Summer Cooking Tips

Summer just never feels real without summer food. Meat on the grill, home-made ice cream, fresh fish and frozen yogurt. Watermelon salads, fruit smoothies and fridge tarts.

There is however a down side to summer meals. When you constantly substitute quick-cook steaks and chicken breasts for economical stove-top casseroles your food budgets take a strain. Ravenous children seems to be constantly in the refrigerator to find something to eat. Mealtimes, eaten on the run, substitute convenience for nutritional value. What's a summer cook to do?

With creative meal planning strategies, summer doesn't have to bust the food budget, toss nutrition to the winds, or reduce the family chef to a crazy lunatic. Try these suggestions for simpler, saner, cooler and more nutritious summer meals:

Use everything but the oven... In summer take out all those wedding-gift appliances that are stored away. A rice steamer makes perfect rice, every time, with no excess heat to fog your kitchen. A super ending to a day at the park will be spicy chili in the crockery slow-cooker.

A pressure cooker can prepare family favorites in a fraction of the time—or kitchen temperature—needed by an oven. Hot bread from an automatic bread machine makes a light summer meal more substantial. Finally, there is the old time favourite of putting some chops on the braai outside in the garden!

The way to go is a cold dessert... No matter how much you want to make dessert, just thinking about turning on the oven can induce perspiration. There's an easy solution, thankfully: refrigerator desserts, which come in a variety of styles, from fresh fruit trifles to no-bake cheesecakes to ice cream terrines. Instead of using the oven, desserts are finished in the refrigerator or freezer and rely on key ingredients such as whipped cream and gelatin. Sure, a few varieties do require that the oven be turned on, but only for a few minutes to bake the cookie crust, which is so yummy it's well worth the momentary heat.

Make your own fast foods! Is it any surprise that fast food restaurants are the busiest in the summer? Everyone is busy and on the go! You can make your own breakfast sandwiches, chicken nuggets, taco filling, and pizzas. Load them into the freezer and watch the time and money you'll save.

Think drinks.. Does your freezer contain some of those marvelous, plastic-gel coolers? It should. A jug of iced decaffeinated tea or fruit juice, snuggled up against a gel cooler will go a long way in quenching your thirst without the calories and caffeine—not to mention expense—of fast-food sodas.

Consider, too, outfitting each family member with personalized plastic water bottles. In order to keep water consumption up during the hot days keep bottles stored in the fridge so they are easy to grab on the way out the door.

Most of all, summer is a great time to spend time with your family and enjoy the ordinary things in life. Say "yes" to your children, whether it's fresh fruit trifle for dinner or can we have a lemonade stand? Summer is a time for making memories. With a little inspiration and new ideas you can create golden days that will be remembered forever.

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About The Author, Sandra Olivier
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