Eat well in the heat and live to tell about it

Published 2:39 pm Wednesday, August 2, 2023

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You don’t need to watch the 24-hour weather reports with the gloom-and-doom reports of this being the “hottest summer on record.” We get it…it’s HOT! And along with that no-brainer knowledge comes the fact that turning on the oven for any length of time will just make things worse. In short, the kitchen’s steaminess and extreme heat will transform into a Brazilian jungle just after a rainstorm. There’s only one thing to do when mealtimes loom and that’s to find no or minimal-bake meals. Luckily, I have a couple to help you survive the intermittable heat.

   After not opening a fantastic “Foil Dinners” cookbook for years, I began a desperate search to find it last week. Luckily, it was still on hand and provided a wealth of recipes to get me through Labor Day. And my trusty slow cooker book containing 1,001 recipes for every recipes known to man is never far from my sight. I found a couple of recipes that will help all of us eat well while surviving in record-breaking temps.

   But first, here are my tried-and-true summer meals that take minimal time to prepare and require very little cooking time:

1. Summer salad spreads – Don’t say, “we’re just having salad tonight,” or you’re likely to rebel. Instead, put a more creative spin on things. Place a gigantic bowl of chopped green salad in the center of a table, but don’t stop there. Surround it with bowls of chopped chicken, ground beef, cooked shrimp or tuna for the main ingredient. Add offerings like chopped carrots, celery, onions and olives; surround those with bowls of favorite salad dressings, bacon bits, croutons and cheese and call it a “Salad Charcutire Board” or “Make Your Own Salad Night.” Everyone will be so busy creating their own masterpiece they’ll forget to grumble about dining solely on salad.

2. That’s a Wrap – I discovered flabreads a while back after taking a cooking class dedicated solely to the versatility of this often-overlooked bread. Flatbread,  a thicker, chewier upgrade from pita bread, can be served straight out of the bag or brushed with olive oil and grilled lightly on the grill or crisped under an oven broiler. Either way, they’re delicious. Use them to make light but filling wraps by spreading mayo, olive oil or salad dressing over each one, adding favorite meats and cheeses and rolling to combine all ingredients. Secure with a toothpick and serve to family members who’ll focus on the combined flavors instead of the fact that they’re having a light meal.  As you might guess from the name, flatbreads are equally delicious served flat, topped with similar ingredients.

3. Sandwich on Steroids – I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating. One of the easiest and most economical ways to prepare sandwiches is making your own – for lack of a better word- submarine sandwich. And, it will feed an army. Take a loaf of bakery sourdough or French bread, slice it lengthwise and remove a good bit of the bread from the top half. On a cutting board, chop together an entire package of uncured turky meat (you can use your own favorite) together with chopped lettuce and onions. This mixture goes into a bowl, where it’s mixed with a little salt and pepper and liberal dose of Ken’s Steakhouse Thousand Island Dressing (again, use your own favorite dressing). Once everything is combined, spread the mixture along the bottom piece of bread, add sliced tomatoes (add chese slices if you like them), replace the top piece and press lightly. Last, wrap the sandwich in Saran Wrap, wrap in foil and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Once the flavors have combined, use a serrated knife to slice sections as desired.

   Here are three recipes that’ll ensure you not only eat well during Summer ‘23, but stay cool while doing so.

Fish and Veggies in Foil

5-6 thin fish filets (redfish or tilapia) or a thin piece of salmon

1 onion, sliced into thin rings

1 pound thinly sliced vegatables (bell pepper, squash, cucumber, zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes)

1 cup vegetable or olive oil

1/2 cup lemon juice

Tony Chachere’s Seasoning or a packet of seasoned garlic and herb soup mix

Place fish on two large sections of heavy-duty foil. Top with vegetables, Tony’s seasoning or soup mix, then drizzle 1/2 of oil-lemon mixture over each one. Bring foil up to wrap tightly, double-folding edges, leaving a sealed seam at the top. Grill or oven broil for 15 minutes until fish is flaky and vegetables are tender.

Note: I add thinly-sliced potatoes, which take 15-20 minutes longer to bake.

Makes 3-4 servings.

Chicken and Vegetable Bowls

8-10 boneless skinless hicken breasts

2 14-ounce cans chicken broth

8 small new potatoes

1 package baby carrots

2 onions, sliced

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed

Cup of bacon pieces (can use packaged variety)

1 teaspoon seasoning salt

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Place chicken in sprayed Crockpot or use liner. Add broth, vegetables, bacon and seasoning salt. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 minutes. Combine cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water in bowl and stir into Crockpot. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Serve in bowls over cooked rice or noodles – or serve solo.

Serves 6-8.

Kara Kimbrough is a food and writer writer and travel agent in Mississippi. Email her at