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Foodie with Family

Fire up the grill for 4th

Rebecca Lindamood By Rebecca Lindamood
Local columnist

Read Rebecca's past columns here

We've been spending a lot of time in our van lately. The commute from the house where we live now to the house that we're refurbishing is about one hour each way, and we spend most of our free time there trying to get the place ready for the big move.

There are some benefits to doing that much driving. For one, all the kids are strapped into seats and, theoretically anyway, can't move around too much. That means that I actually get to sit down in some place other than the bathroom.

Also, my husband and I get a chance to have relatively calm conversations: Our kids are usually occupied in pointing out horses and cows and other critters to each other so Lindy and I can chat.

Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to that much time on the road. Admittedly, the problem is partially our own fault: We have been too cheap to fix our van's air conditioning since it broke last year. As a result, we drive around with our windows all the way down almost all the time.

The boys and I drove up to Lindy's office in the city the day after Father's Day to surprise him with a lunchtime stop at our favorite frozen custard place. It was 90 degrees out and we sat in the office parking lot to call him and coax him outside so we could spring our plan on him.

In the time it took for him to get outside and find us in the lot, we all got good and sweaty. As soon as we arrived at the custard joint, the big boys shot out to the counter as quickly as they could while the grown-ups helped the two little ones, Leif and Rowan, onto the pavement.

Lindy looked at 3-year-old Leif and said, "Boy Leif, you sure have pink cheeks!” Now anyone who has spent a little time with Leif is aware that he sometimes has difficulty making his mouth say the things he wants to say. He looked at his daddy, giggled and said, "Yeah. I have pimp cheeks.” Then he shouted, " HEY GUYS! DADDY SAYS I HAVE PIMP CHEEKS!”

Did I mention we were in the city?

We also find that conversation with the kids in the van with the windows down requires an exercise in patience. There has to be some scientific principle of sound and resistance that explains why we can hear them fine, but they can't hear us for beans. Take a conversation from last weekend for example:

Lindy: "Hey! What's that in the road?”

Me: "Wow! I think it was a fox. Hey boys, do you see the fox?”

Aidan: "WHAT?!?”

Me: "A fox.”

Aidan: "WHAT?!?”

Liam: "I think there was a box by the road.”

Me: "No! A fox. There was a fox in the road.”

Aidan: "WHAT?!?”

Liam: "I don't know!”

Me: "Never mind.”

… Two miles later …

Aidan: "Did you say there was a fox in the road?”

Me: "Yes”

Aidan: "Where is it? I can't see it.”

Now that we're officially into summer, I feel obliged to grill dinner at least three nights out of the week. I feel it is my birthright as an American citizen.

With the 4th of July looming, it seems like a good time to fire up the grill and celebrate the melting pot that is our fabulous land with some fun ethnic foods.

The grilled chicken recipe that follows is a simple version of Tandoori chicken. It grills up so succulent and juicy that you may want it as a regular part of your summer repertoire. The Cool as a Cuke salsa is my version of the raita that is often served with Indian dishes. It cools the palate and packs a lot of flavor at the same time.

When you serve the chicken, the cucumber salsa and the grilled pineapple and onion together you have a gorgeous plate that satisfies your eyes and your stomach. You're also doing your health a favor by getting the benefits of lean meat, yogurt, fruits and veggies at the same time.

And in a completely nutritionally unsound theory to which I cling, that means you indulge a little bit with dessert. Really load that whipped cream on your cake and berries.

It's summer. You'll sweat it off anyway, right?

Grilled Chicken with Tandoori Seasonings

  • ¼ c. canola or vegetable oil
  • 3 T. ground cumin
  • 2 T. curry powder
  • 2 t. garlic powder
  • 2 t. salt
  • 1 t. ground ginger (or 1 T. grated gingerroot)
  • 1 t. ground coriander
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • ½ t. cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 c. white wine vinegar
  • 1 c. plain yogurt, preferably whole milk yogurt

5 lbs. chicken pieces (You can use boneless or bone-in pieces of dark or light meat)

Heat oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Mix cumin, curry, garlic, salt, ginger, coriander, cinnamon and cayenne in a medium bowl. Add spices to the oil and heat until they start to sizzle, become fragrant and darken slightly in color, 30 to 40 seconds. Return spices to bowl: whisk in vinegar, then yogurt. Add chicken to a zipper top bag, pour yogurt and spice blend into bag, shake to coat and marinate at least 30 minutes but up to 24 hours.

Grill over a two-zone grill starting on medium hot for four minutes, flip chicken to cook for another four minutes. Move chicken to cooler coals or cooler side of grill and continue cooking in the indirect heat until it measures 165° in breast meat or 180° in dark meat. If desired, you can use flavored chips (like apple or cherry wood) to add another dimension of flavor to this chicken. This is fantastic served with Cool as a Cuke Salsa (recipe follows).

Cool as a Cuke Salsa

  • 1 English (seedless) cucumber, peeled or not — your preference, cut into ¼” cubes
  • 2 c. plain yogurt
  • 1 t. dried dill weed (or 1 T. fresh)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for 30 minutes prior to serving.

Grilled Onion and Pineapple

  • 1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1½-inch spears
  • 2 large vidalia onions, peeled and cut into 1-inch thick slabs (take care to keep them intact)
  • Steak seasoning, like Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • Bamboo skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes prior to using

Insert one bamboo skewer lengthwise into each pineapple spear. Set aside on a plate. Laying the onions slabs flat on a cutting board, insert two bamboo skewers parallel to each other clear through each slice. Brush each slice lightly with olive oil and sprinkle both sides with steak seasoning.

Lay the onions and pineapple spears over direct heat for four minutes. Using tongs, turn and continue grilling for another four minutes. Move both to continue cooking in indirect heat in the grill.

Remove the pineapple spears after eight minutes in indirect heat and continue cooking onions until tender throughout. These can be served at any temperature.

Red, White and Blueberry Poundcake

  • 1 packaged or homemade vanilla poundcake
  • 1 c. blueberries, rinsed
  • 2 c. any combination of rinsed, hulled and sliced strawberries, raspberries or pitted cherries
  • 1 orange
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 2 T. Grand Marnier, optional
  • Whipped cream
  • Mint sprigs for garnish, optional

Over a medium sized bowl, zest and juice the orange. Discard the remaining orange peel and pulp. Add the sugar, blueberries and red berries to the juice and zest and toss to coat. If using the Grand Marnier, add that as well. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Slice the poundcake and lay one slice on each serving dish. Scoop 1/2 c. berries and liquid over each slice of poundcake. Top each serving with a healthy dollop of whipped cream. If you want to make this gorgeous, crown each serving with a fresh or sugared mint sprig. Serve immediately.

Rebecca Lindamood is a northern Lower Michigan native now living in New York state. A food lover and mother of five children, she writes occasionally about preparing creative, yet affordable, meals for a family. Drop Rebecca an e-mail at or write to her care of the Record-Eagle.

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