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Cool off with Summer Cooking Tips

How much do we love summer food? Watermelon, BBQ, lemonade, ice cream. Summer food makes you feel good and it helps you embrace all there is to love about summer—spending time with friends and family, longer days filled with sunshine, and a certain attitude of leisure and relaxation. With creative meal planning strategies, summer doesn't have to bust the food budget, toss nutrition to the winds, or be a stressful scenario. Try these suggestions for simpler, cooler, more nutritious summer meals and get ready to host a summer soiree at your Omaha home!

Basic menu planning is useful in every season. Don't know how? Simple. Start with the weekly food sections and a half-hour of time (coffee optional). On a 3-by-5 index card, turned longways, note your supermarket's weekly specials. Flip the card over, and list each day of the coming week. Take a moment and think about your calendar. No sense planning an elaborate gourmet meal when it's your day to work Cub Scout Day Camp! Using the week's specials, match simple entrees with busy days, more elaborate meals with at-home evenings. For a final, sure-fire bit of motivation, post your menu plan prominently on the refrigerator door. Nothing like knowing the family is drooling for tonight's microwaved meatloaf to energize a reluctant cook!

In summer, wedding-gift appliances earn their storage space. A rice steamer makes perfect rice, every time, with no excess heat to fog your kitchen. Spicy chili in the crockery slow-cooker is a super ending to a day at the park. 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, take a tip from our Southern friends, and cook chickens, roasts, or stews in a portable roaster, outside on the porch!

Take advantage of the fresh fruits and vegetables of summer. Serve a vegetable meal, with corn-on-the-cob, sliced tomatoes, and washed raw vegetables. Don't forget the fat-free ranch dressing for dipping!

Firing up the gas grill? Don't stop with just tonight's entree of barbecued chicken breasts. Add several more pieces and hold the barbecue sauce. On the next night, serve half of the chicken shredded, over salad, and add dressing made from walnut oil and raspberry vinegar. The following night, reheat the remaining chicken, shredded, with salsa, crushed garlic, a squeeze of lime juice and a dash of oregano, and serve delicious chicken fajitas, wrapped in steaming flour tortillas. Cook once, but plan to eat at least three times.

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 or two inside your auto-trunk ice chest quenches thirst without the calories and caffeine—not to mention expense—of fast-food sodas.

Summer is a time for making memories. With a little planning and preparation, the organized home manager can create golden days that will light a child's mind for life.