Summer Meal Planning Tips (Video)

Summer Meal Planning Tips

Like me, do you dread turning on the oven to cook dinner when it’s sweltering hot outside? Sure, you can use the grill and we do use ours quite a bit during the summer.  But what if it’s raining?  Here are some meal planning tips to keep your kitchen cool this summer!


  • Pan Frying Meats or Stir Frying Veggies on the Stovetop

  • Toaster Oven – Bake a single piece of salmon, a small batch of sweet potato fries, or a few dinner rolls.

  • Crock Pot – Use it year round!

  • Veggie Steamer

  • Of course, the grill!  Try batch cooking a whole bag of frozen chicken breasts.  Dice up the extras and toss it onto salads for those nights you don’t want to cook at all.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Keeping It Cool in the Kitchen

This week’s blog post is by Christine Luken.


We’ve been blessed with a nice cool spell here in the Ohio River Valley, which has been a welcome relief to the sweltering heat.  As the saying goes, nothing good lasts forever!  August is bound to have some red-hot days, which makes me NOT want to turn on the oven to make dinner.  The good news is that there are plenty of ways to get a tasty meal on the table without adding too much extra heat in the kitchen.  Besides the obvious choice of grilling, here are some of my favorites.

  • Stovetop – If there’s any way I can make something on the stovetop versus the oven in the summer, I’ll do it.  Using the stovetop does put off some heat, but not nearly as much as using the oven.  Rather than baking fish or chicken, I’ll pan-fry it with a little bit of olive oil or Smart Balance cooking spray.  Stir-frying meat and veggies makes a great summer dinner, too.


  • Toaster Oven – I use my toaster oven all the time!  Since it’s just my husband and I, it’s the perfect size to roast some cauliflower, bake some sweet potato fries, or cook up a piece or two of salmon.  Because of its small size, it doesn’t put off much heat at all.  However, if you have a large family, this may not be a good option for you.


  • Crock Pot – Some people tend to think of the crock pot as a winter appliance, which always puzzles me.  We love bone-in chicken in the crock pot!  Whenever our local Kroger store has chicken on sale, I stock up the freezer.  Because I’ve got so many great recipes, we could have chicken in the crock pot once a week and not get tired of it.  Last week I threw in some carrots, potatoes, chicken broth, and a little parsley and basil with the chicken and it was fantastic!  Some of my other favorite recipes are Maple Dijon Chicken Thighs, Beer Chicken, Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken, Pesto Ranch Chicken, and Chicken with Artichoke Hearts.  You can even make dessert in the crock pot!

    • Steamer – Several of my friends and my husband are convinced that the microwave is not good for us, so we’re trying to use it less.  I picked up this steamer (pictured above with my homegrown Swiss chard) at Wal-Mart for $20, and I must say that I love it!  There’s a second basket that can be stacked on top, so that you can steam two different things at once.  Veggies taste so delicious in the steamer; they almost don’t even need butter!  We also like to steam ears of corn, but they have to be broken in half to fit in the basket.  The base is less than 12 inches across, so it doesn’t take up much room in the cabinet or on the counter, which is another big plus.

  • “Baking” with the Grill – The obvious choice for summer cooking is the grill.  Think outside of the box for firing up the grill!  Many recipes that are baked in the oven can also be made on the grill.  We purchased a new grill this summer and I love that it has a temperature gauge.  I can now “bake” my roasted salmon or my Portobello mushroom pizzas without worrying about  vercooking (or burning) our dinner!


  •  Zero Heat Cooking – Sometimes we will take leftover grilled chicken, steak, or shrimp, or taco meat and make some huge dinner salads.  A satisfying dinner with zero heat required!

What is your favorite summer recipe to make that doesn’t require slaving over a hot stove?

Meal Planning Monday ~ Keeping It Cool


          First of all, I want to wish everyone a Happy Independence Day on Wednesday!  Second, I want to wish my wonderful husband, Nick, a very Happy Birthday today!

            For most of the country it has been miserably HOT the past few days and the weatherman is calling for more of the same this holiday week.  I don’t know about you, but when it gets this hot, I don’t feel much like cooking.  And I definitely don’t want to turn the oven on!  Does this mean that I throw the meal plan out the window?  Nope!  Here are some things I do to keep the kitchen cool when it’s this hot out.

  • I use the crock pot.  I’m always puzzled at people who put away their crock pots when winter’s over.  This awesome little appliance is in use at my house at least once a week.  You can make many of the same meals that are normally baked in the oven.  This past weekend, I put some bone-in chicken thighs in the crock pot with a bottle of BBQ sauce.  Easy and delicious!
  • I make use of my freezer meals.  Now is a great time to use your freezer meals!  Most of mine can be reheated in the microwave.  I’ve got some turkey chili that I’ll be having later this week.
  • Make the most of your grill!  Sometimes it’s nice for me to have a night off and let my grill-master husband cook dinner!  We’ll cook everything for our dinner on the grill, not just the meat.  Lately, I’ve been buying tiny Yukon gold potatoes and putting them raw on a skewer to cook alongside of our chicken and steak.
  • Don’t forget your toaster oven and microwave.  I really wanted garlic roasted asparagus the other night, which I usually make in the oven.  Then it dawned on me that I could use my toaster oven instead!  Same result with much less heat in the kitchen.  When it’s super-hot out, I don’t even want to cook veggies on the stove top.  So I keep a stash of Ziploc steamer bags to cook my veggies and keep the kitchen cool.
  • No-cook meals.  Sometimes, it’s just easier to make a nice big salad for dinner when it’s sweltering outside.  It’s easy to grill some extra chicken and keep it in the fridge just for this occasion.

What’s your favorite hot-weather meal?  Enjoy the holiday and stay cool!