So, we all know by now that I love to cook and I do it all the time. Daily, in fact. Whether I’m cooking for clients, friends, just myself or recipe testing for this blog, there is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t cook something. However, when we are knee-deep in 90 degree weather (Hallelujah and Amen!!!), I too prefer to cook a little less. Here are 5 tips to avoiding your kitchen this summer so you can either cook less, or just spend more time outside.
1. Go Raw!
I’m not suggesting you eat iceberg salads all summer long. Vegetables are abundant and so many of them taste great without any cooking. Broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, corn, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, arugula, carrots, radishes, peppers, onions, celery, spinach, cucumbers, mushrooms, and so forth. Not to mention canned favorites like artichokes, beans and olives. Or, sweet summertime fruit!
My suggestion is to just toss favorite things together with a nice dressing and see what deliciousness results. Of course, you can buy dressing, but I always make my own so I can have something different every time. And, lets face it, salad dressing is a tried and true case where homemade always tastes better.
Meats and seafoods on the other hand, usually require cooking. To avoid this, I’m not shy about utilizing the products at my grocery store. For seafood, I love buying filets of smoked salmon to shred into salads. Like my sushi grain bowl I posted about back in February. For meat, I will enthusiastically purchase rotisserie chicken and use it to make chicken salad. Or, toss it with your favorite salsa or hot sauce and fold it into taco shells with your favorite toppings. Hello? How easily delicious is that?!
3. Cook Earlier in the Day
I don’t know about you, but I am fueled by much more motivation earlier in the day. As evening nears, my motivation wanes and my focus shifts solely on a book and a glass of wine in the back yard. So, if you happen to work from home a lot, like me, or are a stay-at-home-parent, or take the afternoons off in the summer…whatever reason you may have for being home during the day, I suggest doing your cooking well before 5pm. Whether during breakfast or during your mid-afternoon slump (mine hits at about 3pm), you can cook and clean way before dinnertime. Which means, once dinnertime rolls around you are scooping and serving without any fuss, and minimal dishes. Brilliant!
My recipe for chicken and pork hoisin lettuce cups are quick-cooking, family friendly and veggie-packed. Very easy to whip up in less than 30 minutes, and simply heat up come dinner time.
4. Make Double
I’m a huge proponent of big batch cooking. This wasn’t always the case, as I used to be too bored with leftovers to eat them. But now, I’ve come to really appreciate the food I have in my fridge, and as a result, I’m diligent about putting leftovers to good use.
Keep in mind that making extra does not require you to eat the same thing at every meal for five days straight. Make a big enough batch that you can get one or two extra meals out of it. Or, freeze extra so you can enjoy it much later down the road. Soups, pastas and grain salads are my favorites for big batch cooking.
One tip, if you boil the grains or pasta in a big batch, but don’t mix them with anything you can change up your leftovers by adding new fixin’s each time. Then, it’s not really like leftovers at all!
Here’s a good example – remember my risotto corn salad? Well, I’ve enjoyed those leftovers all kinds of ways. My most favorite version is to toss the risotto mix with pickled red onions (also made in a big batch), baby arugula and spinach, some Parmesan cheese, avocado, a little pickling liquid and extra virgin olive oil. Look how pretty!? And oh so tasty, too!
5. Grill Outside
Yes, I realize grilling is still cooking. But, it’s outside instead of in the kitchen. That means your friends and family will happily keep you company as you cook dinner, unlike if you were inside all alone!
Grilling doesn’t have to be time consuming. Remember those prepared meats I mentioned in point 2? Well, you can do the same with prepared raw meats. Most groceries or butchers will have marinated chicken, or beef skewers or hamburger patties already prepped out ready for purchase, so all you have to do when you get home is toss them on the grill. To round out the meal, serve whatever you prepared earlier in the day (point 3) or leftovers from that big batch of grain or pasta salad you made earlier in the week (point 4)! How you like them apples?!
So, I hope this list inspires you to continue cooking, serving and/or eating fresh and wholesome food all summer long without the stress of being inside, slaving over a hot stove. Nobody’s got time for that right now!