Summer is upon us and that means hot weather everywhere. When the weather heats up, the last thing you want to do is add to the sweltering conditions by turning on your oven. But that’s no reason for meal prep to suffer. With fresh produce overflowing from the markets during the summer, the heat is just an invitation to enjoy nature’s bounty in its purest form. Here are our hottest tips for staying cool—without resorting to takeout every day.
1. Go Raw
There’s a reason raw foodies celebrate Rawgust. Don’t be put off by raw food’s reputation for being fussy to prep—raw food recipes can be quick, easy, and satisfying—no dehydrator required. Try pesto over zucchini noodles, collard wraps, or lettuce cups.
2. Stay Cool
If there was ever a time to bring more “cooling foods” into your diet, it’s now. And don’t limit yourself to cucumbers. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, cooling foods include most fruits, coconut, eggs, soybeans, and spinach. How about a berry smoothie with spinach and coconut milk?
3. Batch Some ‘zpach
Gazpacho is the perfect cool, no-cook summer food. The formula is simple: All you need are some vegetables at their peak freshness, high quality olive oil,,and some tangy flavorful vinegar. Whirl it all together in a food processor or blender and dinner is done.Think outside the traditional tomato box, too. Try adding different vegetables and even fruit to mix up the flavors and colors—beets, watermelon, and cucumbers are all great in gazpacho.
4. Trade Your Noodles for Zoodles
What’s better than a bright, punchy cold noodle salad? A cold noodle salad with the pasta traded in for fresh veggies. Vegetable noodles are a quick, easy, and nutritious alternative to regular pasta—and they require zero stove-top cooking. Spiralize or julienne the freshest market vegetables—zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, carrots, and beets all work well.. And then enjoy the “noodles” raw with your favorite sauces, herbs, and toppings. Try one of these vegetable noodle recipes, or wing it—some Thai basil and fish sauce with pickled radish sounds great.
5. Perk Things Up with Herbs
Speaking of Thai basil, when you’re at the market loading up on summer fruits and veggies, don’t forget to grab some fresh herbs. Their bright flavor complements all sorts of summer dishes., including Basil-Mint Fruit Salad and Purple Potato Salad. Sprinkle chopped herbs over salads, pastas, meat, and fish, or combine with lemon and olive oil for a zesty salad dressing that doubles as a dip or sauce for grilled meats (yes, we know you still want to fire up the grill even though it’s hot, hot, hot). Pro tip: To keep herbs fresh, put them in a vase with water and store them in the fridge.
6. Slow Down
Sometimes hiding from the heat in the air conditioning really is the answer. There can be no better time for a movie marathon than a too hot day. Slow down in the kitchen, too, by using your slow cooker to make stews and braises you’d traditionally cook on the stovetop or in the oven. Slow cookers are also MVPs for batch-cooking a week’s worth of meals.
7. Chill Out
You probably want to stick anything and everything in the freezer this time of year (including your body). Keep your mornings chill by turning your favorite smoothie or chia pudding into ice pops. Simply make a big batch of your favorite recipe, pour or spoon the mixture into ice pop molds, and chill until firm. With just a few minutes of work, you’ll have the coolest mornings all week!
Hungry for more?
- An RD’s Guide to Storing Fresh Produce
- A Meal-Prep Plan You Can Stick To (Really!)
- Make It or Fake It? 9 Prepared Foods Experts Always Buy