Monday, July 6, 2009

Keeping cool in the kitchen

As the temperatures soars into the 100’s, turning on the stove is the last thing I want to do, yet much as I love them, I need more than veggies and cold sandwiches or salads to keep me going. Like most people, our appetites decrease and we just don’t want a lot of heavy or greasy foods in the summertime.

I’d like to share a few of our favorite go-to hot weather meals. These are all pretty simple, adding only minimal heat to your kitchen. I tossed a couple of recipes in but for the most part, these are ideas, feel free to change them up to suit your personal preferences.

Salads- there are so many varieties of salad that you could eat a different one every day for a month and not come across the same flavor twice.

Here are a few of our current faves:

Tuna salad made with your fave veggies chopped small and ½ mayo, ½ of an Italian style or oil and vinegar based dressing served in tomato cups or on nice Kaiser rolls with lettuce and tomato.

Chef salad with basically anything you like - lots of greens, cukes, tomatoes, summer squash, carrots, chicken or ham, shredded cheese and dressing of choice.

Grilled steak with sautéed mushrooms on baby spinach with bleu cheese dressing (Raw mushrooms work but we don’t care for them).

Taco salad - quick and easy and pretty inexpensive. I like to brown a bunch of meat at one time - beef, chicken or turkey, your choice- and put it in small containers in the fridge or freezer to make very quick work of adding to meals like this taco salad or sloppy joes or any casserole or dish that calls for browned ground meat. You can freeze with or without seasonings. It’s wonderful to keep on hand and keeps you out of the drive through when you know you have something that tastes better, is cheaper and will take less time to toss together than running out for fast food.

Pasta salad made with a medium sized noodle like rotini or shells and adding any vegetables you like and either ranch or an Italian style dressing.

My current favorite pasta salad is one I created putting together a few of my favorite deli-style salads with pasta and a couple of meats and cheeses. It is 1 bag or box of tri-colored rotini, cooked, drained and cooled, 1 jar small mushrooms, 1 package frozen or 1 can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered, 1 small container kalamata or other flavorful black olive, 8 oz container fresh mozzarella balls (diced fresh mozzarella works okay), 1 package grape tomatoes, halved, 4 oz thinly sliced pepperoni, 4 oz sliced hard salami, quartered and 1 jar of your favorite Italian style dressing - Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Italian with Parmesan is really, really great with this salad. Let cool at least 1 hour before serving. If you know everyone will like them you can add some of those mildish Italian peppers, but I love it just like this. (If you don’t eat meat, leave that out and it is still absolutely delish).

Oriental salad - our latest was very simple and easy - coleslaw blend with a simple dressing made with oil, sesame oil, cider vinegar, sugar (some people put the packet from the oriental style ramen noodles in, don’t add if you are watching your sodium content, I personally prefer it without). This time we put in Craisins and cashews and cooked chicken to make a meal out of it and topped with crushed ramen noodles, lightly browned in butter. The sky is the limit, though, and you can come up with your own combinations. Mandarin oranges are especially tasty, as are sesame seeds and any nut you like.

The cheapest, easiest go-to I have made since my kids were small is tuna macaroni salad with chopped up sweet pickles. Pour some of the pickle juice into the mayo both to stretch it and for flavor. One small can of tuna is enough for a whole package of elbow or shell noodles - salt and pepper to taste. You can add onions but we hardly ever do. Serve that with whatever rolls you can find on clearance and for under $5 you are feeding your whole family. In the summertime, we boil the noodles in the morning before the sun heats up the house then rinse in cold water, drain and put in fridge. It tastes best when made ahead so whenever I can I make it right after I boil and cool the noodles, and dinner is ready when we come in from whatever we happened to be doing, no muss, no fuss.

We love pulled pork sandwiches - what I do is put a pork roast in the crockpot with about ¼ cup of apple juice and season with rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook on low 6-8 hours then remove the juices, shred with 2 forks and cover with your fave BBQ sauce and let cook for another 30 minutes or so. Serve it on sturdy buns for those that want them and add coleslaw and you have a really tasty meal with little effort on your part.

So many recipes that we make call for cooked chicken and we love the rotisserie chickens but not the prices. What I learned to do is make a crockpot-style rotisserie chicken so that it tastes like I got it at the deli and yet it was very little work on my part, and a heck of a lot cheaper. Then I have plenty of good meat with my choice of seasonings for any of the wraps or salads that might require it without the hassle or expense of having to go get it. A few ways that we really enjoy the rotisserie-style chicken are: Added to Cesar salad to make it a complete meal, on a bed of greens with or without other veggies and our fave dressings, diced and soaked in hot sauce and added to a crisp lettuce and celery salad with bleu cheese dressing to replicate the flavors of buffalo wings, and in wraps.

Breakfast for dinner is another thing we do fairly regularly in the summertime since it is quick, easy and usually pretty inexpensive. Egg sandwiches on English muffins or bagels are big faves around here, as are breakfast burritos. Yogurt parfaits with fruit and granola are another crowd pleaser, especially when I make them with frozen yogurt- they really think they are getting away with something.

Nothing super-fancy, but these types of meals really tend to hit the spot on a warm summer evening. We often have fresh fruit in the salads for a different twist, or as a side or sometimes even as a dessert.


Sherry


Posted by Sherry of Loon-atics In The Kitchen

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