Hot Weather Meal Tips

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It's getting HOT out there...

The last place you want to spend time in the hot summer months is in the kitchen where it’s even hotter. How do you produce meals for your family without suffering heatstroke, relying on expensive convenience foods or eating out too often? With planning and ingenuity, you can spend less time in the kitchen this summer, take advantage of nature’s most bountiful produce season and feed your family healthful meals.

Plan.

Don’t wait until 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon to decide what you’ll have for dinner. Each week, go through Pinterest or your cookbooks and find recipes for these ideas—recipes for grilled entrees, cook-free cool salads and cold soups. The possibilities are endless! Then, set time aside to go through each receipe and make a shopping list of everything you need. Try planning for left overs at the end of the week or for lunches. 

Definitely use your freezer.

Freeze meat in marinades for quick, straight from the freezer to the grill entrees. Freeze grapes, banana slices and berries for a quick, cool snack. Search for freezable dessert recipes on Pinterest. Precook rice and pasta ahead of time for quick summer salads. Just thaw, add fresh vegetables, cheese and dressing and you’ve got a meal.

Cook with everything but the oven.

Use the rice steamer you received as a wedding gift. It makes perfect rice without giving off heat. Fire up your crock pot and slow cook meat while you’re at the pool all day. Learn how to use a pressure cooker, which can cook almost anything in a fraction of the time—or kitchen temperature—needed by an oven. And of course, don’t forget your charcoal or gas grill, which has the added bonus of fewer dishes and overall cleanup to do.

Take advantage of plentiful fresh produce.

Most fruits and vegetables are in season this time of year, so make up fresh fruit and vegetable trays as soon as you get home from the grocery store. You’ll be less likely to pig out on unhealthy snack foods.

When you cook, make it count.

When planning your menus, be sure to use ones that will serve double- or triple-duty: Put enough chicken on the grill to be used for three different meals—barbecued chicken breasts tonight, cubed chicken tomorrow for a salad addition and shredded the next day for chicken fajitas. Cook once, but plan to eat at least three times.

Make use of pre-prepared foods.

Pre-bagged salads are one of the greatest additions to civilization since the blender. The less time you have to spend in the kitchen in the summer, the better, and that includes chopping and dicing time. Most grocery stores now carry pre-assembled entrees such as chicken kiev and skewers of shish kebab vegetables. Wok and grilling vegetables come pre-bagged as well. Don’t forget about canned tuna, salmon and chicken, which are cooked and ready to use. A word of caution with pre-bagged produce: even if the bag says the contents have been washed, be sure to rinse everything before using.

 

Try out this recipe for Pantry Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad Dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine or white wine vinegar
2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Pasta Salad:
8 ounces small dried pasta such as elbows or rotini
4 cups Pacific Foods Organic Vegetable Broth
2 tbsp olive oil
1 (8oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (8oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed, and roughly chopped
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes roughly chopped
1/2 cup black olives or kalamata olives, halved and pitted
1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped (optional)

Directions:

Prepare the pasta salad dressing: add olive oil, vinegar, Italian seasoning, mustard, garlic, sea salt and pepper to a small bowl. Whisk vigorously to combine, set aside.
Add Organic Vegetable Broth to a large pot and bring to a boil. Add dried pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and add to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to combine. Place in the refrigerator to chill while prepping and chopping other ingredients. Feel free to cook pasta 1-2 hours ahead of time, if you’d like.
Make the pasta salad: to cooked pasta add chickpeas, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, olives, cherry tomatoes, herbs, and mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with pasta salad dressing and toss to combine. Serve pasta salad immediately or cover and place in the refrigerator to chill for 1-2 hours. When chilled, serve and enjoy!


Leftover pasta salad will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


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