How to Eat in the Summer

>> Monday, July 5, 2010

AKA Summer Lovin': Cooking Edition

If you're like me, the idea of slaving over a hot stove to create a beautiful three course meal is the LAST thing you want to do in the summer months. For one thing, it's HOT and for another there are far more fun things to be done.

So, I've had to get a little creative when it comes to feeding my family. In truth, my kidlets would probably happily alternate between cold cut sandwiches and peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and dinner daily. However, while I enjoy a good sandwich, I do like a bit of variety.

Here are a few tips for eating well and cooking without roasting yourself in the summer:

1. Own a grill. 
Grills can be as cheap as $20 for a little charcoal grill and the sky's the limit for the expensive side, so finding a grill in your budget should be totally doable. Grilling solves the problem of TOO hot to cook inside, with the added benefit of summer food cooked on the grill tastes better.

Once you are the proud owner of your grill, the time has come to figure out how to use it more often than your oven. You can grill pretty much anything. Okay, maybe not ANYTHING but most stuff. If you're craving fajitas what is to keep you from grilling your chicken and steak? Craving a chicken salad? Grill the chicken outside and throw everything else together? Corn on the cob? DONE! Pizza? Also grill-able. (Click on those links, they'll take you to Our Best Bites with great grilling tutorials.)

The other night, we got desperate. It was time for a grocery trip and we were down to the bottom of the barrel food-wise. Derek found a bag of chicken nuggets and so he grilled them up and we enjoyed summer-time chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes. EASY! (And they tasted really REALLY good.)

If your grill has larger spaces between grates employ aluminum foil over the grates to keep smaller foods from falling into the fire.

Back in the "old days" people used to build summer kitchens to keep the heat of cooking away from their main house. This is just the modern-day version of that. USE YOUR GRILL. 

2. Eat low on the food chain.
What do I mean by that? Limit meat consumption. Eat fruits and veggies, become a herbivore in the summertime. I don't mean to say completely give up meat, but just eat less. Now is the season for fruits and vegetables, so reap the benefits. Some communities do produce co-ops where you can get huge baskets of beautiful produce for very little money.

Grow your own produce if you can.

Find ways to afford fresh stuff. In the summer we eat more fruits and veggies than probably anything else. It's cool, refreshing and doesn't take any prep time.

Learn to love salad and raw vegetables. You can eat almost any vegetable without any kind of cooking.

I know I joked about sandwiches, but having a nice deli-type sandwich once a week for dinner isn't a bad idea either.

3. Cook in the early morning hours.
If you MUST prepare meals that require the oven, do it early in the morning. (Or late at night, but really, early is still usually cooler than night.) I have made casseroles at 7am before to keep the heat at bay. When we lived in Vegas, it was SO hot that if ever in the summer I cooked a real meal, it was before 8am. It was the only way to survive.

If you must bake (I admit to having given up most baking for the summer) do it also in the morning. Start your bread super early, so it's done rising and baking before 10am.

4. Use alternatives to your oven.
Grills aren't your only option. You can use toaster ovens and crock pots for a lot of food too. There are entire cook books devoted to crock-pot cooking. Pick one up at the library and see what kinds of fun meals you can try. Crock pot meals require that you plan ahead, since they are by definition "slow-cookers" but just plan out your meals for the week, and you'll be fine.

If you have a yard and can do a fire pit, those can be a blast to cook with. You can do "tin foil dinners" or dutch oven meals as well. Fun and delicious!

5. Create a cooking co-op.
If you're close with neighbors, you can create a cooking co-op where you each take a night or two to prepare dinner for the group. (I've done this in groups as small as two families, it still works!) Then you're not cooking every single night. You plan the meals out for the entire month, including who cooks when, and then have a plan of action for the time of delivery. You also need to work out the details like are side dishes included? And make sure everyone knows how much to cook so every family gets enough. Then you're only heating up your kitchen a couple times a week rather than daily.

Every month when you plan the next month, discuss how it is working, who liked which meals and how to alter the plan so everyone's needs are being met. Honesty and flexibility are key to making a cooking co-op work. It can be SO rewarding to get a few nights off a week though, it's worth making it work.

There are a lot of ways to enjoy eating in the summer months, it just takes planning and creativity. Figure out what works for you and kiss preheating goodbye!

*Photo taken from Google Images*


Sara @ Our Best Bites July 12, 2010 at 9:25 PM  

Hey, thanks for the link love! And dude, I gotta try grilled chicken nuggets!

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