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Tips for summer cooking and a ‘cool’ kitchen

Published: Thursday, July 11, 2013 11:24 a.m. CST

Temperatures and humidity outside are increasing and the desire to cook is decreasing. Are you feeling that way these days? This may not be due to a lack of wanting to cook, but rather to the need to keep your house as cool as possible. Keeping cool in the kitchen doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to cold sandwiches every meal. You can still provide your family with tasty, healthful meals without heating up the house.

• Prepare meals earlier in the day. Plan for the majority of your cooking to be done in the early morning while it is still cool. Once items are prepared, allow them to cool and then place them in the refrigerator to add other items to when it is mealtime. Reheat in the microwave.

• Fire up the grill. Meat, vegetables and fruits can all go on the grill, so you can make a balanced meal. Consider cooking extra meat for use in meals later on in the week.

• Pack a packet. Making individual foil packets is a great way to please everyone at dinner time. If you want fish but everyone else wants chicken, it’s easy to do, without creating a big clean-up. It’s also a perfect way to cook low-fat meals in general. The food is essentially steamed, which makes for moist and succulent meat or fish. Place each family member’s choice of entree in the center of their own 12-inch by 18-inch sheet of foil wrap. Top with condiments and toppings of their choice – say, some salsa, black beans and sweet corn, or tomatoes, olives and herbs, or simply a brush of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and assorted vegetables. Seal the foil packets by folding the top edge and sides, leaving enough room inside the packet for air to circulate. Grill for about 45 minutes over medium heat, turning each packet once. Be careful when unsealing the foil packets as the escaping steam will be very hot. Prepare some whole grain rice, couscous or quinoa to accompany the meal, and an almost mess-free dinner is served.

• Offer plenty of cold foods when the temperatures soar higher. Cold fruit salads, tossed green salads and vegetable and fruit trays are sure to keep your family and the kitchen cool when it is hot outside.

Consider, also, the variety of cooking appliances available to us these days. Many of them are useful in cooking healthy meals quick and without adding heat to your kitchen. Here are just a few to choose from – electric skillet, microwave, pressure cooker, rice steamer, slow cooker and wok. All of these appliances can be used to prepare healthy balanced meals this summer.

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