With the arrival of 100 degree weather here in NJ, I’m so glad that I developed a way to make parts of dinners without warming up the house every night. Here are a few things I’ve been doing:
1. Burritos are my best friends. After the holidays, we had an abundant amount of grilled beef and chicken, so more burritos were created. I keep it simple with just meat, rice, chopped yellow pepper, seasonings and fresh cilantro inside. We can easily turn them into enchiladas for hubby who loves cheese on everything. I wrap them in wax paper, then foil, and place them in the freezer.
2. Don’t forget about breakfast! I even made breakfast burritos for hubby and the kiddo. I’m not a big fan of them, but they absolutely love them. Since they can just be microwaved, I figured it’s perfect for mornings when I need to take care of the baby, and Hubby can take care of Sonny. Or, on days when I’m home alone with both kids, I can use them to feed the older one fast. If you need a good breakfast burrito recipe, check this one out from The Pioneer Woman. I’ve also taken advantage of my pancake mix stockpile and have been making and freezing pancakes almost every week. Once they cool a bit, I separate them on a cookie sheet and freeze them until they are hard. I can place about 6 to 8 in a freezer bag (the amount we usually have when I make pancakes for breakfast) and they stack nicely in the freezer. It just takes a minute to reheat them in the microwave and I can always top them with whatever fresh fruit that’s on sale during the week.
3. Prep (and cook if needed) those veggies right away. We are lucky to have most of our stores put a lot of veggies and fruit on clearance almost every morning here, so when I can get my hands on lots of them for cheap, I go crazy. For example, when I can get clearance bags of carrots, I not only chop one or two in the food processor (can be added to sauces or sprinkled over salad), but I also cut them into coins and place them in a tupperware container. When we need a veggie side, I add some water to the container, throw it in the microwave, and let them “steam” to perfection. Another great thing I do with carrots is to use the shredder and turn them into “carrot spaghetti.” When we have spaghetti for dinner, I add the strips to the pasta once it’s done, and the heat from the pasta cooks the strips. This also works for zucchini. I also use my mandolin to slice up cheap onions and freeze them. If I need the onions to be chopped, I take the slices and chop them up.
4. Take advantage of your starches.
Let’s start with potatoes. I always grab a 5lb or 10lb bag of potatoes when they are on a great sale. One thing I’ve been doing lately is washing all of the potatoes when I get them home, cubing them, and using my cast iron skillet to brown them up. I don’t cook them all the way because I know that 3 or 4 minutes in the microwave will complete the cooking process when I need a quick starch. I’ve also used some of these in the breakfast burritos. I separate them in meal-size servings and once I need a side starch I can just warm them up.
I’ve also been taking advantage of my rice cooker. I use it for white and brown rice, and also for the free rice mix packages I’ve been getting at the grocery store. If it says on the package that it’s going to take more than 20 minutes to cook a particular rice mix, then it will be perfect in your rice cooker.
We’ve even gone the lazy way with pasta. I bring the water to a boil, salt it, add in the pasta, cover with a lid and turn the heat off. About 15 minutes later (depending on what type of pasta you are making), you have perfect, al dente pasta! It’s like a miracle! I always make a whole box of pasta when I do this, and just place the leftover pasta in the fridge for another meal. It’s been working out so well, that we are still able to have a pasta dish every week without me having to put as much effort into it like I used to. Plus, with the heat, pasta salad just seems so appropriate and it’s nice to have the pasta ready to go whenever we want it.
5. Use all of those “no-bake” desserts recipes until you are sick of them! We do love to have a dessert available here, so I’m more than happy to provide one for my family each week. If you follow my meal plans, you know I always have a “dessert of the week” available for the boys and me. Choco-nana pie, no bake cheesecake and even just macerated fruit have been our staples lately. I do think that having something sweet in the fridge helps us stretch the meal even further, even though we don’t eat as much during dinner in the summer than we do in the fall or winter.
6. Stating the obvious: use the slow cooker. We are still taking full advantage of our slow cooker and will continue to do so. I have a good amount of freezer meatloaves stacked in the freezer, so we’ve been using those. Paired that with the make ahead potatoes and the corn on the cob that has been on sale everywhere, and we have a totally easy meal. I’ve also been taking advantage of tomato season and making slow cooker marinara sauce. We have about 6 bottles in the freezer now. If we run out of the jar sauce, we will be set with freezer sauce, and vice versa. Chicken leg quarters and even chuck steak have entered my lovely slow cooker. Heck, I’ve made our dessert in there a few weeks (mostly peach cobbler).
Well, those are most of the things I’ve been doing to keep cooking lazy but frugally functional.
How are you all coping with cooking in the heat, besides grilling?