Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
The mercury is rising! As the electrical power grid struggles to meet the high demands of central air conditioners battling the heat wave, these hot weather cooking tips can help you to keep your cool without cranking the air even higher.
Cooking is the activity that adds the most ambient heat to your home, followed by running a dryer. Your choice of cooking methods can greatly increase the temperature in your house, and then your air conditioner must work harder to overcome it. This can add a lot to your electric bill, and worse, if you have no air conditioner, choosing the wrong cooking method can make your home humid, muggy and miserable.
Hot Weather Cooking Tips
Now is the time to seek some different kitchen strategies. We can look back in history for a guideline, based on what our pioneer ancestors ate. Foods were lighter and required less cooking since nearly all cooking was done on a wood-burning stove that would have made the house unbearable. As well, many people set up summer kitchens, consisting of either a separate building to keep the main house cooler or an outdoor fireplace. We can take our cues from them and adapt their diets to our modern lifestyles.
- Change your eating habits with the thermometer. As the weather warms up, the harvest from your garden will increase. Most summer vegetables require little, if any, cooking, and can generally be quickly steamed to perfection on the stove top. Look for easy, no-cook recipes and fast non-processed foods.
- Break out the kitchen gadgets. Instead of firing up the oven, or cooking something for hours on the stove top, pull out those dusty, seldom-used kitchen gadgets. Toaster ovens, countertop grills, and slow cookers can all make meals without heating up the house. If I am going to be gone for the day, I often put something in the crock pot for a nice meal to welcome us home. (I’ve included a couple of our favorite recipes below.) The low heat of the crock pot will not affect the temperature in your home, and it’s a great way to tenderize a less expensive cut of meat, to which you can add some fresh veggie sides at dinner time. Skip the roasting and baking during the summer.
- Always make enough to have leftovers. Leftovers are a goldmine for speedy future meals. They generally require just a quick heat in the toaster oven or on the stovetop, and some foods are delicious when compiled into a cold salad or rolled up in a flatbread.
- Take it outside. Use a barbecue, a solar cooker, or an outdoor fireplace to cook your meals in the summer, keeping all of the cooking heat outdoors. If you are grilling meat outdoors, make extra to add some quick protein to your salads.
- Focus on local abundance. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can still have delicious local produce. Hit your farmer’s market and plan your menus around the seasonal goodness found there. (Find farmers and markets in your area HERE!) Enjoy summer fruits and vegetables like berries, cucumbers, peaches, tomatoes, and much more! None of these requires much, if any, cooking time. Just wash and eat!
- Try different protein options. Look for delicious plant-based sources of protein. Beans picked fresh from the garden won’t require nearly as much cooking time as the dry ones sitting in your pantry. If you prefer animal products, look for quick-cooking proteins like fish, chicken cut into small pieces, and eggs. Save large oven-baked roasts for winter fare, or at the least, use an alternative cooking method.
- Enjoy the health benefits of eating seasonally. Seasonal foods provide you with exactly what you need at different times of the year. For example, in the spring, those tender leafy sprigs like lettuce, kale, peas and pea shoots, and asparagus provide vitamins K and folate, which support blood health, bone health, and cell repair. The cool delicate foods are light, low in calories, and rejuvenating to the body as you gear up for the upcoming warm weather. Feasting on these waistline-friendly foods is a great way to get rid of that insulating layer of fat that you may have acquired during the winter.
- You’ll save money in more ways than one. Not only will your electric bill be reduced by adjusting your summer eating habits, but so will your grocery bill. Seasonal foods are less expensive by nature of their abundance at a given time. Farmers MUST sell them quickly or they’ll spoil. So you can often purchase them in large quantities at rock bottom prices. And if they come directly from your garden, it’s even better for your wallet!
Crock Pot “Rotisserie” Chicken
Here’s a delicious way to cook a whole chicken without turning on the oven. The skin will not be crisp but the meat will be moist and delicious. If you want to crisp the skin, you can carefully remove the chicken at the end of the cooking time and pop it under the broiler for a few minutes. This is ridiculously easy and you don’t need to add any liquid. The juices from the chicken and the fruit and veggies you stuff it with will create enough liquid to make gravy if you so desire.
- Whole chicken
- Lemon or lime
- Onion, cut in half
- A few cloves of garlic to taste
- Seasoning of choice
- Shove the onion, citrus, and garlic inside the cavity of your chicken.
- Put your chicken into the crockpot, breast side up. If you want to raise it up a little, wad up a couple of balls of tinfoil tightly to put under it.
- Sprinkle the outside of the chicken with your favorite herbs and spices. (I really like this blend by Braggs.)
- Turn your crockpot on low and go away for 8 hours. Test that the chicken is done by gently checking to see if the leg is loose. If you can gently pull it away, then the meat is done.
Note: You can start with a frozen chicken too. Turn the crockpot on high for the first 3-4 hours, then down to low for the last 4 hours.
Crock Pot Con Carne
Serve your con carne on a bed of rice or in soft tortillas. Top it with sour cream or plain yogurt, and garden fresh chopped lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes.
- 2 pounds beef or pork roast, or 2 pounds of skinless, boneless chicken
- 4 cups of diced tomatoes
- 1 diced bell pepper
- 1 finely minced onion
- ¼ cup of fresh cilantro or 2 tbsp dried cilantro or 2 tbsp parsley
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 4 tbsp of chili powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp of brown sugar
- In the crock pot, combine all ingredients except the roast.
- Add the roast to the crock pot, being sure to submerge the meat completely.
- Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
- Remove the meat from the crock pot and use two forks to shred it.
- Place the meat back into the liquid in the pot and stir it together. Allow it to sit, uncovered, for 10 minutes before serving.
What do you think?
Do you have any hot-weather cooking tips? Please share them in the comments.