of years.

Quite Simply Susan’s other half,
(Note from Susan:   I asked my husband, Jeff, to be a guest writer for this article.  Not only is Jeff our family’s ‘Master of the Grill,’ he has spent years perfecting his no-nonsense technique and grill care.)

3 Cookbooks I simply can’t live without

I’m a old fashioned book lover.  Ok, ok….I’ve got an E-Reader and I’m taking greener strides every day.  The thing is, I still like REAL books.  Turning actual paper pages.  Folding down corners and feeling the weight of a book in my hands.  It’s kind of like a reading version of comfort food.  As you can imagine, over the years, I collected a LOT of cookbooks.  After my most recent move, it took me 5 years to admit to my clutter filled shelves and that it was time to cast aside a big chunk of the collection.  Well, the truth is I had a number of cookbooks I didn’t use.  And, like many of you, I’ve started turning to the internet to find recipes more often.

After culling through a big stack of cookbooks I decided to keep just under half of them, sending the rest off to charity.  After all, simplifying doesn’t require parting with everything.  Books that stayed fit into one of these categories:  heirloom cookbooks, childrens’ cookbooks (kids like to feel real books, too!), and cookbooks that are aligned with how I want to eat… natural and healthy with easy to prepare recipes.

Through this exercise, I realized that there were, beyond a doubt, only 3 cookbooks I couldn’t live without:

1.  Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love To Eat by Melissa Joulwan

Even if you aren’t on a Paleo diet, this cookbook is invaluable as it contains technique in addition to recipes.  In Well Fed, Melissa Joulwan got me to see that I could fit healthy cooking into my schedule.  Her Sunday Cook-up is brilliant.  The author grew up in restaurants and is more than willing to share tricks of the trade to make meal prep run smooth and take less time.  I use these techniques on a weekly basis.  Don’t miss out on how to make spaghetti squash perfect every time.. it works!

(Grain, Sugar, Legume and Dairy Free)

2.  It’s All Good by Gweneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen

A foolproof resource – Ms. Paltrow does not rest on laurels of fame and presents, with Julia, a very valuable edition on healthy cooking.  Basic recipes like roast chicken and  perfectly cooked brown rice reside alongside more exotic,  yet easy to prepare, recipes like grilled duck and korean tacos.  And, each recipe is marked with how it fits with specific dietary restrictions.  Be sure to read the extra notes and folklore as they contain important things to know so your food comes out just right every single time.  Yay!  Regardless of how you feel about Gweneth’s public persona, It’s All Good will make you feel like she and Julia are your best friends sharing their most prized kitchen secrets.  And, they might even get you to try new things!

(Protein Packed dishes, and Supports Elimination and Vegan Diets)

3.  My very Own Recipe Binder

I’m sure you have a way that you keep your personal recipes,  I have mine set up in a 3-ring binder with tabs for organization.  The truth is that only you know what you like best…  and I know that my recipe binder is full of my favorite things to make and my signature dishes.  It is full of well-worn recipes I’ve made through the years that are guaranteed crowd pleasers.  Handwritten changes, dates made, even reviews are peppered throughout.  This binder is also home to precious family recipes handed down through generations.  You know the ones – they call for “Oleo” (a.ka. margarine) as an ingredient.  Now, oleo can be substituted in a recipe, but my grandmother’s original handwriting can’t!

Try out Melissa’s and Gweneth’s cookbooks and let me know what you think!