Cool Meals for Hot Days

by Rose B. Mother of 3

I offer, not recipes, but tips.
My strategy of using only enough water to cook pasta avoids the process of draining it. That means you can skip pouring hot water (and nutrients!) down the drain, while releasing steam into the kitchen air. That detracts from comfort two ways -- heat and humidity. (I use one cup of water for every four ounces of noodles. This requires a little closer attention than the traditional method, but eliminates the risk of a burn.)
I make lots of one-pot meals.
I make much use of frozen foods to avoid having to heat the kitchen. Frozen vegetables can be stirred into hot food such as pasta, and it will cook just enough, while bringing down the heat of the noodles. This works so well because vegetables to be frozen must first be heated to destroy germs and the enzymes that cause spoilage. Some other nifty frozen foods to save heating the kitchen include the many microwaveables, and frozen cheese-filled raviolis.
Another source of heat-saving ingredients is the produce aisle. Fresh vegetable often only need to be washed, cut, and stirred into hot food to be ready to eat. And let's not forget the delight of a crisp salad loaded with summer's bounty!
Planovers are a great hot-weather strategy. I cook big batches of whole (one-pot!) meals, some of which are quite tasty the second time cold from the fridge, and others of which can be reheated with a quick zap of the microwave or by stirring into a bit of hot liquid in a saucepan on the stove. I also precook batches of meat, such as a five pound package of ground beef, on a relatively cooler day and have cooked meat ready to stir into a pot of hot pasta and/or vegetables.
I make use of small appliances. I love to cook up the veggies and meat in the crock-pot and the rice in my rice-cooker. Oriental rice is the best suited to the rice-cooker, but we have found that regular long-grain rice works well enough if you first let the rice and water stand together in the cooker for 15 minutes. Do not fill it up full, because it may boil over a bit. Use one part rice to two parts water. Or you can buy the authentic Botan rice at Wal-Mart and follow the recipe on the label. (And never, never rinse enriched rice -- where do you think the nutrients are applied, if not on the surface!)  You can replace a bit of the rice with rolled barley or brown rice for a different taste. With brown rice, soak for 20 minutes before turning on the cooker, and wait about five minutes after it is done before you open the cooker.
(If you are buying a rice cooker, choose one with an inner cooking chamber that is completely removable. This saves lots of time and trouble in washing it! The same goes for choosing a new crock-pot -- a removable "crock" simplifies cleaning.)
Then there's always soup and sandwiches.
Rose B, mother of three, in NC