Q. In summer, I don't like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Do you have suggestions for quick summer meals?
A. When it's hot and heavy outside, you certainly don't want to eat hot and feel heavy inside! Every time you heat up the oven, you turn your kitchen into a hot box.
How can you avoid the oven? Just don't turn it on. If you are tempted to turn it on, remind yourself what the oven does to your home in the summer. The oven heats up the house for more than just the time it takes to cook something. Adding in the heating-up and cooling-down times causes the power bill to skyrocket, and your family is certainly not gathered around the table -- it's too hot in the kitchen!
Of course, there are always salads and sandwiches to be had, but even in the hottest summer months we still want something home-cooked, something comforting, something hot to eat at the end of a busy day.
Start by choosing meals that can bring you that comfort and help you keep it cool at the same time. There are lots of ways. You can cook it on top of the stove, toss it on the grill, and even do quick tricks with the microwave.
It's the fresh, the light, yet the lazy time of year. Take advantage of it!
Avoid heavy starches by:
- Incorporating quick-cooked veggies into your pasta or rice sides. It stretches the starch and gives it a lighter taste while giving you a lighter feeling.
- When using pastas, choosing a lighter version, such as angel hair, vermicelli, orzo, or even rotini. Toss in fresh, uncooked veggies and herbs at the last minute for a double-fresh taste.
- Building open-faced sandwiches with your favorite sandwich filling but piling them high with crunchy veggies such as fresh romaine, cucumber, onion, and bell pepper to give "bulk" eye appeal and fresh flavor without the extra fat.
- Using a quick sauté of spinach as a base for a stir-fry instead of rice or pasta.
- Serving items on skewers. It looks delicious and fills up a large portion of the dinner plate, making only a small amount of starch necessary.
Keep things simple by:
- Relying on convenience products, such as pre-cut produce and pre-cooked poultry and meats.
- Prepping the next night's meal while you're cleaning up tonight's dinner dishes, making one mess, not two.
- When boiling pasta, adding veggies to cook briefly the last few minutes instead of cooking them separately to save on extra pots and pans.
- Zapping potatoes in the microwave for a quick "baked" variety instead of an hour in a hot oven.
- Doubling the recipe for marinated meats and poultry and freezing one of the batches in the marinade for a later use, then thawing and cooking when needed. The marinating time is in the freezing and thawing stages.
- Marinating items in a disposable resealable plastic bag, rather than a pan, then simply pitching the bag for minimal dishes to wash.
- Topping a dish with cheese and then removing it from the heat and covering it for a few minutes to allow the cheese to melt without having to heat up the broiler.