budget talk

Staying Cool in the Kitchen

I love to cook, but on hot summer days, even I’m tempted to head to the nearest restaurant. However, there are ways to stay cool and enjoy a great meal in your own home. And best of all, trying to stay cool often means saving money too.

Select Your Appliances
One easy way to keep the heat out of the kitchen and house is to use an outside grill. The only problem is if it’s that hot and sticky outside, do you really want to head out there and stand by a hot grill? A couple of years ago, I invested in a tabletop style electric grill. It doesn’t take long to heat up and cooks just about everything in less than 15 minutes. Another appliance I rely on during summer is my electric steamer. Mine has three different containers that you can pile on top of one another, so everything can be cooked in one shot. It even has a special container for rice. If you don’t want to invest in an electric one, you can buy the stainless steel basket steamers at just about any supermarket and most of them cost less than $5.
And let’s not forget the slow cooker. I know most of us associate it with cold weather foods like stews, but it makes perfect sense to use it on hot days too. I know lots of people who use it to cook beef and pork and use the meat for cold sandwiches. And if you have an outside electrical outlet on your deck or patio, you can even take your electrical appliances outside. This works really well with my electric grill.

The Brown Bag Supper
Sandwiches aren’t just for lunch on sultry summer days. In fact, I can’t think of a better evening meal. Serve them with fruit salad or fruit kabobs, or even pair them with a fruit smoothie. And if you like the sandwich/soup combo, skip the hot soups and try a cold soup like cucumber or gazpacho.

Salads are my favorite meals anytime of the year, but in summer, they’re a must eat. I start with the basics like romaine lettuce or field greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and then add protein like grilled chicken breast, tuna, cheese, and beans such as garbanzo. You can also add shredded carrots, chopped olives, and one of my favorites, sun dried tomatoes.
Another favorite of mine is a Greek platter salad. It’s pita bread, homemade hummus, feta cheese and olives. These salads are easy to put together and light enough to eat so that your digestive system doesn’t have to work overtime.

Select Quick Cooking Foods
One food I keep on hand all the time is instant couscous. You just boil water for about five minutes, stir in the couscous, let it stand for five minutes and you’re done. You’ve got yourself a quick and easy side dish that pairs with just about anything.

Be a Sensible Cook
If you’re brave enough to do some serious cooking during hot weather, cut things like vegetables into smaller and evenly sized pieces to speed up the cooking time. Stick with quick cooking proteins like fish. And defrost everything thoroughly before you cook it. And make sure you cover pans when you boil something. Hot steam making its way around the house isn’t that pleasant during the summer.

Keep Your Eye on the Weather
I hate to be obsessed with the weather, but these days it can save you some money. I watch the 7 day forecast, and check which days are going to be hot and humid, and which days are going to be cool and pleasant. With this information I plan out my cooking schedule. Salads on hot and humid days, etc. and on cooler days, I’ll make a few extra dishes to eat on the hotter days. On those days all you need to do is pull them from the fridge or freezer and microwave them.

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