Friday, June 02, 2006

Summer Cooking 101 Part I


Nope, not Summer Cooking for Dummies, but close.

Now that things are heating up, many people are trying to figure out how to make meals without too much heat or fuss.

First thing's first - figure out what methods of cooking you have available and whether or not you are comfortable with them. One thing you definitely don't want to do is turn on the oven! Even if you have A/C the heat from the oven takes longer to dissipate in the summer since the humidity is generally higher. Also, anything that involves boiling water is something you want to do before sunrise or after sunset. If there is anything that I definitely need the oven or stovetop for (ie; certain cakes, pastas, rice) I try to get it done as early in the day as possible when it's generally cooler and more likely that the kitchen will cool off by mealtime.

I would try to stick with these appliances: refrigerator/freezer, crockpot, microwave, sandwich maker, waffle iron, blender, food processor, tabletop or stovetop grill, outdoor grill and electric frying pan. (I don't even own all of these myself, so you can make do with less.)

OK, now that you have your basic appliances chosen, what do you cook with them?
Here's where I come in! I have too many crockpot recipes and many for the microwave. I will post microwave recipes for sure, but they will be fewer since individual microwaves vary in heating times making it harder to pin down the method for many recipes. They are great to have and you can make a perfect cake with them as I discovered when we were without cooking gas for about a month once. (My microwave made a 9x9 cake in 10 minutes at 50% power, for instance. I did need to play around the first couple times but once I had it down we had cake fairly often.)

My favorite recipes are the ones that don't involve any cooking and those are most likely the ones I will share first.

My personal favorites for hotter days:

No-Cook or almost-no-cook:
  • Fruit and Cheese with crackers or bread
  • Tortilla Roll-Ups and wraps
  • Cut up veggies and dip (cucumber, carrot, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, grape tomatoes, zucchini, etc.)
  • Muffuletta
  • Subs
  • Cucumber Salad
  • Pasta Salads
  • Sandwich spreads
  • Smoothies and milkshakes
  • Dips
  • Popsicles

  • Quesadillas
  • Rice dishes
  • Chicken patty sandwiches
  • Quick pizzas
  • Veggie melts


  • Crockpot Chicken Stew
  • Chicken with Noodles
  • Sausage and Rice dinner
  • Chicken and Rice
  • Triple Chocolate Mess Dessert
  • Chili

Here is a sample to get you going. Keep "tuning in" during the Summer for lots more!

Ham and Cheese Ranch Roll-Ups
Printable Recipes

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese-softened
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese-room temperature
1 cup mayonnaise
1 envelope Ranch Dip Mix
3/4 pound shaved deli ham-chopped if necessary
3/4 cup green onion, thinly sliced
12 (9 inch) flour tortillas

In medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, cheddar, mayonnaise, and
dip mix until well combined. Stir in ham and onion, Spread each
tortilla thinly with ham mixture, leaving a scant 1/2 inch edge on
one side. Roll up toward side with 1/2 inch edge and wrap tightly in
plastic wrap; chill thoroughly, 3 to 4 hours or up to 2 days. Slice
rolls into 1/2 inch slices for appetizers or serve whole for full servings; discard ends if desired and arrange spirals on serving dish. Cover tightly and chill until ready to
serve, up to 24 hours.
Serves approximately 16 - 20 as an appetizer or 12 as a main dish.

5 Layer Mediterranean Dip
Printable Recipe

2 c hummus (recipe below)
1/2 c chopped tomato
1/4 c chopped cucumber
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Feta cheese-crumbled
2 T sliced pitted ripe olives

Spread hummus on bottom of 9-inch pie plate.
Layer with remaining ingredients. Serve with pita chips or wedges.

Makes 2 cups
Printable Recipe

2 cups cooked and drained garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1/2 cup tahini - sesame paste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
juice of 1 lemon

Toss everything into a blender and pulse until smooth. For this one I added in a cup of diced red pepper. You can add in other veggies, etc. just make sure to balance out the liquid so the hummus isn't too thin.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
Makes 36 bars
Printable Recipe

2 c powdered sugar
2 c graham cracker crumbs
1 c smooth peanut butter
1/2 c +2 T butter or margarine-melted
12 oz Milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips-melted

Mix the powdered sugar, cracker crumbs, peanut butter and butter in a
medium size bowl until blended.
Scrape into an ungreased 13x9 baking pan and press into an even layer.
spread the melted chocolate over the top. Refrigerate at least 2
hours until the chocolate is firm. Let stand at room temperature, 15
to 20 minutes before cutting with a sharp knife into bars.

White Sangria Punch (Non-alcoholic)
12- 3/4 cup servings
Printable Recipe

4 c white grape juice
1 c pink grapefruit juice
1T lime juice
1 club soda bottle- 750 ml- chilled
Pink grapefruit slices

In large pitcher, combine grape, grapefruit and lime
juices; refrigerate. Just before serving, add soda water
and grapefruit slices.

Next up:

Summer Cooking 101 Part II, Big Ideas for Little Tummies


dalene said...

Just what I needed! Thanks, Anne.

You know what else is fun for summer--the dutch oven! I have--not as often as I'd like--filled up a broken wheelbarrow with coals and cooked dinner outside in my dutch oven. It's really no more trouble than the grill--especially if you line the wheelbarrow and the dutch oven with foil--and you can make an entire meal in one dutch oven.

p.s. How are you and yours???

Unknown said...

Thanks for these tips and I will be looking forward to more recipes. This is my first time here. I never thought about the electric skillet, but I'll use it this summer. I love the crockpot and have been using it this Spring for schedule reasons and will be excited to have more reasons to use it this summer.

I lived most of my life in Houston. It's very hot, yes, but also very air conditioned. I never got the "keep the heat out of the kitchen" sort of magazine articles. When I lived in a non-a/c house in Portland, OR and now living in CT, where the a/c works well upstairs in the bedrooms, but doesn't really filter down. . . . Now I get it!

kbabe1968 said...

We use our indoor grill almost all the time - whenever it's even too hot outside to grill out there - it's PERFECT!