Nataly emailed me last week asking if I had any no cook recipes in my repertoire and could I pretty please share them.
My first thought was, “Well, I can pour a mean bowl of cereal!” Because who among us doesn’t try to convince our children that it was THEIR idea to have a bowl of cereal for dinner every now and then.
But I got thinking about summer schedules and the heat and how most of us want to be out enjoying the weather, not tied to our hot stoves once we get home from work. So I thought I would offer up some tips to making summer cooking easier.
1) Cook once, serve many times.
For example, when I am grilling up some chicken breast, I will do way more than I actually need for the meal. Then I slice up the chicken into strips and divide it into ziploc bags. Toss the bags into the freezer. The reason I slice up the chicken, because I know someone will ask, it defrosts much more quickly that way.
Now the cooking you did for chicken fajitas, will turn into a leafy green salad with grilled chicken breast, a chicken salad sandwich, chicken added to a pasta with pesto sauce, or any other number of things that you can do with cooked chicken breast. But now you don’t have to expend the effort to cook the chicken each time.
This has got to be my favorite tip. I do this all the time as evidenced by my
ungrateful brats adoring family groaning, “Are we having grilled chicken again tonight?” To which I reply, “Keep it up and there is a bowl of Cheerios with your name written all over it.”
See what I just did there? Uh-huh, a win-win situation for all of us. Which brings me to…
2) If it is good enough for another meal of the day, it is good enough for dinner.
Alternate title: who decided that sandwiches were just for lunch? If you are cooking up some bacon on the weekend, the only time I ever make bacon, make some extra and save it in the fridge. Later in the week introduce your family to the joy of the BLT sandwich. Or crumble the bacon and sprinkle on top of a salad.
Hard boil some eggs and make egg salad sandwiches. Heck, nothing is wrong with PB&J either. Add some decorative vegetables to the table if it makes you feel better.
Or even better, let go of the guilt.
3) Think outside the box.
Alternate title: Hor d’ oeuvres, it’s what’s for dinner. Hummus and veggies, Whole grain crackers and cheese. Cut up fruit. The itty-bitty bread, which I am sure has its own special name, made into itty-bitty sandwiches is ALWAYS a huge hit.
Another secret, let them eat all the food with some of those cellophane wrapped toothpicks.
In the interest of full disclosure, this meal is not hearty enough for my older boys who are intent on eating everything that isn’t nailed down, but it serves as a nice appetizer for them while they forage for leftovers in the fridge. I like to think of that is giving them valuable life skills. Their wives will thank me one day.
4) Use your other appliances that don’t require you to stand over them while they do their magic.
Break out that crockpot, rice maker, toaster oven, or microwave. How about a baked potato bar? Bake the potatoes in your microwave. (I don’t own a microwave so I bake my potatoes by wrapping them in tin foil and throwing them into our firepit. We sit around the fire and relax while the potatoes cook.)
Set out various toppings like: sour cream, grated cheese, cooked broccoli, black beans, whatever floats your boat.
If you want to be extra fancy schmancy use sweet potatoes. As a bonus they are also healthier for you. Plus, I am not sure why, it just sounds better when you tell people.
“So, what are you making for dinner tonight?”
“We are having a baked potato bar.”
“Ohhhhhh….” thinking, she is only serving her family a side dish?
Opposed to this:
“So what are you making for dinner tonight?”
“We are having a baked SWEET potato bar.”
“WOW. What a great idea!” thinking, I am so inadequate compared to her greatness.
I swear, it will go down just like that.
5) Get your children involved. If it is their idea they won’t complain and will probably eat.
Just last night one of my children began whining, “You never make us pizza bagels anymore.” I honestly had no idea that anyone was pining for pizza bagels. In my mind they were something I threw together after a long day when I had failed to plan and had run out of ideas. So I immediately added to my shopping list: plain bagels, pizza sauce, grated mozzarella cheese.
That is an under five minute dinner.
Up next, some recipes which require no cooking.