WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Thursday thoughts: Cooking to beat the heat

Posted July 21, 2011 12:52 p.m. EDT

Is the heat keeping you out of the kitchen? Tired of not running your oven because it's 100 degrees outside and you don't want to heat your house from the inside? Here are some meal ideas that won't cause your air conditioner to work overtime including some great no-bake desserts!

Appetizers

When it comes to cold appetizers, you will find that dips, crackers, chips, and veggies rule the table. You can dip just about any veggie in just about any dip for a delicious, easy and cool appetizer. Now is the time to use all those fresh tomatoes from the garden or the farmer's market for some fabulous salsa. You can also put together some great looking no-bake appetizers by stacking ingredients. For instance, take a cracker, spread with herbed cream cheese and top with smoked salmon. Or, for a fruitier version, take a cracker, spread with light plain cream cheese and top with fruit. For more cold appetizers, see the Kraft Foods website HERE.

For some healthier no-bake appetizers from Eating Well, click HERE.

Main Dishes

When it comes to cooking during the heat of summer, the grill is your best friend. From chicken to sausage to veggie burgers, you can grill just about any protein. Grilling not only keeps your house free from the heat of the oven, it also offers a healthy way to cook your food without having to add a lot of fat.  Grilled chicken breast marinated in light Italian dressing is delicious, healthy and easy. Batch cook the grilled chicken so you have extra chicken to use in tacos the next night. Click HERE for a bunch of grilling recipes from AllRecipes.com.  Click HERE for grilling recipes from Better Homes & Gardens.

In addition to using the grill to make main dishes, the slow cooker offers another option to the oven. Although the slow cooker does give off some heat in the kitchen, it's not as much as the oven.  You can also batch cook recipes in the slow cooker and freeze the extras so you can avoid cooking another night. Click HERE for slow cooker recipes from AllRecipes.com.

Summer Salads

Summer is all about the fresh veggies and fabulous fruits. We eat a salad of some sort nearly every day in the summer whether it's a tomato and cucumber salad with a little Italian dressing and Parmesan cheese, macaroni salad loaded with veggies or a vitamin-rich spinach salad. Often, salad is our main meal with a protein added to make it more filling and healthy including grilled chicken, teriyaki tofu, veggie burger, grilled shrimp, etc. Click HERE for 35 summer salads from SouthernLiving.com

Here is a recipe for one of our favorite salads. The whole family loves it and I often serve it when I entertain.

Broccoli Slaw with Ramen Noodles

If you have never had this salad, you may be raising your eyebrows at the mention of ramen noodles in a cold salad. I promise - you are in for a treat. The ramen noodles become perfectly soft in the delicious dressing and the nuts add an excellent flavor. It's ideal for a potluck or picnic, because it has no dairy products.

This salad sits overnight and is eaten the next day. It takes a good 8 hours for the noodles to soak up the dressing and become nice and soft.

Dressing Ingredients:
1/2 to 2/3 cup olive oil (if you like an oily dressing, use 2/3 cup oil. If you like it more dry, use ½ cup. I measure halfway between the two for my slaw)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
Seasoning packets from ramen noodles

Dry Ingredients:
1 pkg. broccoli slaw mix (found in the refrigerated packaged salad section in the produce dept.)
1/3 cup sliced, blanched almonds
1 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
2 packages beef ramen noodles (broken into small pieces – but not crushed)
1 bunch green onions sliced

Mix oil, sugar, vinegar and seasoning packets together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, mix together broccoli mix, almonds, sunflower seeds, sliced green onions and ramen noodles (broken up). Add dressing to broccoli and noodles and mix well. Let stand for a few hours and toss again so all the noodles are coated with the dressing. I usually make this the night before I am serving it. When I get up in the morning, I mix it up again. A few hours later I mix it again. Just before I serve it, I mix it one more time. Serve cold and enjoy!

No-Bake Desserts

When you want to splurge with some dessert in the summer, fruit is the way to go. Fresh fruit combined with some light angel food cake and light cool whip and you have a dreamy, creamy, light and oven-free end to your meal. For those with more of a craving for chocolate, try the Chilled Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies from AllYou.com  found HERE. Everything from slushies to ice cream pies make for great no-bake desserts.  Click HERE for delicious no-bake dessert options from AllYou.com. They even include the approximate cost per serving!

Now that you have some summer recipes that don't require you to use your oven, you have no excuse for not cooking at home during the hot months. It's more frugal than eating out and usually much healthier for your family. What are your favorite no-bake summer recipes?