Make Your Next Backyard Cookout An Adventure

IN THE KITCHEN

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How about trying a few special dishes for your next backyard cookout? Start with Sun-dried Tomato Dip and fresh vegetables, followed by Strawberry Salad. Make the main dish a Big Chili Burger and finish off the meal enjoying more strawberries with a Strawberry Honey Dessert.

Sun-dried Tomato Dip

2 large red bell peppers or 1 (12-ounce) jar, drained

1 (15-ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained

10 marinated sun-dried tomato halves, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise

1 teaspoon dry oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder or a pinch of cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Grill fresh peppers over open flame or under broiler until skins are blackened all over, using tongs to turn often, about 5 minutes. Place peppers in bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit 20 minutes. When skin is loosened, pull it away with your fingers, some black bits will remain. Open peppers, remove seeds and ribs, then coarsely chop. Place peppers in food processor or blender and pureé. Add beans, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, mayonnaise, oregano, cumin and chili powder or cayenne. Process into a smooth pureé, season to taste with salt and pepper. Let dip sit an hour before serving. Tightly covered, it will keep up to three days in the refrigerator.

To serve, arrange rings of broccoli florets and cherry tomatoes in a bulls eye design; or make a rainbow on a cutting board with slices of red and yellow bell peppers, green sugar snap pea pods, slices of zucchini, cucumber and white daikon radish; or bundle small stalks of asparagus together and place alongside the bowl of dip. Makes 2 1/2 cups, with a suggested serving size of a tablespoon.

Strawberry Salad (a molded salad)

2 (3-ounce) packets of strawberry gelatin mix

1 1/2 cups cran-raspberry juice

1 1/2 cups cold raspberry-flavored club soda

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 pound hulled, sliced strawberries, enough for 2 cups

1/2 pint blueberries

1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup mini-marshmallows (optional)

Place gelatin in a medium bowl. Heat juice to boiling and pour over gelatin. Stir until fully dissolved, about 2 or 3 minutes. Mix in cold soda and lemon juice. Refrigerate the mixture about an hour, stirring occasionally, until it has the consistency of raw egg white, or set bowl in a large bowl of ice and water to cool, stirring frequently, about 12 to 15 minutes. Into thickened gelatin, mix in strawberries, half the blueberries, the apple and marshmallows. Stir to distribute evenly. Reserve remaining blueberries for garnish. Pour fruit and gelatin mix into a five-cup ring mold and chill until very firm, at least 4 hours or overnight. The salad can be made one to two days ahead and stored in the mold, covered with foil wrap until ready to serve.

To serve, dip the mold into a large bowl of very hot water for 10 seconds. Place a flat serving plate on top of the mold and, holding the plate firmly in place, invert the mold. If the salad does not drop onto the plate, repeat. Fill center of the salad with the reserved berries, serve chilled, using additional halved strawberries as garnish. Makes 8 servings.

Big Chili Burger

8 ounces extra-lean ground sirloin

1/2 cup canned fat-free refried beans

2 tablespoons minced onion

1 garlic clove

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, lightly mix together meat and beans with a fork until well combined. Mix in onion, garlic, jalapeño, chili powder, salt and pepper. Do not overmix the compacts the ingredients too tightly, resulting in an unpleasant taste, the mix should be light. Gently form mixture into four 4-inch patties. Cook burgers on pre-heated grill or ridged grill pan, turning once, until meat thermometer inserted in centers registers 160 degrees, about 8 to 10 minutes. Hot burger crumbles easily, so handle carefully, using a wide spatula.

Serve immediately on toasted buns, topped with sliced tomato and onion, plus some well-drained salsa, or traditional condiments. Makes 4 servings.

Strawberry Honey Frozen Dessert

1 cup reduced-fat (2-percent) milk

1/3 cup mild honey like clover or wildflower

Pinch of salt

1 large egg, beaten lightly

6 ounces low-fat strawberry yogurt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 pint strawberries, pureed in blender

1/2 pint strawberries, hulled and halved

In medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat, scald milk with honey and salt until bubbles form around edge of pan, about 2 minutes. Whisking briskly, gradually pour one-fourth of hot milk into egg. Transfer mix back to saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly with wooden spoon until mixture thickens and coats spoon lightly, about 4 to 6 minutes. Do not let it simmer or boil, or mixture will curdle and spoil. Immediately pour mixture into metal bowl. Whisk yogurt, vanilla and strawberry pureé into hot mixture. Chill down, either in refrigerator or by setting bowl inside larger one filled with ice and cold water, stirring occasionally until mixture is cool. Pour yogurt mixture into glass or other non-metal, 8-inch square pan. Place in freezer. Stir well every 20 to 30 minutes until yogurt is frozen and smooth, about 3 hours, depending on freezer. An ice cream maker can be used instead. When frozen, scoop into bowls and serve. Frozen yogurt is best served the same day it is made. If stored, it becomes icy, which can be remedied by breaking mixture into chunks and blending in either a food processor or blender until it is thick and almost smooth. Refreeze slightly, about an hour, before serving. Divide into four dessert dishes and garnish with strawberry halves. Makes 4 servings.

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