Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Summer Cooking Tips~ Cool Off The Kitchen

I loved vacation~but I need to kick myself in gear. I am having a hard time getting out of vacation mode! I have been a bit lazy this week~something about summer makes me want to crawl up with a good book in the shade. So~I am going to make my list and do the next thing on my list today. I have a thousand things to get done!
The weather has warmed up and summer is upon us! Here are a few ideas and recipes to keep your house cool and save energy!

Can you imagine summer with out food? Steaming corn-on-the-cob, burgers on the barbecue,ice cold watermelon and ice cream? Yum~I love summer cooking!

There's a darker side to summer meals. Food budgets groan under the strain of substituting quick-cook steaks and chicken breasts for thrifty stove-top casseroles. Ravenous children make the refrigerator a revolving door. Summer schedules can make mealtimes eaten on the run and substitute convenience for nutritional value. What's a summer cook to do?

With creative meal planning, summer does not have to break the budget, toss nutrition out the window or turn the cook~ which happens to be me~ into a melted puddle of something that looks like the Wicked Witch of the West in Wizard of Oz!

Basic menu planning is useful in every season. Don't know how? Simple. Start with the weekly specials and plan meals around what is on sale!

 Take a moment and think about your calendar. I go ahead and plan a month menus~but you can do weekly. My grocery budget is set once a month. So~plan according to your budget.  I plan in Holidays and special occasions such as 4Th of July and Birthdays~ so I have everything in my pantry I will need for the entire month. I then only need a milk, bread, fresh food quick run to the store.

Then I go shopping! I save a lot of money by planning ahead! 

 Plan the work & work the plan!

When you do cook, make it count.

Fire Up The Grill~and the outdoor cook.....wink!

We also tend to grill a lot outside. Just about any meat, fish and vegetable can be cooked outside. Cook veggies and fish that fall apart easily in aluminum foil, or stick your cast iron skillet on the grill. I am planning a few homemade pizzas on the grill!

 Don't stop with just tonight's entree of barbecued chicken breasts. Add several more pieces and hold the barbecue sauce. Next night, serve half of the chicken shredded, over salad, and add dressing made from walnut oil and raspberry vinegar. The following night, reheat the remaining chicken, shredded, with salsa, crushed garlic, a squeeze of lime juice and a dash of oregano, and serve delicious chicken fajitas, wrapped in steaming flour tortillas. Cook once, but plan to eat at least three times.

Enjoy summer's bounty.

Children, even dyed-in-the-wool vegetable haters, love choosing dinner from vegetable gardens or roadside produce stands. Serve a vegetable meal, with corn-on-the-cob, sliced tomatoes, and washed raw vegetables. Don't forget the fat-free ranch dressing for dipping!

Bake and Cook early in the morning.
I do a lot less baking in the summer, but when I do have to make a fresh batch of bread, some rolls etc, I do it as early in the morning as possible while it’s still somewhat cool outside.

Use The Slow Cooker.

I use my slow cooker at lot during the summer to cook meats, veggies and beans. It takes a little more pre-planning, but is well worth the savings (because the air conditioning has to run a lot less).

Open Fire Cooking~

My husband has made us a little area for a camp fire. We plan on roasting hot dogs and sausages on the open fire. And of course some smores!

Grilled Pizza~

Prepare your favorite Pizza dough and roll it out. Feel free to roll it out to whatever size is easy for you to manage on the grill.  Rub a little oil on the grill grate then add the pizza. Cook it for about 5 minutes, then flip it over. Add your toppings and cook and additional 5 minutes until the dough is done and the cheese is melted.

Tuna Salad Plate~

2 cans Tuna (or Chicken)
Mayo( to taste)
Mustard (to taste)
Sweet Relish (to taste)
I have even added fresh green onion, fresh cucumbers,
black olives just what ever you like to change the taste.

Mix and put in the middle of the plate.

On the side around the plate add Fruits. Canned or fresh.
I use: Pineapple (our favorite) Pears, Apples, Strawberries, Cantaloupe, Peaches, Grapes. I like to serve some Homemade bread or crackers along with it as well.

Asian Chicken Salad

Head of romaine lettuce, chopped or hand torn
3 or 4 scallions, snipped into bite-sized pieces
1 can of water chestnuts, drained
1 can of Mandarin oranges, drained
1 can chicken (or fresh chicken, cooked and cubed) (as much as you like)
1 small can Chinese rice noodles, or the larger crunchy noodles
Sliced almonds, toasted, a handful (or as many as you like)
Your favorite Asian salad dressing, sesame-ginger dressing, etc.

Just throw it together and toss.  It’s easy, delicious and cooling.  It is easily doubled or tripled for a large gathering.

Skillet Dinner~

margarine (butter burns too easily to use on an open flame)
1/8 - 1/4 cup meat - in bite size pieces (I prefer ground pork or sausage but anything will work)
1/2 of a medium potato, scrubbed and cubed or sliced
1/4 of a carrot, peeled and sliced
1/4 of an onion, peeled and sliced or diced
2 wide strips of bell pepper cut into chunks (I prefer red bells)
1/4 of a young zucchini (6-8 inch size) sliced
1 mushroom, sliced
salt and pepper (or garlic salt) to taste

Note - the vegetables can be changed to suit your taste.

Rub margarine on bottom and sides of skillet or cover a 12 inch piece of foil (I do this before the skillet is warmed so I can get a nice layer of margarine to prevent burning).  Place meat in bottom of pan (it will need the most heat to cook from raw) and then add other ingredients in order.  If using a skillet, cover it tightly with foil.  If using just foil,  fold the foil as if you were wrapping something in freezer paper (pull up 2 sides and fold together.  Continue folding until you reach the ingredients.  Then fold both ends like you would a paper lunch sack.).  Place skillet or packets right on the burning logs if you can.  Or put your cooking grid as low as possible.  If using your grill, put it on high heat or really hot charcoal.  Walk away for about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and check for doneness.  If the potatoes are soft and meat is done, you can eat!!  If not, stir and return to the fire.  Foil packets must be opened
carefully to avoid tearing the foil and to avoid steam burns.  If they are not done, re-wrap tightly and turn over instead of stirring.  Enjoy!

Crock Pot Baked Potatoes~these are great!

8-10 potatoes

 Place in crock pot and cook for 8-10 hours on low or 2 1/2-4 hours on high.

Make a meal of it. We like ours with chopped onion, bell pepper, shredded cheese, ham, turkey and bacon bits. Use whatever your family likes.


1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1/4 cup white sugar
8 oz. bowl cool whip (USE ONLY HALF OF COOL WHIP FOR this recipe, 1 pie.
If you are doubling the recipe to make 2 pies, then use the whole bowl.
coolwhip is really good in this, we also like the french
vanilla cool whip in this pie recipe)
1 TBS. vanilla extract
1 ready made graham cracker crust

In a rather large bowl, cream together the p-b, cream cheese, white sugar
and vanilla til well blended. fold in one half of the cool whip (for one
pie). Pour this filling over into the pie crust, gently spread it evenly.
Cover the pie and set in fridge to firm up.

This pie is quick, easy, delicious and rather rich.  Serve it in very
thin slices.  You may want to add some chocolate swirls or sprinkles to the top!

This is a MR. FOOD RECIPE. We 3 just enjoy it so much. it is
kept in refrigerator and is so cool and refreshing to eat on hot summer days.


1 store bought graham cracker crust
1 can crushed pineapple in its own juice, 15-16 oz. can
1 small box instant vanilla pudding 
1 cup of sour cream

In a good sized bowl, empty can of pineapple AND juice. Open the box of
instant pudding, and pour it DRY over the pineapple and juice. Stir to
Then fold in one cup of sour cream (can use low fat sour cream).
Pour the pineapple mixture over into the graham cracker crust. Set it in
fridge to thicken. (the DRY pudding mix soaks up the pineapple juice).
You can garnish this with toasted coconut and/or maraschino cherries
when you
serve it, but it is good plain like it is. so refreshing on a hot day and
so easy to make.

Grilled Squash~

One of my favorite things is to grill zucchini or yellow summer squash. Just peel an seed the squash then cut into spears (like pickle spears) then marinate in Italian salad dressing several hours or longer. I have done up a lot of it and had it in the fridge for a week (using out of it as needed for a meal. Then just throw it on the grill until it just starts to turn a light gold on each side. IT IS REALLY YUMMY. Even people who do not like squash like it this way.

Magic Milk Shake~
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups ice water
  • 1-1/2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 to 1-1/2 trays of ice cubes, as much as you can spare
  • 2 tablespoons corn oil plus a 5-second squirt of non-stick spray for emulsification purposes

Place all of the ingredients into the blender, including the oil and the non-stick spray. Use less water for thicker milk shakes and more water for shakes that are easy on your blender motor. The blender should be about 3/4’s full. Place the lid on. Process for a full 2 minutes. Pour into cups and serve. Makes 4 - 12oz servings. For preparation tips please see below.

I love this recipe because it makes very rich milk shakes without any ice cream. I don’t always have ice cream in the house because the kids eat it so fast. With this recipe we can have delicious frosty milk shakes for a fraction of the cost of those using ice cream. And all the ingredients are on the pantry shelf.

All Day Crock Pot Chicken~


  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • dash ground allspice
  • dash ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Chicken and Remaining Ingredients:

  • 6 chicken breast halves
  • 6 to 8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 can (11 ounces) mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 small bell pepper, green or red, seeded, cut in strips
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cold milk
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Combine marinade ingredients in a non-reactive container with lid or a large sealable food storage bag; blend well. Add the chicken to marinade; cover or close bag and throw in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours, or overnight.

Place the marinated chicken in the slow cooker.

Add marinade to cover chicken. Sauté mushrooms in the butter, then add to chicken and marinade in slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours. About 1 hour before done, add mandarin orange sections, green pepper and ginger; stir well. When done, mix together the cornstarch, milk and cold water, then gradually add into the slow cooker while stirring; cover and cook 15 minutes longer, until thickened.
Serves 6.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches~

  • 2 lbs of pork (any kind works, but the leaner the better. If fatty, cut off all visible fat first. Pork steaks (minus bone) work great and often are on good sales) In the summer I slow cook them in the crock pot all day.

Mix in a bowl:

  • 1 c ketchup
  • 1 c mustard
  • 1/2 - 1 c brown sugar (can add to your taste)

Add mix to pork. If really thick, add 1/4 c water.
Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-10 hours.

When done cooking, use a spoon to spoon out any visible fat that has come off. Take two forks and shred the pork. Serve on a bun.

Pudding Pops~

  • 1 package (4-serving size) instant pudding mix
  • 3 cups reconstituted or fresh milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Molds, Sticks, Freezer

In a large bowl combine the pudding mix, milk and sugar. Beat with electric beaters or a wire whisk until thickened. Fill the molds and freeze.

Chocolate pudding makes fudge-pops. Vanilla pudding makes cream-pops & butterscotch pudding makes caramel-pops.

Juicy Pops~

  • 12 ounce can of juice concentrate
  • 4 cups water (2 cups plus 2 cups)
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (1/4-oz)
  • Molds, Sticks, Freezer

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in the microwave or in a sauce pan. Remove from the heat. Stir in the unflavored gelatin. Stir a lot, to dissolve it completely. Pour in the juice concentrate and the remaining 2 cups of water. Mix well. Pour into molds and freeze.

Homemade Graham Cracker Crust~
  • 6 tbsp Butter
  • 24 Graham Crackers
  • 1/4 Cup of Sugar

Put the graham crackers in a large ziploc bag and crush them with a skillet or a rolling pin.

Put the butter in a medium microwave safe bowl and microwave for 20 seconds. Look at the butter and continue microwaving in 10 second intervals until it is melted.

Add the crushed graham crackers and the sugar to the bowl and stir to combine. Press the mixture into two pie plates and allow to cool.

These crusts can be used as is, or you can bake them at 350F for 10 minutes. Allow the crust to cool completely before using it for no bake pies.

No Bake Strawberry Pie~
  • 1 Small Carton of Fresh Strawberries
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 package of instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 cup of milk (or enough for pie filling directions on pudding mix)
  • whipped topping
  • graham cracker crust
  • Shaved chocolate or cocoa powder (optional)

Pick out 6 pretty strawberries and set them aside. We’ll use them later to decorate the pie. Wash the remaining strawberries. Remove the stems and cut them into chunks. Put them in a small bowl, add the sugar and stir. If the berries aren’t very sweet at all, you may want to add a little more sugar. Set aside.

Prepare the pudding mix according to the instant pie filling directions. Fold 1 cup of whipped topping into the prepared pie mix. Take a big spoon full of the pie mixture and spread it in the bottom of the pie crust. Make sure the whole bottom is covered. Add a little more as needed.

Pour the sugar and strawberry mixture in the pie crust. If there is a lot of liquid, use a slotted spoon to get just the berry pieces. Top the berries with the remaining pie filling.

Spread enough whipped topping on top to completely cover the pie. Cut the strawberries you set aside in half and put them on top of the pie. I like to work in a clock like pattern, adding one berry half at 12 and one at 6. Then I add them in the 9 and 3 position and so forth.

When you’re all done, you can sprinkle some shaved chocolate or a little cocoa powder in the middle.

Crock Pot Scalloped Potatoes~

  • 2 lbs. potatoes (about 6 medium)
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 3 T. butter
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup - (10 oz.)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 C. flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • 4 slice American cheese

Peel and thinly slice potatoes. Put sliced potatoes in greased CROCK-POT. Top with onion slices. Mix flour and milk together along with undiluted soup and butter, salt and pepper then pour over potatoes. You can layer diced ham with the potatoes, or you can place pork chops on top of the soup/potatoes and cook. Add the cheese slices during the last 30 minutes of cooking. If you use pork chops you will need to brown them on stovetop in frying pan first, and you may want to eliminate the cheese.

Cover and cook on LOW 7 to 9 hours (HIGH: 3 to 4 hours).

Cold Spaghetti Salad~

1 jar Wishbone Italian dressing
1 pkg. Good Seasons Italian dressing
1/2 jar Salad Supreme spices by McCormicks

Mix all of above.


2 tomatoes, cut up
1 onion, cut up
1 green pepper, cut up
Sliced cucumber

Let marinate overnight. Then, add to 16 ounces fresh cooked spaghetti broken up and cooked (any pasta will work). Drain well. Serve cold.

I would love to have your favorite summer recipes and tips to add to this list ~
E-mail it to me and I will add it to my list. I love new ideas to try!



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