It’s summertime and it’s hot outside. The last thing you want is to feel hot inside, but you still have to eat. Unless you can eat all your meals for the next three months in restaurants, you will have to do some cooking. I know, just the thought of turning on the oven is making you sweat; me too. Heating up the oven means heating up the whole kitchen and none of us want that. But we all want to eat comforting, delicious and satisfying foods that won’t weigh us down. Is it possible to have both? It sure is – we can have our cake and eat it too – without turning on the oven. Here are some tips for easy, breezy cooking that will keep your summer light and delicious:
Who says cooking has to involve heat? Leave the oven off and step away from the stovetop. We are surrounded by a bounty of seasonal produce, so take advantage of it. Visit your local farmer’s market or grow your own veggies in a garden. Prepare lots of salads, chilled soups and fresh, raw dishes. Read my article “7 Steps for Making Refreshing Summer Salads.” Use your blender to make a Raw White Gazpacho or Raw Asparagus Soup. Enjoy a plate of Raw Zucchini Marinara Pasta, Veggie Stuffed Collard Wraps, or an Ultimate Raw Vegan Pizza.
Since our salads, soups and entrees are made without heat, let’s do the same for our desserts. You can make cookies, pies and mouthwatering treats without ever going near the oven. Indulge in this Raw Avocado Cacao Mousse, Raw Tiramisu with Coffee Ladyfingers, and Almond Biscotti Reimagined. Get “oohs” and “aahs” from all your guests when you set this Raw Strawberry Banana Cream Cake down on the table. Cool off with some Cherry Garcia Ice Cream, Vegan Mocha Pops, and these Pina Colada Popsicles. For more ideas, check out “15 Decadent Raw Vegan (No-Bake) Dessert Recipes.”
Even if you don’t mind cooking during the summer, you don’t want to feel weighed down by heavy meals. Prepare lighter versions of your usual dishes. Add lots of veggies into your pasta or rice dishes so you can use less of the starches and still have a satisfying but lighter meal. Lighten the starches even more by using thinner versions of pasta such as angel hair or orzo. Alternatively, you can skip the starches altogether. Make rice out of cauliflower and noodles out of julienned zucchini. Try this Spicy Curried Cauliflower Rice with Kale and this Spicy Kale Pesto with Zucchini Noodles. Instead of using lots of bread, create open-faced sandwiches piled high with crunchy, fresh vegetables like lettuce, bell peppers, onions and sprouts. For more ideas, read 5 Steps for Making Incredible Sandwiches.
There are plenty of shortcuts and strategies that can make summer cooking easier. When shopping, buy some convenience by hitting the salad bars for already cooked tofu, pre-cut produce and whatever else strikes your fancy. When you get home, all you’ll have to do is plate it (though that’s optional) and eat it. Prep your groceries as soon as you get them home – do all the peeling, slicing, dicing and chopping at one time and keep the ingredients refrigerated in storage bags or containers. When it’s time to cook, half the work will already be done. Plus, you may be more likely to snack on healthy fruits and veggies if they are already prepared and ready to eat. Try to make lots of one-pot meals like mac and cheese or risotto for easy cooking and easy clean-up.
When you do decide to get into the kitchen and cook, make double or even triple portions so you cook once but have food all week. Double the recipe for marinades, take half of whatever you are marinating and freeze that batch for a later time. When you decide to use it, you will only have to thaw it and cook it. If you are turning on the oven to make baked tofu, bake two or three blocks of tofu at one time. Store whatever you are not eating today in a storage container in the fridge. Then you will always have perfectly seasoned, perfectly baked tofu ready to be reheated or tossed as is into salads. Do the same for roasted veggies like these Roasted Vegetables in Lemon-Cannelini Sauce. Is it pasta night? Make the most out of that big pot of boiling water by using it to quickly cook veggies in the last few minutes that the pasta cooks. Then you can make this Creamy Rotini Alfredo with Asparagus and Peas in half the time with half the pots to clean.
If you don’t get a lot of use out of all those appliances you keep on top of and under your counters, now is the time. Countertop appliances generate and emit less heat than the oven. Use your pressure cooker to cook grains and beans. Use your slow cooker while you’re out of the house and have dinner waiting for you when you get home. If you’re new to this gadget, read “10 Tips for How to Use a Slow Cooker.” Then try your hand at making Spicy Pinto Beans or Coconut Banana Pecan Coffee Cake Oatmeal in it. Your blender will become your best friend when you realize you can make more than just juices and smoothies in it. Make nut butters, soups, vegan cheeses, non-dairy milks and even desserts – all with the press of a button.
If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen (sorry, it had to be said). Do your cooking outside. Fire up the grill and make some amazing grilled vegetables, vegan burgers and sausages, and even grilled pizza. Enjoy a Grilled Buffalo Po’ Boy with Apple Slaw and Grilled Avocado with Roasted Tomatoes. Wash fewer dishes and serve your food on sticks. Read my article “5 Tips for Amazing Summer Skewered Food” and make Tofu Vegetable Kabobs with Peanut Sauce. Even if you don’t have a backyard, you can get a small tabletop grill or get yourself invited to a friend’s outdoor cookout and bring along one of your best summer dishes to share.
Summer is all about fun and relaxation, but the rising temperatures don’t have to mean you can’t enjoy homemade food; just follow these tips for easy, breezy summer cooking. If it’s really just too hot, by all means, patronize your favorite air-conditioned vegan restaurant and bring home the leftovers for another no-cook meal the next day.
If you enjoy articles like this and want more, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App. For those that don’t have it, it’s a brilliant food app available for both Android and iPhone. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to cut out or reduce allergens like meat, dairy, soy, gluten, eggs, grains, and more find awesome recipes, cooking tips, articles, product recommendations and how-tos. The app shows you how having diet/health/food preferences can be full of delicious abundance rather than restrictions.
The Food Monster app has over 8000+ recipes and 500 are free. To access the rest, you have to pay a subscription fee but it’s totally worth it because not only do you get instant access to 8000+ recipes, you get 10 NEW recipes every day! You can also make meal plans, add bookmarks, read feature stories, and browse recipes across hundreds of categories like diet, cuisine, meal type, occasion, ingredient, popular, seasonal, and so much more!
Lead image source: Pina Colada Popsicles