Quick Cooking Tips to Get You Out of the Kitchen

6 strategies to help you beat the heat and join the summer fun.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen! That's what I say when it's summer, and the very thought of turning on the stove or oven inspires beads of sweat to form on your brow.

But how do you "stay out of the kitchen" and still fix dinner for yourself and your busy brood?

Eating out or ordering takeout gets expensive and tiresome. But cooking dinner in the summer can be a challenge. Not only do we want to avoid the kitchen as much as possible, we need something we can prepare with a moment's notice, since school-free family members may be coming and going all evening long.

Never fear. I've got some ideas on how you can minimize your kitchen time and this summer.

1. Get 2 Grilled Entrees for the Price of 1

While the barbeque is all fired up on the weekend, go ahead and throw tomorrow's dinner on, too. Roasted veggies or kabobs, chicken, lean steak, pork tenderloin or prawns are all great choices.

  • If you throw four chicken breasts on the barbie while grilling tonight's salmon, tomorrow's grilled chicken Caesar salad will only take five minutes to make.
  • Throw on a peppered pork tenderloin while you're grilling tonight's light hot dogs, and you can make BBQ pork sandwiches or pork tenderloin sandwiches with pesto and tomato the next night.
  • While grilling tonight's hamburgers, put on tomorrow's shrimp and veggie kabobs or chicken sate skewers. All they need is a quick reheat in the microwave (be sure to pull the skewers off first if they're not microwave-safe).

2. Blend up a Summer Soup

Cold summer soups can be savory or sweet. The sweet types feature ripe summer fruits like berries or melon; the savory ones are usually based on a vegetable like cucumber, zucchini or carrot, or a veggie wanna-be like tomato or avocado.

Two big summer favorites are gazpacho, the Spanish tomato-based soup with bell peppers, onion, garlic and cucumbers; and vichyssoise, which features pureed potatoes, leeks, and a swirl of cream.

3. Summer Salads + Protein = Dinner

Salads are a refreshing change from hot dinner entrees. But how does a salad become a meal with a minimum of fuss? In a word, you need protein! From plant, fish or fowl, the choice is yours.

Here are some quick picks for salad add-ons:

  • Roasted turkey from a deli or supermarket, cut into strips or cubes
  • Thickly sliced extra-lean ham from a deli or supermarket, cut into strips or cubes
  • A can of water-packed tuna or a pouch of pre-flavored tuna (available in most supermarkets)
  • Defrosted pre-cooked shrimp (available in the frozen food section of your supermarket)
  • A can of beans. Black, kidney, or garbanzo work well in salads.
  • Shredded meat from a roasted whole chicken, from your rotisserie or supermarket
  • Baked tofu (available in packages). It comes cooked, flavored, and ready to dice.
  • Roasted nuts, a perfect topper to a main-dish salad. They add fiber and protein along with some crunch.
  • Summer fruits, which can complement the protein ingredient in your salad
  • 4 ounces of sliced or diced cheese. Cheese adds flavor and color along with milk protein (each ounce has 7 to 8 grams of protein).
  • A couple of chopped or sliced hard-boiled egg whites. Each egg white will bump up the protein by 3.5 grams.

Here's how much some common ingredients can pump up the protein of your salad:

Food____________________Amount________Protein (grams)
Turkey breast, roasted 1/2 cup, diced 21
Tuna, water-packed 1/2 cup 20
Chicken breast, roasted 2 ounces 17.5
Sirloin steak, broiled 2 ounces 17
Shrimp/prawns, cooked 2 ounces 11
Tofu, diced 1/2 cup 10 (depends on brand)
Cheese 1 ounce 7 to 8 (depends on type)
Black beans, canned 1/2 cup 7
Kidney beans, canned 1/2 cup 7
Garbanzo beans, canned 1/2 cup 6
Egg white, hard-boiled 1 3.5
Pecans 1/4 cup 2.3

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