Let the barbecue season begin

Though it’s been a long time coming, I have faith, as sure as the trees have sprouted leaves, that there will be a summer, and a barbecue season. Summer grilling offers an opportunity to expand the menu from comforting to exciting using sizzling blends of herbs and spices along with plenty of citrus and garden-fresh vegetables. Choose your meat, poultry or seafood then kick-up the flavor with a marinade, rub or basting sauce.

In a rush for dinner? I’ve got a few flavorful recipes that I’m certain you’ll use often. They go from prep to plate in 30 minutes or less. If the 6-hour marinating time for the pork skewers is inconvenient, prepare the marinade the night before then add the meat in the morning. That evening fire up the grill and barbecue these delicious kabobs in about 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Best Barbecue Chicken Breasts

(Fast, easy and yummy)

2 T. butter

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. hot sauce

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Directions: Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add ketchup, lemon juice, soy sauce, pepper and hot sauce; bring to a boil. Partially cover and cook till reduced to 2/3 cup (about 15 minutes), stirring often.

Place chicken on oiled grill grate over medium-high heat. Grill, covered, 12 minutes or till done, turning and basting with 1/3 cup sauce after 8 minutes. Serve with remaining 1/3 cup sauce. Serves 6.

Inside-Out Burgers

1 pound lean ground beef

6 strips bacon, cooked but not crisp, chopped

1 cup shredded Cheddar-Jack cheese

3 T. olive oil

1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 clove garlic, minced

4 T. butter

2 tsps. sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions: In large mixing bowl, gently fold together beef, bacon, cheese, oil, Worcestershire sauce and garlic. Form mixture into 3 round balls. Gently press burger balls into 1-inch thick patties. Chill at least 30 minutes.

Preheat grill to high. Melt butter in small saucepan. Remove burgers from refrigerator; season with salt and pepper. Lightly brush one side of each burger with melted butter.

Place buttered-side down on one side of grill and reduce heat on that side to medium, leaving other side on high. Cook about 7 minutes with lid closed.

Open lid and brush top of burgers with remaining butter. Using an oiled spatula, gently lift patties and transfer to high heat side of grill, buttered-side down. Reduce heat to medium and close lid. Cook 5 minutes.

Remove from grill and let patties rest, covered with foil, for about 2 minutes. Place on buns and serve. Makes 3 burgers.

Spicy Thai Pork Kabobs

1 large onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

3 T. soy sauce

1 1/2 T. fresh lemon juice

2 T. brown sugar

1 tsp. ground coriander

1/4 cup chili sauce

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. red pepper

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

Directions: Combine all ingredients except pork in blender. Blend well. Place pork cubes into re-sealable food storage bag; pour mixture over pork, reserving 1/4 cup for basting. Refrigerate about 6 hours.

Preheat grill to medium. Remove pork from refrigerator. Discard marinade. Thread pork cubes on skewers and grill about 20 minutes, turning and basting frequently with reserved marinade. Serves 6.