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10 Ways to Become a Weeknight Grilling Guru

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To a busy cook, the start of summer means the start of outdoor grilling season. You know, counting down the days until the weekend when the ritual barbecuing takes place. But why wait until the weekend to get out of kitchen? Go ahead, fire up the grill for some great outdoor cooking any day of the week. It's easy to "sizzle" Monday through Friday with a few basic tips from Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, The BBQ Queens:

1. Think about the whole meal. Envision the whole meal first, then shop, chop, and plop that food on the grill, then on the table.

2. Take it easy. Offer simple, uncomplicated side dishes like fresh fruit and raw vegetables or foods that grill right along with your entree to complement a meal. Or put everything in individual Surprise Packages (no-mess foil packet grilling).

3. Eat healthy. Aim for 3 servings of fruits and/or vegetables (out of the daily recommended 5) with your evening meal. Who knows what your family members have eaten at lunch? Anyone with kids knows that even if you packed good things in their lunches, that doesn't mean they actually ate those raw veggies or that red, crisp apple. Including 3 fruits and/or vegetables in the evening meal is easy to do if you grill meat/poultry/fish and a vegetable, have a sauce that's also a vegetable, and then add a simple salad or fresh fruit. For extra credit points or a big gold star, include a whole grain dish like couscous, rice, polenta, or wholegrain bread.

4. Let the grocery store salad bar be your sous chef. Let them chop and dice or shred ingredients; you just breeze through the salad bar and put them in containers. Use good quality bottled or jarred products. Enlist the aid of your children, significant other, or girlfriends to set the table, flip the flatbreads, or stir together a sauce in a bowl. Somehow, kitchen duty seems more fun and less of a chore when you're grilling outdoors.

5. Become "tray chic." Take all your ingredients out to the grill on a baking sheet or two. This "mise en place" or "every ingredient ready" method saves time and keeps you focused, as you don't have to keep running back to the kitchen to get a missing ingredient.

6. Brush foods with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper, before grilling. The foods are less likely to stick to the grill, making grilling easier and you calmer.

7. Use a hot fire. Things grill faster over a hot fire and taste extra good.

8. Make your sauces function as vegetables. Why do two things when you can combine them into one? Just like the mother who told her kids they weren't eating yucky fish, they were eating "Chicken of the Sea," you can tell your kids, "This is not just a vegetable. This is a salsa."

9. "Grill once, eat twice" is our mantra. Get two meals out of one effort, either in lunches to pack for the next day or tomorrow's dinner. If you grill once to eat twice, you can put your feet up tomorrow and read the latest issue of the-magazine-you-subscribe-to-but-never-have-the-time-to-read while you buff your nails. Dinner's ready already.

10. Chill out at the grill! Sip a glass of bubbly, soak up that gorgeous sunset, and smell the delicious aroma of good food headed to your table -- for the people you love best in the world. Life is good.

Karen Adler and Judith Fertig are award-winning barbeque experts and authors of Weeknight Grilling With the BBQ Queens. To sample recipes from their book, The BBQ Queens' Big Book of Barbeque, click here.

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