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Summer Cooking – Cool Meals - Cooking When It's Hot

Keep Your Cool! Cooking When It’s Hot

I wrote this a couple of years ago so there have been a few changes in my life since then but the cooking tips all still apply.

My house is no longer vibrating. Once again I have sent the “kids” to grandma’s in Colorado. I usually spend the first day just enjoying the novelty of a peaceful house. Oh, I know they don’t live with me anymore but with the phone calls and with them popping in, it keeps me busy. Of course I wouldn’t have it any other way but like any mom (even if my darlings are in their 30’s) it’s nice to have a break. I won’t be too lonely though because David (my son) lives within walking distance so I still have a few kids and grandkids around.


I’m in the cool basement with the granddog trying to get some work done and to get a break from the heat. I got to thinking about all the questions we get this time of year from our readers about how to “cook cool”. I have spent most of my summers in hundred degree weather with no air conditioning so I had to learn quickly how to “cook cool”. I don’t have room to tell you everything I have learned today but I can give you a few hints.

Some of these things may seem like no-brainers but if you’re like me you need to be reminded of the basics sometimes.


First, in the morning when it’s cooler:

  • Clean a large supply of carrot sticks and celery sticks and keep them in water in the refrigerator.
  • Boil a dozen or so eggs to store.
  • Have some lettuce and grated cheese (I buy my cheese already grated because the grated cheese costs the same as the block cheese. I believe in doing a lot of things from scratch but I don’t believe in killing myself over grating cheese. Besides, no matter how careful I am I almost always grate a knuckle so I have to really psych myself up to grate cheese.)
  • Keep lunch meat or sliced meat on hand.

If you keep a few things like this on hand you can make some quick and easy meals, even on very hot and tiring days.


Here are some examples:

  • I would make chef salads at least twice a week in the summer. Just chop up some of your cleaned carrot and celery sticks, slice your hard boiled eggs, sliver some of you lunch meat and you have a chef salad. You can add any other vegetables you want, too.

    If everything is cleaned in advance it makes cooking in a hot kitchen so much easier and faster. Don’t forget the cheese.

  • Egg salad, tuna salad or sandwiches. You can use those hard boiled eggs to make egg salad sandwiches or add them to tuna. Serve on lettuce for a tuna salad. You can add the cleaned celery to the tuna salad, too.
  • Keep it simple. Some of the best summer meals I ate were when I went to my grandma’s in Iowa. She would slice up some tomatoes, put sliced cucumbers in salt and vinegar water and set out some cottage cheese. For an extra hearty meal, she would add some soft bread with butter and apple butter. It was delicious.

    Tawra was born in July and, after many long hard hours of labor, the first meal they brought me was a fruit platter with all kinds of fresh fruit and crackers and cheese. If you were to ask me to name the top five meals of my life, this would be one of them.

    Simple, cool and refreshing. You can do the same for your family.


Some families have very hearty eaters (teenage boys, etc.) and if this is your situation you may have to actually cook. If you do, bring out the crock pot. There really isn’t as much mystery to using a crock pot as you think.

Crockpot Tips

  • You can cook almost anything in a crock pot.
  • The low setting on a crock pot is equal to 250 degrees in the oven and the high setting is 350 degrees. That may help you determine how long to cook your “regular” recipes in a crock pot.
  • Layer things in order of how long it takes them to cook. Things that take almost no cooking time should be added last.
  • Add things like sour cream and cheese during the very last few minutes of cooking.


General Tips

  • If I did need to heat up the oven, I would usually cook things at 250 degrees. It took longer but it didn’t seem to heat up the kitchen as much.
  • It is a little late this year but next year you might think about stocking your freezer in May to help get you through the first couple of months of summer.

    • Make things like roasts to have for barbecue beef sandwiches or just for a good old fashioned roast beef sandwich with mayo and lettuce.
    • You could have a couple of chickens cooked and deboned to use for chicken salad or sprinkled on salads or sandwiches. Then all you need to do is grab it out of the freezer, thaw and you are ready to go.
    • You could also stock up on a few things like muffins and banana bread that keep well in the freezer.

I couldn’t cover as much as I would have liked in this post but I hope this helps give you some ideas for the coming hot days!


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