Cool Summer Dining

Bok Choy and Leftover Rice Salad

It is going to be very hot today and the rest of the week. Here are some ideas to help you stay cool while cooking and eating. Recipes for some “cool” dishes are at the end of the post.

Some tips to keep you cool.

Buy a roasted chicken at your local store. Now you have a healthy entree and can round out dinner with a salad and some bread. Also the leftovers can make great salads or sandwiches for additional meals.

Use the microwave for cooking potatoes or rice. It will not heat up the kitchen as much as conventional cooking methods and rice and potatoes make a good base for salads. I often steam veggies in my microwave. I have even been known to cook pasta in my microwave. The pasta thing is a little trickier. Ramen cooks great in the microwave, as does smaller pasta, (orzo, small shells, macaroni). Haven’t had as much success with larger pasta.

Cook once, use twice. Cook a double batch of meat, dried beans, pasta, rice, vegetables, whatever.  Freeze or refrigerate the extra for another day so you don’t have to cook it twice.

Grill whenever possible. It keeps the kitchen cool, is generally a healthy way to cook and let’s be honest, food tastes better when grilled!!

Be a seasonal cook. Market prices on seasonal vegetables and fruits are generally lower and the flavor of fresh produce can’t be beat. Use them in salads, desserts and on the grill. If you or family members have a garden, plan menus around the bounty that nature provides at this time of year.

Re-invent the sandwich. Go beyond peanut butter and jelly on white bread. Use interesting breads like multigrain, pita, tortillas, and bagels. French bread etc.  Then get a little creative with the fillings. Try crabmeat salad, or turkey ham with artichoke. Try grilling a whole Portobello mushroom cap and serving with grilled onions and cheese. You can just pile up vegetables and have a sort of tossed salad sandwich.

Spill the beans. Canned beans are a quick way to make a summer salad more filling, or to make any one of a number of fun dishes. Just drain and rinse for high protein, high fiber and no-cook ingredients.

Pastamania! There are so many new and exciting pastas on the market take advantage and try one of them in an old recipe to dress it up. Pasta cooks quickly and can be cooked ahead of time. Pasta come in many flavors, colors and shapes and can easily add interest to your summer menu. Fresh pasta cooks even faster than dried pasta. You can even make a batch of homemade pasta.

Drink up. With warmer weather comes the need for more fluids. Drink plenty of water, but also enjoy lemonade, iced herbal teas and sparkling fruit juices. Watch out for alcohol and caffeine laden beverages as they act as diuretics and can dry you out. These should be enjoyed in moderation in hot weather and never after times of strenuous activity when your body needs water the most.

Fresh fruit is often the nicest dessert. Fruit salads or kabobs can be served along with homemade sorbets and smoothies.   

Here are a few recipes you might enjoy on a hot day!! 

Bok Choy and Leftover Rice Salad

4 T. oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2-3 c. sliced bok choy- I used baby bok choy, but use what you like
2 c. cold cooked rice
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
½ of a sweet pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green onion, sliced

1/3 c. rice wine vinegar, or white wine vinegar
2 T. oil
2 T. chopped parsley or cilantro
1 T. sugar
1 t. soy sauce
1 t. sesame oil
1 t. fresh grated ginger
Salt and hot sauce to taste

In skillet, sauté garlic for a couple of minutes, being careful not to burn it. Add bok choy and stir fry a few more minutes, just until bok choy wilts a little, but is still crisp. In medium bowl place the bok choy/garlic mixture, being sure to include the oil used in cooking. Add rice and veggies to boy choy mix. In small jar, with a tight fitting lid, place the dressing ingredients. Secure lid and shake until well mixed. Pour over the rice mixture and stir until well mixed. Chill a few hours or overnight before serving. Serves 4-6.
Note: You can make this a main dish salad by adding a little protein. Cooked chicken or shrimp are great. For a vegetarian version- scrambled eggs or edamame work well, too.

Thai Chicken Salad

1 (3 lb.) chicken, cooked, skinned, meat shredded

8 oz. angel hair pasta, cooked and drained

2 T. coarsely shredded fresh mint leaves

1/2 c. chopped cilantro

1 tomato

1/2 c. olive oil

1 garlic clove

1/2 t. red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 T. plus 1 t. soy sauce

1 T. plus 1 t. fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 t. brown sugar

Lettuce leaves for lining the platter

Place chicken meat and pasta in bowl and combine. Mix remaining ingredients, except lettuce, in blender until smooth and toss with chicken mixture. Salad can be served immediately or chilled. Line serving platter with lettuce leaves and spoon over chicken mixture. Serves 4.

Open-Faced Pork and Apple Sandwiches

4 slices roast pork

Salt and pepper to taste

2 oz. cream cheese

2 T. mayonnaise

4 slices rye bread

4 slices Swiss cheese

1 crisp apple, sliced thin

Season pork slices and set aside. Combine cream cheese and mayonnaise and spread on bread slices. Top with cheese, then pork and finish with apple slices. Serves 4.

Italian Bread Salad

1 lb. Loaf, day old crusty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

5-6 plum tomatoes, sliced

½ English cucumber, sliced

1 c. sliced sweet onion

2/3 c. olive oil

1/3 c. red wine vinegar

3 T. balsamic vinegar

¼ c. fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips

2 t. Italian seasoning

In large bowl toss together bread cubes and vegetables. Combine remaining ingredients in a smaller bowl and pour over the bread mixture, tossing to coat well. Be sure that all the bread gets coated. Serves 6-8.

Greek Eggplant Salad

1 medium eggplant

1 large tomato, seeded and chopped

1 sweet pepper, seeded and chopped

1 small onion, minced

1/3 c. olive oil

¼ c. red wine vinegar

1 clove garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Sliced ripe olives and chopped fresh parsley

Broil or grill eggplant until skin has blackened. Cool. Rub skin off the eggplant with a damp paper towel and chop the pulp. Combine eggplant with remaining vegetables in bowl. Combine dressing ingredients in blender until smooth and toss over eggplant mixture. Chill and garnish with olives and parsley. Serves 3-4.

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