Summer has arrived! The heat is on! Who wants to be in a hot kitchen? Whether you are buying them each week on summer veggie and fruit sales, buying at local farmer's markets, or you are growing them in your own garden, they are a welcomed blessing! These veggies are chock full of essential nutrients, water, and fiber. All of which tend to help nourish the body, provide the building blocks of health for the active months ahead, keep our digestive tracts working.
Enjoy having yummy meals and the lighter meals of the Summer Kitchen.
Tools to Make Your Job Easier:
* A bread knife.
* An Ikea salad spinner.
* 1 dozen wide mouth quart canning jars.
* 1 dozen pint sized wide mouth freezer/canning jars.
* 1 dozen 1/2 pint sized wide mouth freezer/canning jars.
* 1 dozen half pint regular mouth jars..
* 1 dozen 4 ounce regular mouth jars.
As you can see, I am not much for plastic and disposable bags. The jars and lids used this way can be used and reused in the refrigerator. You can use clean lids that were used from canning and use them in the refrigerator (or freezer, short term) if you do not bend up the lids, but they cannot be reused for canning.
Warning: You cannot reuse metal canning lids for canning.
Tips for a Summer Kitchen...
The Bread Knife
What is the bread knife for?
- To cut homemade artisan bread.
- To turn a thick boneless chicken breast or boneless center cut pork chop into fillets. Place a saucer on top of the boneless chicken breast or boneless center cut pork chop to hold the meat in place while cutting. Cut horizontally through the meat. Thinner cuts like this cook better on the grill. You also can get more servings out of a chicken breast or chop.
- To cut lettuce as explained above.
What are all the canning jars for?
- Prepared Romaine.
- Prepared salad
- Prepared veggies.
- Prepared chilled fruit.
- Home grated cheeses and other toppings.
- Grilled meats prepared to be frozen and used at other meals.
Consider having Smoothies for breakfast some mornings. I like to make one of green baby veggies such as kale, spinach, and chard. Then add a banana, some almonds soaked overnight (slip the skins off after soaking and then rinse), blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. I also like to tip my smoothies a bit on the tart side by adding a half of organic lemon, skin, seeds, and all. Blend it all up. If you like it sweet, do not add the lemon. There are all kinds of recipes out there, experiment.
Meal Prep in the Cool of the Day
Prep for lunch and dinner early in the day, before you get busy and before it gets hot! Bring up any frozen foods to be used in the next day's meal preparations and place in the fridge the night before.
Making summer green salads: We slice up Romaine, by using a bread knife to make two scores, cutting lengthwise from the stem to tip (cut all the way through to the chopping board). Then we rotate a 1/4 turn and do it again. Then we cut across the width of the lettuce, every 1-2 inches, narrower if we are doing Fresh Mex. Then we rinse 2-3 times, drain, the spin well. Then we pack tightly two chopped, rinsed, spun heads of lettuce into one wide-mouth quart jar and lid. This process packs the lettuce so tight that most of the air is pushed out of the jar. You could pack this less tightly if you have a Foodsaver with a wide mouth jar attachment. One package of six Romaine Hearts from Costco will fill three quart jars. I store them in the vegetable drawer. Because the lettuce is packed tightly, it pushes out most of the air. This keeps the lettuce crisp for days. We go through a jar a meal, serving salad at lunch and dinner. A six pack is under $4 a
bag at Costco.
I like to chop up and slice veggies and place in wide mouth half pints. I slice cucumbers; dice or slice in strips-- red & other colored peppers; wedge, cut circle slices, or dice up tomatoes; and snip green onions. I only cut as much cucumber and tomatoes as I know we will eat in two meals, as they tend to go soft and watery. The other veggies are great on salads, omelets, and on top of potatoes or in other dishes like Scampi, stir-fry, pasta salads, and cucumbers on sandwiches. At salad time we unscrew the lids and place them under the jars on a Lazy Susan. We put out croutons, grated cheese (we grate ourselves), pickled beets, and real bacon bits. We also make our own dressings. Everyone can have their own unique salad!
Cube up fresh melons and have it available in a large lidded container. I use the large Pampered Chef mix and store. It will hold 8 cups of melon cubes. We love watermelon, Santa Claus Melon, and cantaloupe. I like to have them in separate containers.
Rinse grapes and chill. They make a delicious cool treat.
Berries and Stone Fruits
Summer is a great time for berries, peaches, nectarines, and apricots. I like to chill them to eat cold as a cool refreshing treat. I prefer to wait to rinse them before using.
Hard Cooked Eggs
Steam your eggs; do not boil your eggs. I live at over 4,000 feet elevation and it takes about 15.5 minutes to steam eggs here. You will love how easy the shells will come off after steaming. So experiment with your altitude. I get the water boiling then place the steamer pan over it with a lid. I experimented and took an egg out at 14, 15, and 16 minutes. Plunged each into ice water in separate bowls so I could remember the times. then I opened the egg. 15 was not quite right and 16 was too much so I have been doing them 15.5 minutes then plunging them into ice water for the same amount of time. Wonderful results! Even when we had fresh eggs from our own chickens.
Cook for more than one meal at a time. When you BBQ, throw in a few extra chicken breasts. Slice in strips, cool, package and freeze for later convenience. Strips can easily be cubed, if needed during the final meal preparation time, the day they are removed from the freezer to be used. Frozen like this in strips makes it easy to just use a portion from the bag. Just tap on the counter to loosen frozen strips and remove what you need for the meal.
Boil pasta shapes in water with a tablespoon of olive oil or cooking oil, until Al dente (firm). Pour in strainer and cool with cold water. Drain well. Store in a large quart canning jar. Now when you want to make pasta salad, just add veggies, salad dressing or mayonnaise, cubed meat or shrimp, and cheese is optional.
Pasta can be undercooked, cooled, drained, and chilled. When you desire to make a pasta dish just bring water to a boil and drop the pasta in to finish the last 2 minutes cooking. This makes for a faster evening meal, without having to boil pasta for over.
To freeze bananas- remove skin. Skewer. Place in a gallon Zip lock bag and freeze. You can also freeze slices separately on cookie sheets and store in wide mouth jars in the freezer. Bananas can be eaten frozen, dipped in chocolate, tossed in a smoothie, or placed in a food processor and turned into fruit ice cream with strawberries, cocoa powder, or just plain.
One Ingredient Ice Cream
Slice bananas into circles. Place in an air tight container and freeze overnight. Place bananas in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides frequently. This is smooth, non-dairy, gluten free, sweet and no added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Flavored Two Ingredient Ice Cream
Slice bananas into circles. Place in an air tight container and freeze overnight. Place bananas in a food processor or blender. Add fresh or frozen berries, Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides frequently. This is smooth, non-dairy, gluten free, sweet and no added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Cabbage Wedge Salad
Thin slices across a cabbage head, or wedges, rinsed, and spun make a simple salad with dressing or just sea salt.
Homemade Double Chocolate Almond Ice Cream (and other flavors)
Thirteen Salad Recipes http://donnasrecipebox.blogspot.com/search/label/Salads
Ten Homemade Salad Dressings
Tasty Marinated Grilled Chicken
Chicken grilled with fresh seasonings, your favorite marinades, etc., can be cubed, shredded, or cut into strips and frozen in wide mouth pint freezer jars, for quick future meals. Take out of the freezer and place in the refrigerator, the night before you want to use it. These are great in salads, sandwiches, in tortillas, fajitas, or quesadillas etc. Teriyaki, homemade or bottled Italian Dressings, Sundried Tomato Dressing all make delicious marinates. These marinates, work great for chicken, turkey, beef, pork, or fish!
Donna's Pasta Magic
(Makes 4-6 servings)
1/2 bag or 2 cups of pasta cooked Al dente, or firm. Rinse in cool water. Drain. You can do this with any kind of pasta.
2 cups cooked meat, such as shrimp, ham chunks, turkey, bacon or chicken.
2 cups vegetables, cooked, thawed or raw.
4- 8 oz. Salad Dressing: Italian Dressing (made with fruit vinegar it is great), Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette Dressing, Roasted Pepper, Balsamic Vinaigrette, Mayo with herbs or seasoning to taste, or even white sauce.
Chill two hours.
Donna's Teriyaki Marinade
This is great on chicken, pork, beef, turkey, seafood, rice, stir-fry vegetables, and even drizzled over potatoes. I have also substituted honey or fresh light amber maple syrup for the brown sugar. Marinate 30 minutes or overnight.
One of the nice things about using jars is that they can be used and used again. Another good thing is that you can see what is in them and its condition. You can also stack them. They make for a cleaner nicer smelling refrigerator too.
Experiment trying new vegetables and fruits with your children this summer and experiment with different ways of preparing them.Enjoy having yummy meals and the lighter meals of the Summer Kitchen.
Whatever you do...
Enjoy the journey!
This post was originally written 24 July 2017 and was updated 26 June 2019.