Monday, June 02, 2014

Seven Summer Cooking Tips

So, the school year is coming to an end and summer is beginning and that means lots of time to play and enjoy the warm weather.  I feel like summertime is busier now than ever, with summer camps, vacations, endless days by the pool, festivals and fairs, parks and time with friends.  One of the things most people don't want to do is spend a lot of extra time in the kitchen preparing meals.  We want quick and easy recipes with minimal prep time but don't want to skimp on the taste factor.  I'm going to share some of my favorite tips to make delicious meals in a matter of minutes so you can spend your time enjoying the season!




Tip 1:  Prep your produce.
Whether you go to the farmer's market or your local superstore, it's important to take the time to prep your produce when you get it home.  Think about the meals you'd like to have that week and wash and cut up your veggies ahead of time so you can grab them out of the fridge and toss them in as your recipe calls for. Wash your fruit and place it in an easy-access bowl for snacking.  Yes, it will take some time to prepare everything, but it far outweighs the time you'll be wasting if you have to chop vegetables before every meal.

Tip 2:  Stock up on pantry staples.
I like to keep a running list of pantry staples that I need to have on hand to make meal prep easier.  These are things like chicken stock, yogurt, canned tomatoes or tomato sauce and olive oil.  We like the idea of making our own stock, but unless you have some in your freezer right now, you can forget about a quick meal prep.  Cut out the time-intensive steps by purchasing your go-to pantry items ahead of time.

Tip 3:  Think frozen.
There are a ton of delicious and healthy items that get skipped over in the grocery store every day.  Next time you go through the frozen aisle for ice cream, stop and check out the frozen fruits, vegetables and seafood.  Frozen fish is usually more fresh than the whole fish on ice at your grocery store, because they are frozen immediately after being caught.  Frozen fish cooks up quickly and tastes wonderful and frozen veggies are a simple addition to your meals.

Tip 4:  Don't "can" the cans.
Food that comes in cans can be very healthy if you choose correctly.  I like to stock up on canned vegetables and fruits, beans and protein.  When you are looking for canned vegetables and beans, pick ones that don't have added salt.  It's easy to get way too much sodium in your diet if you choose canned foods with added salt - and it's always easier to add an acceptable amount when preparing your meals.  Canned beans are so much easier to use since soaking dry beans is so time-intensive.  We also keep a supply of canned chicken, tuna and salmon on hand to make sandwiches or toss in salads for quick meals.

Tip 5:  Don't forget the grains.
If your family eats grains, it's a great idea to keep pastas, rice and other grains like quinoa or couscous on hand.  These are items you can prepare quickly and pair with your protein to make a easy, filling meal.  I tend to watch our grocery store's sale cycle because pastas go on sale and we can usually get ten boxes for $10! These will last quite a while and the savings are amazing!

Tip 6;  Follow the 1, 2, 3 rule.
When you are stuck in that rut where you don't know what to cook for dinner, simply follow the 1, 2, 3 rule.  1) Pick your protein, whether it be chicken breasts or ground beef, frozen salmon or canned tuna.  2) Toss with your favorite grain.  3) Add some of your prepped or frozen veggies and you've got yourself an easy meal.

Tip 7:  Choose healthy prepared meals.
If you simply don't have time to cook dinner, you still don't need to run to your local fast food joint.  Hit up your grocery store and choose a healthy prepared meal like a rotisserie chicken and some selections from the salad bar.  For a quick on-the-go meal, we like to stop by the deli counter for fresh turkey sandwiches.

By following these seven, simple tips, you can feed your family healthy and quick meals this summer.  We use these tips most of the year and have come up with delicious meals that we enjoy again and again.  Over the next several months, I'll be sharing some of our favorite recipes so you can try them with your family!

What tips can you share about making summer meal prep easier?

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Until next time,

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