Let’s Get Cooking With an Outdoor Gas Grill

You just bought a new home and want to add an outdoor grill to the back patio. You want to be sure you get the biggest bang for your buck, although not literally. Outdoor gas grills can run on propane or natural gas. A propane gas grill comes with a twenty pound gas container that holds approximately 4.2 gallons of propane. The gas is liquid but has a low boiling point and vaporizes as soon as it is released from the container. A metering device regulates the gas output and as soon as gas vapor hits spark – it’s barbeque time. A gas grills powered by natural gas is piped directly to your grill much the same way the gas is piped to your home. Natural gas is less costly than propane and you never have to run out and refill your tanks.

There are many outdoor gas grills on the market today and the cost varies greatly. Before choosing an outdoor gas grill, give some thought to how much cooking you will do, what kind of cooking you want to do, will you cook on the grill year round and how much money you want to spend.

Let’s take a look under the hood first. Under the grates there are the burners that provide the heat and on top of the burners are lava rocks, ceramic briquettes or something similar that disperses the heat. Whatever is used for heat dispersal can be reused many times.

Outdoor gas grills that come with multiple burners are usually more heat efficient than a grill with one burner. Heat control and distribution is better with multiple burners. Since drippings from food has a way of gathering near the burners and can cause a flare up, good outdoor gas grills will have a bar system made of steel in place that will funnel the fluid from the burner to outside the grill, reducing greatly the risk of flare ups.

Most outdoor gas grills come unassembled but if you buy the grill in a store, you will most likely see a grill completely assembled. Make sure the grill is solidly sitting on the floor. If it wiggles when you touch it, it more than likely will come apart pretty quickly. The frame should be solid and strong and if it has wheels make sure the wheels roll easily. The grates for cooking should be made of a plated steel or a chrome-plated aluminum metal. A grate that is made from a metal that is thicker and of a heavier-gauge will not only retain and distribute heat better, but will last longer. Two other features you might want to look for on outdoor gas grills are a warming shelf and cooking utensil storage area. When you open the grill top, above the grill area itself will be a shelf made of the same material as the cooking surface. That is ideal for grilling the buns or keeping food warm while the rest of the food is cooking. A utensil storage area will keep your cooking implements and pot holders at close hand and ready to flip while cooking.

With some basic gas grill knowledge under your hat, it’s time to go out and get that grill and get the burgers cooking!

Game Day Nutrition – What Should Kids Eat?

Game Day Nutrition – Canteen or Not To Canteen…

Game day nutrition is far more important now than it used to be. Why? Things have changed for the next generation of youth athletes. They lead busier lives than their parents did at the same age with a daily grind of a full day of school followed by practices and plenty of homework. Their weekends are stacked with several games over 2 days depending on the sport they play. Their preparation leading up to games is important to set the tone for their body. A lack of proper nutrition and rest can lead to fatigue or even illness.

Ultra-competitive youth sports can consume plenty of energy from kids so good eating habits translate onto the field of play. They have to eat properly – food fuels sports. Some of the basic factors to consider are competition level, age, and size.

With children having bodies that are still growing, the primary focus should be to make sure they are getting the proper level of carbs and proteins in their game day nutrition. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy and proteins help athletes maintain muscles that are being used in competition. Protein contains essential amino acids that help the body function properly.

Time restraints can make preparing meals ahead of time a challenge. But it’s important not to go with the easy way out and eat at the canteen: candy bars, sodas and chips. Taking the time to pack a cooler with nutritious foods will benefit your child’s ability to play well and will have long term lasting results.

Planning Game Day Nutrition

To start your game day nutrition, plan a meal 3 hours or more before activity with plenty of carbs and a moderate amount of protein but low in fat and fiber. Fat and fiber take longer to digest and can cause an upset stomach so it’s best to avoid these foods until after the game.

If kids eat less than 3 hours before a game or practice, serve a light meal or snack with easy-to-digest carbohydrates such as fruit, fruit/vegetable juice, crackers, or bread.

The post-meal for game day nutrition would be the same as for an adult, experts recommend eating within 15 – 30 minutes after intense activity and again 2 hours later. Your child’s body will be rebuilding muscle tissue and refilling energy stores and fluids for up to 24 hours after the competition. So it’s important that the post-game meal be a balance of lean protein, carbs, and fat.

Meal and Snack Suggestions

A good breakfast for young athletes might include

  • low-fat yogurt with some granola and a banana
  • whole-grain cereal and low-fat milk with sliced strawberries
  • a glass of orange juice, along with single servings of oatmeal and blueberries
  • whole-grain bagels, toast, waffles or pancakes for a quick carbohydrate fix
  • sources of protein include eggs, peanut butter, nuts and milk or other dairy products.
  • include fruit in your meal — an apple or a handful of grapes are quick to grab on the way out the door.

For lunch:

  • try bean burritos with low-fat cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes
  • a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread and fruit
  • grilling a turkey hot dog and topping it with canned turkey chili for a high-protein, low-fat meal
  • Southwest tuna wrap: mix canned black beans, prepared salsa and cheese, and wrapping it with lettuce in a tortilla.
  • a simple tuna sandwich: dice some green onions, combine with the tuna and season it with salt, pepper, light mayonnaise

For dinner:

  • serve grilled chicken breasts with steamed rice and vegetables
  • pasta with tomato sauce and lean ground beef, along with a salad
  • grilled or baked salmon, baked sweet potatoes and steamedcabbage

Good snacks include:

  • pretzels
  • raisins
  • crackers
  • bagels
  • string cheese
  • vegetables
  • fruit
  • protein bars are a good choice for sustained energy

Some really easy game day nutrition ideas are smoothies (protein shakes), chocolate milk, or regular low fat milk which are good sources of both carbohydrates and protein. You can purchase smoothies pre-made or even packaged in bottles. This proves to be a bit more child friendly. They can have a small portion, cap it and drink more later.

Drink Up! Game Day Nutrition isn’t JUST Food!

When packing your child’s bag for the big day, add a water bottle or sports drink.

During games, the number 1 priority should be hydration. Young athletes don’t regulate body temperature nearly as well as adults do. If you as a parent find it hot, think about how your child might feel. Thirst is not a reliable indicator of hydration status so experts recommend that kids drink water or other fluids before and every 15 to 20 minutes during physical activity. It’s important to drink afterwards to restore fluid lost through sweat.

Most of the time, water is sufficient to meet the needs of hydration. However, there are instances where a sports drink can serve as a better mode of hydration. If a young athlete competes for over 60 minutes at a high intensity, sports drinks can be important. Sports drinks are designed to provide energy and replace electrolytes – such as sodium and potassium – that athletes lose in sweat. You’re not going to need it if you are simply engaged in 45 minutes of moderate activity. Diluted juices are another option but avoid sugary drinks and carbonated beverages that can upset the stomach and add unnecessary calories. At the end of a game, it is critical that hydration continues and calories are consumed. Make sure they keep drinking immediately after the event.

The bottom line is that for most young athletes, water is the best choice for hydration. After the activity, carbohydrates and electrolytes can be replenished.

It’s important to feed your child healthy meals and snacks consistently, even during the off-season. Game day nutrition is far easier for your child to understand if it is done all of the time. This will provide a solid foundation so you are not fighting with your child during times of competition about why the canteen is not a good choice. A healthy eating habit by your child will serve them well going into adulthood.

A Taco Cart Caterer Makes the Fun Start Weeks in Advance of the Party

Sometimes you want a taco. And sometimes you want the whole fiesta.

Gourmet taco cart catering is becoming more popular at a variety of events because interesting tacos have near-universal appeal. The events where they are served include corporate occasions, weddings, store openings, family parties and even pricey-ticket fundraisers.

This is because the appeal of tacos in the gourmet version is largely about taste, convenience and what this style of dining lends to an event. Attendees can choose the ingredients and salsas they want – with or without chicken or beef or fish, with lots of healthy vegetables in every one – and eat in a manner of dining that is flexible, friendly and fluid. Taco-style meals evoke Latin American themes, but that ranges from the foods of Mexico to Jamaica, Argentina, Brazil and Spain.

In Southern California, where taco cart catering first was transformed from worksites to black tie events, the interpretation on what a taco is moved up as well. On today’s taco catering menu, it’s just as possible to get a grilled tilapia filling as grilled tofu, Jamaican chicken and Caribbean carne asada, as well as the traditional 4-inch corn tortilla, with refried beans, chopped cilantro and tomatillo salsa.

For a corporate lunch event, that may be exactly all that’s required. But for evening soirees or anything where guests have time to have fun, gourmet taco carts can be a launching pad to music, entertainment, a bar set up and theme décor. Why not create an island-themed party? Why wouldn’t you bring in music that evokes a Mexican hacienda celebration? Who doesn’t enjoy a Latin American cerveza or rum mojito?

Event planners find the catered-taco carts fit a few rules of successful events. This includes:

• Make your event memorable – Everyone has had chicken dinners, hamburgers (including the sliders) and wrap sandwiches. But offer taquitos, quesadillas or ceviche stacks and your guests get a rare treat. Add a sangria bar and event attendees will note the fun was well planned.

• Make your event exclusive – There should always be an entertainer, a band or a gift-giveaway that establishes the experience as a one-of-a-kind party. This is the touch that keeps people talking about the event weeks, months and years later.

• Carry the theme through from start to finish – Maybe the event invitation has a piñata toy enclosed, which attendees redeem at the party for their first beverage (anticipation is half the fun, after all). Or maybe you send everyone home with a real piñata. In every event, the continuity of the theme – from food to drinks to music to entertainment to décor – helps immerse guests in an environment.

There is no reason the event planners themselves can’t have fun while doing the work. Insist on a tasting meeting with your gourmet taco cart vendor, who might be a good source of ideas and vendors.