The dog days of summer are well upon us, and as much as I love a good home-cooked meal, I am starting to dread turning on the oven. If your house is anything like mine, leaving the oven on for 30 minutes to prepare dinner makes the kitchen turn into a sweat lodge, and by the time that piping hot dinner is ready I just want to ditch it for ice cream! If you’re not ready to admit defeat by eating out all summer, never fear. Turn the summer heat into a creative burst of culinary inspiration with a few simple tricks to eat well while staying cool. Who knows, the summer menu may even become one the best things about the season.
One way to keep making the meals you are used to without baking the entire house along with the casserole is simply to stick to the smaller appliances. Get creative and pull out that panini press to make quesadillas. A toaster oven can actually manage most of what you usually do with your oven, and it’s great for achieving that perfect crisp surface on baked goods or even some fish. Most importantly, toaster ovens are far more efficient and will not produce nearly as much heat.
A slow cooker is another great way to make meals with less heat. Don’t forget that you can cook non-conventional foods in there too. Along with rice dishes and casseroles, you can also cook up some baked potatoes or sweet potatoes, beans or grains, and steamed veggies. There are even recipes to bake bread in a slow cooker!
Don’t forget how many delicious meals don’t require heat at all! This is the perfect time to dust off your skills and whip up a gazpacho or cold soup. There are salads, wraps, and platters that can all be made cold. It helps to think in terms of a picnic or camping trip — what are your favorite eats for when you’re far from kitchen technology? Here’s a fantastic list of over 100 oven-free recipes!
There’s never been a better excuse to fire up the grill! It’s the perfect summer activity for a reason — time to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, and keep the heat outside where it belongs. Make it a fun family event instead of a silent struggle in the kitchen, and bond with the neighbors. If you throw a big shindig you may even be left with enough pasta salad leftovers from your guests that you won’t have to look at the oven again for at least a few days!