I have been out of the kitchen for the past few weeks, at least by my usual standards. This is because I have corralled my partner into grilling every Sunday. I pull hot dogs, burgers, ribs, chicken, even pork chops, and he has been happily grilling it all for the upcoming week. The smoky flavor is sealed in and comes through even when briefly reheated. I have only had to whip up a few summery sides and that simple strategy has kept me out of the kitchen. My only other contribution is sous chef on Sundays. I place everything on foil-lined cookie sheets with foil on top and bottom. Once the food is on the grill, the top layer of foil goes down on the cookie sheet and is used to place the food once it is cooked to avoid any contamination. I also have my partner grill fresh corn on the cob; cheaply had this time of year and a quintessential taste of summer. I rip off smallish sheets of foil, place each shucked ear of corn in one sheet, smear some butter, sprinkle with pepper and wrap the foil up tightly around each ear of prepped corn. My partner then surrounds the edge of the grill with the corn and lets it cook away for the duration of the grill. What we don’t eat that evening is easily reheated later in the week and holds up well.
This method of cooking week after week, isn’t something we’ve ever done before, but it has really worked for us and is now something we plan on doing every summer. I was experiencing a minor burnout in the kitchen and wanted a reprieve without spending a fortune on take out or restaurant meals. This way, we also get a taste of summer four to five days a week. By the time Friday rolls around, I honestly don’t mind cooking again. I’m relaxed and ready to get back into the kitchen and while I am pretty good with leftovers, I have not had much to use up so far. My partner is allergic to most leftovers but anything from the grill is apparently exempt from this mindset. He swears burgers cooked on Sunday taste as good the next Wednesday and I believe him. Again, that smoky, deep flavor from the grill goes a long way.
While my partner grills away on Sundays, I take a quick detour into the kitchen to prep a few summer sides. I pick ones that will last throughout the week and that, of course, are frugal to make. All cost pennies to make and last all week long (provided we don’t use them up right away which we often do). The slaw is a personal favorite because cabbage has a long shelf life and if well-wrapped, the leftover cabbage will last a long time in the fridge.
Stingy Summer Slaw
One-Half head of cabbage (green or purple, your choice), sliced thinly
1/2 cup or so of shredded carotts
1/2 cup mayo
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar, any kind will do
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss carrots with thinly sliced cabbage. Whisk dressing ingredients together before tossing with the salad mix. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Note: If serving the next day, you may want to drain a little of the liquid dressing before serving.
Cheap Cheese Bin Mac and Cheese
12 oz dry macaroni shells
1 stick butter or margarine
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk, low fat is fine (warm the milk first)
3 cups shredded/grated cheese, whatever you have in your cheese bin will do including cheddar, Montrey jack, parmesan, etc. I would avoid super strong flavors such as creamy brie, gorgonzola or salty feta but otherwise, most kinds will do
1/2 cup Panko or homemade breadcrumbs, toasted
Cook the macaroni shells per directions on the package. Meanwhile, melt the butter/margarine and whisk in the flour. Cook for a minute or two to get the raw flour taste out and slowly whisk in the milk until well blended. Add in 2-2 1/2 cups of the cheese whisking well until smooth. Add more milk if the sauce gets too thick. Once the shells are cooked, drain well, reserving a half-cup full of pasta water. Mix the shells with the cheese sauce and, if too thick, add a little pasta water to thin out the sauce. Top with toasted breadcrumbs and remaining cheese. Bake in a 350-deg over for 20-25 minutes until bubbly.
Frugal Freezer Baked Beans
This recipe came about one evening when my partner wanted baked beans to go with some grilled dishes and I did not have any canned beans. Undeterred, I made the following with excellent results.
4 cups cooked pinto beans (I dipped into my cooked bean stash from the freezer)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon maple syrup and molasses each
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1/2 cup cooked (very crisp), diced bacon crumbled (optional)
Mix everything but the beans in a medium skillet over medium heat until well blended and heated through. Add beans and heat through.