Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cool meals for hot summer days

8/5/09 Cook’s Corner
Simply super summer meals
Betty Kaiser

It’s summertime in Oregon and as I write this, the weather is sizzling hot. The thermometer on my deck reads 108° F. That’s hot. Too hot to cook. In fact, except for the fact that we need to eat, it’s too hot to even think about cooking.

Every year at this time I become a minimalist. Eating becomes a simple biological function. Plain is good. Multiple dishes and fancy sauces are unnecessary. Meals are usually a last minute afterthought and the key to any successful offering is a well-stocked garden, pantry, refrigerator and freezer.

If you’re prepared, it’s easy to put together something tasty from canned meats, beans, olives, pasta and salsa from the cupboard. A variety of cheeses, tortillas, fresh fruit and salad ingredients from the refrigerator will make a nutritious lunch. And meat patties, chicken, steaks or boneless pork chops from the freezer can go directly to the grill with a minimum of effort.

The garden or a nearby vegetable stand is, of course, a wonderful resource for dressing up a simple supper. Just adding an ear of freshly picked corn will make that plain piece of chicken taste mighty good. And nothing beats the taste of homegrown cucumbers and tomatoes or even the prolific zucchini, steamed and seasoned.

This is also a good time to rummage around in your bookshelves and find those cookbooks that say “Five ingredients or less main dishes.” They can be a gold mine of ideas for last minute cooking.

Pasta salads are a great main dish if you have time in the morning to assemble the ingredients and let the flavors meld in the refrigerator. It’s often best to add the meat just before serving or as a garnish.

Sandwiches that are served wrap-style are a great treat on a warm night. You can combine a variety of meats, beans, dressings and lettuce with your favorite dressing in either a large lettuce leaf or tortilla. Pre-cooked taco shells and pita bread are also handy containers for sandwich entrees.

If you’re serving sandwiches for dinner, you’ll need something to balance out the plate. Be sure to include a nice, crisp green salad with garden fresh cucumbers and tomatoes if the sandwich is meat based. An old-fashioned cold bean salad is a great choice for adding vegetables and protein. Dessert can simply be an ice-cold slice of cantaloupe or a wedge of watermelon.

My husband’s favorite sandwich is a vegetable concoction straight out of the garden. He starts with whole grain bread, adds cream cheese and then starts layering the veggies. Try it! You’ll like it! And remember, now is the time to eat the fruits and vegetables of the season. Enjoy!

Chuck’s Perfect Summer Sandwich
Serves 4

1 ripe avocado, sliced
1 cucumber, partially peeled and sliced
1 red onion, sliced, separated into rings
1-2 tomatoes, sliced
Bean sprouts
Butter lettuce leaves (optional)
Low-fat cream cheese, softened
Hearty, whole grain bread

First, soften the cream cheese and spread on 8 slices of bread. Layer 4 bread slices with cucumber, avocado, tomato and onion. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add bean spouts and lettuce (if desired). Cover with top slices of bread and cream cheese; cut in half and serve with lots of napkins.

Note: Whipped cream cheese spreads easier than the block and makes more servings. Also, if you like a little more protein, add a slice of Muenster or other semi-soft cheese.

Shrimp Tacos
Makes12 tacos

1-1/2 cups sour cream
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 tablespoons chili or seafood cocktail sauce
1 red onion, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 avocados, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 lb. shelled deveined cooked medium shrimp
12 store bought taco shells
Butter lettuce leaves, torn
1 cup chunky salsa
1 cup shredded CoJack cheese

In small bowl, combine sour cream, cucumber, half of the chili sauce, red onion, avocados, red bell pepper, and lemon juice.

In small bowl, mix remaining chili sauce with the cooked shrimp and add to sour cream mixture. Fill taco shells with shrimp mixture, lettuce, salsa, and cheese.

Old-Fashioned Cold Bean Salad Recipe

1 can whole green beans (16 oz)
1 can red kidney beans (16 oz)
1 can garbanzo beans or chick peas (16 oz)
1 small jar chopped pimentos
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup wine vinegar
1/2 cup salad oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper, coarsely ground

Drain the three cans of beans in a colander and rinse well.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the beans, pimentos, and onion.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, oil, sugar, salt, and pepper. Then, pour over the beans and toss like a salad.
Seal in an airtight container and chill in the refrigerator for several hours. Make it the night before and have it ready for the next day.

Southwest Chicken Tostada Salad
Serves 4

2-4 chicken breasts, seasoned and grilled
6-8 cups romaine and iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup black olives, drained
2-4 whole wheat tortillas, cut in half, then into strips
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/4 cup red onion, minced
Dash cumin
1 cup CoJack cheese, shredded

Mix dressing, onion and cumin; set aside. Spray microwave safe plate with cooking spray; add tortilla strips and microwave 1 min.; set aside. Combine lettuce, cherry tomatoes and chicken in large bowl with salad dressing. Distribute among plates. Top with olives, tortilla strips and cheese; garnish with a dash of paprika or seasoned salt.

Serve with salsa and tortilla chips or warmed flour tortillas.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal!
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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