It is August and the weather can be hot, hot, hot. Brew up a jug of my recipe for Simplici-Tea, and find a cool shady pot to sit, sip and read my hot weather cooking tips.
Planning is crucial
I know from experience that if I don't have the good stuff in my fridge and on the shelves, I tend to make poor food choices. Summer is the perfect time to combine an outing to a farmer's market--load up with color when fruits and vegetables are at their prime. Just remember to take a cart with you. All those fresh ingredients can be heavy and put undue strain on your joints.
Be fearless in the kitchen
I have my mom to thank for being fearless in the kitchen. From a young age, she encouraged me to experiment. She taught me that even if I made a mess, it can always be cleaned up.
Take a lesson from my mom's parenting--engage your young children in the kitchen. Start them out by spinning the lettuce, then graduate them to other tasks. Equip them with life skills while you get much-needed help.
Although cooking shows can be a great source of inspiration, I know people who become discouraged by watching them. They feel they can never live up to the chef’s culinary creations, so they give up before they even try. If this rings true for you, limit your time watching those cooking shows. Spend time in the kitchen, instead.
Techniques, tools and gadgets
Techniques, tools and gadgets will help you be more efficient, which means you'll spend less unnecessary time in the kitchen. I was surprised to read that Americans throw out 40 percent of food. It simply doesn't happen in our household, primarily because I plan ahead.
When I shop, I have a rough idea of what I am going to make for the week. It's not cast in stone, though, as I want the flexibility to prepare something different if the mood strikes me.
Here are my “must-have” tools that help make the best use of my time in the kitchen:
- Food processor: A fast, easy and joint-friendly way to slice and dice.
- Blender: Immersion and counter-top models.
- Vegetable peeler: Look for a multi-purpose one with a thicker handle. I recently found this one with two blades--one for the hard vegetables, and the other for the softer ones, like tomatoes, kiwis and mangoes. Or, you could try a palm peeler.
- Egg slicer: If I don't feel like cleaning out my food processor, this works well to quickly slice mushrooms.
- Boa constrictor strap wrench: It works on a variety of hard-to-open containers and jars.
- One-touch can opener.
What to make
Even in the summer heat, you can still eat well. Below are three lighter meal options that are nourishing and easy to prepare.
Soups: Served hot or cold, they're the perfect one-dish meal. I like to make a big batch early in the day, before it gets too hot. I often freeze some to have at a later time.
An easy recipe: Fill your soup pot with 6 to 8 cups of water, then add veggies of your choice - broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, celery, leeks, onion, peas, potato, tomato. You don't have to spend a lot of time chopping because you'll puree it at the end. Add flavoring: bouillon, garlic, salt, pepper, herbs and spices. Throw in protein--I like lentils, chickpeas or split peas. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer. Purée. Enjoy!
When veggies in my fridge are beginning to go soft, I immediately freeze them for later use in soup.
Salads: I know the tendency is to buy a salad in a bag, but I encourage you to get fresh with your lettuce. When it tastes great, you're more likely to fill up on the healthy stuff. Add some protein, such as beans, hard-boiled eggs, lentils, grilled fish or sliced chicken, and dinner is served!
Do you have any of the following on hand? Olive oil, sesame oil, yogurt, maple syrup, honey, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, lemon, lime, dijon mustard, garlic, chives, salt, pepper, fresh/dried herbs such as basil, oregano, sage or tarragon? If so, you can make your own fresh and preservative-free salad dressing by trying different combinations of those ingredients.
And remember to keep your pickle brine--it's the perfect dressing for coleslaw.
Smoothies: They’re great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
This recipe makes two large glasses: Add two cups of water to a blender. Add some of the following vegetables: beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, celery, cucumber, kale, spinach. If I have it, I'll put in some fresh herbs, such as lemon balm, mint or parsley. Then, some fruit: apple, avocado, banana, berries, kiwi, mango, melon, papaya, pineapple. Add the juice of 1/2 lime or lemon. Protein next: hemp hearts, nuts, yogurt and seeds - chia, poppy, pumpkin or sesame. If I have it on hand, I'll sometimes add fresh ginger. Try sprinkling in cinnamon or fennel seeds.
Whirl in the blender and enjoy this slow-burning drink--it'll be hours before I'm hungry. It's not boring, either, because the combinations of ingredients are always changing.
Published On: July 28, 2014