Yay! It's time for another Eat Well, Spend Less installment! :) Today I'm writing about ways to work around summertime heat in the kitchen. Not eating out when it's "too hot to cook!" is one of the ways we eat well and spend less! :)
Since we live in the Pacific Northwest, our summers are really quite mild compared to other areas. However, we don't have air conditioning and it does still get hot on occasion.
"Weather" we like it or not...
The past two summers, we were living in a third-floor apartment which was great in the winter (warm!) but not so great when a week of 90+ degree weather came along! ;) And I learned my lesson when I wasn't watching the weather forecast and made homemade pizza on the first hot day. Using the oven heated up our whole apartment quickly!
So, my first advice? Watch the weather forecast! In the warmer months, I check the weather forecast every couple of days so I know what temperatures to plan for (okay, I'll be honest -- I also check so I know when to do laundry!). If it's going to be hot, I'll take some measures to keep the heat outside.
Bake in the mornings?
I've heard so many people say "I bake in the mornings in the summer, since it's cooler at that time of day." Without air conditioning, this hasn't worked for me. Baking in the morning, even if the oven is turned off by 8 or 9 AM, still doesn't leave enough time for the house to cool down before the heat of the day, especially when it's really hot.
Instead, I like to bake in the evening. (If I bake at all!) Yes, it's adding heat to an already-hot house. But if I can bake at 8 or 9 PM, by then the house is as hot inside as it is outside, and we can put fans in the windows overnight and there is plenty of time for the house to cool down (at least, as much as it will cool when it doesn't get cold at night!). :)
On the same note, on hot days I make sure to run the dishwasher at night for those same reasons. Even with the heated-dry feature turned off, dishwashers let off a bit of heat while they're washing dishes. (Thankfully, we're still able to run the dishwasher only once a day if I pack it efficiently!) And I'm so thankful for my dishwasher! Washing dishes by hand when it's super hot makes me super hot -- and not in a good way. ;)
Grilling: My summer sanity-saver!
Using our grill is definitely one of the easiest and tastiest ways to cook without heating up the house. We love the convenience of our gas grill, and when the days get hot, I start experimenting! We have a grill grid/pan which makes it easy to use the grill as an oven-substitute for roasting veggies.
With the grill pan, it's pretty easy to convert an oven-based recipe for meat or vegetables to a grilled one! Here's what I do:
1. Think of what you would like to make.
2. Search online for grilled recipes for that item, to get an idea of how others have done it.
3. Loosely follow a recipe, or create your own, watching extra closely the first time you try it, and writing down your notes for how well it worked on your grill, how long it took to cook, etc.
Some of my favorite grilled recipes:
Grilled chicken: Grill a big batch and use it in any number of these chicken recipes!
Grilled steak stir fry salad (I created this and Joshua loves it!)
Grilled corn on the cob -- SO easy!! :)
You can see all of our grilled recipes here.
And of course, there's burgers! Turkey burgers, beef burgers (or steak burgers, pictured above), lamb burgers, salmon burgers, or even Mexican black bean burgers! I'm married to a burger-lover, and I take advantage of that during the summer months! ;) Burgers are just so easy and yummy! :) See more sandwich recipes here.
Use appliances outside
Be careful to do this in a safe manner if you try it, of course -- but I have successfully used my crock pot and bread machine outside during hot weather. This gives another alternative to grilling everything! ;) If you have a safe outdoor area, like on an enclosed porch, deck, or in a garage, try moving some of your appliances out there during the hot weather! :)
It's okay to have simple meals or -- gasp! -- even eat out when your house is too hot inside. But I find I enjoy eating out a lot more if it's planned into our budget and week rather than being a last resort for an unplanned dinner. So my advice is to watch the weather report, watch your schedule, make a menu plan -- and include dinner out IF you want to and IF you can afford it! :)
Salads: Endless variety for cool summer mealtimes!
Salads are my other go-to hot weather meal solution. If a salad requires cooking (like pasta salad or potato salad), do the cooking in the evening. Assemble the salad the next day for an easy, no-cook meal or side dish!
Joshua likes green salads with lots of meat. If I serve a meatless salad, it's usually as a side dish. Some of our summer favorites:
Taco salad! We could, and often do, eat this once a week during the summer. We love the seasoned taco meat (recipe included), which I cook in a large batch and freeze in meal-size portions. I do the same with the beans, making taco salad a very easy meal in the end! :)
Tabbouleh -- a favorite no-cook salad! :)
Chicken Pasta Salad -- a family favorite!
You can see all my salad recipes here. :)
Cooling down on hot days without A/C
Sometimes, it's just plain HOT! We try to:
*Wear less clothes -- while still being modest. :) Go barefoot, let the baby crawl in a diaper, and pull my hair back in a pony tail. Wait -- I do the pony-tail thing all year... hmmm ;)
*Use cool, wet washcloths on our faces and foreheads
*Let the kids take a cool bath (with lots of toys in the tub!)
*Snack on frozen blueberries, strawberries, or other frozen food
*Eat ice cubes (my kids make homemade "popsicles" with plain water!)
*Sit in front of a fan and play with toys or read books :)
*Cool off the house with fans in the windows at night. Close the windows and shades during the day to keep the house cool. Don't turn on the stove, oven, computer monitor, dishwasher, clothes dryer, etc. unless absolutely necessary! I dry my laundry outside which helps a lot, too. :)
No-cook summer snackin':
Cream cheese apple dip (more of a dessert than a snack!)
What's your current favorite hot-weather menu item? :)