With the heat index in the upper 90s, cool, easy or grilled meals are the only way to cook.
Late spring and summer call for lazy meals, ones that require little prep time and do not turn the kitchen into a furnace.
Grilling is great, but only in the late afternoon or early evening, when it is still light, but the temperatures are lower. Once the grill is going, home chefs should cook enough for several meals. I know we like to have leftovers, even if we just have burgers. My husband and daughter like to take the leavings for lunch the next day.
Let the grill do the whole meal from entrée to sides to dessert. Caramelized peaches topped with frozen yogurt or ice cream offer a cool ending to the meal.
Cold soups, salads and sandwiches are other quick-fix, cool meals. My family loves cold soups, which I usually pair with a salad or sandwich, such as a strawberry or blueberry soup with pineapple chicken salad on Hawaiian rolls or croissants. These are light, but filling meals.
Chicken salad is a favorite, from Greek chicken salad with feta and cucumbers to the old-time chicken salad with relish, onions and mayo.
Spring and summer are good times to cheat and let others make part of the meal. Opt for selections from the supermarket deli, such as coleslaw, macaroni salad or event sushi and steamed seafood.
If the kitchen's too hot, simply head for the grill or turn out some cool foods that do not require a stove.
So, chill out and try some of these ideas.
GRILLED GINGER CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAPS
1/3 cup purchased teriyaki baste and glaze
1 tablespoon grated ginger root
1 pound chicken breast strips for stir-frying
2 cups deli coleslaw
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
8 large leaves leaf lettuce
Heat grill. In medium bowl, combine teriyaki baste and glaze and ginger root and mix well. Add chicken, stir to coat.
When ready to grill, place chicken in grill basket, Place basket on gas grill over medium-high heat or on charcoal grill 4 to 6 inches from medium-high coals. Cook 10 to 12 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center; stirring frequently.
In small bowl, combine coleslaw and mint; mix well. Cut large chicken strips into smaller pieces. In center of each lettuce leaf, spoon a few chicken strips. Top each with about 2 tablespoons coleslaw mixture. Fold up bottom of each lettuce leaf; roll to enclose filling. Serves 4 with 2 wraps per person. Calories per 2 wraps: 305.
-- From "Grilling" by Pillsbury, published in 2003.
POTATO, HAM AND SWISS CHEESE SALAD
1- 1/2 pounds new potatoes, cooked and cubed in foil on the grill (Pour olive oil over potatoes to keep from sticking)
3/4 pound ham, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
2- 1/2 cups good quality Swiss cheese, cubed
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1- 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup olive oil or light salad oil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
Thoroughly mix all of the dressing ingredients. Pour the dressing over warm potato cubes and let it cool as you chop the ham and Swiss cheese. Mix the potatoes, ham and cheese in a large bowl. Toss gently. Chill for at least 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Serve as a traditional main dish salad or serve on lettuce leaf as a side salad.
SEASONED TURKEY CHEESEBURGERS
1 pound lean ground turkey
1/4 cup Italian style bread crumbs
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon garlic-pepper blend or simply mix black pepper and garlic powder
2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
4 (2/3-ounce each) sliced American cheese
4 burger buns, split
Heat grill. In large bowl, combine all ingredients except cheese and buns; mix well. Shape mixture into 8 very thin patties, 4 inches in diameter. Top 4 patties with cheese, trimming sliced to fit. Top with remaining patties; press edges firmly together to seal.
When ready to grill, carefully oil grill rack, Place filled patties on gas grill over medium heat or on charcoal grill 4 to6 inches from medium coals. Cook 10 to 14 minutes or until turkey is no longer pink in center and thoroughly cooked, turning once. If desired, light toast cut sides of buns on grill during last minute of cooking time.
Serve burgers in buns. Top burgers with lettuce, tomatoes and pickle slices. Calories per burger: 365.
-- From "Grilling" by Pillsbury, published in 2003
When doing kabobs on the grill, be sure to keep all pieces of vegetables and meat about the same size for even cooking. Also if using wooden skewers, remember to soak in water before placing on the grill.
BEEF STIR-FRY ON A STICK
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups large fresh broccoli florets
2 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 3/4-inch slices
1 large sweet red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound beef tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
For glaze, in small bowl, combine the hoisin sauce, water, oil, soy sauce, garlic and red pepper flakes.
On four metal or soaked wooden skewers, alternately thread the broccoli, squash, red pepper and beef. Brush with 1/3 cup of glaze. Grill, covered over medium heat for 6 to 7 minutes on each side or until meat reaches desired doneness and vegetables are tender, basting once with remaining glaze. Serve with rice. Yield: 4 servings.
-- Taste of Home magazine, June/July 2006
GRILLED PESTO FRENCH BREAD
1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup refrigerated basil pesto
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 loaf (1 pound) French bread, halved crosswise, split lengthwise
Chopped tomatoes, if desired
Heat gas or charcoal grill. In small microwavable bowl, microwave cream cheese on high 15 to 20 seconds; stir until creamy. Stir in pesto and butter until well mixed.
When grill is heated, place bread pieces, cut side down on gas grill over medium heat or on charcoal grill over medium coals. Cook 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly browned.
Turn bread halves over. Spread pesto mixture evenly on cut sides of bread; cover grill. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Cut bread into 2-inch sections to serve. Garnish with tomatoes.
-- From Pillsbury's "Easy Meals from the Grill," published April 2005.
ROASTED CORN AND RED PEPPER SALAD
8 ears corn, husks removed
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 red bell peppers
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Heat grill. Rub corn with about 1 tablespoon of the oil; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.
When ready to grill, place corn on gas grill over medium heat or on charcoal grill 4 to 6 inches from medium coals. Grill corn 10 to 15 minutes or until corn is slightly golden, turning occasionally. Meanwhile, add bell peppers to grill; cook 5 minutes or until skin is completely charred, turning occasionally.
Slice corn kernels from cob; place is large bowl. Remove skin, seeds and veins from bell peppers; cut bell peppers into 1-inch pieces. Add to corn. Toss with remaining oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, oregano and parsley. Makes 8 servings.
-- From Cooking Pleasures magazine, August/September 2001
Readers, share your favorite grilling or "beat-the-heat" recipes with me. Remember, deadlines are earlier, so please send ASAP.
Bernice Strickland of Bradenton asked for readers' help in finding a recipe for a casserole made with sliced sweet potatoes and apples.
"Here's a recipe I have for sweet potatoes/apples," Sharon Axelejun said. "I usually make it for Thanksgiving. I hope this helps."
SWEET POTATOES AND APPLES
6 sweet potatoes (peel, halve and quarter)
4 apples (peel, core, quarter)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
Combine all in slow cooker, cook on low all day One hour before serving add:
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup broken walnuts
-- Submitted by Sharon Axelejun
For Father's Day, send me your dad's or grandfathers' favorite dish to cook. We did moms and grandmothers, so it's all about the guys.
My deadlines for this column are earlier now, so send me those recipes ASAP.
Andrea Yeager, can be reached at email@example.com and takes requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.