Saturday, July 5, 2008

Summer in the kitchen

My apartment is not air conditioned, so as the temperatures rise, I do less and less cooking. I still eat healthy meals as much as possible, but I do a lot of prep before the thermometer rises. I spent a lot of time in May and June, baking breakfast muffins, cookies and squares so that I wouldn't have to turn on the oven unless it was a cool day.

My deep freeze has a great variety of meats that I have packaged in portions for one or two servings. I have pre-cooked roast beef, chicken and ham that are ready for serving when thawed. There are also a number of things that I can put on the George Foreman grill or in the toaster oven to prepare such as beef sausage, chicken breasts, salmon, tilapia, beef steaks, farmers sausage and 5 kinds of burgers (beef, pork, chicken, salmon and farmer sausage). There are also chicken nuggets, fish sticks, chicken wieners and prepared portions of turkey taco meat ready for whatever my taste buds may be in the mood for.

I cooked a large pot of brown rice and froze it in 3/4 cup portions in Zip Lock Snack Bags. I also cooked several varieties of pasta including, spaghetti, lemon pepper linguine, cork screw and tri-colour baby shells with macaroni. These can all be used as sides in a hurry or I can mix them in to any number of salads. If I want potatoes for a salad, I cook a pot in the morning before it gets warm. Let them cool, then store in the fridge for up to 3 or 4 days.

My pantry is well stocked. For the most part, the only groceries I will need over the summer months are dairy, vegetables, fruit and an occasional loaf of bread! I'll still watch for stuff on sale, but I'll be concentrating on the fresh produce of the season!

Breakfast, is generally a muffin and a glass of juice. I love having a bowl of fresh fruit with a slice of bread or a scone and a glass of milk for lunch.

Summer salads and cold plates are a staple of my summer supper cuisine. I always keep about 6 or 7 types of salad dressings on hand so I can create something a little different every night.

So how about some Summer Salad Ideas you may ask? All right. Have you tried any of these?

Tossed salads can get boring, so how about mixing it up a bit?
- Toss in some lemon pepper linguini's with some cooked chicken, beef or shrimp and add some Italian or Greek dressing.
- How about some sun dried tomato and herb pasta, cooked bacon or chicken with a roasted red pepper or sun dried tomato dressing mixed into a green salad?
- Tuna or salmon, shell pasta, chopped veggies and a bit or ranch dressing or mayo on a bed of greens.
- BLTC salad is a green salad with crispy cooked bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, green onions, cheddar cheese, herb croutons and a ranch or other creamy dressing. This is even better if the bacon is sprinkled over the top when it is still warm (or warmed out of the microwave or toaster oven!
- Pasta salad; cooked baby shell or cork screw pasta, ham/chicken, cheddar (or other varieties) cheese, lots of chopped veggies (carrots, red or green onion, red peppers, cucumber, broccoli, celery etc). Season with a dash of salt/pepper, a bit of garlic powder and fresh or dried basil and oregano. Mix with mayo, ranch or other creamy dressing and serve on a bed of greens.

There are so many variations you can do with a few basic ingredients and allowing your imagination to get creative.

Have you ever made your own croutons? It's really quite easy! I made this recipe a couple of weeks ago and store them in the fridge or freezer.

DNSYL57's Herbed Croutons
Pam cooking spray
1 - 454gram/16oz loaf 100% whole wheat bread, sliced and cut into small cubes
1 package Ranch style salad and dip mix (28g/1oz)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese (powdered)

Preheat oven to 325F. Generously spray 2 cookie sheets with Pam. Place cubed bread in a large bowl and spray with Pam (2 or 3 seconds). Stir well and repeat a couple more times with the Pam until all the bread is lightly coated. (Note: you could use olive oil, but this will absorb into the bread much faster and be much higher in calories.) When all the bread cubes are well coated, add the seasonings and stir well to coat. Divide the bread cubes evenly between the two pans and spread into single layer.

Bake in 325F oven for about 15 minutes/pan tossing often to avoid burning. Bake till golden brown and bread is dry. (I taste as I go to see if they are dry/crunchy) These will cook quickly, so they have to be watched carefully to avoid burning. Cool on wire rack and store in air tight container in fridge or freezer.

So hopefully, I have given you a few ideas to keep your taste buds from getting bored this summer. Be creative and try something new.

Stay cool and enjoy!


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