Happy Summer Solistice! On our side of the equator (or is it that it’s this side of the hemisphere? I never can remember — geography is most definitely NOT one of my talents! 😉 ), today marks the first “official” day of Summer. It’s the longest day of the year (1 second longer than yesterday), and ‘though the days will now start getting shorter, it will likely continue to get hotter. *sigh*
Summer Chimes and Summer Wines
By Ellen Ni Bheachain (Dublin, Ireland)
Listening to the summer chimes,
Of summer sounds of summer time,
Bringing all that nature is,
That shows and sounds like,
Chimes of soft winds,
Chimes of soft river streams,
Sounds that say of that time and season,
That summer time sounds so sweet,
It rings the sounds of summer chimes,
With rays of sunlight streaming by,
Summer chimes with summer wines,
Can be the momentum interludes of summer times,
When summer time is to be,
There in natures places,
Full of bloom and hidden places,
Listening to the summer chimes,
Of summer time,
And sitting and drinking,
A summer wine,
(You can read the rest of this lovely poem here.)
So in honor of the first day of summer, I’m going to share my tips for keeping things cool! 🙂 But before you continue reading this post, get the video below started –gotta love Will Smith, and I always think of this song in the summer 😉
In the summer, most of us want to try and keep things cool and easy, but there are more ways than just cold sandwiches and salads to keep things cool:
- Use your CrockPot! CrockPots are great to use year ’round. Their “fix it and forget” capability enables you to prepare yummy, nutritious meals without a lot of fuss — and without heating up your kitchen!
- Cook on the stovetop. Once again, while stove-top meals are tasty year ’round, they can also be life-savers in the hotter weather because it won’t heat your kitchen up as will the oven.
- Use your toaster oven. Want a baked potato, but you don’t want to microwave it? (Or use your CrockPot — you can bake a potato in your CrockPot, also.) Use your toaster oven! I also use my toaster oven to heat up frozen appetizers, re-crisp/re-heat leftovers, and other such tasks — all without heating up my kitchen.
- Learn to cook with your microwave. Your microwave can be used for more than just reheating leftovers or popping popcorn. Search out some recipes specifically for the microwave and experiment; once you get the hang of it, you can then work to adapt some of your favorite recipes to the microwave. I’ve made many tasty dishes in my microwave — I’ve found it works especially well with casserole-type dishes and meals where the portions are divided into individual servings (such as individual meatloaves).
- Bake early. There are four summer birthdays in my family. When I need to use my oven bake something, such as a birthday cake or pie, I bake it early in the day, when it’s cooler and more comfortable. Ditto for baking bread — bake it up early in the morning, then reheat it in the microwave or toaster oven at mealtime.
- Take advantage of good-quality convenience products. In the summer, I tend to peruse my grocery store’s bakery and deli sections more carefully and select items from there, such as specialty breads, rather than bake them from scratch, as I often do during more temperate weather.
- Use your grill. We have a propane grill, and when the weather turns hot, we often cook entire, low-maintenance meals on the grill. And by “low-maintenance,” I mean meals that don’t require much attention. Grilling hamburgers, for instance, requires attention; smoking a meat does not. We sometimes use our grill rather like an oven: a few nights ago, we had baked potato, mesquite pork tenderloin, and mixed fresh vegetables, all cooked on the grill, and all no fuss: we wrapped stuff up in aluminum foil, plopped it on the grill, set a timer, and came back inside, where it’s cool.
- Use a grill pan or electric indoor grill. A grill pan is awesome for grilling foods on your stovetop — perfect for when the weather’s not conducive to being outdoors or if you don’t have a grill. Ditto for using an indoor grill.
- Bake at lower temps. I’ve found that running my oven at lower temps (such as 350/325F) doesn’t unduly heat up the kitchen or the house. Although most baked goods (such as breads, pies, and cakes) require baking at specific (and usually much higher) temperatures to rise and/or achieve the appropriate texture, many other dishes (such as casseroles, roasts, etc.) can safely cook at lower temperatures for a longer period.
- Wear your bathing suit. On those days when you need to run your oven at a high temp during the hottest part of the day, as I did when we made calzones, wear your bathing suit and dip in and out of the pool (if you have one or have access to one) or, alternatively, wear your suit and keep yourself cool with a tub of cool bathwater or cool shower. 🙂
To kick off summer, I’ll share with you a new vegetable salad recipe we tried this weekend and shared with our family at my in-laws for a combined Father’s Day/niece-in-law’s birthday celebration. I found the recipe for Crunchy Pickle and Vegetable Salad recipe at the Kraft Food’s web site. I lightened it up by using lite creamy Caesar salad dressing (my favorite is made by Ken’s), and while I didn’t measure out the dressing, I’m fairly sure I used less than the 1 cup called for in the Kraft recipe. I used whole grape tomatoes (whole cherub tomatoes would work, too) so that the salad would keep better — and also, it allows those who don’t like tomatoes to avoid them more easily (‘though I have never understood how anyone can NOT just absolutely LOVE tomatoes!). And, although I dearly love chick peas, my beloved does not, so I substituted navy beans for the chick peas.
You can have this as a side dish or help yourself to a larger serving and enjoy it as more of a main dish. Either way, it tastes yummy! It was a big hit with our family. I think it might also be tasty with some green and/or black olives, sliced or left whole, added in.
Happy Summer, y’all! May your summer be filled with summer chimes and summer wines. 🙂
Cauliflower Caesar Salad (Serves 10 to 12)
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets/chunks
- 8 dill pickle spears, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 pint container grape or cherub tomatoes
- 1 can chick peas or 1 can navy beans (or other white bean), rinsed and drained
- 4 to 5 green onions, sliced
- Dried dill weed to taste (a teaspoon or so)
- Lite Caesar salad dressing to taste (1 cup or less; I used the creamy kind as opposed to the kind that’s more like a Caesar vinaigrette, ‘though either will work)
- In a large bowl, gently mix together the cauliflower, cut dill pickle spears, grape or cherub tomatoes, rinsed and drained chick peas or navy beans, and sliced green onions.
- Sprinkle salad with desired amount of dill weed (remember, you can always add more later, if need be).
- Drizzle with some lite cream Caesar salad dressing and gently toss. (Remember, you can add more in later on if need be.)
- Refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow flavors to meld.
- Taste, adjusting seasonings as necessary.
- Keep refrigerated. Should keep fairly well for a couple of days.