As the mercury in the thermometer starts to climb, you may be looking for different ways to keep your home a bit cooler without an exponential increase in your electric bill. That battle starts in the kitchen.
The one thing that adds the most ambient heat is cooking. Your choice of cooking methods can greatly increase the warmth that your air conditioner must then overcome. And if you have no air conditioner, it can make your home humid, muggy and miserable.
Now is the time to look to some different kitchen strategies. We can look back in history for a guideline, based on what our pioneer ancestors ate. Foods were lighter and required less cooking, since nearly all cooking was done on a wood-burning stove that would have made the house unbearable. As well, many people set up summer kitchens, consisting of either a separate building to keep the main house cooler, or an outdoor fireplace. We can take our cues from them and adapt their diets to our modern lifestyles.
- Change your eating habits with the thermometer. As the weather warms up, the harvest from your garden will increase. Most summer vegetables require little, if any, cooking, and can generally be quickly steamed to perfection on the stove top. Look for easy, no-cook recipes and fast non-processed foods.
- Break out the kitchen gadgets. Instead of firing up the oven, or cooking something for hours on the stove top, pull out those dusty, seldom-used kitchen gadgets. Pressure cookers, toaster ovens, counter top grills, and crock pots can all make meals without heating up the house. If I am going to be gone for the day, I often put something in the crock pot for a nice meal to welcome us home. (I’ve included one of our favorite recipes below.) The low heat of the crock pot will not affect the temperature in your home, and it’s a great way to tenderize a less expensive cut of meat, to which you can add some fresh veggie sides at dinner time. Skip the roasting and baking during the summer.
- Always make enough to have leftovers. Leftovers are a goldmine for speedy future meals. They generally require just a quick heat in the toaster oven or on the stove top, and some foods are delicious when compiled into a cold salad or rolled up in a flatbread.
- Take it outside. Use a barbecue, a sun oven or an outdoor fireplace to cook your meals in the summer, keeping all of the cooking heat outdoors. If you are grilling meat outdoors, make extra to add some quick protein to your salads.
- Focus on local abundance. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can still have delicious local produce. Hit your farmer’s market and plan your menus around the seasonal goodness found there. (Find farmers and markets in your area HERE!) Enjoy summer fruits and vegetables like berries, cucumbers, peaches, tomatoes, and much more! None of these requires much, if any, cooking time. Just wash and eat!
- Try different protein options. Look for delicious plant-based sources of protein. Beans picked fresh from the garden won’t require nearly as much cooking time as the dry ones sitting in your pantry. If you consume animal products, look for quick-cooking proteins like fish, chicken cut into small pieces, and eggs. Save large oven-baked roasts for winter fare, or at the least, use an alternative cooking method.
- Enjoy the health benefits of eating seasonally. Seasonal foods provide you with exactly what you need at different times of the year. For example, in the spring, those tender leafy sprigs like lettuce, kale, peas and pea shoots, and asparagus provide vitamins K and folate, which support blood health, bone health, and cell repair. The cool delicate foods are light, low in calories, and rejuvenating to the body as you gear up for the upcoming warm weather. Feasting on these waistline friendly foods is a great way to get rid of that insulating layer of fat that you may have acquired during the winter.
- You’ll save money in more ways than one. Not only will your electric bill be reduced by adjusting your summer eating habits, but so will your grocery bill. Seasonal foods are less expensive by nature of their abundance at a given time. Farmers MUST sell them quickly or they’ll spoil. So you can often purchase them in large quantities at rock bottom prices. And if they come directly from your garden, it’s even better for your wallet!
Crock Pot Con Carne
As promised above, here’s a great summer recipe that you can make in your crock pot. Serve your con carne on a bed of rice or in soft tortillas. Top it with sour cream or plain yogurt, and garden fresh chopped lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes.
- 2 pounds beef or pork roast, or 2 pounds of skinless, boneless chicken
- 4 cups of diced tomatoes
- 1 diced bell pepper
- 1 finely minced onion
- ¼ cup of fresh cilantro or 2 tbsp dried cilantro or 2 tbsp parsley
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 4 tbsp of chili powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp of brown sugar
- In the crock pot, combine all ingredients except the roast.
- Add the roast to the crock pot, being sure to submerge the meat completely.
- Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
- Remove the meat from the crock pot and use two forks to shred it.
- Place the meat back into the liquid in the pot and stir it together. Allow it to sit, uncovered, for 10 minutes before serving.