Beat the Heat: 5 Tips for Summer Cooking
When outside temps are roasting, firing up the oven inside can feel like a herculean feat. The good news: Summer cooking can be cool and easy with a little creativity and planning.
From preparing “hot stuff” in the morning to taking advantage of small appliances, here’s what you need to know on how to make summer cooking less cumbersome.
- Plan ahead. Do prep work during the cooler parts of the day. If a recipe calls for rice, noodles or hard-boiled eggs, fire up your stove top or oven first thing in the morning. Heading to the beach? Peel and chop vegetables, make cold sandwiches or whip up a green salad before you hit the road.
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- Keep it simple. “Some of the best summer recipes require nothing more than boiling water,” Fromm says. Take this Spring Veggie Pasta Salad, for example. The tasty dish boasts plenty of vegetables and whole grains while also minimizing your time in the kitchen. Still want a hot meal? Choose a quick recipe that requires minimal heat. A vegetable sauté cooks up in five minutes or less.
- Take it outside. Summer activities can keep you away from the kitchen for hours at a time. So instead of making the kids (and yourself) stay inside while you prep dinner, do what you can outside – and involve the kids, Fromm suggests. Shuck corn, and wash, peel, and chop vegetables. You can even cook chickens, roasts or stews in a portable roaster outside on the porch!
- Take advantage of small appliances. Whether you choose a toaster oven, slow cooker, rice cooker or pressure cooker, smaller appliances allow you to cook foods thoroughly without heating up the whole kitchen. Toaster ovens get hot and cool down fast, unlike regular ovens. Slow cookers work their magic while you’re spending time playing outside. And a pressure cooker or rice cooker (or an Instant Pot or other brand of multi-cooker which can serve as many of these function in one appliance) offer a seamless way to cook rice and vegetables without using the stovetop.
- Cool off with chilled soup. While soups may be best known for taking the bite out of a winter chill, cold soups can cool you down during the dog days of summer. Try a classic tomato gazpacho, a chilled cucumber soup or one the many other varieties of gazpacho using melon or fruit in addition to some veggies. Sometimes these recipes require softening vegetables first, which requires some cooking, but that’s something you can do in the microwave.
Still determined to enjoy a hot meal? Fire up the grill, but don’t limit yourself to meat, Fromm suggests. “Vegetables and fruits grill up nicely, too.” Make skewers with zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes and carrot wheels. Make your own veggie patties to scratch that burger itch in a healthy way. Grill pineapple for a tasty accompaniment to grilled shrimp or chicken. And throw peaches on the grill for a tasty dessert, alongside a small scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream.
Julie Fromm, R.D., is a community dietitian with Henry Ford Health System’s Generation With Promise program, which focuses on empowering youth and families in the community to increase their consumption of healthy foods and physical activity and balance caloric intake.