A Memorial Day Feast on the Cheap

I think of Memorial Day as the first of many days of eating outside, firing up the grill, or even putting together a picnic to take to the park or beach. Here are some recipes ideas that won’t bust your budget.

Hamburgers with a Twist
I know just about everyone loves a hamburger and they’re easy on the budget, but once in a while it’s nice to give them a little twist or two. Yes, there’s the cheeseburger, but how about forgoing the regular slice of cheese. Switch to something with a little more kick, like blue cheese, and placing it inside the burger, so it melts into the meat while it’s on the grill.

Not Just any Salad
How many picnics and get togethers have you either been invited to, or thrown yourself, where the same recipe for coleslaw or potato salad is rolled out every single time? Over the years I’ve been adding different items to potato salads, like chopped eggs, roasted red peppers, chopped celery, sun-dried tomatoes. So experiment and see what works best for you. I also like leaving the skin on the potatoes, and also using a combination of white and sweet potatoes.
As for coleslaw, I’ve been using the broccoli slaw you can find at just about any produce department, and adding blue cheese dressing instead of mayonnaise. Try it; it really puts a new spin on a favorite side dish.

Baked beans are another favorite side dish at most cookouts. I’ve been adding sultanas (if you can’t get them, use raisins, but plump them up in some hot water first), and curry powder. For every 2 cups of beans I use about ½ cup sultanas and one-tablespoon curry powder, depending how hot you like it.

I never think any meal is complete without the potato, but just throwing one on the grill can be a bit bland. Here’s an herb butter I’ve been using for a couple of years with baked potatoes. Add some to the potato as soon as it comes off the grill, everyone says it compliments just about any type of dish.

Fresh Herb Butter
½ cup trans fat free spread or if you’re not watching the cholesterol, butter
1 cup of fresh herbs, I like a combination of thyme and basil, sometimes dill if you’re serving fish
1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
Place the butter into a bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients and mix until everything’s blended. Cover and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.

Another tip is to wash and scrub the potato, rub it with oil and then sprinkle with salt. It flavors the potato from the outside in.
And sometimes I’ll cook the potatoes indoors. I love homemade seasoned fries. Simply cut the potatoes into wedges, toss in oil and add salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and I’ve even had success adding soy sauce for a really savory taste.

Quick Picnic Fare
I’ve always been a big fan of picnics and here’s something that is so simple and easy to put together. It’s best made the day before the picnic. I like to use bread like a foccacia, or you can use French loaf, Italian bread, anything that’s not pre-sliced. You want to slice it in half horizontally. On both halves spread either some olive oil, or pesto sauce. Then just start laying it with whatever you like. I often select cheese, roasted red peppers, artichokes, olives, for a really summer taste. You can use sliced ham, turkey. When you’re done layering, place the other top on the sandwich and wrap the whole thing tightly in cling wrap. Put it on a plate and then place it in the refrigerator. Next put something heavy like a large can of tomatoes or a gallon jug of milk, and leave it overnight. In the morning just put it into your picnic basket and when you’re ready to eat, cut it into wedges.

Stock Up the Pantry
Remember it’s a holiday and that means lots of items like hamburger buns, BBQ sauce, etc, will be on sale. Stock your pantry and freezer for the hot summer days ahead.

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