As the days lengthen and the weather turns warmer, we’re naturally tempted to spend more time outdoors. For me, that also means exploring new grilling opportunities.

If you need a primer on the basics, you’re not alone. Many people find that they’re a bit rusty after the long winter. As long as the grill itself hasn’t suffered the same fate, you can be ready to go with just a few simple reminders.

Grill Types

If you don’t already own a grill, now is the perfect time to buy. Before buying, think about which grill type would work best for you.

Gas grills are quick and convenient, but they can also be pricey. Charcoal grills are less expensive and deliver superb char-grilled flavor, but they require a little more time and effort.

If you want to try your hand at making your own smoked meats and jerky, a pellet grill might be your best bet. These units can run for hours with little interference, and you can customize the flavor depending on what type of wood pellets you use. Note that electricity is required for this type of grill.

You might also consider investing in a kamado grill, a charcoal-fueled unit with a round egg-like shape. Used in Japan for over 3,000 years, these grills are capable of reaching inferno-like temperatures, making them a highly versatile option. Note that they usually feature a ceramic construction, which makes them more fragile than most of the competition.

Preparation

A grill should always be seasoned and cleaned prior to the first use, even if it’s just been sitting in the garage for the winter. Start a medium fire and allow the grates to heat up, then remove them and wash thoroughly using hot, soapy water.

Equipment

Make sure you have the essential tools on hand. While you could easily purchase an entire arsenal, the following items will give you a good head start.

  • Grilling tongs
  • Meat thermometer
  • Flat spatula
  • Platters large enough to hold whatever you’ll be cooking (at least 2)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Metal or bamboo skewers

Direct vs. Indirect Heat

Different foods require different cooking techniques, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with a few of them before you fire up the grill.

First of all, you should learn the difference between direct and indirect heat. When you cook over direct heat, you place the food directly over the heat source. Indirect heat, meanwhile, is typically reserved for low-and-slow techniques such as braising. It means placing the ingredients over an area that isn’t directly over the coals or the flames, allowing them to cook slowly and evenly.

Low, Medium, and High

Maintaining the correct grill temperature is essential to a successful cooking operation. Here’s how to tell whether your fire is hot enough for what you have in mind.

Low heat is generally classified as any temperature below 300 degrees Fahrenheit. These temps are typically reserved for smoking and braising, and are easiest to maintain on a pellet grill. For a low-medium fire, the temperature should be set to about 300 degrees. Gas grills can usually achieve this with just one burner running, but you might have a harder time cooking at this temp on a traditional charcoal-fueled unit.

Pre-cooked sausages like hot dogs and bratwurst will usually call for medium heat, about 350 degrees. You can tell when a charcoal fire has reached this temp when you can hold your hand just above the cooking grate for 6-7 seconds.

Medium-high heat, about 400-450 degrees, is recommended for grilling steaks and pork chops, or any thick cut of meat. Some grilled vegetables will also recommend this setting. If you can hold your hand over the cooking grate for 4-5 seconds before pulling away, the coals should be medium-hot.

When a gas grill is set to high, or the temperature of a pellet or charcoal grill climbs above 500 degrees, it’s all set to make grilled flatbread or pizza. You can also use these temps to get a good sear on grilled meats. You’ll be able to tell when the fire has reached the correct temperature when you can’t hold your hand over the cooking grate for any more than a second or two.

For me, versatility is the best aspect of grilling. There’s always room for interpretation, and just about everything that can be prepared indoors can be made to taste even better when cooked over an open flame. So tie on that apron and get ready to take advantage of everything that the grilling season has to offer!

Happy grilling!

Let’s face it – most women are pleasers. We grew up playing with baby dolls and being “mommy.”  We are taught to be caregivers for everyone. Our parents wanted us to “dress appropriately” and “act like a lady.”  In school our grades reflected whether we got along well with others and followed instructions.

In short, the message we received was that our job was to be kind, take care of others and don’t make waves.

That’s still the message women receive and we are harshly labeled by the media and society when we don’t conform. At work if we advocate strongly for our idea we’re a bitch. If we get into a debate the adjective used to describe our interaction is “shrill.”  And of course, if we really go nuts then we must be on our period.

The adjectives used for men are completely different – confident, tough, a good negotiator.  And hormones are never a factor.

Several years ago a new phrase became popular – “disruptor.” Companies and products that are redefining a category or shaking up their industry with new ideas are disruptors.  The people who are disruptors are considered visionaries.

Women in midlife need to be disruptors as well.  We should be envisioning our future and living life on our terms as joyfully as possible. Doing so requires us to be laser-focused on what we do and don’t want in our lives and manifesting it, regardless of what the people around us think.  Here’s the thing, most people in our lives don’t want us to change. It either will inconvenience them or threaten their view of how life should be lived. And people looooovvveeee to tell us what we should be doing!

We need to change our mindset of what is acceptable behavior for us and the people in our tribe. By advocating for what you want and creating standards for what you will not allow you’re not a bitch your self-empowered. This is true in your professional and personal life.  It’s time to stop excusing rude, insensitive comments couched as advice and concern that leave you feeling badly about yourself.  Whether it’s your sister, friend or business colleague they need to hear from you in very confident language that you will no longer engage in conversations that you consider to be toxic or not supportive.

Recently on my You Tube Channel I did a video on establishing boundaries with family, friends and business colleagues who aren’t supportive.  We talked about having the right to say “No!” to relationships, situations and obligations and how to do it.

How often do you find yourself doing something because you think that’s what you “should” be doing? We don’t want to join the committee or go to the family party but we do it because at some point we were programmed to believe that’s what we’re supposed to do.

Stop and ask yourself the question – how would my life be positively or negatively impacted if I said “No” to these things?  Chances are, if you shut down the voice inside your head that tells you that you must do them, you’d not only feel happier but you’d have time to spend with a friend or work on your passion project or exercise or simply relax on the couch.  

There are positive outcomes from “No”

When you’re a mom and working long hours, it’s natural to want to give your kids as much of your time as you can.  There’s not a working mom alive who hasn’t heard the words “You never have time for me!”  Saying “no” to spending an afternoon with your son or daughter and instead exercising, reading a book or visiting a friend, seems incredibly selfish to most moms.  But not only is it important for your emotional and physical well-being, you’re also sending the message to your kids that caring for oneself is important.  Additionally, kids need to understand that your job is something you enjoy doing and their requests for you to stop working will also be met with a “no.

At work, “No” is extremely useful when a co-worker is trying to dump his/her share of a project on you or when your boss consistently asks you to stay late.  There’s a difference between being a team player and being taken advantage of.   The same holds true when you own your own business. Do you have a problem saying “No” to someone who isn’t willing to pay a fair price for your service or an employee who constantly shows up late or asks for time off?   These are just a few reasons your business might not be growing as you would like.

Do you say “No” enough?

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How much time did I spend yesterday doing tasks/favors for other people?
  • How did I feel as I was doing them?
  • When was the last time I said “NO” to something I didn’t want to do?
  • How did that make me feel?

I’ve had my own struggle with boundary-setting and saying “No” lately.  Ever since the pandemic started I’ve been feeding my family of 6  Every. Single. Night. Before this, my daughters had afterschool activities and we rarely all ate together.  On many nights when either my husband, my mom or I were shuttling kids back and forth from activities dinner was “catch as catch can” meaning whatever you could find in the refrigerator or make yourself.

All of a sudden everyone was home and very quickly I found myself stressing as to what I was going to make for dinner.  I couldn’t focus on work past 4 o’clock as the thought of dinner loomed large. To be honest a great deal of this had to do with my mother (who lives with us) envisioning family dinners all together which rarely happened under normal circumstances. My daughters are great at making dinner for themselves and even my son with Intellectual Disabilities can whip up a mean plate of pasta and meatballs for himself.  I found myself very quickly becoming cranky and resentful.  If I wanted to go for a walk or exercise or have a social-distance cocktail with my friend I had to time it so I could still make dinner.

I discovered that I needed to say “No” to cooking dinner and eating together every night.  What I now do is state at the beginning of each day whether tonight would be everyone for themselves or dinner all together. By doing this I found I enjoyed mealtime much more and a ton of stress was lifted.

Please hear this:

It’s not your job to make anyone happy but yourself.

Think of something you consistently do that you would like to say “NO” to.  Practice stating to the person that you no longer will do that task.  When speaking to the person, even if it’s your child, be assertive and don’t apologize.

What would you rather be doing with that time you just saved? I’d love to hear from you!

Want to join a group of midlife women who are also deciding to live life to the fullest?  Join my Facebook Group – My Midlife Tribe: Fabulous, Fierce Females!