It’s officially July. The evidence abounds, although most of me is in disbelief (where did June go, anyway?!): flower gardens are blossoming, schools are no longer in session, the temperature is warm, schedules are erratic, and nobody feels like cooking!
I don’t know about you, but there are few things I dislike more than having my oven and gas burners on in the summer between the hours of 3-7pm, the hottest time of the day. Even when I force myself to the task, I must admit that it’s rather disheartening to toil over a hot stove, sweat beading on my forehead, only to have the family push the food around their plates with their forks because they’re just too hot to eat.
So when this question came in last week, I could definitely relate!
One thing that’s great to do in the summer when cooking in a hot kitchen is unpleasant is to take advantage of the all the fresh produce that abounds this time of year. When else can you gorge yourself on freshly picked strawberries because they only cost $1.20/quart? And when else is it affordable to hand your kids a bunch of organically grown carrots that you bought at a local farmer’s market to snack on? The great thing about fresh produce is that even when it feels to warm to eat a full meal, fruit and veggies are still appealing.
Of course BBQ’ing is fun and most everyone likes food cooked on the grill, but if your family is like ours and you don’t usually eat meat every night of the week, hamburgers or chicken on the grill only works every so often. One great solution is to grill marinated veggies that can be eaten plain, as sandwich filling, or over pasta and rice instead.
A standby meal around our house this time of year (it’s quick and easy on hot, busy summer days) is saute’ed garlic and veggies (whatever’s cheap that week: bell peppers, eggplant, summer squash, zucchini, etc.) in oil. Top pasta or rice with the veggies and then generously sprinkle parmesan cheese over it all. So, so good.
I also love to make salad the main dish in the summertime. Lots of greens, cheese (any kind on hand will do!), nuts, and some tuna or chicken topped with a good salad dressing needs nothing more than a loaf of tasty bread to satisfy. A bowl of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers marinated in oil and vinegar is absolutely delicious. And, of course, fruit salads are loved by everyone.
Find recipes that require less cooking time so that you don’t heat up your kitchen (and house) too much. I whip up this simple egg casserole and serve it for dinner frequently in the summer because it only takes 25 minutes to bake in the oven. Homemade pizza is another good idea, especially when I remember to get the dough started before it gets really hot or– even simpler– when I use english muffins instead of standard pizza crust. Tacos (beef, chicken, or bean) are also a great option.
What are some of your favorite summer menu items? Please share!