Don’t want to heat up the house to cook a healthy, tasty dinner? In the mood for a cool and light meal, rather than a meal that leaves you feeling hot and stuffed? Here are four healthy ideas to help you beat the heat with your summer meals.
You don’t have to have or use a grill to benefit from out-of-doors cooking. Plug in your crockpot or roaster oven outside on the patio, sidewalk or porch. You won’t heat up your house this way, nor will you use as much electricity as when running your oven or stovetop.
I plug in my roaster oven outside in the summer to reheat leftovers or bake burritos. I also cook any meat or beans in my crockpot outside. Animals will stay away because they can tell that it is hot. Young children may not have this keen awareness, so make sure that any appliance you plug in outside is well out of their way.
Did you know you can also bake bread or desserts using your slow cooker out-of-doors? Search your library or bookstores for slow cooker recipe books that will guide you in experimenting with this. Two books I recommend are: “Fast Cooking in a Slow Cooker” by JoAnn Rachor and “Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker” by Robin Robertson.
Serve Cold Cuts
A plate full of sliced veggies, cheese, slices or cubes of cold seasoned meat, a green salad or slaw, and toasted whole grain bread or a cold grain salad makes a delicious, healthy, light but satisfying, meal. I serve many of our summer time meals just this way.
To prepare the meat, season it — with salt, pepper, and herbs; with a fruity or zesty marinade; or with your favorite MSG-free seasoning mix. Then cook it outside in the slow cooker or roaster oven. Do it a day or many hours prior to serving. Chill it thoroughly. Either pull off pieces or slice it as desired and serve. Most meats — chicken, beef, lamb, pork — lend themselves to eating cold, as long the cuts are small and tender enough to chew.
A variation on the cold meat idea is to make a “salad” out of canned or pre-cooked meat. For instance, start with canned wild-caught salmon. Turn it into a salad by combining it with your favorite healthy oil, vinegar and spices, and then serve that alongside a cold grain salad, with toasted whole-grain bread, or with tortilla chips. See my Wild Salmon Salad recipe for more information.
Toss Up A Cold Grain Salad
Grain salads have been around for awhile, but I’ve just discovered them. They are yummy! Cook a pot of rice, quinoa, millet or other grain, and then chill it. Several hours before dinner, put a good quantity of the chilled grain(s) in a bowl and toss it with other ingredients and a vinaigrette dressing.
The other ingredients might be — sliced olives; artichoke hearts; diced veggies; cherry tomatoes; shredded cheese; cold and cooked beans such as great northern beans, black beans or pinto beans; toasted chopped nuts or seeds; and/or diced meat.
For the dressing, sprinkle some herbs (Italian seasoning is wonderful, or dill with onion powder), salt and pepper on the ingredients. Then drizzle vinegar — either balsamic, rice or raw apple cider — on it. Add a heart-healthy oil such as extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, or red palm oil* to the bowl, along with a smidge of toasted sesame oil. Toss the grains, other ingredients, vinegar, oil and seasonings together thoroughly. Adjust seasonings to taste. Chill for a couple of hours to let the flavors mingle. A cold grain salad is a delicious side to any cool, summer meal. See my Cold Quinoa Salad recipe for more specifics.
*If the red palm oil is solid, it is best to incorporate it with the grains(s) while they are still warm. Allow the grains to sit undisturbed for at least 15 minutes after cooking, then fluff them, and then combine with the solid red palm oil. Chill the grain(s) and oil together before adding the remaining ingredients and seasonings.
Whizz Up a Smoothie
During the summer, when many, many deliciously sweet fruits are in season, why not have a smoothie for lunch or breakfast? If that’s not enough to satisfy, eat it along with a whole grain muffin.
Smoothie making is extremely flexible. Start with the fruit that is on hand or readily available, at least some of it on the sweeter side, such as banana, pineapple or blueberry. Some or all of this can be frozen. Place it in the blender container. If your blender is not that heavy duty, you’ll want to help it along by cutting up the fruit into smaller pieces that it can handle. Refer to your blender’s instructions for further guidance.
To these sweeter fruits, add other fruits that are not as sweet, such as berries, melons, pears, or apples. Don’t use too much of the apple, though, as its inclusion tends to result in mushy and fibrous smoothies. Also add ice (unless approximately half of your fruit is frozen) and water that comes up about half as high as the fruit is in the blender container. Then blend until smooth and serve yourself a delicious, healthy, cool summer smoothie.
If you’re new to smoothie making, pay attention to what you do and don’t like. You might want a thicker smoothie, so next time use less water. You might prefer a colder smoothie, so next time freeze more fruit or use more ice. If you want your smoothie on the sweeter side, add a small amount of a natural sweetener such as honey or agave, or use a larger proportion of the sweeter fruits. If you prefer a creamier smoothie, use milk or your favorite milk substitute in place of the water.
I hope these ideas will help you to enjoy cool, healthy and satisfying summer meals. The internet can be a great resource for specific recipe ideas for cooking foods in a slow cooker or roaster oven, for cold grain salads, or for smoothies. I’d encourage you to look around. If you find a recipe or tip that you find to be helpful, I’d love to hear about it. Please comment below or write to me. God bless you!
© Copyright 2007 by Wardee Harmon.