Tips for cooking meals without the oven on hot summer days


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TORONTO - When it's hot and humid out, it's natural to skip right over recipes that start with "Preheat oven to ..."

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/06/2016 (2481 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

TORONTO – When it’s hot and humid out, it’s natural to skip right over recipes that start with “Preheat oven to …”

But there are myriad ways to inject great flavour and nutrition into meals without heating up your home.

Registered dietitian Cara Rosenbloom says sandwiches and salads based on seasonal ingredients are a perfect starting point.

“Especially when they’re fresh and at their best flavour-wise, farm-fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers sliced up and thrown together in a salad with a little bit of olive oil and a little bit of salt is absolutely delicious,” says Rosenbloom.

Turn the salad into a heartier meal without cooking by adding a can of drained chickpeas, lentils or white, cannellini, black or navy beans. Almonds, walnuts or pecans, and pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds can be tossed in and “they add that extra layer of healthy, good-for-you fats, some protein and fibre — all those great nutrients you want — and don’t require heating or cooking,” says Rosenbloom, co-author with Nettie Cronish of the whole food cookbook “Nourish.”

Rose Reisman is a firm believer in grilling to avoid using her oven on hot days.

“Anything you can grill you should grill. And that’s kind of fun and you can always have partners with you grilling and you can have conversations there and a drink and be outdoors,” says Reisman, author of 19 cookbooks, including the most recent “Rush Hour Meals.”

Apartment dwellers can use an electric grill indoors. “I’ll tend to use thinner cuts of meat so I’ll make a chicken breast and make it more of a scaloppine so that literally it can cook up in three minutes a side,” says Reisman.

She suggests that frequent barbecuers choose less fatty cuts of meat such as New York strip, top sirloin, filet mignon or flank steak.

“Let’s be honest, summer often is one of the most unhealthiest because everyone is barbecuing fatty steaks, burgers, sausages. These are easy-to-grill meats, but they’re really pretty bad for your health,” she says.

“So there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the chicken breasts. Turkey is fabulous. Fish is great.”

She grills two flank steaks at a time to medium-rare, serves one for dinner, and then thinly slices the second to use in sandwiches or a salad.

“I always try to think ahead of where that meal can take me,” says the owner of Rose Reisman Catering, which recently launched a children’s lunch program.

She also uses a slow cooker, which doesn’t give off heat, to prepare dishes including pulled pork for sandwiches.

“I’ll put a whole large turkey breast with bone-in and that makes the most incredible sandwiches. It only needs about three hours.”

Reisman advises exercising caution at the grocery deli counter because most salads contain high amounts of oil, salt and mayonnaise.

“People don’t always know half a cup can be 250 calories whereas if you make it at home you always control it,” she says.

“It doesn’t mean you have to be slaving over a stove for hours on end, but pick easy recipes and just realize any of the takeout meals at the supermarkets or fast-food restaurants aren’t really considering your health.”

Rosenbloom is a fan of fresh-picked fruit for summer desserts. Zip it up with a dollop of ice cream or frozen yogurt and sprinkles of almonds, hemp seeds or pumpkin seeds.

She and her kids often concoct energy balls. The base is rolled oats and nut butter, then they choose honey, chocolate chips, hemp or pumpkin seeds and cocoa powder. Roll them into balls and freeze.

“When you feel like a snack they almost taste like little truffles,” Rosenbloom says.

“The core ingredients are things like oats and nut butters so you’re getting a nutrient-dense snack, but when you add the honey and chocolate chips you’re getting dessert-like — and no baking required.”

Follow @lois_abraham on Twitter.

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