Hacks from my Happy Place – II

Summer is upon us, and that means we’re looking for alternatives to using our ovens and adding unwanted heat to our kitchens and homes. For those of us with a toaster oven, this is a great alternative for anything that fits the reduced size. Air fryers, crock pots and slow cookers (no, they are not the same thing) are also great alternatives. Of course, for anyone lucky enough to have an outdoor grill, that’s the way to go, weather permitting!

Foil becomes a good friend for outdoor grilling. Any combination of fresh vegetables can be put in a foil ‘pocket’ with some broth, spices, butter and folded up, then laid, seam side up, on the upper rack or far corners of the grill grate. The important thing to remember is not to put them on the hottest part of the grill grate, as they will cook too quickly. Fresh green beans, asparagus, squash, zucchini, even sliced tomatoes can be cooked with some broth and seasonings. This is a good way to make use of fresh produce as it comes in season!

Your crock pot is useful for large pieces of meat or poultry. A turkey breast, a whole roasting chicken, ham and of course, beef roast all cook well in a crock pot and require nothing but preparation time – the pot does the rest.

Slow cookers are a useful kitchen appliance to have year-round. A slow cooker allows you the additional advantage over a crock pot by having settings from warm to deep fry. It also allows you to lift the cover to stir or add without losing the heat. I always use mine when making my (semi-homemade – see my first “Hacks” entry) spaghetti sauce and for making meatballs, stuffed peppers and whatever other creations I come up with. It’s very similar to using your stove top but at a very reduced electric usage!

Your microwave can be helpful in cooking through things like potatoes, which then can be made any number of ways. My favorite is to cut slices in cooked potatoes that don’t go all the way through (make sure they are cool enough to handle!), add some butter or margarine between the slices, then wrap them in foil and cook on the grill as you would fresh produce. You can add spices like garlic, or simply serve them with things like sour cream, cheese, bacon bits, etc. and each person can top their potato as they please.

Air fryers are for more than just French fries! You can use them to bake, roast and even grill. If you own an air fryer, do yourself a favor and check out the recipes that came with your booklet. Then experiment!

When you DO have to use your oven, plan ahead! You can make multiples of things (like meatloaf) at the same time, then freeze the extras for future meals that will just need thawing and reheating.

Here’s hoping you have a cool kitchen this summer without losing the variety of great meals!

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