In Episode 031, Taryn speaks with Kathy McDaniel from Lemon Blossoms about budget-friendly grilling. Kathy gives many great options for cooking up a meal with cheaper cuts of meat, and how to still make it taste amazing. She goes over grilling recipes for beef, chicken, pork, and of course vegetables. Listen in to hear some inexpensive grilling ideas to get on your table!
Connect with Kathy.
Bio: Kathy McDaniel is a professional trained chef turned home cook and the founder and unicorn-in-chief of Lemon Blossoms, where she shares recipes, tips and cooking secrets from her days working as a restaurant chef. She has a degree in Culinary Arts and has worked in the food industry for many years. Her extensive experience includes time working with the Food Network and alongside celebrity chefs such as Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck and Jet Tila. Kathy has held positions as an Executive chef as well as a private chef for a few celebrity clients around Los Angeles, California. She also ran a successful catering and gourmet food business in Southern California and taught cooking classes at different venues.
Her latest culinary pursuit and passion project is Lemon Blossoms. A website devoted to providing high quality and kitchen tested recipes, step by step tutorials sprinkled with food facts so you can be inspired and ready to cook restaurant-quality meals at home. Her recipes have been featured on Bon Appetit, The Huffington Post, The Pioneer Woman and Cooking Light among others. Kathy is married and has two sons. One of them has been vegetarian since birth and the other one shares her passion for tasting all foods!
The following are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
These are some of the recipes mentioned by Kathy in the episode. They are on her website, Lemon Blossoms, except where noted.
- Grilled steak tip kabobs
- Balsamic marinade for chicken
- Asian-inpsired steak (Hot Pan Kitchen)
- Grilled bell peppers (Hot Pan Kitchen)
- Grilled onions (Hot Pan Kitchen)
- Grilled zucchini (Hot Pan Kitchen)
- Grilled asparagus (Hot Pan Kitchen)
- BBQ chicken legs
- Grilled chicken with peach glaze
- Grilled pork chops
- Carne asada
- Grilled tri tip
- Grilled portobello mushroom caprese
Taryn Solie: Hello, grillers. I don’t know if you have been having sticker shock at the grocery store for the last month or two, but I definitely have. Thankfully today on the podcast, we have Kathy McDaniel who talks about some ways to grill that are more budget friendly than maybe the traditional steak, which has gotten so expensive.
Before we begin, if you’re enjoying this podcast, I’d love for you to share it with someone who is into grilling and outdoor cooking. As a newer podcast, it helps spread the word and I would really appreciate it. Now let’s get into the episode.
Today on the podcast, I have Kathy McDaniel. Kathy is a professionally trained chef, turned home cook, and the founder and unicorn in chief of Lemon Blossoms, where she shares all her cooking secrets from her days working as a restaurant chef. Kathy’s experience includes working for the Food Network and for famous chefs like Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck, and has also worked as personal chef for different celebrities in Southern California. Kathy is madly in love with the three men in her life. Kathy, welcome to the podcast.
Kathy McDaniel: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
Taryn Solie: Yeah. I’m excited for you to be here. I’m excited to chat with you. Today we’re gonna get into what I think everyone is wanting right now, which is budget friendly options. Both for proteins, but we’re gonna talk a little bit about produce. Before we get into that though, I would love to have you tell the audience a little bit more about your, how you got into food, how you became a chef and eventually your grilling background too.
Kathy McDaniel: I actually wasn’t going to be a chef. Growing up. I wanted to be a princess, obviously. Like everybody else. But then I wanted to be a graphic designer and honestly, I wasn’t very good at it. I couldn’t draw, there were a lot of issues. So I started reading cooking books and watching TV shows, like cooking shows all the time. This is like 20 some years ago. So it was Food Network all day long. My boyfriend at that time said why don’t you go to culinary school? I said I don’t really like school. I’m dyslexic actually. So school was very hard for me. I said, no, I don’t wanna do that. He’s like, I think you should do it. I just decided to go and it was love at first sight. I love every single thing about it, including doing piles and piles of dishes. That’s how it all started.
Taryn Solie: Oh my gosh. I’m laughing.
Kathy McDaniel: I usually do a lot of piles of dishes.
Taryn Solie: I know. That’s why I’m laughing. Because I’m like, oh my God, I don’t think I could ever love doing them. I feel like I do piles of dishes now, and I don’t know that I could love it.
Kathy McDaniel: I don’t love them now, but then it was okay. But yeah that’s how it started. Then my first job actually was working for Wolfgang Puck, no pressure. It was just like an accident. I was meant to go and help in one of his cooking shows, just as a prep coach, because I was right out of culinary school. I didn’t know what I was doing. Something happened and the person who was assisting the chef, left upset. They didn’t have anybody. They were all so upset and they just pointed at me and said, you go in. I’m like what? They said, you’re gonna work with the chef. I’m thinking, okay, no, I’m not doing that. But what are you gonna do? You’re just there to do a job. So the first thing I did obviously, cutting chocolate. I had to cut white chocolate. I start cutting and cutting. All of a sudden the chocolate is pink. Pinkish, more pink. The chef looked at me and said, you need to patch up that finger. I thought, I’m fired. This is it. I’m never doing this again.
Taryn Solie: Oh my gosh.
Kathy McDaniel: He gave me a chance. I worked there for six hours thinking, I’m never coming back. I’m fired. He hates me. You’re insecure, you just came out of culinary school. I got the job that I didn’t even apply for. So that’s how I got it.
Taryn Solie: Oh, that’s so funny. What a funny story. Wow. I’m assuming your finger was okay.
Kathy McDaniel: My finger was okay. I was so embarrassed. You have such a celebrity and you are cutting yourself and shaking. It was just hard.
Taryn Solie: Oh man. Oh man. Oh, that’s so funny. Obviously you stuck with it because you’ve been doing this now for a while. How did you get into grilling?
Kathy McDaniel: When I was in culinary school and we had to learn grilling, I was always the person offering to do the grilling. Of course you get to go outside, but grilling in culinary school and in a restaurant is totally different from what you expect from a grill master. Actually, the first time I had to go and help somebody like that, I was terrified. I didn’t know what I was doing. They’re talking about two zone grilling and this and that. I’m going, like what?? My only two zone grilling is like, it’s hot. We go to the oven, we’re done. That’s how you cook in a restaurant. Nobody’s gonna wait for their meal for so long. It was shocking. The only thing I can say to everybody listening is, it sounds difficult, but it is very simple. Anybody can do it. That’s it. Anybody can do it. Two zone grilling and all those terms, just mean you turn it on, you make it hot, and then you turn one side off and that’s it. You have two zones. Done.
Taryn Solie: But I think that’s a really good point and something that, there are I think a lot of different terms and it can seem scary, but it really doesn’t have to be, and it can be very easy. If you just give yourself a little bit of knowledge, just a little bit of learning or even just cook your way learning as you’re going…
Kathy McDaniel: Please know that by no means I’m comparing myself to a pitmaster, somebody who does this for a living, because they’re amazing. My respect to every single one of them, and if they hear me now, they’re probably going, what is she talking about? Because what I’m doing is I’m talking about the stuff I did in my kitchen, in a restaurant. We’re not specializing in grilling. Also I can do it at home. I think that’s what we’re talking about to people that are listening to this and wanna do it at home.
Taryn Solie: Yes, exactly. That’s a fantastic point. So let’s get into the topic we’re gonna be covering. Which is budget friendly, everybody wants budget friendly. I spend so much on my grocery bill. It’s insane and I just can’t get over it. So let’s start with maybe, do you wanna start with proteins?
Kathy McDaniel: Sure. So I am the biggest fan of steak. I love steak and I will buy wagyu steak and eat it every day, but that’s impossible because it’s so expensive. If anybody wants to take on a budget, there’s three or four steaks that I always have in my back pocket. One of them, and my favorite is flank steak. Which gets very tender when you grill it. The other one is skirt steak and my other favorite is tri-tip. Now we also have top sirloin, which you could serve it as a steak, but you can compare it to a ribeye. So I think the best way to serve that is doing things like kabobs and stretching the budget and mixing it with vegetables or fruits. Get a little creative like that. I think that is a great way to enjoy a steak dinner on a budget.
Taryn Solie: Yes. I love that.
Kathy McDaniel: Now the secret…
Taryn Solie: I was gonna say if you have some recipe suggestions, but you said secret and now I wanna know what the secret is.
Kathy McDaniel: When you cook a good steak and you pay a lot of money for it, like a ribeye. All you need is salt and pepper and we’re done. Delicious. When you cook these types of steaks, they’re tough. They need a little love. The best way to do that is to season it. The three steaks that I mentioned, actually four, tri-tip, skirt steak, flank steak and top sirloin, all need some seasoning. They benefit from a marinade, for example, because it tenderizes the meat and actually dry rubs also act as a tenderizing. If you do that, it might take you a little time, but you will enjoy something on a budget that is delicious. You don’t need tomorrow night overnight because the marinade is not gonna penetrate the meat that much anyway, no matter how much you wait. You can wait three days. It’s not gonna happen. So even if you do it for four hours, that’s enough. If you have 30 minutes, hey, it’s better than nothing. That’s how I always go.
Taryn Solie: Especially, I would think of something like a skirt steak, which is so thin. I wouldn’t want to marinate that for very long.
Kathy McDaniel: Exactly.
Taryn Solie: Because it’s gonna get oversaturated, the meat. Especially depending on how salty the marinade is. But no, I love marinades, dry rubs. Do you have any favorite marinade or dry rubs that you use?
Kathy McDaniel: So I try to make things very simple. From cooking so much in restaurants, I learned that simplicity is key and I don’t have time. I’m a working mother. My kids honestly think that I’m a short cook chef or short cook…
Taryn Solie: Short order cook, yes.
Kathy McDaniel: Yeah, that’s it. That’s the word I’m looking for. Thank you. I always go to the same things. I always go to either Tex Mex Southwest flavors, with some chili powder and cumin, and sometimes I even rub, you can put sugar. You’re not doing sugar these days, don’t put sugar. It’s fine. I go through something Mediterranean where I use olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Rosemary, and garlic. Something Asian, for example, and all you can do is take it seriously. This is what I tell my kids all the time. Especially my son, my other kid is vegetarian. So we’ll talk about vegetables later, but my son who loves chicken and meat, I always say. You’re in college. You don’t have time. Just put some soy sauce, some garlic, ginger, even if you use powder or fresh. Shake it up a little, put a little honey and we’re done. If you have sesame oil even better. That’s it and it’s going to give you amazing flavor.
Taryn Solie: Yeah. Yes. I love that. We have a Asian marinade, Asian inspired marinade that my father-in-law randomly came up with, but it’s so easy and it’s got all those things that you just mentioned. But it’s very flavorful. Especially the soy sauce with the salt, it really penetrates and just makes it really flavorful. I love that.
Kathy McDaniel: These are basics that you can build upon. Orange juice and you can put apple juice and you can put some other ingredients, fish sauce and make it a little Thai. So I always think that if you just try to think okay, this is Southwest or Tex Mex. This is Asian or Mediterranean and you get those ingredients that those cuisines use, even if it’s not perfect, it’s going to be great. We’re talking about trying to eat delicious food at home. We don’t have time. Nobody wants to do 20,000 dishes.
Taryn Solie: Not me! Okay. So you mentioned your other son who’s vegetarian. Let’s talk about vegetables and maybe budget friendly vegetables. Thankfully I think most vegetables are relatively budget friendly. But what are some of your go-tos for grilling vegetables?
Kathy McDaniel: My go to all the time, no matter the season, they’re always bell peppers, onions and zucchini. Some other things that I like to add, yellow squash, I don’t know why I’m going through a yellow squash phase and that’s all I ever wanna eat. Asparagus are usually available all year round and those are very easy to grill.
Taryn Solie: Yeah. How are you flavoring those? Are you just doing salt or do you have any sort of sauce or rubs or anything you’re putting on those? When I cook vegetables, you can just do salt, pepper, and oil. That’s always put oil in, we need some fat in there. Otherwise it’s going to burn. Always oil up the grill too so nothing sticks. But what I like to do is I like, and this again, one of those simple things. Balsamic vinegar, a little bit of olive oil. Grated garlic. I grate it, so it’s not chunky. Like minced because then it burns and then you don’t know what’s going on. Then you’re panicking because it smells weird. Fresh Rosemary, for example, or even dry oregano. I like to combine those ingredients and drizzle it on the vegetables.
Kathy McDaniel: While I turn on the grill, the vegetables are getting happy with those ingredients. Getting some sabor. Then I grill them, but I save a little bit of that marinade, if you wanna call it or seasoning. Then when the vegetables are done, I just dress a little on top and just like extra flavor.
Taryn Solie: Yes. I love that. That’s so good. It doesn’t have to be, like you were saying earlier, work with what you have. It doesn’t have to be complicated. If you don’t have Rosemary, that’s fine. Work with what you have.
Kathy McDaniel: Yes. Get like Italian herbs or something like that, or just skip it all together. But at least you give some extra happiness, I call it. Honestly, to be honest with you, sometimes my kids get bored with the vegetables. I use taco seasoning and oil and they’re happy. I’m happy. Everybody’s happy. You can make tacos with it. I mean, it just tastes delicious. Why not? It’s easy. All you need to do is get taco seasoning, or make your own, of course. It doesn’t have to be complicated. That’s what I wanna say. Yeah. Also, during winter or fall, things like winter squash, you can grill those. My grill pan and I are best friends because sometimes I don’t wanna go outside.
Taryn Solie: So do you just have a cast iron grill pan?
Kathy McDaniel: Yes. In different sizes. Really love grilled food. So nothing is going to prevent me from grilling. So during wintertime, you can get a butternut squash or acorn squash. As long as you cut very thinly, like half an inch you can just sit it with let’s say olive oil, a little cumin, for example. Something that is not sweet so it doesn’t burn on the grill before the vegetable gets cooked. You just cook it over medium until it’s soft and tender. Then you can Rizz it with maple syrup or honey or nothing at all. A yogurt sauce. Anything.
Taryn Solie: Yes. Oh, that sounds really good.
Kathy McDaniel: You have to like food.
Taryn Solie: I’m right there with you. So it all sounds good to me. You mentioned the grill pan. Are there any other special equipment or anything that you feel like has come really handy for when you’re grilling vegetables?
Kathy McDaniel: To be honest, I am not a big fan of a lot of things in the kitchen. I keep it very simple.
Taryn Solie: That’s good though.
Kathy McDaniel: So kitchen tongs, I cannot live without them. The other thing that I will say is a basket, a grilling basket for things like green beans or Brussel sprouts because they can just go over the place. But I don’t even use it for my asparagus, just put it against the, how do you call it. Perpendicular to the grill. Asparagus are big enough, they won’t go anywhere.
Taryn Solie: I love it. Okay. So I do wanna hit a little bit, you mentioned this kind of two zone grilling. I think we hit on proteins a little bit, but I wanna talk a little bit more about proteins. You mentioned some steak. But what about things like chicken and pork for people? Again, more budget friendly options.
Kathy McDaniel: Chicken is value friendly, but we really want to talk about really budget friendly. More like on a shoestring budget. With the prices these days, we are all trying to save money. So the best way to do that of course, is to buy bone-in, skin-on chicken. Now you say, I don’t like this skin. That’s fine. Don’t eat it, but. The skin is protecting the chicken from getting dry. My husband loves boneless skinless chicken breast. He just loves it. Yeah, I can grill it and I can grill it, to a point that it’s not over cooked and dry. Like my grandmother will make it. I love my grandmother, but everything was charred or very dry.
Taryn Solie: Mine was mush, everything was mush for my grandmother. So I can relate. Yeah.
Kathy McDaniel: She was a great cook. But I grew up in Peru and for some reason when they talk about heat, it’s always high heat. It’s never medium or low or anything. So things tend to get a little dry sometimes. My husband loves boneless skinless, but when you have the skin that is a protection for the chicken that is going to keep it juicy. So obviously you need to cook it a little longer. That’s when I was mentioning to you the two zone grilling and I also mentioned that in the restaurants, we do it differently. We start on the grill and we finish in the oven because we don’t have time to wait. We have to cook other dishes. Yeah. So at home, I usually have two zones. So what I do is I turn on the grill and when it’s hot, I turn one side off so that is going to be my cooler side. I start, I put the chicken, let’s say that I marinated, I always like to marinate chicken, especially dark meat. Because I feel that otherwise it’s just very chickeny and doesn’t have a lot of flavor. You will hardly ever just do salt and pepper, to be honest. If I want to do something simple, I will do seasoned salt, or any other spice or a marinade. I put the chicken on the hot side and make sure that it’s golden and beautiful and then you turn it to the other side and finish cooking it there. Because if you try to cook it all the way on the hot side, you’re gonna have, my son always said, burnt and raw, both at the same time. The other thing to think about is, when you use glazes or barbecue sauce, not to add that at the beginning. Because it’s just, the sugar is just gonna caramelize and burn. So add it when the chicken is almost cooked.
Taryn Solie: Just almost. I know you have a barbecue chicken legs recipe on your site. As well as a peach, I think a grilled chicken with a peach, with the peach glaze. That sounds amazing. What goes into that peach glaze?
Kathy McDaniel: Oh my God. Seriously. I love that recipe. This is very simple. It has so much flavor that I think I did like oil, salt, and pepper. After I said, no salt and pepper. The glaze is just that good. So the glaze is very simple because you use peach preserves and you add something salty to that, which is soy sauce and olive oil. You can add a little dijon mustard or not. If you don’t have it, it’s fine. If you want it spicy, add some cayenne pepper. So what I do is I grill the chicken first. I start on the hot side and when it’s almost done. When it gets gold, then I put it on the cooler side, let it cook and then I put the glaze on. Or if it’s cold and I don’t wanna be outside, I put it in the oven.
Taryn Solie: Yeah. Then you wait till the end, you said, to put the glaze on or you put the glaze on right as it goes in the oven?
Kathy McDaniel: I put the glaze as soon as I put it on the cooler side, because it’s not going to burn that way.
Taryn Solie: Okay. Got it. That totally makes sense. That sounds really good. I love that combination of the peach and the soy sauce. I love dijon mustard, I always have in my fridge. So to add those three together sounds so, so good.
Kathy McDaniel: Yes. Very good. Then of course if you have peaches, you can grill those too and that’s a meal. So that is one of my favorites. It’s just so simple. You can make other flavors too.
Taryn Solie: Yeah, for sure. I love those options for chicken. What about, do you have anything for pork?
Kathy McDaniel: Yes. I love dry rubs on pork. Pork chops obviously are more affordable when they’re bone in . So bone in pork, make sure that it has a little fat, and if you get boneless pork, make sure that you don’t trim the fat around the little steak of pork. What do we call it? Steak? No. What do you call it?
Taryn Solie: Pork chop.
Kathy McDaniel: The medallion.
Taryn Solie: Yeah. The medallion. Yes, that’s right.
Kathy McDaniel: in the pork chop. So anyway, the outside is always like this little layer of fat. Don’t trim, that’s protecting the meat and making it juicy and giving a flavor. Also do not grill very thin pork chops. They have to be thick. Otherwise they get very dry.
Taryn Solie: Yes. Are you talking about the boneless? Because the bone-in, I feel, is always fairly thin. But those will take a little longer to cook because of the bone.
Kathy McDaniel: Exactly. Exactly. Even if I buy bone and I try to buy the thickest that I can find, let’s say. Because I feel that it’s easier to manage on the grill. I don’t know, getting something else or my kids want something and I have to walk away, I’m not gonna just ruin the dinner. Trust me, I ruin plenty of dinners too.
Taryn Solie: We all do, regardless, it happens. It happens. I totally relate to that. This has been amazing, Kathy. I think you have given people so many good tips. I do wanna ask you, before we wrap up here, what are some of your favorite recipes to grill or something that maybe you are loving grilling right now?
Kathy McDaniel: I absolutely love carne asada and I absolutely love tri tip they’re just some of my favorite things to grill. Like you mentioned, the chicken with the peach glaze, I’m a big fan of those. I think really, I have a mushroom caprese, a Puerto mushroom for vegetarians. Again, it’s a simple mushroom that you just elevate to an amazing treat because who doesn’t like caprese, who doesn’t like gooey mozzarella and tomatoes. Everybody does love that.
Taryn Solie: Especially in the summer when the tomatoes are super ripe and yeah, exactly.
Kathy McDaniel: So it’s just a simple mushroom, you could serve it really at a party or a birthday party or a celebration because it’s so delicious. Vegetables that you just add something to it at the end, something so simple. Or let’s say you make a bruschetta with it. A little crostini. Everybody goes for bread and bread is cheap. So a little toasted crostini that you can just grill, rub some garlic on top and then put some veggies on top with some goat cheese or cream cheese. And who wouldn’t want that?
Taryn Solie: Yes. No, that sounds amazing. I love that. It’s so simple, cuz you can use whatever veggies that are either in season or that you, if you have a garden, you just use whatever from your garden. Whatever you have on hand that maybe might be looking a little long in the legs, in the back of the fridge or whatever the case may be. Yes. I love that so much. Kathy, this has been so fun. I’m so glad we got a chance to talk to you today. I do wanna give you a chance to let people know where they can connect with you.
Kathy McDaniel: My blog is lemonblossoms.com. I’m on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. What else is there? Pinterest and it is lemonblossomsblog.com. I know I have a TikTok account, which I hardly ever do anything with. But maybe one of these days.
Taryn Solie: One of these days she’ll get on it. That’s great. People can go there to connect with you and we will put those links on the show notes page. Kathy, thank you so much for coming.
Kathy McDaniel: Thank you so much for having me. I had so much fun.
Outro: Did you love Kathy’s tips? I think her approach on keeping things simple is so smart and I love what she was saying about using dry rubs and marinades for more budget friendly meats and veggies too. She had several suggestions for ways to incorporate vegetables, which tend to be cheaper than meats typically, especially in the summer when they’re in season.
But she even mentioned how to grill some winter veggies. I think she had lots of great tips and recipes overall. That peach glaze sounded amazing. I’m going to include links to the resources and recipes Kathy mentioned on the show notes page. To get there, you can either go to my main website at hotpankitchen.com and click on podcasts in the main menu. Or you can click on the link provided in whatever podcast app you’re listening to. That’s it for today. Thank you so much for listening. And until next time, keep grilling like a mother.