Summer time and grilling season are fast approaching. Hot dogs, burgers and chicken breasts are some of the more popular items on the cook out menus, but here are a few different and creative foods you can cook on the grill that will make your party stand out from the rest.

  • Pizza

    I’m not talking about the regular old frozen variety here. I’m talking about homemade pizza. I had this once at a girlfriend’s house and it really stuck with me for a fun, family friendly party idea. Start with the pre-cooked pizza crusts. (Boboli brand has both mini crusts for the kids and 10 inch crusts for the grownups.) Grab a few jars of pizza sauce (the Green Mill variety is really good) and a variety of meats and vegetables and don’t forget the cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. I’m a fan of the Kraft six cheese Italian blend, but their regular mozzarella is awesome, too. Make sure all of the meats have been cooked, seasoned and drained and all of the vegetables have been washed and chopped before the party starts so you aren’t standing in the kitchen and ignoring your guests. Helpful hint: Don’t take the toppings out of the fridge, put them on the pizza and then place them on the grill. All you’ll have is cold veggies on a burned crust, so take the toppings out of the fridge about an hour before you’re going to start creating the pizzas. My favorite thing to do is to make it buffet style. Start with the plates, and then go to the pizza crusts, pizza sauce, meats, vegetables and then cheese. If you’re cooking with a gas grill, use a medium/low setting. That way the crust gets cooked and the cheese is melted. If you’re using charcoal, heat the coals and then arrange them in a circle around the outside of the grill rack. Place the pizza directly on the rack and cover. You need to pay very close attention to the food so it doesn’t get burned. (When I was trying this out before passing on the recipe to you, more than one inedible hockey puck pizza hit the fire pit.) When the pizzas are ready, slice and serve immediately. This will give your guests a chance to sample and swap recipes. I never thought in a million years I would ever eat a pizza topped with a white sauce, pear and Gorgonzola cheese, but, man was it tasty!

    Jen Jacobs
  • Fruit

    Hear me out. This is a really fun and interesting side dish or dessert that you can bring fully prepared to family reunions or parties. All you have to do is throw them on the grill and who doesn’t love cooking with fire? Here’s what you need: Kebab skewers, cubed pineapple, cubed apple, cubed pear, cubed melon, grapes and strawberries, water and sugar. If your skewers are wood, make sure they are soaked first so they don’t catch on fire. Arrange the fruit however you like on the skewers. Meanwhile, heat four tablespoons each of water and sugar in a pan and when it has thickened into a syrup, allow to cool slightly. Brush fruit with the syrup and place on a hot grill. Turn frequently to allow sugars to brown slightly. Kebabs are done when the fruit is crisp-tender. Now for the fun part: Grand Marnier dipping sauce! You need a half cup of packed brown sugar, a teaspoon of Grand Marnier liqueur and one cup of reduced fat sour cream. (Orange extract and plain Greek yogurt are also perfectly acceptable substitutes.) Whisk together ingredients in a bowl until the brown sugar is dissolved. Chill for one hour prior to serving.

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  • Breakfast

    Your cast iron skillet works perfectly for this, especially if you’re having a group gathering for a brunch-type function. Make sure you coat your skillet with non-stick cooking spray. I love Pam butter flavor, but any non stick cooking spray is fine. French toast, pancakes, scrambled eggs and fritatas will all turn out just perfect on the grill. Another great recipe to try for a brunch type function is a spinach tart. I will admit, I stole the initial recipe from the Paul McCartney cookbook, but I did doctor it a little. This one is best for a gas grill where you can regulate the temperature a little better. You’ll need a 9 inch tart pan lined with pie dough, 9 ounces of baby spinach, small tomato chopped and drained, 4 tablespoons of sunflower oil, 1 onion finely chopped, extra lean ground turkey, sage, low fat cheddar cheese, four egg whites, 2/3 cup cream, salt and pepper. Place tart pan on the grill and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a non stick pan brown turkey and add sage, salt and pepper to flavor. It should taste just like breakfast sausage. Set turkey aside and heat two tablespoons of sunflower oil on medium low heat. Gently wilt spinach. Drain spinach and chop it. Set aside. Heat two tablespoons of sunflower oil on medium high heat and brown the onions. Mix onions, spinach, tomatoes and turkey together and spread over the bottom of the pie crust. Next, take your food processor and put in cheese, egg whites and cream. Pulse until well mixed. Pour over turkey/spinach mixture and stick it back on the grill for 20 to 25 minutes. It will be done when the top is golden brown. Remove from heat, but leave the grill cover on for another five minutes. Slice and serve.

    Jen Jacobs
  • Bacon

    It’s wonderful for when the air conditioning is on. Is there anything worse than being locked up tight in a home that smells like rancid bacon grease? Grilling is a great way to do bacon for breakfast, to add to salads or to add to bacon cheeseburgers. The salty and smoky flavor of the grilled bacon is really amplified by the good snap and crunch from the grill. For extra smoky flavor, we use natural lump charcoal. Now, there’s really no such thing as “healthy” bacon, but cooking it on the grill is a healthier way to do it. When bacon is cooked on the grill, the fat renders out and drips away from the food, instead of the bacon stewing in its own juices.

    Jen Jacobs