Ladies & gentlemen, the marvelous Miss Nina Simone…
“Summertime, and the living is easy….” You know the song, and you also know that the living is far from easy if you’re in the middle of a heat wave and are staring at the oven thinking “We need to eat but do I really want to heat up the house even more?”
I live in Florida, and even here in the land of central air conditioning it gets uncomfortably hot inside every summer. The AC is on max, our power bills are insane, and it’s still 85 degrees inside.
I feel your pain.
Summertime is a great time to experiment with alternate methods of cooking, cold recipes and small kitchen appliances. Here are some ideas that I hope you’ll find useful to get you through these hot summer days.
Solar Oven – Solar ovens are a great project, especially if you have kids who can get involved. Here’s a great one to start with:
Solar Oven Hot Dogs – You need a tube of potato chips (the brand rhymes with tingles), a chop stick, clear packing tape and hot dogs.
Empty the potato chip tube (how you chose to empty it is up to you, I won’t judge ;) ). Cut a square patch out of the side of the tube with the scissors, it should be big enough that there is only about 2″ of space between the hole and the top & bottom of the tube.
Use the chopstick to poke a hole through the top & bottom of the tube. Pull the chopstick out and thread a hot dog onto it.
Insert the chopstick & hotdog into the hole in the side of the tube and poke the pointy end of the chopstick into the hole on the bottom of the tube. Wiggle the chopstick into the tube and insert the top of the chopstick into the hole in the top of the tube. Cover the hole with clear packing tape and set the whole gizmo in direct sunlight. Check on the hot dog every 15 minutes or so, it could take up to an hour for it to cook through depending on what type and size of hot dog you’re using.
Griddle – An electric or grill-top griddle can save you time and heat. Use it to cook bacon for BLTs, cook the filling for Philly Cheesesteaks, saute vegetables, etc.
Griddle Bacon-Pancake Sandwiches – Make some extra large pancakes on the griddle. Cook some bacon on the griddle. Cook some eggs in the bacon grease (yes, on the griddle!) Put a few strips of bacon on a pancake, spoon in some eggs, top with salsa or syrup and eat wrap style.
Indoor grill – Sometimes it’s too hot to cook outside, or maybe you’re out of charcoal. No matter the circumstance, I’ve gotten a lot of use out of our indoor press grill (the kind named after the famous boxer) in the summer. I’ve used it to cook burgers, but also to press panini sandwiches and to get a good crust on wrap-style sandwiches.
Summertime Turkey-Apple Panini – Butter one side of two pieces of textas toast, or another thick cut bread. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on the inside of one piece of bread. Onto the bread layer turkey slices, thinly cut green apple slices and gouda cheese. Top with another piece of thick bread. Place sandwich onto a preheated indoor grill, carefully lower the lid (you will probably have to hold the lid up a bit to keep it from crushing the sandwich).
Rice cooker – Rice cookers can be used to cook rice, sure, but they can also be used to steam veggies, make bean dishes and warm up soup.
Rice Cooker Mac & Cheese (REALLY!) – Pour 2 cups of pasta and 2 cups of water into your rice cooker, set it for 20 minutes (if yours has different settings use the white rice option). Open the cooker and add about 1 cup of milk and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of shredded cheese. Close the lid and cook for 20 minutes, perhaps a little longer if the pasta isn’t soft. Open the lid and allow the pasta to cook for another 15 minutes, until it’s no longer watery. Give it a good stir and serve.
Microwave – Let’s not forget the power of the microwave when it comes to cooking your dinner! Microwaves are especially good for steaming veggies and fish.
Microwave Stir Fry Bowl – Start with instant microwavable rice (or follow microwave directions for slow cooking rice, it’s cheaper!) and about halfway through cooking toss in an extra Tbsp of water per person and some chopped veggies, recover and resume cooking. With about a minute or so to go add in some previously cooked chicken or fish, recover and finish cooking. Viola!
Slow cooker – Nothing beats a slow cooker for summertime cooking.
Slow Cooker Ratatouille – Spray your cooker with non-stick spray. Layer sliced tomato, zucchini, eggplant, onions, squash and green peppers. In a bowl mix 1 can of tomato paste, 1/2 cup olive oil, salt, pepper and whatever seasonings you like (try Italian spices!) and pour over veggies (you may want to add more liquid if you have a lot of veggies.) Set on low and cook for about 6 hours, though it could take up to 8 depending on how many veggies you use :)
A special thanks to my friend Sabrina for the post idea! Go visit her at WorkingMom.com!